§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, I have a slightly unusual invitation to offer the Government. It is not unexpected because I have given them notice. My invitation is that they should adjourn today's proceedings until tomorrow. My reason for doing so, quite simply, is that I tabled three amendments of some importance which were moved at about 10.30 p.m. last night. After the Minister had conceded that he would be able to give me additional information if I tabled my amendments today, I withdrew last night's amendments on the express ground that there was an understanding that I would be able to bring forward these matters without objection on Third Reading.
In regard to one of the items on which he could not at that time help, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, said,I undertake to look further at the point. Again, if the noble and learned Lord tables these amendments tomorrow"—that is today—we will endeavour to respond to this point".—[Official Report, 25/7/00, col. 394.].On that basis, as soon as the Public Bill Office opened I asked for my amendment to be put down again, with a significant alteration—an alteration designed to persuade the noble Lord that what I was asking for was nothing like as strenuous as he thought. I then learned for the first time that because of Standing Order No. 48, and I quote:No amendment, other than a privilege amendment, shall be moved upon the Third Reading of a public Bill unless notice of the amendment has been given to the Clerk not later than the day preceding that on which the amendment is to be moved, in sufficient time to enable the amendment to be printed and circulated in the form in which it is to be moved".I understand that the Public Bill Office let it be known yesterday that it normally closed the list at 6 p.m. but on yesterday's occasion they would be more flexible. That did not sound as if at 10.30 it was going to be possible, and in any event I wished to think again about the amendment to see whether I could 451 reduce the extent of my demands, which the noble Lord, with characteristic courtesy, had suggested might be thought to be excessive.
The Public Bill Office was, unbeknown to me, still available to take minutes through the devotion to duty of their Principal Clerk up until midnight, I believe. But no one had pointed that out and no one had suggested it, either to me or to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. We were both under the impression, or at least I was, that in this super-fast-track Bill time limits had been waived: otherwise there would be absurdities. It would mean that if the Bill had gone on, as it nearly did, beyond midnight there would be no prospect of putting any amendments down in respect of that material—
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is not quite correct on that last point because the parliamentary day does not end until the business of that day is completed. So even if that stage of the Bill had continued until 2 o'clock in the morning that was still the day on which it started. The Public Bill Office was open until after midnight, and a phone call there would have provided the answer.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, it was not a phone call that the noble Lord the Minister thought was necessary: otherwise he would not have said to me that he would look further at a particular point if I tabled my amendments tomorrow. He said that at col. 394 of Hansard. However, I am grateful for the Chief Whip's intervention. I always learn something from him whenever he stands up, sometimes to my benefit and sometimes not.
I was about to stress to your Lordships the importance of the amendment. When a number of us attended a meeting which the Home Secretary called about a week ago, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, raised a point about the sunset clause. I raised the point which is covered by my amendments. Quite simply, it is this: that if notices were to be served by the police based upon their suspicions or based upon their belief, it was then right that the respondent to those notices should be given proper details as to the basis of the belief or the suspicions alleged.
The Government had stressed that these were in the nature of civil proceedings, and it is established procedure in civil proceedings that if you make an unparticularised allegation you have to face up to a request for further and better particulars. Take the simplest of cases: if the rather incompetent draftsman had entered particulars of claim or a statement of claim alleging that a driver was negligent, full stop, and if as a result of that negligence the plaintiff had suffered damage, he would immediately be required to provide further and better particulars of the alleged negligence, stating the facts of the matters relied upon in support of that allegation. In other words, was the negligence in driving too fast, not staying awake, driving on the wrong side of the road or whatever it was?
Many of your Lordships have taken the view that these proceedings were wrongly called civil when they were criminal proceedings, or certainly more of a 452 criminal kind than civil. In the criminal code it is a basic and fundamental rule of natural justice that you must be provided with full particulars of any allegation which the prosecution is relying upon. In both fields, civil and criminal, that is because it is only just that you should know what is the case you are required to meet.
The result of my making this type of observation at the meeting was held as an important contribution, and the two contributions which were in fact looked upon as being of significance were the sunset clause and my clause in regard to notice. On Second Reading, the noble Lord the Minister in his winding-up speech said:The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, made a number of helpful detailed points about drafting, particularly on new Sections 21A and 21B. We are of course going to pay very close attention to his advice, and I should like to place on record our thanks to him for the advice and encouragement that he gave us during the open session".—[Official Report, 20/7/00; col. 1258.]The Bill itself had recognised the point that I had made by providing in new Section 21A, which is concerned with summary detention, that the police officer who had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the respondent had at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder and had reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order in his case would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football matches would be required to give his reasons for detaining him in writing. These reasons, quite simply, could be the grounds he had for suspecting and his belief. I accordingly requested that it should be an obligation to provide full particulars of the facts and matters relied upon in support of his suspicion for belief. I did likewise under new Section 21B.
I asked the Minister specifically if he could tell me what he envisaged would be covered by the reasons. He was unable to do so, but offered to make inquiries and provide that information today. The same applied to the grounds under new Section 21B. He said that guidance would be provided. He was unable to tell us what the guidance would be but promised that it would be provided tomorrow—today that is. This important matter of informing a respondent of the nature of the case that he has to meet under this very strange legislation, with allegations of suspicion and belief being the foundation of the police's case, just does not exist at the moment. It will not exist unless the Minister is prepared to adjourn today's proceedings until tomorrow. By that time I shall be able to comply with the requirements of standing orders. It cannot do the Government any harm because many noble Lords thought that was the result of yesterday's successful amendment on this very subject.
On the other hand, if the Government adhere to today's proceedings, there will be an unfair result in a Bill which is replete with possibilities of further unfairness.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, the House was quite clear in its wish yesterday. It wished the Bill to be organised so that we could debate Report stage and Third Reading 453 on separate days. The Chief Whip therefore made arrangements for amendments to be accepted until midnight. He did not tell any of us. He certainly did not tell me. He did not tell the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. None of us knew about that.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I did not make arrangements. That was a matter entirely for the Public Bill Office.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, none of us knew that. All we knew was the standard procedure. I am not at all surprised that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, was misled by the remarks of the Minister into thinking that the Public Bill Office was—as would usually be the case—closed and would be open for business the following morning.
