HC Deb 04 July 2000 vol 353 cc170-83

4.1 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)

With permission Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about football hooliganism.

In my statement to the House on 19 June about the disorder perpetrated by England supporters in Charleroi and Brussels, I said that we would urgently consider whether further measures should be introduced so as to improve the effectiveness of court orders against those convicted of football-related offences, and whether to introduce powers in respect of unconvicted football hooligans against whom there was other good evidence. I should now like to tell the House about the conclusions of the review that we undertook following events in Belgium and about the legislative and other proposals that I will be commending to the House.

The House and the country know all too well of the events in Charleroi and Brussels that shamed England's national game and national reputation, and resulted in the arrest of 965 British nationals and the deportation of 464 of them. A very small number of those originally arrested now face trial.

For some years, the widely accepted view has been that football hooliganism abroad is perpetrated by a relatively small minority of known football troublemakers. Measures discussed and approved by the House over a 15-year period have largely been predicated on that assumption. The blunt truth, however, which has become very clear from events last month, is this: football hooliganism abroad is no longer confined to a small minority of known troublemakers. There is now strong evidence of a larger number of England supporters getting involved in violence, drunkenness and disorder; few of them are known in advance to the police nationally as football-related offenders.

As I told the House on 19 June, the policing operation for Euro 2000, against known football hooligans, was largely successful. Of the 1,000 such known offenders on the lists provided by the National Criminal Intelligence Service to both the Belgian and the Dutch authorities, our information is that most either did not travel or were denied entry to the host countries. Thirty were arrested, detained in or deported from either country. However, of the 965 who were arrested in Belgium and Holland, we know that 409 had previous convictions, including convictions for violence.

Against that background, the House will, I believe, appreciate the need for measures to be drawn more widely than has been proposed even in the recent past. I have specific legislative proposals, but the issue runs wider than legislation alone and requires the active co-operation of all involved in football at every level in England.

The legislation that I propose to the House has four key elements. First, we propose to combine the domestic and international football banning orders that are made by a court following a conviction for a football-related offence. We currently have about 400 domestic bans of both kinds in force, but only 106 international bans; only 106 individuals can currently be prevented from leaving the country to attend matches abroad. In future, everyone who receives a banning order will be subject to both domestic and international bans.

Secondly, we propose that, save in exceptional circumstances, everyone who receives such a ban will have to surrender their passport while major overseas games are on. Courts currently have a discretion to impose such a condition when they impose an international football banning order. In future, that will be the norm for the new combined orders.

Thirdly, there is the proposal for civil process, similar to that for the anti-social behaviour order, for a football banning order. This was included in our consultation paper published in the autumn of 1998, and has been actively supported by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. Under this, the police could propose a football banning order to the courts where they believed that it would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with football matches. However, I now believe that this order should be more widely available than hitherto proposed. Under the new scheme, therefore, it will not be necessary that the person in question should have been convicted of a football-related offence, or indeed of any offence, though plainly any convictions for violence of whatever kind would be very relevant evidence. The police would of course have to have sufficient evidence in every case on the balance of probabilities that the test set in the legislation was met. That evidence could come from abroad, and it might date from before the proposed new law comes into force.

Fourthly, I propose that the police should have a new power effectively to prevent a person from leaving the country where they believe there may be grounds for making a banning order. There would be a power of arrest in that respect, and a breach of the direction would be a criminal offence. When the police made such a direction, the person concerned would be summonsed to a magistrates court to decide whether a banning order should be made. The value of this power will be that when people arrive at a port or airport and they give grounds for suspicion that they are out to cause trouble or are likely to do so, the police will be able to make quick inquiries. They will then, in appropriate circumstances, be able to prevent embarkation at short notice, where it would not be possible to go through the procedure of applying to a court for a banning order before the person left the country.

Those, then, are the main legislative measures that we are seeking, although the legislation will include other minor measures. I am satisfied that they are compliant with the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Let me now deal with the time scale for this legislation. I have already had constructive discussions with the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats, and I am grateful to both for their co-operation. The official Opposition are already on record as saying that they will support any moves in Parliament to restrict English football hooliganism. The next international game for England will be the one against France in Paris on 2 September. It would plainly be preferable if the legislation could be put in good order for it to be on the statute book by the time the House rises at the end of this month.

