§ —(1) If it appears to a chief officer of police that the following condition is fulfilled with respect to any person in his police area, namely that the person has acted in such a way as to give reasonable cause to believe that an order under this section is necessary to prevent him disturbing good order at any designated football match outside the United Kingdom or during the period before or after any designated football match outside the United Kingdom, he may apply for a football behaviour order in respect of that person.
§ (2) Such an application shall be made by complaint to any magistrates' court.
§ (3) If, on such an application, it is proved that the condition mentioned in subsection (1) is fulfilled, the magistrates' court may make an order which prevents the defendant from doing anything described in the order.
§ (4) The prohibitions that may be imposed by a football behaviour order are those necessary for the purpose of maintaining good order at any designated football match outside the United Kingdom or during the period before or after any designated football match outside the United Kingdom.
§ (5) A football behaviour order shall have effect for a period (not less than five years) specified in the order or until further order.
§ (6) Subject to subsection (7) below, the applicant or defendant may apply by complaint to the court which made a football behaviour order for it to be varied or discharged by a further order.
§ (7) Except with the consent of both parties, no football behaviour order shall be discharged before the end of the period of five years beginning with the date of the service of the order.
§ (8) The acts referred to in subsection (1) above include acts committed outside the United Kingdom.
§ (9) The period referred to in subsections (1) and (4) above means a period of two weeks.
§ (11) If without reasonable excuse a person does anything which he is prohibited from doing by a football behaviour order, he shall be liable—
- (a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both; or
- (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine, or to both.'.—[Sir Norman Fowler.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.3.49 pm
§ Madam Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 11—Amendment of Football Spectators Act—
§ "(1) A court by or before which a person is convicted of a relevant offence or, if a person convicted of such an offence is committed to it to be dealt with, the Crown 710 Court on dealing with him for the offence shall make a restriction order in relation to him unless there are exceptional circumstances in relation to the offence which justify its not doing so.
§ (IA) Where a court does not make a restriction order under subsection (1) above it shall state in open court what the exceptional circumstances are."
§ (3) Subsection (2) of section 15 shall cease to have effect.
§ (4) In section 16, there shall be inserted the following subsection—
§ "(4A) A constable may arrest without warrant any person whom he reasonably believes to have failed or to be about to fail to comply with the duty to report imposed by a conviction order."
§ (5) In subsection (5) of section 16, substitute "six months" for "one month" and "level 5" for "level 3".'.
§ Government new clause 12—Football spectators: failure to comply with reporting duty.
§ Government amendment No. 166.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
I shall not spend a great deal of time painting in the background and stating the reasons why we have tabled new clause 10. Last week, the vast majority of this country felt shame at the behaviour in Marseilles of so-called English supporters—who comprised only a small number of the English people in Marseilles, and in no way represented genuine English football supporters, any more than they represented the people of this country itself.
Nevertheless, we saw for ourselves the damage that was done and the violence that was committed. It is not something that was got up by the press. The evidence was there, and, throughout last week, it was seen on television newscasts by millions of people in the United Kingdom. Not surprisingly, there was a genuine sense of outrage and anger in this country at what those thugs had done, not least to this country's reputation.
It is easy enough to condemn the events in Marseilles, but the more difficult matter is to make proposals aimed at ensuring that such events do not happen again. The Opposition have sought to meet that task. I should say straight away that it is very unlikely that any system of defence that we erect will be able to exclude every football hooligan and thug going abroad to international matches. However, equally beyond doubt is the fact that the current position and regulations are not working effectively enough.
As far as I am concerned—I am not wedded to a particular form of drafting in our proposals—we will co-operate to the fullest with the Government to achieve a better and workable solution. I am committed to improving the current position.
The violence at Marseilles graphically illustrated some of the defects in our defences against hooligans and thugs. It was clear, for example, that, although some of those going to Marseilles may not have had convictions for football-related offences, they had been convicted of other offences of violence that might well have brought them under police suspicion. It was equally clear that people's convictions for football-related offences involving violence, drink or damage to property have not been accompanied by restriction orders to prevent convicted offenders from going to overseas matches.
Last week, in Hansard, in answer to a parliamentary question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), the Home Office revealed figures 711 showing that, in the past five years, there had been 20,000 convictions for football-related offences, whereas only 71 people are currently subject to restriction orders under the Football Spectators Act 1989.
The obvious question to ask is, how will we deal with the problems? I shall start by explaining our proposals to make restriction orders more effective, as stated in our new clause 11. However, I should say first that I very much welcome the action taken by the Government in tabling new clause 12, which effectively accepts several of the main points that we have made. I reiterate that our objective is to achieve a permanent improvement in the situation. We are much more likely to accomplish that objective if the Government have an open mind on the type of proposals being made by the Opposition.
I think that we can now take it that some of the arguments used in 1989, in the debate on Second Reading of the Football Spectators Bill—that football hooliganism was simply a product of the previous Government—have now been proved spectacularly inaccurate as a diagnosis, and that the issue of violence confronts any Government, of whatever political complexion.
In our first proposal, new clause 11, we seek to increase the deterrent value of restriction orders. It seemed to us that such deterrence would not be achieved if a maximum sentence of one month was available in dealing with someone who ignored a restriction order. We suggested that six months should be substituted, and I am glad that the Government have accepted that in new clause 12.
We went beyond that point, however. A few months ago, just after Christmas 1997, the Home Secretary announced that he had reminded the courts of the power to impose restriction orders on those convicted of football-related offences. Unhappily, perhaps, the Home Office chose to headline his press statement of that date "Britain takes the lead against football hooligans". On reflection, the Home Secretary might feel that perhaps that was not the happiest way of describing his plans. Nor was it a case of everyone being wise after the event.
On the same day as the Home Secretary announced his plans, Detective Inspector Peter Chapman, who heads the National Criminal Intelligence Service's hooliganism unit at Scotland Yard, pointed to one obvious defect. He said that, under the legislation, police could not arrest a convicted hooligan until he had failed to report to a police station at an appointed time, usually during a match. He said:The nonsense of it is that I can see that individual pass through Heathrow four, five or six hours earlier knowing full well that he is going to that particular football match and can't do anything about it. I don't have the power to stop him.Therefore, in subsection (4) of the new clause, we have sought to make it possible for a constable to arrest a personwhom he reasonably believes to have failed or to be about to fail to comply with the duty to report imposed by a conviction order.The Government have also accepted that principle in new clause 12, and I welcome that.
The question that remains is whether those two additions are enough to deal with the threat we face. It seems self-evident that the answer must be no. Currently there are only 71 restriction orders in existence. There are still the best part of 20,000 people convicted of football offences in the past five years who are not subject 712 to restriction orders. If we are to make the restriction order system more effective—I suggest that that is precisely what our aim should be—we have to tackle that issue, too.
The new clause proposes to make it obligatory on the courts to grant such a restriction order unless there are exceptional circumstances against doing so. I am quite prepared to listen to arguments that, for example, make it obligatory upon the court to consider making a restriction order or any other practical way forward. However, the evidence suggests strongly that the present system is not working effectively.
Of course it is true that many of those who took part in the riots in Marseilles had not been convicted of football-related offences. I do not deny that, and I shall return to the point in respect of our other new clause. However, it seems essential that, as well as any additional measures we take, we should ensure that the present system of restriction orders works better and more effectively than it does at present. Our proposal is designed to ensure that, when a court convicts a person of a football-related offence, it is under a greater obligation to consider the case for making a restriction order. That is the principle that we are seeking to enforce.
I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to move towards us on the issue. It seems a pity that, having accepted so much of new clause 11, he did not take that further step.
I now turn to new clause 10—the football behaviour order. It seeks to widen the powers of the police in applying to a court for a restriction order. It owes something to other measures that are already in the Crime and Disorder Bill, such as the anti-social behaviour order.
I do not entirely understand the point that the Prime Minister made on the subject during Prime Minister's Question Time last Wednesday. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that we were in some way opposed to the anti-social behaviour orders. That is not the case. No reasonable person could come to that conclusion. We could not have done more to allow the Bill through. We did not vote against it on Second Reading, in contrast to the attitude of the then Labour Opposition in 1989 to the Football Spectators Bill, when they voted for a reasoned amendment and voted against Second Reading.
In Committee, we sought to establish whether the Government's proposed anti-social behaviour orders would work. That is not unreasonable. Several legal academics had claimed that the orders were contrary to the European convention on human rights. We have to consider whether they would be effective. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) said in Committee:One of the main purposes of the amendments is to ascertain whether the provision is workable, and whether it helps deal with the problems in practice."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 28 April 1998; c. 20.]That is unquestionably the function of any Opposition. I am amazed that the Prime Minister should seek to challenge it.
I am not wedded to the exact wording of the new clause. I am committed to the principle of strengthening our position and the action that we can take against football hooligans moving abroad. Again, that is not a new point. 713 The day after the Home Secretary's announcement at Christmas time, Mr. Richard Ford, following an excellent tradition as home affairs correspondent of The Times, reported that the police were demanding that the Government should make it compulsory for anyone convicted of football-related violence to be barred from travelling abroad as a supporter. He wrote that the police were expressing serious doubts over the Home Secretary's plan, and said that a key part of the legislation was flawed. According to the report, the police called for an order barring travel abroad to support England to be made a mandatory part of any sentence imposed on an offender convicted of football-related violence.
That takes us back to new clause 11. An alternative approach would be to allow the police to go to court when they had reasonable cause to believe that an order was necessary to prevent an individual disturbing good order at a football match outside the United Kingdom. Who would be covered by that? The first group is those almost 20,000 who have been convicted of football-related offences but have had no restriction orders placed on them. The police may believe that, if such people travelled overseas to a game, there would be a serious risk that they would cause disturbance and damage. The new clause would allow the police to go to court to put that case. The decision would rest with the court, but the police would be allowed to make the case.
§ Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that smaller in number, but with an even greater reason to be included in the football behaviour orders, are those against whom exclusion orders have been made in the United Kingdom? There is a powerful case for them to be covered. There are several times more such people than are presently covered by restriction orders.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
Indeed. I shall come to that. The factors to be taken into account should be in the Bill, rather than allowing total discretion. I have no difficulty with that proposition. As my hon. Friend says, many groups might be included.
§ Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)
I recognise that subsections (5) and (7) of new clause 10 refer to the order applying for not less than five years. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are circumstances in which it might be appropriate at the outset, on the strength of an appalling track record of behaviour, to impose an order lasting longer than that—potentially for life?
§ Sir Norman Fowler
The only trouble with this debate is that one is attacked both ways. Sometimes I am attacked for being too severe, and—although "attacked" is the wrong way to put it—my hon. Friend suggests that I am being too lenient. In the spirit of our approach to the matter, we would listen to any argument. One can foresee circumstances in which five years might be lenient, but it is not an unreasonable figure, and relates to the restriction orders and the 20,000 people could potentially be covered by them but are not covered at the moment.
The order would allow the police to go to court and say that an individual, although he had not been convicted of a football-related offence, had been convicted of some other 714 offence, perhaps a crime of violence, and was therefore likely to pose a danger if he went to an overseas match. The decision would be taken by the court, but the police would be empowered to show that the individual's past criminal conviction would lead a reasonable man to the conclusion that there was a substantial risk that his presence at a football match would lead to violence or to other disturbance.
The new clause would enable the police to go to court even if the individual concerned had not been convicted up to then of a serious offence. Those who think that that is one step too far should look at the detail of the anti-social behaviour orders. The powers being given by the orders do not require a conviction for a previous offence to be established. Indeed, it would be extremely difficult to see how that could be the case if an order were to be effective.
In dealing with football hooligans, the police may not want to reveal the intelligence that they have gathered on an individual who, although he is without a conviction, nevertheless presents a serious and real threat. The police may be reluctant to put that intelligence information to the court, and would prefer to deal with the matter by means of sensible co-operation between one police force and another.
If that is the case, I am entirely content that reasonable cause should be linked to past offences, but that those past offences should include not only football-related offences but others. In other words, the measure would not be entirely exclusive to football-related offences. It would then be up to the court to decide how relevant the offences were to the decision.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
The thing that worries me about the debate—this applies to the Government as well as to the Opposition—is that, once we start talking about anti-social behaviour, giving the police extreme powers and not merely football-related hooligan offences but football-related offences, I wonder where it will stop.
Would the measure have anything to do with people like Cantona? What about people like Tony Adams, who has been charged with serious offences and is now performing well on the field for England? Would it have anything to do with somebody like Stan Collymore? I am trying to suggest—not only to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, but to my right hon. and hon. Friends—that, if we give the police those tremendous powers, we will finish up with half a football team.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
I take the point that the hon. Gentleman makes in his customary manner. However, we are not dealing with the members of football teams in the amendment—that is, unless they are going out on to the streets of Marseilles to riot and cause damage, which seems an unlikely event, and so far one which has not been suggested. I should point out gently to the hon. Gentleman that his wider concerns go to the heart of the Bill.