In the Motion which we successfully amended yesterday, the Government asked for standing orders to be set aside for the purpose of taking the remaining stages on one day. The right procedure for the usual channels to have followed was to give us that same width—to have allowed standing orders to be set aside so that amendments could be made when noble Lords were fresh and awake and had had a chance to look at Hansard and consider the previous day's proceedings. Standing orders are for the convenience of the House. If we are to take two stages of a Bill on successive days, we must have arrangements that allow those noble Lords who come in in the morning and read Hansard to put down amendments for consideration at Third Reading on the second day. It is not right that we should be prohibited from so doing. If the Government wish for their convenience to have the two stages of the Bill taken on consecutive days, they must suspend the standing orders that prevent noble Lords putting down amendments to that second stage.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I understood—of course one has to accept it, one is never there—that the usual channels made a deal. That deal was, as I understand it, that the Bill would pass by Friday. That was the deal; that it would pass in that way. That pre-empted of course the functions of this House. But let that pre-emption go for a moment. The deal that was made has pre-empted in this manner. It has worked with manifest unfairness to the noble and learned Lord, and in relation to a very important aspect of the Bill—whether particulars are given on the criminal side or the civil side. Of course without them there is inevitable injustice. The House is indebted to the noble and learned Lord on this occasion for having drawn the attention of the House to that matter.
I respectfully suggest that the deal can be kept if Third Reading is dealt with on Friday. The noble and learned Lord can put down his amendment and anyone else can put down an amendment. Noble Lords may wish to do so. We have been pre-empted twice. Talk about double jeopardy; there is a good example of it.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, perhaps it would help the House if I said a few words. As the noble Lord, Lord 454 Campbell of Alloway, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, are aware, the standing order says that manuscript amendments cannot be tabled for Third Reading. In other words, they cannot be tabled on the morning of the debate. It is true that my noble friend the Minister said, with a slip of the tongue, that they could be tabled tomorrow. We should all know the standing order; it is quite clear. So any noble Lord who wished to table amendments for Third Reading had only to ask the Public Bill Office, "What is the arrangement because I wish to table an amendment for Third Reading?" He would have been told that the Public Bill Office would stay open until the House adjourned, which it did.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I have enormous respect for the Chief Whip in other situations, but what he has just said is an outrage. Yesterday the Minister—that it was a slip of the tongue has only now been admitted—nevertheless advised the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, that he could table his amendments "tomorrow". Tomorrow is today.
My noble friend Lord Renton suggested a compromise which, sadly, was not accepted the other day when we had a similar debate. I should like to suggest one now. The House has co-operated to this point to allow the Government to have their Bill before the House rises on Friday. All the normal intervals between the different stages of the Bill have, by agreement, collapsed. It would make eminent sense also to make an adjustment to the rules which pertain to a Bill when the normal intervals are not observed. If that is the case, the Minister—having now accepted that it was a slip of the tongue when giving advice to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner—should accept that there should be a short interval and that manuscript amendments should be accepted, especially as the House knows about those amendments. They were referred to yesterday. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, agreed to bring information to the House today in response to those amendments. If he does not accede to this request, I hope that the House itself, as indeed it did the other day, will take a view on the matter.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, yesterday we had a debate on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Noble Lords expressed their views with varying degrees of certainty and enthusiasm. We came to a certain conclusion. I am bound to say that I found the decision somewhat confusing. But it was afterwards clarified that we would have the Report stage yesterday and we would have the Third Reading today. I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway—that was the deal that was come to in the usual channels after the vote on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, yesterday afternoon. If that is the deal, I can suggest only that the House should stick to it.
I find the two propositions really quite extraordinary. The one just advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was that if a Minister expresses a view on a matter of procedure, that somehow or 455 other overrides the provisions in the standing orders and therefore that entitles the House in those circumstances to pretend that the standing order is in a different form from that which it is in. I find that an astonishing proposition.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, in answer to that point, does the noble Lord agree that, if the Government give an undertaking in the House through a Minister, that entitles the Government to postpone a stage of a Bill?
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am talking about the procedures. Everyone knows what the procedures are on Third Reading. Everyone knows that, under standing orders, one cannot put down a manuscript amendment at Third Reading. The fact that a Minister stands at the Dispatch Box and gives an opinion that is contrary to the standing orders cannot bind the Government; nor indeed can it conceivably bind the House.
The second proposition I find a little strange is that advanced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. I had the experience of appearing before the noble and learned Lord when he sat as a judge. If I had stood up in front of the noble and learned Lord and said, "I am terribly sorry. I thought that the procedure was different from that which it is. Please will you now allow me to tear up the rules of procedure and pretend that they are otherwise than the white book suggests?", I do not think that the noble and learned Lord would have given me a very good hearing.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, with respect, I have not made that suggestion. I have accepted the error and have merely suggested that, in all fairness, the Government should agree to adjourn today's proceedings until tomorrow. There are very few amendments to be considered today. They are all government amendments. There is no hardship in putting Third Reading over until tomorrow. That is what the Government should do. I have not suggested that the concession made by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has changed anything except the merits of the case and the strength of my submission that, in all fairness, the Government should do what I have suggested.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, yesterday we had a long debate on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. It was said by noble Lords on all sides that we are masters of our own procedures. We voted to overturn the agreement which had been reached by the usual channels precisely and only to allow a reasonable interval between Report and Third Reading. The arrangements that we are being told have been agreed between the two Front Benches prevent the substance of the vote yesterday being implemented. Frankly, if it is impossible for Members of the House to table amendments to be debated at Third Reading, then yesterday's vote was a totally nugatory exercise.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Only three amendments have been tabled for Third Reading. They are all government amendments. We should look 456 to the substance of this matter and not become bogged down in, if I dare say it, the bogus technicalities raised by some noble Lords. The substance is that we had a long and earnest debate about the way in which the Bill has been proceeded with. It would be a total farce if we were now to proceed to Third Reading without a single amendment from any opposition party.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, in reaching a decision on this matter, the Government and indeed the Opposition Front Bench should bear in mind that this is a most unusual Bill. If we do not get the provisions right, injustice could occur, for which the Government and others would never be forgiven. It would be so easy for us to make a further attempt to get it right in the way suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. Instead of pursuing the Third Reading now, we should adjourn it until the first item after Questions tomorrow. We could deal with the few amendments that there are—they will be mostly government and formal amendments—and present them to Members of another place first thing on Friday. They could either agree with them or send them back to us, and we would not then try to pursue the matter further.