However, I well recognise that all Members of this House and of the other place, quite rightly, take their responsibilities for scrutinising legislation very seriously. Three of the key measures proposed have been well aired in principle in the past. The fourth has not. In any event, the effectiveness of any legislation comes down to its detail. To combine speed with careful scrutiny, I therefore propose to proceed as follows.

A draft Bill will be made available in the Vote Office for all hon. Members and Members of the other place by the end of this week. I shall discuss its detail with the Opposition parties and hold an all-party meeting early next week for any right hon. and hon. Members of this House and of the other place who have a view on the Bill. We shall also consult outside interests and take account of the conclusions of that process in the version of the Bill that is presented to the House. All the process will be subject to discussion through the usual channels as soon as possible to see whether there is scope for the Bill to have a very speedy passage through both Houses, even possibly before the recess.

Legislation is only part of the answer to the wider problem. I strongly welcome the Football Association's commitment to seek life bans from the home grounds for any England fan convicted of hooligan behaviour, or against whom there is hard evidence of such behaviour, at Euro 2000 or in future. I hope very much that all clubs affiliated to the FA will support their national association in its initiative.

There is however much more that can and must be done to confront the culture from which hooliganism grows. Last week, I met representatives of the Football Association. They themselves recognise the need to take a hard look at ticketing, at travel, at stewarding arrangements, at more effective action against displays of racism and xenophobia at matches and outside, and at closer co-operation with supporters' groups—all with the aim of making support for the England team abroad more attractive to families and to decent supporters, who are currently kept away by the threat of hooliganism. I have asked Lord Bassam to chair a working group, which will involve a wide range of partners from the football world who are committed to make changes for the better in these important areas.

I hope that what I have said will demonstrate to the House our determination to use all the means at our disposal to get rid once and for all of all the dreadful consequences and the obnoxious taint of football hooliganism. The Government have given and will give a lead, but we can succeed as a nation in changing the culture that gives rise to football violence only if we in England are able to claim that the problem has truly been solved. I commend these proposals to the House.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald)

Will the Home Secretary acknowledge that the necessity to rush through this legislation in such haste is entirely the result of his own and Lord Bassam's vacillation and delay? Will he please tell us why, when we invited the Home Secretary, before Euro 2000 even took place, to consider legislation, and said that we would support emergency legislation, he did not then take up our offer, and has indeed spent the last few weeks not taking up that offer? Why did he not adopt the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), made as long ago as 1998? Why did he—or, for that matter, Lord Bassam—not follow through the very clear statement of the Member for Sport, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), when she said that, although she could not adopt measures in the private Member's Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), she would nevertheless consider introducing a Government measure? That was in May 1999.

Why does not the Home Secretary admit that the only reason why we now have to hurry this legislation through Parliament is that he did not take action in due time? Is he aware that the England 2006 campaign director has said that the events in Belgium—which might perhaps have been prevented, at least in some measure, had our suggestions been adopted originally—have damaged our chance to secure the world cup? And will the right hon. Gentleman admit that his own dilatoriness has contributed to that?

Rushed legislation can be very bad legislation, and the Bill contains some very sensitive and very significant proposed measures that will indeed need thorough scrutiny—not least the new police power to prevent people leaving the country. We cannot pass such a measure in one day. If the Government wish to give this measure a high priority, the Opposition will support giving it a high priority, but it will mean that the Government will have to reorder their overloaded programme to ensure that this high-priority Bill gets the scrutiny that it deserves, so that it may proceed. After all, the Home Secretary has neglected this issue and the Government have overloaded their legislative timetable. If they now wish us to give priority to this Bill, they must find a way to do so that guarantees proper scrutiny. That means due time to examine the Bill and to make amendments.

The House is well familiar with Government Bills arriving with 500 Government amendments added at a late stage because they have not been drafted properly. We cannot proceed on a rushed basis with a Bill that has serious implications for civil liberties in this country. We will support the right hon. Gentleman in getting the Bill through and we will support speeding up the timetable, but we will not—[Interruption.] The attitude of Labour Members is a disgrace to the duties of the House. We will not let the Bill go through without due scrutiny both in this House and in the other place.

Mr. Straw

As I told the House a moment ago, I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for the co-operation that I have received. However, she always adopts a rather different tone in the House.

