§ Order for Second Reading read.6.52 pm
§ The Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs (Mr. John Denham)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have to confess that the events of recent weeks have given a new perspective and, perhaps, a new sense of proportion to issues that have previously concerned the House. The House will obviously spend a considerable period in the days and weeks ahead on major issues but it is none the less, also our responsibility to continue the normal business of legislation on other matters.
The Bill repeals section 5(2) to (5) of the Football (Disorder) Act 2000, together with a related reference in section 3. The effect will be to continue to enforce without time limit the provision for banning orders on complaint and summary measures relating to detention and referral to the court in the Football Spectators Act 1989. It may be helpful if I remind the House of the reasons why the 2000 Act was introduced last year Hon. Members who have looked into these matters will know of the association between football disorder and the English domestic game since it became a mass spectator sport at the end of the 19th century. The domestic problem has not gone away, but it has been largely marginalised by an array of legislative and other measures. English football stadiums are now among the safest and most secure in the world.
In recent years, concern has centred primarily on the behaviour of English football fans travelling to matches overseas. In 13 of the last 23 years, more than one serious incident has occurred. Each damaged our national reputation and together they resulted in many thousands of English arrests and deportations.
Prior to the adoption of the 2000 Act, a number of legislative measures were put in place. Each successive Act adjusted and expanded the measures available to the police and courts to tackle the evolving character of football hooliganism, and made a significant impact on domestic hooliganism. However, measures designed to combat English football disorder overseas proved less successful. In the build-up to Euro 2000, orders could only be imposed by the courts following conviction for a football-related offence. The law made a clear and, in many respects, artificial distinction between domestic and international banning orders. There was also provision for the courts to impose orders on the basis of convictions overseas if the requisite international agreement and legal measures were in place.
While a number of such agreements were put in place, the option did not prove fruitful, largely because host countries continually, if understandably, preferred to arrest and deport offenders, rather than pursue costly and time-consuming court proceedings. The reality is that football disorder usually involves rather low-level crime and disorder; its cumulative impact far exceeds its constituent offences. Euro 2000, as everyone knows, provided strong evidence of the reason why the previous measures were flawed. In preparation for it, the Belgian 980 and Dutch authorities prepared a comprehensive and sophisticated security operation, maximised international police co-operation and aimed to minimise the risk posed by England followers. This country co-operated to the utmost extent.
The effectiveness of those preparations was constrained by the legislation, which limited the number of hooligans who could be prevented from travelling from England to follow the English team overseas to about 100 individuals. In spite of extensive precautions, English fans were involved in serious disturbances in Charleroi and Brussels. The measures put in place were effective to the extent that only one of the 965 England followers arrested during the tournament was subject to a banning order imposed following conviction for a football-related offence. However, subsequent police checks revealed that 40 per cent. of those arrested had convictions for offences of violence or public disorder, although not necessarily connected with football.
§ Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)
My right hon. Friend will know that one of the biggest causes of disorder in many football grounds is racism. Does he accept that racism is a factor that we need to look at in the legislation? Will he take this opportunity to say that the House gives its full support to the current campaign to kick racism out of football?
§ Mr. Denham
My hon. Friend is right—we are currently in a 10 or 13-day period in which the premier league is promoting anti-racist campaigning at league grounds. On Saturday I was at St. Mary's stadium in Southampton, where that was given a high profile. I entirely agree that it is important to continue the successful efforts of recent years to tackle raczism, which is particularly important at the current time when, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said earlier, people want to exploit any tensions within our society. I am therefore grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter.
As I was saying, after the trouble at Euro 2000, it was clear that a substantial number of those arrested had convictions for offences of violence or public disorder, which were not necessarily connected with football. We also found, in line with the established trend, that only one of the 965 arrested was subsequently convicted of an offence following the disturbances. Of course, the disorder caused by England fans at Euro 2000 generated a great deal of criticism. The host countries, other European countries and the international football authorities felt that the United Kingdom had to do more to protect host cities and citizens from English hooligans. UEFA threatened to expel the English team from Euro 2000 if there were any further outbursts of disorder involving English supporters.
In the light of the disorder and the information collected about the perpetrators, the legislation that we are discussing today was introduced to do a number of things. First, it will demonstrate to Governments, police forces and the public across Europe and beyond that the UK is taking effective steps to prevent English troublemakers from travelling to matches overseas. Secondly, it is designed to prevent English football from being banned from world competition. Thirdly, it will provide the police and courts with extensive powers to remove from the scene greater numbers of supporters with a track record of violence and disorder, not necessarily football related; it will remove the on-going anomaly of supporters 981 misbehaving overseas in the expectation of avoiding any punishment while abroad and any consequences on their return; and it will deter potential troublemakers from misbehaving and, importantly, others from getting involved and transforming minor incidents into major disorder.
Those considerations led to the Football (Disorder) Act 2000, which introduced four important changes. There was widespread support on both sides of the House for two measures, the first of which abolished the distinction between a ban on attending matches at home and overseas, so that when a court imposed an order, it had the effect of the previous domestic and international banning orders combined. The second measure, which received widespread support on both sides of the House, made passport surrender during specified periods an automatic condition of a banning order. A safeguard was built in to enable the court to waive the condition in exceptional circumstances, and the power of the football banning orders authority, or the police in urgent cases, to grant exceptions was retained.
There were two more controversial measures in the 2000 Act. Section 14B empowered magistrates to impose banning orders on individuals in circumstances other than on conviction for a football-related offence. The complaint process requires the police to satisfy the court that the person before it has caused or contributed to violence and disorder, and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the making of an order would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with football matches.
Sections 21A and 21B provided a different route to seeking an order on complaint during control periods—that is, the five-day period prior to an overseas match involving the England or Wales national team or an English or Welsh club side. Section 21A empowered the police to detain an individual for up to four hours, or six hours with the authorisation of an inspector, where a police officer had reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person had caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere, and for believing that imposing a banning order on that person would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches.
The purpose of the detention is to enable the police to decide whether to issue a section 21B notice, which requires the individual to appear before a magistrates court within 24 hours. In the meantime, the individual is prevented from leaving England and Wales. The magistrates court would then treat the notice as an application for a section 14B banning order on complaint.
It was suggested by some in this House and the other place that sections 14B, 21A and 21B went too far. The Government did not share that perspective, but it was a genuine position for right hon. and hon. Members to hold. That is why the 2000 Act limited the lifespan of the measures. It stated that a report setting out the impact of the Act should be laid before Parliament before the powers could be renewed by affirmative instrument for a further 12 months.
That report was laid before Parliament on 20 June and it concluded with an assessment of the impact of the Act during the period concerned. It concluded that there had been no significant disorder since Euro 2000, 982 notwithstanding a number of potentially high-risk matches; fan behaviour had noticeably improved; the number of troublemakers prevented from travelling to matches had increased significantly; Governments across Europe had welcomed the Act; legislative gaps exposed by the disorder during Euro 2000 had been closed; and importantly, the Act was being applied in a targeted and proportionate way.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. In connection with that report and the subsequent report which he has helpfully provided today, can he tell us where detail can be obtained about the sort of cases in which challenges have been made to section 21B, the duration of those cases, and the number of times a successful challenge has been raised? I note that there are some statistics in the last report that the right hon. Gentleman produced, but is any other information available which could help the House to understand how those who challenged the making of those orders fared?
§ Mr. Denham
I shall be as helpful as I can. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed in the earlier report that some 30 section 21B notices were cited. Those are included in the total number—44—of orders on complaint. About 30 people were stopped under section 21B, and 19 of those were effectively confirmed by the courts. I am searching my notes for the exact figure, and if necessary I shall write to the hon. Gentleman, but roughly speaking, half of those cases were dismissed by the courts and the others were not pursued. It is worth bearing in mind that the great majority of those were connected with the France-England match in Paris in September 2000, and that the legislation came into force on the first day of the control period. It is reasonable to say that people were using the legislation for the very first time.
Most of the cases brought before the courts following the issue of section 21B notices were adjourned and subsequently referred to courts in the subject's area of residence. Responsibility for prosecution was also transferred from the police force issuing the section 21B notice to the force in the subject's area of residence. Inevitably, it took many months for some of the cases to be resolved. When we are in a position to analyse the corresponding set of figures in the run-up to the Munich game, we will see the benefit of a more consistent approach to the use of orders. We will also see that the police learned from the initial experience of how the courts treated evidence placed before them.
§ Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) and I are the only leftovers from the team that played this game in the last Parliament.
I want to pursue the question raised from the Conservative Front Bench. The evidence so far does not justify a continuation of the legislation. First, does the Minister accept that the vast bulk of people who have been prevented from travelling have been prevented after a conviction? That is entirely acceptable to some of us, but it is not acceptable that they should be prevented from travelling after a complaint, where there has been no previous conviction. Secondly, the report issued today shows that in many cases the court proceedings were adjourned, so there was no decision and the people 983 concerned were unable to travel, without any finding by the court that a banning order should be implemented. That is entirely against what we were told would happen and is unacceptable.
§ Mr. Denham
I regret that the hon. Gentleman takes that view, and I believe that he is mistaken on a key point. My understanding is that all the people who were prevented from travelling to Munich and the earlier matches overseas had convictions for violence or public order offences. Not all those convictions were for football-related violence or public order offences, but the House understands that one of the consequences of the success in recent years in tackling football violence within football stadiums has been that football violence has sometimes moved to locations several miles away from where the matches take place.
Much as it would be nice to believe that in every case that would be recorded by the courts as football-related violence, that is not the reality. The fundamental premise on which the Bill was based was the necessity to be able to take into account violence and public order misconduct, whether or not it was seen as football related. Of course it is true that the majority of banning orders rely on some previous legislation—that was always going to be the case—but we needed to build on what existed in order to close a loophole.
I shall make a point now that I intended to make later. Clearly, there is a considerable amount of video material on the misconduct that occurred in Germany around the Munich match. There was some trouble, and the legislation gives us the ability, I hope, to identify at least some of the ringleaders and participants in that action and to apply for banning orders under the Bill. If the legislation were not in place, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, we would not be able to do that. We would know who was involved and what they had done, we would know that they had participated in acts of violence in Germany, but we would be utterly powerless to prevent them from travelling to another away game. That is what he is advocating, and I believe that he is wrong.
§ Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South)
My right hon. Friend concedes that many acts of violence occur far away from football stadiums and are not connected to the game in any way. Given the rise in the number of offences that are categorised as football violence, does he believe that the time is right to recategorise such offences? That would prove that football had indeed cleaned up its act. If the number of football-related offences increases by 8 per cent., but it is conceded that many of those offences were nothing to do with games, occurred many miles from the stadiums, and were not football related, surely our accounting is wrong and football is often being blamed for violence over which it has no control.
§ Mr. Denham
I hear what my hon. Friend says, but I take precisely the opposite view of the evidence. Some of the violence is football related. In common-sense terms, when two sets of fans supporting two different teams arrange to meet for a fight at a venue some distance from a football stadium, what is happening should be described as football related. However, such occurrences do not 984 always turn up as football-related crime in the convictions that are handed down by the courts, which is a potential loophole in our ability to prevent people from travelling.
§ Mr. David Drew (Stroud)
Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is some evidence to show that football hooligans have begun to infiltrate the non-league game? Will he give an assurance that, if such people are arrested when they are attending non-league games, the normal requirements of the law will apply, just as they would in respect of people attending a premier league or football league game?
§ Mr. Denham
On that point, I hope that my hon. Friend will resist the blandishments of the Liberal Democrats. Somebody who is convicted of violence when attending a non-league game will be covered. The House will remember that two tests are involved. It is not enough merely to have a conviction for violent or public order offences—there must be grounds for persuading the police, in connection with section 21A of the 2000 Act, and subsequently a court, of a reasonable belief that banning somebody from travelling will help to prevent violence or disorder at a football match. In principle, however, my hon. Friend is absolutely right.
It is a matter of record that in July, Standing Committees of this House and the other place approved resolutions extending for 12 months the lifetime of the measures in question. There is no provision for further renewal, so the provisions will lapse unless the relevant sections of the 2000 Act are repealed. The impact report laid before Parliament in June suggested that the Act had had an immediate and positive impact on the behaviour of English football supporters overseas and that the new provisions had become important weapons in the arsenal of tools for tackling hooliganism. We asked Parliament to renew the powers because they were considered essential for the high-risk England-Germany match in Munich on 1 September. I believe that the Act withstood the challenge.
Last week, we placed in the Library a supplementary impact report on the 2000 Act. We made efforts to distribute the report and I understand that Opposition spokespeople have received copies. What does it reveal? The report and its appended summary of risks and preparations outline why the Germany game was high risk and why an extensive multi-agency security operation was necessary. I am told that in the sub-cultural world of football hooliganism, this was regarded as the big one. There is certainly long-standing and intense rivalry between the followers of the two national teams. Violence has been sporadic, but the tension has long been recognised.
