HL Deb 24 July 2000 vol 616 cc266-72

21D.—(1) Where a person to whom a notice has been given under section 21B above appears before a magistrates' court and the court refuses the application for a banning order in respect of him, it may order compensation to be paid to him out of central funds if it is satisfied—

  1. (a) that the notice should not have been given,
  2. (b) that he has suffered loss as a result of the giving of the notice, and
  3. (c) that, having regard to all the circumstances, it is appropriate to order the payment of compensation in respect of that loss.

(2) An appeal lies to the Crown Court against any refusal by a magistrates' court to order the payment of compensation under subsection (1) above.

(3) The compensation to be paid by order of the magistrates' court under subsection (1) above or by order of the Crown Court on an appeal under subsection (2) above shall not exceed £5,000 (but no appeal may be made under subsection (2) in respect of the amount of compensation awarded).

(4) If it appears to the Secretary of State that there has been a change in the value of money since the coming into force of this section or, as the case may be, the last occasion when the power conferred by this subsection was exercised, he may by order substitute for the amount specified in subsection (3) above such other amount as appears to him to be justified by the change.

(5) In this section, "central funds" has the same meaning as in enactments providing for the payment of costs.").

The noble Lord said: We now come to compensation. I do not want to say much about it at this time of the morning. We believe that the compensation arrangements are an important part of the Bill and represent a safeguard for those detained. Members of the Committee opposite have had an opportunity to see our Amendment No. 74 on compensation. I shall be inviting them to withdraw their Amendment No. 75. I believe that our amendment is to be preferred because, first, it provides for an appeal against decisions on compensation; secondly, it provides that compensation shall be paid out of central funds and, thirdly, it provides an upper limit of £5,000 for compensation payments. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

As the Minister said, Amendment No. 75 in my name goes to the same point. It reproduces an amendment that was pressed in another place by my colleagues there. The Government amendment is quite satisfactory and probably better in its drafting except that I am not sure why there should be a limit of £5,000 for compensation. Generally speaking, that will cover all the likely expenses. I do not believe that many cases will go above it. I do not see why it should be limited in that way. It is for the court to decide. I am not going to press that particular point at this hour of the night or morning.

Lord Lucas

I should be grateful for clarification from the Minister as to what happens when the police do not press charges. I was clear about that under Amendment No. 75, but I do not see where that is picked up in the wording of Amendment No. 74. I shall be very grateful to the noble Lord for pointing it out.

Lord Bach

It may be due to the lateness of the hour but I do not grasp the noble Lord's point. The amendment provides for compensation to be paid to those who have perhaps been wrongly detained. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, is happy with our amendment, which seems to us to cover the needs of this important part of the Bill.

Lord Lucas

I do not think that I can have explained myself clearly enough. Amendment No. 75, in the name of my noble friend Lord Cope, states, Where a person, having been detained … or having been issued with a notice". In other words, that is the point at which the entitlement to compensation starts. Amendment No. 74, in the name of the Minister, states, Where a person … appears before a magistrates' court". What happens if the police have detained a person for six hours, held him for another 18 and then say, "We haven't been able to gather the evidence: off you go son"? Under my noble friend's amendment, that person would get compensation. However, it appears to me that, under the Government's amendment, he would not. It also appears to me that that kind of behaviour on the part of the police should be strongly discouraged. I hope that the noble Lord can point out where in his amendment someone who is subject to that kind of treatment is entitled to compensation.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My noble friend appears to have discovered a flaw in both the amendments we are discussing. Both refer to an appearance before the magistrates' court. If that appearance does not take place, as a result of the scenario that my noble friend suggests, I do not think that compensation is payable under either amendment. However, I believe it should be. Indeed, in some respects, such cases may be the most deserving of compensation if the police cannot even raise a case to present to the magistrates and yet they have detained someone for a number of hours and caused that person to miss his flight and so on.

