Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Renton: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may mention one point in relation to his fascinating speech. He suggested that we should amend Magna Carta. We cannot do that. Magna Carta was formulated before we ever had a Parliament. All that we can do is to amend that legislation which, in later years when we did have a Parliament, implemented Magna Carta.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble Lord is of course correct in relation to present legislation. However, 17th century Parliaments treated Magna Carta, in its 1229 version, as being an Act of Parliament. I spoke loosely and I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me.

6.6 p.m.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, one of the wonderful features of this House is that a debate on football hooligans can embrace an exchange of the kind we have just heard on the 17th century interpretation of Magna Carta.

I regret that I must offer an apology to the House. I shall have to leave not too long after I have made my contribution. If I explain to noble Lords that I have undertaken to dine this evening with both my wife and my secretary to celebrate the latter's birthday, I think that noble Lords will understand the perils of not complying with that commitment.

Because statements of one kind or another about football seem to be de rigueur, I shall plead guilty to having once attended a professional football match. It took place, I think, in 1953, in Edinburgh between Hearts and Hibs. The experience led me to conclude that I never wished to attend another football match in my life. Perhaps I may say that hooliganism at football matches did not start only in the last 20 years.

Like the noble Earl, Lord Russell, I, too, have found myself in difficult circumstances, although not so well equipped. On a Saturday night I was travelling home from Merseyside in a train filled with Millwall supporters whose team had lost that day. I have to say, however, that although they were extraordinarily drunk, they were extraordinarily well behaved.

I doubt whether any noble Lord would not want to see an end to hooliganism, but, as has been made plain, a good many noble Lords have considerable reservations about the Bill. First--I find myself once again in agreement with the noble Earl--I regret that the Bill is so limited in its ambition. It is not a Bill about hooliganism or even about "drunks throwing traffic cones around". It is a Bill about football hooliganism.

It is not even a Bill to prevent football hooliganism in our cities but rather to keep our hooligans here at home rather than on the loose on the Continent. In its scope, its defects are those of omission rather than commission. In my view, however, the most serious defects are in the nature and extent of the powers it would grant to authorities to penalise individuals outside the normal judicial process.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1209

I should say that, since the publication of the draft Bill, the willingness of the Home Secretary and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to meet and listen to Members of both Houses and to respond to some of their concerns has been both wise and welcome.

The Home Secretary and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, deserve sympathy at having the Bill dumped on them in such great haste so late in the year. We hardly need DNA testing to establish its true parentage. We know that the Home Secretary was on the circulation list of the Prime Minister's famous minute of 29th April, which stated:


    "as ever we are lacking a tough public message ... we should think now of an initiative - e.g. locking up street muggers".

I thought that somebody had thought of that before now.

The Prime Minister called for "eye-catching initiatives". The Home Secretary did his bit and what we have is exactly what the Prime Minister asked for. Legislating in that manner, in response to such vapourings, in haste, on such a narrow front and so obsessively about one small issue of law and order--it is small--produces ill-conceived and badly drafted legislation. Weak men, wanting to appear tough, look rather like Norman Wisdom dressed as Superman. As Mr Gould acknowledged, that leads to public derision.

The problem for us legislators, however, is that the clamour for tough measures threatens to produce unjust measures. I believe that none of us has any problem with the first two of the main four measures proposed: the combining of domestic and international banning orders--that seems sensible--and the empowering of magistrates' courts to impose a banning order to prevent violence or disorder associated with particular football matches.

The third and fourth measures, however, give concern. I hope noble Lords will understand my embarrassment at finding myself in the same bed as the civil rights lobby. It is made bearable only by the thought of their embarrassment at having me there with them. Perhaps it might cause Ministers to reflect and consider whether they might have misjudged the matter. Perhaps I may instance my concern.

Schedule 1 amends the Football Spectators Act 1989. I am surprised that nobody else has noticed that this provision falls under new Section 14B. Is my recollection at fault or was it not Section 14B which was used during the war to put away Oswald Mosley and others on the evidence of officials?

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, Section 18B!

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I apologise; I am wrong. None the less, it has a relevance. New Section 14B relates to the applications for banning orders. It states the condition that,


    "the respondent has at any time (whether before or after the commencement of this section)",

which is rather worrying,


    "caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere".

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1210

It states "any". Would a person involved in a disorderly incident in a field of genetically modified maize, or perhaps even illegal squatting, be caught by Section 14B(2)?

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, yes.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, it is suggested from the Liberal Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that it would. That seems to be extraordinary. What connection is there between the two matters? If that is the case, that seems to be fundamentally wrong.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. However, it is not even as simple as that. If you drive someone to a field of genetically modified crops in which there were disorderly activities you would have contributed to disorder and that too would be caught. You do not even need to get your hands dirty, so to speak.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, it is even worse than I believed. I am grateful for the intervention. It shows that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is not always right on such matters.

After that, it only requires that the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder. Then the court must make a banning order. Again, I find that slightly doubtful by my standards of how the law should operate. This all rests on a belief about what a man might do, not so much on what he has done, even to the extent that it requires some belief that he might have done something.

New Section 14C also allows a court to take account of a deportation or exclusion from a country outside the United Kingdom. I am greatly encouraged by what was said earlier. The Government have intended to ensure that that would not mean that perfectly innocent people rounded up by the Belgian "hooligan police" and having their passport stamped that they had been excluded from Belgium would thereafter fall foul of this law. Clearly, many of them were absolutely innocent. Certainly, they have not been convicted under British law of any crime. That would have amounted to accepting the word of a Belgian police officer, not even a Belgian court, as to a man's character and his convictions.