The key elements of the security preparations revolved around minimising the number of troublemakers travelling to Munich and their influence on other fans. Close Anglo-German police co-operation was essential and maximising the impact of the powers that we are discussing was even more so. Our objectives were achieved to a very significant degree. I should place on record my congratulations to the German police on the effectiveness of their tactics and their willingness to co-operate with their English counterparts, which was exemplary. There were sporadic clashes between rival fans, but the numbers involved meant that the Munich police could contain the disorder. The German police 985 estimate that about 300 English and 450 German hooligans were involved. Of course, those are 300 too many from the English side, but at no point did it seem likely that numbers would be swelled by a significant proportion of the 11,000 English fans who were present in the city.
The mass disorder that might have taken place did not materialise. As a result, we are not today debating a fresh entry in the long catalogue of major disorder involving English football fans and we do not have another blemish on our national reputation. Indeed, the German media and police have placed most of the blame on German hooligans provoking their English counterparts. I am not saying that the problem of English hooliganism has gone away. There is still work to be done, but we have come a long way since Euro 2000.
Overall, 201 people were detained or arrested, most of whom were German nationals. Some 38 English arrests were made for various public order offences. Those arrested have all been released, although four people have been charged and asked to pay a deposit in lieu of a fine, pending court proceedings. Of course, policing styles vary in Europe and it would be unwise to draw conclusions simply on the basis of arrest statistics. However, a simple comparison with Euro 2000, when there were 965 English arrests, mass deportations and much criticism of the behaviour of England supporters, suggests that we have made progress. In connection with a very high-risk match, 38 English arrests were made and there was good behaviour among the vast majority of English supporters—behaviour that has been praised in the German press.
I have no doubt that the disorder that occurred would have been much worse if the measures introduced by the 2000 Act had not been in place. Some 537 known troublemakers were prevented by their banning order conditions from travelling to Munich, compared with the 100 who were prevented from travelling to Euro 2000. Of those people, 492 were banned following conviction for a football-related offence, and the remaining 45 were banned in accordance with the section 14B civil process. All 45 people had convictions for violence or disorder, although they were not necessarily football related. In addition, a further 58 people were prevented from travelling by the courts, in accordance with the section 21B process. Again, all 58 fans have convictions for violence or public order offences.
§ Simon Hughes
The Minister will know from reading the record of our debates on the original Bill about one of the key differences between our parties. The Government argued for a banning order to be permitted without any previous conviction, but we said that such an order was acceptable in relation to football-related convictions and any other appropriate convictions for violence and other offences committed in the preceding 10 years. Does not the evidence that he has provided show that such a measure would have been entirely sufficient? His figures demonstrate that almost all the people who were given banning orders had previous convictions for violence. There is all the difference in the world between banning somebody with a criminal record and banning somebody with no criminal record at all. Does he agree that those 986 are grounds for rethinking the basis of his request to Parliament to extend the Act in exactly the same form as that in which it was introduced?
§ Mr. Denham
Let me explain why I do not agree. It is not entirely surprising that all the banning orders have been given to people with convictions for violence and disorder, bearing it in mind that the police will have wanted to maximise their chances of convincing the courts in this country of their case. For the vast majority of cases, the orders related to convictions given in this country. However, I believe that the possibility of imposing a banning order on somebody who can be shown to have participated in violence, even if he or she has not been convicted, is still necessary. That ability is obviously necessary in relation to the circumstances in Munich. Without it, about 300 troublemakers, by and large, would not have been convicted in German courts. Like many other countries, when Germany had previously been faced with such difficult circumstances it tended to deport people and get them out of the country rather than to hold them for arrest and conviction. It is not certain, but likely, that video or other evidence will enable us to identify individuals who played a leading role in the violence. If we took the hon. Gentleman's view, we would accept that such individuals could travel to future matches despite the fact that they had been seen participating in violence, simply because there was no conviction. That would be a loophole.
The test for the legislation is whether the evidence in the supplementary report shows that it has been used proportionately and in a targeted way. I believe that it does. The hon. Gentleman draws the wrong conclusion from the evidence that has been presented to him this afternoon.
§ Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire)
I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment on racism. However, there is another "ism" that has not afflicted the English game so far: sectarianism. We appear to be moving towards a British league, and sectarianism in the English game is the last thing we need. Will my right hon. Friend give a commitment to work with all interested agencies, including the clubs that are invited to join the British league, and ensure that they sort out their houses before joining and do not export sectarian baggage?
§ Mr. Denham
In so far as the legislation applies to Scotland, it is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Many people—not least my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport—would want to ensure that the Government considered all the implications of any move towards a British league. If the pattern of football violence changed, I am sure that the Government would wish to keep legislation as well as policing practice under review.
Steps to prevent troublemakers from leaving the country have an impact on policing England fans overseas. There is less chance of fans being treated on the basis of their reputation rather than their behaviour. The Munich police, aided by a United Kingdom police team in the city, adopted a targeted, low friction, early intervention approach, which was praised by independent supporters' groups. The overwhelming majority of fans were able to enjoy their trip to Germany and avoid the troublemakers. I have refrained from mentioning the result until now, but it undoubtedly surpassed their wildest 987 expectations. Before the 2000 Act, those inclined to cause trouble overseas could do that in the knowledge that there would be little or no impediment to repeating their misbehaviour at future matches abroad. The banning order option is therefore important.
The supplementary impact report, which was laid before both Houses, has been mentioned. It provides a more detailed account of what transpired in Germany.
§ Mr. Grieve
Before the Minister concludes, will he explain why it is necessary to introduce the Bill now rather than waiting until the end of the expiry period for renewal under statutory instrument? That might have provided a better opportunity of gauging its success and whether it was unfair to some individuals.
§ Mr. Denham
The House has sufficient accumulated knowledge from the implementation of the 2000 Act in its first year and the major game against Germany, at which many people expected violence, to make an assessment. Perhaps we can discuss those matters in more detail in Committee, but we believed that there was enough knowledge and experience to introduce the Bill.
As I said earlier, we have shown that the legislation has been used proportionately and in a targeted way, not arbitrarily. Neither personal appearance nor an isolated expulsion, unsubstantiated by accompanying evidence of misbehaviour, would be grounds for detention under section 21A.
When we considered the extension in Committee, there were outstanding challenges under the European convention on human rights and European Community treaty law. Our view that the measures are compliant was recently endorsed in a High Court judgment, rejecting challenges to the 2000 Act. Lord Justice Laws makes it clear in his judgment that the purpose of the banning order is not punitive, butto protect the public here and abroad from the evil of football violence and the threat of it.On the proportionality of the measures, the judgment stated:The State was entitled to conclude that very firm measures were justified to confront the various sickening ills of football violence … the progressive nature of the succeeding measures from 1986 onwards, and the safeguards clearly established in the 1989 Act demonstratethat the measuresare amply justified in light of EC law and the general law relating to proportionality.There is compelling evidence for maintaining sections 14B, 21A and 21B on the statute book. They withstood a thorough practical and legal examination in the past 14 months; they would be lost without the Bill.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
I welcome the opportunity to debate the matter with the Minister and I thank him for drawing our attention to the paper that was placed in the Library. I discovered it only shortly before the beginning of the debate, but it has been helpful concerning the singular lack of evidence about the operation of the relevant sections of the Football (Disorder) Act 2000.
In opening the debate, the Minister made a comment with which I entirely agreed about the Bill in the context of the international situation. He is right that in 988 comparison with the gravity of some matters that the House must now tackle, the Bill may not appear very serious. However, there is a similarity between it and the other measures that we must consider.
We are debating another example of the House being asked to depart from the normal standards of criminal justice that have applied in this country over many generations. We are being asked to use administrative methods to deal with a particular criminal problem.
Another example, which was much criticised by Labour Members, is the exclusion orders that prevented people from travelling from Northern Ireland to other parts of the United Kingdom. They gave rise to serious anxieties about human rights. Although we are discussing football hooligans, not suspected IRA terrorists, the measure falls into the same category of consideration when we decide whether renewal should occur in the form requested by the Minister.
The Opposition share the Government's aim in the Bill and in the Football (Disorder) Act 2000. It is clearly desirable to check football hooliganism. One of the Minister's most compelling arguments is the example of what happened recently in Germany during the international competition. It is clearly a good sign, and I accept the Minister's comments about the contribution that sections 14 and 21 made to that.
It is worth pointing out that previous Conservative Governments have attempted to work along the same lines. For example, they introduced the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985, the Public Order Act 1986, and the Football Spectators Act 1989, which imposed restrictions for the first time. A previous Conservative Government also introduced the Football (Offences) Act 1991 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that the Opposition first advocated restriction orders on unconvicted hooligans in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We accepted that an exception to the normal rule in relation to criminal law could be made in that case. Indeed, I draw great comfort from the fact that, the issue having been specifically challenged in the courts during the summer, the courts have ruled that there has been no breach of the Human Rights Act 1998. That was the view we took and the view that the Government adopted, so it is cheering that it is the view that the courts have confirmed as being proportionate. However, the then Home Secretary did not agree with our suggestion and consulted.
During the passage of the private Member's Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean) again sought to flag the matter up and it was agreed that it was not appropriate for a private Member's Bill. The Government had to give it proper scrutiny.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)
I would be grateful for clarification. To which Bill is my hon. Friend referring?
§ Mr. Grieve
I am making specific reference to the measure introduced in 1999 by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey.
§ Mr. Grieve
My apologies to my hon. Friend are profuse. As I was not in the House at the time, perhaps 989 my remarks reflect my having read the specific section of Hansard that contains the hon. Gentleman's contribution. I should have remembered that the Bill was my hon. Friend's, as I was present during the passage of the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 and I recall his contributions in relation to it. A bell should have rung in my mind that he was the author of the earlier legislation.
§ Simon Hughes
I must put it on record that, as the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) knows, I was trying to intervene to render unto him the honour that he is due for the legislation. I would not have wanted to claim it, although it was a perfectly proper initiative to bring to the House.
§ Mr. Grieve
On that happy note, I return to the point at issue. The Minister rightly pointed out that when the Bill came before the House in summer 2000—I read Hansard, including my own contributions on that occasion—the critical issues centred around sections 14 and 21. He would acknowledge, however, that the focus was on section 21 in particular.
Section 14 raised the question of an exception to the criminal law that a system of complaint could be seen to work, although there were considerable anxieties about the standard of proof that should be applied in such circumstances. There were fundamental anxieties in respect of section 21 as to how the Bill would interfere with people's legitimate right to move freely out of the country. They would find themselves arbitrarily stopped and subject to a procedure at an unexpected time, which might cause them great inconvenience. That could be considered to be a serious infringement of their human rights.
The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that that particular issue has not specifically been the subject of a human rights challenge. As I understand the cases that took place this summer, they centred on the complaints procedure generally and, in some examples, the previous orders that were available.
We must face the fact that the legislation is fairly draconian. In fairness to the Government, they considerably altered the proposals as a result of representations. I recollect that detention was to have lasted 24 hours, but that was reduced to four hours, or six if an inspector wanted and authorised that. We also considered the question of being able to admit in proceedings the acts of a public authority, whatever that might mean. That seemed to be a question of simple administrative convenience, which, as the Minister will acknowledge, raised a genuine problem.
As the Minister said, 965 arrests were made following the events in Belgium, but I remember the Home Secretary acknowledging that the Belgian police accepted that a large number of those arrested would have been guilty of nothing, so the figure provided a poor guide to the level of disturbance and an even poorer guide if it were applied to whether a banning order should be made.
Again, the Government listened and they introduced the notion of a reasonable ground for the constable to detain. Furthermore, the reasons would have to be given in writing, which was not the case previously, and, most notably, we considered the notion of compensation were 990 there to be wrongful detention. The Minister can confirm that. I have no statistics, nor has the House, as to what compensation may have been paid to any individual as a result of the application of section 21. I would be grateful if, through the Minister's advisers, we ascertained whether such compensation has been paid and how much.
§ Mr. Denham
Let me endeavour to help the hon. Gentleman. My understanding is that no compensation has been paid, though I shall check that during the debate.
§ Mr. Grieve
I thank the Minister for that answer. That brings me to the nub of the issues that we have to face. He has acknowledged—indeed, he knows—that just before the summer recess we renewed the order for a further 12 months. I know from reading Hansard that points were made about the opportunity that more time would offer to assess the impact of those draconian measures.
For reasons that I do not fully understand, the Minister has decided on the back of the success in Germany that the time has come to introduce a completely new initiative and get rid of the sunset clause so as to make the measures permanent. Our anxiety is based not on the principles on which the Government operated—indeed, when the Bill came before the House last year, we understood those principles—but on the fact that we face an astonishing paucity of information about how, in practice, the legislation affects individuals.