The anti-social behaviour orders, among others, give the police greater powers, but our proposals are more limited. They would deal specifically with football hooliganism, which was so offensively illustrated last 715 week, as everyone saw, and to which the proposals are not an unreasonable response. They would not give the police unchecked—
§ Sir Norman Fowler
They would not—the police would have to ask the court to make an order, and the court would have to make its decision on the basis of the application.
§ Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw)
One of the problems is that exclusion orders and restriction orders have loopholes. If the right hon. Gentleman says at the Dispatch Box what those loopholes are, all the villains will learn about them. Indeed, many of them already know about the loopholes; they travel by different routes, or four people drive an old van with another person stuck in the back, for example. It is easy, in a mass exodus, for people to get around court orders.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
As I said at the outset—I know the hon. Gentleman was here—I do not think that either we or the Government would claim that there was any guarantee that a football hooligan or thug could be excluded from a match; that would be impossible under any law. However, I believe that the current situation could be improved. The effectiveness of our system—again, I do not think that there is anything between us and the Government on this—is brought into question by the fact that, in the past five years, 20,000 people have been convicted of football-related offences, but only 71 restriction orders have been made.
I hope that I have said enough to demonstrate the seriousness not only of the threat that I believe such people pose, but of the Opposition's approach to that threat. We are grateful to the Home Secretary for taking up two of our proposals, but we hope that he will use the principles that are set out in the other proposals as the foundation for other measures. I do not believe that we can rely only on the two measures that he has accepted; we need to do more if we are to have a realistic prospect of dealing with these people, and that must include giving more powers not only to the police but to the courts, which would have to take decisions.
Parenthetically, I raise another issue, about which I wrote to the Home Secretary over the weekend. Last week, the Prime Minister suggested that, on returning to this country, convicted football hooligans should be disciplined by their employers and perhaps sacked. I do not want to dispute the deterrent value of that as an immediate measure, although the last thing we want is for those people to be kept at the taxpayers' expense on social security. However, in the range of action that is open to us, certainly over the next few weeks, the suggestion could provide a reasonable deterrent.
In the medium term, we need to examine how we can progress beyond that. My basic belief is that people who have been found guilty of causing damage overseas—in this case,France—should be required to make reparation to help to pay for the damage that they have caused. As I understand it, the French have a criminal claims compensation scheme. I see no reason why convicted offenders who have caused damage overseas should not pay into that scheme, which would require some system 716 of attachment of earnings for convicted offenders on their return to work in this country. That would best be done by an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. We are talking about an important principle—offenders should be required to pay for the damage that they have caused.
I would welcome the guidance of the Home Secretary on that issue, but above all I would welcome his response to the issues that we have set out with the aim of strengthening our defences against the actions of hooligans overseas, who have done a great deal in the past week to damage the reputation of English soccer.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)
First, I thank the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) for the manner in which he spoke to his new clauses on an important and current issue. I also thank him for tabling them, even though they will use up valuable Opposition time.
I echo the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, and place on the record, as I did last Monday, the abhorrence of all decent people in this country, who were angry as well as shocked to see the disgraceful scenes involving a relatively small number of English so-called supporters in Marseilles.
The world cup tournament France '98 is plainly enormously important for this country and, in particular, for those who reside in two of its nations—Scotland and England—or who support those teams. It is a great sporting festival and we want it to be remembered as such. As a Government, our aim has always been to promote it as an enjoyable and safe tournament for law-abiding supporters from England and Scotland. Regrettably, that has meant that we have had to spend a huge amount of time and effort on the small minority of hooligans who want to cause trouble and disrupt things.
Before dealing with the specific points that the right hon. Gentleman raised, I must remind the House of what we have been doing to lay plans to combat hooliganism in France and ensure, as far as possible, that the games are as peaceful and enjoyable as they can be. As soon as we took office last May, we entered into immediate discussions, which continued through the summer, about preparations for the world cup. Last October, the Prime Minister asked me to co-ordinate those efforts and to establish a world cup co-ordinating group.
Within that group, all parties—Government, police and footballing associations—have worked together on all matters affecting supporters going to France and, obviously, those attending games. In doing so, we have had three main aims. The first was to ensure that the world cup is first and foremost a sporting festival. The second was to promote the interests of respectable football supporters and prevent a hooligan minority from bringing disgrace to our country, as, sadly, they did last weekend. The third was to work closely with our French counterparts to achieve those aims.
In March, we published a detailed action plan, which we sent to all hon. Members and which received wide approval. It set out the measures that we have taken to achieve those objectives. That action plan had two distinct and simple purposes. The first was to provide the decent supporter with the confidence of knowing that the British and French authorities are properly looking after their 717 interests and welfare. We need to remember that thousands of supporters are going to the games to support our teams, and it is partly their vigorous, but peaceful, support in the stadium that makes a significant difference to the morale, and therefore, we hope, the success, of the English and Scottish teams.
In saying that, I pay my tribute to Sir Michael Jay, the British ambassador in France, and all his staff, whom I know from my many visits to the embassy in Paris. They have worked tirelessly, in some cases full time on this matter, with the consular authorities in Marseilles, Boulogne and elsewhere in France to ensure that good arrangements were in hand to look after the interests of the decent supporter and traveller in France.
The second purpose of the action plan was to provide clear and unambiguous warnings to the hooligan that his behaviour would not be tolerated. I had many discussions, beginning at the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union in May 1997, with my two opposite numbers, M. Jean-Pierre Chevenement, the French Minister of the Interior, and Elizabeth Guigou, the Minister of Justice—although most of the responsibility is M. Chevènement's.
We discussed ways in which we could greatly improve co-operation between ourselves and the French. I am pleased that the French authorities indicated early that they would apply the law firmly to those who chose to break it. From the first, we gave full support to that approach, and we welcomed the statement, which has been proved by events, that prosecutions would follow for those who broke the law, and that, in many cases, imprisonment would be the immediate punishment for those found guilty before French courts.
Our co-operation with the French Government, police and other authorities has been excellent. The Football Association and the Scottish Football Association paid preliminary visits with their security advisers to the places where their teams would play and stay. Equally important, senior police officers from England and Scotland visited the various match venues well in advance to see the layout of towns and grounds. They have also shared our expertise on policing and crowd safety, and have established close and successful working contacts with their French colleagues.
At the end of February, in, I am proud to say, Blackburn, at Ewood park, one of the founding homes of world football—Blackburn Rovers was one of the 12 founding teams of the English Football League, without which there would be no world cup—I hosted the European Union's seminar on the policing of football. It was a successful and well-attended event at which representatives of football associations and police authorities across the EU shared experience and advice, and developed good contacts with French counterparts, including Dominique Spinosi, who heads the French organising committee, and George Querry, a senior official from the French Ministry of the Interior who is dealing with the world cup.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)
I congratulate the Home Secretary on the extensive co-operation that took place beforehand, and I associate myself with his remarks about Sir Michael Jay and his colleagues in Paris. 718 However, will the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the hooligans who were convicted following the unspeakable events and behaviour of a very small minority in Marseilles were already known to the police, and had been identified to the French police as known troublemakers?
§ Mr. Straw
The hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but we made an early decision not to give that kind of information, for reasons that will, I think, be readily understood. I can say, however, that it was obvious to the police that a large number of those involved during the initial stages of the trouble in Marseilles were not previously known to, for example, the National Criminal Intelligence Service.
We agreed with the French that British football intelligence police officers— spotters—would work in France during the tournament. I must make it clear that it is for the French to police the world cup, and not for us. We must respect the facts that France has different traditions of policing, and that the French police are autonomous in their own country. The French agreed that spotters could act as a vital source of information on which they could act, and those intelligence officers have been operating successfully. Discussion about their precise role and their numbers continues.
It is important that there should be flexibility, and we intend to ensure that the French authorities receive all the targeted help that they request, and we can provide. I emphasise that one sovereign country may make a request of another, if it wishes to have police officers on its soil acting in any kind of operational, or even advisory, capacity. The House will accept that it would be inappropriate for me to go into further details, particularly of the number of our police officers who are present.
The French are organising their police operation nationally through a co-ordination centre in Paris. British police, including some from the NCIS, are present at that centre. I express my thanks for the enormous amount of willing assistance that we have had from the authorities in France over important policing questions. Both we and the French officials were worried about whether arrangements for collaboration would stand the test of the front line when trouble broke out. I am pleased to say that that has been the case so far.
§ Mr. Lansley
I understand why the Home Secretary does not wish to provide detailed information of the kind requested by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames). However, given the reliance placed on the NCIS in this country, the notification provided to French authorities of those who might be suspected of being involved in football hooliganism and the lack of evidence regarding those who were actually involved in much of the hooliganism that occurred in Marseilles, what conclusions can the Home Secretary draw from the events in Marseilles?
§ Mr. Straw
I am sorry, but I did not entirely follow the hon. Gentleman's question. I shall give way to him again if he is not satisfied with my answer. It is true that some of those involved in the trouble in Marseilles were not known to the NCIS. I am afraid that it is in the nature of the human condition that not all people who are about to commit crimes are known to the police—would that that were the case; it would make my job and that of the police very much easier. 719 The NCIS, which was established by the previous Government, placed on a statutory framework under the Police Act 1997 and brought into force under this Government, is envied across the world because of the great skill and professionalism that it brings to bear on criminal intelligence. Almost uniquely—although I was told in my grammar lessons that something is either unique or it is not—the NCIS combines all law enforcement agencies, such as the police, Customs and Excise, and many other agencies that operate in this country, in a single resource for the pursuit of criminal activity in whatever form.
I shall give an example of the extent of the co-operation between Britain and France. I signed and brought into force on 1 June the bilateral agreement with France so that convictions for football-related offences in France could trigger restriction orders in the British courts. If I had not been able to do that, and if I had not received that co-operation from our French counterparts, much of our discussion about how we could effectively ensure sanction in British courts against those who committed deeply appalling offences in France would have been nugatory.
§ Mr. Ashton
Is not one of the problems the fact that the Data Protection Act 1984 prevents the criminal intelligence unit connected with football from revealing names, addresses and pictures of thugs to clubs, ferry companies and airlines? That is a major restriction. The Act must obviously protect people's privacy, and certain information should not be made public. However, people connected with football who want to prevent violence should have access to that data, which until now has been forbidden to them.
§ Mr. Straw
I share my hon. Friend's frustration with the data protection legislation and the way in which it is sometimes interpreted. We must strike a balance between the rights of individuals to have information about them subject to privacy protection, and the public interest involved in revealing that information—particularly for the detection and prevention of crimes. That issue has arisen in the Bill, where we require authorities to establish partnerships that can be achieved effectively only if they share information. Some police forces have been very reluctant to do that, and I am pleased to say that amendments have been made to the Bill to facilitate that transfer of information.
While the data protection provisions have not blocked the supply of information or the checking by the NCIS of ticket applications within the England members club, they have had other effects that we shall have to consider when the world cup is over.
There is also a wider issue. For example, older juvenile offenders16 or 17-year-olds—may seek the protection of anonymity under the Data Protection Act, when we all know that, if their names and pictures were made available to the press and the public, it would act as a considerable deterrent to their commission of further offences. I am pleased to say that we have taken significant steps to persuade the youth courts to be much more open in the publication of the names of older juvenile offenders. 1 want the press to be vigorous in checking whether the courts are following our advice.
720 4.30 pm
We have taken other steps to help bona fide supporters from Great Britain. Our advice to supporters was summed up in the phrase, "No ticket, don't travel." Television advertisements supported that message. I know that it was criticised in some quarters, but, in my judgment, it was the only sensible message that the Government could have given to football fans, and it remains our message.
The proof lies in the fact that, across this country and Scotland, hundreds of thousands of football fans were able to gather, often in clubs or public houses, to enjoy the communal atmosphere of watching a game without the problems that could have arisen had they gone ticketless to France. There is an alcohol ban on Eurostar trains during the tournament. Although we do not have powers to enforce such a ban, I hope that other carriers, such as ferries and airlines, will restrict the availability of alcohol in appropriate circumstances.
I turn to the new clauses. We share the objectives of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, especially in the light of recent events, which we all deplore. Last Monday, I spoke to Mr. Chevenement to apologise on behalf of the British Government and people for the events in Marseilles. We are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that such disgraceful scenes are not repeated in future soccer tournaments. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say— 1 commend him for saying it—that, even with the best plans that we can think of, there is no way to guarantee that trouble will not take place. We never suggested that that was possible. However, as far as possible, we can guarantee that those causing trouble will be apprehended and dealt with as severely as possible.
