HL Deb 13 April 1989 vol 506 cc464-78

9 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 7.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 6, line I, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Offence of admitting spectators to unlicensed premises]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 57:

Page 7, line 3, leave out ("or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a matter at which we have already looked. We have the incredible situation that, if a licence holder transgresses, it is possible for him, on conviction, to be sent to prison for a term not exceeding two years. There will be literally hundreds, if not thousands, of football club directors who will have to consider their position carefullly. We have argued about who should be the licensing authority. The present position is that it could be the FMA. We sought to have the local authority in whose area the ground was located considered. We have on ice the Minister's views that if the local authority associations wish to discuss with him, or the FMA, the proposal that they might be more appropriate, that is up to them. That is a satisfactory situation.

Clause 8 relates to a licensee who is alleged to have allowed into the ground spectators who should not be allowed into the ground. The defence of the licence holder, which in the corporate sense must be the club (directors will be responsible), could be that the spectators who committed the offence were admitted without his consent and/or he took all reasonable precautions. The clause then states: A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

  1. (a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum; or
  2. (b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or to imprisonment to a term not exceeding two years, or to both".
I invite the House and those outside the House who read the proceedings with care to note that we are now creating an offence. The directors already have the Minister's permission to consider a guest card scheme which would allow a range of people into the ground without their being members of the scheme. If those people misbehave themselves and someone holds that the directors have not exercised due care and diligence, it will be possible under the Act for the crime committed by the directors to be punished by a sentence of imprisonment of up to two years and a fine. That type of crime, if crime it is (the Government are making it a crime) does not deserve a term of imprisonment. I beg to move.

Lord Monson

My Lords, a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment for what is, by any objective standards, a relatively trivial offence is preposterously draconian. Whenever we discuss legislation and query high maximum sentences we are reminded, sometimes by the Government, sometimes by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, or other noble Lords with legal experience and expertise, that they are after all only a maximum. We are well aware of that fact, but the existence of a high maximum cannot but help push up the average sentence imposed beyond what might otherwise have been imposed were the maximum lower.

We are notorious for having the highest prison population in Europe except for Turkey,. For heaven's sake let us not add to it by creating an additional prison sentence for what is after all a totally non-violent crime.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the offence and its proposed maximum penalty are important to ensure that those who are responsible for the running of football grounds and clubs abide by the law and therefore allow the scheme to work. The courts need to have the power of a maximum penalty of imprisonment for use should they ever be faced with a case of repeated and flagrant disregard for the law. I believe that we can rely upon the courts' judgment to restrict the use of that power to those serious cases which warrant such a severe punishment. In Committee I gave the example of the responsible person who is in charge of the football club who deliberately and perpetually breaks the law on the basis that, "Anyhow, the club will pay the fine". If that were to be the case, the courts would need to have a more serious sentence at their disposal.

In Committee the noble Lord, Lard Winstanley, asked me whether the penalty of imprisonment was available to the courts in respect of those responsible for running a football club who were found to be in breach of fire or safety regulations. The fire and safety regulations are a separate issue, but the same penalties are available for those matters as are proposed for these. It is reasonable to keep the two the same. As I have explained previously, the only purpose of such a high penalty is for those people who are repeated and deliberate offenders.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, he suggested that we should rely upon the courts' judgment as to what was the right sentence to impose. That is fine, but why are not the Government prepared to rely upon the courts' judgment in respect of the length of suspension which we discussed when we debated Amendment No. 53?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if I might have the leave of the House, I believe, if I may say so, that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, was transgressing the rules by making a second speech. It has nothing to do with whether or not I have sat down. The fact is that that is a separate matter.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I carefully noted that the Minister said that a term of imprisonment for the alleged crime of allowing people to contravene the terms of the licence was needed for repeated, flagrant and deliberate violations. I imagine that the people who are licence holders will be very jealous of their licence. After all, it is their livelihood, it is their club and they will not be able to operate without a licence. I acknowledge that the Minister and his advisers have been very careful to spell out that, in giving a list of exemptions, the clubs would have to carry the responsibility for issuing whatever is issued in order for the disabled or the accompanied children etc. to be exempt. The clubs have great responsibilities to sponsors for their club facilities. They ought not to take those responsi- bilities lightly. They should make sure that when there are visitors from overseas—foreigners who will be able to get into the ground—the clubs will not risk their licences lightly.