Miss Widdecombe


Mr. Straw

The right hon. Lady agrees. She asked me why we did not pick up her suggestion of co-operation on emergency legislation, which she made at the beginning of the second week of June, just before the Euro 2000 competition began. First, I remind the House that, a week before that, the official position of the Conservative party was that no change in legislation was necessary. On 30 May, a spokesman for the Conservative party said: What the Government must now do is to show that they are prepared to invest the necessary resources…to track down and convict those who commit football violence. Only once these measures are fully used— that is, the existing measures— can we start to assess whether there is a need for further legislation. It was only a week later and a few days before the competition began that there was any promise, even on paper, from the Conservative party to support us in taking legislation through. [Interruption.] The right hon. Lady did not ask for it two years ago; we are talking about the pledge that she made two days before the competition began.

The right hon. Lady has said that we should be very careful about rushing through legislation. I agree with that. The simple fact of the matter was that, when she made the offer, it would have been impossible to get any decent legislation on the statute book in time for it to have any effect on whether people who were intent on violence and disruption could travel to Euro 2000. The truth is that if she is not now prepared to deliver in a four or five-week time scale, she certainly would never have delivered in the time scale that she had in mind then.

The second point I make to the right hon. Lady is that the main reason for introducing these measures—including the fourth measure, which has never been before the House, and a considerable strengthening of the third measure—is directly to do with the nature of the football hooliganism that we all saw in Brussels and, in particular, in Charleroi. As I told the House and as the whole House understands, in the past the basic assumption behind all football-related legislation was that there was a hard core of football hooligans who were known in advance to NCIS. They could be identified in advance and, by a variety of direct and indirect legal means, they could be kept away from international games. That was true.

However, we face a new problem. As I told the House in the statement on 19 June and in the debate on 20 June, we of course review things in the light of changing circumstances, and that is exactly what we have done. The reason for introducing the legislation now is that we face a new and more serious problem, which became perfectly apparent in Charleroi and Brussels. We intend to deal with it, while the Opposition, as far as I can judge from the right hon. Lady's confused statements, are simply trying to make mischief out of it.

Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that responsible Members of the House will congratulate him immensely on the legislation that he has announced, and which is long overdue? Is he aware that England have to play Germany this winter which, without that legislation, was going to be a recipe for another combat zone?

Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to go further, as these incidents happen abroad, not at home, and a lot of them involve the unlimited alcohol and duty-free that people drink while travelling to the games? Will he consult the European Community countries on their different methods of policing—from the hard-line water cannons in Belgium, to the laid-back people in Copenhagen and to the police in Marseille who put video screens on the beach—to arrive at an attitude common to all countries on the banning of alcohol and the regulation of travel?

Mr. Straw

I entirely accept what my hon. Friend says and am grateful for his support for these measures.

We do our best to share experience. At the beginning of 1998, during the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union, I hosted a major conference of all European Union Interior Ministries and football associations on how better to control football hooliganism. That is a big problem for England, but it is also an international problem. It must be pointed out that, although 250 people of English origin were arrested in Charleroi, about 130 of German origin on whom the German passport bans plainly did not operate were also arrested.

There is a strong relationship between this violence and people who get drunk. In particular, we must learn lessons from the way in which the authorities in the Netherlands sought to contain those who wished to drink too much by the provision of low-strength alcohol in very small glasses. Although that caused laughter beforehand, all the reports suggest that it turned out to be an effective way of reducing alcohol consumption.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his early warning of the statement. 1 agree that one clearly cannot legislate away football hooliganism or hooliganism related to football. Given that the Home Secretary told us last week that 30 per cent. of young people between 18 and 39 now have convictions against them, does he accept that proposing sweeping measures to prevent people travelling to football matches is not easily justified, as so many of them already have a previous conviction?

The Home Secretary's first two proposals, as I understand them, would have the support of my colleagues in both Houses, subject to the possibility of regaining one's passport if one needs it for urgent family or business reasons. The remaining two proposals go far beyond conventional impositions on the rights of the citizen, so we cannot offer support for them at the moment, either in this House or the other place, and will seek to persuade the Home Secretary that there is a better way of proceeding.

Has the Home Secretary considered that, instead of those two proposals, the proper way to proceed is a proposal that would prevent people from travelling if they had convictions for violence and, if necessary, if there was reasonable cause to believe that they might commit violent offences? Exceptionally, will he place in the Libraries of both Houses advice to Ministers from Law Officers suggesting that that proposal is compliant with the European convention on human rights?

