§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wish to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows: "In my Statement to the House on 19th June about the disorder perpetrated by England supporters in Charleroi and Brussels, I said that we would consider urgently whether further measures should be introduced so as to improve the effectiveness of court orders against those convicted of football-related offences, and introduce powers in respect of unconvicted football hooligans against whom there was other good evidence.
"I should now like to tell the House about the conclusions of the review which we have undertaken following events in Belgium and the legislative and other proposals which I shall be commending to the House.
"The House and the country know all too well of the events in Charleroi and Brussels which shamed our national game and our national reputation, and which resulted in the arrest of over 900 British nationals, in the deportation of 464 of those, and in a very small number facing trial.
"For some years, the widely accepted view has been that football hooliganism abroad is perpetrated by a relatively small minority of known football troublemakers. Measures discussed and approved by the House over a 15-year period have been predicated largely on that assumption. However, the blunt truth, which has become very clear from events last month, is this. Football hooliganism abroad is no longer confined to that small minority of known troublemakers. There is now strong evidence of a larger number of England supporters getting involved in violence and disorder, and few of them are known in advance to the police nationally as football-related offenders.
1407 "As I told the House on 19th June, the policing operation for Euro 2000 against known football hooligans was largely successful. Of the 1,000 such known offenders on the lists provided by NCIS to both the Belgian and Dutch authorities, our information is that most either did not travel or were denied entry to the host countries. Only 30 were arrested, detained or deported in either country.
"However, of the 965 who were arrested in Belgium and Holland, 409 had previous convictions, including for violence.
"Against that background, the House will, I believe, appreciate the need for measures to be drawn more widely than has been proposed in the past. I have specific legislative proposals, but this is an issue which runs wider than legislation alone and requires the active co-operation of all involved in football at every level in England.
"First, I turn to legislation. The legislation which I propose has four key elements. First, we propose to combine the domestic and international football banning orders which are made by a court following a conviction for a football-related offence. Currently we have about 400 domestic bans in force but only 101 international bans. Those 101 are the only people who currently can be prevented from leaving the country to attend matches abroad. In future, everyone who receives a banning order will be subject to both domestic and international bans.
"Secondly, we propose that, save in exceptional circumstances, everyone who receives such a ban will have to surrender their passport while major overseas games are on. Courts currently have discretion to impose such a condition when they impose an international football banning order. In future, that will be the norm for the new combined orders.
"Thirdly, there is the proposal for civil process, similar to that for the anti-social behaviour order, for a football banning order. That was included in our consultation paper published in the autumn of 1998 and has been actively supported by honourable Members on all sides. Under such a process, the police could propose a football banning order to the courts where they believe that that would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with football matches. However, I believe that the order should now be more widely available than hitherto proposed. Under the new scheme, it would not therefore be necessary that the person in question should have been convicted of a football-related offence or, indeed, of any offence, although plainly any convictions for violence would be very relevant evidence. The police would need to have evidence sufficient to convince the court on the balance of probabilities that the test was met. That evidence could come from abroad and it might date from before the proposed new law comes into force.
"Fourthly, I propose that there should a new power for the police effectively to prevent a person from leaving the country where they believe there may he grounds for making a banning order. There 1408 would be a power of arrest, and breach of that direction would be a criminal offence. There would be a hearing in the magistrates' court. When the police make such a direction, the person concerned will be summonsed to the court to decide whether a banning order should be made. The value of this power will be that when people arrive at a port or airport and they give grounds for suspicion that they are out to cause trouble, the police will be able to make quick inquiries. They will then be able to prevent embarkation at short notice where it would not be possible to go through the procedure of applying for a banning order from the court before the person left the country.
"Those, then, are the main legislative measures that we seek, although the legislation will include other minor measures. I am satisfied that they are compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.
"Let me now deal with the time-scale for this legislation. I have already had constructive discussions with the Official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats, and I am grateful for their co-operation. The Official Opposition are already on record as saying that they will support any moves in Parliament to restrict English football hooliganism. The next international game for England will be against France on 2nd September. Plainly, it will be preferable if the legislation can be put in good order to be on the statute book by the time the House rises at the end of this month.
