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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 gamethe 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 usualand 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 expectationsMichael 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 weekswith a couple of honourable exceptionsthey 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 seriousit is on a smaller scalebut 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
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 permanentwhich, 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 DenMillwall'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 whoas the Minister saidmeet 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
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.
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.