In an intervention, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey made the point that few people have been affected by the measures, saying that most orders arise from convictions and asking whether that was not a reason for not allowing the measures to proceed? I do not entirely agree. If a small number of people are being caught properly by the system, and bearing in mind that it takes only a small number of people to initiative violence at football matches or in their vicinity, that may be persuasive and good reason for maintaining the legislation as it stands. Against that, however, we must assess how the legislation affects individuals.
In that regard, all that we have to go on is the latest document, and I must tell the Minister that it makes worrying reading. It notes that there were 80Section 21A Police Detentions at England and Wales Exit Pointsand that 13 people were detained and released to travel. So, for starters, 13 people who were detained, presumably for between four and up to six hours, were released, having been inconvenienced, to continue their journey. Section 21B notices were issued to 67 people.
Then we come to the bland statement that is the only information that the House has to go on as to how one of the measures passed by Parliament is affecting people's liberties. Under the heading "Outcome of Court Proceedings Prompted By Issue of Section 21B Notices", the document notes that 36 banning orders were imposed, nine banning orders were refused and that 22 court proceedings were adjourned with a travel ban temporarily upheld.
I assume that those statistics are right. I mean no criticism of the Minister when I say that it does not need a great mathematics exercise to see that the position has been shifting. Getting an updated position for the House to consider is difficult and this latest example seems to be as close as we shall get to one. However, the statistics 991 relate to only one match. We do not have full statistics relating to the whole period so that we can make a complete assessment. We have simply to consider the German experience of the Germany-England match. It appears that some 31 people—
§ Mr. Denham
The hon. Gentleman says that we have no other statistics. In my speech I referred to a report that was laid before the House in June which also includes statistics. It is true that more recent figures are broken down in more detail, and I shall endeavour to provide him with a consolidated set of figures before we reach Committee.
§ Mr. Grieve
Again, I am grateful to the Minister. He is right: the earlier document does include some broad statistics, but they are not very informative. We are told that 44 orders were made on complaint and that 30 section 21B notices were issued preventing travel and initiating on complaint banning-order proceedings. However, we do not know the outcomes. If I am wrong about that, any information that the Minister can provide will be gratefully received. I have certainly searched.
§ Mr. Denham
I gave the hon. Gentleman that information in response to his intervention earlier in the debate, but I should be happy to write to him to give him all the facts.
§ Mr. Grieve
I thank the Minister. I made a note of what he said, but before I came into the Chamber the House did not have that full information. That is a source of anxiety because these processes were the subject of much comment last year, and I have re-read the comments that I made on 17 July 2000 at column 123. There had been a lot of debate involving the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), about how ponderous the system would be. How long would it last? To what extent would people be dragged into an administrative and bureaucratic system that required many court attendances and that would interfere with their liberty and put a taint on them until it was resolved? The then Home Secretary took the view, which he was fully entitled to take, that that might be a price worth paying. However, he believed that, as the system bedded in, there were unlikely to be many problems. He seemed to believe that they could all be dealt with fairly expeditiously.
The problem is not that the matter has not been dealt with expeditiously but that we simply do not have the relevant information. Yet the Minister is asking the House today to extend those measures to make them permanent. What is made permanent in the House is difficult to undo later.
§ Simon Hughes
The hon. Gentle man did not quite get to the end of his maths. Does he agree that, on the figures that we all have—those in the report that we were given today on the England-Germany game in Munich—the totals show that the majority of cases against people initially detained were not upheld. While I take the point that we do not need a majority to win the argument, in the case of the majority the intervention appears not to have been justified in terms of their loss of liberty.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Gentleman is right if one considers the total figures for those actually stopped at exit points.
992 It is difficult to know precisely what went on. If people were detained for only 15 minutes to check their identity, the House might feel that that was a price worth paying, but if people were detained for up to six hours, the House might take a different view. The House's real problem is that it is being asked to take an important decision nearly a full parliamentary Session before it needs to be taken and with what appears to be remarkably little information.
I do not wish to take up much more of the House's time. The issues fall within a narrow compass and the House will have to come to a decision. The Minister said that some of the points can be cleared up in Committee and I hope that they can. Given the content of the Bill, I anticipate that the Committee stage will be fairly short. Unless the Minister or the Committee Chairman is prepared to extend a certain amount of indulgence to those who wish to table probing amendments to ascertain exactly how the Bill will work in practice, we could easily find ourselves back in this Chamber on Third Reading no better informed than we are now about how the legislation will work.
The fact that few orders have been used is a good thing—the fewer the better. Any change to the ordinary course of criminal justice is undesirable. However, the fact that only a few orders have been used does not mean that the rights of a few should be forgotten. I remain unconvinced and undecided whether the time has come, in the light of the good results of the Germany match, to endorse the legislation until kingdom come. In those circumstances, the Conservative party will not oppose Second Reading. However, unless during the passage of the Bill, which is likely to be brief and rapid, some cogent and proper evidence is presented to us on how the legislation will affect individuals, there must be a serious question mark over whether the Government should be able to carry the Bill through without opposition.
I hope that the Minister who winds up the debate will take the opportunity to set out clearly the detail of how the Bill will work. If that cannot be done today, it must be done before the Committee stage starts. I urge the Government to give us an opportunity in Committee to look at these matters; otherwise, we shall do a disservice to civil liberties in this country for what appears to be a bad reason—that there has been a successful football match and that therefore we can introduce something now that could wait another nine months.
I hope that the Minister will take my comments in good part, because the Opposition's purpose is to be co-operative on this matter. We fully understand what the Government seek to achieve, but that is not a good reason to impose on individuals a bureaucratic system and process that ultimately does not treat them fairly.
§ Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
In general, I welcome the Bill and the fact that we are renewing it on a permanent basis.
I was interested in what the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), had to say. I accept that there is a trade-off and that the process of this legislation will on occasions catch individuals who, if allowed to attend an England game abroad, would cause no problems. However, we must recognise that, as well as those people's civil rights, there are the civil rights of many people who live abroad, whose countries England 993 fans have visited, provoking mayhem among the local population and attacking individuals and property. Legislation to stop those people travelling abroad will affect the hard core of English fans who cause those difficulties.
The Opposition must recognise that we are talking about a minority of English fans, but a significant minority who have inflicted violence and attacked others when they have gone abroad. Within that minority there is probably a smaller, very hard-core minority of people who instigate, lead and provoke the trouble. This legislation is targeted at those people in particular.
I attended a number of matches in Euro 96, the World cup in 1998 and the European championships in Holland in 2000, and I witnessed the completely different attitudes of fans. The approach of many foreign fans who come to this country is totally different from the past behaviour of England fans abroad.
I was in Sheffield during the 1996 European championships when we had the Danish supporters. No fans are more enthusiastic about supporting their country than the Danes. They did not hold back from drinking: they drank Sheffield pubs dry in the city centre, but that did not provoke attacks or antagonism towards the citizens of Sheffield or the football fans of other teams. Their support and enthusiasm was totally directed at backing their team to the full.
Unfortunately, as I have witnessed at first hand, all too often when some England fans go abroad the support for their team goes hand in hand with xenophobia and hatred of the country they are in and its citizens. It is revolting and nasty to behold. It comes out in chanting and in the personal dealings they have with the people of that country when they are in a bar, when they talk to passers-by or respond to ordinary citizens.
I was in Marseille for the England game against Tunisia in the 1998 World cup. I do not blame English fans completely for what happened, because there was much provocation from some of the local supporters of north African origin. Nevertheless, a significant number of England fans were prepared to be provoked and a small number of them led the attack against that provocation. Far from the delights of mixing with the Danes in Sheffield in 1996, my experience of that game was of hiding under a table in a café as glasses and chairs were thrown. I just missed the CS gas, as the café owner recognised that some English supporters were not there to cause trouble and pulled us into the café before he closed the shutters to avoid the police response to the attacks by the other England fans. That was an absolute disgrace, and it is no wonder that the people of that city wish that English fans had not descended on them.
I remember going to a game in the early 1990s when Sheffield Wednesday ventured into Europe—it was probably the last time it will do so for an awfully long time. After the game I asked some people in a bar whether they went to the match. They said, "No, we were frightened about what English fans would do. A couple of years ago another English team came whose fans wrecked the town." What an appalling reputation we have. People were frightened to go to their own home football club to see a game because of what English fans might do to their town. Possible unfair action under this 994 legislation against one or two individuals should be balanced against the behaviour of English fans abroad in the past and the desire of people in countries where England are to play for Parliament to take firm action to control that small minority and to prevent them from going abroad.
I support the legislation. There is a balance of civil rights to be made, and I believe that we have got it just about right. We shall discuss this matter again in the future, but it would be wrong at this stage to weaken the legislation and to change the balance to the detriment of the people of the cities where England are playing and of the vast majority of English fans who want to go abroad to enjoy the game.
Many English fans who go abroad are also affected by the appalling behaviour it of the minority of supporters who cause difficulties. I went to see the England-Romania game in Toulouse during the 1998 World cup. I walked through the main square with a friend and we started talking in a low voice about the appalling chanting and behaviour of some English fans in the square. I did not realise that someone was listening to our conversation. He confronted me and was joined by two or three of his friends, who started accusing us of not supporting England and of supporting the IRA. They accused us of all sorts of things because we dared to challenge—in a conversational way, as we were not speaking to them—the appalling xenophobic, racist chanting. I was assaulted. The person would not listen to any comment, and when we tried to walk away he started throwing punches.
That was an England fan responding to another England fan. Such people are not merely xenophobic and racist—they support the British National party and its views—in the attitude they take towards foreigners when they go abroad, they also make life hell for many ordinary English fans who go with the team. To prevent the small minority of troublemakers from going abroad is right for that reason as well.
The target of the legislation is right. I refer back to the proposal that every football supporter in this country should have a membership card that they must show before they are allowed into a football game. That was the policy of the Conservative Government when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. That proposal was wrong, because it tried to criminalise all football fans and to make them responsible for what was going on in the game. It did not target the individuals who cause the real difficulties. The Bill is different because it pinpoints and attacks those people who are likely to cause problems and prevents them from doing so.
What we have done in the game in this country, which must be reflected when English fans go abroad, is to make the grounds more welcoming for the ordinary fan, so that more women and children go to matches. When such an atmosphere is created and grounds are full, it is much more difficult for the yobs, the hard cases and the racists to engage in their activities. That has happened in the premiership, as we have "decriminalised" English football. People who go to a game are there to enjoy themselves. We have tried to target the hard core minority, and to make the game more acceptable and more welcoming for families.
I was in Eindhoven for the European championships in 2000. Many of the fans were women and children—families. The attitude before the game had a different feel. 995 The reason there were no problems was that the activities of the hard core, who were still there to some extent, were diluted as a result of the different approach that was taken.
I agree with my right hon. Friend about the response of the police in the game against Germany in Munich. Co-operation between police in this country and police abroad is vital. Much of the Bill is based on the evidence and knowledge that our police have, which can be transferred to foreign police forces, so that they can be on the look out for people who are likely to cause problems.
I draw a contrast between the response of the police in Munich and the events in Marseille. The French police were hopeless. The violence should never have happened, but the police must have known that there would be trouble with English fans in a city such as Marseille, especially as some of the locals were also looking for trouble. When we walked to that café that night there was no sign of police officers on the streets or on the street corners. There were a dozen or 20 police officers grouped together in riot vans at 300 yd or 400 yd intervals, but they were there to police the riot when it happened and not to control the situation and monitor the crowd to prevent trouble from breaking out.
In Eindhoven, the Dutch police were in groups of two here and three or four there. They were on the spot, giving a clear signal to fans about what would happen if trouble erupted. There were small disturbances from time to time, but the police were immediately on the scene from 10 yd away. They talked to the fans beforehand—it probably helped that most of them spoke English. They showed that they were in control of the situation and were going to police it effectively and reasonably but strongly right from the beginning.
I talked to the British police after that event, and they drew a contrast between the way in which the Dutch police had behaved in Eindhoven and the approach of the Belgian police in Charleroi, who saw their job as that of policing riots rather than preventing trouble in the first place. There was no excuse for the violence, but it is important to recognise that our police have, by and large, got it right. They have changed their approach from the 1980s. They are around in numbers on street corners outside the grounds, and they mix with the crowd rather than try to control trouble once it has broken out. It is important that we pass that approach on to foreign police forces.
My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) spoke earlier about racism in this country, and about misbehaviour of that kind at football grounds. I applaud what the Football Association and football clubs are trying to do about awareness of racism, but I suspect on occasion that some of the campaigns are simply that. I have seen stewards stand by at football grounds, observe racist chanting, and do nothing. I wonder how many stewards who will attend English football matches next weekend will have been given any kind of racial awareness training. How many will have been taught about legislation against racist chanting, and how many actions have been taken against people for racist chanting at football matches over the past 12 months? My guess is that the number of actions is in single figures.
