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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Earl has spoken with a degree of concern and seriousness which bears careful reflection by all of us. He is absolutely right; it is very distressing. I found it distressing to read out the Statement. It is horrific.
The noble Earl asked about prosecutions. The information I have is that in Dover so far, as a consequence of our activities, we have handed out 172 years of imprisonment for facilitation in 99 cases. There have been some 120 successful prosecutions. The noble Lord is absolutely right to say that we should be getting after the gangs. It is for that reason that we work very closely with our European colleagues and counterparts. Part of the reason that we manage successfully to detect immigrants coming into this country is because of that co-operation. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I take the view that we need to be ever vigilant and to strengthen and improve those links. Ironically, one of the reasons we are seeking to strengthen our powers of detection under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is in order that we may continue that effective surveillance. That Bill has an important dimension in regard to the issues we are discussing today.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, this is an appalling case; it is murder. Some 58 people, I think, died as a result of what happened. Can the Minister give an assurance that every possible effort will be made with the authorities of the countries concerned to prosecute at the earliest stage the people responsible for these deaths? Can my noble friend indicate to the House how long it is likely to be before the prosecuting authorities are in a position to ensure that the case comes before the courts? I do not think that it is improper to urge my noble friend to ensure that the
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am happy to give an assurance that they will be brought before the courts at the earliest possible opportunity. In these sad circumstances, we should not overlook the needs of the police, Customs and immigration officials to carry out a thorough investigation. While urgency is vital and critical in these matters, that investigation must be thorough and enabled to be thorough. One should not compromise the other. But, yes, they must be brought before the courts at the earliest possible opportunity. We must ensure that the police, Customs and immigration officials are well able to carry out that full investigation in order that we can start to get behind the individual truck drivers concerned and tackle those who are organising and orchestrating this horrible and miserable trade in human beings.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, this is indeed an appalling tragedy which can only fill us with a sense of horror and dismay. It brings home, above all, the sheer sense of desperation of such people that they are willing to subject themselves to such hazards. While appreciating and agreeing with everything that the Minister said about the necessity of bringing these illegal traffickers to court, does he agree that there is often another question as to what it is that these people are trying to get away from? We heard this morning on the "Today" programme that apparently people are being charged between £20,000 and £25,000 to go on this six month journey from the Far East. Are they simply economic migrants? If they are not, can we not look again at what they are trying to get away from in the countries from which they come?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has made a useful observation in his reflections on our discussion. Broadly speaking, people attempting to enter this country in a clandestine fashion fall into two camps: either they are seeking asylum because they believe that they face political persecution in their own countries; or they believe that the United Kingdom offers a chance of living the "good life". They seem to believe that it is worth making a very large personal sacrifice, both for themselves and for their families, in order to pursue this kind of dangerous economic migration. I seriously question whether that is right and I am sure most people share that view.
We shall do all that we can to discourage that. It is for that reason that we have introduced tough and firm but, above all, fair legislation in order to deter people from taking such risks when trying to enter this country by, say, being secreted in the backs of trucks. They travel in horrible circumstances and are exploited many times over throughout the process. That gives me the greatest sadness.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, about 10 years ago I was the rapporteur for a committee looking into the activities of various groups of appalling criminals who were attempting to smuggle people on to aircraft. The same kind of thing happened then: the criminals took all the immigrants' money on the strength of flimsy promises to get them into this country. I believe that today the situation is even worse. Like everyone else, I was horrified by the scale of this appalling tragedy.
However, can the Minister explain once again the figures he quoted to the House? The Minister said that he was pleased to announce a 26 per cent drop in the rate of detection of clandestine entrants--or at least that is what I believe the Minister to have said. That must mean that he thinks that every lorry entering this country has been inspected. I very much doubt whether that is the case.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if I inadvertently spoke in error on this point, perhaps I should explain it once again in more detail. The figures show a drop of 26 per cent in the number of clandestine entrants being apprehended at Dover. We believe that to be directly related to the imposition of civil penalties. Furthermore, it is right that we seek to employ a wide range of means to deter people from using clandestine methods to try to enter this country.
However, today we need to reflect on the matter as a whole because of the problems faced by clandestine entrants and the potential risk to human health. In this case, people have died trying to enter the country in such desperate circumstances. We continue to believe that we should do all that we can to deter people from using these methods to try to enter the United Kingdom.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, because conspiracies of this kind probably originate at a great distance from our own shores, does my noble friend agree that an incident of this nature adds powerfully to the argument for a substantial increase to be made in the resources available to our intelligence services?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I cannot prejudge discussions as regards the level of resources to be made available to the security services. However, I believe that any investment into the security services that might help to prevent awful incidents of this kind would represent extremely good value for money. I am grateful that the intelligence we do receive is being used so well. We are detecting clandestine entrants. We should pay tribute to the security services because their efforts enable us to work as effectively as possible in these difficult circumstances.
"As the House knows, events on the field this weekend were wholly overshadowed by events off the pitch. I am sure that the whole House will share my feelings of outrage and shame as we witnessed our fellow citizens engaged in appalling drunken violence on the streets of Belgium. These people have disgraced the nation and our national game.
