|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, at the great risk of irritating the noble Lord, Lord McNally--for which I apologise most sincerely--I think that the point made by my noble friend Lord Cope is important. The number of people to whom this might apply is so vital to this procedure that I am absolutely convinced that the polite and generous noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, will have the figures at his fingertips. Could he please let us know what they are before the debate continues?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I know that the noble Earl is very much a tease, but those of us with experience of another place are aware of the wrecking of ministerial speeches. It is a well-known tactic. I merely point out that if we reach a stage where, with our limited convention, interventions become the norm and we have speeches, as in the other place, which last for 20 minutes longer than they would normally do because there have been 20 or 30 interventions, usually from Members who want to get their name in Hansard without troubling to participate in the debate, then the nature of debates in this House will change.
One of the things I have found since coming to this House is that the general public now have a general appreciation of the quality of debates in this House and of our ability to listen at length to each other without nipping in with party political points and spur-of-the-moment interventions which disrupt so much of considered debate in the other place. I am willing to go down the slippery slope as far as the noble Earl: it is up to him. In the end I think it is your Lordships' House that will be the loser if we allow that to happen here.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I have been an unashamed football fan since the age of 10 when I watched Blackpool win the FA Cup on a nine-inch television set owned by a neighbour. Television technology has improved immensely since those days--alas, Blackpool Football Club has not but it has left me with a great love of the game. A moment of childhood which always remains in my mind is that sense of excitement as I ran up the steps of the Spion Kop at Blackpool on the third Saturday in August, knowing that as I reached the summit there was the field and there would be Stanley Matthews, Stanley Mortensen and Ernie Taylor, together with my other heroes who would be entertaining us for the next nine months.
Part of my concern about this Bill and this debate is that I want to see my children and their contemporaries getting as much enjoyment and pleasure from football as I have had during my lifetime. The noble Lord supports Brighton, and so we are fellow sufferers. As he rightly said, it is a beautiful game and one which needs protecting if it is not to be destroyed in a pincer movement between yobbery and greed.
I want football to be able to play what I believe is its positive role in our society, as an influence on youth in particular and on society at large, both nationally and internationally. Its potential for good, if properly run in all its aspects, is immense, and so none of us denies
We are told that the Government need this legislation before England plays France in Paris in September. Indeed some cynics point out that by doing it this way the Government are in a win-win situation: trouble in Paris and the Government will have done their best; no trouble and the Government will take credit; if the Opposition delay the measure they carry the can. That is wonderful news-management politics, but in a sense that goes to the heart of the wider dilemma of this Government and their credibility. Are we dealing with a considered response or, to quote the Prime Minister, one of those "eye-catching initiatives" needed for short-term political ends?
There is not much use having a long inquest into whether the lack of action to date is the result of government miscalculation, inertia or opposition chicanery in the other place. Is the situation of such a serious and immediate nature that we should abandon normal parliamentary scrutiny and consideration? We have to judge whether the proposed measures get the balance right between the civil right of society to conduct its business free from the threat of violent behaviour and the threat to individual civil liberties posed by the Government's response.
To the first point--the Government's bounce, underpinned by the implication that we take the blame if anything goes wrong--my response is, so be it. The French and British police are not without powers to deal with public disorders. I have just watched the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, on television-- somebody was watching. He pointed out that the police have a wide range of powers to deal with public disorder. So it is absurd to claim that Paris faces mayhem without the Bill.
The history of panic legislation is not good. This House and the other place put their rules and timetables in place for good reasons. There should be good reasons before we abandon them. I hope that the House will not be intimidated into cutting corners but will take as long as is necessary. The list of speakers indicates the degree of interest and concern. I give the Government no guarantee of safe passage until we have heard those concerns and the Government's response.