The right hon. Member proposed that the penalty for breaking a restriction order should be increased to six months' imprisonment. We agree, and our new clause 12 brings that into proper order. I hope that that is acceptable to him. He also proposed a power of arrest when someone subject to a restriction order is in breach of it. That, too, we accept. For the benefit especially of Conservative Members, I should say that the difference between the Opposition proposal and ours involves simply getting it into proper order and hooking the offence into the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. That not only provides powers to arrest where a scheduled offence has been committed but ensures that an arrest can be made when it appears on reasonable evidence to a police officer that such an offence is about to be committed.
If a restriction order was imposed whereby a person had to report at 3 pm to a court in, for example, in Sutton Coldfield—I pick that example at random—but at 2.30 pm that person was at Heathrow airport waiting to board an aeroplane, then, despite the efforts of the right hon. Member during his time at the Department of Transport to improve transport between Heathrow and Sutton Coldfield, the police would have reasonable grounds for believing that an offence was about to be committed, and would be able to make an arrest.
I understand—I shall deal with the point later—the gravamen of the right hon. Member's proposals for football behaviour orders and for making it almost automatic that a restriction order should be imposed whenever there has been a relevant offence. I should like 721 to explain why I do not believe that we can put those proposals into law at this stage. In no sense do I express disapproval for the principle behind the orders.
The Opposition's football behaviour order would allow the police to apply to the courts when they had reasonable cause to believe that a particular individual would cause disturbances at a football match outside the country. The court would be able to make an order placing prohibitions on the person concerned.
As the right hon. Gentleman made clear this afternoon and on the "Today" programme this morning, these proposals closely follow the Government's proposals for anti-social behaviour orders. It is important that the matter should be debated in an all-party way. However, in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman gently teased the then Opposition for having voted against the Football Spectators Act 1989, I shall gently return the compliment, if such it is, for the position that the Conservative Opposition previously took on anti-social behaviour orders.
I realise that Conservative central office is sometimes off message these days, but it must be said that the Conservative research department, in a brief that it published earlier in the year about the Bill, described the anti-social behaviour order as a policy gimmick that had been dreamed up by us in opposition. It was not a policy gimmick but a serious proposal. Someone should have a word with Conservative central office about that. It may have been taking its cue from the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who was a Minister in the Department of the Environment. When we made our proposals in opposition, he described anti-social behaviour orders as unnecessary.
As the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield has raised these matters, it must also be placed on the record that, in The Sunday Telegraph of 12 April 1998, the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) not only referred to the European convention on human rights but was quoted as saying—perhaps he did not say this; it was The Sunday Telegraph— that the Government's proposals were "dangerously unworkable". There is always time for sinners to repent, and I am glad that the forensic and persuasive powers of the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), have persuaded the Opposition of the value of anti-social behaviour orders.
An issue was raised about the extent to which the orders, which are not criminal convictions, could fit properly with the rights of individuals under the European convention on human rights. That was the serious point that the hon. Member for Hertsmere was raising when he kicked anti-social behaviour orders to one side and said that they were "dangerously unworkable". We are clear that the orders are not in breach of the European convention on human rights, but it has to be put on the record, as I think it was in Committee, that they had to be drafted carefully to ensure that they were not.
Otherwise, there was a danger that the orders, which are civil orders that prohibit people from doing things that, in any event, are unlawful, and retrospectively make that prohibition, could appear to be in the nature of a conviction and a punishment for a past offence. It is 722 palpable that a court can base its decision to grant such an order only on evidence that typically will refer to past behaviour as an indication of future misbehaviour.
We believe that anti-social behaviour orders have struck the right balance, but it has taken a long time to work the issues through. I first proposed such orders—they had a different title then; they were called community safety orders, but that was the principal difference —about three and a half years ago, when we were in opposition. We published two detailed technical consultation documents. Even so, and given the benefit of much helpful profession advice, it was not possible to translate those proposals, on which we had been working for at least a year and a half, into legislation when we came into government. A great deal more work had to be done on the orders before we got them into what we think is a form that will work and is consistent with the European convention on human rights.
The Bill is close to the end of its passage through the House, and it is extremely important that we achieve Royal Assent before the end of July, so that many of the important proposals can be brought into force as swiftly as possible. I do not need to go through all of them, but one issue that is causing great anxiety to hon. Members on both sides of the House is that of serious sex offenders who were the subject of conviction before the Criminal Justice Act 1991 came into force and who, currently, can leave prison without any restriction being imposed on them.
Thanks to assiduous work by the police and probation service, working closely together and led by the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, arrangements have been put in place to deal with some of those serious sex offenders; however, those are temporary arrangements. It is extremely important that we get the sex offenders order on the statute book as quickly as possible, so that we can use those orders and ensure that those people are the subject of proper supervision and that the public are properly protected.
If we were to try to insert in the Bill at this stage a large new order, with the complications that the Opposition themselves accept relate to anti-social behaviour orders, there is a grave danger that, at best, the Bill's passage would be delayed until the spillover part of the Session in late October, and that therefore we would lose at least three months before the Bill could be enacted. Moreover, restriction orders would deal with offences such as those that are being committed in France, whereas the proposed orders would not deal directly with that problem.
Under the new clause moved by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, a police officer would need to have a reasonable belief that an order of the sort proposed was appropriate and would go to court to seek the order. The right hon. Gentleman accepted that, in some cases, the police would not wish to apply for an order: because of the nature of the intelligence that they had received, they would not think it appropriate to bring that intelligence before the court. Other than convictions, in almost every case involving football hooligans—[Interruption]
I can see that those on the Opposition Front Bench are concerned about the light shining in their eyes, which makes thinking difficult. After 18 years of experience on that side of the House, I can tell them that a word to the 723 Clerk, followed by a word to a Doorkeeper, will always secure the raising of the blinds. This short interruption will also give me a chance to drink a glass of water. Many a time when I was bathed in sunlight on the Opposition Front Bench, 1 could see that those on the Treasury Bench were enjoying my discomfort; however, we are a compassionate Government.
The new clause states that the chief officer of police has to havereasonable cause to believe that an order under this section is necessary to preventa persondisturbing good order at any designated football match outside the United Kingdom".In short, he must believe not only that an order is appropriate or reasonable, but that it is necessary. I recognise the difficulties of drafting in opposition, but that wording is such that, in almost every case, the evidence that would be required to be put before the court would be intelligence evidence.
There are two problems with that. One is that in few cases is intelligence evidence good evidence for cause, because it is in the nature of hearsay evidence. The rules relating to evidence in civil courts are wider than those in criminal courts, but even courts where the civil rules of evidence and the civil burden of proof apply have to ensure that the evidence proves the point; otherwise, any decision they made would be overturned on appeal. The second problem is that, even if intelligence evidence were ruled admissible in the court, which in itself would be difficult to achieve, it is questionable whether it would be in the public interest for the courts routinely to be told about the nature of the evidence that was being introduced.
For example, evidence to be found on the National Criminal Intelligence Service database typically includes evidence from informants. In this country, we rely heavily on informants: it may be an unpleasant aspect of police work to pay criminals or to pay people to act as agents in order to gain good intelligence about other criminals, but it is necessary. It is my judgment, and it has been the judgment of successive Governments, that, although clear rules have to be laid down regarding the proper conduct of informant operations, the public interest would not be served if the nature of informant handling was routinely brought to public notice, as it would have to be under the new clause.
The result would be that police officers would judge that it would not be in the public interest to seek the orders under the new clause, given the other difficulties relating to the chief police officer's having to prove that an order was necessary to prevent the person concerned fromdisturbing good order at any designated football match outside the United Kingdom".
§ Sir Norman Fowler
Would not that argument disappear if we were to limit the clause to past offences? It seems to me that one of the problems with which we have to deal is the fact that 20,000 people have been convicted of football-related offences, yet only 71 restriction orders have been issued. Under the new clause, it would be open to the police to put it to the magistrates court that an individual had been so convicted, which would provide the necessary ground for seeking a further restriction order.
§ Mr. Straw
I shall deal later with restriction orders. I am not telling the right hon. Gentleman that we believe that what is contained in new clause 10 is simply to be dismissed —I do not believe that for a moment. It is an important idea, and one which we should sit down and work on.
However, as the right hon. Gentleman, who was a Minister for many years, often said, in answer to a point from the Opposition, that the Government have a duty to ensure that law passed by the House is good law. The proposition was only made last Thursday, and it will not be possible to put it into proper order within the time available to get the Bill passed, especially given the time it took to get anti-social behaviour orders into shape.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that, as soon as we got sight of his proposals, I sat down with officials and went through them to find those that we could accept, which we got parliamentary counsel to ensure were put into good order, and those that required more work. If I had thought that we could accept the lot, that would have given me the greatest pleasure of all.
§ Mr. Ashton
Will my right hon. Friend ask the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) about the 20,000 convictions to which he referred? Is not the right hon. Gentleman thinking of 20,000 arrests? It seems a large number and probably goes back about 20 years. I would suggest that some of those convictions are for pickpocketing, peddling drugs, or drunkenness inside a football ground—offences which are not really connected with the problem being debated. Many statistics get lumped together and, of the 20,000 convicted, probably only 500 were convicted of serious hooliganism.
§ Mr. Straw
I have to tell my hon. Friend that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield was referring to an answer given to one of his hon. Friends by one of my Ministers last week about the number of football-related offences recorded in the past five years. Football-related offences cover the sorts of offence to which my hon. Friend refers, as well as offences of violence and specific hooliganism of the sort exhibited in the south of France.
It may be appropriate to deal directly with restriction orders. We accept that there are defects in the Football Spectators Act 1989. The right hon. Gentleman teased me about the fact that we voted against Second Reading of that Bill, so it might be sensible for me to put on the record our reasons for doing so.
We did so to save the Conservative Government from the grave error of going down the road of football identity cards. At that stage, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was not spending sufficient time with his family and was still a member of the Cabinet. As he is a man of great wisdom, I have no doubt that he told Mrs. Thatcher that an identity card scheme was likely to make matters worse, not better. I know that many other people said the same to her. Besides me, she is the only other honorary vice-president of Blackburn Rovers; but her knowledge of soccer and attendance on the terraces are not exactly as extensive as mine. In short, she did not understand how the system would operate. That is why we voted against Second Reading of the Football Spectators Bill.
In the end, the previous Government saw the wisdom of what we were saying, and did not bring into force the relevant part of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the 725 Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), speaking for the Opposition—it was a Department of the Environment Bill—said:We can at least agree the principle of part II of the Bill and the intention to restrict people convicted of a football-related offence from travelling to matches abroad."—[Official Report, 27 June 1989; Vol.155, c. 860.]More recently, in 1995, we said that the restriction orders should be used more often by the courts.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
Returning to the point raised by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), the fact is that 20,000 football-related offences have been committed in the past five years. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that all their perpetrators could have been subject to restriction orders?
§ Mr. Straw
I cannot confirm that. The definition of a relevant offence in the Football Spectators Act is different from, and narrower than, the definition that the police use for recording purposes. If I am wrong, I shall try to provide more information later in the debate.
As we know, restriction orders prevent those subject to them from attending matches abroad involving teams from England and Wales. The offenders concerned have to report to police stations in this country when such matches take place. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield said that restriction orders had almost fallen into disuse when we took office. That is true: last year, there were only nine extant orders. I decided to issue a circular, which went out on 27 December last year, to the courts, the CPS, the Magistrates Association and the police, reminding them all of this power. As a result, the number of orders in force has risen from nine to 71.
Detective Inspector Chapman of the NCIS wanted us to take other measures as well, some of them impossible, but the publicity surrounding the circular, and its implementation, have meant that the courts are now seized of the need to impose the orders—they are responding to the advice extremely well.
I want to pick up the right hon. Gentleman's point about whether the courts should automatically impose orders. Operational instructions have been provided to prosecutors; the Lord Chancellor's Department has reminded courts of their powers under the 1989 Act. Operational guidance to the CPS asks prosecutors to make applications for bail conditions for the prevention of further offences, and, when appropriate, for the surrender of passports. It also asks prosecutors to make applications for restriction orders when appropriate. Instructions advise prosecutors, when the circumstances surrounding a football-related offence are not made clear on the case file—sometimes they are not—to approach the police for further details.
I do not want to speak for much longer, especially as I have just been handed a note to that effect by my Minister of State, but I should like to deal with the point about automaticity. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield will be aware of the apprehension felt in the courts whenever an automatic penalty is imposed. The facility was used sparingly by the previous Government, and when, with our support, such propositions were presented, they resulted from the most detailed scrutiny. The relevant part of the new clause is unacceptable to us, as it goes too wide.
726 I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that I stand ready to institute further discussions with the Lord Chancellor and the CPS to ensure that the courts are advised, whenever a football-related offence is before them, to consider imposing a restriction order. We shall also advise them to give reasons when they do not do so. Given the public's concerns—magistrates are also members of the public—about what has happened in France, I believe that the courts will readily accede to such advice.