The choice is this: do we stick rigorously to our rules of procedure and the decision of the usual channels, or do we try to get the Bill right, in order to avoid future injustice, by doing what has been suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and other noble Lords, and deal with Third Reading tomorrow?
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, the Bill is full of some fairly unhappy precedents. That is why it is having a sticky time in this House. It would be a great pity if we added a new precedent. We all know that Ministers frequently make slips of the tongue. There is nothing unusual in that. If a Minister comes back to the House and says that he or she has made a slip of the tongue, that is well understood and no one feels too hard about it. That is what has always happened in the past. However, if a Minister says that it was a slip of the tongue when he gave an undertaking and therefore the undertaking, on which others have relied, is to be washed away, that would indeed be an unhappy precedent to set.
I simply cannot see why the Government should be so obstinate. As noble Lords have said, the Third Reading could be taken tomorrow without any great problem. The agreement entered into by the usual channels could be maintained. I must say that I am riot bound by agreements entered into by the usual channels. I am no part of the usual channels and I am not consulted. Most of us are in that position. None the less, where we can, we like to go along with what is agreed for the expeditious conduct of business in the House. However, there is no reason why the agreement that the Bill should be delivered on Friday should not be honoured. We can discuss the Bill tomorrow. Why on earth should we not do so?
My Lords, I think that the House is getting on to dangerous ground on two or three points. 457 First, it is true that the usual channels are the servants of the House and its Members. It is equally true that the freedoms of all individual Members of the House are protected by our standing orders. Therefore, if we are to protect our own rights, we need to be careful about how we approach sudden changes in terms of standing orders. In fact, if we wish to change standing orders, the proper way of doing so is through consideration by the Procedure Committee and agreement to any recommendations by the House.
The usual channels are the servants of the House. We could not work in the smooth, business-like way which allows our independence as individuals to be maintained without the usual channels negotiating arrangements for business. Therefore, if the usual channels entered into an arrangement based on the broad picture, it would be an undermining of our procedures and of our confidence in our arrangements if that agreement was overturned, as it was.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord must have been away from the House for a while. Had we stuck to the intervals prescribed for public business, we would not have attempted to go through Committee, Report and Third Reading on the same day.
My Lords, the noble Lord is not listening. I said that the House agreed to suspension of the standing orders as they relate to the timing of this Bill. We are therefore acting within the standing orders.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words. This is the second time in three days that we have held this kind of discussion. The House works by agreement and by co-operation, as a result of discussions between the Front Benches and through the usual channels. I can confirm that there has been no breach of standing orders.
Noble Lords will recall a point I made in our debate yesterday when the House decided that a split should be introduced between Report stage and Third Reading: I immediately made arrangements to hold the Third Reading today. However, I pointed out that the arrangements for the Bill had been agreed. In fact, the days on which we had the Second Reading and were to have had the Committee stage, the Report stage and Third Reading were days suggested by the Official Opposition, to which I agreed. Nothing was said until the debate yesterday in which the House decided to introduce a split between Report and Third Reading. That was because the Committee sat until 10 past five o'clock of that morning.
The omission of one word in my noble friend's response has caused the problem we are now discussing. If my noble friend had said, "If the noble Lord tables his amendments for tomorrow", there would have been no problem. Noble Lords know well the rules of this House. Many noble Lords present in the Chamber have been involved with this Bill. Noble Lords know that manuscript amendments cannot be 458 tabled at Third Reading. Surely anyone who wished to table an amendment at Third Reading should have asked me or, still better, inquired at the Public Bill Office or sought the advice of the Clerks and authorities of the House. Noble Lords could have asked what needed to be done to table an amendment at Third Reading. Noble Lords would have been told of arrangements made by the Public Bill Office—not by me—to meet that eventuality. Those arrangements were in place. The fact that noble Lords did not attempt to avail themselves of that information is not my problem.
If, every other day, we are to have a debate in which the House seeks to take issue with agreements that have been made between our old friends "the usual channels"—who aim to ensure that the business of this House proceeds in an orderly manner—it will be very difficult for the House to retain its reputation for upholding the agreement and co-operation usually demonstrated on all sides.
I have discussed the problem of adjourning Third Reading with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. My noble friend has ensured that a full reply on all the points that have been raised is ready to be given to the noble and learned Lord.
I suggest to noble Lords that it would be better if we now continued with Third Reading, as tabled, and proceed with the Bill which must go back tonight to the Commons to fit in with the timetable there. That is in case, for a variety of reasons, it needs to be returned to this place.
I stress again that there has been no breach of standing orders. However, there has been a failure on the part of noble Lords themselves to check what they should have done if they had wanted to table amendments at Third Reading.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, explanations and justifications are going to dig us deeper into this hole. Can the noble Lord the Chief Whip answer one point? Lords amendments are amendable in another place. Would it be possible, perhaps with the co-operation of the Government, to arrange for the amendments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, to be tabled in another place and debated there?
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, that could take place only if an amendment were consequential on an amendment that had been made in this place. That is the difficulty.
§ Viscount Bledisloe
My Lords, the noble Lord the Chief Whip, having decided to take the Bill today, must have appreciated—certainly if he heard the response given by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam—that people were not going to put down their amendments in time. It was open to him to move that the standing order be suspended to enable the amendments to be tabled today. Is not the right answer at this point to move that the amendments, although now suspended, be tabled and for the Bill to be taken later today—if the noble Lord is so keen to complete it today? That would allow a little time for the amendments to be put down.
