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Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South): My right hon. Friend concedes that many acts of violence occur far away from football stadiums and are not connected to the game in any way. Given the rise in the number of offences that are categorised as football violence, does he believe that the time is right to recategorise such offences? That would prove that football had indeed cleaned up its act. If the number of football-related offences increases by 8 per cent., but it is conceded that many of those offences were nothing to do with games, occurred many miles from the stadiums, and were not football related, surely our accounting is wrong and football is often being blamed for violence over which it has no control.
Mr. Denham: I hear what my hon. Friend says, but I take precisely the opposite view of the evidence. Some of the violence is football related. In common-sense terms, when two sets of fans supporting two different teams arrange to meet for a fight at a venue some distance from a football stadium, what is happening should be described as football related. However, such occurrences do not
Mr. David Drew (Stroud): Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is some evidence to show that football hooligans have begun to infiltrate the non-league game? Will he give an assurance that, if such people are arrested when they are attending non-league games, the normal requirements of the law will apply, just as they would in respect of people attending a premier league or football league game?
Mr. Denham: On that point, I hope that my hon. Friend will resist the blandishments of the Liberal Democrats. Somebody who is convicted of violence when attending a non-league game will be covered. The House will remember that two tests are involved. It is not enough merely to have a conviction for violent or public order offencesthere must be grounds for persuading the police, in connection with section 21A of the 2000 Act, and subsequently a court, of a reasonable belief that banning somebody from travelling will help to prevent violence or disorder at a football match. In principle, however, my hon. Friend is absolutely right.
It is a matter of record that in July, Standing Committees of this House and the other place approved resolutions extending for 12 months the lifetime of the measures in question. There is no provision for further renewal, so the provisions will lapse unless the relevant sections of the 2000 Act are repealed. The impact report laid before Parliament in June suggested that the Act had had an immediate and positive impact on the behaviour of English football supporters overseas and that the new provisions had become important weapons in the arsenal of tools for tackling hooliganism. We asked Parliament to renew the powers because they were considered essential for the high-risk England-Germany match in Munich on 1 September. I believe that the Act withstood the challenge.
Last week, we placed in the Library a supplementary impact report on the 2000 Act. We made efforts to distribute the report and I understand that Opposition spokespeople have received copies. What does it reveal? The report and its appended summary of risks and preparations outline why the Germany game was high risk and why an extensive multi-agency security operation was necessary. I am told that in the sub-cultural world of football hooliganism, this was regarded as the big one. There is certainly long-standing and intense rivalry between the followers of the two national teams. Violence has been sporadic, but the tension has long been recognised.
The key elements of the security preparations revolved around minimising the number of troublemakers travelling to Munich and their influence on other fans. Close Anglo-German police co-operation was essential and maximising the impact of the powers that we are discussing was even more so. Our objectives were achieved to a very significant degree. I should place on record my congratulations to the German police on the effectiveness of their tactics and their willingness to co-operate with their English counterparts, which was exemplary. There were sporadic clashes between rival fans, but the numbers involved meant that the Munich police could contain the disorder. The German police
The mass disorder that might have taken place did not materialise. As a result, we are not today debating a fresh entry in the long catalogue of major disorder involving English football fans and we do not have another blemish on our national reputation. Indeed, the German media and police have placed most of the blame on German hooligans provoking their English counterparts. I am not saying that the problem of English hooliganism has gone away. There is still work to be done, but we have come a long way since Euro 2000.
Overall, 201 people were detained or arrested, most of whom were German nationals. Some 38 English arrests were made for various public order offences. Those arrested have all been released, although four people have been charged and asked to pay a deposit in lieu of a fine, pending court proceedings. Of course, policing styles vary in Europe and it would be unwise to draw conclusions simply on the basis of arrest statistics. However, a simple comparison with Euro 2000, when there were 965 English arrests, mass deportations and much criticism of the behaviour of England supporters, suggests that we have made progress. In connection with a very high-risk match, 38 English arrests were made and there was good behaviour among the vast majority of English supportersbehaviour that has been praised in the German press.
I have no doubt that the disorder that occurred would have been much worse if the measures introduced by the 2000 Act had not been in place. Some 537 known troublemakers were prevented by their banning order conditions from travelling to Munich, compared with the 100 who were prevented from travelling to Euro 2000. Of those people, 492 were banned following conviction for a football-related offence, and the remaining 45 were banned in accordance with the section 14B civil process. All 45 people had convictions for violence or disorder, although they were not necessarily football related. In addition, a further 58 people were prevented from travelling by the courts, in accordance with the section 21B process. Again, all 58 fans have convictions for violence or public order offences.
Simon Hughes: The Minister will know from reading the record of our debates on the original Bill about one of the key differences between our parties. The Government argued for a banning order to be permitted without any previous conviction, but we said that such an order was acceptable in relation to football-related convictions and any other appropriate convictions for violence and other offences committed in the preceding 10 years. Does not the evidence that he has provided show that such a measure would have been entirely sufficient? His figures demonstrate that almost all the people who were given banning orders had previous convictions for violence. There is all the difference in the world between banning somebody with a criminal record and banning somebody with no criminal record at all. Does he agree that those
Mr. Denham: Let me explain why I do not agree. It is not entirely surprising that all the banning orders have been given to people with convictions for violence and disorder, bearing it in mind that the police will have wanted to maximise their chances of convincing the courts in this country of their case. For the vast majority of cases, the orders related to convictions given in this country. However, I believe that the possibility of imposing a banning order on somebody who can be shown to have participated in violence, even if he or she has not been convicted, is still necessary. That ability is obviously necessary in relation to the circumstances in Munich. Without it, about 300 troublemakers, by and large, would not have been convicted in German courts. Like many other countries, when Germany had previously been faced with such difficult circumstances it tended to deport people and get them out of the country rather than to hold them for arrest and conviction. It is not certain, but likely, that video or other evidence will enable us to identify individuals who played a leading role in the violence. If we took the hon. Gentleman's view, we would accept that such individuals could travel to future matches despite the fact that they had been seen participating in violence, simply because there was no conviction. That would be a loophole.
The test for the legislation is whether the evidence in the supplementary report shows that it has been used proportionately and in a targeted way. I believe that it does. The hon. Gentleman draws the wrong conclusion from the evidence that has been presented to him this afternoon.
Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire): I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment on racism. However, there is another "ism" that has not afflicted the English game so far: sectarianism. We appear to be moving towards a British league, and sectarianism in the English game is the last thing we need. Will my right hon. Friend give a commitment to work with all interested agencies, including the clubs that are invited to join the British league, and ensure that they sort out their houses before joining and do not export sectarian baggage?