Big issues are raised which suggest that restricting freedom to travel may not be ECHR-compliant. What opportunity does somebody who, under the Home Secretary's proposals, could be stopped by a police officer, have to test their case in the courts in time for such a challenge to be relevant? Why would somebody not be entitled to have a warrant issued before they were stopped, as the Home Secretary or I would have if someone were searching our houses? Before going into property, police normally go to a magistrates court to seek a warrant for such action.

The record of hasty legislation in this place over the past 20 years shows that it normally ends up as bad' legislation. Unless both Houses can have the necessary time to scrutinise the proposals and to secure the rights of the many, as well as the few, it is possible that not all the Home Secretary's proposals will get through the House this side of the summer, even if they get through later.

Mr. Straw

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his co-operation. It is true that about 30 per cent. of people under 30 have convictions. In the debate on 20 June, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) asked for an analysis of the nature of the convictions of the 464 people out of the 965 who were arrested, and who had previous convictions. We are still doing that analysis, but it looks as though there is a greater preponderance of people with convictions for violence in that group than there is in a similar cohort of the general population.

I entirely accept that the House has to act proportionately in legislating. Not only are we required to do so by the Human Rights Act and our obligations under the European convention on human rights, which we have had for 50 years, but it is right and proper that we should do so. In the past, it has not been judged proportionate to take action, or to give the police powers in any circumstances, to turn people away at ports, because the mischief identified has not been sufficient to justify the action. In the light of what happened in Belgium, I now believe that the mischief is great enough to justify that action. However, the hon. Gentleman, like any other Member of the House, is entirely correct to say that he wants to read the Bill's small print before he makes a judgment. I, too, have been in that position. It would be wrong for the House to buy a pig in a poke, and I am not suggesting that it should do so.

The football banning order will be similar to the anti-social behaviour order. Whether or not people like such orders, they are consistent with this country's traditions. We are working carefully to ensure that there is proper, traditional oversight of banning orders and the operation of the fourth proposal, which is new. It is not a peremptory power, of the kind that I believe was operated in Germany, for the police simply to turn people back on an officer's say-so. A police officer will need to have reasonable and sufficient grounds for believing that a person should be subject to a banning order, first to stop him, and then to seek a banning order, for which there will be a reasonably quick court process.

The hon. Gentleman asked why a warrant could not be issued in advance. The police will not be able finally to identify the person concerned until they have stopped him. We are introducing the equivalent of a warrant by ensuring that there is supervision by a judicial bench as quickly as possible.

The hon. Gentleman made a point about hasty legislation. All Members who have been in the House for any length of time know that legislation can be introduced sensibly and speedily, but if speed turns into haste, a Bill may not be properly or adequately worded. I hope, and it is only a hope, that our discussions and the drafting of the measure will ensure that the proposal becomes law before the end of July, but I recognise that Members on both sides of the House want to examine it carefully. If there is a choice to be made between content and haste, the content must take priority, even if we face delay in getting the legislation through. I am sure that the whole House will agree that it must be passed by the end of this Session and, if possible, by the end of July. I will make myself available at all times.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would my right hon. Friend like to comment on reports that extreme right-wing organisations have been involved in organising some of the trouble abroad? Does he accept that there are serious implications for civil liberties which it would be foolish to deny? Bearing in mind the scenes that we have seen on television and that he has mentioned today, it is difficult to see what alternatives there are to the proposals that he has outlined. Those scenes have undoubtedly disgraced our country, and people abroad understandably ask why we cannot keep our thugs in order.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. I am afraid that, in my judgment, there is now a yawning chasm between the average football fan who attends club games and England games at Wembley, and the so-called fan who goes abroad in alleged support of this nation. As someone who has been a long-term football supporter with his family, I have seen a change very much for the better over the past 15 years. Clubs now cater for families, many more women attend club games and there is a great effort—not entirely successful, but considerable—to stamp out racism and xenophobia in grounds and away from them. However, I am afraid that a big proportion of so-called England supporters abroad express strongly racist and xenophobic views. They are not remotely representative of the majority of England fans at home. We have a big problem tackling them, and I believe that a Bill may help.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)

Better late than never. I warmly welcome the four legislative proposals that the Home Secretary has announced today, especially as one of them is along the lines that I have long advocated. On the point that he was making to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I urge him to consider that it is crucial to overcome and minimise the culture of violence and obscenity by enforcing the existing legislation, such as the public order measures and the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999, to crack down on those mindless morons and the extreme right who use racist chanting and other obscenities at football matches to inflame people, thereby doing so much damage to this country. Such chanting is both disgraceful and distasteful.