In the light of what I have said about football behaviour orders and the extension of automaticity, I hope that the Opposition will not press the new clause to a vote.
§ Mr. Lansley
Does the Home Secretary agree that it was because there was no immediate prospect of England travelling abroad to football matches that restriction orders were not sought for a long period—they were not required in relation to any particular events? Has he considered the scope for applying restriction orders retrospectively to given offences?
§ Mr. Straw
There is a general prohibition on creating retrospective criminal offences. That is a principle of our law and of the European convention. I am advised, however, that the changes that I hope the House will agree later today—in respect of stronger punishments for breaches of restriction orders—will apply to all new orders, including those made in respect of offences already committed in France. Thus, those who have committed such offences in France will be caught, because the orders will not be made until the Bill—with luck—becomes an Act. To that extent, retrospective effect will be given to convictions already obtained—and to those that I hope will continue to be obtained in France for hooligan offences committed during the world cup.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
Is the Home Secretary saying that he does not oppose the principle of our football behaviour order, and that he would be prepared to listen to further arguments, perhaps put at a meeting, about how such an order could be given practical effect?
§ Mr. Straw
The answer is yes. For the avoidance of dubiety, however, I should add that I do not believe that it will be possible to conclude those discussions before the end of the Report stage. It is important not to make the best the enemy of the good; we must get the Bill into law as quickly as possible, not least to ensure that anyone breaking a restriction order suffers the maximum penalty of six months, not one month; and to give the police the power of arrest. I nevertheless undertake to instigate discussions on the issue as quickly as possible.
I have spoken at some length because these are important issues. I wanted to explain to the Opposition why we have accepted two parts of their new clauses, and why we have been unable to accept the wording of two other parts. It is clear from the debate, however, that the whole House is united in its opposition to what happened in Marseilles, and in its determination to act ever more severely on football hooliganism, in this country and abroad.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)
Anti-social behaviour orders, on which the new clauses are based, were debated at length in Committee. Last weekend, the 727 Prime Minister seemed to suggest that the Opposition were less committed than the Government to stamping out hooligan behaviour. He was undoubtedly basing those remarks on information that had been given to him by the Minister of State, Home Office, who, in turn, was misquoting what my hon. Friends and I said in Committee. It must be placed firmly on the record, so that the Home Secretary appreciates the matter, that the Opposition were not opposed to the anti-social behaviour orders in Committee, and we are not being cynical because we have tabled new clauses containing orders that are based on the anti-social behaviour orders for debate on the Floor of the House.
I shall remind the Home Secretary of some of the questions that we asked in Committee. We wanted to ensure that there was rigour about the anti-social behaviour orders, that they were not sweepingly defined, and that it was clear who the victim was. We were not opposed to the anti-social behaviour orders, but we argued in detail that existing legislation, especially the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which mentionsthreatening, insulting or & abusive behaviour",already covered the sort of behaviour about which the Government have complained. We were trying to probe precisely what new form of behaviour would be covered by the orders, as is our duty.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alun Michael)
I remind the hon. Gentleman that we spent a long time discussing the fact that prevention rather than punishment was the aim of the anti-social behaviour orders. He does not seem to have grasped that point yet.
§ Mr. Leigh
We did spend a long time discussing that point. As the Minister made clear, if an anti-social behaviour order is imposed, punishment in terms of criminal conviction does not follow, but, as he well knows, other punishment follows, and a number of restrictions can be placed on the defendant by the courts if the defendant does not comply with the order. We made those points in Committee, and we were perfectly entitled to do so.
We also made it clear that, at heart, the Bill was a Conservative Bill, and that many of the matters that we were debating were originally mooted by the Conservative Government. We were trying to tease out from the Minister precisely what sort of behaviour would be covered. On many occasions, he was either unwilling or incapable of telling us in detail what sort of behaviour the orders were designed to catch. Indeed, he used a famous phrase, saying that we would recognise such behaviour as the elephant on the doorstep. I said to him:The elephant on your doorstep is not the language of Lord Denning."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 30 April 1998; c. 67.]
The Minister, however, seemed happy to say to the Committee, "Don't worry; we can't define what sort of behaviour will be covered, but the magistrates will deal with the matter adequately when it comes back to them." We said, "No. What sort of behaviour will be covered by an anti-social behaviour order—playing a CD too loud, irritating the neighbours or causing distress, although there might not be a particular victim?"
728 The Opposition have tabled in the new clause an anti-social behaviour order that provides, for the first time, a clear definition of such behaviour. It also includes a definition of a victim that I believe would not fall foul of the European convention on human rights. We have clearly defined a problem. The whole House is aware that there are major difficulties with football hooliganism—that is international news—and the Conservative Opposition have provided a closely defined form of anti-social behaviour. Apparently the Government will reject our new clause, but I can think of no good reason why they should do so.
The Home Secretary said that the Bill would somehow be delayed if he did further work on the new clause. I do not believe that that is true. It would be perfectly possible for the Government to come back in a week or two with their own form of anti-social behaviour order which dealt precisely with football hooliganism. Why are the Government opposing the new clause? Perhaps they are doing so out of a sense of pique, because the Conservative Opposition have correctly identified football hooliganism as the issue of the hour and provided a definition of a form of anti-social behaviour that the public want to be addressed. We have also identified the fact that the Bill does not address such behaviour.
Why are the Government opposing the new clause? They could have said, as the Home Secretary was careful not to, that it was incorrectly drafted. He could have passed it to the parliamentary draftsmen, and I would have understood it if he had said, "The essence of the new clause is correct, but it is defectively drafted. Let us redraft it, and we shall see whether we can put it in the Bill." He has not said that, but has come back with loose and ill-defined opposition to our new clause.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Government will not accept the new clause: after all, it could be used on the basis of clear evidence. In the Committee debate on anti-social behaviour on council estates, we said that it is often difficult to prove a particular form of behaviour. There may be malicious prosecutions and disputes, and, as in cowboy movies, no clear sense of good and bad. There are many grey areas such as domestic disputes between and within families, but we have provided a clear and close definition of such behaviour and an order could be based on a conviction.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) has said, there have in recent years been 20,000 convictions as a result of behaviour on or about the football terraces. As anti-social behaviour orders are being introduced, what could be easier than introducing a clearly defined form of anti-social behaviour specifically in respect of hooliganism at football matches? What clearer message could be sent out to the general public? I believe that the new clause is sound, and I urge hon. Members to support it.
§ Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
I am concerned that football hooliganism is the issue of the moment. As the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said, it has been picked out by the Conservatives. Often, Parliament does not do justice to legislation because it has been rushed through. Hon. Members who were in the House when we rushed through the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989 will know that that was particularly bad legislation.
I am also worried when there is consensus between Front Benchers. There is consensus today, but I remind hon. Members that there was consensus when the Child 729 Support Agency legislation—the Child Support Act 1995—was passed; and we know what we got with that. I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said, and there is a need to tighten the law.
Regrettably, one of my constituents has a record of violence at or in the vicinity of football matches going back 10 years. I shall not mention his name, because he would only glory in being mentioned in Parliament. That gentleman was involved in Dublin in 1995, when the match between Ireland and England had to be abandoned—he was arrested, given a suspended sentence and deported. In October 1997, he attacked an Italian pensioner on a train while travelling to Rome for the world cup qualifying match.
My constituent is a known hooligan. He went on record as saying that he was going to France to cause trouble, so I decided to write to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, making three points. First, I asked whether this hooligan could be prevented from going to France, because he had said that he was intent on violence. My right hon. Friend replied that, regrettably, that could not be done because my constituent did not have a restriction order on him, and that he would be allowed to travel to France.
I appreciate my right hon. Friend's reply, which I received today, but I did not need it, because Cumbria police had said that they could not stop my constituent, and in Saturday's edition of The Mirror, it was reported that my constituent was in France, had bought a ticket on the black market, and was staying at a good hotel. Obviously, he was able to get through the net—there was nothing we could do to stop him. I understand—although this has not been confirmed—that he has now returned to England. The man boasts about the trouble he causes. He has caused trouble in both Ireland and Italy, but it seems that we cannot do anything about it.
Secondly, the man has now said that he intends to produce a book to coincide with the world cup. He will make up to £800,000 out of recording his violent behaviour. I asked my right hon. Friend whether there was any way in which to stop publication of the book, or to take away the man's profit and give it to the victims of his crime. The answer was that such action would be very unlikely. Again, that cannot be right. It should not be possible for criminals, which is what they are, who have been through the courts—and the man concerned has been in prison on a number of occasions—to capitalise on their criminal record. The publishers are interested only in profits, and the companies selling the books say that they do not want to behave like censors. It cannot be right for these criminals to profit.
Thirdly, there was a suggestion that the man would sell his story to a newspaper and that it would be serialised. I asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary whether that could be stopped. The answer was that, regrettably, it could not be stopped because it is perfectly legal. It was suggested that the Press Complaints Commission might be able to do something, but the Government could not stop it.
Hon. Members will understand why people in my constituency who know the man want the law to be changed. The law needs to be changed. It should not be possible for one or two thugs to make a fool of the law— 730 and, to be honest, a fool of Parliament. The vast majority of football supporters from Carlisle and the rest of the country have gone to the world cup to have a good time. They are of good character and law-abiding. One or two supporters are spoiling things, and we must take action to stop them.
We cannot assume that we have taken the necessary action. I suspect that many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, believed that we had passed the necessary legislation. Perhaps even my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary thought so. Previous Home Secretaries have said, "We are doing this, that and the other," but when it has been tested, the law has been found wanting.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will push ahead with his proposals today, but return to the House at a later date with further proposals to prevent criminals from writing books about their exploits. In a law-abiding society that wants to go forward, it is not acceptable that such people should be able to drag us down.
§ Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester)
There has been broad support for the Government's proposals, and I wish to continue that consensus. We are united in deploring the incidents that have occurred and we pray that there will not be any more. The problem is that many of those involved thrive on the oxygen of publicity, as the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) said. It could be argued that this debate provides more publicity. Although I accept that the incidents occurred, I question the way in which they were portrayed by the media—it was exactly what the thugs wanted. I hope that both the media and the thugs have now had enough.
The Liberal Democrat party supports the spirit and the sentiments that have been expressed from both Front Benches. However, I hope that the Home Secretary can clarify certain issues that may cause concern. Will he confirm that incidents that happen overseas will not be subject to further trial in this country? I am referring to the imposition of a restriction in this country, rather than the offence being dealt with a second time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that restriction orders will be served only on those who have been found guilty of an offence, and not in the circumstances referred to by the hon. Member for Carlisle where there had not been a conviction? I acknowledge the points that the hon. Gentleman made, but if there has not been a conviction, I question whether a restriction order would be valid. I hope that the Home Secretary will clarify the matter.
I was disturbed to hear that there are some 4,000 convictions a year for football-related offences. Although the incidents at the world cup over the last two weeks have focused attention on the English disease—I was about to say the British disease, but in fairness, it is an English football disease—I would welcome further clarification of how we are to deal with the continuing problem of football hooliganism within the English game—the home season.
Does the Home Secretary believe that the clubs are doing all that is necessary? I include in that question those who wear their clubs' colours on the pitch, and their activities when they are not on the pitch. We are looking for leadership from our professional footballers. Hon. Members are aware that one or two of them have 731 not set the best examples. It is possible that one or two of the hooligans thought that they were settling a score. If there are 4,000 convictions a year, should there not be an increase in the use of restriction orders? I do not refer only to the big clubs; there are also problems with the smaller clubs. I am also worried about how the proposals will be policed. It will be another burden on our hard-pressed police forces.
Although I acknowledge that the House and the public want action to be taken, I want to dissociate myself from the Prime Minister's suggestion that those who are convicted of an offence overseas should be sacked from their jobs in this country. The consequence of doing that will be the public purse having to support those people. I am not defending football hooligans, but I think that the Prime Minister has overstepped the mark.
§ Mr. Martlew
The man in the case that I cited was sacked from his job after the Italian attack. It is a punishment. Surely employers have the right to dismiss people who discredit their companies.
§ Mr. Russell
That is a matter for the employers and the tribunals. A virtual instruction from the Prime Minister is not helpful. If the hooligan is in an occupation where good order is paramount, sacking might be justified, but it is not necessarily relevant—
§ Mr. Russell
I will not be drawn into that question. It is not the role of Government to instruct employers on how they should dispense with the services of those whom they employ. I stand by that statement. I had not thought that the state was interfering with employers to quite that extent.
I join the two Front-Bench spokesmen in congratulating the police in this country and in France, and the British officials overseas on what they have done to try to improve the situation. I trust that the minority—and it is the minority—will not prevail, and that thousands of law-abiding English and Scottish supporters will be able to enjoy the remainder of the world cup without the thugs dragging English soccer further into the mire.
§ Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East)
I unreservedly condemn the hooliganism in Marseilles. The so-called English patriots who marauded through France brought nothing but shame on the nation and on the football team. It is ridiculous to refer to them as brave, aggressive young men: they are nothing of the kind. Even to speak of them in the same breath as the genuinely brave men who died in past wars is disgraceful. The individuals who marauded through France are the cowards of the crowd and they should not be considered brave in any circumstances. All hon. Members should surely agree with that. Their behaviour is ruining the world cup and our prospects in that tournament. They are not representative of the decent fans who want to enjoy a celebration of the game.
It is pretty clear that the present system is unable to deal with the problem. The solution is not new law, but a tighter use of restriction orders by the courts. I accept that 71 cases is too few, but there has been an improvement this year. At the beginning of the year there were only 732 nine, so at least some progress has been made. I am convinced that the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts and the police can make greater use of restriction orders.
The real solution to hooliganism does not lie with the law: it lies with a change in the culture of the game. It comes down to what the game is about, including the people who participate in it. A great deal of work has already been done. Anyone who takes a tour of football grounds will realise that enormous steps have been taken towards finding a solution to the problem of hooliganism. Remarkable improvements have been made to facilities.
Football must heal itself. A change in culture must be backed by football clubs and, most important, by players, who make a lot of money out of the game. For the future of the game and for the future of our young people, they have a responsibility to show, both on and off the field, that good behaviour is the only way forward for this great game of ours.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)
I share the views of the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby). It is interesting that he and the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) were united in their view that the current law is not adequate to deal with this problem. The hon. Member for Carlisle supported the point, argued by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), that we need to go further than the Government have proposed. The Government should accept the entirety of new clause 10. It is clear that there is unanimity in the House about the importance of this issue, and that the Opposition's new clauses go further than the Government have been prepared to go.
Hon. Members are united in their concern for the French police officer who was attacked during further mob violence. He is married and has two children. I am sure that we all send our best wishes to his family. My heart sank as the news of the attack was broadcast, but then it became clear that German, not English, fans were involved. I applaud the German football authorities for offering to withdraw their team from further participation in the tournament. That offer has been declined, but it shows that football authorities rightly recognise that the appalling spectacle of violence has affected the tournament, as the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East said. It has been a national disgrace for all the countries whose supporters have been involved in violence.
All hon. Members condemn hooliganism, but we also have a duty to say how we can best deal with the problem. I was surprised that the French authorities took decisions only after the first violence occurred in Marseilles. Bars are to close at 11 pm, and the giant screens which the fans wanted, are to be removed as a punishment and will be restore only if there is no further violence and hooliganism. Surely it would have been common sense to close all the bars somewhat earlier than 11 pm. It is clear from our sadly extensive experience of football violence over many years that much of it is drink-related.
§ Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)
Does not shutting bars treat the symptoms rather than the cause? We should be driving out the hooligans. Fans from other nations drink and use bars until goodness knows what time in the morning, but they do not get involved in fighting, and 733 there is no stain on their nation. Hooliganism must be dealt with without spoiling the enjoyment of the rest of us, who behave responsibly.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I agree that it is sad that the enjoyment of law-abiding people is spoilt because bars have to close, but we are not talking about them. I think that the hon. Gentleman is realistic enough to accept that drink has always played a part in such offences. Although I entirely agree that we must find a way to deal with hooliganism—we are debating ways of extending the law to deal with the hooligan problem—it is extraordinary that, given the extent of the shared police intelligence during the build-up to the world cup, more thought was not given to the significance of drink in the behaviour of hooligans.
§ Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)
I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that drink was not an element of the German offence, of which he gave a clear description. Perhaps his argument that drink always plays a role in hooligan offences should be corrected.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but the film footage of the scenes of violence in Marseilles involving England supporters clearly showed that drink had played a part in those incidents. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is nodding.
§ Mr. Soames
I endorse entirely what my hon. Friend has said. I have read with increasing disbelief the histories of some of the people involved in this thuggery. What the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Mc Walter) said applies to the ringleaders. Drink is not a part of their methods: they are calm, controlled and determined. They wickedly and ruthlessly take advantage of those who are already drunk. Of course drink is a problem, but the leaders are wicked, evil people who are not drunk, and who behave in this way for a purpose.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I agree with my hon. Friend, but there can be trouble not only at football matches, but at other sporting events when no ringleaders are involved. Not long ago, I was at a race meeting with my two young sons when a drink-related fight broke out. No ringleaders, sober and bent on violence, were involved; several young men who had had far too much to drink simply became violent. Much of what we are talking about is undoubtedly drink-related.
All hon. Members who have spoken so far agree about the need to use restriction orders more. We would all encourage the courts to make greater use of the powers they already have, but much of the planning for the world cup, worthwhile though it was, did not go far enough. Before it started, disquiet was expressed about the limited number of tickets available to England fans, but the Government's instruction to fans not to travel without a ticket was, sadly, always doomed to failure.
I do not criticise the Home Secretary for what he said. I am sure that any responsible Minister would have made the same kind of statement, but we all recognised at the time that many supporters were bound to travel to France without tickets, hoping to get them on the black market. 734 We recognised that many supporters would end up rootless and shiftless in the streets around the towns where the English team was due to play, and that there would be trouble when drink was involved.
I hope that the Home Secretary will reflect on what my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield said about the need to consider the issue further. The Home Secretary is being very realistic in saying that he is prepared to examine the problem beyond the confines of this debate, but I ask him to take seriously what my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said. We did not deal with this subject in Committee, but we did consider general anti-social behaviour. As my hon. Friend said, in Committee we were concerned to make the Bill work and we believe that our new clauses would be effective.
§ Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)
In Committee, we discussed at some length the proposition that separate orders should be introduced only to cover distinct and recognisable behaviour, and that they should not be applied too generously. Will the hon. Gentleman explain exactly the distinct type of behaviour that the football behaviour order would cover, and how that behaviour would be distinct enough to justify a separate order?
§ Mr. Hawkins
I hear what the hon. Lady says but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough said, we want the Bill to be effective in practice.
The Home Secretary talked about the seminar at Ewood Park which, as I think he is aware, was also attended by a superintendent from my area and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins). He was previously a Metropolitan police officer in charge of policing at Stamford Bridge, but more recently he has been the senior officer in charge at Woking during Woking's successful cup run, so he has experience of being in charge of policing at a major premier league club, and of the problems associated with premier league matches as well as smaller clubs. Problems can arise when smaller clubs are visited by larger clubs and the ground does not always have the capacity to cope with all the supporters. It was a successful seminar and I have had good reports of it. I am sure that the Government will continue to encourage the police to cross-fertilise experience and opinion—internationally as well.
I am delighted that the Football Association has employed a former senior police officer, whom we all heard speak at length in the media in the aftermath of the violence. It is good that such expertise is available, but we know that despite all the good intentions and the hard work the trouble has continued. I believe that new clause 10 would be a better way to deal with it.
§ Mr. Lansley
Will my hon. Friend reflect on the fact that considerable progress in controlling violence has been made at domestic football matches in recent years? Does he agree that the world cup is a relatively accessible tournament to which people spend considerable time travelling, and that it is those circumstances that give rise to the particular need for new clause 10?
§ Mr. Hawkins
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. It has become clear that many of the people involved in the violence at international tournaments— 735 this perhaps relates to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames)—have well-paid jobs. They can afford to travel internationally. There is undoubtedly a need for the courts to consider seriously how to exert their powers in order, as the hon. Member for Carlisle said, to hit where it hurts most. It is important to examine how the courts can use restriction orders and how the powers can be extended.
I hope that the Government will reflect further on this matter. I also hope that, in due course, something very much like new clause 10 will appear in a subsequent Bill—if the Home Secretary cannot take the proposal on board now. It is certainly important to look very hard at what is suggested in new clause 10.
Mr. Michael Jabez Foster
As a dedicated and long-term supporter of Hastings Town football club, I have no personal experience of crowd troubles, as the team's best crowd of the season was 375. However, with promotion to the Ryman league, we are hoping for better things.
Sitting by our televisions and experiencing the humiliation the nation suffered because of the behaviour of our so-called supporters means that we are all involved, but it would be a great pity if the agreement that exists across the House that something needs to be done were fractured by petty, party political points—the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), for example, impugned the Government's good intentions because they do not wish to accept new clause 10.
The most important thing is to introduce provisions that work. On the face of, there are problems with new clause 10. It has been suggested that it fits in with clause 1 —and the heading "Crime and disorder: general"—which deals with anti-social behaviour orders. With respect, it does not.
There is a need for provisions to be precise. Clause 1 is very precise in that it states that an application for an anti-social behaviour order may be made if a personhas acted … in an anti-social manner, that is to say, in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself".There may be judicial interpretation of precisely what that means, but it is sufficiently clear to help the judiciary in their consideration.
New clause 10 is much less precise. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already alluded to the test of necessity. It is a very high test and it could well be too high in this instance. The new clause states that a football behaviour order may be applied for ifthe person has acted in such a way as to give reasonable cause to believethat such an order is necessary, but there is no assistance in interpreting what "such a way" is. Phrases such as "in such a way" are so vague and unintelligible that it is difficult, certainly for the layman and, in turn, for the judiciary, to understand what they mean.
Like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I would support a new clause that achieved the Opposition's objective, but new clause 10 is not the one.
Mr. Humfrey Matins (Woking)
I should like first to apologise to the Home Secretary and to other hon. Members for missing the first few minutes of the debate. 736 I was unavoidably detained. However, it has been a very good debate. It is also quite clear that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel very strongly about the issue—about which there is a great deal of unanimity. It is absolutely not a party political issue.
In the past couple of weeks, one of the saddest things for us all has been to switch on the television and to see pictures not of great football matches but of the violence surrounding those matches. Our reputation abroad has been partly destroyed. Many good, ordinary people watching those disgraceful scenes on the television will ask themselves, "How on earth did some of those hooligans and thugs get there? How were they allowed to go there in the first place? What kind of system do we have when they can travel willy-nilly? Why weren't their passports taken away? Can't something be done about it in future?" The only answer is that we must never let it happen again.
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of football fans in this country are good, law-abiding people. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) mentioned Woking football club, which is in my own constituency. It has a wonderful side, which has a great family following and always maintains an outstanding atmosphere. There are many such teams across the country.
So far as I can determine, there are two types of hooligan. One type is the more sinister, tending to go to matches to create violence without taking any drink. They are very nasty, wicked people. There are plenty of those around, who will try, whenever they can, to get to a match to cause violence for its own sake. Some of them are politically driven by one extreme or another of the spectrum. They are very serious and very nasty people.
The second type of hooligan is perhaps less serious and nasty, although it is not at all pleasant. It is composed of those who are normally law-abiding but behave out of character when full of drink.
Both types of hooligan require attention, and new clause 10 is an important step in that direction.
§ Mr. Lansley
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in Marseilles, there was some evidence—not least from the deportation orders made by the French authorities—that the number of those in the first category of hooligans that he mentioned, who are known as category C hooligans, was relatively small? The difficulty is that there was a relatively large number of those whom he might have included in his second category. Part of the difficulty, which new clause 10 deals with, is how to prevent relatively large numbers of such persons arriving in such circumstances at an England game.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The number of those who are in the first category of hooligans is relatively small, and the number of those in the second category is the highest.
I should like to talk to the Home Secretary about the difficulties that he mentioned about new clause 10, and offer my suggestions on how those difficulties might be overcome. I believe that, early in his speech, the Home Secretary—he will forgive me for having entered the Chamber after he started his speech—said that one of the problems with provisions such as new clause 10 is the hearsay nature of the evidence that might be brought 737 before a court and the fact that often informants are used and are very relevant in such proceedings. He was essentially saying that there would be evidential problems, which I can appreciate.
In the spirit of all-party co-operation, however, would the Home Secretary consider whether an application for a football behaviour order should be brought not only in a magistrates court but in a Crown court, before a judge? I make that suggestion specifically because the Home Secretary has mentioned evidential problems in making such orders. There are evidential problems when informants are responsible for a tip-off, advice or hearsay and second-hand evidence because, under natural justice, the defendant is entitled to see the evidence against him and to know its origin—which takes us into the sphere of public interest immunity certificates.
Public interest immunity is a complicated area of the law. However, in granting certificates, the judge or tribunal deciding a case has to take a decision, based on case law, on whether there should be disclosure of the source of information.
I hope that the Home Secretary will take on board the fact that one of the benefits of seeking a football behaviour order in the Crown court would be that the difficulties that he mentioned—about information based on informants—would be overcome partly by a Crown court judge's ability to listen very carefully to difficult, complex arguments on public interest immunity, and, when necessary, to reject those arguments out of hand.
