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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I appreciate that the rural idyll may quite frequently be interrupted by military planes. However, they too are subject to severe regulation. I am sure that if my noble friend has a particular complaint to make, then my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will respond in her normal courteous way.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I speak as a recreational flyer and as vice-chairman of the Popular Flying Association, which is a regulatory body covering some 1,500 planes which fly under the permit-to-fly system. Is the noble Lord aware that we sympathise fully with my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber? We intend to bring in noise restrictions on all new aircraft and to require the existing fleet to comply where possible.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am aware of that initiative. I believe that it will be helpful and we commend the association for bringing forward those proposals.

Business of the House: Football (Disorder) Bill

3.7 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with today to allow the Football (Disorder) Bill to be taken through

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its remaining stages, and again on Friday next to allow the Finance Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Lord Marlesford moved as a manuscript amendment to the Motion:


    Line 2, leave out "today to allow the Football (Disorder) Bill to be taken through its remaining stages, and again"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, careful scrutiny is one of the best guarantees of good legislation. I hope that all noble Lords will endorse those wise words that were once spoken by the Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw. He made that statement in 1995, when he was a member of the Front Bench Opposition.

The intervals laid down between the stages of parliamentary consideration of legislation are crucial to the legislative process. In three circumstances those intervals may justifiably be dispensed with. First, when, for constitutional reasons, this House does not have a full locus on consideration of a piece of legislation. An obvious example of this is in debate on a finance Bill. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will have noted that my amendment does not infringe on the proposal in the Motion that the Finance Bill should be taken through all its stages on Friday of this week. Another example might be consolidated fund Bills, which are in effect a front for supply Bills.

Secondly, when Bills are of a technical and wholly uncontroversial nature, they may sometimes have accelerated processes; but here the intervals of parliamentary process would normally apply. A third category would be in cases of national emergency, when to delay legislation would either seriously damage national security or destroy the whole purpose of a Bill. Obvious examples have been legislation connected with the emergency in Northern Ireland or, in earlier days, matters such as the Ugandan Asians and Commonwealth immigration. But the Football (Disorder) Bill cannot conceivably be reckoned to fall into any of those three categories.

There is a fourth reason why governments may be tempted to accelerate the process of legislation through Parliament; that is, for the convenience of the executive--either to get legislation on to the statute book because of the positive impact that it might make on the reputation of the government of the day, or perhaps even because the drafting of legislation is so defective as to make parliamentary scrutiny an embarrassment.

The intervals laid down have three purposes. The first is to enable parliamentarians to reflect on a Bill during its passage and to decide in that context what further changes may be needed. In the case of the football Bill, the Committee stage was concluded only after five o'clock this morning. Therefore, the later proceedings are not even published in Hansard. Only a handful of Members who remained to the end can know what was decided. It is also clear that, under Standing Order 48, it would not be possible for any amendments to be tabled for Third Reading. That could be a serious handicap in terms of our wish to improve the Bill.

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The second reason for the intervals between stages is to allow Ministers and their Civil Service advisers to consider points that have been made in debate and to decide whether, and if so, how, they can be accommodated.

The third reason, and possibly the most important, is to allow the people to have their say in the legislative process. Almost every Bill that comes before Parliament is improved because of the views of the people, whether through professional bodies, pressure groups, lobbies or individuals. Those views are made known to Parliament at each stage in the consideration of a Bill. To take a recent example, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill was immeasurably improved in its passage through Parliament largely as a result of public representations. To some of us, that Bill still falls short of the ideal; but without the changes made to it, it would, frankly, have been an abomination in terms of both liberty and practicality.