"However, I well recognise that all Members of this House and of the other place take their responsibilities for scrutinising legislation very seriously. Three of the four key measures proposed have been well aired in principle in the past. The fourth has not. In any event, the effectiveness of legislation comes down to its detail. In order to combine speed with careful scrutiny, I therefore propose to proceed as follows.
"A draft Bill will be published in the Vote Office for all honourable Members, hopefully by the end of this week. I shall discuss its detail with the Opposition parties and hold an all-party meeting for honourable Members and Peers with a view on the Bill early next week. We shall also consult outside interests and take account of the conclusions of this process in the version of the Bill presented to the House. All this will of course be discussed through the usual channels as soon as possible to see whether there is scope for the Bill to have a very speedy passage, even possibly before the Recess.
"Legislation is only part of the answer to the wider problem. I strongly welcome the Football Association's commitment to seek life bans from home grounds for any England fan convicted of hooligan behaviour, or against whom there is hard evidence of such behaviour, at Euro 2000 or in the future. I hope very much that the clubs will support the FA in this initiative.
"But there is much more that can and must he done to confront the culture out of which hooliganism grows. I met representatives of the 1409 Football Association last week. They themselves recognise the need to take a hard look at ticketing, travel and stewarding arrangements, more effective action against displays of racism at matches and closer co-operation with supporters' groups, all with the aim of making support for the England team abroad more attractive to families and to decent supporters who are currently kept away by the threat of hooliganism. I have asked my noble friend Lord Bassam to chair a working group which will involve a wide range of partners from the football world who are committed to making changes for the better in these important areas.
"I hope that what I have said will demonstrate to the House our determination to use all the means at our disposal to get rid once and for all of the obnoxious taint of football hooliganism. The Government will give a lead. But only if we can succeed as a nation in changing the culture that gives rise to football violence shall we be able to claim that the problem has been truly solved".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement of his right honourable friend the Home Secretary. However, as the Minister is personally responsible for this area of policy in the Home Office, I assumed that to some extent the Home Secretary was repeating the words and policies suggested by the noble Lord.
With regard to recent history, can the Minister tell us why those who were forcibly repatriated to this country were not charged with offences in Belgium and Holland? Indeed, was any judicial process in Belgium and Holland involved in the deportation of these individuals?
We continue to support measures to remove passports from hooligans with domestic and international banning orders. Such measures were proposed by my right honourable friend Sir Norman Fowler in 1998 when he was shadow Home Secretary, but the Government have left them on the shelf until now.
The proposed Bill will go further, allowing arrest and an initial travel ban on the word of a police inspector, subsequently to be confirmed by a court. We shall look carefully at the draft Bill—and at the real Bill, when it appears—but we shall not stand in the way of its passage through the House, although, as the Minister said, the timings will need to be discussed through the usual channels.
Does the Minister realise that the urgency of the legislation is the consequence of the Government's delay on the issue? Parliament has been awash with Home Office Bills throughout the year, with even more ideas being proposed by the Prime Minister on a Friday and withdrawn on the following Monday, as we have seen this week. Can we expect the Bill to be called the Dangerous Fans Bill?
1410 What previous offences other than violence or football-related offences will be regarded as relevant by police inspectors or magistrates? Will offences related to squatting be included?
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, after the Statement on 19th June, I recall noble Lords on all sides warning against knee-jerk reactions. The review has taken two weeks, which must be a record for a Home Office review. The Minister must accept that there is a certain cynicism about the motives and the timing of the announcement.
Our main claim in recent years has been that we have eradicated violence from our major domestic internationals, so I do not believe that we should be dragooned into a deadline for the friendly against France or the World Cup game against Germany. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, the history of knee-jerk legislation is not good. I suspect that the Dangerous Yobs Act may join the Dangerous Dogs Act in the lexicon of bad legislation passed in haste unless we are very careful.
The Liberal Democrats would have preferred a more measured look at the legislation, perhaps with some pre-legislative scrutiny. As a second best, we welcome the Minister's commitment to consult both opposition parties and, perhaps as importantly, outside interests. Will the Home Office put in the Libraries of both Houses all the submissions that are received?
