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Lord Mayhew of Twysden: I have considerable sympathy for the Minister because, as I said I recognised at Second Reading, there has been a political imperative on the Government to come forward with some kind of legislation proposing a measure which meets the proper balance that has to be applied between liberty and providing for order and which, at the same time, has not yet been tried. If I may, I have a suggestion to which I will come in about one minute.
Perhaps I may first draw the attention of the House to the fact that my noble friend Lord Alexander has just spoken of a widely based right of arrest. I am not in the slightest degree surprised that he used the word arrest, because that is effectively what the Bill gives a police officer. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, pointed out, that is actually a criminal measure and it gives a power to arrest. Successive governments have tended to refer to detention because it is less disagreeable than, for instance, internment, which is what it was called in the early stages in Northern Ireland. But the power to detain here is effectively the power to arrest.
I am certain that in ministerial circles there is a feeling of mounting irritation that these points are being taken when there is an urgent issue to be addressed. That is often the case when civil liberties are infringed purportedly in a good cause. Our constitutional history is--I was going to say littered--bejewelled with instances where that temptation has been resisted. I am not madly impressed by what may
One of the points that has to be recognised is that if people are affronted, and are reasonably affronted by the way in which the law allows them to be treated, their support for the agencies of the law--the police and the magistrates--is liable to be lost. It is crucial not to lose that respect for the law if we are to maintain the rule of law in our country.
The final point I wish to make is that the Minister has a way out here. There is plainly a worrying degree--I leave myself out of this of course--of opposition to the Bill in that regard. Would it not be sensible for the Government to say that they need to pass the Bill in a hurry--that is recognised on all sides--but within the provisions of the Bill at the moment there are the means to return to the Bill and add or subtract from it within one year. That provision will remain in the Bill I do not doubt. Would it not be a way out, and a sensible one, without any loss of face at all, for the Government to accept the amendment that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. But, without prejudice to their rights, after further experience as well as thought they could return to it in one year's time by asking Parliament to do so by the measures provided?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Perhaps I may take the Committee back to the Second Reading debate and what the Home Secretary said in the other place. The NCIS, the body charged with trying to get to grips with the problem of football hooliganism, has roughly 1,000 thugs on its list. Of the 965 people arrested and deported from Holland and Brussels during Euro 2000, only 30 were from that list of roughly 1,000. Of the 965 deportees only four were prosecuted and only two of them for violence. In addition, Jack Straw himself made the point when he kindly came to meet us that the figure for convictions of British adult males aged 30 and under for offences of violence and dishonesty is 30 per cent of the age group.
What mystifies me is just how this new "sus" power could and will be implemented. Will the Government automatically use the new powers of new Section 14B or the new powers of Section 21 to target the 1,000 people on the NCIS list; or will they target the 965 recently deported Britons? No, we know that they will not do that because, as Jack Straw said, that was a totally unreliable trawl and many of the people involved were guiltless of anything. The good Jack Straw said, "We will not even consider those people for banning orders". Will they go further and look at all the people with convictions for violence in the 30 and under age group? If that is the case, we will be dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. How on earth will these preventive powers be used? Do the Government have a plan to round up thousands of
Frankly, we are in danger of having the legal equivalent of "Fantasy Football". The trouble is that the issue is a good deal more serious than that. We are dealing with basic and fundamental civil liberties. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, so clinically exposed, what the Government are proposing in new Sections 21A to 21C is a novelty, and a dangerous novelty. While we sympathise, as we have said ad nauseam, with what the Government are doing, we do not understand how the measure will work. If it comes, as it is bound to do, to almost total arbitrariness, the concern is that the arbitrary nature of the decisions taken as to who should be arrested on suspicion will fall disproportionately on that group to whom we in this Chamber constantly have regard and whom we know are already in the most disadvantageous position in our society.
Perhaps I may refer back to our debates on the proposed reduction in the right of jury trial and to the fact that after debate the Government very properly decided to withdraw that part of the Bill which required magistrates to review the issue of right to trial by jury according to the reputation of the person before them. We are reintroducing into this clause that same dangerous and potentially unfair element. It is reputation quite apart from past conduct that will be at the heart of the arbitrary exercise of the impossible task with which the police, let alone the magistrates, will be lumbered by the new sections.
Lord Desai: I did not speak during the Second Reading debate and so I apologise for intervening at the Committee stage. However, I believe that what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said towards the end of his remarks was very appealing and contained a good deal of common sense. It is necessary to do something about football violence before the match in September. Let us take that for granted. It is also a fact that two or three of the four propositions in the Bill command a great deal of support. It is with regard to the fourth one that there are grave objections.
I am persuaded by the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, because I recall that when Parliament was recalled after the Omagh bombing--a very tragic incident--we passed a piece of legislation. At that time the noble and learned Lord said clearly and clinically that the legislation would not work. I remember it well. Not a single person has been convicted under that Act. It is a farce. There is a problem with passing legislation in great haste in the belief that it is effective, when technically skilled people tell us beforehand that it will not work.
