HC Deb 19 June 2000 vol 352 cc36-47

.25 pm

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

With permission, Madam Speaker, I shall now make a statement on the violence involving so-called England supporters at the Euro 2000 football championships in Brussels and Charleroi in Belgium. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already made clear, Her Majesty's Government profoundly regret what has happened, and I would like to express our deep apologies to the people of Belgium.

As the House knows, events on the field this weekend were wholly overshadowed by events off the pitch. I am sure that the whole House will have felt my feelings of outrage and shame as we witnessed our fellow citizens engage in appalling drunken violence on the streets of Belgium. Those people have disgraced the nation and our national game.

We, of course, fully share UEFA's anger at the disgraceful scenes, and the whole nation has taken full account of the warnings issued by UEFA regarding our future participation in the competition. Up-to-date information is as follows. There were serious disturbances in Brussels on Friday last, 16 June, and then on Saturday 17 June, in Charleroi and Brussels. So far, we have received information on the identity of 584 United Kingdom citizens who have been arrested in the disturbances.

In a few cases, the individuals have been charged with specific criminal offences, including possession of offensive weapons and assault. However, in the overwhelming proportion of cases the detention was by what is known in Belgium as an administrative arrest, typically for failure to carry a passport or other means of identification, and no charges have followed. Instead, the individuals have been made subject to immediate deportation. So far, about 400 have been returned to the United Kingdom. As they have arrived, police and immigration officials have required them to provide full details of their identity.

The House has been kept informed about the arrangements made over many months to intensify co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Belgian, Dutch and French authorities to ensure as far as possible that anyone previously involved in football hooliganism should not be able to gain entry to those countries.

It is widely accepted across Europe that the British police, led by the National Criminal Intelligence Service and by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Hollis, are among the most professional and thorough in identifying known hooligans and in policing arrangements in co-operation with overseas police forces. The Dutch Minister of the Interior, Klaus de Vries, to whom I spoke this morning, has issued a further statement expressing his satisfaction with the co-operation provided by the British authorities.

Well in advance of the competition, lists were provided to the Dutch and Belgians of 500 British individuals subject to banning orders and a further 500 against whom there were football-related convictions but no banning orders in force. All 500 who were subject to any kind of banning order were sent letters advising them not to travel, and 101 individuals subject to international banning orders are directly prohibited from travelling abroad. There have been no reports of any of those 101 leaving the United Kingdom during the period of the competition. In addition, the National Criminal Intelligence Service has provided information to the Netherlands and Belgium on another 200 individuals on whom there was good intelligence but who had no football-related convictions.

All this has been part of an extensive international operation in which British police and immigration officials and the football authorities have been actively involved. Further details were set out in the report of the Euro 2000 Co-ordinating Group placed in the Library of the House on 7 June.

The House will, I believe, understand that it is, by definition, far more difficult to identify in advance those who might cause trouble if they have not been previously convicted of a football-related offence or if there is no police intelligence about them. The overwhelming majority of those arrested and expelled from Belgium come into that category.

Of the nearly 400 now being deported, just 15 have been identified as previously known hooligans and of those, one has had a domestic exclusion order against him. One of those is too many, but that does demonstrate that our controls against known hooligans have largely been effective. It also demonstrates that legislative changes of the kind that the House has had before it recently, and which have been urged, could not have had the effect of reducing by a significant degree the numbers of people, without previous football convictions or intelligence against them, involved in the trouble in the past three days.

We have always made it clear that we would keep under review the arrangements that we have made in the light of events, including the fact of large-scale arrests that have led in the main to deportation directly, rather to than prosecution and conviction in the Netherlands and Belgium. Further to the measures announced on 7 June, therefore, we are putting in place the following further measures to take account of the current situation.

The scrutiny by law enforcement agencies at ports has been intensified to prevent any of those deported from Belgium in the last few days from returning either to Belgium or the Netherlands. Immigration and police checks have been stepped up and the main carriers and the Belgian and Dutch authorities are being given full access to the information available to the law enforcement agencies so that they may refuse to take as passengers people whom they know will be refused entry at the other end.

British police services are being asked to make contact with all those deported to warn them not to return to Belgium and the Netherlands, and the likely serious consequences of returning. We have offered further assistance from British police forces, in addition to the significant presence already in Brussels and Charleroi and on Eurostar, led by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Hollis, to spot known troublemakers and to help to identify those arrested.

