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Simon Hughes: Has the Minister thought ahead about what the Government would do if, after five years or so, there was no evidence that the English disease was continuing? Do the Government think that hooliganism by so-called English football supporters will, like sin, for ever be with us, or does he hope, like the rest of us do, that in time it will no longer exist, in which case we should not need to keep legislation on the statute book just in case one day it might recur.
Mr. Denham: We approach many pieces of legislation on the basis that the problems that they seek to resolve might not be with us for ever. It is sometimes argued that all legislation should have a sunset clause built in for that very reason. I shall not go through the detailed chronology of events, but we have lived with the problem of hooliganism for at least 20 years, possibly longer.
Let there be no doubt that we are being looked at by the rest of the world and tested on the seriousness of our commitment to tackling the thuggery and violence that has been associated with England. I think that the rest of the world would look at us rather oddly if we sent the message that we truly thought that, with that 20-year history that we have only just started to reverse, the problem can be eradicated in only three or four years and that there is no need for the legislation. Although I would love to believe that that will be the position, at this stage, I think that that would be asking a lot. It would be wonderful if there were no need to use the legislation.
My personal view is that, given the time scale that we have talked about, we are likely to continue to need to have in place a legislative framework. On Second Reading, it was recognised that although domestic premier league football matches are very largely free of trouble at the grounds and immediately around the
It is quite interesting that, although we have had debates on the legislation's impact, no individual cases have been cited either in the House or in the media that suggest a real risk to the civil liberties of anyone other than known troublemakers. I think that, on the basis of the evidence available to us, it would be appropriate to enshrine sections 14B, 21A and 21B in statute.
I have tried to be as open as possible with the information that we have on the Bill and to update the House as information became available. I shall again run through some of the figures, and deal with the point that was made in earlier exchanges on the missing two cases. The total number of banning orders amounts to 808, 708 of which prevent travel to matches overseas. That is an increase of about 200 since the Munich match, and an increase of about 600 since the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 came into force.
As the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden said, about 10 per cent. of the total number of banning orders have been made using the section 21 route. However, his conclusions and mine are diametrically opposite, as I think that it is a good thing that the majority of banning orders are obtained by routes other than the five-day control period that applies to section 21 orders. Nevertheless, I also believe that the provision's existence, and the knowledge that there is the possibility to act against someone who was not previously subject to a banning order on complaint or conviction, is a powerful and important deterrent that we should not lose.
Since the law was changed, after Euro 2000, 537 orders have been imposed after conviction for a football-related offence, and 90 orders have been imposed in accordance with the 14B complaint procedure. As the records show, the remainder of the orders were made under previous legislation.
I shall go through the figures on 21B notices. The reason for the apparent discrepancy of two in the figures is that the figure of 98, as it then was, included two orders that had been imposed but were subsequently overturned on appeal. Therefore, the initial figure is the maximum number of orders that were imposed, and the final figure is gained by deducting from that the two orders that were overturned on appeal.
In the control period applying to Munich, there was a total of 67 21B notices, of which 41 orders were imposed, 15 refused and 11 subject to adjournments. The Munich figures incorporate the earlier figures that I gave to the House.
Simon Hughes: The Minister said that 90 per cent. of the cases have been vindicated and 10 per cent. have not, but he surely cannot say that the civil liberties of that 10 per cent. who were stopped from going about their lawful business have not been unjustifiably infringed. If that percentage applied to the population more widely, it would be regarded as a national outrage. He seems to be saying that it is not a severe infringement of liberties simply because it affects only a small number of people.
Mr. Denham: The hon. Gentleman has to be slightly careful about that. There may be many cases in domestic situations in which individuals have an encounter with the law and are arrested, for example, but those individuals do not sue for wrongful arrest although they are not convicted of an offence. The House has to be realistic that, in court-based proceedings, we are unlikely to have a situation in which 100 per cent. of the orders that are sought are granted. Although it would be wonderful to think that a system could be so precise as to produce that outcome, such an outcome is inherently unlikely.
The House has to decide, on the basis of the figures before us, whether the situation that has so far been operating is satisfactory and sufficient to be enshrined in law. The question that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield failed very carefully to answer is whether he would find the legislation unacceptable if that situation continued. Perhaps he will answer the question.
Mr. Grieve: The Minister asks an interesting question. However, the answer depends also on whether there is a perceived need for such legislation at all. Labour Members, for example, consistently opposed the renewal of internment because they considered that, in the Northern Ireland context, it was a serious infringement of civil liberties. The Government are now about to reintroduce it. The example demonstrates at least a willingness to consider the situation in which one introduces legislation affecting the individual's liberty. Surely the same criteria should apply to this legislation.
Mr. Denham: The House will note that the hon. Gentleman did not answer the question. However, I do not blame him for that as he is an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman and does not want to commit himself on the issue. We have all been there. Nevertheless, he did not offer an answer to the question whether he finds the situation satisfactory.
I have had to consider these issues, and I have considered the possible impact on people's civil liberties. I think that there will be most concern about the issue of adjourned cases. However, as I said in Committee, it is important to recognise that any restrictions to travel arise from the bail conditions imposed by the court, which is a separate decision from the one to seek a section 21B order. It is the courts that have to be given evidence and persuaded that there are sufficient grounds to prevent the individual from travelling. It is a separate decision, and that is an important point.
Reference has already been made to the quality of evidence that is required, and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) talked about human rights considerations. As of today, no human rights challenge to the legislation has succeeded. Therefore, the human rights implications have been tested in the courts, and the courts have come out in support of the legislation. If I had more time I would read out what was said in those judgments. However, I have already done that in Committee.
I certainly do believe that as experience grows among police, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and magistrates the accuracy of the orders will further improve, as it has already done since the legislation was passed. I
Let me restate the Government's position. It would be rather odd if the qualifying criterion were a conviction for violence incurred, possibly, 30 years earlier, rather than more recent evidence that might be available to the courtfor example, video evidence of participation in violent events in Munich. In that event, someone who had had a violent conviction many years earlier might be subject to a section 14B order although there might not be such strong evidence of recent association with violence, while someone who had clearly been involved in violence at an overseas football match might escape because he had never been convicted in this country.