459 It would be perfectly easy for the noble Lord himself to suspend the standing order. He moved to suspend the standing order yesterday in an attempt to get the Bill passed in one day. Surely he could move a lesser Motion to suspend this standing order and thus enable the amendment to be tabled.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, perhaps I may deal with the point made by the noble Viscount. The reason why we were able to hold yesterday's debate on the suspension of standing orders was because a Motion had been put down on the Order Paper.
Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of Standing Order No. 87:No Motion shall be granted for making any new Standing Order, or for dispensing with a Standing Order of the House, unless the notice shall have been given in the Order Paper to consider the said Motion".It is quite clear that we cannot now move a Motion to suspend standing orders. It should have been tabled last night so that it could have appeared on the Order Paper for today.
Although I appreciate that noble Lords feel strongly about this matter, I suggest that we should now get on with our business. I repeat, there has been no breach of standing orders. Immediately after Tuesday's debate, I met with the Official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats. We agreed to leave a day between Report and Third Reading and to take Third Reading today. Everyone agreed with that. No complaints were made when it was clear that Third Reading was put down on the Order Paper for today.
I repeat: it is not my responsibility to ensure that noble Lords check on the procedures. All noble Lords know and understand the procedures as regards manuscript amendments. There are plenty of lawyers in this House. Why did no one think to ask me, the Clerks or the Public Bill Office about the procedure covering amendments to be tabled at Third Reading? I think that noble Lords forgot to do this and now they are making a meal of their own forgetfulness.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, perhaps I may make two very brief points. My action yesterday had two purposes. The first was to point out the undesirability of omitting the normal intervals, a point which I suspect has been underlined by our discussions this afternoon.
My second point, which I made specifically, was,It is also clear that, under Standing Order 48 it would not be possible for any amendments to be tabled for Third Reading. That could be a serious handicap in terms of our wish to improve the Bill".—[Official Report, 25/7/00; col. 284.]That is the central point here. Surely what we are really discussing is not a point of procedure, but the need to improve the Bill.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, this episode has vividly demonstrated the difficulty and danger of legislating at the high speed we have been trying to achieve over the past few days.
460 The point raised by the noble and learned Lord —"affecting natural justice"—was raised initially at the meeting with the Home Secretary to consider the draft Bill. The Government responded to that in the Bill. It was again raised by the noble and learned Lord in the debate on Second Reading held only last Thursday, although for some of us that already seems like a long time ago. It came up again in Committee—at 4.30 on Tuesday morning, but still in Monday's sitting. It was then discussed in the understandable absence of the noble and learned Lord. A response of a sort was given. We returned to the matter again on Report—at half past 10 last night. It was at that point that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, made his remark about amendments to be tabled tomorrow.
Those noble Lords who have been present for all the stages of this Bill can well accept that the noble Lord might easily have made a slip. It was 10.30 at night; all noble Lords had been up until gone five o'clock that morning; what is more, we had been debating the Bill since directly after Questions yesterday, on top of the previous day's sitting. So we can all accept that the noble Lord made a mistake at that point. But the fact remains that we have got into this difficulty.
My noble friend Lord Lucas made a good suggestion which should be considered by the Procedure Committee; namely, that should these circumstances be repeated in the future and Standing Order No. 48 is suspended so that two stages, in this case Report and Third Reading, can be taken on the same day, the standing order preventing manuscript amendments being taken at Third Reading should also be suspended. I believe that the Procedure Committee should look into that.
There is a point worth making about the usual intervals between stages of legislation. There are two types of interval in our procedures. There is the standing order which it was proposed yesterday should be suspended, but was not, stating that we cannot take two stages of a Bill in the same day. But in the Companion there is also a less binding requirement that there should be two weekends between this, a fortnight between that, and so on—the conventional longer intervals. These, of course, have been drastically suspended for this Bill, and we have been considering the Bill day by day without suspending the standing order, merely breaking the convention laid down in the Companion. But it was also proposed that we should go further and suspend the standing order as well, and the House rejected that yesterday. The question is what we should do now, having arrived at this position.
It seems to me that the first thing that should happen is that in this debate the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, should do his best to answer the points raised by the noble and learned Lord and attempt to reassure him about the way in which they will be dealt with more fully than he was able to do at half past ten last night. Then we can decide whether to proceed with the Third Reading and the government amendments that have been tabled.
461 One of the fortunate consequences of the House carrying the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Marlesford yesterday is that the Government have had some further thoughts and, being more understanding of the procedures than some of us, have managed to get their amendments under the wire for consideration today, which they would otherwise have been prevented from doing. So if the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will now do his best to reassure the noble and learned Lord, we may be able to make progress.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, before my noble friend does so, perhaps I may correct the noble Lord, Lord Cope. We did suspend standing orders yesterday to take all stages of the Finance Bill in one day. It is not uncommon for the intervals between stages to be collapsed. We have dealt with emergency and other important legislation. I shall not go into all the arguments as to why the Government feel that this legislation must be on the statute book before we rise for the Summer Recess. As noble Lords know, there is a game in Germany next week which could be affected. We can bring this matter before the Procedure Committee, and I undertake to make sure that, on any future occasion when it is proposed that we should take the Report stage and Third Reading on successive days, everyone is made aware of what is happening.
The noble Lord rather gave the game away. He said that some of us were a bit forgetful of procedures or were not too sure about the procedures. I think that that is what has happened. I am afraid that your Lordships have slightly overlooked the procedures of the House in this case. I undertake to make sure that arrangements are made so that when Report and Third Reading are taken on successive days everyone knows the arrangements for tabling amendments for Third Reading.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, just said. At its next meeting the Procedure Committee should examine all the issues involved over the past few days. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that we were all aware of the standing order. I have been in the House 25 years and I must confess that I had not known of its existence. No doubt that represents gross negligence on my part; nevertheless, until this morning I was not aware of it.