"We, of course, fully share UEFA's anger at the disgraceful scenes which have occurred and the whole nation has taken full account of the warning issued by UEFA as to our future participation in this competition. Up-to-date information is as follows. There were serious disturbances in Brussels on Friday last, 16th June, and then on Saturday in Charleroi and Brussels. So far, we have received information on the identity of 584 UK citizens who have been arrested in these disturbances. In a few cases, these individuals have been charged with specific criminal offences, including possession of offensive weapons and assault. However, in the overwhelming proportion of cases the detention was by what is known as an administrative arrest, typically for a failure to carry a passport. No charges have followed. Instead, these individuals have been made subject to immediate deportation. To date around 400 of these individuals have been returned to the UK. As they have arrived, police and immigration officials have required these individuals to provide full details of their identity.
"The House has been kept informed about the arrangements made over many months to intensify co-operation between the Belgian, Dutch and French authorities to ensure as far as possible that anyone previously involved in football hooliganism should not be able to gain entry to those countries. It is widely accepted across Europe that the British police, led by NCIS and Assistant Chief Constable Tim Hollis, are among the most professional and thorough in identifying known hooligans and in policing arrangements in co-operation with overseas police forces. The Dutch Minister of the Interior, Klaus de Vries, has this morning issued a further statement expressing his satisfaction with the degree of co-operation provided by the British authorities.
"All of this has been part of an extensive international operation in which British police and immigration officials and football authorities have been actively involved. Further details were set out in the report of the Euro 2000 Co-ordinating Group, which was placed in the Library of the House on 7th June.
"The House will, I believe, understand that it is by definition far more difficult to identify in advance those who might cause trouble if they have not been previously convicted of a football-related offence or if there is no intelligence about them. The overwhelming majority of those arrested and expelled from Belgium come into this category.
"Just 15 of the nearly 400 being deported have been identified as previously known hooligans and one of these had a domestic exclusion order against him. One of these is one too many but this does demonstrate that our controls against known hooligans have been effective and it also demonstrates that legislative changes of the kind which this House has had before it recently, and which have been urged, could not have had the effect of reducing by any significant degree the numbers of people, without previous football convictions, involved in the trouble over the past three days.
"We have always made clear that we have been keeping under constant review these measures in the light of events, including the fact of large-scale arrests which have led in the main to deportation rather than prosecution and conviction.
"I am therefore announcing today a range of measures--in addition to those already in place--further to tighten the screw on the hooligans. The scrutiny at ports by law enforcement agencies has been intensified to prevent any of those deported from Belgium in the past few days from returning to either Belgium or the Netherlands. Immigration and police checks have been stepped up and the main carriers and the Belgian and Dutch authorities have been given full access to the information available to the law enforcement agencies so that they may refuse to take as passengers people they know will be refused entry at the other end.
"We have urged upon the Belgian and Dutch authorities the importance in our view of restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the areas affected, as was successfully done by the Dutch authorities at Eindhoven.
"Following discussions today involving the Government, the Football Association and the Premier League clubs, any supporter convicted of hooliganism, or against whom there is good evidence of hooliganism, will be banned for life from attending football matches in England.
"Let me now come back to the issue of legislation. The powers of the courts were strengthened last September by the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999. That Bill provided for the imposition of passport conditions. We had hoped that the Bill would include a civil order power for banning orders to prevent suspected but unconvicted individuals from attending any matches. As the House knows, this proposal encountered vociferous opposition from certain honourable Members and was therefore not included.
"The courts already have extensive powers to impose passport conditions on anyone subject to an international ban and to impose an international ban on anyone subject to a domestic ban. But few such orders have been imposed by the courts. We will be taking steps to encourage their imposition in all cases in which they could help to prevent hooliganism by English supporters overseas. We will consider whether to have a single ban with passport conditions for domestic and international matches and to reinstate the civil order proposal.
"We have done a huge amount to stamp out football violence at home; and we have done a huge amount of work with the police, the Football Association and the authorities abroad to prevent violence overseas. These incidents remind us once more of the shame that hooliganism has brought on our country down the years. They reinforce our determination to stamp it out overseas as we have done at home, and I believe the approach I have outlined to the House today can help do that".
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for taking time out from the morass of Home Office legislation to repeat the Statement. The noble Lord does so not only in his usual role as spokesman for the Home Office, but also as the Minister with personal responsibility for this aspect of policy under the Home Secretary.
Lord McNally: My Lords, sometimes those of us who are soccer fans quote, with implied approval, Bill Shankley's famous dictum that football is more important than life and death. It is amusing, but it is not true. Football is a beautiful game, but it is not the extension of war by other means. Our national reputation is something that we should take extremely seriously and defend with vigour. Therefore, I accept much of the tone of the Statement. I hope the Minister agrees that it would be wrong if any national response to these events were seen in the context of saving our membership of the present Euro 2000, or even of securing the 2006 World Cup.
We must examine the events of the past couple of days in a much broader context. It has happened before, time and again. We have the hand-wringing and the blaming, but nothing fundamental happens. Does the Minister agree that there is an element of stable-door slamming about the Statement? It is no use batting words across the Dispatch Box as to how the extra powers were lost in another place. The certainty is that they were not available this time--hence the criticism from UEFA.
