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Lord Lucas: I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to give a run down on how he envisages new Section 21A being used. At Second Reading, it was described as a power which would not be much used. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, has raised the possibility of it being used to a large extent. The noble Lord, Faulkner, said that with the German example the equivalent to proposed Section 21A was the major line of defence. We ought to know how the Government view the balance between the Section 14A and 14B procedures and the Section 21A procedures. I hope that the Minister will reiterate what I understood him to say on Second Reading, that proposed Section 21A will be used only occasionally.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, drew comparisons with the German situation, but the fans stopped at the border were on a database and presumably knew. In this country a fan would know that he was likely to be in trouble at the border. Also, the penalty for the Germans fans was that they could not go abroad for five days. Here we are considering the full stretch of proposed Section 14B, which encompasses 30 per cent of the population because they have committed a suitable criminal offence. The minimum sentence they can receive is a two-year banning order, which is entirely out of proportion to the sort of use to which the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, referred.
If there is to be an effective procedure for stopping people at the ports at the last minute to deal with panic and the feeling that a match is going wrong, the sentence must be a few days' inconvenience--not five years, which is the minimum under the Bill.
Earl Russell: Before the noble Lord sits down, if he were to get an assurance--as I hope he will--that the Minister intends that proposed Section 21A should be used sparingly, is there any way, with respect to the judicial process, that the Minister could make that assurance good?
This is far from the first time that Parliament and government have addressed the question of international hooligans. That was the subject of the whole of Part II of the 1989 Bill and the subsequent legislation that built on it. The question underlying the Bill's most difficult provision is whether or not it will work. One test is to give the Government the power temporarily to enact the measure. Following the meeting with the Home Secretary, the sunset clause was introduced by the Government. We still believe it is rather long, but we will return to that aspect.
There is considerable doubt that the provision will work. If it does, it will be seen as a "sus" law. It is specifically stated that there will be detention and restriction if a police officer suspects that certain facts are the case. The key question is the centre of gravity of reaction. What will be the extent of the use of the proposed Section 21A, which applies at airports and seaports--which are the only places that measure is likely to be used? With any banning order that the police seek in advance, presumably they will not need the detention order. They will simply turn up and say to the person, "You must appear at the magistrates' court this afternoon or tomorrow, to answer why a banning order should not be imposed on you".
The only point of the detention is to pick someone out of the queue at the ticket barrier and say, "We need to telephone the NCIS and check our records to make sure that you are the person we think you are and to decide whether we are going to serve a notice on you". If it turns out that he is not the person, he may after six hours have missed his flight. He may be in difficulty
The Minister told us earlier that such action will not be taken mainly at ports and airports; it will be taken before people arrive there. We must wait and see, but wherever it takes place it will be on the basis of intelligence. That will presumably start with the NCIS list of people known to have caused trouble. We have been told that about 1,000 people are on the list but at the end of Second Reading the Minister told us that there will be only hundreds of banning orders, not thousands. I understand the vagueness and that the banning will not go much further than those on the NCIS list, if indeed it covers all of them.
In any case, as we have been reminded, only 30 of the 1,000 people sent home from Belgium, following the trouble which gave rise to the legislation, were on the NCIS list or known to the police. I am sure we all appreciate that during the round-up some people on the list may have been nippy enough to get out of the way of the Belgian police. In some respects there is reason to doubt the efficiency of that round-up. Therefore, no doubt more were in Belgium and may have been involved in the violence.
All that makes one wonder how much the legislation has been thought through and what the effect will be. There is no doubt that if we were to pass the amendments in this group we would knock out not the most controversial but, from the Government's point of view, the most important power in the Bill. The Government have not backed it up with a great deal of argument, but we must decide whether it is right to grant this temporary power.
We must ponder it between now and Report stage tomorrow; we do not have much time but nor does the Home Office. However, this is the most important clause in the Bill as regards its level of controversy and its importance to delivering the aims which we and the Government share.
The Earl of Onslow: I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me for intervening again but something troubles me. The NCIS list contains, say, 1,000 names. How many of those do the police consider likely to cause trouble and how many have been convicted of a football-related offence or other serious violent offence? That information would be apposite to the value of the list.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: This has been a long debate. When we started proceedings on the Bill today I thought I might get home for some cocoa but I now believe that I might get home for breakfast. This has been a long but important debate. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, put his finger on it when he said that this was the fourth in our package of measures. We should make plain that if this amendment is carried tonight, or perhaps tomorrow, it would remove that fourth measure. That would be the sum total of its effect and it would--I say this
I want to run through the various arguments that have been made in the debate and I shall try to answer as many of the questions as I can. I shall certainly try to answer the last point made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, asked me to set out the Government's view on Justice's opinion and, if the Committee will bear with me, I shall seek to do that.