I say, and I believe that anybody else would say, that we are not talking in general terms of the hooligan, the yobbo or people of violence. We are talking about respectable business men and women who have trusted people to behave themselves but in the event they have been let down. I imagine that it will happen once, if at all, and then the clubs will tighten up their rules and regulations. In the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said about the state of our prisons and the pressure on our courts, and of trying to get the proposal off the ground in a reasonable sense, to talk of such a penalty is absolutely amazing. However, I do not intend to press the matter at this stage and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Licenses to admit spectators: general]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 8, line 27, leave out ("administrator of the scheme") and insert ("Football Membership Authority").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Licences to admit spectators: revocation and suspension]:

[Amendment No. 59 not moved.]

Clause 12 [Scope and interpretation of this Part]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 10, line 23, after ("in") insert ("paragraphs (d), (e), (h) and (i) of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment I shall also speak to Amendment No. 62. The amendment deals with adjusting the schedule. The full schedule includes a wide range of minor offences, and even if these are held to be relevant to a withdrawal of membership of the scheme, the imposition of restriction orders on the same basis appears unnecessarily harsh. The requirement to report an agency whenever specified would be a punishment added to that imposed for the offence and would involve recurrent restrictions on freedom of movement.

What we are talking about here is to limit the offences which are relevant to restriction orders to those involving violence or the threat of violence. That of course is slightly in line with an earlier amendment regarding the punishment of losing membership. This amendment relates to whether a restriction order will be imposed. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the first of these amendments seeks to limit the range of football-related offences in respect of which a court might make a restriction order to those of violence only. It would exclude offences relating to alcohol under the public order Act. The second amendment raises the test to be applied by the court before making an order so as to require the court to be satisfied that imposing such an order would help to prevent violence or serious disorder at designated matches. Taken together I believe that they would seriously diminish the effect of the provision from that intended and threaten to undermine a scheme, the principle of which I believe is widely supported by your Lordships.

It is necessary to remember, painful though it may be, those ugly scenes of hooliganism in Germany last June: the pictures on our television screens every night of hordes of Union Jack-clad youths involved in drunken brawls and on the rampage on the streets of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt. Carefully planned policing ensured that there were few incidents of violent crime and serious disorder, but the disgusting behaviour witnessed there was totally unacceptable by any standards. It is a repetition of such shameful scenes that the Government are seeking to avoid by the restriction order provision.

If these amendments are accepted, the courts will be powerless to act against those whose behaviour is so offensive—the drunk, abusive and threatening louts who have unfortunately become synonymous abroad with England's football supporters. In the same way that Part I aims to exclude all our convicted hooligans from matches at home, so should they all be prevented from inflicting themselves on other countries. With this intention in mind, the courts should be required to be satisfied that the order would help to prevent violence or disorder at matches abroad, including both serious brawling and drunken and insulting behaviour. I see no need to raise the threshold to serious disorder, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, will see that the provisions as they stand in the Bill are really best left unamended.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I hope the Minister can help me. I genuinely plead ignorance here. Is there a definition of the word "serious" in this context? Can he tell the House what constitutes disorder as opposed to serious disorder? We have drawn attention to serious disorder because we believe that there are different levels of offences. One must look at these in context. It appears to me in the light of what the Minister has said that there are matters which, although they certainly may not be pleasant or welcome, could be caught by this provision. Who determines what constitutes disorder? Is that left to the individual policeman or the individual police officer in charge of an area?

The Minister pleaded the case which he and his noble friends have pleaded so often, which is that one needs to be punitive in words and in intentions in order to apply the strictest deterrent. I hope that he understands that participating in football, whether at home or abroad, is a very exciting, emotional, noisy and often exhilarating experience. None of those aspects of participation in football causes violence and, in my view, within limits they do not cause disorder.