Mr. Straw

I express my thanks to the hon. Gentleman for all his efforts during the past two years to have such legislation put on the statute book, and also for the constructive proposals that he made in his speech on 20 June. He will know that we have taken careful note of the suggestions that he made in the House and outside. He raises an important point—which, ironically, was raised by his party spokesman on 20 May—about the need properly to enforce the existing legislation. It is not acceptable that only 33 of the 100-odd international banning orders imposed so far include passport conditions, which could have been imposed in every case. That is wrong. I understand that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are applying for such orders, but magistrates are not granting them. That is why we have had to change the nature of the legislation to ensure that passport orders are granted almost automatically and that other proposals are taken forward as well.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that many of those involved in the violence had no previous convictions of any kind, so he will understand why those of us who have spent a lifetime opposing racism have considerable reservations about his suggestions, which will give peremptory powers to police officers apparently on the basis of very little evidence. I hope that he will tell the House the rank of police officer who will be enabled to take such decisions and what time scale he is proposing.

Above all, may I tell my right hon. Friend that the history of legislation agreed by both Front Benches and put through the House at considerable speed is extremely sad and unhelpful? I hope that he will reconsider his timetable, because this is a difficult and intractable matter. Before we allow very serious liberties to be put at risk, it is absolutely vital that the House have time to consider every aspect of the proposal, not just some of them, and that we do not respond to knee-jerk bigotry.

Mr. Straw

Of course I understand that the House should be very careful about taking forward into legislation proposals that use the force of the law through civil processes before conviction, but that is by no means unheard of in our system.

The civil courts themselves have many powers of enforcement. The anti-social behaviour order, which has been widely welcomed by Members on both sides of the House and by local authorities and the police outside, is increasingly being used. It makes use of civil process. Good evidence has to be obtained for the order—unfortunately, in many cases, that evidence cannot be only criminal convictions.

There was support for the football banning order from both sides of the House, although it was by no means unanimous. The police may have evidence that may not have been sufficient to obtain a conviction, but that is plain evidence of football hooliganism. For example, there may be available video tapes of people committing straightforward acts of hooliganism in Charleroi and Brussels. If those individuals could be identified, I see no reason why they should not be required to go to court or why the police should not be able to apply for a banning order. They would be given a proper opportunity to answer. Such tapes would not represent evidence that could lead to a conviction, mainly because an extraterritorial offence had been committed, but would certainly be evidence that should lead to an order of the kind that I make.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) asked about the level of police officer who could make what would effectively be a direction to prevent someone from travelling so that a banning order could be obtained. I make this very clear: as far as I understand, these are not the exact powers that the German police have used nor a power of what they call administrative arrest, which leads to no court process at all. We propose that such a direction should be made at inspector level or above.

My other point to my hon. Friend is that it is not true that all legislation that is put through the House at some speed suffers from the defects that she mentioned, although it is true that some does and some has and that speed creates a greater danger of those defects occurring. I seek to provide a process that involves not only necessarily private discussions with the opposition parties, but a perfectly open system in which all hon. Members are able to take part. There will not be unanimity, but we must see whether there is sufficient consensus to get the measure through before the summer. I hope that that is the case and that I can reassure Members on both sides of the House about its contents, but we shall see.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

Does the Secretary of State agree that his proposals are similar to those that I made from the Opposition Front Bench in June 1998? Therefore, I obviously support what he has said—given also that the decision would rest with the courts, not the police—but has there not been unnecessary delay in handling the issue? Had those measures been in place, some of the recent troubles might well have been avoided. Will he answer a further point? Does not this issue go beyond football hooliganism and are not those who riot overseas also those who cause problems on Friday and Saturday nights in this country? Frankly, nothing will be done about that until we have more police on the streets and more police detecting those hooligans.

Mr. Straw

I thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion when he made it late in 1998. This is no criticism, but, as he said at the time, it was a proposal for discussion that was not in a form that could have been put into the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We have gone over the history of what subsequently happened but, if he wants to go down that track, I remind him that a whole host of right hon. and hon. Members on his side—

Miss Widdecombe

And on yours.