The Liberal Democrats have already given their support to some of the proposals. For example, the extension of domestic football banning orders to international orders and vice versa seems to be common sense. However, we make no apology for telling the Government that we cannot give them blanket approval until we see the details of the legislation.
I remember the scene in "A Man for All Seasons" when Richard Rich is proposing rapid-fire solutions and Thomas More asks him where we will shelter when the wind of tyranny blows and we have chopped down all the safeguards to our liberty. When the Government seek to take away the civil liberties of the least appealing of our citizens, Parliament should be on its guard.
We welcome the recognition that any legislation is only part of the answer. I welcome the establishment of the working group under the Minister. As we know from his other activities in the House, he has plenty of time in his diary. When will the membership be announced and when will the group hope to report? Will it consider holding public hearings?
The legislation will make sense only if it is accompanied by other measures that put it in context. We should look at best practice at home and abroad. We should look at the relationship between alcohol and violence to see if further restrictions are needed. We may have to consider a total ban on away ticket 1411 sales for certain fixtures at home and abroad. We must step up the campaign against yobbery and its ugly twin sister, racism.
I welcome the acknowledgement that the issue runs wider than legislation alone and requires the active co-operation of all those involved in football at every level. However, football is not the only issue. We must address the context in which the culture of yobbery has grown. The Prime Minister should not invite icons of the yob culture across the threshold of No. 10 and the media should not turn every sporting fixture into a rerun of World War II. Players have to take responsibility for their behaviour on and off the field and the clubs must show greater social responsibility. The media in general have to consider the appropriateness of television programmes and other coverage that gives implicit approval to the yob and his attitudes. We need to take measures to ensure that the vast wealth now flowing into the game feeds down to the often very deprived communities that sustain it.
Watching Euro 2000 made us realise why soccer is called the beautiful game. What makes me so angry is that that beautiful game is being stolen from us by yob culture at one end and corporate greed at the other. It is the job of Parliament to set a framework that combats both.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I welcome the welcomes from both previous speakers and look forward to the active support of both opposition parties in our endeavour to bring the legislation before Parliament and ensure an active process of scrutiny with good debates. We want to settle this legislative matter once and for all.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked about deportations and the judicial process. In only a handful of cases was there any attempt to process through the judicial system those who were arrested and deported. We were sad about that. I am sure that it is widely accepted that, where there is evidence, people should be brought before the courts, charged properly and, if the evidence stands up, convicted. Before Euro 2000, we gave every encouragement to both jurisdictions to approach matters in that way.
The noble Lord also pointed out, not entirely unfairly, that our urgency is a product of events before Euro 2000. It would have been preferable for some of the legislation to have been in place beforehand, but I am not convinced that the earlier proposals would have been as extensive in their effect as many believe that they could have been. There would still have been problems in Charleroi and Brussels, because the legislation would have needed to be in place three or four years ago for it to have an effect in picking up and identifying those who were likely to cause trouble in the streets.
We are right to take a broader view. In the past we have taken the convenient view that football hooligans are a small, mindless minority. Sadly, there is something sick about our culture that has developed this yobbery, which is more widespread than perhaps 1412 we believed in the past. We have to deal with the consequences of that. We have to look at our culture and at the law. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said, we in public service have to take a lead. We should all share the responsibility for doing that.
In his welcome for the formation of the working group, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked one or two specific questions. It is our intention to be speedy. We hope to set it up within the next week or so. We want to report in the autumn or earlier, if and when appropriate. I certainly want to look more widely than the legislation. I want to involve the clubs. I certainly want to involve those in the rest of the industry. By that I include the media, which also have a responsibility. We must work closely with the football authorities which have a profound responsibility. We need to look at a range of issues: ticketing arrangements, travel, sponsorship, the involvement of clubs in the community, tackling racism and looking at good practice and best practice in clubs. I am particularly impressed by the activities of Charlton Athletic with their anti-racist strategy. I should like to look at that. I should also like to ensure that we take from the best practice that is available in Europe in terms of powers, and so forth. If there is something to be learnt from the Germans, we should learn it.
I promise your Lordships' House that I shall cast my eye widely. We have the beginnings of active and positive support from the Football Association and those involved in the football business. They realise that we must take more steps finally to put our house in order.