Does the Minister acknowledge that football needs to continue, not just as a spectator sport but as an experience for those who take part in it? I use the word "partisans" in the best sense of the term, but the partisans at a football match get very excited and shout and scream. They become very heavily involved in the match, but that does not constitute disorder. Spectators walking around in the streets are not necessarily causing an offence because they are encouraging themselves on and getting hyped up. I am not talking in terms of their taking drink but in terms of spectators hyping themselves up because they know they are going to take part in a great experience. Will the Minister tell me what the difference is between serious disorder and disorder?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly correct when he says that football must continue to be enjoyed by people. We are of course all entirely at one with that. However, I know the noble Lord will realise that no restriction order will be placed on a person unless he has committed a football related offence. It is not for a policeman to decide whether that offence constitutes a serious disorder or whether it constitutes merely a disorder. The interpretation of the act that has been committed is left for the courts to decide. It will be for the courts to decide whether the act of which the person is accused is one which has created serious disorder.

It would be quite inappropriate for me to try to define what constitutes disorder and what constitutes serious disorder. I would not seek to do that, but the noble Lord, Lord Graham, knows perfectly well that when a person appears before a court and is accused of something, it is up to the courts to interpret the law as it stands.

If one uses the term "serious disorder", it invites a distinction between some disorder which is acceptable and some disorder which is more serious and therefore is unacceptable. I think that would be a dangerous thing to do because, as I explained a few minutes ago, no restriction order will be placed on a person unless he has created a football related offence. Such an offence is an offence which of itself would have involved disorder.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Restriction orders]:

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

Clause 14 [Effect of order]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 11, line 39, leave out ("five years") and insert ("two to five years at the discretion of the court").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 63, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 64. The amendments are further attempts to reduce the severity of the punishments.

This is a good opportunity for me to tell the House what my colleagues and I have said repeatedly. Part II of the Bill in general is very welcome. It could be implemented overnight and in parliamentary terms have a speedy passage. That is because Part II deals with offences committed by people outside this country which have caused us shame and are a blot upon the good name of British football.. However, although we are at one with the Government in trying to deal with those who commit acts of hooliganism abroad, we believe that the punishment should be realistic.

Clause 14 deals with restriction orders and the length of restriction orders. Restriction orders are not new. They are delivered by courts in this country every week. I have witnessed with sadness the attempts by the Government to suggest not only that football clubs have done nothing to put their own house in order but that they are incapable of dealing with hooligans inside and outside their grounds. One can read—as I have even more carefully in the past few weeks—of instances in which British courts have dealt with hooligans. Twenty-five people were dealt with in the courts in Wolverhampton. A case is being dealt with in Manchester. Undoubtedly football clubs are familiar with the way in which courts deal with offenders and also with restrict ion orders.

The Bill states that the period for which a restriction order has effect is: in a case where he was sentenced in respect of that offence to a period of imprisonment taking immediate effect or of detention in a young offenders' institution, five years". We say that a blanket sentence of five years is too severe, restrictive and inflexible. Instead of five years the amendment suggests that the sentence should be two to five years, at the discretion of the court.

I hope that the Minister will understand that it is possible for magistrates' courts to consider the same offence and to reach a different conclusion as to the appropriate sentence to be passed. It happens every day. It happens throughout the country. One has only to see how the magistrates in Rotherham and Epsom, or in Bristol or Manchester, deal with the same offence. Given the same offence magistrates, who are trained and sensible, decide on a different punishment. The Bill says that everyone who is guilty of a relevant offence shall be treated in exactly the same way. We know that there will be some people who are vicious and there will be some who have merely been caught up in a situation, We are seeking to introduce some flexibility, and that instead of five years the restriction order should apply for between two and five years.

