HL Deb 25 July 2000 vol 616 cc405-10

—(1) The Legal Aid Act 1988 is to have effect in relation to proceedings under—

  1. (a) sections 14B and 14D of the Football Spectators Act 1989,
  2. (b) sections 14G and 14H of that Act (so far as relating to banning orders made under section 14B), and
  3. (c) sections 21B(2) and 21D of that Act, as if those proceedings had been included in the definition of "criminal proceedings" in article 1(2) of the Access to Justice Act 1999 (Commencement No. 3, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2000.

(2) Sub-paragraph (1) is to have effect subject to any provision made by an order under section 3 of this Act or under section 108(1) of, or paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 14 to, the Access to Justice Act 1999.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, together with consequential modifications to legal advice and assistance regulations, which will be affected by secondary legislation, will ensure that legal advice and assistance are available for a person who appears in court following an application by the police for a banning order.

The Government take the view that these proceedings are sufficiently serious that in appropriate cases publicly funded legal help should be available. A person will be able to apply through their solicitor for assistance and the application will be subject to approval by the Legal Services Commission. The form of help that will be available is termed assistance by way of representation (ABWA). Although requests for approval will be dealt with as quickly as possible, it will not be possible to make this form of help available in circumstances where the police have given notice to a person to appear before a court within 24 hours. In these circumstances and other cases where a person appears in court unrepresented, the court duty solicitor will be able to provide help. I hope that it is generally agreed in the House that it is important that there should be these provisions for those detained in that way. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, although it appears that the House will rise relatively early this evening as regards this Bill, those of us who were here later yesterday are fully seized of the enormous legal complexities of this Bill. We are also fully seized of the fact that it is highly likely that there will be some very important test cases arising from some of the matters which have been raised and not resolved in the course of our deliberations. In those circumstances legal aid is entirely correct. I am glad to welcome this amendment.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, perhaps I make take this opportunity to hope that before we finish our proceedings this evening the Chief Whip will enlighten us as to when we three shall meet again for further proceedings on this Bill to which I look forward with enormous pleasure.

Lord Carter

My Lords, Third Reading will be tomorrow. I am relying on my memory here, but I believe that we are dealing with two small sets of Commons amendments as regards the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill and the Government Resources and Accounts Bill. Then, I believe, we shall come to the Third Reading of this Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carlile of Berriew moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 16, line 6, after ("means") insert (", subject to subsection (5) below,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, with the permission of the House, I shall speak to Amendment No. 49. Amendment. No. 48 is a paving amendment to the following amendment.

As the darkness deepens late on the second night of this Bill, I see that the Ministers on the Front Bench are looking tired. Therefore, I seek to soothe them into submission on these amendments. I do so in this way. I assure the Ministers that if they accept this amendment they will be able to dream in their beds tonight as they lay their pillows to rest, of the welcome which will await them in Wales, the land of heaven.

Because of the lateness of the hour I will not challenge either Minister by asking them who was the champion of the League of Wales in the 1999–2000 season although they are welcome to tell me, if they know.

A Noble Lord

Barry Town.

Lord Carlile of Berriew

No, it was not Barry Town, but TNS Llansanffraid in the old county of Montgomeryshire where I live. It is a small and reasonably attractive village with a population of a few hundred. Its village football team, with the support of a computer company, has achieved great things. Indeed, TNS Llansanffraid has played in Europe this season and in the previous one. The danger caused by the fans of TNS Llansanffraid was probably half of that caused by the emissions of the coach which took them there. I take my little grandson aged seven, Jimi Cullen, to Latham Park sometimes, the home of Newtown Football Club. It is a fine team, but recently not as successful as little Jimi and I would have wished.

Newtown's football ground has good support. Many of us go there and enjoy the matches enthusiastically. It is beautifully situated. You can see many sheep on the hills around it; indeed, there are far more sheep than supporters and always the danger of the sheep making a little more noise. The Newtown supporters present no danger.

I used to be a season ticket holder at Wrexham Football Club on the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. In those days I practised at the Bar in that part of the world so when I went into the ground I would often be invited by police officers whom I knew to sit with them in the police area by the side of the pitch. It was a great pleasure to be with those fine officers not because of the protection from danger which was afforded but because one was able to put one's feet up with them, vigilant though, of course, they always were, and enjoy the match from a position of particular vantage.

There are bigger clubs in Wales. Unfortunately, Cardiff City has a long way to go before any hooligan from Cardiff will have the remotest chance of going to a club match in Europe. Swansea City, though it has done well, is unlikely to achieve that either. When its fans are tired and emotional they are more likely to raise the key of "Bread of Heaven" by a semitone than to act in a hooligan manner.

As for our national team, it would be much improved if Ryan Giggs was to play more often, but even the spark of Mark Hughes has yet to ignite it. Indeed, according to the evidence Welsh football fans present no danger to anyone.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord in full flow but perhaps he can tell us to which of the two amendments all of this extraneous information is directed.

Lord Carlile of Berriew

My Lords, the second one, as the Minister will recognise. I said that the first one was a paving amendment.

Welsh football fans present not a scintilla of danger, and there is not a scintilla of evidence that they do. The Members of the National Assembly for Wales, an organisation for which, I must admit—I have said so in the House previously—I have less than total enthusiasm, at least have an intimate knowledge of what is going on in Wales. They know the communities and can judge far better than any other organisation whether it is necessary for the provisions of the Bill to apply to Wales.

I say to the Minister most seriously that it would be a mark of recognition for the meaning of devolution to Wales, and it would be a mark of respect for the people of Wales, if Amendment No. 49 were carried and the Government were prepared to recognise—it would do them no harm in Wales or anywhere else—that the consent of the National Assembly should be needed in the circumstances described in the amendment.