The opinion obtained by Justice expressed the view that the provisions of the Bill--and, indeed, by implication, the provisions of the Football Spectators Act 1989 because much of the Bill is drawn from that, adds to it and updates it--are contrary to the requirements of European Community law and the European Convention on Human Rights. Several Members of the Committee have expressed concern about the human rights implications. It is true that the Bill raises serious issues of competing rights. However, I can assure the Committee that before introducing the Bill careful consideration was given to the position of Community and ECHR law, including the issues specifically canvassed in the opinion obtained by Justice.
I assure the Committee that the most careful scrutiny has been applied to the issues raised and the Government remain of the view that the Bill's provisions are compatible with all the United Kingdom's international human rights obligations. The rights of free movement under Article 59 of the EC treaty and under Directives 73/148 and 64/221 are not absolutes. The right to travel to receive services may be restricted in the interests of public policy and public security. Those restrictions must be applied on the basis of the personal circumstances of those concerned and on the judgment that those concerned represent a genuine threat to public order.
The scheme of the Football Spectators Act, as amended by this Bill, meets those criteria and represents a balanced and proportionate package of measures. Once made, a banning order does not automatically impose a reporting requirement in relation to each game overseas. That requirement is imposed only after considering each individual's circumstances. The order is targeted at particular individuals and can apply in respect of particular matches for particular periods. There are provisions for exemptions and appeals against the refusal of exemptions.
As I made clear during the Second Reading debate, I accept that serious issues are also raised under the European Convention on Human Rights by the provisions relating to banning orders by complaint and the summary powers contained in new Sections 21A and 21B. However, I remain of the view, as expressed at Second Reading, that those provisions are compatible with Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the convention. As I said at Second Reading, a banning order is not a criminal or a penal act. It is a targeted, preventive measure to help to prevent violence and disorder.
I believe that it is worth making the point that by comparison with what is alleged to be the case in Germany, our provision is rather superior because it makes plain that jurisdiction will have to apply and that people will have to be brought before a court of law and the application tested. I believe that that is an important distinction between our approach and a measure which seems to me to rely on an administrative procedure.
For the sake of completeness, I should add that I believe the Bill to be compatible with Article 14 of the convention. The powers in Sections 21A and 21B are exercisable only in relation to British citizens. It is well established in Strasbourg jurisprudence that measures may have different effects on different nationalities if, as we believe to be the case here, there is an objective and reasonable justification for the distinction. Although banning orders will be available regardless of nationality, the mischief that we are seeking to address is the havoc wreaked by British citizens. Preventing other nationals travelling, perhaps to their own country, would raise different issues, as would the seizure of passports of foreign nationals. British passports remain the property of the Government.
It would be unrealistic to expect unanimous agreement with the conclusions that the Government have reached on these issues. However, I hope that what I have said may be enough to make it plain that we have carefully examined and thoroughly thought through the human rights issues at stake. We think that we have struck the right balance, but that is a question that your Lordships will need to think on some more.
I shall try to go through the points that have been made during the debate. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, made a cogent point that police powers are normally exercised on suspicion of offences. However, as he acknowledged, there are many other powers to detain for other reasons. He mentioned the Terrorism Act provisions. There are parallel powers on immigration detainees, patients, those in need of protection from themselves or those in breach of the peace. This is another exception. We are providing for a short period of detention to enable inquiries to be made on the grounds that it will prevent violence and disorder. That is an important consideration.
Football hooliganism is a unique challenge to us, reflecting our society's need to curb violent behaviour overseas by our citizens. The police will still be acting to prevent violence and disorder when they exercise their Section 21A and 21B powers. We believe that the powers will be firmly acted on in the best traditions of British policing.
The noble Lord also said that the police were going to be lumbered with the power. The police want it. The National Criminal Intelligence Service made that clear to us before, during and after the recent Euro 2000 experience. The Association of Chief Police Officers has also made plain its belief that the power is in the best interests of the police in trying to tackle the issues that have caused such public alarm and concern.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Has not the Police Federation said that it does not want the power? It represents the bobby on the beat who will be on the front line.
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