The Bill states that in any other ease, namely in any other case in which the offender has not been imprisoned or sent to a young offenders' institution, the sentence should be two years. We suggest that it should be between six months and two years. I hope that the Minister will be more lenient in this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I support the amendment. When we debated Amendment No. 57 the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, advised us to trust the judgment of the courts in matters of sentencing. I think that that is good advice, and I commend it to the Government in relation to Amendments No. 63 and 64. I hope that they will be logical and consistent, and accept this amendment.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, in Part I of the Bill we have provided a straightforward framework for disqualification from membership following conviction for a football related offence. The standard period of disqualification under the Bill is five years where the offender is sentenced to a period of immediate imprisonment or of detention in a young offenders' institution; and two years in other cases. The court does not have to decide whether, under the first limb, four years would be better than five; or, under the second limb, whether one year would be better than two years. It is laid down in the Bill. It is clear and straightforward for the court, for the offender and for the Football Membership Authority, which has to operate the scheme and enforce the disqualifications imposed under it.

It seems sensible, therefore, to have a similarly straightforward arrangement in respect of restriction orders, and one that matches those orders in Part I. Otherwise, we shall have a situation under the first amendment where, for example, a person who had served a sentence of imprisonment for a serious football related offence would be disqualified from membership for five years, but subject to a restriction order for only two years. So we would stop him from attending matches in this country for the balance of the three years, but would permit him to go abroad during that time, with all the risk of trouble that we were not prepared to bear ourselves. I do not think that that would be acceptable and I should understand, as I am sure other noble Lords would understand, if other countries asked us questions about the basis for the different standards. It is reasonable and proper that the standards should be the same both at home and abroad.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may assure the Minister that countries abroad will not ask that question because they do not have such a daft Act on their statute books as we seek to put on our statute book. The Minister says that, given the list of punishments in Part I—with which we disagree—ipso facto, to be consistent, one should have the same punishments in Part II. He may well say that that is logical, but we are equally logical in saying that we disagree with the totality of the punishments and their immovability. Will he tell us why, with regard to this aspect of law application, the Government believe that it should be rigid and not allow the courts any flexibility? He knows that in many other offences—both less serious and more serious—magistrates, judges and other elements of our penal system are given discretion when making the punishment fit the crime. Will the Minister help me and tell me why that is so?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if I may have the leave of the House to reply, I shall do so by asking the noble Lord whether—assuming the Bill is enacted and that the amendment is accepted—it is reasonable for a person who has been convicted of an offence of such gravity as to disqualify him from attending matches at home for five years to be allowed to go abroad to attend matches. We must bear in mind the fact that that person has committed an offence which we find so heinous that he is not to be allowed to attend matches at home. That is why we believe it is right to keep the penalties the same for abroad as they will be at home. It would be quite unrealistic to suggest otherwise.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, with respect, that was not the question. The question was: why do the Government feel that, in this situation, there should be fixed penalties in both Part I and Part II of the Bill? It is a strange proposal.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I do not want to abuse the procedures of the House, but, with leave, I shall speak again. I believe that the answer that I gave was the correct and proper one. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, asks why we do not give the courts discretion. We agreed that there should be a fixed limit in the first part of the Bill. If we have agreed that there should be a limit for offences committed at home, it would be quite unreasonable to allow the courts to fix a different limit for offences committed abroad. We should simply permit those hooligans who are of such a bad disposition as to have been disqualified from attending at home to go and ply their trade abroad. That is why the offences must be the same in both parts of the Bill.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I imagine that magistrates would be far more sensible than the Minister and his advisers in this respect. I believe that, in practice, given the flexibility, magistrates will not use it to apply two different periods to the punishment, one in regard to the deprivation of membership and the other in regard to the ability to travel abroad. I believe that they will exercise their responsibility and make the punishment for the offence applicable to both aspects equally. As the Bill makes progress through another place I hope that the opportunity will be taken to trust the magistrates in the way that we are prepared to do. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 64 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Functions of agencies]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 65:

Page 15, line 11, leave out ("in the case of an offence under subsection (10),").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment to remove a reference to subsection (10). I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Functions of agencies: supplementary provisions]:

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Restriction orders arising out of offences outside England and Wales]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 16, line 41, at end insert ("paragraphs (c), (d), (e), (g), (h) and (i) of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am surprised that Amendment No. 67 was not grouped with Amendment No. 68 because they are alternatives. Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the House to discuss the two amendments together.