Perhaps we should look more widely at why soccer, among all sports, particularly attracts this kind of violent yob culture. Although it is not the key factor, it remains a factor that, for example, sports writers named Mr Roy Keane as "Stanley Matthews Footballer of the Year". The most famous thing that Mr Keane did last year was to be photographed, face contorted, eyes bulging, spitting abuse, at two inches, into the face of a referee. It is not a particularly good example to set young people.
Over the past two weeks, as my noble friend Lord Watson mentioned, a leading computer company marketed a game in which soccer violence was the main element. Last Sunday, the Sunday People had in its gloating headline the word "Huns". If we had beaten Nigeria, would it have been equally acceptable to use the word "niggers"? I must say that for the Sun to start weeping crocodile tears today over excessive xenophobia is truly nauseating. How long will it be before our national newspapers take responsibility for some of the atmosphere around our national game?
How many of the clubs have a true involvement in the communities in which they exist? Some of richest clubs in the country--indeed, in the world--exist in areas of true social deprivation. Yet only as a result of the Minister for Culture twisting their arms were they willing to disgorge 5 per cent of their bonanza from television to grass-roots football. What example is given to young people when greed, institutionalised cheating, racism and the yob culture are all part of football? We must stop deluding ourselves. We must make no attempt at a knee-jerk reaction as far as concerns legislation but look at the matter in a broader sense. All parties must try to co-operate to see if they can arrive at a legislative framework to remove thuggery and racism, which go hand in hand, from football. We must ask for greater leadership and example from the players, club owners and the national media. There must also be a proportionate and considered response in terms of any change in the law.
Football is a beautiful game that has been tainted by the thugs who have gone across the Channel. They behave in a manner which none of us should tolerate and to which not only we in this House but those much further afield require a response.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have listened carefully to both contributions this afternoon. I start with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord McNally. As ever, because he is a very astute follower of football, which both he and I greatly love, he has spoken wisely. I refer particularly to his comments about the yob culture. I was in Charleroi on Saturday. Although it was perhaps not the best game of football that I have seen, it was certainly a good match. However, I was shocked and appalled by the shameful scenes that surrounded it. I am not immune to such scenes, although I have seen them elsewhere. One of the matters that I have campaigned against is the racism and xenophobia in the game, which are appalling. The behaviour and attitude of some of those who believe that they support our national team is shameful. It says a lot about the void in part of our culture.
We cannot continue to ignore the fact that some of our supporters are xenophobes and racists. I am ashamed to say that the majority of those I saw in the street who were drunk and abusive were white males aged between 20 and 40. We must look long and deep into our culture to begin to understand how to address
The framework of the legislation that we have put in place has taken 10 to 15 years to create. There have been six--or perhaps seven now--pieces of legislation, each tougher than the one before. I pay tribute to the previous government for the fact that they began the toughening up process. Last year's Football (Offences and Disorder) Act was another contribution by this Government to ensure that so far as possible the police and judiciary have the necessary legal framework and powers to impose some penalty, moral order and discipline on the unruly who shame us.
One of the good things about that legislation is that for the first time it began to provide the law enforcement agencies with the opportunity to attack racist chanting and indecent or obscene gestures in our grounds. Domestically, I believe that much progress has been made by the football authorities, the Government, the police and all those involved in tackling racism. Sadly, we do not yet seem to have got it right abroad. Even more must be done. The importance of today's Statement by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is that it focuses on the relevant issues.
Much has been made of, "If only we had done this", or, "If only we had had additional powers". The one power on which people have particularly focused is the ability to remove the passports of suspected hooligans so that they cannot travel abroad and bring disgrace upon our nation and football team. Sadly, the figures reveal that, of those who have been deported back to the United Kingdom, only 15 have appeared on any list that seeks to identify those who present a potential threat abroad. The malaise described earlier is, regrettably, rather broader than many of us had hoped, or perhaps feared. We need to consider better and further steps--social measures as much as anything else--to take to tackle the yob culture.
I return to one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. I am not sure that last week in the context of a Question I sought to put blame on others; I simply stated the bald facts. A number of Members of another place objected on the grounds of civil liberties--that was how they saw it--to our proposal to insert into the Bill the power to remove the passports of known and suspected hooligans. At Second Reading, David Maclean made plain his view. At col. 476, he raised the issue of human rights and the implication of removing passports. He went on to say:
We have studied the UEFA statement carefully and take it very seriously. We want those who say that they support our national team to take the threat very seriously. We understand and share UEFA's anger and frustration. I spent many long hours on this particular set of problems. The preparations for Euro 2000, certainly in terms of policing, have been very thorough. I am ashamed at what has happened and greatly regret it. Our officers in the field, who are very disappointed, have conducted themselves with the utmost integrity and worked extremely hard on behalf of all of us. They will continue that important work. We must hope that the officials and the police service in Belgium act efficiently and effectively to prevent further troubles during the course of the tournament, and we should do all we humanly can to support them in that endeavour. I hope and trust that those views are shared by Members of your Lordships' House.
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