I believe that football clubs are very good at campaigns, but—perhaps—not nearly as good at some of the practicalities as they should be.
§ 8 pm
§ Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey):
I am very happy, in some ways, to follow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts), although I cannot follow him on his round-Europe tour of England away games. My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) said that Sheffield clearly looks after its MPs; during the last Parliament, the Labour Whips Office clearly looked after its Whips slightly better than some other colleagues. I own up to watching one England away game—the Finland qualifying match, which turned out to be deadly dull, but very calm. If the hon. Gentleman wants to give us tips on how to ensure that we all have tickets for the World cup finals next year, however, I shall be open to offers after the debate.
As the Minister implied, following last month's horrendous events and statements on the international emergency, on Parliament's return we are back to business as usual—and rightly so. In a way, it is also right that we are debating football, our national game. I want, therefore, to say something before we deal with the bad side of football, which is created not by supporters but by hooligans. The hooligans are not fans but people who tarnish the name of football and the enjoyment of many supporters, as Members throughout the House agree. On behalf of some of my colleagues, and, I would guess, the whole House, I want first to share the joy that I feel about one development.
When we left for our summer holidays, it was pretty unlikely that England would qualify for the World cup, but a phenomenal game in Munich exceeded all expectations—Michael Owen and Beckham, among others, played out of their skins. That was followed by a home game, which we all watched with growing fear and disbelief until David Beckham, to his huge personal credit, again redeemed us in the final few seconds.
On behalf of the House, I thank the England team. In particular, I thank its captain not just for his performance on the pitch but for his role-model performance in response to questions and in interviews too. Under his captaincy, we have a team to be proud of and we hope for great success in Korea and Japan next year. The finals will take place while Parliament is sitting, although we may have a quick half-term break. If colleagues think that they can swan off to the far east for four weeks—with a couple of honourable exceptions—they have another think coming.
Sadly, however, the debate is not on the merits of football and its great successes and prospects but on the nasty things that happen around its periphery. In that context, as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) reminded us, we return to a core debate that has been a thread running through what other Members have said today. I refer to the issue of how we are to deal with the minority of criminals, or troublemakers, without removing the liberties of the law-abiding citizens who constitute the majority. That debate is very similar to the debate about how to deal with terrorists. This question, happily, is in a way less serious—it is on a smaller scale—but it involves the same set of issues, and it is very important.
We have gained another addition to the evidence and experience that were available to us before the summer. The Minister rightly reminded us that in July both Houses had short debates about whether to extend the current 997 legislation for a year—from August this year until August next year. All parties in both Houses agreed that, whatever our views on substance and the core of the legislation, there was logic in continuing it for that second year, which we permitted when we passed the Bill a year ago.
Since then, England's only away game was in Munich. I was grateful to receive the report that arrived today, although its arrival was pretty much at the eleventh hour. We now have to make decisions.
I note that, in the Queen's Speech, the Government committed themselves to the introduction of legislation to extend the life of the Football (Disorder) Act 2000. I am aware of the semantics, but the wording did not refer to making the Act permanent. I agree with what Members of both other parties said when we last debated the matter. Our view is that there may be an argument for extending the life of the Act, but we are absolutely not persuaded that there is an argument for making it permanent—which, in relation to banning orders on complaint and without conviction, is something that the Minister proposes.
Since we last debated these matters, we have also seen a short report and press release from the National Criminal Intelligence Service. I pay tribute to NCIS and to Bryan Drew and the team, whom I have met. I also pay tribute to those who now do the football intelligence work, very well and very professionally. They collaborate efficiently with their colleagues in other European countries to ensure that when there are away games, or when teams come here, we gain the maximum benefit from police intelligence and experience the minimum destruction.
I echo what was said by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe. There is all the difference in the world between the way in which some countries have policed football games and the way in which others have done so. Some have policed them extremely well. Everyone seems to agree that the Dutch are pre-eminent in that regard: they appear to have understood that the psychology requires not confronting people at the last minute, but ensuring that police and people work together and see themselves as being on the same side. That is a lesson that we need to learn for the purpose of policing games in this country as well as abroad.
Let me mention a local experience. I chaired a meeting in my constituency the other day that dealt with precisely this issue. We are just over the boundary from the New Den—Millwall's ground. The team has been promoted. It is a very good team with very good supporters: it is a very good club, on its way up to the premier league. In the meantime, as with all clubs, there are a few people who attend matches to cause trouble. We have to take steps to manage that.
Some members of the public expressed strong views to the police. They said, for instance, "Please do not always turn up in large numbers in riot gear at the beginning. Sometimes you wind up people who are on the periphery." They did not mean the hard core who would turn up anyway, or those who—as the Minister said—meet three miles away and get in touch, on mobile phones, with the supporters of the other team in order to arrange a ruck somewhere near the ground a bit later on. Nor did they mean those aged 14, 15 and 16 who hang around for 998 a bit of after-school trouble. Those whom they meant are often 30, 35 or 40. They should certainly know better, and we must all make sure that we deal with them both at home and abroad.
As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, this is hardly a large Bill. It contains three clauses, but only one is substantive, and even it constitutes a fairly small amendment. The Bill will not, therefore, occupy a huge amount of time in Committee. It does, however, raise the two important issues left over from our debate a year ago. I will not repeat that we had to work pretty hard against the clock to get the Bill into anything like reasonable shape following the outlandish proposals advanced by the Government at the outset. We are reminded that they originally wanted a 24-hour detention power, which was mercifully reduced to four hours with a "plus two" option to bring it up to six. There was meant to be the ability to detain people with no record of violence, and there was no sunset provision. Following guillotined debates in both Houses, we managed to secure some improvements.
The procedure was disgraceful, as the Bill was pushed through against the clock. In the Commons, there was no separation between Committee and Report. There were huge complaints in the Lords, as an undertaking given to Cross Benchers that they would be able to table amendments on Third Reading was not honoured. Nobody considered the resulting legislation successful. Even Ministers did not argue strongly that it was good legislation.
Lord Harris of Greenwich, then the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip in the Lords, who has sadly since died, said:It is difficult to understand in this extremely badly drafted, badly thought-through Bill what happens to Irish citizens who also have British passports."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26 July 2000; Vol. 616. c. 470.]My noble Friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury said:This Bill came to us in a tawdry and inadequate state and leaves us in that condition. There has not been a single major concession to the fears expressed not just by the Opposition but from the Government Benches."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26 July 2000; Vol. 616, c. 475.]My noble Friend Lord McNally, who led for us in the Lords, made similar comments. The Bill hardly got a ringing endorsement. On all the major Divisions, although the Government obviously carried the day in the Commons, there was support from all three major parties for amendments designed to change the nature of the Bill.
Liberal Democrat Members, along with Conservative Members and others, do not intend to force a Division on Second Reading. We will seek to amend the Bill after that. Our position has consistently been that there is no case so overwhelming that it could justify a banning order being applied where there is no previous conviction. It is perfectly reasonable for the Minister to argue that one may want to take action on video evidence of people misbehaving on the streets of Munich, even if that has not led to a conviction, but the figures published in the two reports and in parliamentary answers in both Houses show that all but one of those who have had banning orders confirmed by the courts have previous convictions for violence.
We want to amend the Bill to allow convictions not only for football-related violence but for any violence to be the basis for an application for a banning order, 999 but there is all the difference in the world between a conviction for violence or public order offences and an assumption of guilt without a conviction.
§ Mr. Denham
For the hon. Gentleman's information, the legislation as it stands allows non-football-related violence to be taken into account, so there is no need for such an amendment.
§ Simon Hughes
Exactly. We want to retain that provision and not to have the additional power to make banning orders where there is no relevant conviction.
§ David Wright (Telford)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it has been the practice in some countries to remove English and other football supporters without charging them? Do we not need some mechanism to stop those people travelling in future?
§ Simon Hughes
That was the Minister's argument, but the answer is not as simple as the hon. Gentleman thinks. After the Charleroi games in Belgium, many people were shipped home who had committed no offence. One should not be able to pray in aid in seeking a banning order the fact that a foreign country's authorities prevented people from seeing a match, even though they were not convicted of any crime. There is also a question about whether video footage of people misbehaving abroad should be able to be prayed in aid. There is an argument for that, but there is a stronger argument for ensuring that people who commit offences, no matter where, should be nicked, charged, prosecuted and convicted. The best evidence that someone is a hooligan is a conviction for hooliganism.
It is a dangerous road to go down to allow people's liberties to be taken away when there has been no conviction. We will have the same debate in relation to terrorism. In the criminal justice system in which I was brought up, liberties are normally restricted only after a conviction has been secured in a court, not when video footage or allegations suggest that someone may or may not be guilty.
As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, we are considering the Bill only one year and three months after the original legislation completed its passage through the House, and one year and two months after it reached the statute book. The present Act runs until the end of August next year, after the friendlies and the World cup. It is premature to make the judgment now. In their manifesto, the Government said that they wanted to extend the life of the legislation but not to make it permanent.
In considering Lords amendments in July 2000, the Minister's predecessor said that he was willing to contemplate a sunset clause for a longer period, as well as annual renewal. We propose, as a concession in the Government's direction, that the legislation should lapse after a maximum of five years and that it should have an annual renewal if we think that the evidence justifies it.
I will happily talk to Conservative Front Benchers and I hope that we can agree that we must be able to have periodic reviews of such legislation on the basis of the evidence. That will mean that we can take into account the points that have been made about evidence from abroad, but if it appears, nine months from now, that almost every single person who has been the subject of a 1000 banning order has previous convictions, that will be a strong argument for allowing detention or banning orders only where there are such convictions.
This is a serious matter, because we never envisaged that people would be detained and taken to a court that effectively precluded them from going to a game even though it never decided that there was evidence that they should not go. That is a separate matter from having a temporary banning order when a case has not been concluded.
My colleague in the Scottish Parliament, the Deputy First Minister and Minister for Justice, is responsible for the legislation in Scotland, but we did not manage to iron out the anomaly that if one leaves from a Scottish port to go to a game in England, the law does not apply.
We will debate emergency legislation on terrorism, and there is a logical argument for passing not specific legislation on football, but legislation that deals with people who have committed violent offences and may be violent abroad, irrespective of whether that violence is related to football. We should also consider such matters in the context of public order.
I think—civil servants will know this better than I do—that there are now eight recent football-related measures, and they ought to be pulled together so that we have one coherent football-related Act. We left the complicated issue of whether to accept convictions abroad unresolved during the previous debate.
I shall end on a point that unites us: we agree that one of the troubles in this country, especially in England, has been not only that we have been far too violent at home as a nation and as a people, but that we have often exported our violence abroad, to the disrepute of our country. We must all work together, regardless of our differences on the Bill, to reduce violence in Britain, especially that caused by alcohol, and to ensure that we restore our reputation as not only good sports, but peaceful sports supporters, and—who knows?—we might even become more successful, although we appear to be doing relatively well now, for which we are very grateful.
§ Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow)
The Minister referred in his opening remarks to the recent tragedy in America and said that it puts this debate into perspective. Football is a beautiful game, but at the end of the day it is still only a game. We are debating the Bill tonight because some people view football as more than a game; they use it as a disguise that enables them to get away with their criminal activities by hiding in crowds. Of course, by going among the genuine football fans—I am one, as are other hon. Members who have spoken tonight—those morons cause havoc and hide behind the various team colours.
Is it not a disgrace that, on a day when the House heard statements on international terrorism, we find ourselves discussing football hooliganism? We are all ashamed of those cowardly thugs who masquerade as supporters. We can only draw a comparison between those cowards and the brave young men in the forces who are currently on the verge of fighting terrorism abroad. Some older people in my constituency ask, "Why don't you bring back national service, because that will tackle the hooligans?" That would be the worst thing to do because those cowards should not besmirch the great uniform of the armed forces.
1001 The Bill has been introduced for two reasons, to which the Minister alluded earlier. First, it is intended to protect our national game, which is loved by fans up and down the country. None of us, whether or not we are football fans, will ever forget the shameful images screened on our televisions during France 98 and Europe 2000. We must not forget that those images nearly led to a ban on the English team and clubs from all future European competitions.
Secondly, we must protect the good reputation of our country and its citizens abroad. The sight of hooligans wearing our national colours and rioting in the streets of foreign capitals damages our standing as a nation not only in Europe but all over the world, because those scenes are beamed via satellite to Australia, the far east and America. Such scenes cause lasting damage, so I am delighted that the joint action to tackle hooliganism taken by the Football Association and the Government following those disgraceful television scenes seems to be having an early impact, as was shown in the recent England game.