I was initially attracted by what is now Amendment No. 68 and almost added my name to it. On examination, however, I thought that it went a little too far. I understand and share the desire to confine the provisions of Clause 20 to cases of violence or threats of violence. However, one can visualise a sitution in which a British fan at a foreign match shouted "Fire!" at the top of his lungs and started a panic in which people were trampled underfoot and possibly seriously injured or even killed—in other words, a Heysel-type situation. Alternatively a fan might shout the phrase "Dirty dagoes" when attending a football match in Spain, thereby precipitating a riot. In neither case would violence have been used or threatened, yet the consequences could be just as serious as if it had been. In contrast, drinking at a match or on the way to a match is a trivial offence, as is attempting to get into a match without a permit, if the equivalent foreign offence can be found. Therefore, I suggest that we exclude those three paragraphs. I think that they should not come within the ambit of Clause 20. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the amendments exclude fewer corresponding offences. I listened to what the noble Lord said. We would be restricting corresponding offences to offences of violence at foreign matches.

The first amendment includes offences corresponding to certain public order offences. It also includes—this is important—all such offences on a journey to or from a match. The amendment will exclude offences corresponding to Clause 2(1) or Clause 5(5) and Sections 1 and 2 of the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 in appropriate circumstances.

I am unable to point to any existing offence abroad which equates to the two spectator offences, if one can so call them, under this Bill. However, that is not the issue. When the Bill is fully in force one can imagine other nations bringing forward similar legislation. I think that it is not unreasonable at least to provide for that possibility in the Bill. Were a corresponding membership scheme to exist abroad, I do not see that in principle courts would not be able ever to impose a restriction order on someone who committed a criminal offence to cheat it. Perhaps we can bear in mind that such arrangements would be likely principally to be because the other country saw a membership scheme similar to ours and it was necessary to take a sufficiently strong stand against football hooliganism. Similarly in the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Act that applies to very specific circumstances involving alcohol in the context of football.

Section 2, covered by paragraph (b) of the schedule to the Bill, concerns entering or trying to enter a ground under the influence of alcohol or of bringing or trying to bring alcohol into a match.

Section 1, which is covered by paragraph (f) of the schedule, concerns carriage of alcohol on coaches or trains to or from such events. These are well-established parts of our law with which our supporters should be familiar. It should come as no surprise to them if they were to find similar offences in other countries. If they fall foul of those provisions and are convicted abroad, I do not see why there is a weaker case for imposing a restriction order than for many other offences. That would still be possible with this amendment.

I hope that in the light of that, the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I cannot believe that an offence merely of consuming alcohol at a match or on the way to a match, unaccompanied by any violence, threat of violence or public order offence, is so serious that it justifies imposing a restriction order upon an individual. It is a pretty draconian penalty for something so mild and relatively trivial, I should have thought.

However, no other noble Lord has spoken to this amendment so far. There are perhaps only a baker's dozen or so in the Chamber. For the moment therefore— —

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, if he is looking for a friend in the cause that he is fighting, he has one here. He has witnessed the manner in which equally sensible amendments that I have moved have been treated by the Government, and he has been treated in the same way. We have been attempting to make the Bill not only more acceptable but more realistic. That is why I did not rise to my feet. I certainly agree with everything that he has said.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, perhaps I may help the noble Lord, with the leave of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that there was nothing wrong with a person drinking alcohol on a train. I think that he has forgotten the fact that he has to be convicted of a football-related offence. The football-related offence is covered by these items in the schedule. It is only if he is convicted of an offence, one of which may be that he has been misbehaving because of alcohol on a train, that the position would arise. He has to be convicted of the offence. The noble Lord seems to have forgotten that.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I had not forgotten that. Whether or not it is related to football, merely drinking alcohol is a trivial offence if the consumption is unaccompanied by violence, threats of violence or disorder of any kind. It is still technically an offence but not one which warrants the full, harsh provisions of Part II coming into force.