I believe that there is a further advantage to my amendment; namely, that the appropriate sum of compensation was to come from the police budget concerned, not from central funds. It seems to me that such compensation would make the police more careful with regard to the use of this power in appropriate cases. I shall not press the point but I believe that my noble friend has pointed out an interesting flaw in both the amendments.

The Earl of Onslow

I wonder whether I should ask the following question now or later. Earlier I was serious when I asked how the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, would obtain the evidence of what had happened during the debate, as I believe that the cutoff point for Hansard is ten o'clock.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I thought that I had stated plainly that I would make my speaking notes available to the noble and learned Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 75 not moved.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 76:

Page 15, line 13, after ("means") insert (", subject to subsection (4) below,").

The noble Lord said: I rise to speak to the amendment briefly as it is not an amendment of the greatest importance. If it is not acceptable to the Government, I shall not bring it back on Report.

However, Wales plays as a separate national team, although a number of the leading Welsh clubs play in the nationwide league alongside English teams. I believe that particularly in the case of a Welsh national team which is playing in a competition abroad, the National Assembly for Wales should be consulted about whether or not the match should be regulated. The same should apply to a Welsh club team which is playing an overseas club team in a competition. Although I recognise that this is not a devolved matter, Wales has a special interest because it plays as a separate team.

This is the last amendment I shall be moving at Committee stage and I should like to add this: I think that the way in which the Government are handling this Bill is intolerable. We have been here in Committee now for eight and a half hours; it is just now striking 5 a.m. The debates have not been unduly prolonged; there has been no time wasting. None of the amendments has been frivolous. A great many serious points have been raised. Were the Government to give themselves time to look at them in rather more detail, many of the amendments would be accepted by the Government and would lead to modifications which would make this a much better Bill than it is now. As matters stand, it is virtually impossible for that to happen.

The debate has shown in greater detail than before the number of serious flaws and problems in the Bill. I beg the Government, even at this stage, to defer the Report stage until after the Recess so that the Bill can be given proper consideration before we get to Report stage. That would mean that Lords amendments would have to go back to the Commons when it returns from its Recess, but it would still be possible for the Bill to become law by the middle of October. That is a price well worth paying for getting a better Bill than this one is likely to be.

Having said that, I beg to move Amendment No. 76.

5 a.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Amendment No. 82, which stands in my name, is also within this group of amendments. However, in view of the fact that some of the government amendments grouped with it take the point entirely, I shall not move the amendment.

On the wider point made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, on the treatment of the legislation, I join in the protest about the way in which we have been obliged to consider the Bill. The Committee stage has been extremely good tempered and very constructive throughout. A large number of points have emerged; it will be extremely difficult for the Government, let alone ourselves, to give them proper consideration between now and Report stage if the immediate timetable is followed. At the same time, I appreciate the Government's anxiety to get the legislation completed this week. I cannot speak for my noble friend the Opposition Chief Whip, but it seems to me that tomorrow—I speak of a Parliamentary tomorrow, which is later today—is very soon indeed in which to try to consider so many points on Report. I leave that for the consideration of the usual channels.

The Earl of Onslow

I wish to return to the point about the record of today's proceedings. Of course the speaking notes of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will be of some help, but, unless he read them verbatim and unless he departed from them not by one iota, they are not a true record of what even he said. I know that what the noble Lord said is laden with interest and that it is very important to the Bill—even hints of what the noble Lord said are important—but I cannot remember what the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, said four hours ago—I wish I could, it was jolly well worth listening to; I cannot remember the more obscure of the observations of my noble friend Lord Russell—I use that term because we were both at Eton together 85 million years ago—about something that happened in the reign of Charles I, which was undoubtedly apposite. What are we going to do when we try to get our minds around the Report stage with everything that has been said at this Committee stage? It is totally unsatisfactory.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

Perhaps I may deal with the amendments before the Committee. Government Amendments Nos. 77, 78, 79 and 80 are designed to implement the third recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers. Amendment No. 81 is merely a drafting amendment. I am sure that noble Lords will recall that the committee recommended two ways of dealing with the point. The Government amendments take one route and the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, takes another route. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, has begged to defer to us. I am grateful to him for that.