Crown courts may also—I say this with no disrespect to magistrates courts—bring more expertise and expedition to the decision-making process. That may be one reason for requiring the orders to be made in a Crown court. Nevertheless, there may still be a difficulty because of the speed required in making an order. Information that someone might be behaving in a manner that may make it necessary to grant an order to prevent him disturbing good order may come to light only fair late on, sometimes within a day or only a few hours of the proposed departure for the match. I recognise that difficulty, and the possible need for some sort of expedited proceedings.
Another argument for bringing the proceedings in the Crown court rather than the magistrates court is that, under new clause 10, breach of a football behaviour order would entail a maximum 6 months' imprisonment. Hon. Members will know that, in practice, under provisions in the Crime and Disorder Bill, six weeks is the maximum sentence that can be served in custody in a six-month sentence. We have consistently to remind the Government about that point.
I have tried in my speech specifically to point up the matter of public interest immunity. There is some danger in rushing through legislation that has not been thought out properly. The House has seen sufficient examples of such legislation. There is perhaps a temptation to have a knee-jerk reaction to current events in France and elsewhere, and to try to pass today a law that will sort out the problem. I do not think that it is possible to solve the problem today.
738 Today, the House can debate the issues. 1 hope that we will advance that debate in a spirit of co-operation, so that we might move towards a solution—which will be in place, if not next week, as soon as reasonably possible—and ensure that such events do not happen again.
I do not think that we will ever stamp out football hooliganism, here or abroad. Human nature and a free society are such that such behaviour will happen. Life is like that, and we will not change it. However, we can do quite a lot to cut down on the incidence of such behaviour. As the years go by, we can hammer away at the edges to improve matters. It is important for us to attempt to do that.
I dare say that this debate, which has focused on the behaviour of some English people abroad, may apply also to the behaviour of some young people from other countries. The problem is not unique to this country, and is currently probably being faced by other parliaments. I am quite sure that the Home Secretary is discussing with his counterparts across Europe and around the world whether any magic solutions—or solutions better than those that we are considering—have been discovered elsewhere. I rather doubt that any such solutions have been found, but I am sure that the Home Secretary has tried to find them. I am sure that the House would like to hear his proposed solutions.
§ Mr. Coaker
I apologise to the House for missing much of the speeches by Front Benchers in opening the debate. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary whether it will be possible after the Bill is passed to impose an anti-social behaviour order on some of our train companies, so that hon. Members might arrive for debates on time.
I very much agree with the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) that it is important that the House should be debating the issues surrounding football-related violence. This group of new clauses and amendment No. 166 give us the opportunity for such a debate. Given the seriousness of what has happened in the past few days, the British people would not understand if we did not have a full and frank discussion in the Chamber. Indeed, they would have felt let down had there not been an exchange of views on how we can prevent or minimise such events in future. I very much agree with the hon. Member for Woking about the importance of the debate and the opportunities afforded by the new clause.
It is important for hon. Members to reflect on how we felt just over a week ago when we saw on television the behaviour of so-called English football supporters in Marseilles. What should have been a great feeling of elation, joy and expectation before the game, and after the game a sense of tremendous joy that we had won, became for many of us despair, disillusion, frustration and, quite frankly, embarrassment. That was a common theme.
I recall people telling me that the football match had become almost irrelevant, and the result had been soured by what had happened. When we saw the scenes on the beaches of Marseilles before the game, we could not help thinking that the people involved were supposed to be supporting the English football team and representing our country, but were simply dragging it into the gutter. Although we must recognise that they were a minority of the supporters, none the less they disgraced us all.
In discussing the new clauses, we should dispel some of the myths surrounding violence at football matches and the ways in which those involved dress up their behaviour 739 in an attempt to excuse it. We have become accustomed to so-called supporters saying on television, on the radio or in newspapers that they were standing up for England. I do not want them standing up for me. The vast majority of people I have met do not believe that those people are standing up for England, and it is important that that message gets through to them. I am sure that hon. Members agree that it is no good such people wrapping themselves in the banner of English nationalism as an excuse for thuggery and hooliganism, and we will have no part of it.
We must also recognise that such action is not taken by a few hooligans from depressed council estates who go abroad to vent on the streets of a foreign land their frustration at their lack of opportunity in their own society. People who commit such offences come from all sections of society. For too long we have excused hooliganism, thuggery and anti-social behaviour by saying that the people involved are kicking against bad times and a lack of opportunity. It is a lame excuse, which does not wash. It is an insult to us all, not least the law-abiding fans in Marseilles.
We must also accept that this is an English problem. The Scottish supporters drink considerable amounts of alcohol and dress in particular ways, and have been having a good time dancing in the streets, but, although they have been a little the worse for wear, by and large they have not resorted to the behaviour of the so-called England supporters.
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke about stiffer penalties for such offences, which are also proposed in new clause 11. The tightening of the law is the very least that the British public expect. The mythical ordinary man and woman in the street would say that, although it should not have happened, we should make sure that people who have degraded our country should not be allowed to get away with it, and are punished for what they have done. That is what the public demand of us.
I say to the Minister of State that nothing undermines public confidence in the legal system or in Parliament more than our discussing issues and passing laws that are then not enforced. We are discussing stiffer penalties. If we are drawing a line in the sand and saying that people who cross that line will be in trouble, the new laws must be enforced.
If the courts do not enforce the law and impose stricter penalties, people will say that Parliament was interested in the problem when it was on the news and caused embarrassment, and that we pretended to take action but in reality did nothing. If we increase the penalties and say that we are determined to take action against football hooliganism and anti-social behaviour, of which football hooliganism is an extreme example, it is important that the courts enforce the legislation and use their powers to impose penalties.
§ Mr. Lansley
On that point, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it might be preferable to proceed in the way proposed in new clause 11, which requires the court to make a restriction order on a person who commits a football-related offence, unless there are exceptional circumstances, rather than proceeding in the way 740 suggested by the Home Secretary, which involves guidance to courts and encouragement, without the House setting out its specific intentions?
§ Mr. Coaker
I understand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was saying that there has to be a balance between the independence and rights of the judiciary and the right of Parliament to set the guidance within which the courts operate. When Parliament tries to give guidance on how the courts should respond in particular cases, they often ignore it or regard it as less important than we do. My right hon. Friend was saying that the framework of the Crime and Disorder Bill offers a way forward to ensure that the will of the people expressed through Parliament is enforced in the courts, and that we do not get to the point at which laws exist but are not enforced.
Finally, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the way in which he supported the actions of the French police. We should apologise to the French people, and tell them that we wish the world cup to continue to be a celebration of football, as it has been in the vast majority of matches in the majority of cities, and represent all the best about that terrific game. My right hon. Friend was right to support the French police, and the English police in working with them. I hope that they get the message that we want them to be tough when it is necessary.
We recognise that we are talking about a small minority of hooligans rather than the vast majority of law-abiding fans. However, that small minority is a disgrace to our country and to us all. Parliament needs to address the problem in the longer term, and we hope that the French police will deal with it harshly and firmly during the world cup.
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Soames
I congratulate the Home Secretary on the spirited way in which he has taken up this excellent Tory Bill. This is my first opportunity to speak on it. I ask the Minister to convey my gratitude to the Home Secretary for the very thoughtful way in which he received a delegation that I led about public order matters and anti-social behaviour. The people I took to see him were very grateful for the measured, sensible and forthright way in which he dealt with their concerns. I am pleased that the Bill deals with such important matters. I congratulate him on having the courage to take it forward.
I also warmly endorse the points made by the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby). I agree with his comments on the behaviour of professional footballers on the field. A lot needs to be done in the management of professional sport. I saw a young British player being sent off in a rugger match the other night for stamping on the head of another player. Someone who commits that offence on the field of competitive sport should be banned from playing from his country again.
One of the best regulated sports that I have seen in Britain is Army boxing, which I followed closely when I was Minister for the Armed Forces. One element that dignified the sport was the fact that one breach of any rule would exclude the young man concerned from fighting for the Army or the regiment again. That produced a discipline and sense of sportsmanship in the ring that greatly added to the sport.
741 I sympathise with the frustration expressed by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew). He was aware that a known football hooligan had gone abroad, but, although he had the courage to get hold of the Home Secretary to initiate an inquiry, nothing could be done. The Minister and the Home Secretary know that that frustration at not being able to do anything causes great resentment about our civil law. The hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) made an important point about the House being seen to take action for the long term, not just because the issue was a matter of the moment.
I warmly support my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), although what the Home Secretary said was eminently sensible. The Home Secretary, the Home Office team and the police have done an enormous amount of work to close the loop on dealing with football hooligans, and the French have co-operated positively. I do not often go to football matches, and I am not an expert in crowd control, but I thought that it was a mistake to allow a lot of young over-refreshed football supporters on a beach in Marseilles to stand beside a temporary grandstand full of a lot of naturally over-excited—and, I am sure, well intentioned—Tunisians.
That was a cocktail likely to go badly wrong. It is a pity that it went badly wrong, because, if there had been police between the sets of supporters, however awful it is that there should have to be police protecting the wretched Tunisians from British supporters and vice versa, I like to think that they would have stopped what happened.
The Home Secretary is right to say that nothing can be done to guarantee the prevention of such incidents. I fully understand why the Home Secretary cannot tell me who is who and what is what in our football intelligence organisations. I wish them the best of luck as they do a very difficult job. They clearly did a very good job the night before last in spotting some of those people in Toulouse. However, it is a pity that, despite all the liaison and intelligence back-up, England was humiliated the other night by the behaviour of a small minority of disgraceful young men. That makes what happened in Marseilles even more disappointing and serious.
My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who spoke with great authority, pointed out that drink was a major factor. I am sure that many of the young men—and not so young men—on the beach at Marseilles on the night of the match against Tunisia had had too much to drink. That was not the scene of the most premeditated violence; it seemed more spontaneous. However, some of the young men who go abroad seem ruthlessly and viciously determined to start fights. It is frightening that there is a core determined to wreak violence and havoc wherever they go. Those are the people we must deal with.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield wanted to enable a wider and broader restraint through restriction orders on more people. That is an admirable and sensible proposition that commands support on both sides of the House, although we may differ on how to go about it. I am glad that the Home Secretary has taken up some of our ideas, and I hope that they will work. I share his anxiety—for several reasons, not just connected with football—that the provisions should be on the statute book as soon as possible.
742 I hope that the Home Secretary will convey a message from me and every other former service man that any service man found guilty of having taken part in any of the serious offences will be brought back and disciplined with the rigorous application of military law. They should be court-martialled at once, and thrown out of the services.
What has happened has undoubtedly damaged the good name of our country. It will have been watched with honor and anguish by our friends abroad, many of whom remember a more generous and spacious English spirit.
§ Mr. Ashton
My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) mentioned the peculiar fact that there has been no violence from Scottish supporters. Somebody asked me last week why English supporters have rioted while the Scots have not. The answer is simple. The Scottish nationalists have a political party. They can channel their tartan fervour into politics. The English people who have rioted are fascists. There is a strong National Front element behind the riots that we have seen. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary cannot reveal all the details because of data protection laws.
Such violence has not happened in this country since the Hillsborough disaster, because of better policing and video cameras. My good friend Detective Inspector Peter Chapman is in charge of football intelligence and often goes plain clothes into the crowd. He is about 5 ft 8 in tall; no one would think he was a policeman. He and his colleagues do a marvellous job.
When England go abroad, the gang of National Front hooligans get together. Their greatest asset these days is the mobile phone. They all carry them to communicate with each other. They call themselves section 18: 18 represents the first letter of the alphabet, A, and the eighth letter, H, and stands for "Adolf Hitler". It is no coincidence that a French policeman was beaten over the head with an iron bar by a German fan. In Germany, those fans call themselves "the white knights". There is a fascist link-up. That is why such incidents do not happen in this country; they happen only when England plays abroad.
The guy who was arrested in Marseilles—they called him the pig of Marseilles—comes from Naseby in Northamptonshire. He does not support any team—none of them do. The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) referred to a soldier who was among those involved. An art dealer was among their number, and one was a currency dealer from London. These were not working-class thugs. People on low wages do not have the money to go over to France and organise there. The network is known to the police, but it is very clever. It is not just a question of our imposing exclusion orders; it goes far beyond that.
The problem does not exist among the Scots, who have a different nationalist fervour. The Irish, perhaps, have problems with a different kind of nationalism. We are talking about British nationalism here, and it is difficult to stamp out. The hooligans are well organised and have plenty of money. That is the perspective into which these things must be put. They are under continual surveillance but they are recruiting all the time, and are clever.
Riots have happened in Dublin, Rome and now Marseilles. Marseilles is significant because of the Tunisian influence, Le Pen and the very strong French anti-immigrant or racist feeling there. It was an act of 743 incredible stupidity to take the first game to Marseilles, because the city has a huge Tunisian population and is very near Tunisia. The Tunisians do not have a vote in France—one of the strong complaints of immigrants in France. They will take the opportunity of an instance such as the match to demonstrate and to make a row about every grievance. They might try to stick it on the British—although I am not defending what happened.
