HC Deb 27 July 2000 vol 354 cc1310-6

Lords amendment: No. 5, in page 5, line 14, leave out ("absolutely or").

Mr. Charles Clarke

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 6 to 10, 12, 15 and 17.

Mr. Clarke

This group of amendments contains a number of Government amendments brought forward in response to points made here and in the other place. Amendment No. 5 responds to criticisms made in another place that a banning order could be made following a conviction for which the offender received an absolute discharge. The amendment removes that provision.

Amendments Nos. 6, 8 and 9 meet the points made in this House by the former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell). Their effect is that conduct more than 10 years old cannot be taken into account in considering an order under proposed section 14B unless it relates to an unspent conviction. The amendments also make it clear that the powers under that section do not affect the position under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974—that spent convictions cannot be taken into account in civil proceedings.

Amendment No. 7 removes from proposed section 14C the reference to decisions of a public authority. The potential breadth of that position was commented on widely by several right hon. and hon. Members throughout our debates, and the Government have therefore removed it from the Bill, to remove any uncertainty about the meaning of the phrase.

Amendments Nos. 10, 12 and 15 are drafting amendments to make it clear that people cannot be required to surrender their passport in relation to a match to be held in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Amendment No. 17 is an important amendment, ensuring that legal advice and assistance, including advice by way of representation, may be made available for proceedings for a banning order by complaint under proposed section 14B, and for proceedings arising from the issue of a notice under proposed section 21B and all subsequent appeals and abdications. For those reasons, I commend the amendments passed in the other place to the House.

It may be of convenience to deal with the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I am afraid that I cannot advise the House to accept the amendment, which we believe would prevent a court from taking into account circumstances ancillary to a conviction where they occurred more than 10 years previously. That is unnecessary, as the amendments in the Lords have already set up safeguards which we believe ensure that spent convictions will not be taken into account where a conviction remains, even if it is more than 10 years old. It will have been of some gravity and I can see no reason why either it or circumstances ancillary to it should not be taken into account in the making of a banning order.

It might be of help to the House if I make it clear that the phrase "circumstances ancillary to a conviction" which the amendment seeks to delete is defined in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 as including conduct leading to the conviction and the offences which were the subject of that conviction. Only circumstances ancillary to an unspent conviction will be admissible. Any other result would not be sensible. We cannot commend the amendment, but we do commend those passed in another place.

Mr. Hawkins

A number of the amendments from the other place respond to concerns expressed by the Opposition; in particular, the serious concerns raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) in relation to spent convictions. These concerns were shared by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

On amendment No. 5, the Government have taken up a Liberal Democrat amendment which we supported in another place. I have dealt with amendments Nos. 6, 8 and 9, which would give effect to the Government's recognition of the importance of the points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire. I accept that amendments Nos. 10, 12 and 15 are drafting amendments. However, do the Government recognise that the question of matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland must be kept under review? The Minister will be aware that there has been serious violence at matches in Ireland in the not-too-distant past.

Mr. Banks

In the Republic.

Mr. Hawkins

The hon. Gentleman is right, but it included those who claim to be England fans. He will recall, as I do, the disgraceful scenes of seats being torn out and thrown on to the pitch, and the ensuing violence. The Minister must keep under review the issue of sectarianism can spill over into football-related violence.

On amendment No. 17, my noble Friend Lord Cope welcomed the fact that legal advice and assistance will be available for those who will appear in court to answer a complaint in relation to a banning order. Will the Minister confirm that appropriate indications will be given to the chairman of the Government's new Legal Services Commission, the replacement for the Legal Aid Board, in light of the fact that the Government are accepting the amendment from another place?

Does the Minister recognise the concerns raised by the noble Lord Ackner in another place in relation to proceedings being called civil when they were criminal proceedings, or certainly more of a criminal kind than civil? That concern is shared in all parts of this House and another place. I ask the Minister to confirm that that will be recognised in any instructions given to the chairman of the Legal Services Commission and his staff.

Mr. Simon Hughes

This is a ridiculous race against the clock, but here goes. Amendments Nos. 5, 7 and 17 are good. Amendments Nos. 12 and 15, which are drafting amendments, are also good. Amendment No. 10 is good as far as it goes, but I would be grateful if the Minister indicated where somebody can get their passport back, if it has been surrendered under the Bill, in the event of a family funeral or other urgent business. We were given an undertaking that that would be possible, but I see it nowhere in the Bill.