The sensible idea proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, was that we should now hear from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, who owes an explanation to the House for the words that he used last night when he inadvertently misled the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. However, I very much hope, if it is at all possible—I have discussed this with my noble friend Lord McNally—that the issues raised in the amendment might be included in an amendment to Lords amendments tabled in the Commons. It is not right that the issues repeatedly drawn to our attention 462 by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, should not be ventilated by means of an amendment in one House or the other.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, so that we understand the procedures that we now face, perhaps I may ask the Government Chief Whip whether my understanding is correct. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will now speak in answer to the all the points made; the Question will then be put, without any further opportunity for any other noble Lord to speak; and if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, feels that he has not received the response that he wishes, and wishes therefore that the Third Reading should be postponed until tomorrow, he should at that point shout, "Not Content", and then we can all follow, or not follow, as the case may be. Is my understanding of the procedure correct?
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, before my noble friend rises to reply, I am not prepared to accept that deal. If we are going to have Third Reading starting now, in the course of which the Minister will give his explanation, I entirely accept that. It is sensible. But if the idea is that the Minister gives his explanation and we then have this wrangle again, that does not seem sensible at all.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I should certainly have been prepared, if advised that it was possible, for the amendment that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, wants to be tabled in the Commons, and would have suggested that. Unfortunately, it cannot be done because amendments relating to reasons for detention and grounds for notice could not be taken in the Commons. Only amendments which are consequential on amendments made in this place can be taken, and none has been made.
My noble friend Lord Bassam has a very full reply to all the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and has discussed them. Before I sit down—I hope for the last time in this discussion—I would express the hope that this House is not going to get into the habit, after all its years of agreement and co-operation, of every other day deciding itself, rather than through the usual channels, whether we should take a Third Reading. We must make this House work.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, perhaps I may make one point. I telephoned the Public Bill Office and asked it to repeat my amendments, with an amendment. The amendments suggested that the police should give full particulars of the facts and matters relied upon. That had been objected to by the Minister on the grounds that it involved too big an obligation. So I amended my proposal and dictated the amendment to the Public Bill Office, which rang back later to say that it was not able to be tabled because I was out of time. So what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, should be dealing with is the amendment, which merely deletes the word "full" before "particulars" and inserts, in lieu of "full", "essential".
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I had not intended to produce a major procedural wrangle. I 463 obviously owe the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, a fulsome apology for having misled him at 10.30 yesterday evening when I endeavoured to help him in suggesting that he should table the amendments again for tomorrow—I obviously got the words wrong—so that we could provide him with an explanation as to why we were content with our position. I apologise unreservedly to the noble and learned Lord. I also apologise unreservedly to your Lordships' House. I was merely trying to be helpful, because I had appreciated that the House wanted to have an opportunity to hear what the Government had to say in response to the noble and learned Lord's points; that seemed to me proper and right. I have also greatly appreciated the degree of co-operation which the Government have enjoyed in seeking to achieve this piece of legislation in the week before the Summer Recess. There is common agreement on all sides that, for the most part, we have had civilised debates and tried to solve problems as we have gone along.
I said that I would offer an explanation to the noble and learned Lord when he raised these matters yesterday. The noble and learned Lord now advises me that one of his amendments adopts a slightly different position. I have not had the opportunity fully to think it through, but I shall certainly provide the information that I promised yesterday. The noble and learned Lord asked why the Government had not accepted Amendment No. 39 in his name tabled last night. That amendment would have added a reference to "the grounds set out in section 21A" in new Section 21B.
I am extremely reluctant to disagree with the noble and learned Lord on a point of statutory interpretation. However, I am advised that the amendment is not necessary and that to make it would he repetitive and confusing. New Section 21A(1) already provides that the powers in both new Sections 21 A and 21 B are exercisable only if a constable has the grounds set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) of new Section 21A. It follows that the powers in new Section 21 B can be exercised only where those grounds exist. I hope that the noble and learned Lord accepts that explanation.
I also explained to the House last night why, reluctantly, I was unable to accept the noble and learned Lord's suggestion that "full particulars" should be given in the reasons for detention under new Section 21A or the grounds in new Section 21B. The noble and learned Lord asked what I envisaged would be contained in the reasons and grounds to be given. In relation to the power of detention under new Section 21A, I have explained that the section already goes beyond what the common law, required under the doctrine of Christie v. Leachinsky, and what PACE requires on arrest under Section 28; namely, that the person arrested must be told the grounds for his arrest.
New Section 21A goes further and requires that the person be given the grounds in writing. This is a short-term power of detention to make enquiries to decide whether or not to issue a notice under new Section 21B. I do not envisage that the grounds will go further than to explain the provision under which the detention 464 takes place, the statutory grounds for detention and the fact that consideration is being given to the issue of a notice under new Section 21B. We believe that that is sufficient to inform the person detained of the reason for his detention.
As to the grounds to be stated in the notice under new Section 21B, I fully accept that more detail is required to enable adequate preparation for the forthcoming court appearance. It may not be practical in every case to give full particulars of all the evidence to be relied on at the hearing. But I certainly expect, and will ensure that guidance to the police reflects, that the notice will contain details of any previous convictions on which it is sought to rely and the reasons for believing that the person is likely to be involved in football-related violence. I shall certainly encourage the police to include as much information as they can at the time the notice is issued. Obviously, further evidence may come to light between the issue of the notice and the court hearing.
The speed with which we hope to bring these matters to court may not allow for the full advance disclosure which is normal in civil proceedings. I hope noble Lords agree that it is of the utmost importance to bring these cases before a court as quickly as possible. That may mean that full details will not be available at the time of the issue of the notice. But it would not be right to delay issue of the notice or delay a court hearing, and potentially increase the period of detention, simply so that a comprehensive document can be prepared.
I can assure the House that guidance will emphasise the importance of giving the individual concerned as much advance notice as possible of the evidence against him. The availability of legal advice and assistance will help in this respect. The respondents in these cases will have access to legal advice. If they need more time to prepare for the hearing the court will be able to adjourn for that reason. I hope that the noble and learned Lord accepts that we shall do as much as we can to meet the spirit of his amendments.