No matter how much we try, we cannot get across to British fans the fact that there is a difference in policing methods in Britain and on the continent. If there is a row, a riot or a punch-up in Britain, the police will move in to arrest and lock up the three or four people having the fight. That is not the case in France or Italy. They clear the streets. Their policy is "no arrests"—they get the riot squad, with their staffs and sticks, and clear the streets. If innocent bystanders get whacked, they get whacked.
Time after time, I have told football supporters from our country not to think—because of that old nonsense about the Italians running away during the war while the British did not—that the Italians are cowards because they run away. Italians are taught from being kids that if they see the police come out with the riot sticks, they should run, because the police take no prisoners. Our British lads stand and watch, and they think that they are doing nothing wrong. When they get whacked, they start to protest—understandably. There is a different form of policing abroad.
Let me refer to alcohol. Many years ago, we realised that, if booze was flowing freely and if people could buy a bottle of cheap supermarket wine for a couple of quid—as they can, even in our country—when people were hanging around in the sun with nothing to do and were tired because they had had a long drive or an overnight journey on a ferry, it was a recipe for trouble.
One other thing sparks off trouble, and I regret having to say this—television cameras. I am not saying that we should not televise sporting events—that is democracy. But as soon as those lunatics see a television camera, they will try to get arrested. They will be in the news—the macho bandits showing off to all their mates all over Britain. They will be the cowboys riding into town with no law and order, and with a price on their heads. I have seen it during the miners' strike, on picket lines, at football matches and anywhere that a crowd of young men gather—even outside a pub on a Saturday night. If they think somebody is taking pictures, the violence gets worse. Even if we avoid television cameras, we still have to understand the macho thinking and attitude.
No matter how much the police say, "Don't sell alcohol," cafe and restaurant owners in Italy and elsewhere see a big crowd coming into a city and see the opportunity to make a great deal of money. The French bar owners said that they had never seen people drink so much and remain on their feet. They said that about the Scots—but the Scots do not have that National Front organisation.
The problem goes much deeper than football or violence on the streets. For young men now, there is no war. There has been no outlet since the Berlin wall came down. The Hillsborough disaster meant that our stadiums had to be all-seater and equipped with video cameras. There was no conflict. There was nowhere to have a punch-up. Schools have tended to cut down on sports, including football and boxing. The jobs where young men 744 could get rid of their energy—in the pits or the docks—have gone. They are attracted to the feeling of being in an invading army—like their fathers or grandfathers, who marched into Berlin or Tobruk with their rifles and hobnail boots. That is the British tradition.
Let us not kid ourselves—the British are a violent race. We conquered half the world with the British Army, and we flogged them before the mast to get to Australia. We have always been a violent race, and it is nonsense to say that we can get it out of our system with cricket. It is time we accepted that.
In terms of exclusion orders, Interpol should be involved. The French police said that the British told them about the villains, but that the villains came armed with a sheaf of papers and a thousand rules, and the police could not keep track of them. Nobody was there to say, "Nab him, nab him and nab the other one." While we have the EU rules on free movement, we will have free movement for crime as well. Whether it is drugs being brought in easily across boundaries or thugs crossing for football matches, it is an EU problem. It is time the EU started looking at that problem, rather than shifting it on to the French or British police.
§ Mr. Lansley
I am grateful for the opportunity to add to what has been an interesting and important debate at an important time. I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). I am sure that there is some truth in his comments about the impact of fascist and racist activity among English hooligans, but one must look abroad. In Germany and Holland, there is a record of fascist groups—and of football violence, but not to the same extent. Such violence is being controlled in every country and, in this country, it is being controlled substantially.
It is incumbent on us to find measures to seek to minimise the opportunities offered to those who travel abroad under the guise of being English supporters and who seek, for whatever reason, to foment violence. The matters to which the hon. Member for Bassetlaw referred did not lie behind what happened in Marseilles to the same extent as may have been the case on other occasions; that was the burden of some of the interventions during the Home Secretary's speech.
It is not immediately clear whether some of the notifications sent to the French authorities in relation to intelligence from NCIS gave rise to prior knowledge of the extent to which those individuals were the sort of characters to whom the hon. Member for Bassetlaw referred. The proposals in new clauses 10 and 11 might be especially useful in that context, although I quite understand that they can never wholly deal with those who seek to orchestrate and inspire violence. Those people will have to be tackled with the full rigour of the law, and the utmost care must be taken to try to establish the link between them and those in other countries.
The most important aspect of this debate has been the Home Secretary's announcement that, as an immediate response, he spoke to his opposite number in France to apologise for what had happened in Marseilles. I have listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), to the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) and to other hon. Members, and I think it 745 incumbent on the House not only to apologise for what happened in Marseilles, but to demonstrate that we feel shame and a determination, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) said, to do what we reasonably can to ensure that such events do not happen again. In that context, new clauses 10 and 11—to which the Home Secretary made it clear he was responding—are particularly useful.
I welcome the Government's proposal to increase the sentence from one month to six months. I accept that new clause 12 represents the Government's intention to make failure to comply with a reporting duty imposed by a restriction order an arrestable offence under the Football Spectators Act 1989, but—I am not speaking as a lawyer—the intention behind new clause 11 is not only to make such a failure an arrestable offence but to give a police officer the power to arrest someone who he believes is likely to fail to comply.
§ Mr. Straw
The point of subsection (2) of new clause 12 is to hook into section 24(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which contains a list of arrestable offences. Police officers also have a general power of arrest—I think under a further subsection to that section—in respect of any of the offences in the list. The power of arrest may be used where the police officer has reasonable cause to believe not only that an offence has been committed but that an offence is about to be committed. New clause 12 therefore does exactly what new clauses 10 and 11 would do.
§ Mr. Lansley
I am grateful to the Home Secretary, not least for listening to the debate and being available to give the helpful clarification that the powers would apply when the police knew so much about an individual that they could see that he intended to attend a football match overseas, and would therefore not be available to report under the restriction order.
Restriction orders have not met—indeed, in the current circumstances, we can say that they do not meet—the various needs. For example, it is clear from what the Home Secretary said that, when football-related offences have come to court, the police have sought restriction orders not as a matter of course but in very few cases—the number has increased only in recent months. One has to ask whether—even given the assurances that the Home Secretary gave in his response to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler)—the courts will necessarily impose restriction orders in all the circumstances in which one would desire them to. The difference between the number of restriction orders that have been imposed and the number that would have been justified is dramatic.
§ Ms Keeble
Will the hon. Gentleman define more specifically what the tests should be? If 4,000 such orders are to be imposed each year—that is the number of people who are convicted of offences under the legislation—that 746 would be incredibly difficult to police, which could bring the law into disrepute. What test would he use in imposing the orders that he suggests?
§ Mr. Lansley
The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. I suspect that, shortly after this debate ends, those 71 or so people to whom restriction orders have been applied will be reporting at a police station, but, as far as I am aware—the Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—none of those people are known to have been in Marseilles last week. If, as the hon. Lady rightly says, restriction orders are automatically applied whenever a football-related offence has occurred, a substantial burden will be placed on the system—there is a risk that thousands of people would have to report to police stations and be monitored.
Now may not be the moment, and I may not be the person, to specify all the circumstances in which a restriction order should be applied, but we need to recognise that restriction orders have not been applied in anything like the appropriate number of cases, and that it would be better if they applied more widely. Perhaps new clause 11 goes too far by making application automatic, but I believe that new clauses 10 and 11 combined would give rise to a different structure.
§ Ms Keeble
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again. If we are to vote on the new clauses, with which I am sure many people have great sympathy, we need to know—and it is fair to ask—in what circumstances the powers would be applied, so that we could be absolutely sure that the orders would be workable.
§ Mr. Lansley
It is not for me to say whether we shall vote on new clause 11—from the way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield spoke to the new clauses, I had the impression that he was focusing on new clause 10. New clause 10 would substantially add to the powers under new clause 12, which to some extent replicates new clause 11 in a way that the Government believe to be more appropriate. The difference between the proposals relates to the automaticity of the imposition of restriction orders in cases of football-related offences.
I accept that new clause 11 represents a substantial step forward, but I believe that, just as it is incumbent on the Opposition in tabling new clause 11 to contemplate the heavy burden that would arise if thousands of restriction orders were applied where previously there were only tens, so it is incumbent on the Government in rejecting the new clause to show that perhaps hundreds, rather than tens, of restriction orders will be imposed. I am informed that some 375 exclusion orders have been imposed, but even that greater number may be insufficient to meet the need.
As I said in an intervention on the Home Secretary—the right hon. Gentleman generously responded, but was not sure what point I was driving at—the evidence suggests that events in Marseilles, to which the hon. Member for Bassetlaw alluded, were not orchestrated by category C hooligans. The events arose because there was a critical mass of people susceptible to being violent in certain circumstances—that is, in effect, a description of category B hooligans. As the Home Secretary rightly said, even the best intelligence-led system with the best police spotters and video tape evidence does not equip 747 the police to identify in advance all those who are likely to commit violence in all circumstances—and a critical mass of such persons were in Marseilles.
This country has enforced many measures that have had considerable success in identifying those likely to cause football violence. However, those measures are not sufficient to deal with a large body of persons travelling abroad to take part in a tournament; they go for a considerable time and many opportunities for violence arise.
Under those circumstances, rather than concentrating only on the identification of individuals through systems that have worked well in the past, we must contemplate putting in place a system designed to frustrate the intentions of relatively large numbers of people who have engaged in football-related violence or who we have reasonable cause to believe could be engaged in it, from travelling to another country for a tournament.
There is a certain element of rough justice in these matters, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield would not deny. However, such a system would substantially reduce the critical mass of supporters travelling; the number not travelling under the auspices of the Football Association supporters scheme; and those travelling without tickets.
My second point to the Home Secretary in an intervention was that the substantial difference between his proposed response and the Opposition's two new clauses is that retrospection as regards the application of restriction orders would be prevented. The Home Secretary is right to say that one should not necessarily go down the path of retrospection and impose an additional penalty for those who have attended court, perhaps years ago, received their penalty and moved on. That is the sort of retrospection that the House would certainly be right to disavow. However, new clause 10 offers a particular benefit—the opportunity to request a court for an order to prevent someone from going abroad in pursuit of a designated match if there is reasonable cause to believe that he or she would engage in violence there.
What would be the evidence? In most cases, I imagine that it would not necessarily be informants' advice or police intelligence, but rather the hard evidence of the person's having committed a football-related offence. A degree of retrospection is involved and it is an additional penalty for having committed an offence, but it is important that we find some mechanism by which to reach back into the large body of people who have committed those offences, and frustrate the opportunity for a large number of them to travel abroad, attend England matches and possibly participate in violence.
That was the import of my two interventions on the Home Secretary and I feel strongly that my arguments demonstrate the importance of identifying the benefit of new clause 10 and not merely new clause 11, to which the Government have responded positively in two important respects. If we agreed to new clause 10, we would be able substantially to reduce the risk of the sort of violence occurring that occurred in Marseilles. The proposal would buttress measures that have until now rested on the identification of given individuals within groups travelling to other countries.
748 Overall, it is important to recognise that by such measures we may be able to restore a degree of confidence in the way in which English authorities deal with English supporters abroad. One difficulty that has arisen because of our failure to control English hooligans abroad—together with the French authorities, but we must take substantial responsibility—is that it has reflected badly not only on the English game and England but, potentially, on our ability to stage a tournament here.
It is wrong for that to be the implication. The European championships in 1996 were a testament to how well we can stage such a tournament. Were England to stage the world cup in 2006, we could once again show how an extraordinarily well-managed and trouble-free tournament is run. It would be an immense pity if the events in France last week led to the conclusion that England could not manage international tournaments on its own territory again.
If we can show that we are taking the additional measures necessary to control English hooligans abroad, we can get the focus back on to the success with which the authorities in this country have used NCIS, video tape evidence and so forth substantially to reduce the impact of football violence and to make football once again a popular sport and, in many instances, a family sport. On that basis, I hope that, by what we do and say this afternoon, we may promote England's cause for the world cup in 2006.
§ Mr. Ivan Lewis (Bury, South)
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. Most Labour members of the Standing Committee were incredibly well disciplined in their contributions—I even refused to be goaded by a comment by the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) when he referred to the sadness of those people in Manchester who support Manchester City. I remind him that years in the wilderness do come to an end—he should consider where his party and mine sat in this House—and I hope that, in the case of Manchester City, it does not take 20 years.
