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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, this is undoubtedly the worst example of tabloid legislation that I can remember in all the years I have been following parliamentary affairs. It panders to the headlines of the last couple of years. It was bad when it started because it had not been adequately thought through; it remains bad because there is not sufficient time to consider it.
That is a serious accusation. I hope that if one lesson has been learnt it is that the Government will never again introduce in such a rush legislation which has such serious implications. This legislation tramples on liberty, which should be one of the highest priorities in our consideration of any legislation. Above all, I hope that this House will never again acquiesce in curtailing the proper discussion of such legislation.
I hope that when we come to evaluate the effects of this Bill before the sunset clause kicks in we take proper care to conduct a good, objective, academic study--perhaps a combination of British and foreign academics--starting now. Then, when we come to review this legislation, we shall have a proper evaluation of it. The success of these provisions should not be that the tabloid headlines go away--tabloids have other things to think about--but that we have not violated the liberty of too many citizens.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Desai. I hope that the Government will prove more co-operative than departments sometimes are in letting us know what is happening with the enforcement of this Bill as time goes on. I hope that we will be able to table questions asking, "In relation to such-and-such a foreign football match, how many people were detained under Sections 14A, 14B and 21A? And if under 21A, what was their treatment and what were the grounds?". I hope we do not receive the answer that those statistics are not held centrally. It is the usual answer to questions about what is happening in magistrates' courts. Proper answers are crucial. I hope the Minister will confirm that statistics will be collected centrally and will be made available promptly to Parliament either in an organised way or on request when noble Lords table questions.
With his colleagues through the usual channels, I hope also that the Chief Whip will consider the desirability of setting up a committee of this House or perhaps of both Houses to watch over this Bill. With a two-year sunset period, the process of the next Bill through both Houses of Parliament will start in about 15 months. Before then we need to have looked carefully at the way this Bill is being put into effect; to have consulted widely; to have a clear idea of where it falls in relation to the Human Rights Act and European law. There is much we can do by discussion
We are looking at a Bill which trespasses on human rights in a way which we should be extremely careful of doing. First, it is arbitrary. The tests in new Sections 14A and 14B will be met by over half the young white males who attend foreign football matches, though not nearly that number will be picked up. The people who are arraigned under this Bill will be chosen arbitrarily by the police on the basis of what they wish to do. That application of the law is extremely undesirable. It will impose on people who have not committed a crime--they may never have committed a crime--the stigma and inconvenience of a criminal conviction from the restrictions under which they are placed. It may even result in their serving a term of imprisonment under new Section 21, and that term of imprisonment may be quite extended.
This Bill trespasses on civil liberties in a way which we should be extremely careful about doing. We know that the Government have a penchant towards this kind of trespass. We know that there is a proposal in the wings which might unkindly be called, "Lock up the loonies", whereby people can be subjected to eternal imprisonment on the basis that it is thought they might commit a crime.
We can see the result of going down that road. We know that it will lead to a relative absence of crime. We can look at the history of Soviet Russia and see that crime, at least among the governed rather than the governing classes, was pretty low under that system. We can eliminate crime if we go down the route of eliminating civil liberties. When we look at Northern Ireland today we can see that the arbitrary enforcement of anti-drug measures by the IRA and others perhaps resulted in a reduction of drugs crime. But that is not the route down which we wish to go.
Liberty involves inconvenience; it costs us something. But it is a prize for which we have fought in the past and for which we should struggle ever to retain. We should not go back on the Petition of Right 1628. We gained that privilege after a long struggle and at the end of it suffered a civil war. We should not lightly allow the Government to trespass on that territory and allow arbitrary imprisonment as part of our civil law.
The amendment we won to restrict this Bill for two years is a ray of light. It gives me some comfort that we shall be able to consign it to the grave relatively soon, though I suspect it will have been badly mauled by the lawyers before then. I wish the Bill no good at all. But I am afraid we have to let it pass.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we have had a long Second Reading debate at the end of this Third Reading tonight. I listened carefully to all the contributions. I was merely going to rise and thank
I particularly want to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for his constructive approach. I pay tribute also to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, whose views on football I share in almost every respect. We may have disagreed once or twice in relation to this legislation, but we are close in our analysis and understanding of what we need to do to change the nature and face of some of the support for part of our game.
I also want to pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Woolmer for his constructive and thoughtful observations based on his practical experience as a director and also to my noble friend Lord Faulkner. His was one of the best contributions in our Second Reading debate.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for being the good civil libertarian that he undoubtedly is. I do not know whether he is a supporter of Sudbury Town or Sudbury Wanderers. They used to take part in a fiercesome local derby, though I doubt it ever led to hooliganism. However, it may have informed his opinions in your Lordships' House. He also contributed greatly by raising the issue of extra-territoriality. I gave an undertaking to the House that we would look at that issue seriously. It certainly receives a measure of support. I said it was not a strategy; I do not believe it is. But it may be part of one.
I suppose I should thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for his occasional contributions to this debate. I learnt, as did many Members of your Lordships House, that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has become a latter-day civil libertarian. I do not know whether or not that has anything to do with the fact that he once watched a football match in Scotland, about which he told us. I am amused by the notion of his being a civil libertarian; but better late than never!
We have had a most constructive debate. I know that there is unease in your Lordships' House about some of the measures. However, I happen to believe that our primary purpose here is being well served; namely, to protect the civil rights and liberties of the honest, decent and law-abiding majority of people who wish to attend football matches in peace and enjoy such games as they should best be enjoyed. That is what motivated me in bringing forward this legislation and I know that it is the primary purpose that informs the way in which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary considers such matters.
It is not about eye-catching headlines in newspapers; it is about trying to deal with long-term problems. This is part of that strategy; indeed, it has been part of the strategy of not just this Government but also the previous government. I pay tribute to them in their endeavours and efforts to try to tackle such problems. We all owe it to the country to play a part in that
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked me whether I could say something about the sunset clause. I regret to say that I am not in a position to advise the House on whether we shall look again at that particular amendment. However, I have certainly taken on board the comments made from all parts of the House during the debate. As I made plain at the time when moving a government amendment, we were sympathetic to a shorter rather than a longer period. But the House has spoken on that issue; it is for others to reflect upon it.
This is a good Bill. I am sure that it will be helpful. I have no doubt that it will be effective. This debate will doubtless continue over the next few years as we approach the point when we need to look again at the legislation.