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9.28 pm

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

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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

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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 has 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,

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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.

9.39 pm

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

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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.

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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.

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