The FA acted responsibly by disbanding the England Members Club, which in many people's opinion became a haven for English thugs travelling abroad under the guise of being decent English fans. By intermingling with decent fans, the hooligans slip into European countries and do their damage. The new Englandfans travel club, which the FA has step up, should stop that. By carrying out stringent checks on its members, it will be more difficult for bogus fans to get tickets to travel to international games. Of course, the changes introduced by the FA would not be enough on their own to stop a determined hooligan, so the Government need to act decisively if we are to avoid a repeat of France 98 and Euro 2000. That is even more important now that we are facing the qualifiers for the World cup in 2002.
Hard action was needed, and hard action was taken. Concerns have been expressed tonight and by civil liberty groups that the Government's measures are too draconian, but most people in my constituency, whether or not they are football fans, would not call them draconian; they would call them common sense. Long before such banning orders were introduced, my constituents were asking, "When on earth will you stop those thugs travelling abroad willy-nilly, ruining our international reputation?" The ability to issue banning orders for non-football-related offences was well received.
The test of the new policy of the Government and the FA was always going to be the vital Germany v. England World cup clash. In the run-up to the game, 500 fans were prevented from travelling abroad and eight people were arrested at various airports throughout the United Kingdom. It must be stressed that those people were not just randomly rounded up and prevented from travelling; they were known troublemakers, who had no interest in football at all, other than using it as a cover for their criminal activities. The outcome was a brilliant England victory, almost free of violence. A small number of German hooligans, not English fans, were blamed for the small amount of violence that took place. That would not have been the case if the orders had not been in place and English fans could have travelled, willy-nilly, and been infiltrated by the thugs.
1002 Although Parliament is involved in solving the international crisis, it is important not to forget domestic issues such as hooliganism at our domestic games. Hooligans, of course, hide behind team colours wherever they are—whether in the United Kingdom, or when travelling abroad under England team colours. The introduction of closed circuit television at grounds, police firmness and other actions taken by clubs have moved the violence away from football grounds to shopping centres, railway stations and pubs. However, we know that the violence still occurs. More than 3,000 arrests were made at football fixtures last year, and we need to stamp out such violence if we are to protect the glittering image of the premiership. With all due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Clarke), who is a director of Northampton Town football club, we must remember that the reputations of the other clubs in the other English leagues need to be protected.
The measures in the Bill have been tried and tested in the harshest circumstances and have proved to be a success, but I have a word of caution that I hope the Minister will take on board. We cannot be left to act alone. Football hooliganism is not just an English disease; it happens in other parts of the world and, sometimes in European countries, at a far greater level. Although foreign Governments do not condone hooliganism within their countries, they take a far more lenient attitude than we do. If we are to stamp out the problem altogether, we must take a joint European approach.
The Bill's provisions are measured and targeted. They have made a difference already, and they will make a difference in future. However, there is no room for complacency. We must always protect the one thing that is important: the crown jewel of sport in this country and the world that is our soccer.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)
Members on both sides have said that the Bill is extremely modest. If one strips out the standard provisions, such as the commencement date and the clause on expenses, one is left with a simple clause that, on the face of it, appears extremely modest. However, when one studies in depth the Bill and the amendments that it seeks to make to previous legislation, one realises just how significant and far reaching the Government's proposals are.
The Government are seeking to extend—in effect, for ever—the provisions that were contained in the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 and that had a time limit. I have heard the reasons for that and I must confess from my knowledge of the background that I have a slightly different perspective. When I introduced a Bill in 1998, I was united with the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), in that I wanted my Bill to contain precisely the proposals that we are now debating and that will remain in place for as long as the legislation is on the statute book.
I considered many other provisions in my Bill extremely worth while and badly needed in helping to tackle a pressing problem that was constantly dragging the reputation of English football, in particular, and this country into the gutter. I felt that that problem could no longer be tolerated. However, as I said in the Committee considering my Bill, I concluded that the mechanism of a 1003 private Member's Bill was not the right one to put on the statute book highly contentious measures that struck at the heart of civil liberties. I argued that the Government should introduce them in their own legislation and be backed by their in-built majority in the House. When I decided to introduce amendments in Committee, I thought that I had a deal with the Government that they would introduce such legislation. Ultimately, they did and I supported them.
There is another discrepancy in the accounts given of the history of this Bill, and that is the view that the extension of the legislation is a natural conclusion. Labour Members' remarks on the Bill's time scale and the decision-making processes involved do not quite square with the facts. I do not want to strike a particularly discordant note, but the fact is that the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), was desperate, as parliamentary time was running out, to get the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 on the statute book before the summer recess. He wanted the powers in that Act to be in place in time for the England v. France match to be played at the beginning of September that year.
That Act contained highly contentious provisions and was open ended in its effect. The Government were concerned that they would either lose it in another place or not get it through before the summer recess, so they wisely and sensibly compromised. In effect, they bowed to the pressure coming particularly from Members of the other place and they introduced a sunset clause.
We are now 12 months down the line and it is logical and consistent that the Government should come to the House with this modest and far-ranging Bill. It is right that the state should have the powers necessary to deal with this problem. It should have them for as long as the legislation remains in force and until any future Parliament may have a change of mind and reverse the decision of this Parliament and of the previous one that approved the 2000 Act.
I do not have a problem with the legislation, because for far too long this country has had to tolerate the inane, asinine and disgraceful behaviour of a very small minority of mindless thugs and hooligans. It is an insult to football supporters to call those people football supporters, because most of them are not. Life has moved on and they are criminals and thugs. Like leeches, they cling to the game to advance their agendas, whether that is to engage in simple mindless violence or, equally seriously, to further the criminal interests of those who are involved in organised crime and who latch on to the game and the crowds who attend football matches as law-abiding citizens. This state needs to take decisive and, I accept, draconian action, because we have had to put up with such behaviour for far too long.
One other thing concerns me. Of course we have a duty to protect the civil liberties of the minority, but we also have a duty to protect the civil liberties of the majority—the honest, decent and law-abiding citizens, and their families and young children, who simply want to go out for an afternoon or evening of entertainment to see two football teams opposing each other for 90 minutes at the highest levels of sportsmanship. For far too long and too often, the civil liberties of the majority have been trodden on remorselessly by the minority. There comes a time when we have to stop being "goody two shoes", bending over backwards to protect the interests of the minority, 1004 and say, "Enough is enough. We have given you your chances. You will not reform, so we are going to act to stamp out or minimise the continuing behaviour that causes so much misery and so many problems for our national sport." That is why I support what is happening and what is proposed.
The Government have the majority that they require to win any Division on the Bill. I hope that noble Members in another place pay close attention to the strength of the will of the House, which will be demonstrated if we have to vote, and to our will as demonstrated last year, because we still have a problem. If one studies the statistics, it is clear that the number of arrests fell between 1992-93 and 1999-2000, mostly as a result of a dramatic decline in football violence inside stadiums. That happened for a variety of reasons—partly because of policing and stewarding and partly because of intelligence gathered. I join the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) in paying tribute to the work of the police and their intelligence network, because they do a fantastic job.
In 2000–01, there has been a rise in the number of arrests—a relatively small one, but still a rise. If one includes the number of arrests from European club competitions and at international fixtures, the total is significant. There have been 4,162 arrests, of which 301 were at FA cup matches, 160 at Worthington cup matches, 35 at England home matches and 80 at England away matches. Since 1997, there has also been an increase in violent football-related offences, such as affray, running on to the pitch, racist chanting, throwing missiles and assault. I find those figures disturbing. Arrests for the offence of affray, for example, increased between 1996–97 and 2000–01, from 19 to 165; that is a significant increase. For the throwing of missiles, arrests increased from 11 to 107; arrests for assault increased from 19 to 137 and for violent disorder from 23 to 85. Those statistics are all for violent crime. Interestingly, however, the number of arrests for drink-related offences has fallen. That is encouraging, but the increase in arrests for violence in its different manifestations is a cause for concern and further illustrates the need and justification for the Bill.
The number of arrests for racist and indecent chanting has also risen significantly. Is that because such episodes of disgraceful behaviour are happening more frequently, or because the law has been systematically tightened up and the FA and others have sought to highlight the problem and introduce constructive and workable ways of minimising it? If the latter is the case, that is a positive step forward; but if the former, it is disturbing.
In conclusion, we cannot afford to pussyfoot around. I respect the views held by others on this matter, but we must concentrate on the civil liberties and rights of the majority and give them the protection that they richly deserve, which for too long has been threatened and taken away from them by the activities of the minority. For that reason, I believe that the Bill, however unpalatable it may be to some, is the right way forward. I hope that it becomes law during this parliamentary. Session, providing the authorities with another weapon to tackle a social disease that has bedevilled this country for far too long.
§ Andy Burnham (Leigh)
A number of hon. Members have made good points tonight, particularly the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns). I will not 1005 cover the same ground in the course of my observations, but as I was an adviser to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport during the Euro 2000 tournament and, before that, to the Government's football taskforce, I hope that I can bring a useful perspective and some new observations to our proceedings.
I speak with 20 years' experience of following Everton football club, home and away. I have been to many England games over the years, including the matches at France 98 and Euro 2000, and saw at first hand the incidents that provoked the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 and which the Bill is intended to confront.
Some Members—most notably the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes)—have expressed concern about the civil liberties implications of the measures, and it is right that those implications be considered. However, I suggest that had those Members been in Marseille or Charleroi, seen the appalling scenes and felt the intense shame of being English, as I did on those occasions, they would have been persuaded to soften their view.
The Bill deals with a unique problem, and that is why its measures are justified. It attacks the perception of some young men that they have a right to go overseas, flout the laws of another country and cause general havoc, supposedly in the name of supporting England. That is a liberty that they have taken for far too long and it must be curtailed. Football violence is a complex problem. By its nature, it is difficult to identify and confront. Blunt instruments are needed to deal with it. The Bill gives the authorities the tools that they need to prevent the scenes that have marred previous summers and tournaments.
Hon. Members have suggested that the problems of supporting England abroad are caused by a few bad apples. Having seen the events at first hand, I do not accept that. England's away supporters traditionally attracted the worst elements of many football league clubs in this country. Until now, the whole culture of following England has been rotten—hostile, xenophobic and racist. It encourages and endorses unacceptable behaviour, disrespect for others and disregard for the laws of other countries. Although the measures will help to root out the bad apples, many others—most notably the Football Association—have a responsibility to continue to purge the culture prevailing in English football support abroad.
Before I come to my main point, I want to raise two specific issues that I would like the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), to address in his winding-up speech. First, for the legislation to work, proper enforcement is crucial. For all the sense that the spotter system used by the National Criminal Intelligence Service at recent major tournaments makes in principle, it is not working on the ground. In Marseilles and Charleroi, it was blatantly obvious to many of us who the troublemakers were and in which bars the first glass or chair was likely to be thrown. However, the authorities did not seem to reach the same conclusion. Once trouble began, it got out of hand very quickly and was then impossible to contain. I urge the Government to look closely at the spotter system and to take steps to make it more effective.
Secondly, the success of the Bill depends in part on persuading other Governments to take action and to prosecute England football fans who are guilty of 1006 committing offences abroad. I understand the desire of countries on the receiving end of such appalling behaviour to deport the troublemakers at the first opportunity, but if they can be persuaded to prosecute and secure a conviction, it would help us to tackle the problem in the long term. That would give the British authorities immediate cause to impose banning orders, and would be a powerful deterrent to others.
Perhaps the Government could come to an agreement with the Governments of countries where England is due to play—starting with Japan and Korea—that troublemakers will be prosecuted. If necessary, the Government could consider making a contribution to the costs that would be incurred by Governments pursuing such convictions.
The Government are right to keep the Bill focused on the problems created by England followers abroad, but that brings me to my one substantive concern. I would not like the authorities in this country to use the powerful measures that the Bill will put at their disposal to crack down on football supporters in general. In discussing football violence, a clear distinction must always be drawn between the culture of following England abroad and that of following league clubs at home and away. They are very different. The latter provides great enjoyment to millions of law-abiding and decent men, women and children in this country. It is already heavily regulated—perhaps over-regulated—and there is no justification for any further steps to limit the few freedoms that football fans enjoy.
On countless occasions, I have witnessed fans being unfairly treated by police or stewards, or unfairly ejected from football grounds, but because they are football fans, that is apparently okay. It is as if they have no recourse to argument or reason, but can just be taken out of the ground and that is that. I urge the Government to consider those concerns carefully and to ensure that the interests of people who support football week in, week out in this country are not weakened or undermined by the passing of this legislation. Subject to that proviso, I welcome the Bill, coupled with the steps that the Football Association has taken to abolish the England Members Club. I hope that, in the long term, it will transform the culture of supporting England abroad.
It is possible to achieve this. At Goodison Park in the late 1980s, racist chanting and abuse were frequently heard and, I am sorry to say, tolerated by many. However, many true Evertonians did not accept it: they challenged it and slowly things began to get better. Now, I am proud to say that Everton football club has its first ever black club captain. That proves that it is possible to break the hold that a nasty element can have over following a club or country. The measures being adopted will help, but it will take all decent England supporters to stand up and be counted and reject the behaviour of those who bring shame on this country.