I turn to the noble and learned Lord's further amendment relating to the provision of essential rather than full particulars. I am afraid that the same range of objections applies to providing on the face of the Bill that the police must provide essential as opposed to full particulars. As much information as possible should be given in the notice under new Section 21B, but it would not be right to prevent reliance On new information which came to light after the issue of the notice and before the hearing.
I assure the House that guidance to the police will ensure that as many particulars as possible are included in the notice. We intend to consider carefully and consult upon the range of guidance that we give the police in dealing with these matters. I said that I would attempt to share that information with the noble and learned Lord. Clearly, the publication of that guidance and consultation upon it should be as full as possible. I believe that we are approaching this matter in the right order.
465 We have been over these matters on two previous occasions. I hope that my explanation satisfies your Lordships. I again apologise for inadvertently provoking what has turned out to be a rather lengthy but interesting procedural debate.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Ackner
My Lords, my particulars are criticised because they require the information to be given in writing. If one looks at page 9, line 21, of the Bill one sees that the obligation inserted by the Government is that reasons for detaining the individual must be given in writing. Therefore, we are ad idem on that particular matter. A new criticism has emerged which is not supported by the Bill now before your Lordships. The Minister says in effect that one must not oblige those concerned to give the essential grounds; they may find it difficult to do so. Further, the Government will provide unpublished guidance to safeguard the defendant. People must rely on the Government to get the guidance right and the police to comply with that guidance. All of that is meant to protect a person who is at risk of losing his liberty, not on the basis of evidence or hard facts but suspicion—that is the word used in the Bill—and belief. I suggest to noble Lords that that is quite inadequate.
§ On Question, Bill read a third time.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 5, line 14, leave out ("absolutely or").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government have reflected on the reasons put forward in Committee by noble Lords opposite as to why it is inappropriate to impose a football banning order on someone who has been convicted of a football-related offence but has received an absolute discharge for it. Despite the fact that this provision is carried over from earlier legislation, we have concluded that we can do without this provision, and today we have tabled an amendment which will have that effect. I thank those noble Lords who were, quite rightly on reflection, insistent on this matter and drew it to our attention. I beg to move.
§ Lord Goodhart
My Lords, we on these Benches put down these amendments, and I spoke to this particular amendment, I believe, just before or just after midnight on Monday. I am, of course, grateful to the Government for taking up this point, but a certain amount of time could have been saved if the Government had accepted the amendment at the time instead of putting forward arguments, as they did on that occasion, as to why they should not take it on board. However, I am grateful that they have changed their minds.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, this is a valuable change, albeit a modest one in its importance. For the information of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, he was 466 speaking at about 1.40 a.m. when he last moved this particular amendment, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, rejected it in absolute terms. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord is now proposing it to us, we support it.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 2.
Page 10, line 11, leave out ("appropriate chief officer of police") and insert ("constable").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 arise from a discussion at Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made the point that British citizens could be issued with a notice under new Section 21B but that there would be no appropriate chief officer of police to make the application under new Section 14B if the person did not reside in England and Wales. This caused the Government to look again at new Section 21B(4) and made us alive to a more general difficulty. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for alerting us to the problem.
§ We envisage in most cases that the powers in new Section 21A and 21B will not be exercised in the individual's home area but near a point of embarkation. In that case, it would not be appropriate for the chief officer of police for the area in which the person resides to be deemed to be the applicant for the order.
§ Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 therefore amend new Section 21B(4), so that the applicant for the banning order in the case of someone issued a notice under the new Section is the constable who issues the notice rather than the chief officer for the person's home address.
§ I hope that is a clear amendment, and I am confident that the amendment will achieve the objective we are seeking. I beg to move.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, I confess to having moved an amendment in Committee relating to this provision but it omitted the proposal that British citizens could be caught under new Section 21A and subsequent sections. It covered people resident in England and Wales, referred to in new Sections 14A and 14B. I pointed out, I believe rightly, that the wording in the Bill was ineffective. I very much hoped that the Government would go away and look at my amendment and decide that only the English and Welsh should be collared at the ports, rather than British citizens. The Government have come back and emphasised the fact by making this section relate to British citizens being collared at the ports.
We are looking at a Bill whose basic arrangements in new Sections 14A and 14B, and, indeed, in the underlying Football Spectators Act 1989, relate to people resident in England and Wales and to their misbehaviour abroad. All the penalties and remedies are designed for people living in England and Wales, but in new Section 21C we suddenly have the concept that those who can be collared by the police at the ports are to be British citizens. People resident in Scotland cannot be caught under new Sections 14A or 467 14B but if they happen to try and go out through the port of Dover they will suddenly find themselves caught by the provisions of this Bill.
I do not believe there has ever been an explanation from the Minister as to why there is this difference in the Bill. Under what circumstances is it intended that people who are resident in Scotland should be collared by the police when they try to leave through an English or Welsh port? Why has the Bill been written in that way? Why is it wished to have jurisdiction over the Scots in those circumstances, or, indeed, over people who might be living in France or Australia or anywhere else in the world, just because they happen to leave from an English port even though they are not resident in England?
Presumably, the Government have a list of undesirable Scots and they know they cannot collar them in Scotland because the Scottish Executive will not allow them the power to do it. But if those people have the temerity to try and leave through Dover they will find themselves nabbed. If they are nabbed the consequences are quite spectacular. The remedies are designed for the English and Welsh, which means that the first thing the Scots will be told is that they cannot go home to Scotland. They will have to hang around in England and Wales until their day in the magistrates' court comes up, and that may be postponed for some while. Indeed, if they announce their intention to go back to Scotland—as they might reasonably do—the magistrates have the power to imprison them and keep them in England.
When those people receive the banning order—because presumably the police are not going to collar a Scot unless they have reasonable evidence against him—they will have to come back to England, register at a police station and surrender their passports every time England plays a match abroad. That could be 20 times or so a year, so these unfortunate Scots will be brought scurrying back across the Border 20 times a year. It is ridiculous.