We have proposed that the Belgian and Dutch authorities mark the passports of those they deport to make subsequent identification easier should they try to return. We have urged upon the Belgian and Dutch authorities the importance, in our view, of restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the areas affected, as was successfully achieved by the Dutch at Eindhoven.

Following discussions today involving the Government, the Football Association and the premier league clubs, any supporter convicted of hooliganism, or against whom there is good evidence of hooliganism, will be banned by the clubs for life from attending football matches in England.

Let me now come back to the issue of legislation. The powers of the courts were strengthened last September by the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999, which was piloted through the House by the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) on the basis of drafting provided by the Home Office. The Act imposed a duty on the courts to make a banning order whenever someone is convicted of a football-related offence if a ban would help prevent violence or disorder connected with football matches. The Act also provided for the imposition of passport conditions on anyone subject to an international football banning order. We had hoped that the Act would also include a power for courts to make banning orders preventing unconvicted hooligans from attending international matches—if there was good evidence against them that was insufficient to achieve a conviction—but, as the House knows, that proposal encountered vociferous opposition from certain hon. Members.

The courts have extensive powers to impose passport conditions on anyone subject to an international ban and to impose an international ban whenever a domestic ban is imposed, but few international bans have been made. We will be taking steps to encourage courts to impose such orders in all cases in which they could help to prevent hooliganism by England supporters overseas. We will also consider whether to make a single banning order for domestic and international matches with mandatory passport conditions, as well as powers for the courts in respect of unconvicted hooligans against whom there is other good evidence.

Over the past decade, the United Kingdom has done a huge amount to stamp out football violence at home, and we have done much work with the police, the Football Association and the authorities abroad to prevent violence overseas. However, the incidents remind us once again of the shame that hooliganism has brought on our country down the years and they must reinforce our determination to help to stamp it out overseas as we have done at home.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald)

I thank the Home Secretary for that statement, but he must be aware that many will regard it as woefully complacent and inadequate.

The situation that faces the Home Secretary is that UEFA has said that if there is any more trouble, England could be banned from the rest of the contest. That is the extremely serious situation that faces us. It would have very much strengthened his hand in dealing with UEFA and other Governments if he had been able to say that he had taken all measures that other countries have taken. Is he aware that one of the most pathetic exhibitions over the past few days has been that of a Home Secretary who has been in office for three years trying to blame the Opposition for his own inaction?

Perhaps it would help to put on the record exactly what happened and to ask the Home Secretary whether he agrees. Does he agree that, in 1998, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler)—who then held the post that I hold now—tabled an amendment not to a private Member's Bill, but to a Government Bill, which would have allowed unconvicted persons to be restrained from travelling? Does the Home Secretary agree that he himself rejected that very sensible amendment?

Does the Home Secretary agree that, having rejected it, he then wrote to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield and said that, although he had rejected it, he agreed that it was an important issue, that such a measure was necessary and that, therefore, perhaps it could be tagged on to a private Member's Bill—namely that being produced by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns)?

Lo and behold, my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford proposed his Bill and my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) tabled an amendment to it to prevent unconvicted persons, in certain circumstances, from travelling during international matches. Is the Home Secretary aware that, far from it being my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) who stopped that, it was actually Labour Members as well?

The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who was the Minister responsible for the Bill, said—[Interruption.] I am afraid that Labour Members are going to hear what actually happened. The Home Secretary is going to have to admit what happened because he has been trying to shelter behind the flimsiest of excuses for the last three days. The House is now going to hear the truth.

Does the Home Secretary agree that, in Committee, the Minister for Sport said: We need to find a way of dealing with those people. We accept that the issue is complex and that the Bill is not the right place to deal with it … we may be able to deal with this issue later in a Government Bill.—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 5 May 1999; c. 5.] That was in May 1999; it is now June 2000. Does the Home Secretary admit that he has done absolutely nothing in between to fulfil that promise? Even as Euro 2000 was starting, once again—following in the footsteps of my right hon. Friends the Members for Sutton Coldfield and for Penrith and The Border—the Opposition offered the Government support for any emergency legislation that they wanted to propose. The Government proposed no such legislation.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the mayor of Brussels has said that there was an agreement between the British Government and the Belgian Ministry of the Interior to stop as many people as possible who might commit offences, but that it had not been implemented? What was that agreement and why was it not implemented? UEFA has criticised Government inaction; the Football Association has criticised Government inaction; the National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs has criticised Government inaction. Will the Government now admit that they have indeed been inactive?

Will the Home Secretary, even now, use the remaining stages of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill in the House of Lords to introduce the measures that the Minister for Sport was foreshadowing over a year ago—or is he instead going to leave it to the next Conservative Government, who are now not very far off?