Mr. Straw

Some, but fewer Labour Members opposed the proposals.

The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) described the confiscation of passports as "wholly unconstitutional"; the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that the proposals, which were less strong than these, were the mark of a repressive or totalitarian society; and the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) said: I am deeply concerned by the suggestion that banning orders should be imposed against people who have not been convicted of an offence. A whole litany of Conservative Members were not interested in taking the route that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) suggested. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) told the then Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), in respect of the Bill of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford, that he will get no support from his own Back Benchers today other than from the Bill's promoter.—[Official Report, 16 April 1999; Vol. 329, c. 495–502.] That was hardly approbation.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield says that we are dealing with a wider issue. Yes, it is. After seven years during which police numbers have declined, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are investing considerable sums to ensure that numbers increase. Of course resources are important. If the right hon. Gentleman happened to see BBC television news last night and learned what the Sussex police are doing at Crawley, he would be aware that effective measures are taking place in targeting policing to deal with the drunken behaviour that we see in too many of our towns and cities on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ms Claire Ward (Watford)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and the measures that he proposes. I urge him to continue with the timetable that he has set out. Will he take into account the fact that some hon. Members, especially the maverick tendency on the Opposition Benches, will seek to ensure that the proposed legislation is delayed? They will be the very people who will attack the Government and others if the proposed legislation has not been enacted by September and we see repeated scenes of football hooliganism of the sort that we saw the other week.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those Members who oppose a sensible, speedy but not hasty debate on the proposed legislation will try to ensure that we are not in a position to stop hooligans from disgracing our country and our national game?

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks and for her strong support for the proposed Bill and other measures. I hope that we can achieve the timetable that I have set out. My hon. Friend is right to highlight the inconsistency of the Opposition Front Bench. The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) was suggesting that we should have introduced legislation within two days of the beginning of Euro 2000. Two days was too long for that. She now suggests that four weeks is too short a time. I hope that, in more thoughtful moments, she will recognise the problem with which we are dealing and the need to get legislation through Parliament by the end of July. Plainly, it would be far better to have the proposed legislation on the statute book, if it is in good order, before the football season starts again in September.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

What the right hon. Gentleman has outlined to the House sounds to me to be a serious curtailment of ordinary civil rights. I doubt whether some of these proposals, particularly the third and fourth elements, as he has described them, are compatible with some of the articles of the European convention on human rights.

The House should not depart from the ordinary rules of scrutiny and inquiry into what is proposed. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can properly get the proposed legislation through both Houses by the end of the month unless he is prepared to suspend much other parliamentary business. Is he aware that this is a serious matter involving civil rights? It is our business to champion such rights, and what I have heard from Labour Members suggests that they are suspending their duties in that respect.

Mr. Straw

I do not accept that what is being put forward is a serious curtailment of human rights. I have said that I am satisfied that our proposals are consistent with the European convention on human rights and with the Human Rights Act. It is my intention to sign a section 19 certificate to that effect.

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) asked me—I am sorry that I did not answer this particular question—if I would exceptionally make the advice of the Law Officers available. Anyone who has been a Minister will know that it is never the practice to make such legal advice available, any more than legal advice to any other individual or corporation is ever made available. Moreover, the legislation does not require that the Attorney-General certifies the compatibility of any draft Bill before the House, but requires that the Minister responsible for that Bill should make that certificate. That is the proper way to proceed.

The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) spoils his case by suggesting that the normal processes of legislation should never be abrogated in any way. Like many of those on the Opposition Benches, his memory started on 2 May 1997. He has sat in the House long enough, as has the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald, to remember many occasions under the previous Administration when those processes were compressed, sometimes into a far shorter time, with far less open consultation, than I am proposing.

Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East)

May I associate myself with the remarks and question from my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)? I quietly ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the case that he has made. As we are discussing a tournament that ended less than 48 hours ago, the review seems rather rushed. Although I support proposals 1 and 2, we have heard the point that has been made about proposals 3 and 4. I wonder how my right hon. Friend will justify those proposals to Labour Back Benchers. In his statement, he gave the impression that he had had discussions with the Opposition parties and that they were compliant with moves to push the legislation through urgently. In view of the mood of those on the Opposition Benches, I urge my right hon. Friend to re-appraise those discussions and reconsider rushing the legislation through Parliament.