What is the purpose of the extension of this jurisdiction to Scotland? It is indeed much wider, although I suspect that not many Australian football thugs will be travelling through Dover to matches in France. It may well be that people resident or working in Europe might be collared at Dover at some stage, and that may be part of the Government's intention. They may believe that there are people involved in football violence who are actually resident on the continent of Europe and want to be able to catch them any time they come through the port of Dover. It does, as an extension of the injustices done by this Bill, have an extraordinary lack of sensitivity for the feelings of those Scots who will be caught by this provision, and for the consequent feelings of their nation. This really does take the Bill into new territory even by its standards.
I urge the Minister to think again and to accept the ineffectiveness of this part of the Bill with which the Government have landed themselves in relation to Scots, or, if not, at least to make some further amendment in the Commons to make it quite clear 468 that the only people who are going to be stopped at the ports are residents of England and Wales and not those from north of the Border or from Northern Ireland.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lucas drew my attention to this matter and I have listened with interest to what he has said. I am not sure how many people resident in Scotland will want to go abroad to a football match in which England play, unless, of course, it is to support the opposing team, whoever they may be. I am not saying that because I necessarily support it.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way. When I attended the England versus Germany match in Charleroi I saw a Scottish flag at the German end, so it is just possible that they may have travelled abroad to support the Germans.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I think the Minister is probably right. I am not saying that I approve of this attitude but I certainly recognise that it exists, so it is possible that somebody resident in Scotland might go abroad to support the opposing team. Of course, there could be an Englishman resident in Scotland who goes abroad to support the English team. Leaving aside the merits or demerits of the whole of the Bill, what happens when that person is stopped at Dover and is expected to turn up at the police station in England on future occasions to hand in his passport and therefore not be able to go abroad to a football match? That seems to me an unnecessary burden on the individual.
Perhaps it goes a little further. What happens if he uses his passport to leave directly from Scotland? What will the English policeman do about that because he will not have jurisdiction in Scotland? Indeed, I suspect travel agents may be looking into the business which can be conducted on the back of this Bill and the fact that there is a backdoor exit from the United Kingdom into Europe.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for giving way. If a native of Scotland does that he will have committed a criminal offence by breaking the banning order and presumably we can have him extradited back to England.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, my noble friend raises another issue. Perhaps the Minister will explain what would happen if an individual decided to travel abroad directly from Scotland without coming to England to surrender his passport. Legislation ought properly to address such detail. As a result of devolution, there will be real problems as regards this and other issues.
If it were not for devolution, no doubt we should be addressing the matter on a UK-wide basis. But because of devolution, and because the Scottish Parliament rightly sees no need to impose these 469 restrictions on the Scots, the Government may have a problem dealing with such issues. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, perhaps in reply the Minister will deal with the question of the Irish. I know nothing whatever about football and the point had not occurred to me until I heard the speech of my noble friend Lord Lucas, but I understand that around Merseyside certain teams attract a heavy measure of Irish support. I have little doubt that a number of those Irish supporters will have Irish as well as British nationality.
I do not know whether any of them have two passports or the Government's intention in this respect. I am unsure of these matters while the Minister is sure-footed on them. Perhaps he can explain the implications of taking from a foreign citizen the passport which has been issued to him by a foreign government.
The point emphasises the untidiness of the legislation and how much easier it would have been had we had a little more time to consider these matters.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend's point about the amount of time we have been given to consider these matters. During our debates on the Bill, from Second Reading onwards, we have repeatedly come across the Scottish angle in the case of an Englishman travelling to a match overseas via Scotland. That would seem to be good for Scottish airports and so forth.
The amendment takes the matter a stage further because it extends to those resident in Scotland. I was surprised to realise that when I saw the amendment this morning but the Minister confirmed it a few moments ago. I am now in no doubt about it. It will be difficult for someone resident in Scotland to contemplate travelling at the time of a football match, never mind whether he is attending, if he believes that he might fall foul of this legislation. He certainly will not want to use Newcastle airport.
With respect to my noble friend, such an individual would be relatively unlikely to use Dover but he would be likely to use Newcastle or Teesside airport. He may there be served with a notice by the police, told he has to turn up at the magistrates' court in Newcastle the next day and be unable to return home. Assuming he is not detained by the police, he will then have to spend the night in Newcastle in an hotel. He will then have to turn up 40 times a year; 20 times a year to hand in his passport and 20 times a year to collect it! He will be allowed compensation only if the magistrates refuse the order. His hotel bill will then be paid—assuming that he has not spent more than £5,000 on the hotel—as will his flight and so forth. However, he will be put to extreme difficulty. The result will be that he will stay in Scotland. I know of no extradition treaty nor way in which he can be made to turn up in the town of the airport he was using in order to hand in his passport, or whatever.
470 In effect, we are setting up internal exile in Scotland. That means that not only will an Englishman be refused permission to go to Scotland if he falls foul of the legislation—at least for a period because he will be confined to England and Wales by the police notice—but now a Scotsman will not be able to come to England if he is not careful. In that sense, the measure is extremely divisive and we need a good explanation of why the amendment has been moved at the last minute to extend all the powers to Scotsmen.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, put his finger on the Irish issue. It is difficult to understand in this extremely badly drafted, badly thought-through Bill what happens to Irish citizens who also have British passports. If such a person shows his Irish passport, presumably the police can take no action. However, if he shows his British passport, it can be seized under the circumstances we have discussed.
As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, given the large number of Irish citizens who come to this country to watch Liverpool and Manchester United, it is important that the Minister clarifies the matter tonight.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I appreciate that not all Members of your Lordships' House like or appreciate the Bill or believe that it is the right legislation. I also appreciate that there may well be one or two interesting anomalies. However, by and large, it must be understood that the legislation is primarily aimed at dealing with a problem with English supporters, and English club supporters, travelling abroad. That has also been the primary purpose of other legislation introduced with this and previous governments in trying to wrestle with the difficulties associated with football hooligans.
I shall deal with the points that have been raised, in particular about Scotland. A banning order can be made after conviction in England and Wales regardless of nationality or permanent residence. A banning order could be made in relation to a Scot against whom the powers in new Section 2IB are exercised. One effect of a banning order is to report to a police station in England and Wales. It is unlikely that an order would be made in relation to a Scot who lived in Scotland because the test in new Section 14(4)(b) is unlikely to be met in his case.