§ Mr. David Cameron (Witney)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), who knows a lot about his subject. Not only is he a football fan, he is quite an accomplished cricket player, as I discovered during a game this summer.
Many of those who have spoken in the debate or have written about the subject are either lawyers or football fans, but I have to confess that I am neither: I am just a 1007 novice parliamentarian who is trying to work out whether the draconian powers in the Bill are really necessary. I fear that my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) will decide that I am a member of the pussyfoot tendency when he hears what I have to say, but I believe that this is an important debate.
The debate is important, first, because we are dealing with what has been a desperate problem for this country—football hooliganism—and secondly, because we are discussing serious measures that will affect our freedoms. I accept that the background is one of overall success in football. As the hon. Member for Leigh said, there is less racism in football. Attendances are growing, accompanied by decreases in the number of offences, crimes and arrests. Football is one place where things are getting better.
Like many hon. Members, I have always been struck by an uneasy feeling when England travels abroad to play football, not just because I want the team to win so much and fear that they will not do so, but because I fear that when I switch on my television set I will see terrible news about hooliganism and dreadful behaviour. However, I also feel uneasy about the Bill.
I have no difficulty with the concept of banning orders or with the previous measure's provision combining international and domestic banning orders to stop people seeing football matches either at home or abroad. Neither do I have a problem with the idea of taking someone's passport away after a banning order has been looked at by the court. However, I have some difficulty with the concept of courts imposing bans on individuals who have no convictions, although I acknowledge the statement in the explanatory notes:The court must make the order if it is shown"—I repeat "shown"—that the person has previously caused or contributed to violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere and if it is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a banning order would help prevent football related violence or disorder.At least in that case the defendant has his day in court.
My real difficulty, which I am sure some hon. Members share, is with the police stopping individuals leaving the country because—well, just because. That is the big question. Perhaps the police just do not like the look of the individuals concerned. The explanatory notes state that the police cangive a person a notice … not to leave England and Wales, and under certain circumstances to surrender his passport, if the police have reasonable grounds for suspecting he has previously caused or contributed to violence".That is the difficult bit—the bit that leads one to ask what has happened to the concept of criminal proof in our criminal justice system, to our ability to travel freely, and to the crucial principle of innocent until proven guilty.
The hon. Member for Leigh says that we are dealing with a unique problem, but is it unique? In a way, every crime is unique, but we do not resort to measures such as those in the Bill. That is why we must think very carefully about them. I instinctively trust the police; none the less, it makes me nervous when we give them increased powers—especially powers of the nature of those in the Bill—because it increases the chance of abuse. If we give the police too many extra specific powers, a few bad apples could give the police service a bad name. 1008 We should always think and debate carefully before we give more and more specific powers to the police. We should ask them to use everything else first.
Are the police using all the possible intelligence to follow hooligans and to share information with other police forces? Are they doing everything to help the French, Dutch and Belgian police forces to arrest people in those countries instead of Parliament giving our police service more powers? Sometimes, even the police are nervous about being given extra specific powers. When I was a naive special adviser in the Home Office, I remember visiting the Police Federation. At that time the great concern was over identity cards and whether we should have them. A member of the federation said, "If we have identity cards, we would need to have a power of arrest in respect of those not carrying cards, and that would be bureaucratic." Naively, I asked, "What do you do now?" He replied, "We have the ways and means Act." I asked what it was, and he said, "I stand on someone's toe and he calls me an expletive deleted, and I arrest him for a breach of the peace." Sometimes the police are sceptical about new specific powers.
It must be said that there has been an enormous amount of legislation on football disorder. We have had the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act 1985, the Public Order Act 1996 and the Football Spectators Act 1989. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe read out some of the Acts—
§ Mr. Cameron
I am sorry. Beaconsfield and Wycombe are not far from each other, but geographically I was wrong.
We have had almost more football Acts than England victories abroad in certain years. There has been so much legislation and we should be nervous about passing so many Acts related to this one area of football. As my hon. Friend said, we want to see evidence that the Bill will be worth while.
It is clear that there is evidence to show that there has been overall improvement. About 100,000 British fans have transversed Europe since Euro 2000, yet there have been only 43 reported arrests. However, is there evidence to support the specific powers that are set out in the Bill? The report to Parliament on that issue is helpful, and I have read it carefully, but, I hope that I am not alone in finding it rather thin. Could we not find a little more detail?
Will the Minister be able to give us more detail about those who went to court and were not banned? How long did those cases take? Of the orders made by the police, how many did the courts eventually endorse? Which police forces have used the powers in the current Act? What did those forces find? What did they think of the powers set out in the Act? Could we have reports from magistrates or stipendiary magistrates who have dealt with the powers? Could we have reports from police authorities that have been using the current Act? Could such reports be placed in the Library so that we might see them?
I would be grateful if the Minister were to say whether we have dealt with the anomaly that the Act did not cover people travelling from Scottish ports or airports to England matches. The issue was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) when the Act was last debated. 1009 In general, if we take away liberties we should do so only on the basis of the most serious and compelling evidence. There are Opposition Members who will be looking to those on the Government Benches to say more about that. Why are we renewing the Act before we have to, given that it takes away liberties? As we are renewing it, should we not renew every year the key clauses that I have mentioned? I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford on that point. We are dealing with important civil liberties. These are that people are innocent until proven guilty and the criminal standard of proof. I would like to see sunset clauses rather than the sun set permanently over some of the rights that we are considering.
To sum up, most of us will support the legislation at the end of the day. We will back it because we are appalled, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford said most movingly, by the behaviour of a few thugs. In this country, on the whole, we trust the police and magistrates to behave reasonably and not abuse the powers that Parliament has given them. However, I hope that Members will forgive me for being a little nervous about taking away those liberties, even in those restricted categories. We are in desperate need of reassurance from the Minister. In a previous debate on the matter, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) said that there is no excuse for thuggish behaviour, but we should not respond to thuggish behaviour with thuggish laws. He made a good point; we need the reassurance of facts and figures before we take away people's rights in such important areas of civil liberty.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North)
I am sure that the House will forgive me if I do not emulate the stories of Members who support the English national team. I do not have that problem as I support the Scottish national team; events and excitements there are few and far between these days. I also support Norwich City football club, where there have been very few problems over the years—although I remember Manchester United fans tearing down the asbestos cladding at the back of the Barclay stand, which could, I suppose, be regarded as a piece of social engineering. On the other hand, they did that out of frustration. Scottish fans have not always been innocent. We took a fancy to the grass at Wembley one year and I confess that I was there. Much of the turf was removed to the chagrin of Jimmy Hill and others, but I noticed that it was replaced with much better quality grass by the following weekend.
I had trouble finding instances of football disorder of which I had personal experience, so I turned to the usual source for understanding the problem—academic sociologists, who are part of a growth industry and have no trouble at all getting grants to undertake sociological studies of football hooliganism. I should like to take a little time to analyse some of the stuff that they have come out with. I might say that it does not add much to the debate, but it is interesting that they have done a lot of work.
I shall give Members the titles of one or two papers that I have had the excitement of reading over the summer. Eduardo Archetti wrote an article entitled 1010 "Playing Styles and Masculine Virtues in Argentine Football" in "Machos, Mistresses, Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery". Great reading. "The Postmodernity of Football Hooliganism" appeared in the British Journal of Sociology. Other articles are "Football Hooliganism and the Practical Paradigm" and "Soccer Crowd Disorder and the Press: Processes of Amplification and Deamplification in Historical Perspective". I am sure that every Northampton fan would certainly benefit from that. An old friend of mine who, I remember, was quite a good goalkeeper, has gone back to Scotland and written "The Cappielow Riot and the Composition and Behaviour of Soccer Crowds in Late Victorian Scotland"—essential reading for analysis of the Bill. "Faith, Hope and Bigotry: Case Studies of Anti-Catholic Prejudice in Scottish Soccer and Society" is another article; there are others, such as "Selling the Game Short". A mass of them have kept me busy for several nights.
There are various explanations for football hooliganism, and I shall go through them quickly. There are as many explanations as there are sociologists in British universities. One explanation is that hooliganisminvolves deriving comfort, performing a social obligation, achieving recreation, discovering … identity, passing the time, being with others".People engage in itfor an endless variety of other private personal reasons".We need to know why people pursue their recreation, as it were, by going to a football match. Some argue that the state of modern living creates the problems; the modern consumer life style increasingly lacks a sense of danger or ordeal, and people want to get rid of boredom. An extension of that is the Marcuse argument, which is a reaction against the surplus state repression. Some Members will identify with that, having written essays on it in their youth. The culture of pursuing danger, risk taking and creativity can involve exciting activities. We can fall off mountains or go on holiday in war zones; we do not need to have a punch-up at a football match to create that kind of excitement.
I ask Members to bear with me for a few more minutes while I tell them about some more analyses. There is the gender-centred analysis involving aggressive, troubled, hegemonic or empowering masculinity. There is the neo-tribal hypothesis, with individuals promoting self-identity and self-definition. The structural Marxists have come in on it as well, with an attempt to reclaim the magical camaraderie and intimacy of a lost working class system of traditional communities. No doubt that is a favourite of many hon. Members present. The Leicester school says that hooligan participants are simply roughs. They are lower working class and just love violence. That is the result of a £200,000 sociological study.
The police, too, have promoted some interesting analyses in Home Office documents, with references toMafia-like command systems running football violence in Britain",with official statuses of generals, lieutenants, armourers and photographers whoprey on innocent supporters motivated by outright wickedry.Gary Armstrong's latest book "Football Hooligans" is a story of Sheffield United fans. Sheffield seems to figure prominently in analyses of football. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts), who is a 1011 great back four player, spoke earlier. As his manager, I do man-to-man marking analysis with him, and he is a wonderful man-to-man marker—no violence, but my goodness, does he prevent the opposition from moving about in the penalty area.
Gary Armstrong starts with the statement that the war against hooligans has a long way to go, whatever the definition of hooligans turns out to be. Reference has been made to the National Criminal Intelligence Service's report of 20 August this year. The report admits that violent football hooliganism continued to increase during last season. The incidents reported to the unit by football intelligence officers is significantly up on the same period last year. That seems to apply to all divisions, so the problem clearly exists.
Armstrong's analysis questions the emphasis placed by the police on patrolling football matches. He thinks that their time would be better spent catching petty thieves and on burglary-related issues. He goes on to state:There will still be disturbances at and around football matches. Commentators will continue to moralise and pontificate and drone on about what lessons can be learned from various events, and sociologists amongst others will attempt to give a rationale to what are frequently irrational events.I can tell the House that sociological violence has broken out across the nation as each sociology department in every British university disagrees with all the others about their analyses.
I doubt whether we will get to the explanation, despite the money spent on sociological analyses, and I doubt whether that will help us to develop policy, but I can assure the House that much effort has been put into the endeavour, and many young students are no doubt bored to death after being subjected to such sociological guff.
Episodes will continue to happen and, as we say in Norfolk, there are wrong 'uns who will always be around, looking for a bit of trouble. The police have identified that in their document, where they state that in the close vicinity of stadiums they have been successful, but that the problem has been displaced. Other hon. Members have mentioned that tonight. It is recognised that the problem is moving from the football grounds.
What are we to do about it? Again, I refer to Sheffield politicians. There have been many debates in the House in which Sheffield politicians have participated. I shall not name the individuals; hon. Members can spot them. In 1989 in the debate on the Football Spectators Bill, a Sheffield Member of Parliament welcomed hooliganism as an outlet for violence, but at the same time said that hooligans must be eradicated. The mind boggles at the thought of how he proposed to do that. There was a certain inconsistency in the argument.
Other Sheffield Members called for a change in police attitudes to fans, and another hon. Member spoke of football'sstructure, greed and psyche, and its contempt for ordinary working class lads."—[Official Report, 17 April 1989; Vol. 151, c. 28.]That was the Front-Bench spokesperson—not tonight, but in another arena. I see that some hon. Members recognise who that might be.
The problem will continue and probably increase. The NCIS document states thatthere are some very encouraging signs. Banning Orders are having an impact and Human Rights challenges to Banning Orders have been recently rejected by the High Court; the Football Association 1012 have completely revamped their members' clubs to weed out troublemakers and the Belgian Presidency of the EU has called for each EU member state to establish a permanent national police information centreand so on. The police are encouraged by those developments.
On balance, I think that the Government are right to take the problem seriously and to try to ensure an effective deterrent. Whatever the origins of football hooliganism, the development of that deterrent will prevent and discourage people from going to games in order to engage in such activity. I am serious about that because I do not want to read football headlines that argue about who threw the stone first, who punched who and so on. I want to hear about I will Roberts scoring a hat trick for Norwich City. Indeed, I will even go along with applauding a David Beckham goal and reading an analysis of the trajectory of the ball as it went into the top corner. Even considering a physical analysis of how such a shot works would be better than reading headlines about violence. Anything that we can do to detract from the bad headlines that we have had over the years is welcome. I believe that the Bill goes a long way towards achieving that and that the public will respect us for introducing it. We must support it.
§ Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South)
The debate has been somewhat truncated, so I shall try to curtail my speech and keep to the relevant rather than the repetitive, in the hope that other Back Benchers may still be able to contribute.
This debate gives us the opportunity to do two things. First, we must reaffirm our determination to combat and fight the football hooliganism that still exists. Secondly, we must review the question whether the 2000 Act, in its current context, has worked, is working and is making a difference. Within football, the figures show that 580 banning orders have been put in place. That has been done with the support and assistance of football supporters and of organisations such as the Football Supporters Association, which have given their unstinting and total support to the Government in trying to eradicate yobbery and thuggery from the game. They have even suggested that the measures did not go far enough in respect of the courts. They feel that, in many cases, courts could and should have done better in ensuring that banning orders were used to prevent known and convicted hooligans from travelling.
Many hon. Members have mentioned Charleroi. One of the most stunning and worrying aspects of the violence that occurred in Belgium was that 24 of the 965 people who were arrested were known football hooligans. They had previous convictions and should have been picked up by the banning orders and prevented from travelling, but they still slipped through the net. Irrespective of our best intentions and attempts to prevent all circumstances in which people with criminal convictions can travel to games, some of them will find ways of avoiding our measures. Such people have no respect for the law or the restrictions that we introduce and will try to circumvent any attempt that we make to stop their illegal action.
The vast majority of the 965 people who were arrested were released without charge and took no part whatever in any criminal activity and/or violence. Football fans, 1013 the FSA and others who have given the Government their support are due some return. If we are asking football supporters and true followers of the game to work with us and be part of our attempt to rid the game of hooliganism, we must give them our support when things go badly wrong, as they did in Charleroi. If anything, we need a way not only of dealing with hooligans, but of ensuring a proper code of conduct for police forces throughout Europe in respect of football events. What happened in Charleroi was an abuse of police powers. People were detained in the most terrible conditions, although it has since been proven that they were innocent of any offence.
It is important for us to recognise that violence has been displaced over the years and has moved away from the event itself. It has departed from grounds and moved into areas that are unconnected with football. Irrespective of whether the Bill is permanent or will be reviewed, that displacement will be more important in future, when we consider how yobbish behaviour is affecting our national identity and shaming us as a nation. Violence and thuggery still exist.
I shall quote from the press report of a recent incident at an international fixture:A steward was removed from the field on a stretcher with two broken ribs and a damaged spleen. Officials said Stephen Speight was hit on the head and kicked while on the ground. He was to spend the night in hospital.That report was of an international cricket fixture.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) wondered whether there was class distinction in the legislation. An earlier news report covered an Oxbridge ski tour at a resort in France. It described the participants as a mob ofignorant, arrogant middle class yobs",who abused foreigners and soiled their bedrooms and chalets.
If we wish to descend further down the class structure, we can read another recent report of the behaviour of drunken yobs. It states:A bunch of drunken toffs caused mayhem in the Oxfordshire village of Kingston Blunt two weekends ago. The party was for Oxford University's Bullingdon Club, which involves its members, or 'Bullers', in a riotous drinking binge. One of them listed the alcohol they had knocked back; 'We started off with a Jeroboam' (about ten ordinary bottles' worth) 'of Perrier Jouet and got through eight bottles of Bolly a head.'The marquee 'was covered in broken crockery, splintered tables and the bodies of "Buller" men wearing tweed suits'. Among the gang was Lord Lawson's son, Tom, who had graduated from the university. Around 30 police eventually arrived to deal with the party, and they let the rich kids off with a caution.I mention that because yobbery, violence and thuggery exist in British society, and our nation is shamed by the acts of thugs, irrespective of whether they have a connection with football. When travelling abroad, I try to avoid Benidorm and Ibiza. However, I cannot be the only Member of Parliament who dreads not only the accommodation, but visiting the bar and the possible presence of 15 or 20 male British holidaymakers who seem dedicated to three pursuits: lubricating the larynx as often as possible; trying to charm the pants off any unfortunate member of the opposite sex who happens to be in the bar—television programmes suggest that most of 1014 them do not wear any—and picking a fight with anybody, especially anyone who has the audacity not to speak the Queen's English.
Examples of thuggery and violence can be witnessed in other events such as marches and demonstrations. In recent months, problems occurred in Geneva, and in the United Kingdom on May day. When we consider the identity of those involved and the infiltration of such events by, for example, right-wing organisations and thugs, we must accept that some people are hellbent on causing problems—not only at football games but at other events—that shame our nation and the House. Such problems occur on Friday and Saturday nights at many restaurants and pubs in every town and city in the land.
Violence and disorder are a moveable feast; they are played on different stages. I urge Ministers to develop a more robust and multi-faceted approach to tackling yob culture, and not simply to treat football in isolation. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn) for mentioning Northampton Town. I declare an interest as a club director, but we are rightly proud of the measures that we have taken to eradicate hooliganism, yobbery and racism and to ensure that football is an event to which people can bring families and enjoy themselves in peaceful surroundings without the threat of violence. We get fed up when people refer to hooligans as football fans. They are not fans; they never have been. They use football as a vehicle for thuggery and violence.
In Committee, we must seriously consider the role of the media. We cannot support the fact that, before any violence and thuggery had occurred, every television camera at Charleroi was prepared to project such images around the world, thereby shaming Britain. It was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. We expected trouble and the cameras were there, so we almost invited the thugs who wanted to unleash their criminal activity on us to do so.
I say to my right hon. Friend the Minister that I dissent from the Bill only in its title. Perhaps the word "football" should be omitted. Perhaps the House ought to discuss a disorder Bill that would prevent thugs from practising their yobbery wherever they wish to do so. Perhaps we should consider how to prevent people with criminal convictions from travelling to holiday destinations year on year to involve themselves in violence, shaming this nation.
I hope that Ministers listen to the voices, even those on the Opposition Benches, that say that we must not stigmatise football and that we must not focus narrowly by considering only the longevity of a measure. We must look more widely at where violence can present itself and how it can be combated.
§ Mr. John Grogan (Selby)
I have the misfortune to follow four powerful and well-informed speeches. Although the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) spoke from opposite sides of the House, they drew on their experience as special advisers, which is a brave boast to make tonight. We heard of the scholarship of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson), who I shall never consider in the same light again having heard of his holiday reading.
1015 My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Clarke) drew on his experience as a football director and he was right to point out that violent behaviour is a problem for society as well as for football. The behaviour that we saw on the streets of Charleroi is repeated in many holiday destinations year on year and we need to examine our attitude to drink and the drinking culture. The licensing laws are relevant here. When English people go abroad, they suddenly find that they can drink through the night and they behave badly in many, many contexts. Football is a specific problem, however.
Largely through the work and campaigning of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), we know what the typical football hooligan looks like. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh, as the typical football hooligan is not necessarily a young man. The average age of those who have suffered a banning order is 31 and of the 1,000 British people expelled during Euro 2000, only 50 were on benefits. The average football hooligan is not particularly young, as he is approaching middle age, and not particularly poor, as he is probably in a well-paid job.
I have never supported England abroad and my club is Bradford City, so I have had precious little opportunity to follow it overseas. However, I went to a game during the last World cup—Jamaica against Croatia, which was a happy occasion. Jamaican families were present, as were Croatian youths who had crossed the continent to western Europe, perhaps for the first time, to support their team. Just along the way from me were three English fans, who were drunk. They completely dominated the atmosphere. Every time Croatia got the ball, they stood up and chanted in unison, "You're all a load of collaborators!" Presumably, that was a reference to the war, and they added expletives as well.
The identity of English football fans abroad is based on attacking the IRA or looking back to the war. That has to change; it is absurd. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh correctly pointed out, not only a mindless minority are involved. Sadly, that xenophobic attitude is shared by a significant proportion of those who support England abroad, which is why the Government had to take strong action last year.
The way in which we are considered by the rest of Europe has changed because of that legislation. A year ago, other European Governments were saying, "Why didn't you introduce strong measures to deal with this?" As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North pointed out, other European Governments are now considering copying our legislation. Indeed, there is a good sign that Belgium, which is soon to accede to the presidency of the European Union, has made dealing with football hooliganism throughout Europe one of its priorities. It held a seminar in May and proposes the creation of a system of national contact points on football and the establishment of common rules on the prevention of hooliganism.
Thus at a time when other European countries are looking at the lead that we have taken it is entirely appropriate that we make this legislation permanent. So far, it has worked well. Where those subject to banning orders have needed to travel abroad there have been 30 instances in which, for work or family reasons, they have appealed and have quite properly been allowed to travel. This legislation is not draconian; it is measured and considered.
1016 Some hon. Members have talked of the importance of other nations prosecuting football hooligans abroad so that we have a firm basis on which to impose banning orders here at home. Over the summer, the Daily Express carried an exclusive under the byline Tony Banks—I presume that he is no relation—which quoted the director of security in Japan for World cup 2002 as saying:You cannot be certain, but it is highly likely that anyone caught here"—for football hooliganism—will be put in jail.If they are convicted of a violent crime I would have thought a three or five-year sentence would not be too long.If we see the sort of things we saw in France 98, with that level of crime, people will go to jail. Charleroi at Euro 2000 was a disaster.Our football fans are warned.
I also note that the Koreans will ban noodles, cigarettes and balloons from stadiums in a bid to reduce litter at the new grounds. Fans will be given small plastic bags to take into the stadiums to encourage them to take their own rubbish away. I think that there will be one or two cultural differences.
I commend the taskforce report on hooliganism produced by Lord Bassam. Let me draw attention to two of its findings, the first of which is the extremely important work of fans' embassies abroad. Lord Bassam urges the Government to continue to support those embassies, which are run by fans and which try to encourage football fans to participate in the culture of a big tournament such as the World cup. The second idea is that of sending stewards from English clubs with English fans abroad. The next European championship will take place in Portugal in 2004. There might be a shortage of English stewards who speak Portuguese, but they have two or three years in which to learn it. Such initiatives are well worth considering.
The FA, under the leadership of Adam Crozier, is to be commended. It is trying to widen England's fan base, which certainly needs widening. England needs far more women and children to support it abroad. It is also a good thing that the FA has insisted that crucial matches of our national game are shown live on terrestrial television. If England matches are not to become a marginal interest, they must be shown to all fans on terrestrial television. The whole House hopes that the law enacted by the British Parliament is respected and that a deal is finally done for the transmission of the World cup.
I commend the Bill to the House, but much more must be done to encourage, both at home and abroad, the sort of policing that we saw in the Netherlands during the European championships. Lord Bassam referred to such policing as friendly but firm hospitality, or an integrated approach. I hope that we shall soon reach the day when, if we can keep this sort of legislation in place, we can all be truly proud of our national team and its achievements.
§ Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West)
Given the shortage of time, I shall make my comments brief.
I welcome the Bill. I joined others in the jubilation at England's qualifying for the World cup finals in Japan and Korea, but that jubilation was tinged with trepidation at the behaviour that we might see from our fans, based 1017 on the evidence of previous international tournaments. I believe that the Bill will go some way to removing that trepidation.
Even more important than what happens at next year's World cup is the experience that we shall gain from implementing the Bill—from the games that have taken place so far, the Japan and South Korea international tournament and the European championships in 2004, when we might be far more vulnerable to the thuggery that we saw in France in 1998 and in Belgium and Holland in 2000.
Arguments have been advanced about civil liberties. Yes, there is a civil liberties argument, but the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made the point succinctly that the civil liberties of people who want to wreck a stadium and its surrounds during a tournament should be balanced against those of fans who want to go to a match because they enjoy football and want to cheer on their national team. If I had to choose between those two groups of people, I have no doubt what my choice, and that of all hon. Members, would be.
It is not just a question of balance. The Government have had to introduce draconian legislation, because if they had not done so the prospect of further violence at matches would have led to our being banned from future international tournaments. There was a double whammy. Without this legislation and with violence continuing, more and more thugs would have been attracted to tournaments and the propensity for them to degenerate into violence would have been even greater. Conversely, the incentive for law-abiding, decent, genuine fans to go to matches would have been removed. Without these measures, there was the prospect of behaviour deteriorating further in subsequent tournaments.
The measures taken to disband the England supporters club and the introduction of the Englandfans travel club are important in upholding the rights of genuine England supporters. The impression has been given that some genuine supporters may be prevented from going to matches. Under the revised arrangements, such people can attend through the Englandfans travel club. If the legislation is to stay in place, as it obviously is, it is important for the recommendations of the working group on football violence, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) referred, to be implemented so that we have an effective ticket sales regulatory regime that protects the interests of ordinary fans. In the debate on civil liberties I have not heard a positive solution to this problem that would uphold civil liberties at the level advocated by some Opposition Members.