Mr. Straw

Yet again, we have seen a display from the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) that fails to meet the requirements of the occasion. A huge amount of work has been undertaken, by the Government, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, and by—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Home Secretary, but I must tell the House that this extremely serious matter is better conducted without chorus and counter-chorus.

Mr. Straw

A huge amount of work has been undertaken by Ministers, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the territorial police and by many people overseas to ensure that the arrangements that have been put in place work effectively. I remind the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald that, as I mentioned in my statement, the Dutch Minister of the Interior telephoned me today to tell me that he was very grateful for the extent of the co-operation. He certainly understands the problems that we have faced.

The right hon. Lady does no service at all to herself, and still less to this country. The simple truth is that we would have liked to have in place the powers to which she referred, but they would not have helped us to deal with this situation. The right hon. Lady wants to make party political points and to ensure that people outside the House are misinformed about the reality.

The reality is that virtually all the people against whom such a civil order could have been made were on the list of 1,000 names provided by NCIS to the overseas authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands. We are pretty certain that, in all but 15 cases, our work has been effective in ensuring that those people did not travel abroad.

The right hon. Lady referred to an offer concerning emergency legislation that she made earlier last month. The Football Association raised the matter with the Government, and I would have brought emergency legislation to the House if I had thought that that would have been worth while and would have amounted to anything more than a gesture. However, the simple fact is that emergency legislation at that stage would not have achieved anything. Indeed, it could have raised expectations that we had some process by which we could identify all the people who had not been identified by then, and taken action against them. That would not have been the case.

As I said, we have done a huge amount of work, through NCIS and the police, to pass to the Belgian and Dutch authorities details about every one of the 500 people subject to banning orders, and about those with convictions for football-related offences. Other information has also been provided and it has been acted on.

I regret that the right hon. Lady now seeks to make rather obscure party points about this matter. Although earlier this month she did indeed make the offer to which she referred, I note what an official Conservative party spokesman told The Times on 30 May. He said: What the Government must now do is show that they are prepared to invest in the resources necessary to ensure that everything can be done to track down and convict those who commit football violence. I do not agree with that sentiment, but the spokesman went on: Only once these measures are fully used can we start to assess whether there is a need for further legislation. That was the opinion of the right hon. Lady and her party one week; she changed her opinion the following week.

Over the years, the Government have strengthened the legislation and the powers available, and we are grateful to the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) for his support of the Football (Offences and Disorders) Act 1999. However, no one in the House or the country should try to avoid the problem that exists. Although our police and intelligence activity has been very effective generally against those who we know are likely to cause trouble, the huge proportion of the people who have caused trouble were not previously known to the police or the authorities as being likely to cause football hooliganism. The right hon. Lady should apply her mind better to making constructive suggestions for dealing with that problem.

Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Will my right hon. Friend impress on those fans who are still in Europe what a very serious situation this is? Is he aware that UEFA will not hesitate to ban England, like it banned Liverpool and every other English club after the Heysel disaster, and that there will be provocation tomorrow from German fans who, having lost, will try to get British fans to riot so that they will be thrown out.

There is no doubt that there are people at the top of UEFA, such as Lennart Johansson, who think that Germany should host the World cup. The decision will be made in less than three weeks. Many in UEFA think that Germany was promised the World cup and should still hold it. However, Lennart Johansson lost the election to Sepp Blatter, whom we support. Some deep political chess will be played in the next 24 hours. If a handful of drunk yobboes respond to any provocation tomorrow, this country could lose the opportunity to host the World cup. Millions have been poured into the new Wembley stadium, but Britain could lose the prestige that hosting the World cup would bring, and all because of half a dozen yobboes throwing pint glasses.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what has been done regarding those who have been sent back. Can he impress on the Dutch and Belgian police that it is not enough to turn hosepipes and water cannons on these people, whack a few heads and chase them off the streets? They have to be prosecuted, imprisoned if necessary, and fined, so that some who have quite good jobs are exposed and lose their jobs.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. While I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has considerable experience in these matters, I must ask him to put a question, because many others also wish to contribute.

Mr. Ashton

We have no protest or complaint about what the Government are doing, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the seriousness of the situation has gone far beyond a football issue?