I do not consider affirmative resolution procedure necessary for an order of this type, but I recognise the Select Committee's point that the order-making power, as drafted, is wide. The amendments standing in my name therefore limit the maximum number of days before the beginning of a match or tournament which may be included in the control period to 10. The amendments also provide that the Secretary of State can exercise his power to extend the control period only if he considers it necessary or expedient for the effective enforcement of the Football Spectators Act.

The purpose of that power is to ensure that, if necessary, the provisions of the Bill on submission of passports and the powers in new Sections 21A and 21B can be exercised more than five days ahead of a match or a tournament. That might arise, for example, in the case of a tournament being held a very long way away. It might be necessary to lengthen the period for a relatively short time before a match or tournament if intelligence indicates that that would be desirable. I hope that noble Lords will agree that affirmative resolution procedure is not necessary in this instance and might inhibit effective use of the power. As a consequence, I commend the amendments to the Committee.

Amendment No. 83 seeks to ensure that the Welsh Assembly is consulted before games involving Welsh clubs are prescribed. Technically speaking, the amendment is not appropriate because it relates to a matter that has not been devolved. Indeed, the leading Welsh clubs of course, as noble Lords will recognise, play in the English leagues. It would seem somewhat incongruous to treat them differently for the purposes of the legislation when they play overseas. Nonetheless, I recognise that the Welsh Assembly may well have views on these matters. I undertake to noble Lords that any representations which are made to us by the Assembly will be listened to with great respect, as they are on all occasions. I trust that with that assurance the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Comment has been made about the way the Government are passing the legislation through. I, too, am less than happy with the circumstances in which we have to deliberate on the legislation. I do not think that anybody can be happy. No one wants to be here at ten past five in the morning talking about complex matters like these. Noble Lords have worked very hard to table amendments which have been moved, by and large, in good spirits and with the best intentions. I hope that during the rest of today's deliberations, at Report and Third Reading, we can hold our good temper in considering the Bill. It is an important piece of legislation. If we were to fail to introduce the Bill before the next football season we should be letting down the British public, the English football clubs and the English team. It is important that the Bill is put in place. There has been support across the parties, more particularly from the Official Opposition, to bring the legislation forward. They, among others, were crying out for legislation just a few short weeks ago. While we must give it our very urgent and detailed consideration, nevertheless, I believe it is right that we should seek to enact the Bill.

Lord Goodhart

First, as far as concerns Amendments Nos. 76 and 83, I am happy to note the Minister's undertaking. I do not intend to be more Welsh than the Welsh. As no Welsh Member of the Committee has chosen to raise this particular point, I certainly do not intend to take it any further. The fact that there is now a maximum limit of 10 days on the control period before the match which the Secretary of State has power to order by regulation is a significant concession and in substance cannot be queried.

I ask further whether it would not even now be possible to give some further time by splitting up the Report and Third Reading stages so that another day is available in which amendments can be considered rather than having to deal with them in a period which will start approximately 10 hours from now. However, having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 77 to 81:

Page 15, line 15, after ("may") insert ("if he considers it necessary or expedient to do so in order to secure the effective enforcement of this Part"). Page 15, line 15, leave out from ("for") to ("above") in line 16 and insert ("section 14(5) and (6)"). Page 15, line 16, after ("effect") insert ("in relation to any, or any description of, regulated football match or external tournament"). Page 15, line 18, after ("days") insert ("(not exceeding ten)"). Page 15, line 18, at end insert— ("() Any power of the Secretary of State to make an order under this Part is exercisable by statutory instrument.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 82 and 83 not moved.]

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at twelve minutes past five o'clock.