The only reason for not introducing this measure would be that the legislation had not proved effective. It was sensible to have the sunset clause to enable us to see how the legislation would work in practice. We have had a big debate about the so-called big one—the Germany v. England game—but England have played other matches abroad, including the friendly in France and matches against Albania and Greece. The Wales v. Ukraine match was also covered by this legislation. In all those games, a significant number of banning orders were made, and there was a substantial reduction in the violence that had occurred during previous tournaments.
§ Mr. Grieve
Is that not precisely the point that I made earlier? There is a body of information about what 1018 has happened at previous matches, but no one has extrapolated the evidence of how banning orders worked in practice, and in particular how section 21 orders were implemented and what their effects were on the people on whom they were served. Is that not an unfortunate state of affairs when we are considering the Bill?
§ Mr. Bailey
There has been time for the implications of the actions taken in the games prior to the England v. Germany match to be considered. The evidence on the surface shows that the orders have been effective. The number of violent incidents at those games was much reduced, which I think substantiates the case for making the legislation permanent.
There has been much talk of the England v. Germany match and its implications. I, too, attended "the big one": 100,000 people were there, passionate supporters of both England and Germany. They cheered the goals, they congregated peacefully, and they left the ground peacefully. I am not talking about a fantasy game; I am talking about the real "big one" between England and Germany.
In 1966, when England won the World cup, I was fortunate enough to be present. Those were the halcyon days when those who attended football matches just wanted to watch football. Now, of course, we have seen the infiltration of club fans by thugs and antisocial elements. There has been an enormous improvement in club ground security, as others have said; but there has been a significant change in the nature of soccer violence over the last five or six years. Because of the improved surveillance and improved marshalling at club grounds, violence has moved away from the ground—from the match—to the surrounding areas. The event, rather than the match itself, has begun to attract violence and thuggery.
On the international scene, it can be no coincidence that we now see the phenomenon of thousands of fans travelling abroad without tickets, not to attend the match but just to attend the event. All the evidence we have so far is that a substantial proportion of those people have criminal records and, certainly, an antisocial intent. That underlines the need for the Bill.
To my knowledge, the hosts of the next World cup, Japan and South Korea, have no tradition of managing football violence. That places an enormous responsibility on the Government both to do all in their power to prevent those who will commit acts of violence from going out, and to work with those countries, giving them the benefit of the intelligence and management expertise we have developed so far to ensure that they too can curb such violence.
I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Selby that we should work with other countries to show them how our legislation operates, in the hope that they too will start to introduce legislation to prevent their own hooligans from attending international matches. The problem of hooliganism is not unique to this country. It may have been started by fans, or so-called fans, from this country, but it his spread to others. I hope the Minister will bear that in mind.
As others have said, the sort of violence that we are seeing now at international football events is, in many ways, a reflection of the society around us. Ultimately, what we must do is change society. In the meantime, 1019 however, we must take care to protect our reputation abroad in the forthcoming tournament, and I believe the Bill will do that.
We want to remember the next World cup as a feast of football, not a frenzy of fanatics.
§ Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)
The Minister rightly reminded us of the serious issues facing the House, and of the international situation. He also rightly said that life must go on, and that we must deal with other issues in this place. To do anything else would, in one sense, hand a reward to those who set out to disrupt our way of life. I must repeat, however, the challenge made by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) about why we had to deal with this matter today. Given certain recent events, including the farce over Wembley, the loss of the athletics championships and the blunderings of the Minister for Sport, there is a certain brazenness about the Government's doing anything that might improve this country's sporting attractiveness. More importantly, we already have legislation on the statute book that will remain there until next August.
It is unfortunate that the Minister could not provide us with the breakdown of the figures that my hon. Friend requested. Perhaps the Minister who will wind up the debate will be able to help. It is all very well to say that we will have the information in Committee, but that is too late, because a Second Reading debate is about the principle of a Bill, and today we have to decide whether we want to make permanent the current temporary provisions; the figures would have been valuable in making that decision.
Our view, in summary, is so far, so good: the legislation appears to be working and there is evidence that it might be reducing problems abroad. The human rights issues appear to have been resolved. The Opposition have no problem with the banning orders for those with convictions, but we have concerns about section 21 orders, as my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) rightly said.
We need to know a lot more about the Munich game and the events that took place during the control period. Why were nine of the applications for the orders unsuccessful? The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) rightly said that it is worrying that, despite the fact that 22 cases were adjourned, and were therefore not proven at the time, the people concerned were nevertheless not allowed to travel. We should be told a lot more about the reasons for that.
Is there any evidence that any of those involved in the nine applications that were not successful caused any of the few problems that arose in Munich? We need to see reports from the magistrates involved in handling section 21 cases about how the law is working in practice, including how long hearings take and how much they cost. Have there been any actions against the police, as the Law Society clearly feared when it presented its evidence on the original proposals?
We need to know about the costs involved. What are the costs to the police authorities in the six terminals listed in the report? Is there any extra help available for the forces concerned, given that the potential troublemakers come not only from their areas but from all over the 1020 country? The issue of the loophole of travelling through Scotland or Northern Ireland has been mentioned. Is there any evidence that those who have been arrested for causing trouble abroad have exploited that loophole?
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn) referred to the measure's popularity among his constituents. I am sure that the same would apply in every single constituency, but it is in the nature of things that people are usually quite happy to restrict other people's liberties and begin to complain only when their own are restricted. The role of Parliament is to be more objective and to consider whether any infringement of liberty is justified.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), who rightly reminded us that he first introduced such a Bill and that the Government belatedly adopted it, told us that it was time to stop pussyfooting around, and I entirely agree. He also reminded us that we must look after the rights and civil liberties of the majority, and I totally agree, but we should not do so at the cost of the civil liberties of the minority.
The debate is not about the England football team, the result of the World cup or the violence caused by so-called football fans abroad. To use an analogy, several hon. Members have run around the park, but they have not put the ball in the net; they have not got to the real issue. This is not a matter of the horrendous incidents that drag the name of English football and of England itself into the gutter. No one wants that to happen. All hon. Members would agree with the condemnation of such incidents that we have heard from so many Members, admirably starting with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts).
Xenophobia, racism and all the other matters to which hon. Members rightly referred have no place in our society, full stop, and certainly not under any pretext of supporting a football team or, as the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Clarke) said, any other form of social or sporting activity. We all condemn the mindless thugs, the hooligans and the racists who drag our country down. To continue with the comment about pussyfooting around made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford, some of us would argue that no penalty could be too tough for those who are convicted of such offences. However, the qualifying phrase, "those who are convicted" is important.
The issue, therefore, is not whether something needs to be done to combat football hooliganism, but whether this is the right Bill, whether now is the right time to introduce it and whether the evidence is as yet to hand to show that the infringement of individuals' civil liberties that the Bill will inevitably involve is justified by the reduction in violence and disorder caused by so-called football fans abroad. As I said in my opening comments, the Opposition accept that the evidence is beginning to show that that is the case, but it is by no means clear cut.
Only one match has been played since the order was renewed in July, yet the Government are still taking action now. The figures on the number of cases, to which several hon. Members referred, are hardly conclusive on their own. The Government should not have introduced the Bill until next summer, when we will have the experience of the World cup behind us. It is highly probable that we will then have absolutely clear cut, irrefutable evidence on whether the Bill is justified, and we will be able to act with a clear conscience, because the case has not yet been proven.
1021 We would have preferred to allow more time to gather the evidence. We could then have voted in favour of the Bill with a clear conscience in the knowledge that we were helping to achieve the objectives that we all share. The Bill is premature, but because the evidence is beginning to show that it might be right at some stage, we shall not oppose it in the Lobby tonight, although we wish that the Government had taken more time to garner the evidence.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth)
We have had an excellent debate. It is often the case in the Chamber that some of the lower-key debates are the best. The apparent expertise about football and the issues involved has produced an enjoyable, informative debate. In the time remaining, it will be difficult to refer to all the issues and all the Members who have participated, although I shall do my best.
The House and the other place have wrestled with the problem of football hooliganism on several occasions. The laws that have been passed have made an important contribution to tackling domestic football disorder, but the international aspects of the problem have proved a very tough nut to crack. That is why the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 included some radical measures. Those measures were controversial, which is why they were time limited and subject to review.
All the available evidence suggests that sections 14B, 21A and 21B of the 2000 Act have had a major impact on fans' behaviour and have gone some way to repairing the damage that football hooliganism has inflicted on our national sport and on our national reputation. The measures have been subject to legal scrutiny and to the scrutiny of a high-risk match. They have not been found wanting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) described the problems. In graphic detail, he referred to the fear and disruption that have been caused by hooliganism. He has a long history not only as a football fan but as a supporter of civil liberties, and he told us that we had to keep the issues in balance. I agree, and the proposals do exactly that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn) made, on behalf of his constituents, an appeal for common sense. He reminded us of the scale of the problem and asked whether we could encourage other countries to introduce measures similar to ours. Other Members pointed out that other countries are considering similar legislation. The Belgian presidency is encouraging other European Union countries to introduce similar measures and it has been supportive of the legislation that the Government have introduced to try to tackle the problem of football hooliganism and, in particular, football hooliganism abroad.
The hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) gave us his version of a history lesson and tried to make sure that none of us would forget his role in the earlier measure that he introduced. He wanted the monument to his political career made permanent. I do not know whether it will be his only monument—I am sure that he will go on to far greater things. He should, however, talk 1022 to his hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench who appear to have doubts about the proposals in the Bill. They, not the Government, need persuading.
One of the most surprising things in the debate was the fact that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) got the hon. Member for West Chelmsford mixed up with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). I can creep to those involved by saying that it was an astonishing mix-up. I do not think that any two Members differ so much in their views, so I was surprised that such confusion took place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe and other Members referred to the role that racism plays in football disorder. He asked us to try to ensure that effective measures would be taken in that regard and that we would not merely pay lip service to the problem. He has considerable expertise in this issue, so he will know that the working group chaired by Lord Bassam published a report in March. One of its key recommendations was that all stewards should be reminded of their responsibilities to act against racist remarks. The football authorities have given a commitment to implementing that recommendation and the Government are committed to monitoring progress on that important issue. We shall keep an eye on it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) spoke of the shame that was brought on our nation by a small minority and said that he was concerned that we should not introduce general restrictions that would affect all football fans. Only well structured, intelligence-led measures, such as this Bill, that target the real hooligans who are at the core of the problem will avoid the measures that he is so worried about and prevent the damage to our national sport that took place so often in the past.
The hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) was worried that the legislation was draconian. It is my view and that of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members who have spoken tonight that it is proportionate to the problem. That is why the courts have found in its favour and supported it, and why they believe that it complies with the requirements of the European convention on human rights.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Scottish anomaly still exists. It does, but it should affect only a relatively small number of people. If the measures continue to have effect, it should be possible in the overwhelming majority of cases for bans under section 14B of the Football Spectators Act 1989 to be imposed on football hooligans before they leave England and Wales. Only a relatively small number of people will give us a problem by exiting via Scottish ports.
§ Mr. Cameron
I am grateful for the Minister's response. However, should we renew every year the specific power of the police to stop people travelling abroad? It seems to me that we should, because civil rights are being affected. A police officer needs to have only a suspicion in order to have reasonable grounds for preventing someone with no previous convictions from travelling abroad, which has a serious effect on our civil rights.
§ Mr. Ainsworth
I was coming to that. The record shows that my hon. Friend the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs has tried to give the House the maximum 1023 amount of information. The need for more information before we agree to the legislation was the thrust of the main attack by the Conservative Front Bencher. It was also a concern of the Liberal Democrat Front Bencher. My hon. Friend has given the House two reports and a commitment to try to share any information that he can before and during Committee proceedings. I only hope that hon. Members will judge whether the legislation is justified and necessary based on the information that is put before the House. Some of the information requested will not be available, but I hope that they accept that my hon. Friend is genuine in his desire to ensure Members that he will make information available so that the House can make a proper decision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) made a phenomenal intervention. He did violence to sociological studies and to Sheffield Members of Parliament as a breed, but he decided on balance not to do violence to the Government or the legislation. He believes that the proposal is justified and intends to support it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Clarke) objected to the slur that is placed on football and its supporters. He said that it was unfair because the same problem exists in many other parts of society. He knows that the Government are trying to implement measures to tackle yobbery in general. My hon. Friends the Members for Selby (Mr. Grogan) and for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) rightly reminded us of the serious depths to which we have fallen. They appealed to us to accept that the Bill is necessary and proportionate to the problem.
1024 The main objection of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey was that he would not accept the measure unless there is a conviction. That is not acceptable. I hope that the House will support the Bill.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).