There are positive aspects. Here, the domestic game is more broad based in terms of support. It is more multicultural and multiracial. It has become an entertainment and a sport which has a broad-based family backing. I believe that has something to do with the way in which it has been successfully rebranded. Sadly, that is not the case for the international game and for those who travel abroad. It is that to which we must turn our attention in a dramatic way. It must be tackled or the problems will continue.
The legislation can do much. However, we must do more to attack the culture which has given rise to the sad, demeaning and degrading events which took place in other countries and capitals.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord Windlesham
My Lords, I share the expressions of public revulsion to which the Minister referred regarding the behaviour of some football supporters and agree that it is entirely proper for the Government to respond to threats to public order. However, does the Minister accept that it is sometimes only too easy to go one step too far?
The fourth category of these proposals is entirely novel and raises fundamental issues of civil rights. It affects those who have no previous conviction and are not subject to any existing banning order, and it depends on the word of a police officer. One question is bound to come up, which I shall put to the Minister now. Will the suspects—for that is what they will be— 1413 have a right to legal advice and representation, as currently exists under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, when they are questioned by the police?
These issues—there are many more—will require careful consideration in this House. We are three weeks away from the Summer Recess. The Bill must be allowed sufficient time for thorough examination. There should be no question of trying to put it through all its stages in one day.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I understand the concern expressed by the noble Lord. He is right to talk about people's civil liberties. He well understands, perhaps better than me, that we have the Human Rights Act on the statute book. That is an important check in these matters.
The noble Lord asked specifically whether legal advice and representation facilities will be made available. It would be a strange England if that were not the case. I do not believe there is anything in our proposals which will prevent suspects having access to legal advice and, no doubt, legal representation in court.
However, I make the point which I have made before: that we are the decent, law-abiding majority. I believe that we must support the civil rights and freedoms of those who want to go to football matches and enjoy them in peace. Those are the concerns which are paramount in my mind. Yes, of course it is right that we make adequate provision for people's rights and for people to be fully represented in court. However, if we do not have provisions such as those set out in the third and fourth limb of our legislative proposals, we shall never begin to get to grips with the widespread yobbery that we saw on the streets of Charleroi and Brussels and which brought shame upon our nation.
We need broad-based support for the measures. Yes, we will consult. As was made plain in the Statement, the Home Secretary and myself are more than happy to meet and talk with Members of your Lordships' House and Members of another place, and more widely than that, to try to build a consensus so that the legislation becomes effective and popular. I believe that the legislation will go a long way towards changing the attitude and atmosphere at football matches abroad. We owe that to our country.
§ Lord Dubs
My Lords, perhaps I may ask two questions. First, does the Home Office have information as to the identity of the 900 British nationals arrested in Belgium? Presumably, they are the sort of people who will be banned in future. Am I right in thinking that? Secondly, are the bans intended to apply only to England's international team matches or would they also apply to major club fixtures abroad?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, the short answer to both those questions is "yes". We do have 1414 information about the identity of the 900 people arrested. It is for that reason that I can say to the noble Lord that some 400 had previous convictions, of which not all, but a large number, were for crimes of violence.
Yes, it is our intention that the legislation will help our clubs taking part in European competitions. From my point of view, that is one of the reasons for the urgency. Coming pretty swiftly is another European football season. English and Welsh clubs could be taking part in between 30 and 40 matches in European competitions. The legislation is needed not just for English international matches but to improve the quality of support that the clubs receive when they travel abroad.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, is it not the case that had the Belgian and Dutch authorities used their own laws, most of the 900 people could have been dealt with in the proper way? They presumably have laws equivalent to our law of affray.
Is it also not the case that the Government are attempting to pervert the categorisation of civil offences and criminal offences by pretending that the offences to which the Minister referred—he mentioned suspects, police evidence, banning orders and confiscation of passports—can be dealt with under civil process? Is not the truth that by such perversion, the Government are trying to allow the lower civil test to convict for what is, in all other senses, a criminal conviction? Is that not legislative hooliganism?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I do not believe that the country will see it as legislative hooliganism, but as legislation designed to tackle and get to the root of football hooliganism. That is its purpose. As regards the first point raised by the noble Lord, it may well be the case that many of the 900 arrested could have been charged with offences similar to our offence of affray. However, that is a matter for the Belgian jurisdiction. They chose not to take that route. By and large it seems that they were content to describe them as "administrative arrests" believing, rightly, that they were in the best position to judge whether those people should be taken off the streets for being involved, in some way or other, in disorderly events. That was their choice. That was the way in which they chose to operate. It would be wrong of us to criticise their arrangements for dealing with disorder. They were faced with a difficult situation.
