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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand the concern expressed by the noble Lord. He is right to talk about people's civil liberties. He well understands, perhaps better than me, that we have the Human Rights Act on the statute book. That is an important check in these matters.
The noble Lord asked specifically whether legal advice and representation facilities will be made available. It would be a strange England if that were not the case. I do not believe there is anything in our proposals which will prevent suspects having access to legal advice and, no doubt, legal representation in court.
However, I make the point which I have made before: that we are the decent, law-abiding majority. I believe that we must support the civil rights and freedoms of those who want to go to football matches and enjoy them in peace. Those are the concerns which are paramount in my mind. Yes, of course it is right that we make adequate provision for people's rights and for people to be fully represented in court. However, if we do not have provisions such as those set out in the third and fourth limb of our legislative proposals, we shall never begin to get to grips with the widespread yobbery that we saw on the streets of Charleroi and Brussels and which brought shame upon our nation.
We need broad-based support for the measures. Yes, we will consult. As was made plain in the Statement, the Home Secretary and myself are more than happy to meet and talk with Members of your Lordships' House and Members of another place, and more widely than that, to try to build a consensus so that the legislation becomes effective and popular. I believe that the legislation will go a long way towards changing the attitude and atmosphere at football matches abroad. We owe that to our country.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, perhaps I may ask two questions. First, does the Home Office have information as to the identity of the 900 British nationals arrested in Belgium? Presumably, they are the sort of people who will be banned in future. Am I right in thinking that? Secondly, are the bans intended to apply only to England's international team matches or would they also apply to major club fixtures abroad?
Yes, it is our intention that the legislation will help our clubs taking part in European competitions. From my point of view, that is one of the reasons for the urgency. Coming pretty swiftly is another European football season. English and Welsh clubs could be taking part in between 30 and 40 matches in European competitions. The legislation is needed not just for English international matches but to improve the quality of support that the clubs receive when they travel abroad.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, is it not the case that had the Belgian and Dutch authorities used their own laws, most of the 900 people could have been dealt with in the proper way? They presumably have laws equivalent to our law of affray.
Is it also not the case that the Government are attempting to pervert the categorisation of civil offences and criminal offences by pretending that the offences to which the Minister referred--he mentioned suspects, police evidence, banning orders and confiscation of passports--can be dealt with under civil process? Is not the truth that by such perversion, the Government are trying to allow the lower civil test to convict for what is, in all other senses, a criminal conviction? Is that not legislative hooliganism?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not believe that the country will see it as legislative hooliganism, but as legislation designed to tackle and get to the root of football hooliganism. That is its purpose. As regards the first point raised by the noble Lord, it may well be the case that many of the 900 arrested could have been charged with offences similar to our offence of affray. However, that is a matter for the Belgian jurisdiction. They chose not to take that route. By and large it seems that they were content to describe them as "administrative arrests" believing, rightly, that they were in the best position to judge whether those people should be taken off the streets for being involved, in some way or other, in disorderly events. That was their choice. That was the way in which they chose to operate. It would be wrong of us to criticise their arrangements for dealing with disorder. They were faced with a difficult situation.
Perhaps we would have dealt with it differently in public order terms. That is because we have a different culture and approach in policing techniques. But the Belgians were faced with an extremely difficult situation. I believe that these measures are proportionate. The anti-social behaviour order introducing a civil process, which in a sense we are seeking to replicate in the third of our legislative proposals, includes a lower burden of proof as the noble Lord rightly says. Nevertheless, it is appropriate for the nature of the offence and should give the public
Lord Borrie: My Lords, can the Minister assist the House a little further in relation to the urgency he described for this legislation? Noble Lords on both Front Benches said in effect that we can legislate in haste and repent at leisure because it is difficult to get the detail right. We are dealing with a difficult borderline between, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual (including the freedom to travel abroad) and on the other the public interest in restraining hooliganism and illegal acts. Does my noble friend believe that within a matter of weeks we can deal with the problems referred to earlier today in a Bill which may be short but which raises extremely complex questions? It is said that three or four important football matches are coming up in the autumn. But does that justify our seeking to bring about legislation which will be with us for a long time and which cannot readily be altered in practice without adequate consideration?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand the points made by my noble friend. However, we have been down this route before. Legislation over the past 15 years has looked at hooligan-related and football-related problems. Indeed, the outcome of the Home Office consultation in 1998 was to support the idea of taking away the passports of known and suspected hooligans. So there has been a great deal of discussion and debate on this matter in the past.
Of course, we need as much time as possible to look at the detail and the implications underlying various parts of the legislation. And my noble friend is right to remind us of the possibility of making legislation in haste and regretting it at leisure. But I am sure that with your Lordships' expertise in this field we shall be able to consider all the civil rights and civil liberty issues in sufficient detail because it is a well-trodden route. We owe it to the public to demonstrate that we have a grip on this area of public policy. We all have that responsibility.
A complex European football season lies ahead. It does not only involve the game against France on 2nd September; the World Cup begins with games against Germany. So it is important that we address these issues seriously and put in place measures which will be effective in the longer term.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, I accept entirely everything said by my noble friend Lord Windlesham in relation to the seriousness of football hooliganism. However, do I understand the Minister to suggest that this new power will enable a police officer at an airport to remove the passport of an individual who has no previous convictions of any kind, and prevent him travelling merely on a "suspicion" (to use the Minister's word) that that
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord explains the fourth proposal in a customarily robust way. Of course we must subject all these proposals to the closest scrutiny. But I put my faith and confidence in the police to do an effective job. They will be in a position to undertake quick and timely inquiries. We have good access to data. That data was used extensively during the course of Euro 2000 to good effect. And a judicial process lies behind all that, as is right and proper. But we owe it to the public to take these strong and effective measures. I make no apology for that.
Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, can I ask the Minister about something that happened in Brussels? Apparently 450 British citizens were "deported" from Brussels by the Belgian Army, the Belgian air force and the police. Not all of them were involved in violence. They are now back in this country. They cannot travel back to Belgium. Do they have a right of appeal?
We hear constantly that we work together with our Belgian friends in Europe. Can they simply decide something in that way? I know of one case only. A man was minding his own business. He was carted off by the Belgian air force and his passport was stamped. He cannot now go back and work there. That must be wrong. If there is friendship in Europe, then in friendship we should ensure that that person at least has the right of appeal.
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