My noble friends Lord Goodhart and Lord Phillips of Sudbury, with their legal background, and others will be expressing our concerns in detail and will study the government amendments announced today. I will repeat the Liberal Democrat position, as expressed by my honourable friend Simon Hughes in the other place. We have always said that we wanted further legislation to deal with football hooliganism and that, in the UK context, the problem is a particularly English one--so we support the England and Wales context of the Bill.
We will be tabling amendments relating to those issues, among others. We will not play politics with the Bill but seek to improve it. We will do so for the good of our national reputation, football and the ordinary citizen, who has a civil right to enjoy leisure and sport free from violence.
The Government must realise that law and order and civil liberties are not to be dealt with by gimmicks and eye-catching initiatives. We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that the Government's proposed sunset clause of five years is far too long. We want the matter dealt with seriously. The legislation was announced three days before the famous World Cup vote at the behest, we are told, of Mr. Tony Banks in a late-night telephone call from Zurich. Is that the atmosphere in which to deal with fundamental rights concerning passports and travel?
I say to the Home Office and to No. 10 that there is no future in trying to out-Tory the Tories on a law and order issue. We used to laugh at Tory Home Secretaries when they turned up at Blackpool or Brighton to make their ritual abasement to the blue-rinse brigade. Now we are told that David Blunkett wants to be Home Secretary. According to the Sunday Times, his ambition will be to make Jack Straw look like a liberal.
There have been more signs in recent months of the Home Office, and the Home Secretary in particular, losing the plot on law and order and related civil liberty matters. All the more reason for the House to resist government bounce and intimidation. The Bill must be viewed in a wider context. It is no use pushing through emergency legislation while leaving contributory factors completely untouched. There is a crying need for those associated with football to put their house in order. The litany is familiar--players who employ cheating, dissent and violent play as part of their everyday game, as well as the coaches who instil and encourage such conduct. I make no apology for still seeing Stanley Matthews as a role model. I wonder how many youngsters today can find similar role models among modern footballers.
I call on the clubs to show at least the minimum of social responsibility to the communities from which they spring. The media, which encourage matches to be seen in terms of confrontation and international matches in terms of xenophobia and racism, must clean up their act. Channel 4 used time this week to devote a whole programme to the hard men of soccer and the best cheats in football. Is that the best use of media time? I think not.
Fans also have a role to play. They need to be more assertive in reclaiming their games from the yobs and disowning violence and racist language. I have sometimes been critical of Manchester United but I
There should be a close watch on appropriate measures to deal with alcohol. At two games in the European Cup alcohol consumption was dealt with differently, with a different outcome in terms of violence. The Dutch game was much better policed and better behaved than the Belgian game. Are there some lessons to be learned?
All is not gloom. The 5 per cent of television money going to grass roots soccer is a start, although far too little of the wealth flooding into football finds itself into the wider game. Before the lottery, the football pools paid more than 40 per cent of their income to the Football Trust or in direct taxation. The premiership league is capable of making a much bigger contribution to sport and its communities than it does now. It would help to have an independent football commission, which seems a long time coming into existence. All we know so far from the media is that Dr. Jack Cunningham is to be slotted into the chairmanship of that body and that Lord Faulkner of Worcester has been vetoed by the premiership from taking part. Instead of the Government bouncing Parliament with legislation that the Law Society describes as
In the meantime, both on this Second Reading and in Committee, let this House do its duty. I find it a little strange riding into battle flanked by the noble Lords, Lord Tebbit and Lord Rees-Mogg. However, seeing him in his place, I have to say that I always think of the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, as the author of, "You Don't Break a Butterfly on a Wheel", so I know that his credentials on civil liberties are strong and of long standing. As I said, I have already passed the "Tebbit test" in that, with increasing gloom, my eyes go to the Blackpool result first on Saturday afternoons.