Perhaps we would have dealt with it differently in public order terms. That is because we have a different culture and approach in policing techniques. But the Belgians were faced with an extremely difficult situation. I believe that these measures are proportionate. The anti-social behaviour order introducing a civil process, which in a sense we are seeking to replicate in the third of our legislative proposals, includes a lower burden of proof as the noble Lord rightly says. Nevertheless, it is appropriate for the nature of the offence and should give the public 1415 not only in this country but also in other countries the measure of confidence and protection they rightly deserve.
§ Lord Borrie
My Lords, can the Minister assist the House a little further in relation to the urgency he described for this legislation? Noble Lords on both Front Benches said in effect that we can legislate in haste and repent at leisure because it is difficult to get the detail right. We are dealing with a difficult borderline between, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual (including the freedom to travel abroad) and on the other the public interest in restraining hooliganism and illegal acts. Does my noble friend believe that within a matter of weeks we can deal with the problems referred to earlier today in a Bill which may be short but which raises extremely complex questions? It is said that three or four important football matches are coming up in the autumn. But does that justify our seeking to bring about legislation which will be with us for a long time and which cannot readily be altered in practice without adequate consideration?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I understand the points made by my noble friend. However, we have been down this route before. Legislation over the past 15 years has looked at hooligan-related and football-related problems. Indeed, the outcome of the Home Office consultation in 1998 was to support the idea of taking away the passports of known and suspected hooligans. So there has been a great deal of discussion and debate on this matter in the past.
Of course, we need as much time as possible to look at the detail and the implications underlying various parts of the legislation. And my noble friend is right to remind us of the possibility of making legislation in haste and regretting it at leisure. But I am sure that with your Lordships' expertise in this field we shall be able to consider all the civil rights and civil liberty issues in sufficient detail because it is a well-trodden route. We owe it to the public to demonstrate that we have a grip on this area of public policy. We all have that responsibility.
A complex European football season lies ahead. It does not only involve the game against France on 2nd September; the World Cup begins with games against Germany. So it is important that we address these issues seriously and put in place measures which will be effective in the longer term.
§ Lord Carlisle of Bucklow
My Lords, I accept entirely everything said by my noble friend Lord Windlesham in relation to the seriousness of football hooliganism. However, do I understand the Minister to suggest that this new power will enable a police officer at an airport to remove the passport of an individual who has no previous convictions of any kind, and prevent him travelling merely on a "suspicion" (to use the Minister's word) that that 1416 person may be intending to make trouble? If so, that is surely a fundamental shift in power in this country and one which will need the greatest scrutiny by this House.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, the noble Lord explains the fourth proposal in a customarily robust way. Of course we must subject all these proposals to the closest scrutiny. But I put my faith and confidence in the police to do an effective job. They will be in a position to undertake quick and timely inquiries. We have good access to data. That data was used extensively during the course of Euro 2000 to good effect. And a judicial process lies behind all that, as is right and proper. But we owe it to the public to take these strong and effective measures. I make no apology for that.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
My Lords, can I ask the Minister about something that happened in Brussels? Apparently 450 British citizens were "deported" from Brussels by the Belgian Army, the Belgian air force and the police. Not all of them were involved in violence. They are now back in this country. They cannot travel back to Belgium. Do they have a right of appeal?
