Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My understanding--I confess I have not checked this--is that only two games will be caught by a six-month period. One is the match against France and the other is a World Cup qualifying game some time in the autumn against Finland in Helsinki. Nothing else would come within the six-month period.

Lord Lyell: On the other hand, England will be playing away in World Cup qualifying competition and those games will be caught by a 12-month or 10-month period. I believe those games are normally played during the season or just spilling over. Players have to go on holiday because their knees and their

24 Jul 2000 : Column 200

bodies crack up at some time in June. We are therefore looking at a first experimental period between now and June. But that is if this measure applies only to England fans going abroad.

The Earl of Onslow: Am I not right in thinking that the Bill applies to any football fan going abroad? For instance, if Manchester United or Leeds plays abroad, the provisions apply. Presumably, therefore, there are many more of those matches which will take place within the 10 months or six months.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It will apply to European club competitions, the UEFA Competition and the European Champions League.

Lord McNally: My name is associated with Amendment No. 12, which is grouped with Amendment No. 10. The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, introduced those two amendments. I hope that between now and Report we can reach agreement on an effective trial period for this legislation if it is to go through.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, made the point that the Bill has taken on the appearance of emergency legislation. Well, I am a great fan of "Frazier", the American television programme. On Sunday nights old editions are shown on cable television. Last night there was an exchange between Daphne, the English girl in the series, and Frazier. Daphne said rather defiantly, "England has given many good things to the world", and Frazier sneered back, "Yes, like football hooligans".

So the football hooligan problem has been around a long time and the worry that we are slamming this legislation through in the last few hours of this parliamentary Session demands that the Government understand that the life term of this legislation must be extremely short. Yet against that we have to balance the valid point of the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, that we must give it time to test. But I submit that that could, with goodwill, be resolved by the usual channels between now and the Report stage, as long as the Government are not excessive in their demands for the duration.

I hope that the Government will meet that point constructively and that they will not make it necessary for those of us on this side to impose a solution upon them. We do not want to do that. We would prefer the Government to be genuinely realistic about the fact that they are putting through this legislation in this way, while meeting the legitimate point made by the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer.

12.30 a.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I listened to this debate with considerable care; indeed, I always listen to what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, says on these matters. Both he and I share very similar views about football, the events that surround it and the need for a change in the atmosphere of such matches to be reflected not only in legislation but also in other action. For

24 Jul 2000 : Column 201

example, ticketing arrangements have been mentioned, as well as the responsibility of the clubs and of the FA, and so on, for changing the current atmosphere surrounding the England team when it travels abroad. I believe that we broadly agree on such issues.

The whole notion of a sunset period was usefully introduced into the debates on this legislation by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, at what I considered to be an important moment. The response of the Home Secretary was characteristic: he said that he would take the matter away and think about it. Indeed, that is what he did, after having agreed that it was a good idea. The notion that we need to have a sunset period is very fixed in our minds. It is just a matter of sorting out between us what is an appropriate period.

I should like to go through the arguments carefully to try to persuade the Committee of what might be an appropriate way of considering this proposal. Effectively, there are two sunset periods. We need to look at the relationship between the two. Amendment No. 10 would reduce the first of those periods from one year to six months. As I understand it, during that six-month period the following England fixtures will take place. On 2nd September there is a match between France and England in Paris. On 11th October, a World Cup qualifier is to be played in Finland. I very much doubt whether many England supporters will travel to Finland, although a number of them will do so. Indeed, the England team is always well supported abroad. In November there is a proposed friendly match to be played in Italy, and Albania will entertain England on 28th March next. Again, I question whether the "hooligan hoards", as it were, will be making their way in vast numbers to Albania. Nevertheless, that is a fixture that would be caught by the six-month proposal.

I venture to suggest that those four fixtures would barely be an adequate test of the effectiveness, or otherwise, of this legislation were it to be amended in the way suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, recognised the reality of the situation. In all probability, we shall need to have a 12-month period to test the effectiveness and the voracity of the legislation so that a reasonable degree of analysis can come into play.

The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, knows well enough that there is a complex fixture list of European club matches that would be caught in that test period. As he said, the finals are usually played in May. Therefore, the first 12-month period is most important. It would enable us to consider whether the legislation should be renewed by the affirmative resolution procedure.

When we go beyond that period then the second sunset clause comes into play. In the current situation, there would be a further four years. During that period England participate within the World Cup to be held in Japan in 2002, if they qualify. England would seek to qualify for the next European championship which takes place in Portugal in 2004. Both of those competitions should have a bearing on how we view

24 Jul 2000 : Column 202

the effectiveness or otherwise of this legislation. My argument would be that we need to take a longer view. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, is right in that regard. We need to see how the legislation will work in those circumstances, how effective it is in terms of prevention, and with other measures outside the scope of legislation, in changing the attitude of England and English club supporters when they travel abroad.

My inclination would be to continue to consider the length of the second sunset period. I accept that there is some scope for movement on our part in that regard. I am not closing the door on it. I am open to sensible propositions. But we need properly to consider how the legislation will work to cover us through the qualification period for the next World Cup leading up to 2002 and also playing in the European championship again in 2004.

The sunset proposal is a very good one. It will focus minds and enable our police service and NCIS to very carefully work out what a thorough and good assessment will be. In terms of assessment, we are obviously very open to ideas. There is flexibility. I invite the Members of the Committee who have put these proposals together tonight to consider just how long a time will be needed to measure effectiveness here. That is important.

I take the point about legislation that has been put together fairly rapidly, but with a degree of consideration. Some of the proposals have been in existence and debated not just in the past few weeks and months, but over the past few years. We need to reflect on how the legislation works. That is very important. I am very grateful to those noble Lords who made the practical suggestion in the first place and who are obviously thinking very carefully about how we shall measure the effectiveness of the legislation as it now stands.

The Earl of Onslow: Can the noble Lord help me a little? For the sake of argument let us assume that this legislation is enacted. Let us assume that some dozen, two dozen or even 100 people are stopped before each of the matches. Let us then assume for the sake of argument that those who were arrested were about to do absolutely nothing and that those who were about to riot had caused mayhem in Paris, Munich or Helsinki. Do the Government then say, "Whoops, we have made a booboo" or do they say, "This is such a good piece of legislation we must extend it for another year"

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There has been an accretion of legislation to try to tackle the violent disorder associated with football over the past 15 years. I believe that that is commonly accepted across the political divides in your Lordships' House. We shall need to reflect on whether or not these measures, coupled with the other things that we need to do for the game, with the FA and the clubs, are effective. If we see a reduction in the disorder, violence, xenophobia and racism when England and English clubs travel abroad, then I believe that we can fairly say that the legislation

24 Jul 2000 : Column 203

has had a salutary effect. We shall then need to consider what the implications might then be of saying that the legislation has worked and we no longer have a need to retain it on the statute book. We shall have to have another debate at that stage. But let us try to get to the happy point where we can at least have that debate and reflect on whether or not the measures have been effective.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page