Both inside and outside the House, we should at every opportunity condemn the behaviour of English fans in France. We cannot allow any excuses to be made for them and their ilk—and there can be no hiding place, either. A consistent, all-party approach to the issue is important. At no point should there be any public perception that this is in some way a party political issue: it is not. We must also resist the temptation not to back the authorities in another country. If such behaviour were being perpetrated by foreign supporters in this country, imagine how we would feel were there any doubt about the Governments of their countries fully supporting our authorities in taking the necessary action. It is important that we give the consistent message that such behaviour is unacceptable.
It is wrong to label football hooliganism as exclusively a football problem—in many ways it is a society problem. We should ask ourselves why so many young people in our society are so full of bitterness, aggression and hatred. We need to consider some of the behaviour on the streets in our cities, which has nothing to do with football, and question why we are creating citizens with so much venom, aggression and violence inside them.
749 A couple of weeks ago, a woman constituent in her mid-20s came to see me. She found it difficult to suppress her emotions and told me that, a week earlier, her 25-year-old boy friend had gone into the centre of Manchester for a drink with a friend and had come across two gangs of young people fighting and arguing. He had taken the trouble to intervene to break them up, only to be pursued by one gang, stabbed and, effectively, murdered. It is impossible to explain that level of hatred and violence—behaviour with which we find it so difficult to come to terms.
Undoubtedly, some people hijack football to peddle their violence and aggression and, as has been said, in some cases, a right-wing political agenda—well organised and often co-ordinated. Such violence brings with it status and, too often, the oxygen of publicity. In any discussion of the problem, we must consider the responsibility of the press and the media and the way in which they report such incidents. There is a thin dividing line between naming and shaming those people and giving them the status that they actively desire among their peer group—other people who behave in that way.
Not only the media and the politicians have a responsibility to respond to violence, aggression and inappropriate behaviour in football. The football authorities need to police football, and the behaviour of players on the field. What message is given to young people when sports stars publicly attack their partners, committing acts of domestic violence that seem almost to be an accepted part of celebrity status? Famous footballers are allowed to get away with that with no disciplinary action taken. What does that say about what is acceptable in football, and in the events surrounding it?
§ Mr. Lewis
If I ran any organisation, whether a business or a football club—as I am a Manchester City fan, that is possible—I would undoubtedly feel that the recent behaviour of a famous international footballer justified his dismissal. The Prime Minister was right to talk of encouraging employers to sack hooligans. They must understand that the consequences of their actions will impact on every aspect of their lives. It is not acceptable to go to another country, have a bit of "fun", and come home to resume everyday activities. They should not be allowed to view their behaviour in that way.
We should not forget that there is a direct link between the behaviour of those people and its economic consequences for the nation. It is not just our reputation that is at stake. There is a real risk of our losing international sporting events, such as future world cups, because of the behaviour of English fans abroad. That will have direct economic implications for the United Kingdom, and that is why there should be economic implications for individuals who perpetrate that behaviour.
It is important not do anything with the law that is regarded outside the House as gimmickry. Legislation should be seen to be effective—to work. We need more time to reflect on the changes being proposed today. It is good to know that an all-party view is being taken about how we must treat and condemn hooligans.
§ Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)
There has been a great deal of common ground in this good and constructive debate. The hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) were both right to say that our constituents expect us to have such a debate in the light of last week's events. We must consider what more we can do to counter such events.
It was perhaps predictable that there would be condemnation during the debate of those events and the behaviour involved. There have been differences of emphasis on the two sides of the House about the underlying causes of those events.
Having listened to the arguments about different causes, I believe that we would be unwise to discount any of them. Anyone who has listened to the debate will have been struck by the feeling on both sides that we need to do whatever we can to bring those events to an end. The Home Secretary took the House through both the Government's action and his response to our new clauses. In the light of what he said, I think that it was well worth our exploring what more we could do through the Bill to confront the problem.
I must introduce one discordant note, although I do not want to. I must do justice to my own remarks on the Bill in the light of comments made by the Home Secretary. I was surprised to hear him follow the Prime Minister's example of quoting me as saying that the Bill was "dangerously unworkable". I did not ever say that in Committee. It is a quotation which the Home Secretary found in an article in The Sunday Telegraph. He had to trawl through the press cuttings library to find it, but what he has done shows the danger of quoting remarks out of context. He looks surprised; perhaps he did not have the whole article. If he reads it, he will find that it is about use of the anti-social behaviour order in neighbour disputes.
The headline is "Neighbours risk jail in moves to curb `incivility'". It begins:People who swear at irritating neighbours will be on course for a five-year prison term under plans drawn up the Home Office.It goes into some detail about that, quoting the secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, Mr. Harry Fletcher, as saying:The Bill rightly targets impossible neighbours, but every street has neighbours in dispute and it would be ridiculous if they all ended up in court.I am then quoted as saying that the proposals were "dangerously unworkable", and possibly in breach of the European convention on human rights.
I was surprised that the Home Secretary did not acknowledge the context of my comments.
§ Mr. Clappison
I shall dig a very big hole for the Home Secretary, because I was even more surprised, in the light of the Government's own guidance on anti-social behaviour orders, which was issued on the day the Bill began its proceedings. It was not available when my remarks were made to The Sunday Telegraph, but its first paragraph stated that the orders were intended to be used for criminal or sub-criminal activity, not for civil disputes between neighbours. I am surprised, therefore, that the Home Secretary reproaches me for agreeing with the Government, and for having probed what the Government 751 were trying to do, until they came to agree with me. Not once in the debates on the anti-social behaviour orders did we vote against them. If the Home Secretary is referring to consistency on the Bill, he is skating on very thin ice on a wide range of issues for himself and his hon. Friends..
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) was right to talk of the need to probe the definition of anti-social behaviour orders. He was also right to say that, although we have had reservations about the wide-ranging nature of the definitions, we all know what sort of thing we are aiming to bring to an end among football hooligans.
The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) made some interesting points. He mentioned events in Dublin three years ago, which I and many members of the public will remember. There was a terrible disturbance involving English football supporters at an international so-called friendly. Such events have happened all too often, and they underline that, as well as condemning them, we must see what more we can do about them. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) was among the hon. Members who spoke about that, making important points about the role of drink. My hon. Friend the Member for Woking, along with hon. Members on both sides, rightly drew attention to certain sinister people who go to football.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) made an important speech about discipline. He struck a chord with many of us by saying, with some authority, that any service man who takes part in such events should expect severe discipline. He was right to say that the sense of discipline that the Army engenders sets a good example on and off the sports pitch. One of the most important examples of Army discipline that I have seen recently was the good work done at the Colchester military correction facility—the young offenders experimental institute known as the glasshouse—with young offenders.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) made a good speech, and teased out the Government's intentions on power of arrest. He will know that the police have been concerned that they should have a power to arrest people who look as if they will break a restriction order, and should be able to deal with them at that point instead of having to wait until later. He secured a valuable reply from the Home Secretary about his intentions in that regard.
The debate was well worth having, and it was worth considering the proposed new clauses. The Government have accepted the point that we made in our new clauses about the need for a power of arrest to be attached. The police have sought such a power in the past. The Government have also accepted that there should be a stiffer penalty for people who breach restriction orders—one month is not enough; six months is more appropriate.
We welcome the Government's assurances about extending guidance to magistrates courts and prosecutors, to ensure that restriction orders are deployed more widely. However, we put the Home Secretary on notice that, in view of the relatively small number of restriction orders made, it is important to examine the matter and ensure that more are made in the future. People who have been in trouble at football matches in this country should not be allowed to travel abroad and export that trouble.
752 We noted the Home Secretary's remarks about the future adoption of a football behaviour order, and we listened carefully to his reasons for not being able to accept the proposed new clause in its present form. While we were not entirely convinced by the largely technical reasons that he gave, we are prepared to join in any future consultations on the issue. It is incumbent on all hon. Members to do all that we can to resolve the matter. We cannot guarantee that such people will be prevented from travelling abroad and creating trouble, but the Government have accepted that we must do more than we are doing.
We must reassure our law-abiding constituents—who surveyed recent events with absolute horror and felt a sense of shame at the damage that those hooligans did to our international reputation—that we are doing all we can within the ambit of the law to resolve the problem and to prevent such people from travelling abroad, sullying our name, causing damage and upset to other people, causing injury and becoming involved in criminal activities. We must be continually on our guard to see what more can be done. The Opposition will continue to approach the issue in that constructive spirit.
§ Mr. Straw
I commend the speech by the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) and repeat my thanks to the Opposition for arranging the debate. I also thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the spirit in which they have entered the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) sagely warned the House about the dangers of enacting emergency legislation and of not examining propositions carefully when we agree with their objectives. That is good advice, but we must send a clear message that, despite differences of detail and emphasis, there is absolutely united opinion in the House—as I believe there is among decent people across the country—against those who commit violence and disrupt the enjoyment of football at home or abroad.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis) made something of a confession when he admitted that he is a Manchester City supporter. I regard that as a badge of honour. If he wishes to join the ranks of eccentric football supporters, he might encourage his colleagues on the Public Administration Committee to ask Mr. Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's press secretary, who will appear before the Committee tomorrow, how someone with such excellent professional skills could be a long-term supporter of Burnley football club.
My hon. Friend has raised a serious point for Manchester City supporters—which also gives me an opportunity to rib Mr. Campbell yet again regarding his support for Burnley—as soccer provides great enjoyment to people not only through watching the game but by giving them a sense of place. It gives them an opportunity to share common experiences and to rib each other in a friendly manner. That is part of the richness of our society and of many others. For that reason, people are very angry to see a game that provides simple enjoyment to many millions of people besmirched in this way.
The principal issue that we have debated is whether new clause 10 is sufficient to pass immediately into legislation in its present form. The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) chided me and implied that 753 I was unwilling to accept the new clause simply—I paraphrase his argument—because it was proposed by the Opposition. When I first entered the House 19 years ago, there was considerable debate across the Chamber. That was greatly to the credit of both sides of the House and the reputation of Parliament. I regret—both parties were at fault; I do not mete out blame—that debate in the House became coarsened during the 1980s. If the then Conservative Government proposed a measure, we felt that we had to oppose it by virtue of that fact, and vice versa.
That showed great disrespect to our voters, and I do not believe that either party gained any advantage from such an approach. I determined—I think that this view is shared by my colleagues—that, if I sat on the Treasury Bench, 1 would not adopt that approach. I have sought to ensure that I listen to all propositions—that has been obvious with the Human Rights Bill and other legislation—and judge them on their merits. We did that as soon as the two new clauses were proposed. I accepted two parts of them, and I have explained how we can achieve a third proposition via a different route.
We examined new clause 10 in detail and sought the views of both the Association of Chief Police Officers and the NCIS. I do not think that we could have consulted those organisations more promptly—they were contacted within the day. It may interest the House to learn that ACPO wrote to officials in my Department saying:We agree with the principles expressed in proposed amendments … We have some concerns about the standards of proof required to obtain an order. We are concerned also about the legislative patchwork that is developing in relation to policing football matches. It may be appropriate to take a more considered view of the problems through existing European Union Working Groups.The NCIS wrote to an official to say:Whilst the proposal to create a Football Behaviour Order may initially look attractive NCIS has reservations regarding the standard of proof that would be required to obtain such an order.It also raised the point, which I made, about the problems that would arise if it were necessary to provide details of current intelligence in order to obtain a football behaviour order. They are some of the problems with the current proposal for an order.
The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) asked whether the Crown court rather than the magistrates court should have the power initially. That is a very sensible suggestion, which we clearly cannot consider in the time available. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) said that the Opposition had considered the idea of anti-social behaviour orders so that the Bill would contain workable provisions. I commend the Standing Committee and Opposition Members for doing so. However, that examination took a considerable period, and time is not available now.
The hon. Member for Gainsborough said that it would take only one or two weeks to examine the Bill and put it in order. That is possible, but not likely, given the number of people we would have to consult and whom they would have to consult in turn—for example, ACPO would have to consult its members. Given the stage we are at in the parliamentary timetable, two weeks' delay would mean that the Bill could not become law until late October. By that time, many of those who had served 754 sentences in France would be back in this country. The additional powers of arrest and the extension of sentences from one to six months would not be available in respect of those who had been convicted of relevant offences in France and for whom the restriction orders could be obtained.
I am grateful to all hon. Members who contributed to the debate. We are embarked on a common purpose to ensure that the national shame that has been heaped on our land in the past week as a result of the behaviour of some so-called supporters in Marseilles does not happen to that extent again, or, if it does, that even more effective measures are taken by courts both abroad and in this land properly and effectively to punish such people and so reduce the prospect of such behaviour ever happening again.
As I have explained, there are difficulties with new clause 10. In the light of what I have said and of the undertakings that I have given thoroughly to consult the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) may see fit to withdraw the motion.
§ Sir Norman Fowler
In view of the undertaking and assurances that the Home Secretary has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.