My appeal is that we should follow the broad outlines of the solution proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew. We should take the bulk of the Bill through, and remove proposed new Sections 21A to 21C about which we are all unhappy. If in a year's time we find that the legislation has not worked,
The Earl of Onslow: If there is one thing that worries and puzzles me, it is this: I am afraid to say that I would rather see a lot of yobs in the Champs Elysees misbehaving and drunk and having their heads bashed in by the CRS, and bringing English football into disrepute, than a serious attack on the liberties of the subject. I say that after very considerable thought. Those liberties of the subject--Englishmen's liberties, human rights, call them what you will--are so dear to the core of what all in this House believe. After all, courts abroad are quite capable of sending those responsible for really nasty yob behaviour to Devil's Island or God knows where if they wish to. Under those circumstances it is up to them to produce their own peace; it is not up to us to offend our immensely noble tradition of civil liberties which we invented for the world and for which many Englishmen have died over the past 300 or 400 years. We must be very, very careful. I really do not think it is worth doing just because of the French, the Belgians, the Congolese or the Japanese, or wherever people play football. It seems to me unnecessary that we should abuse our own liberties.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: At Second Reading, I expressed a great deal of sympathy for much in the Bill but said that I had considerable concerns about this particular area. I should like to examine it in a little more detail.
First, I accept that there can readily be circumstances in which the authorities would need an exceptional provision at the point of exit from the country. If the world were fair, that would be a calm, orderly event known well in advance so that many of the problems that we have in mind could reasonably be tackled. However, I suggest that there are circumstances in which that may not be the case. Perhaps I may expand on the point.
The nub of the matter is the test applied in proposed new Section 14B(4)(b); namely, whether or not it is likely that there will be certain outcomes as a result of a person going abroad. The person may not actually be violent or cause violence, but could merely be associated with violence. So, are we dealing with a small number people? There is a tendency to believe that one is talking of only a small number of people.
I should like to quote a short passage from the August edition of the magazine When Saturday Comes. That publication, which is aimed at football fans, will not be found on the bookshelves or reading lists of many noble Lords, but I commend it to the
The two lessons that I draw from that passage are: first, that the kind of behaviour that would not in certain circumstances be expected to lead to violence may do so, and certainly potentially many thousands of young males, not a few hundred, engage in such activity; secondly, the fans themselves recognise that these people represent a large minority.
I suggest one or two circumstances in which the situation at the ports may be difficult. During Euro 2000 England played one game and no trouble followed it. At a subsequent game there was trouble. A few days later at the time of yet another game there was heightened concern about what to do about the situation. If these powers had been in existence the police at the ports would have been less than human had they not been exceptionally cautious about whom to allow to go abroad. Whom should they stop--people who may sing abusive songs or, regrettably, drop their trousers and expose their buttocks, as some lads do, or burn the flag of another country? Such abhorrent behaviour may be engaged in, not by the 100 or 200 hardcore ringleaders, but a great many young men.
In many European club competitions, in addition to international competitions, typically there are home and away games only two weeks apart. A home game takes place in this country and there is trouble between the rival clubs. Everyone expects trouble a few days later at the return game. No opportunity is provided for the considered, careful process, if possible, that we all support. In other words, the circumstances in which the proposed legislation may be implemented will not be logical, calm and well considered. It will face its great test when the media, including the press, talk about trouble that is to come and the Government of the day are concerned to ensure that it does not happen. It will become known to the police at the ports that they must ensure that they do not let through anyone who may cause trouble. The terms that may be applied are so wide-ranging that it will not be possible to take a careful look at the intelligence to spot the real hard core, because the police at the ports and the Government will look extremely foolish if masses of people go abroad and trouble erupts.
There is great danger that inequities may occur. I have described the circumstances of a European club match where, there having been trouble in this country, the authorities want to ensure that no troublemakers go abroad for the return game. I have described the international tournament at which three or four days earlier there was trouble and the authorities want to ensure that it does not happen
The legislation is drawn up in such a way that the magistrates and the police who decide to take individuals before a court will be influenced by the atmosphere faced. Once one goes from the hard core, easily identifiable, group of people to an amorphous group who may have caused trouble, may have been associated with trouble, or may cause trouble in a few days' time the situation will be very difficult indeed.
I anticipate that many people could be involved. Therefore I shall be grateful if the Minister will address this concern. Under these provisions--they are drawn up generously for authorities which want to stop almost anyone from going abroad--how can we prevent the attitude that "we must make sure that trouble does not happen"? How do we ensure that hundreds, if not thousands of people, will not be stopped with the consequent sense of injustice and inequity? In some circumstances, people will walk through the ports; in other circumstances--it is nothing to do with the people--the rules may be applied differently.
Can the Minister indicate the tone of his response to later amendments relating to the setting out of clear evidence which individuals will have the opportunity to rebut, with proper representation? In the circumstances I have outlined, it is unlikely that those requirements will be met in the tests at present to be applied.
I understand the considerable pressure on the Government to bring forward this legislation. When trouble is expected at ports or airports, there will be great pressure to do something. We would all want something to be done but in an equitable way so that individuals can judge whether or not they may face such a charge. If they are faced with such a charge they should have a reasonable prospect of being able to defend themselves. It would seem almost impossible to defend oneself against such an allegation if one has been involved before in disruptive or violent behaviour.
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