We hear constantly that we work together with our Belgian friends in Europe. Can they simply decide something in that way? I know of one case only. A man was minding his own business. He was carted off by the Belgian air force and his passport was stamped. He cannot now go back and work there. That must be wrong. If there is friendship in Europe, then in friendship we should ensure that that person at least has the right of appeal.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I appreciate the comments of my noble friend. It is a matter of public record that the Belgian police commander acknowledged that a number of those arrested and deported were, in his terms, "innocent persons". They were picked up as part of a wider-ranging police operation. With the best will in the world, that is likely to be the case in some circumstances, however regrettable and unfortunate it is. Clearly, in those cases we should make effective representation so that people's right to travel is unfettered and they are right to bring those cases to our attention. If my noble friend has a specific case in mind I shall be happy actively to pursue it.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, should not the Minister look a little closer to home for remedies? The Scots are a warlike race. They are fond of drink. Around 20 years ago they behaved so badly in Spain that the Spanish police collected whole loads of them and pushed them onto aircraft, whether they had travelled by car or any other means, and sent them home. Today, for some reason, the Scottish football supporters are among the best behaved in Europe. I am not being funny in saying that. The Government 1417 should look at that situation instead of some of the extraordinary measures they seem to be contemplating.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I attended the England-Scotland fixture at Wembley. I was looking at the police operation and was usefully deployed between the English fans on one side of a channel and the Scottish fans on the other. The Scottish fans seemed to be very merry, but were certainly entertaining. I still do not understand why all evening they sang the song, "Doh a deer, a female deer". They kept going for half an hour after the game and I was very amused as a consequence.
The noble Lord is right. There are many Scottish supporters and in some sports alcohol is actively consumed with little public disorder as a consequence. It is a reflection perhaps of different cultures and that is something we should bear in mind. But we also need to address this issue. We need to campaign on the issue and to inform the public. We need to tell the public that the sort of unruly behaviour that we have witnessed in the past few weeks by some English fans and supporters—an extensive and large number—is something that we cannot and should not tolerate in a civilised society, and something that we should take all reasonable measures to counter.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, did I construe correctly from what the Minister said that, upon the word of a Belgian police officer, a British subject may, without trial or further process of law, be deprived of his right to travel to international football matches? Is that really what the Government propose?
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I did not say "on the word of a Belgian police officer", but I was making reference to a British police officer at a port of embarkation. I think the noble Lord missed the point I made earlier in response to the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I think the noble Lord has missed the point. A Belgian police officer, on his word alone, has sent British citizens back to this country, and the noble Lord is saying that that is sufficient evidence for them to be deprived of their passports at the time of football matches in future. That is quite extraordinary, if that is indeed the case.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, no, I hope that is not the impression I have left with the House: it is not the impression I was intending to leave. I think I referred, in response to an earlier question, to people being identified as needing deportation during the recent disturbances. Clearly, that deportation evidence will have a bearing on their future ability to travel to football matches, but it will not be the sole determinant.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, the House will be greatly relieved to hear that there are going to be 1418 further consultations before the legislation referred to by the noble Lord comes before the House, particularly in the light of the very important civil liberties issues that have been raised in the course of these exchanges this afternoon.
However, is the noble Lord aware that the events which he has described and which we all know from the press do not happen in a vacuum? They occur within the general climate of opinion that exists at the time. I think the noble Lord will be aware, as will be many of your Lordships, of the great deterioration that has taken place in public morale over the past 20 years or more. He will be aware that there has been a toleration by perhaps the majority of us—of course I am not accusing any of your Lordships—of the deterioration of standards of conduct in other spheres of public life which at one time would have aroused instantaneous social objection voiced in a number of ways by the press, the media and so on.
Are we quite sure, therefore, that it is safe at this stage to assume that we ourselves are free from blame for tolerating for so long a climate of opinion within which these kinds of events—and there are many others—have occurred? Has there not been a deterioration in good manners? Has there not been a growth of intolerance over the past 20 years among the population as a whole? We bear a responsibility for this and it would be a sorry day if, in bringing forward legislation aimed at curbing miscreants and if necessary providing punishment, that should be made an excuse for doing nothing further to bring forward changes to a form of society which in many profound respects is contemptible within a civilised country.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I think that perhaps there has been a deterioration in standards of behaviour but perhaps that simply reinforces the point that we, as legislators, have a duty to try to reverse that tide. I make no apology for the Government's intolerance of poor behaviour, yobbishness and loutishness. I think this legislation might well do some good in beginning to redress the balance. In that regard, I trust that the Government will enjoy the full support of your Lordships' House.