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Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, although it appears that the House will rise relatively early this evening as regards this Bill, those of us who were here later yesterday are fully seized of the enormous legal complexities of this Bill. We are also fully seized of the fact that it is highly likely that there will be some very important test cases arising from some of the matters which have been raised and not resolved in the course of our deliberations. In those circumstances legal aid is entirely correct. I am glad to welcome this amendment.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I make take this opportunity to hope that before we finish our proceedings this evening the Chief Whip will enlighten us as to when we three shall meet again for further proceedings on this Bill to which I look forward with enormous pleasure.
As the darkness deepens late on the second night of this Bill, I see that the Ministers on the Front Bench are looking tired. Therefore, I seek to soothe them into submission on these amendments. I do so in this way. I assure the Ministers that if they accept this amendment they will be able to dream in their beds tonight as they lay their pillows to rest, of the welcome which will await them in Wales, the land of heaven.
Because of the lateness of the hour I will not challenge either Minister by asking them who was the champion of the League of Wales in the 1999-2000 season although they are welcome to tell me, if they know.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: No, it was not Barry Town, but TNS Llansanffraid in the old county of Montgomeryshire where I live. It is a small and reasonably attractive village with a population of a few hundred. Its village football team, with the support of a computer company, has achieved great things. Indeed, TNS Llansanffraid has played in Europe this season and in the previous one. The danger caused by the fans of TNS Llansanffraid was probably half of that caused by the emissions of the coach which took them there. I take my little grandson aged seven, Jimi Cullen, to Latham Park sometimes, the home of Newtown Football Club. It is a fine team, but recently not as successful as little Jimi and I would have wished.
Newtown's football ground has good support. Many of us go there and enjoy the matches enthusiastically. It is beautifully situated. You can see many sheep on the hills around it; indeed, there are far more sheep than supporters and always the danger of the sheep making a little more noise. The Newtown supporters present no danger.
I used to be a season ticket holder at Wrexham Football Club on the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. In those days I practised at the Bar in that part of the world so when I went into the ground I would often be invited by police officers whom I knew to sit with them in the police area by the side of the pitch. It was a great pleasure to be with those fine officers not because of the protection from danger which was afforded but because one was able to put
There are bigger clubs in Wales. Unfortunately, Cardiff City has a long way to go before any hooligan from Cardiff will have the remotest chance of going to a club match in Europe. Swansea City, though it has done well, is unlikely to achieve that either. When its fans are tired and emotional they are more likely to raise the key of "Bread of Heaven" by a semitone than to act in a hooligan manner.
As for our national team, it would be much improved if Ryan Giggs was to play more often, but even the spark of Mark Hughes has yet to ignite it. Indeed, according to the evidence Welsh football fans present no danger to anyone.
Welsh football fans present not a scintilla of danger, and there is not a scintilla of evidence that they do. The Members of the National Assembly for Wales, an organisation for which, I must admit--I have said so in the House previously--I have less than total enthusiasm, at least have an intimate knowledge of what is going on in Wales. They know the communities and can judge far better than any other organisation whether it is necessary for the provisions of the Bill to apply to Wales.
I say to the Minister most seriously that it would be a mark of recognition for the meaning of devolution to Wales, and it would be a mark of respect for the people of Wales, if Amendment No. 49 were carried and the Government were prepared to recognise--it would do them no harm in Wales or anywhere else--that the consent of the National Assembly should be needed in the circumstances described in the amendment.
The Bill has a limited duration; less than the Government had wanted. It is inconceivable that any harm would come to pass if Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 were allowed to become part of the law. I invite Ministers to face the perils and dangers of this night by generously recognising that this is a meritorious amendment and one respectful to the people of Wales.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend with somewhat unbecoming levity and mindful as ever of his previous constituency interests. In my view, the Bill is an insult to the people of Wales. I warn Her Majesty's Government that if the amendment is not passed there will be a great sweeping out of Labour Members of Parliament in the next election. As my noble friend said, it is absolutely true that Welsh football fans present no problems whatever, wherever they go. They are more inclined to sing than to drink--
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. That may be true about teams which play in the Welsh league, but is he not aware that matches between Cardiff City and Swansea City have given rise to some of the worst scenes of violence that we have seen anywhere in the United Kingdom in the past 10 years?
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I concede that in the past there has been a certain amount of trouble between Cardiff and Swansea, but I am not responsible for what happens in that part of the world. However, my noble friend referred to Wrexham--my home town. As I recall, there has never been any trouble in Wrexham arising from visits from South Wales teams, probably because not enough spectators come up with them. Indeed, when Scotland played at Wrexham in an international against Wales, I remember that everything, even with regard to the Scottish spectators, was in extremely good humour and well received. I recall that after the match the duck pond in my home village of Gresford was full of Scotsmen in kilts availing themselves of a bath. They went from there to the local public houses and were warmly received.
There are no problems in Wales. At an earlier stage of the Bill, the Minister said that he envisaged that there would be approximately 20 prescribed matches in the year, with a period of five days for each match. By Dan Quayle mathematics, I believe that he said that that would amount to 50 days in the year. When he estimated that there would be 20 matches, I wonder whether he included the Welsh international fixtures and matches that would take place, for example, between Cardiff and Swansea. Are they part of the prescribed matches envisaged in the Minister's plans? If they are not within those 20 matches, why does he not accept this amendment? I support my noble friend.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister heard the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, point out that in Scotland the problem of football violence has been solved without the use of legislation such as we are now considering. I understand that he argues that that is the result of leaving the problem to the Scottish football authorities--in fact, an effective devolution of power.
One might use that and what my noble friends have just said, together with a good deal said by the Minister, to argue that we are dealing with a specifically English problem--what the Scots call the problem of the "awkward neighbour". Therefore, if we are dealing with a specifically English problem, it might be appropriate to consider a specifically English solution so that the Minister can accept the amendment without detriment to his objectives, both those that we accept and those that we do not.
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