I find that what both those noble Lords have said on these matters reflects much more closely the duties and responsibilities of this House than do some of the remarks of Home Office Ministers. Those responsibilities have special regard to the protection of civil liberties and the rule of law, given the expertise that resides in this House on those subjects. So I say to Ministers that we shall discharge our duties at all stages of this Bill in the days ahead. We can offer them no safe conduct for the Bill, but a rigorous examination before we make a final decision.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, in common with many other noble Lords, I am a frequent purchaser of raffle tickets. I am not usually very successful, but no charitable or political function that I attend appears to be complete without this particular fund-raising event. However, my luck changed a few weeks ago and I was successful in winning a first prize that turned out to be an hour's private flying instruction. When I presented myself to collect my prize last week, I asked the instructor whether this was not a dangerous way to earn a living. He assured me that it was not, so long as one remembered two golden rules: first, that one should "treat the air with respect at all times"; and, secondly, that most accidents take place at take off and landing, so one had to be particularly vigilant at those times.
It occurred to me that that was pretty good advice for a maiden speaker in your Lordships' House--behave with respect at all times and exercise particular care at take off and landing. If I may say so, there was also a further similarity. When, at 750 feet over the airfield, the instructor said, "I think it's time that you had a go now", took his hands of the controls and sat back, I experienced the same mixture of exhilaration and terror that I am currently experiencing in your Lordships' House. No maiden speaker could fail to experience exhilaration and terror. It is not just the splendour of the surroundings, although it is that; it is not just the ghosts of the past looking down on one, although it is that as well: it is the knowledge that one is speaking before a body of individuals of all political persuasions and of none, with the widest possible range of knowledge and skills who are all bound together by the single silken thread of a lifetime of commitment to the public life of this country. In those circumstances, I am sure that every maiden speaker should be properly humble.
I was, perhaps, ready for that in part, but what I was not ready for was the way that noble Lords--again, from all sides of the House--have been so kind and encouraging to a new boy on his arrival. That applies not only to noble Lords but also to the staff of the House, who have dealt with my no doubt repetitious and silly questions with extraordinary courtesy and grace.
Having thus wobbled my plane uncertainly off the runway, I turn now to the matter under discussion. I begin by saying that I quite understand and support the strategic objective of this piece of legislation. No one who watched the televised scenes of what happened in Charleroi and Brussels with our fellow countrymen half dressed, or worse, half drunk, or worse and hurling abuse, or worse, at innocent passers-by, can have failed to feel a sense of deep shame. But I hope that it will not be considered provocative for a maiden speaker to seek of the Minister enlightenment and clarification on just a few points.
Therefore, when the Minister responds, I should be grateful if he could give his view on that balance and on the point made by my noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley about the effectiveness of the powers contained in Clause 1(1)(d). Perhaps he could also say how the determined malefactor--and these malefactors are undoubtedly determined--will be prevented and how the Scottish, the Irish and the Spanish bolt-holes, to which reference has been made, can be properly closed. If they cannot be closed, it will mean that this provision falls only on the ordinary law-abiding citizen whose freedom is, in this small but significant way, greatly diminished.
My second point relates to relationships between the police and the public and this legislation's impact on them. Recent public opinion surveys have indicated that public trust and confidence in the police have declined. The reasons for this are many and various, but I regret the result. It seems to me that a close relationship between the police and the public is an essential part of an effective fight against crime. I am concerned that these powers will put further stress on that relationship. The identification and detention of individuals will inevitably be seen by those individuals as being capricious--rightly so, if the courts do not subsequently uphold the view of the police. Of course, by that time, the plane or ferry will have departed and the match may well have taken place.
It is not just the impact on the individual; the individual has friends, family and work mates. Therefore, there will be a rippling effect of these cases whereby increasingly large groups of individuals feel and take a more jaundiced view of the police and will, perhaps, be less inclined to afford their co-operation to them in other ways. I hope that the Minster will confirm--and will not mind my asking--whether he believes this price to be worth paying.
