HL Deb 02 November 1989 vol 512 cc417-21

97 In the schedule, page 21, line 22, at end insert — '( ) any offence under section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 (persons found drunk in public places, etc.) of being found drunk in a highway or other public place committed while the accused was on a journey to or from a designated football match being an offence as respects which the court makes a declaration of relevance; ( ) any offence under section 91(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 (disorderly behaviour while drunk in a public place) committed in a highway or other public place while the accused was on a journey to or from a designated football match being an offence as respect which the court makes a declaration of relevance;'.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 97, and I shall speak to Amendment No. 98 at the same time.

These amendments to the schedule of relevant offences were introduced in another place in response to a suggestion made by the Opposition in Standing Committee. The effect of the amendments is that anyone who is convicted of an offence of excessive drinking on the way to or from a football match would be disqualified from the membership scheme and could be liable to a restriction order provided that the court had declared the offence to be football-related.

As the Bill had been drafted, only those offences which were committed on football special coaches and trains would count. Similar offences which were committed on foot or in a car would not. Given the part which alcohol has to play in spectator violence, it is right that we should cover all offences in this way.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in the said amendment. —(Earl Ferrers.)


97A Line 4, leave out ("or from").

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 97A. I do not intend to make heavy weather of this matter, but I was a little surprised by one element of the Commons amendment. I understand the case for "drunk and disorderly". Clearly people who are drunk and disorderly may become involved in incidents which lead to violence, but so far as concerns the first part we are talking about the provision of the Licensing Act 1872 where a person is found drunk on the highway. If a person is drunk on the highway —an offence which used to be described as "drunk and incapable" —he is almost by definition incapable of creating violence. I do not follow the need for that provision.

Perhaps I may take an extreme example where after a football match someone went to have a meal in a restaurant, drank too much and was then found drunk on the highway after the match. I find it hard to believe that he constitutes any risk to anyone other than himself. Perhaps the noble Earl will be helpful enough to explain the provision.

Moved, That Amendment No. 97A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 97, be agreed to. —(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will help us in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, suggested. He indicated —and I agree —that we are at one in wanting to deal with football-related offences which are in turn related to excessive drinking. We can well understand how such offences may be football-related if they involve someone on his way to a match or during a match. The football ground that I know best is Tottenham Hotspurs. Very often for at least art hour after a football match I see people between the ground and White Hart Lane railway station and Seven Sisters Underground station who, especially since the Government relaxed the drinking laws, legitimately find it convenient to throw off their guise of a football supporter. They are then in effect the same as those hundreds and thousands of other people who traverse those roads. They go into clubs or pubs and become the worse for wear. That is not remotely related to football. It is not a football-related offence.

The Government have to be much clearer as to timescale and circumstance if they want the Bill to be respected and to stand scrutiny. The Minister must know that people outside this House will do everything possible to make the Bill work. The Football Association and the Football League in particular, as well as football clubs, will want to know that they are keeping a clean ship and acting as good citizens. They will want time to get ready and will want the Government to understand their problems.

There are people who have been to a football match, whether they have enjoyed themselves or not, who leave the ground stone cold sober, but in the course of the following hour or so get drunk. Although that has nothing to do with their having been to the match, the Government seem to be saying that they might find themselves in difficulties. They are dealt with not only because they are drunk but in addition because they have been to the match their cards will be withdrawn. I believe that that is punitive.

Although there is agreement on the general sense, the Government will understand that in this case they have gone a little too far. If they do not accept the amendment to the amendment they are buying themselves a lot of trouble.

Earl Ferrers

The passage of this Bill has been remarkable for some curious expressions of opinion and not least this evening with regard to this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, says that he does not see how a man who is drunk on a highway can possibly be capable of creating any violence. The noble Lord must not have been watching events. He knows perfectly well that alcohol has played a very significant part in spectator violence. I regret to say that we have seen ample evidence of nasty incidents that follow excessive drinking on the way back from football matches as well as on the way to them. I do not think the House needs to be reminded of the ugly scenes at motorway stations and so on which have involved groups of drunken football supporters who celebrate victories if their side has won or wallow in misery if it has lost.

The underlying aim throughout the Bill has been to divorce hooliganism from football. That should apply to the journey to the match, the duration of the match itself and the homeward journey. At the moment the Bill allows for a relevant offence to be one in which drunkenness takes place on trains and coaches. We suggest that it should be not only trains and coaches but any form of transport. Even if someone is on his feet, if he has been to a match and as a result is in an inebriated state and then creates mayhem in some place, that ought to be an offence. What matters is that it has to be a relevant offence and that is specified in the Bill.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down perhaps he could deal with the circumstance that I outlined; namely, that of people who have been to a match and have left the ground stone cold sober. Subsequently they do not go home but decide to enjoy themselves in the vicinity of the football ground. They take advantage of having friends who live nearby and go with them into a club or pub. Their connection with football has ceased to exist. They have, as it were, become ordinary citizens. Like thousands of other ordinary citizens they run the risk of becoming drunk and, just like other people, they get drunk. Other people do not lose their football identity card but the person who has left the match, whatever distance he is away from the ground, has his card taken away from him. He loses his card not because he has transgressed any rule but simply because, like many others, he has got drunk after having too much to drink. That has nothing to do with the football match. Will the Minister address that point?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the matter is perfectly simple. The noble Lord suggests that if a person who has been to a football match goes back to friends and perhaps celebrates their wedding anniversary and in so doing gets drunk, because he has been to a football match he is incriminated and may lose his card.

But it is up to the courts to decide whether creating mayhem in the place to which he went, having simply celebrated someone's wedding anniversary, is a relevant offence. If the court decides that the person got drunk as a result of enjoying himself in celebrating his friend's wedding anniversary, presumably it will say that that is not a relevant offence. But if the court determines that because the man had gone to a football match and because his side had won he and his friends had celebrated by going to a local motorway station and beating it up, it might decide that that was a relevant offence. It is entirely up to the court to decide.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, as I indicated, I do not intend to make heavy weather of this amendment. I am particularly glad that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is present because I believe that there will be an attitude of immense gratitude from members of the Bar about the impending flow of work when issues of that sort are tested. All I can say is that we understand the argument of drunk and disorderly citizens misbehaving.

The noble Earl did not deal with the question of the man who is simply drunk and incapable. I believe that the Government have acceded to pressure in the other place to make this amendment to the Bill. I believe that it goes much too far and creates one law for people who are members of the scheme and a totally different law for those who are not members. However, that is but one of the objections to this ill considered Bill. At this stage I cannot believe that we are likely to amend it in a more satisfactory manner. On that basis I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment No. 97A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 97, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 97 agreed to.