Unless the Minister can adequately satisfy me, I will seek to gain the House's support for amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 8. I support the point of view of the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) on amendment No. 8, which would make sure that spent convictions are not brought into play. I have spent as much time as I could on drafting the amendment, which refers to "circumstances ancillary to a conviction". That appears to bring back into play things that should have been excluded.

This is not a draft from the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire; the Government produced it in response to his point. However, the amendment does not protect against previous history, pre-dating the control order by 10 years. That worries me. I do not pretend to have a perfect knowledge, but I am advised that it is not necessary. I know it relates to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which I have checked. I have seen the definition, which does not appear to deal with the concern that this undermines the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire.

Sir Nicholas Lyell

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I am always doubtful whether Pepper v. Hart has any real function. However, if the Minister were to make it clear that the use of this portion of the Act was specifically not to permit circumstances ancillary to spent convictions over 10 years old, that might go far to repair the possible damage that worries the hon. Gentleman and myself.

Mr. Hughes

I would rather have such an admission than nothing, even though it would be of limited value. I would be happy not to push the amendment, although I would like us to vote on something. If the Minister cannot give that admission, I am afraid that it will not be possible.

Mr. Charles Clarke

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) referred to Scotland and Northern Ireland and we will keep the situation under review. It is worth emphasising that someone subject to a banning order can be ordered to report to a police station when a match is being played in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The amendments make it clear that passport surrender is not required for those matches.

In terms of the Legal Services Commission, I can give a commitment that we will ensure that all the contents of the Bill—including the amendments—are passed to the Lord Chancellor and through him to the Legal Services Commission. I will study the points made by Lord Ackner. I agree that it is always important to get clarity as between civil and criminal activities.

In terms of getting one's passport back—referred to by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)—section 20 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 contains that provision. Circumstances ancillary to a conviction are admissible only in relation to convictions which are themselves admissible. Spent convictions will not be admissible, nor will circumstances ancillary to them. That is the effect of section 4(1) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

It being two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the supplemental allocation of time motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER pursuant to Order [17 July] and Resolution [this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair. Lords amendment agreed to. Remaining Lords amendments agreed to, some with Special Entry.

4.30 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate that you can do nothing about it now, but may we have a mechanism to deal with cases in which the Government, at no notice, guillotine a Bill, effectively meaning that no Opposition amendment can be voted on? The Government produced a guillotine this morning and that has been the effect. We have moved as quickly as possible and hon. Members on both sides have declined to speak, although they wanted to. Even so, we have been unable to test the opinion of the House on any Opposition amendment, and that must be a parliamentary disgrace.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I shall take a further point of order.

Mr. Corbyn

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood that we would have an opportunity to vote on the manuscript amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) to one of the Lords amendments. Have we had no vote because we went past 4.29 pm, or do the Government amendments supersede anything said during the previous debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The procedure that we have followed was set out in the motion. The House votes on the amendment immediately before it, and then decides on all other Government amendments.

Mr. Corbyn

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey made it clear that he wished to call a vote on his amendment. As there was no dissent from the Chair, I understood that there would be a vote on his manuscript amendment. I find it very distressing that, on a Bill as serious as this one, we cannot vote on an amendment to a Lords amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am afraid that we simply ran out of time.

Miss Widdecombe

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am aware that the timetable for the Bill was decided by the House in a series of guillotine motions. However, bearing in mind Madam Speaker's comments yesterday about the need for the House to hold the Executive to account, may I ask, in the best possible spirit, that Madam Speaker should examine what has happened during the Bill's passage? There has been a long series of events—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Bearing in mind what is being said, and given Madam Speaker's comments yesterday, the least that the House can do is to listen in silence to the right hon. Lady.

Miss Widdecombe

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Might Madam Speaker consider the procedures used for the Bill? At various points, we have moved from one stage to another—particularly from Committee to Report to Third Reading—under a series of draconian guillotines. The Opposition supported the Bill, despite which—and although our support meant that there was no need for such measures—proper parliamentary scrutiny has been prevented.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I see another point of order coming.

Mr. David Davis

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I can make a practical point in support of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). In order to reach his amendment, we should have had to vote down amendments Nos. 18,19,20 and 21, and still had time remaining. That would have been impossible in today's debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The House will appreciate that these are not matters on which the Chair can rule now. I have no doubt that the House and others outside it will have heard the points made.