However, as I said, attendance in the Chamber is thin at the moment. I should like to study what the noble Earl has said and possibly come back to this at a later stage. At the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 69:

Before Clause 21, insert the following new clause:

("Further provision about, and appeals against, declarations of relevance.


  1. (1) A court may not make a declaration of relevance as respects any offence unless it is satisfied that the prosecutor gave notice to the defendant, at least three days before the first day of the trial, that it was proposed to show that the offence related to football matches.
  2. (2) A person convicted of an offence as respects which the court makes a declaration of relevance may appeal against the making of the declaration of relevance as if the declaration were included in any sentence passed on him for the offence, and accordingly—
    1. (a) in section 10(3) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (appeals against sentence by Crown Court), in paragraph (c), after the sub-paragraph (iv) inserted by section 13(7) above there shall be inserted "or (v) a declaration of relevance under the Football Spectators Act 1989;";
    2. (b) in section 50(1) of that Act (meaning of "sentence"), at the end there shall be inserted the words "and a declaration of relevance under the Football Spectators Act 1989"; and
    3. (c) in section 108(3) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (right of appeal to the Crown Court), at the end there shall be inserted the words "and also includes a declaration of relevance under the Football Spectators Act 1989."
  3. (3) A restriction order made upon a person's conviction of a relevant offence shall be quashed if the making of a declaration of relevance as respects that offence is reversed on appeal.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 69, I shall not be supporting Amendment No. 70. This new clause gives effect to an undertaking that I made when we were discussing the provisions concerned with mandatory disqualification from the scheme following conviction for a relevant offence.

Under the Bill as drafted, certain offences are to be treated as relevant for the purposes of disqualification only if the court declares them to be relevant. The offences concerned are those which occurred when the accused was on his or her way to or from a match, rather than at one. In such cases there may be room for doubt as to whether the offence concerned is relevant to football. We have therefore built in the need for a declaration of relevance. The points I accepted in Committee, which the new clause addresses, are that the defendant should know in advance if the prosecution intends to seek a declaration of relevance in his or her case. The defendant should have a right of appeal against a declaration once made.

The new clause provides for the prosecution to give notice at least three days before the first day of the hearing. It also amends the appropriate statutes to allow for appeals against declarations of relevance.

In introducing the new clause, I should also address the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Harris of Greenwich. That amendment seeks to substitute five working days for three days' advance notice. We considered very carefully what might be the appropriate period of advance notification. On the one hand, the defendant must know about the prosecution's intentions sufficiently far in advance of his hearing to enable him to prepare his arguments as to why a declaration of relevance should not be made, if that is his position. On the other hand, the longer the advance notice that we stipulate shall be given, the more we delay the administration of justice.

Noble Lords know that the Government are committed to the principle of swift justice. Cases involving incidents of football hooliganism may be particularly appropriate to that principle and we do not want to set the rules in such a way that such cases cannot come to court quickly. Three days seems to strike the right balance between these considerations. It is precedented by the Criminal Courts Act 1973, which allows the courts to impose sentences on persistent offenders above the maximum prescribed for a particular offence in cases where the defendant has been given three days' notice in advance that this may happen.

I commend the new clause standing in my name to the House and I invite the noble Lords not to press their amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 69, Amendment No. 70:

Line 4, leave out ("three") and insert ("five working").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing the amendment forward, because it takes care of a point of dispute as to whether the offence is relevant and provides the ability to argue. The Minister says that he wants justice to be swift. How often have we heard here and in other situations the plea that there is no time? It must be done, otherwise administration will be slow. Surely a better maxim is that it is far better to get it right than to get it swiftly.

Let me take the noble Lord through the practical application of what he has said. If the court is to deal with the matter on a Monday, what will constitute the three days' notice? One day is Sunday, two days is Saturday and three days is Friday—are we really saying that notice given, but not necessarily received, on a Friday is held by the Government to be adequate? I do not want to hear about other precedents which apply in other places. We are considering this Bill. Surely the House and the football world will be aghast if the Minister appears to be giving a concession but that the concession is worthless.