In conclusion, when I heard that I might be invited to join your Lordships' House, one of the reasons that I felt particularly honoured was that it seemed to me as an outsider--which I was until a few short weeks ago--that this House had sought always to take the long view. I emphasise the fact that I say this in no party-political sense: I say it in a constitutional sense. Your Lordships' House has stood out for essential principles, while governments of both colours in another place perforce, and probably rightly, have been blown very strongly by the ephemeral winds of political expediency. As a maiden speaker, I have to bow to your Lordships' judgment as to whether in all respects in this piece of legislation it is principle or political expediency that has triumphed.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, when I am likely to speak in a debate and, therefore, will be placed on the speakers' list, I usually look at the list initially without wearing my glasses because I can still find my own name. Having discovered where I am on the list, I then put on my glasses and view the team. On this occasion, I noticed that I was relatively high up the list and congratulated myself on having achieved that privileged position. However, when I studied the list with the aid of my glasses, I saw that my privilege had been greatly enhanced by the maiden speaker who was due to speak immediately in front of me. I knew that the noble Lord's past experience in business, in finance and in the Conservative Party, and even his pastimes as revealed in Who's Who--an interesting mixture of squash, fishing and theatre--would be productive of a very interesting maiden speech.
I congratulate him as an advocate. He first of all complimented his audience, so that they were relaxed and feeling genial towards him; and he then provided an amusing speech that captured everyone. It is an indication that we have many good times to look forward to--which is not always the case.
I do not think I shall take up much of your Lordships' time. I say that as probably my best point. The summary measures in the proposed new Section 21 involve a potentially serious interference with civil liberties. The Home Secretary clearly recognised that the powers could be abused, and he has provided in the Bill restraints on the exercise of those powers with a view to preventing those abuses.
The restraints come under two categories. First, there are the time restraints. Under proposed new Section 21A(3), the powers of detention are limited to four hours, increased to six hours if backed by an inspector or a more senior officer; and the application for the banning order must be made within 24 hours to the appropriate magistrates' court. These are important restraints and ones which, no doubt, will be generally viewed as most helpful.
The next category of restraint is the information that is to be given to the respondent to enable him to contest the allegations made against him. I am grateful to the Minister for having listened to my rather diffident comments with such sympathy at his meeting and for having reflected--or hoped to have reflected--what I was seeking to say in proposed new Sections 21A and 21B. I was anxious that he should achieve compliance with one of the first rules of natural justice--namely, that you must be given the complete information in regard to what you are charged with; what you have to meet; what you must be prepared to refute when you come to court.
What he should be obliged to give is quite simply what one frequently obliges a defendant in a civil case to give--and it has been stressed that this part of the proceedings is a civil procedure--and that is what is known as further and better particulars. What should be provided under proposed new Section 21A(2) is not the reasons but full particulars of the facts and matters relied upon in support of his suspicion as proposed in new Section 21A(1)(a) and in support of his belief as proposed in new Section 21A(1)(b). Then you have a clear statement of the case you have to meet. Without that obligation you have not obliged him so to provide.
But again we have the same rather strange proposition that he must state the grounds referred to in proposed new Section 21A(1). In proposed new Section 21A he has to state "the reasons"; we now change to "the grounds"--quite why I do not know. The obligation should be similar to the proposed new Section 21A. You should set out a full statement providing the facts and matters relied upon in support of the suspicion or the belief. Unless you set out a statement of those facts and matters you have not provided the respondent with the case he has to meet.
I am sure that the Minister will be prepared to make the alterations I have suggested. It may be said that I can raise this issue in Committee. Of course I can. But we are adopting not a fast-track but super fast-track
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, it is my privilege to be the first from these Benches to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, on his excellent maiden speech. I am sure that I speak for all my noble friends on this side when I say how much we enjoyed it and look forward to many more contributions from him. The noble Lord was, as I recall, a famous by-election victor in the 1970s when we had a Labour Government which was rather more unpopular than this one. I know that he had a distinguished career on the voluntary side of his party thereafter. We look forward to hearing from him many times in the future. Before I turn to the Bill, I should like also to respond to the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about myself.