I do not believe that it is widely appreciated that our legislative process makes provision, through the intervals between the stages of a Bill, for the people to have a real say, and thus to influence law-making. That applies particularly in this House, where we are relatively free of the inducements of patronage and the fear of party discipline. I hope, therefore, that the House will consider whether the case for immediate enactment of a football Bill, argued as it seems to have been on the date of a particular series of football matches, outweighs the abandonment of proper parliamentary consideration. It is a precious feature of our democracy. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I was taking guests round the Royal Gallery today, and I looked again at the Petition of Rights 1628, which won for us our freedom from arbitrary imprisonment. It has lasted 372 years. If we pass this Bill in the form that it is in at present, that is all that it will last.

The Bill allows someone who is not suspected of any criminal offence--indeed, against whom no charge is contemplated--to be imprisoned on the whim of a police officer, to be remanded in custody merely at the request of the police for a further period which may well amount to a matter of months, and if at the end of the day the police bring no charges because they can find no evidence, there is no cause for compensation to that person.

This is a disgraceful state of affairs. We are being asked to rush through a Bill which abuses our freedom as citizens to an extent which very few Bills do. I understand why the Government are doing this. They will come to regret it. I understand why those on our Front Bench are supporting them. They should regret it already. There is no reason why we should all have to share that shame. I very much hope that we shall support my noble friend in his amendment.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, the delays between the stages of a Bill give everyone time to ponder, think, consider and inwardly digest--and to calm down. It is

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rather like writing rather a hasty letter and putting it under your pillow at night. In the morning, you may have changed your mind.

Lord Renton: My Lords, even if we accept the Government's attitude that this is a Bill that must reach the statute book before Parliament rises at the end of this week, I suggest that adequate time should be given for its proper consideration. We really cannot say that it can be properly considered if there is no gap at all, even of 24 hours, between the conclusion of the Committee stage and the start of the Report stage.

Many years ago, the Committee on Preparation of Legislation of which I had the honour to be chairman, which produced the only advisory document of its kind in the past 130 years, stressed that there must be adequate time between the Committee and Report stages for improving a Bill and making sure that it works properly and is understood by the people.

Admittedly, we have only this week to consider the Bill. But if the Government were wise enough to have Hansard published as soon as possible and considered by us on Thursday, any amendments--and we are not likely to make many--could still be considered by another place on Friday and the Bill could receive Royal Assent before we rise. I do not understand why that system cannot be followed.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I hope that those on the Government Front Bench are pondering those wise words from the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who is an extremely seasoned and experienced parliamentarian.

When I heard what the Government were planning, it summoned up for me the expression of the great John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!". The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has previously made a number of points. The Government are treating the Bill as though it were emergency legislation with the war clouds gathering, instead of seeing it as a response to a particular problem. Regardless of what has been said by those on the Front Bench opposite, I hope that there are enough Members, not only on our Benches--I assure the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that we shall be with him if he seeks to divide the House--but on the Cross-Benches, and even on the Benches opposite, who regard this kind of behaviour by a government on legislation as simply not acceptable.

As the Government Chief Whip well knows, he would have lost his business last night had not these Benches co-operated with him in giving him the votes to carry on. We need some "give and take" on the part of the Government. We need space between Report and Third Reading, for all the reasons mentioned.

As was said, there were very few Members in the Chamber last night, but we are working through the Bill and we are improving it. Even as we talked, we saw some initiatives: the effectiveness of tighter rules for the membership of supporters' clubs, not least the Football Association Supporters Club.

A letter from a Leeds director printed in The Times today points out that clubs' life bans are having a salutary effect on behaviour. As the Bill progresses

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through the House, Members with experience have put forward constructive and good ideas which improve it. However, I think that the Government will now sour the deliberations for the remainder of the Bill. They will also demonstrate a high-handedness which I believe that they will come to regret.

The speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Marlesford and Lord Lucas, are unanswerable by anyone who cares for this House and its proceedings. As has been said, those spaces between deliberations are for a specific purpose. This House abandons them at certain times for certain grave reasons. I do not think that the Bill deserves to be escalated to that height of concern.

As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, there is an easy way for the Government to deal with this issue. They can give us that breathing space between Report and Third Reading which would allow us and outside bodies to carry on the good and constructive work of improving the Bill.


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