HL Deb 03 November 1993 vol 549 cc1081-3

2.48 p.m.

Lord Howell asked Her Majesty's Government:

What information was provided to them from the Football Intelligence Unit prior to the Holland versus England world cup match as to the identity of persons likely to create disturbances in Holland during the relevant periods of time; how many such persons were prevented from travelling to Holland under the terms of Part II of the Football Spectators Act 1989; and how many people have been or will be subjected to prosecution as a result of disturbances created in Holland.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I understand from the director of the National Criminal Intelligence Service that the intelligence provided by him direct to the Dutch authorities included a list of 559 supporters who are subject to football exclusion orders as well as intelligence on the activities of certain hard-core groups. Decisions as to whether individuals who are subject to restriction orders should be required to report during a particular match is a matter for the enforcing authority. I understand that no one was required so to report on this occasion. To date, 14 people have been prosecuted by the Dutch authorities as a result of the disturbances.

Lord Howell

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that information, which is extremely valuable. However, does it not show that all our procedures under the Act, supported on all sides of the House, are proving to be totally ineffective? Should we not be ashamed to wreak this havoc upon citizens of friendly countries in Europe? Do we not have a duty to prevent those evil criminals—for that is what they are—from carrying out their actions? Therefore do we not need to take more action on an agreed basis to prevent those people leaving this country in the first place? We must not forget that often innocent supporters are subject to intense provocation in overseas countries. The activities experienced in Italy, Spain and Holland, and the evil carried out last night in Istanbul, must be dealt with. Is it not time that we had an all-party conference to reach agreement as to how we can best tack le this national evil?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am sure that we all agree that the behaviour of those hooligans casts a major blemish on the good name of this country. We are still working on existing legislation to try to improve the way in which it works, and clearly there is much to be done in that regard. For example, we are continuing to seek bilateral agreements with other countries under Article 5 of the European convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour at sports events. Interestingly, in the light of the developments at the England-Holland match, Holland is one of the countries with which we are actively trying to pursue that course.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, is not one of the major problems of the Football Spectators Act that, in order to be effective, it needs a reciprocal agreement between this country and other countries? Is it not the case that such reciprocal agreements apply only to Italy, Sweden and Scotland? Quite how one can be enforced between England and Scotland is beyond me, although it may not be beyond the noble Lord. Is this not another example of legislation arrived at in haste and being repented at leisure? Unless it has already been made clear and agreed that there will be reciprocal action, it can hardly be denied that the action proposed under the Act will not work.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I do not think that we need to repent for attempting to tackle this problem. The reason that Scotland is considered is that Scottish law is different; and, dare I say, in Scotland they would like to keep English football hooligans out just as much as any other country would do. As I said in my original Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, the problem is, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, that we need these bilateral agreements; and we shall continue to pursue them. But quite clearly we need the agreement of the other country, and I very much hope that other footballing countries will come along and sign up to Article 5 of the convention.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the need for bilateral agreements and we would all accept the need for those. Why is there no bilateral agreement with Holland? When did we start negotiating with the Dutch authorities? Does the noble Lord agree that there is no point in us all denouncing the behaviour of English football supporters who misbehave in such a lamentable manner if these agreements are not carried through?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, there are obviously some problems with the legal systems in some other countries in terms of whether they can fit easily into the legal framework that we have created in this country. But I can assure the noble Lord that we continue to do what we can to pursue these matters, especially, for example, over ensuring that, if a British citizen commits a criminal offence while at a football match in another country, the authorities in that country will prosecute him.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, do the Government have the power to ban such people going abroad? If they have the power, in the interests of everyone why do they not use it? If they do not have the power, will they bring forward legislation as quickly as they can? I am sure that everyone I know would be in favour of it.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord knows, a court can impose restriction orders which would prevent persons going to certain designated matches in other countries. The numbers of such restriction orders are really quite small. Indeed, as far as I understand, no one under a restriction order was in Holland and in any way responsible for the events of a week or two back.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, the noble Lord has rightly drawn attention to the fact that no similar experience has occurred so far as concerns Scottish football supporters. Is there anything to be learnt by the English authorities from that excellent experience?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I shall resist the temptation to go too far down this path, but as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, knows, the experience obtained in Scotland from the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1980, which prevented the consumption of alcohol in football grounds and so on, has been taken up in England. I am quite sure that there will be the same success south of the Border as there has been north of the Border. On the travelling of fans abroad, I do not think that those of us from north of the Border should be particularly self-satisfied about this issue because it could quite easily strike us as well.

Lord Howell

My Lords, will the Minister advise the House, especially those on the Liberal Benches, that these people are not football supporters? Why is not this matter designated under Part II of the Act and why were none of the 500 people whose names were apparently given to the Dutch authorities brought before the courts, made subject to an exclusion order and required to attend a police station at the appropriate time when the match was being played?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the noble Lord knows, having been actively involved in the passage of the Bill in another place, that there are two different kinds of order. The restriction order deals with fans travelling abroad and the exclusion order deals with fans going to football matches in this country. We are looking at the possibility of combining the two orders in the future.

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