Mr. Straw

I understand the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend. As I have made clear, I am not intending to rush the legislation through in the terms that he suggested. I have already said that, if a choice ultimately has to be made between haste and content, content must be the determining factor. I hope that he accepts that, if we can achieve proper speed—I do not know whether we can—if we can achieve the legislation by the end of July and it is in good order, that would be to the benefit of the country as a whole.

I note what my hon. Friend says about proposals 3 and 4, which I announced today. The third proposal has, albeit on a narrower basis, achieved wide support on the Labour Benches. As to the fourth proposal, of course I will consider what my hon. Friend says, and I hope that, in turn, he will look at the small print of the proposal. He is likely to be reassured by that. On co-operation, we look forward to the usual co-operation with the usual channels.

Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden)

I agree with the Home Secretary on one issue: the reputation of this country abroad is extraordinarily important. Even more important, however, is the foundation stone of the British justice system, which, as I understand it, is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty—proven guilty on criminal standards under criminal process. What the Home Secretary is suggesting is a civil process leading to criminal sanctions, and rather fundamental criminal sanctions. Most free societies give their citizens the right to leave that society. That is pretty fundamental, and that is what the Home Secretary is striking down. I will oppose the legislation during its progress through the House—not delay it, but oppose it by argument.

On the question of undue haste in passing legislation that affects individual liberty, will the Home Secretary give thought not just to the process of the House, but to the interests of organisations outside which will want to comment closely on his proposals in the coming months?

Mr. Straw

On the last point, I said in my statement that we would take account of views expressed outside the House, as well as inside the House. It will come as no surprise to the right hon. Gentleman or the House to learn that we have already informally consulted the police organisations and NCIS about the proposals, as well as the Football Association, but there are others that have an interest in the matter.

There are some people—I respect their views, but I do not happen to agree with them—who take the right hon. Gentleman's view that civil process should never be used to deal with bad behaviour of the kind that we are talking about. That opinion was voiced during the passage of the Crime and Disorder Act in respect of anti-social behaviour orders. Our point was that the existing law provided, for example, for evictions and for all kinds of orders to be made by civil courts on the basis of a process that uses the civil burden and standard of proof, but, having been made, if they are then broken they are subject to effective criminal sanctions, including custody for breaching injunctions. This is no different in principle. Moreover, as with the anti-social behaviour orders, where one of the banning orders is broken, that is a criminal offence and the breach of the order would be subject to the criminal standard of proof.

Mr. Derek Twigg (Halton)

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. It is interesting that the Opposition had four or five attempts at legislation during their 18 years in power, but still failed to stop violence and disorder. It is a subject that Opposition Members seem to want to shy away from.

Let us get down to what has been proposed today. I welcome everything in my right hon. Friend's statement, but, as has already been mentioned, the Bill of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made it clear that magistrates had various powers that they never used. Does my right hon. Friend know why the magistrates did not carry out the actions that they should have?

Secondly, why do we again see a mass deportation, albeit of many innocent people, but obviously of some people who are not innocent, without their being taken to court in the countries where the offences were committed? Clearly, unless such countries take firm action, people will go there and think that they will get away with it again.

Finally, will my right hon. Friend say a little more about the withholding of passports on the occasion of big games, an important part of his proposals today? I think that it will be very effective.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is right to call attention to the Opposition's confusion. As I have already indicated, they develop an extraordinary total amnesia—only when it suits them, however—about all events and responsibilities for actions taken before I May 1997. On other occasions, they want to nitpick at the record of the previous Conservative Government and bring that into comparison but, whenever it is convenient, they deny that they were involved in any way in what happened between 1979 and 1997.

My hon. Friend talked about the problems of so-called mass deportation. Many people who are used to the British system of justice will not really know administrative arrest, which is used in some European countries but not others. It is a concept by which police arrest people, detain them without charge for a period of around 12 hours and then either release them or, as in this case, deport them. In terms of the existing orders, it certainly would have been easier if the majority of those people had been subject to proper process in the criminal courts, but we have to take things as they are. One of the advantages of the new orders is that, where there is good evidence abroad of football violence by an individual, it can be used to obtain an order in this country.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. We shall no doubt return to this matter before too long. The House has a great deal of business to get through today and must now move on.