The reason we ask for five working days is that, substantially, that is a week. In other words, if the court is to hear a case on Monday it will have to give notice on the previous Monday, five working days. The court might sit on the Tuesday and one of the working days might include a Saturday. I want the Minister to recognise that we are grateful to be given the right but, if the right turns out to be worthless and spurious, surely that will bring this part of the Bill into disrepute. Will the Minister think again and acknowledge that what he has given, in the event, may turn out to cause more aggravation than it is intended to deal with?

Lord Renton

My Lords, there is not very much in this. It is a difference of two days— —

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but I am constantly staggered at his stance in this matter. The Government state three days and we are asking for five working days. If the Minister will confirm that "three days" means "three working days" the noble Lord, Lord Renton, may be right.

Lord Renton

My Lords, according to the practice of the courts and the way in which such issues are interpreted when in statutes, it means "working days". If we work on that hypothesis, there is not much difference. It is only two working days.

Today we have the aid of the telephone. Let us suppose that an offence is committed at a football match in Nottingham by a man who lives in Norfolk. Let us also suppose that he has a solicitor from Norwich and a barrister from London. Presumably the notice will be received by the solicitor rather than by the defendant in order that he can deal with it. I hope that my noble friend can clarify that. It will not be difficult for the solicitor to telephone the barrister's chambers in London and tell him what is contained in the notice. That will give the barrister a couple of days to ascertain whether the notice is feasible.

In view of what was said by my noble friend Lord Hesketh about trying to avoid delays in the administration of justice, and in view of the aid of the telephone which is used a fair amount by both branches of the profession, three working days is adequate. However, if I am wrong and they are not working days, I believe that the Minister should consider making them so.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to reply briefly. I am slightly disturbed by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, brushed aside the example of precedence, which is a matter of great importance in the history of the laws of this country. However, because this is the last amendment that we shall discuss tonight, I am willing to meet him half way. We can move to five days but omit the word "working". I believe that that is a fair consideration between the two of us.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, as regards precedence, it is not a matter of searching the law books to find a case in which three days' notice is valid and say, "That is a precedent and it shall apply to this case which is entirely different from the other". Surely the doctrine of precedence does not have the enormous importance which the Minister is trying to give it.

While I am on my feet, I must ask whether when we are dealing with amendments to amendments, is it not a better practice for the mover of the amendment to state his case and not try to pre-empt the argument for the next amendment, and for the mover of the next amendment then to make his case? It does not help to try to anticipate the argument for the next amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful for what has been said. We are left with the interesting point that "five days" may mean "five working days" because that is the recollection of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. If the Minister says that he envisages the practice of courts ringing the people involved in cases rather than putting matters in writing— —

Lord Renton

My Lords, I did not say that— —

Noble Lords

Order, order!

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Can the Minister tell us that by agreeing to change three to five, although it is not five working days, that is what it means?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with the leave of the House, it means five days.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, if it means five days, and the recollection of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is that in practice it means five working days, we are almost there are we not? I believe that the Minister has given a concession. If the Minister starts by giving us a concession by tabling this amendment and then says that he will extend it, I should be churlish not to acknowledge that, and I am not churlish. Whether the interpretation is as I believe it to be or as the Minister believes it to be can be sorted out later. As the Minister says, this is the last amendment which I shall move this evening and I believe that that is a very good note on which to terminate this part of the proceedings. On the basis that an amendment to the Minister's amendment will be moved on Third Reading, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 69 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Citation, commencement, consequential repeal and extent]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendments Nos. 71 to 74:

Page 18, line 31, after ("Sections") insert ("2 and 8 and").

Page 18, line 33, after ("otherwise") insert ("Part I and").

Page 18, leave out lines 34 to 39.

Page 18, line 40, leave out subsection (3).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

In the schedule:

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 82 not moved.]

House adjourned at six minutes before ten o'clock.