The Bill has a limited duration; less than the Government had wanted. It is inconceivable that any harm would come to pass if Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 were allowed to become part of the law. I invite Ministers to face the perils and dangers of this night by generously recognising that this is a meritorious amendment and one respectful to the people of Wales.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend with somewhat unbecoming levity and mindful as ever of his previous constituency interests. In my view, the Bill is an insult to the people of Wales. I warn Her Majesty's Government that if the amendment is not passed there will be a great sweeping out of Labour Members of Parliament in the next election. As my noble friend said, it is absolutely true that Welsh football fans present no problems whatever, wherever they go. They are more inclined to sing than to drink—

11.30 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. That may be true about teams which play in the Welsh league, but is he not aware that matches between Cardiff City and Swansea City have given rise to some of the worst scenes of violence that we have seen anywhere in the United Kingdom in the past 10 years?

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, I concede that in the past there has been a certain amount of trouble between Cardiff and Swansea, but I am not responsible for what happens in that part of the world. However, my noble friend referred to Wrexham—my home town. As I recall, there has never been any trouble in Wrexham arising from visits from South Wales teams, probably because not enough spectators come up with them. Indeed, when Scotland played at Wrexham in an international against Wales, I remember that everything, even with regard to the Scottish spectators, was in extremely good humour and well received. I recall that after the match the duck pond in my home village of Gresford was full of Scotsmen in kilts availing themselves of a bath. They went from there to the local public houses and were warmly received.

There are no problems in Wales. At an earlier stage of the Bill, the Minister said that he envisaged that there would be approximately 20 prescribed matches in the year, with a period of five days for each match. By Dan Quayle mathematics, I believe that he said that that would amount to 50 days in the year. When he estimated that there would be 20 matches, I wonder whether he included the Welsh international fixtures and matches that would take place, for example, between Cardiff and Swansea. Are they part of the prescribed matches envisaged in the Minister's plans? If they are not within those 20 matches, why does he not accept this amendment? I support my noble friend.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister heard the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, point out that in Scotland the problem of football violence has been solved without the use of legislation such as we are now considering. I understand that he argues that that is the result of leaving the problem to the Scottish football authorities—in fact, an effective devolution of power.

One might use that and what my noble friends have just said, together with a good deal said by the Minister, to argue that we are dealing with a specifically English problem—what the Scots call the problem of the "awkward neighbour". Therefore, if we are dealing with a specifically English problem, it might be appropriate to consider a specifically English solution so that the Minister can accept the amendment without detriment to his objectives, both those that we accept and those that we do not.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I had not realised that this amendment would excite such great interest from the Liberal Democrat Benches at this hour. However, clearly this is a matter of which they speak in the valleys of Wales as they speak of nothing else, and we are all most grateful for that, are we not?

My speaking note says "Resist" and I am afraid that that is what I shall have to do, but I shall resist with a little good conscience. I believe that one noble Lord began to undermine his case by saying that there was no problem with hooliganism in Wales. I suppose that logically he could extend that point and say that, for that reason, perhaps we do not need to consult the Welsh on these matters. However, that would be unfair.

I fully recognise that the Welsh Assembly may have views on these matters, and I can assure your Lordships that any representations made to us by the Assembly will of course be listened to with the greatest respect. However, I do not believe that we need to have on the face of the Bill an amendment of this kind. Therefore, I am not minded to accept it. But we shall of course consult carefully with our colleagues in Wales so that potential problems can be dealt with.

I do not believe that it is quite the case that hooliganism is not present within Wales. There are, of course, the celebrated annual punch-ups between Cardiff City and Millwall. Unfortunately they are a regular feature in the hooligan fixture list. Obviously, we need to be diligent wherever the legislation is in force.

The amendment is not necessary and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw it.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he accept my thanks for the courtesy with which he has responded to our debates today and yesterday? We have not always agreed with him, but we have always appreciated his courtesy and that of his noble friend and the way in which they have attempted to answer our points.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, before the Minister stands up, perhaps I may echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cope.

Lord Carlile of Berriew

My Lords, in replying to the debate, first, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that his point about hooliganism after a match between Cardiff and Swansea is absurd in the context of the Bill, which has no more application to a Cardiff Swansea football match than to a Worcester-Hereford hymn singing competition. He ought to have produced something more worthy if he wanted to present a serious argument.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I was responding to the noble Lord's noble friend, who said that there was not a scintilla—I believe that that was the word—of football hooliganism in Wales. Cardiff and Swansea are in Wales and they have a very well known problem.

Lord Carlile of Berriew

My Lords, the noble Lord's point does not improve on repetition.

Secondly, as my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford said, the Government are viewed in Wales as increasingly bossy, increasingly untrusting of the public and increasingly authoritarian. Above all, they are viewed as increasingly London-centred. The Bill will be seen as a symbol of that bossiness. It is a matter for the Government whether they care about the sensibilities of the people of Wales.

Thirdly, the Minister asserted that the Government will listen very carefully and sympathetically to all points made by the National Assembly for Wales. The problem is that unless the issue is devolved by Act of Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales, it will not be a devolution issue. When a Back-Bencher in the National Assembly seeks to debate it on the Floor of the Assembly, they will be told that they are out of order, because this is not a devolution issue. That happens day after day in the National Assembly. I fear that the only representation that the Government will receive from the National Assembly for Wales will be anecdotal rather than from the Assembly's proceedings.

I am very disappointed in the Government's reply. I shall seek leave to withdraw the amendment, because it seems undesirable to vote on it at this late hour. I close by warning Ministers that, rather than dreaming tonight of the land of Heaven and the welcome that will await them, they are more likely to suffer nightmares of dragons breathing fire in their ears as a result of their attitude to the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]