All I would say about the Government's plans for football regulation is that the final whistle has not yet been blown, the game is still going on, and there may be some changes before the match ends. It seems a little odd for one of the regulated bodies to be seeking to exercise a veto over who the Government wish to have as their regulator. I say no more about that, at this stage anyway.
This is a rather depressing occasion. It is a necessary occasion. But I think that all of us would wish it was not necessary to have to bring forward a Bill of this type. Fresh in noble Lords' minds will be those terrible television scenes from Charleroi and Brussels just a few weeks ago. Had those scenes been an aberration, an isolated incident which was not going to reoccur, it might have been possible to say that the Bill was unnecessary or its provisions excessive. That is not the case. In preparing for the debate, I asked the Library to provide some information for me on incidents involving English fans abroad. When I read through the history of the past 25 years or so, I was struck by how frequently incidents have occurred, and how similar, predictable and how utterly ineffective have been the reactions of the football authorities and the government of the time to them.
There were appalling scenes of disorder in Luxembourg in 1977, in Turin in 1980, in Basle and in Oslo in 1981, in Paris in 1984, in West Germany in 1988, during the 1990 World Cup in Italy, in Sweden in 1992 and in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in 1993. In Dublin in 1995 there was crowd violence at a so-called friendly match and the match had to be abandoned after 27 minutes. There was trouble in 1997 in Rome, in Marseilles during the last World Cup and in Glasgow in November last year. Then we have
I was present on a number of those occasions. I understand--I hope your Lordships will understand--why, when one sees what is going on around one, that watching England abroad has ceased to be a pleasure. I am sick and tired of having to apologise to my hosts for the bizarre drunken behaviour of my fellow citizens; having to express regret for the damage done to cafes, bars and restaurants in normally peaceful and pleasant city centres; explaining that not everyone who follows football in England is a racist or a nationalist bigot; and reassuring them that no one really takes seriously the xenophobic rubbish which appears in our tabloid newspapers--I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, referred to that in his speech--regarding the way they describe foreign football teams. Indeed, only a month ago they were still managing to refer to Germans as "Huns".
In the face of all that, the attitude of our friends in European football bodies has been extraordinarily restrained and remarkably friendly. They have attempted to help us. I recall that during the time that English clubs were banned from European Cup matches in the late 1980s, after the disaster at the Heysel stadium in 1985, the then president of UEFA, offered some helpful, and in view of the proposals in the Bill, remarkably prescient advice to us. I read from a report of the Independent of 12th March 1987:
It is important to understand that there is now a great difference between crowd behaviour in our domestic game in Great Britain and what happens when England plays abroad. Crowd behaviour here is now dramatically better than it was in the 1970s or the 1980s and the early 1990s for a whole variety of reasons, which I shall not go into this afternoon. But while that improvement has taken place domestically, the hard core of trouble-makers who follow the England national team have continued on their merry way. Indeed, their behaviour has got worse. So the test that the Bill must pass is whether it will solve this problem. I do not believe that it will solve it in every circumstance. I think that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Cope, is being a little unfair when he talks about loopholes, because loopholes will inevitably let
I was worried when I read the first draft of the Bill and the early statements from the Home Office about the civil liberty aspects. I was much reassured by the changes which were made in another place, and particularly following the meeting which many noble Lords attended on 10th July when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, made important contributions which have had such a material effect.
However, I am concerned that representatives of football supporters--I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to them--feel that they have been inadequately consulted about this legislation. The two official groups have played positive and responsible roles in helping to tackle the game's social problems, particularly in the battle against racism. The contribution which the Football Supporters Association has made in organising and running unofficial "embassies" for fans in foreign cities where England has been playing has been outstanding. The help and comfort which these embassies have provided for decent fans, who through no fault of their own find themselves in trouble abroad, has been very important and helpful.