Further on, at page 9, line 28, we come to another matter to which reference has already been made. I refer to the new section to be inserted into the 1989 Act. That would give wide powers to constables to prevent people leaving England and Wales and force them to give up their passports. It does not even require the word of a chief police officer, only an authorisation by an inspector, provided that the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the conditions at Section 14B(2) are met. I can add nothing to that which has not already been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1211

I wonder, too, what are the precedents for preventing a man, perhaps a Scot, from going home to Scotland, which is what this Bill can do. Perhaps he is perfectly innocent. He may have been a bit of a tearaway in his youth and may even have tattoos on his arms, or something unseemly such as that. The Bill would give powers to prevent him going home to Scotland. The noble Lord looks incredulous, but that is what it does. Curiously, it does not prevent an Ulsterman from going home to Ulster. Perhaps I might say to the noble Earl that there is no anti-Irish ethic there.

I have considerable concerns, too, as to whether an offence of driving under the influence of drink or drugs on the way to a football match should necessarily be translated into an offence of football-related disorder. These are separate matters. Because one has committed an offence under the Road Traffic Act, one should not therefore be found guilty of an offence of football hooliganism in the future.

As I read all this, it struck me that a few years ago, during the coal strike, there were the most severe disorders which this country had seen for many years. There were flying pickets, mass picketing and violent picketing. All those matters were dealt with within the existing law without taking extra powers. We are now looking at a question of football hooliganism by a relatively limited number of people and taking these extraordinary powers to change the very nature of English justice to deal with them. It would be a pity to grant powers that were not needed during the coal strike just to deal with these matters.

I hope that the Government will think again. Above all, I hope that they will tell our friends on the Continent that much of this problem has grown up as a result of their failure to prosecute and punish hooligans who commit offences in their countries. They cannot complain excessively about us failing to keep our hooligans at home when they fail to prosecute and punish them for offences committed in their lands.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for the first time in this place, if not in the other place, I must tell him that he was unfortunate in his choice of a football game that put him off forever. As anyone would have told him, Hibs versus Hearts is not a fixture for any neutral spectator. It is known for being rather partisan. So I am sorry that the noble Lord went down that track.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, claimed that he was a football supporter, and that he supported Blackpool. I feel that I have stronger claims in supporting Bolton in recent years. Both of us have a right to speak on football matters. My interest in sport is well known--although on other games the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and I do not always agree. While civil liberties supporters might indeed be rather surprised to have the noble Lord on their side, they might also be surprised that we are on opposite sides in relation to the Bill.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1212

Something had to be done about this problem. Much has been said about why we should not introduce such a measure. But we should examine the issue behind the Bill. It is not one of locking people away, except for perhaps a few hours; and cases must be brought to court within 24 hours. It is a matter not of sending anyone to prison, but of preventing people watching the football game. Although I bow to no one in terms of people's rights, certainly when it comes to civil liberties, we should keep the matter in perspective.

The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, spoke of hooliganism and disorder at home. I must remind the noble Lord that, at present, there is a disparate atmosphere at football matches in this country. There is rarely any disorder at home matches. It is a question of dealing with those who travel to matches abroad, in many cases not just to watch the match but to cause disorder and to make xenophobic and racist remarks. That was brought home to us during Euro 2000. It is right to introduce this Bill. We have another match coming up against France. It is right also, in relation to the club matches that will be played and other international matches that are in the pipeline, that we should begin to consider what can be done.

The Bill has been improved in another place. Given the concern expressed by Members of this House, I have no doubt that it will also be improved during its passage through this place. Many believe that four or five years is too long a period. But if the Home Secretary wants to change or strengthen the requirement, he must give a reason and provide written evidence before bringing in an order to do so. So the Bill has been strengthened by provisions introduced in another place.

We found during Euro 2000 that, of the 965 who were arrested, only 30 were known football hooligans. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that of those who were there, 40 per cent had previous criminal convictions. In other words, 391 of the 965 had previous convictions, and the majority of those were for public order offences, not necessarily, as the noble Lord was right in saying, football-related offences. My noble friend came before the House prior to the matches taking place and talked about the measures that the Government had taken to prevent known hooligans from travelling abroad. Their success is clear in that the figure was only 30. It is not those people who will cause trouble overseas; it is others with an interest in violence or racism, or in causing disturbances. I do not see why genuine football supporters and holidaymakers, or residents of the towns or cities where matches are played, should have their pleasure disrupted by people travelling abroad whose real interest is xenophobia rather than watching a football match. That is why I welcome this legislation.

Let us examine the Bill carefully to see whether we, too, can make further improvements that will safeguard civil liberties. Several speakers have asked whether it is right that the police should have such powers; and what makes them think that a particular person has committed acts of violence or will cause disorder? At the end of the day, this measure is about

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1213

preventing people from going to matches abroad who will bring not only football but this country into disrepute if they are allowed to travel.

We also have a duty to the country that is hosting the matches to try to prevent disturbances if possible. It is right that we should provide the police with these powers. As I said, a third of those charged had convictions for violence and public disorder but not connected with football. I give way to the noble Lord.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page