Mr. Straw

I note what my hon. Friend says, but he will appreciate that it is not for me to comment on what he describes as the internal politics of UEFA or FIFA. On convictions, it is plainly better, where possible, for the Belgian and Dutch police not only to arrest people but to charge them with specific offences. Our law does not know, as far as I am aware, of the notion of an administrative arrest. We know of arrest for alleged criminal offences. Our provisions have been designed to ensure that when people are convicted abroad of a football-related offence, they can be subject here to a banning order. My opposite numbers in Belgium and the Netherlands—Antoine Duquesne and Klaus de Vries—are well aware of that and, wherever possible, they will seek convictions in their own courts.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

As this is a statement about Euro 2000, may we first ask the Home Secretary to pass on, through the Minister for Sport, our congratulations to an England team that won on a day when the cricket and rugby teams lost? We hope that the team will go on winning without being distracted by people, whom we all condemn, who are doing nothing to advance the cause of English football.

I hope that the Home Secretary accepts that the best way to deal not just with this game and this trouble but with the future of England's participation in football is to concentrate not on what might have been and on changes to the law that would probably have made no difference in practice, but on what we can do now. In that context, does he accept that there are two things that might usefully be on the agenda? First, I refer to an affirmation of the law, which is that the British, Dutch and Belgian authorities have the power to arrest anybody whom they reasonably believe is likely to commit an offence, and they should use that power, either this side of the channel or the other. Secondly, if the Home Secretary were minded to ensure that all future orders were simultaneously national and international, and if he considered, as a matter of urgency, converting the national domestic banning orders into international orders, he would have support from the Liberal Democrat Benches.

On the basis of the practical experience of the weekend, will the right hon. Gentleman look urgently to his colleagues in Belgium and ask them to follow the Dutch experience, which was good, in banning alcohol in the area of the match and possibly in some areas in Brussels, and to increase the number of spotters? I am informed by law-abiding travellers that, during train journeys in Belgium, people are phoning one another and arranging plans for meeting to cause trouble after the match.

Lastly, let us ensure that the Belgian and Dutch authorities work together to impose cordons, which they are lawfully entitled to do, to exclude people without tickets and without lawful reason to go into certain places where matches are being played.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his constructive approach to what is unquestionably a difficult situation. He asked me four questions. As for affirmation of the law, wherever possible, whether here, in the Netherlands or in Belgium, the police should arrest people and then charge them and have them prosecuted in the relevant courts. That is our approach, too.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether we should make future national domestic banning orders apply internationally as well, along with, I might add, a passport condition. Yes, we should give urgent consideration to that. He asks whether we will invite the Belgians to follow the Dutch experience and to ban alcohol. As I said in my statement, we are already asking the Belgian authorities whether they will follow the lead of the Dutch authorities. Alcohol was not banned in the Netherlands, but regulations were laid down requiring the sale only of very low-strength alcohol. That seems to have worked satisfactorily.

As for increasing the number of spotters, I held a meeting this morning with John Abbott and Brian Drew from the National Criminal Intelligence Service. The British police service stands ready to provide additional resources where they can be used effectively.

The hon. Gentleman suggested the imposition of cordons round the main squares—for example, in Brussels and Charleroi. I shall relay that suggestion to the Belgian authorities.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that we should not try to rewrite history about a private Member's Bill last year, the Football (Offences and Disorder) Bill? As one of its sponsors, I urged the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) to be wary of amending it in the way suggested. To introduce a major amendment, which had not been seen by me as a sponsor, was probably not the best way to proceed.

The lesson is that we must examine what has happened over the weekend and say that the Government and football authorities together, recognising that football clubs have tremendous information throughout the country, should take action to ensure that such behaviour cannot be repeated. A Government Bill should be introduced to deal with the matter.

Mr. Straw

I certainly accept that. That was the point of my statement, among other things. We need to examine the lessons of what happened over the weekend. We must take stock and introduce further measures in the light of those events.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)

First, I welcome the Home Secretary's comments about international banning orders. When passing legislation, it was Parliament's intention that they would be used against anyone committing a football-related offence. Anything that tightens up that procedure to ensure that the courts use such powers is to be welcomed. It is to be hoped that that need not be made mandatory, but if need be, so be it.

I say more in sorrow than in anger that I am disappointed by the spin that the right hon. Gentleman has been putting during recent days on the question of unconvicted football hooligans and the withdrawal of passports. I, more than anyone else, should know why I withdrew the amendment to the Bill to which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) referred. It was my proposal, and it was my decision to withdraw it. May I tell the right hon. Gentleman, with all due respect, that he is wrong with the spin that he is putting on this matter?