I also ask my noble friend to take a closer look at the England Members Club. It is run by the Football Association and provides the principal, and often the only, official route for fans to buy tickets for matches abroad. There is much anecdotal evidence that club members, despite being enjoined by the rules to,
Earlier this month the FA published some media briefing notes on football hooliganism. They contained a commitment on measures to be taken by the football authorities over the coming weeks. I regret, however, that there was no suggestion that the FA would review the membership of the club and include in the rules a description of the forms of behaviour which would give automatic grounds for expulsion. I see from press reports that the working group being established by my noble friend will take a close look at the England Members Club. I greatly welcome that.
We have put up with this deeply unpleasant and peculiarly English problem for far too long. It has damaged our national reputation and it has also had a debilitating effect on the performance of the England national team, although that is rather secondary to the other issues that we are considering today. So I wish my noble friend well. He is the latest Home Office Minister to try to tackle it. This is an initiative which deserves to succeed and I hope that your Lordships will support him.
Earl Russell: My Lords, it is a convention of the House that congratulations to maiden speakers should be confined to the two speakers immediately following them. I have rarely been more frustrated by the conventions of the House. But I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, will forgive me for abiding by them.
I should like also to offer my thanks to the Minister and to the Home Secretary for the meeting on 10th July and for the publication of the draft Bill. Those two measures were extremely helpful and they are a precedent which I hope may be followed.
I understand that something needs to be done about football crowds and football supporters. My home tube station is on the way to Wembley. In the days of the late and unlamented home internationals, going home was sometimes a rather worrying process. I shall never forget one occasion when I was cataloguing a collection of historical manuscripts whose value was well into six figures. I was taking them home to work on them while they were still the property of the noble Lord who was selling them. I had forgotten that England were playing The Netherlands at Wembley. In changing trains at Finchley Road, I needed all the half-remembered skills of the other form of football. So I know that something needs to be done.
Why is the Bill confined only to football? Disorder has a nasty habit of migrating from one place to another. I recall the days when I used to think that betting was about horse-racing. If we drive disorder out of football, it may well go somewhere else. I am tempted to put down an amendment in Committee to delete the word "association" from the Long Title. The Minister might save the time of the House later today if he were able to show me why that is, in his opinion, unnecessary. But I will say that single purpose, single issue legislation reminds me of the remark of a colleague, an 18th century parliamentary historian, who commented that 18th century MPs were always bringing in legislation about the thing which had just happened to them. The MP who had had his turnips stolen introduced a Bill to bring in the death penalty for stealing turnips, never thinking that the catastrophe which happened one year to his turnips might happen the following year to his potatoes. So we might think about whether we need a rather more general framework for dealing with disorder.
It also strikes me more and more, in what is still the short but no longer very short time I have been in the House, that one thing is even worse than rushed legislation; that is legislation addressed obsessively to a single purpose. When we legislate, we touch a cat's-cradle of interlocking rights, powers, duties and habits. If you pull one thread in a cat's-cradle, you can create great confusion. I think, for example, of the way it was not perceived that bringing in the poll tax would create what is now council tax benefit. I think of the CSA in all its various incarnations. When the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, referred to loopholes, he may have been a little optimistic. Loopholes have been found in legislation which have occasionally made some pieces of legislation totally ineffective. One of the effects of legislating only for a single purpose is that one does not spot the loopholes. There is some cause for concern in that respect.
I am also still concerned about Clause 3--the Henry VIII clause. I have read the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. I congratulate the committee on the speed with which it has reported. I notice that the committee's remarks are on the whole reassuring. I take the committee's point about it being bound by Clause 3(1). But I should like to ask--this is the question of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale--what is the difference between transitional and transitory powers? In the eyes of the theologian, anything on this earth is transitory. I wonder exactly what that means. I should be grateful if we could have a little more precise declaration about what actually could be done under these vires. The Bill says that the Home Secretary may
The power to confiscate a passport, which is the major part of the Bill, is a moderately serious matter. It is prohibited by Clause 41 of Magna Carta. Before anyone says that that is an entirely antiquarian matter, Magna Carta was last invoked in the United States Supreme Court as recently as 1955 in order to stop a McCarthyite denial of a passport to a nuclear scientist, which illustrates the point that powers of this kind may on occasion be used for political purposes.
