HC Deb 27 July 2000 vol 354 cc1235-6
29. Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

What discussions he has had with representatives of the police on prosecution policy in respect of football hooligans. [131293]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Ross Cranston)

The Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes those accused of football-related offences whenever appropriate. It also plays a key role in seeking suitable bail conditions to prevent further offending and in reminding the courts of their powers and duties to make orders to prevent hooliganism, both at home and abroad. I have received no representations from the police on the subject.

Mr. Bercow

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that answer, which was a triumph of diplomacy over candour. I hope that he will now answer the question that I posed instead of the one that I did not. What discussions has he had, or does he intend to have, with the police? What criticisms of Government policy does he expect to hear? Why, given that anti-social behaviour orders have become a non-event under this Government, should we take the Government's intentions on this matter remotely seriously?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman does not often allow facts to stand in the way of rhetoric, but the Government have pursued the matter since the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999 came into force. The CPS has prosecuted cases involving ordinary offences arising from football hooliganism, such as assault, public disorder and criminal damage. The police refer cases to the CPS, which deals with them as the law requires—by looking at the evidence and taking into account the public interest.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that many football clubs now have more police-free matches than ever before, because discussions with police have led to a reduction in violence? No one condones the actions of the minority hooligan element, but people want action to be taken where necessary to ensure that hooligans do not deter normal supporters from going to games and do not cause disturbances in town centres.

The Solicitor-General

My hon. Friend makes a good point. In the Football (Disorder) Bill, which the House will consider again today, the Government have taken what we regard as the minimum steps needed to deal with the public order problem that has infuriated and shamed the nation. The Opposition have been playing games with the Bill, but I hope that it will be dealt with efficiently and effectively this afternoon.

I should tell the House that, since the 1999 Act came into force, some 255 domestic football banning orders have been obtained, and 36 international orders.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

Does the Solicitor-General agree that if the police and judges were half as tough in dealing with hooligans and miscreants as Madam Speaker has been in dealing with the parliamentary variety of the species, the world would be a better, safer and saner place?

The Solicitor-General

On this, Madam Speaker's last Question Time, I have only words of commendation about her, especially as we both represent part of the Tipton area in the west midlands.

The courts deal with these matters effectively. Sentencing is a matter for the courts; it is not a matter in which the Executive should have a role.