I did not remove the proposal because some of my hon. Friends made certain speeches on Second Reading. Three Labour Members also spoke about it. Equally importantly, the civil liberties industry was mounting campaigns against the proposal. I feared that certain sections of the media were opposed to it and that there could be serious trouble in the House of Lords. I did not want to lose all the valuable weapons in that legislation just because of that. It would be fair to say that I had the Minister's agreement that it was more important for the Government to deal with that controversial issue. I understood that the Government intended to introduce their own legislation, using their substantial majority, to take away passports from unconvicted hooligans provided that certain conditions were satisfied before a court of this country. I urge the Home Secretary to take that action. The seven months since the state opening has been too long for no action to be taken.

There are apparently 300 convicted football hooligans who can travel to Belgium and Holland because my Act is not retrospective. Had we had that legislation on unconvicted football hooligans, we could have used it on them, because they have a track record of causing trouble. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, had that legislation been on the statute book, all the people who were deported from Copenhagen earlier this year could have been prevented from travelling to Holland and Belgium now?

Mr. Straw

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and the House is grateful to him for having promoted the legislation that came into force in September last year. I also note what he said about the problems being not only on his side of the House. I shall not detain the House, but I could if invited to do so. He will be aware that vociferous opposition about the proposal to be included in that legislation was the most intense from his side of the House. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) compared the proposal with systems in the Soviet Union. That was the measure of the Tory opposition.

The hon. Gentleman will also know that it is quite common for Governments of both parties to use what are described as hand-out Bills, as we did in that case, as a vehicle for legislation. None of us anticipated that these proposals would run into such problems. I understand the problems that he mentioned with the civil liberties industry. The House will know that there is a modest proposal to bring our law on the mode of trial into line with that of other European countries and other common law Commonwealth countries. That ran into the most intense difficulties in the other place, such that we had to start again in this place.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the 300 hooligans who had convictions against them but were not subject to retrospective banning orders. Those were, in the main, people against whom there were football-related convictions. I repeat that, for reasons that the House understands, those people would not be the subject of the civil orders that it was intended to include in the hon. Gentleman's Bill. However, the names of 500 people, including those 300, against whom there are football-related convictions but not banning orders have been communicated on lists by NCIS to the Belgian, Dutch, French and German authorities. As I have already made clear, the provision of that information has worked almost completely to prevent those people from travelling abroad, so we have achieved the same end by a different method. I must repeat the point to the House, because it is extremely important to our understanding of the problem, that the British Government have done a huge amount with the police and other authorities to crack down on those whom we know are football hooligans either because there is an order against them or because they have football-related convictions. However, the huge difficulty has been in spotting people against whom there are no convictions or who have convictions that are nothing to do with football.

Ms Claire Ward (Watford)

May I join my right hon. Friend in expressing dismay at the activities of a minority of so-called fans over the weekend that has brought shame on this nation, and has overshadowed our success on the field. Does he agree that this growing culture of thuggery by a minority of people who attend matches—often without tickets—intent on vandalism and acts of racism starts with the chanting of racist slogans at many matches and in pubs and clubs? I noticed that at the weekend when watching the match in a pub in my constituency. If matters are left unchecked, the situation develops into the violence and completely out-of-hand behaviour that we saw from some people at the weekend. What encouragement will my right hon. Friend give players, clubs, the Football Association and all decent-minded fans to ensure that any form of racism, xenophobia and brutality that starts in the stands is not allowed to go unchecked, for the great majority of good football fans?

Mr. Straw

I entirely share my hon. Friend's abhorrence of such racism and xenophobia. It is the most perverted form of patriotism that any of us has witnessed.

My hon. Friend asked about encouragement. As she will be aware, a major campaign—"kick racism out of football"—is under way in football. I am pleased to be associated with that. Much work is being done by many clubs to ensure that they clamp down on such racism and on the xenophobia exhibited by their supporters and those who attend their grounds. In addition, she will be aware that, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, we took powers greatly to increase the strength of racially aggravated offences and to raise the penalties for them.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

The Home Secretary disclaims all responsibility, but he knows that, on 22 June 1998, as shadow Home Secretary, I proposed a new clause to the Crime and Disorder Bill that would have given the police extra powers to go to the courts to prevent football hooligans from travelling overseas, even if they had not been convicted of an offence. At the same time, we promised the Government every co-operation on such measures. Those are the facts.

That was two years ago, however. Surely, the failure of the Government is that, during the intervening period, they have done nothing about that; they have not introduced a Government measure. Everyone in the House understands that it must be Government legislation—not a private Member's Bill.

Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman's comments on intelligence beg the question of whether sufficient resources are being given to the police, who are generally starved of resources—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, come on."] There is no controversy about that. Do the police have enough good intelligence on which everyone can act?

Mr. Straw

The right hon. Gentleman was indeed shadow Home Secretary in 1998. If he reads the record, he will be aware that, although he made those proposals, they were not in a form that could be accepted. I do not criticise him for that; he knows that was the situation. He also knows that it is by no means always the case that the only vehicle for Government-supported legislation is a Government Bill. That happened under his Government as well as under the Labour Government. Such hand-out Bills are often offered to Members for introduction as private Members' Bills and we are glad to have the co-operation of Members on both sides of the House in that matter. The right hon. Gentleman wants to make those unimpressive party points, but he was a long-standing member of the previous Government who were in power for 18 years and there are big questions about what they did to strengthen the law on such matters.

I shall deal with two further points. The first is on those people with football-related convictions. As I have said to the House on several occasions, we should have preferred the powers that we proposed to have been included in the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for West Chelmsford. However, we sought to achieve the same end by a different route. I repeat the point—Opposition Members really do have to understand it, because it is important in comprehending what has been going on in Charleroi and Brussels—that not only were the overwhelming majority of those arrested and detained in Brussels and Charleroi at the weekend people against whom there was no banning order, but they had no football-related conviction at all. Indeed, in most cases the police held no information about them.

As for the right hon. Gentleman's point about resources, if he wants to bat across the Chamber what happened under the 1992–97 Government when there was a real-terms cut in the resources available to the police, I am happy to do that, too. I should also tell him that at no stage has NCIS or the Association of Chief Police Officers raised with me questions about the lack of resources.

Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will accept that the people involved in the violence are not, in any sense, genuine football fans, in that they have no real interest in the welfare of the game. Does he also agree that those who are most at threat as a result of such hooliganism are genuine football fans? Those who watch the game on television will not be assaulted and attacked in the street; it will be the genuine travelling fans themselves. Will he encourage those fans to play a full part in ensuring that the minority of hooligans who cause such chaos are arrested, sentenced and barred for ever from the game?

Mr. Straw

I share my hon. Friend's sentiments entirely. In 1988, I and my then seven-year-old son were caught up in the most terrible violence that took place between England and Scotland supporters on the way to the home international at Wembley. I therefore fully understand that genuine fans—and often their families—are most at threat directly from such violence. They also pay the penalty when sanctions are taken against English football.

My hon. Friend asked what genuine fans can do. The most important and immediate action that they can take is to provide information to the telephone hotline that NCIS operates. Its number is 0800 515 495.

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Home Office Minister in the other place yesterday told the media that the Government had done everything that they could—including everything that they could have done legislatively—before the outbreak of violence at the weekend? Will the Home Secretary assure at least me that his colleague was not speaking for him, not least because of the information that the Home Secretary provided in his statement? Hitherto, I have held the Home Secretary in high regard in this respect.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful for the compliment. The Government have done, I think, a huge amount and virtually everything that we could do. I have already set out the measures that we have taken and I repeat, in case the right hon. Gentleman had not taken the point, that information on those against whom there are no banning orders but against whom there are convictions for football-related offences has been provided to the Belgian authorities. I personally discussed the matter in advance of the game with the Belgian and Dutch Interior Ministers and asked that they use that information to exclude such individuals from their countries. They have done that. We have achieved the same end by a different route.

Again, I repeat the point that—this is the huge difficulty that everyone has had in anticipating the trouble—overwhelmingly, those who have been caught up in the trouble are people against whom there was no previous evidence either of a banning order or of their involvement in football-related violence.

Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford)

While I entirely condemn the thuggery and violence that we saw at the weekend, is it not unjust that the English football team and football authorities should be threatened because of public disorder for which they have no responsibility and over which they have no influence?

Mr. Straw

We must, I am afraid, accept the realities. When such disorder takes place—whether we like it or not—sanctions are sometimes imposed either on an individual club or on a nation participating in an event. We are all doing our very best to get across to UEFA the extent of the arrangements that we have put in place; I have spelt them out to the House. Those arrangements have worked effectively to deal with the hooligans who have been convicted and against whom there are banning orders or against whom we have intelligence. However, with the best will in the world, it is extremely difficult to work out what other measures could have been taken that could have identified in advance those without football-related convictions and on whom there was no intelligence to suggest that, when they got to Belgium, they were going to get very drunk and involved in mindless violence.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must now move on. I understand that the House will return to this subject tomorrow.