I am not a fundamentalist. It is a well-established legal point that, as Parliament is sovereign, Parliament may amend Magna Carta. I am--with a little reluctance, I must confess--prepared on this occasion to agree that Parliament may amend Magna Carta. I am prepared to accept new Section 14A in Schedule 1 to the Bill which deals with people who have committed a known offence.
However, I am a little worried by the mandatory character of the legislation. I can recall an occasion on which, thankfully, I was not prosecuted. As an undergraduate I attended a party where, unbeknownst to any of us, the drinks had been heavily laced with vodka, which is of course tasteless. The only person to leave that party sober was Mr Brian Walden, who was so busy discussing the future of the Labour Party that he never had time to finish his first glass. I was carried out of hall on the shoulders of the head scout, who rejoiced in the name of Baskerville. In other circumstances I might have found myself in the court. To suffer a mandatory penalty for that incident would, I should like to think, have been unjust. I hope that the Minister might perhaps agree with that.
My major problem rests with cases of suspicion, covered by new Sections 14B and 14C. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, with all his allegedly failing legal powers--that was a wonderful piece of acting--laid his hand most gently on what I think is the central flaw in the Bill. He asked about the "further and better particulars". The central problem as regards these new sections on suspicion is that one wants to know what type of evidence would be material to put in such further and better particulars.
It would be no good to say, "They are wearing football colours". That proves only that people wanted to go to the match, which is a perfectly lawful activity. It would be no good to say, "They are associated with a lot of disorderly people".
I have thought of one or two possible parallels in English law: the old offence of loitering with intent to commit a felony. There we might find some cases. If someone was found to be lurking in a dark alley opposite a jeweller's shop, carry a jemmy, a mask, gloves and a dark lantern, one might have reasonable grounds for suspicion that that person was loitering with intent to break into the jeweller's opposite. Alternatively, my great grandfather once found one of his servants heating the poker until it was red hot. He asked him what he was going to do with it. The servant replied, "T'kill kitchen maid". There, too, I think one might reasonably have a warrantable suspicion.
However, what I cannot see is any equivalent warrantable suspicion to be introduced here. That is why I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, was absolutely right to say that the power will be seen to be capricious in its exercise and will therefore do grave harm to police public relations. That is something that I do not think we should do. Where there is no coherent ground of suspicion, inevitably we shall see stereotyping, on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, spoke so well when we debated the Lawrence report.
Precedents have been set for "suspicion". When Roman Catholics used to be arrested on suspicion of their intent to follow the example of Guy Fawkes, people did not think that it was proper to arrest them for being suspected of being Roman Catholics. However, it was acceptable to arrest them if they were suspected of being "vehemently" Roman Catholic. It has been said to me that "vehemently" is not a 20th century word, but I am sure that the Home Secretary could find an appropriate translation.
I fear that that is how this legislation is going to work. We should look at how it was used as regards 17th century Roman Catholics. If they were local gentlemen, they were almost never convicted. If they were the Duke of Norfolk, they were never convicted. If they were respectable neighbours, they were rarely convicted. If they were "furriners"; that is, people from the next parish, they might quite often be convicted. If they were Irish, they were almost always convicted. When one is focusing suspicion with little to go on, one tends to use stereotypes. That is one reason why I believe that it is dangerous to introduce it into English law.
I take the point made by the Minister and the Home Secretary that many of the people who were involved in the recent disorder had no previous criminal records. Under the existing provisions, it would not have been possible to stop them. However, I need to be satisfied that, if we introduce these powers, they will catch more guilty people than innocent ones. Until I can be satisfied of that, I do not see any good ground
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|