However, there is no reason why an order should not be made in relation to any of the many Scots who are resident in England and Wales, unlikely though in practice that may be. It is extremely unlikely that many Scots will travel with a hooligan intent in support of an English team, or perhaps an English club team—but perhaps the latter is more likely than the former.
In our view, the banning order is not likely to be made in relation to a Scot who is resident in Scotland. It is unlikely that the test of new Section 14(4) will be met. We believe that an order in this case is unlikely to help prevent violence at football matches.
471 The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, raised one or two questions. There is no power under the Bill to take the passports of foreign nationals. The measure applies only to British passports. I believe that commonly we understand that. A person with dual nationality can be required to surrender only his British passport but he can be issued with a notice, prevented from travelling and summoned to appear in court. I believe that that answers the various questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, too. These amendments were moved in order to make the Bill more workable and more flexible. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 10, line 11, at end insert ("and subsection (1) of that section is to have effect as if the references to the chief officer of police for the area in which the person resides or appears to reside were references to that constable").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, this Bill puts four distinct powers on to the statute book. I shall list them in order of increasing controversy. The first is the combining of domestic and international banning orders. The second is the withdrawal of passports from those with banning orders. The third is the magistrates' power to issue banning orders on application by the police, even where there is no conviction for football offences or, for that matter, any conviction. The fourth is the power given to the police to detain a person for six hours for inquiries and to restrict his movements to England and Wales for up to 24 hours until he attends the magistrates' court in order to ascertain whether a banning order should be made or, in some cases, to detain him in those circumstances.
Broadly speaking, the first three are not matters of great controversy, but the fourth is. The longer the issue has been debated, the more doubts I must admit to having about it. My doubts relate, first, to how the power will work in practice. I refer to its practical effects, some of which we discussed a few moments ago. Secondly, I have doubts about how the power will work legally and whether it will stand up. I do not believe that we have heard arguments to demonstrate that it clears the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU treaties or the various other matters that have been raised. There is certainly doubt about its legality in that respect. Great doubts have also been expressed about its liberty aspects: it is a new "sus" law of a very specific kind.
472 Originally, the Secretary of State justified the Bill as being a response to a wholly new phenomenon or, at least, a new angle to an old phenomenon; that is, that a large number of the individuals who caused trouble in Belgium were not known to the police in any form and had not committed an offence. We now know that the Belgian police returned to this country a good number of people—no one knows precisely how many, but a substantial proportion—by what can only be described as a "mistake". Those people had done nothing and did not deserve to be returned. Therefore, in that sense and in part, we are at risk of passing this legislation because of the errors of the Belgian police.
However, throughout the arguments we have all acknowledged that there is a national problem. We all hate to see television pictures of our compatriots rioting in the streets of foreign towns when football matches take place and we all want the Government to do something about it. The first two, or even three, of the powers under the Bill have been urged on the Government for some time. We ourselves have urged them on the Government and so have others. That is why I have done my best to live up to what I said at Second Reading; that is, not to stand in the way of the Bill and to allow the Government to have the powers for which they ask in order to attempt to deal with the problem.
As your Lordships decided yesterday, those powers will last for two years. In the meantime, we can consider whether to make them permanent and whether the controversial elements of the powers—the only parts to which the sunset clause applies—should be either refined and put back on the statute book or not proceeded with. That will depend on the legality, the practicality and the liberty aspects of them as they emerge in practice.
There is a great national problem. I believe that it is right that certainly three of the powers should be put on the statute book. I am prepared for the Government to operate the fourth power for two years and then for the matter to be considered further and a decision made on how we should proceed from there. It is possible that additional measures will need to be put in place. In the course of our debates, some have been suggested, such as extra-territoriality. In addition, we all know that there are non-statutory things to be done. The Minister has spoken about them at intervals during the debates and we are entirely supportive of his efforts in that respect.
It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us that the Government intend to accept the two-year period and will not attempt to reverse that amendment in another place. To my mind, it is an important element in deciding to put this legislation on the statute book. The unsatisfactory element—the fourth power to which I referred—is the one to which primarily the sunset clause refers. I believe that if we are to include these unsatisfactory powers, the least time that they are in force the better. I hope that the noble Lord can reassure me. However, in general, and certainly so far as concerns the first three powers, I support the Motion that the Bill do now pass.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, it is 34 years since I first met Jack Straw at the Exeter conference of the National Union of Students. For a time earlier this afternoon I believe that we should both have recognised the atmosphere of a National Union of Students conference where regular debates were postponed while points of order to points of order to points of order were put by various barrack-room lawyers, some of them now in the Government.
I do not believe that in my experience in either House I have ever been part of such a lawyerfest as we have had over the past few days. If this were a lawyerfest, my prediction is that there will be further feasting from this Bill for my learned friends once the various appeal procedures get under way.
I do not attach any blame to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for what happened earlier. I believe that he had been dealing with points for approximately 15 out of 24 hours. The truth is that the fault lies with those who conceived the legislation in haste because they believed it to be populist. It was brought forward in response to No. 10's call for imaginative initiatives and a late-night phone call from Mr Tony Banks requesting quick action before the World Cup vote. When one considers what has taken place, it is quite understandable that the Government got into such a mess.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, pointed out that he had kept the promise he made at Second Reading, I should say that my promise at Second Reading was that I could guarantee the Government no smooth passage for the Bill. I claim that that pledge, too, has been redeemed over the past three days.
I was trying to think of the right words to sum up our position. I found them in tonight's Evening Standard in the column of Mr Mick Dennis. I shall not quote the whole column, although I ask the Minister to read it, because it is a good, sound article. One paragraph bears quoting. It says:The only satisfactory way of identifying a hooligan is to arrest him, charge him and present evidence to a court of law. That way, he or his solicitor can challenge that evidence and call witnesses for the defence. It is the system we use for every other crime in this country".That remains the position of the Liberal Democrats. We do not think that the Government have proceeded sensibly and we remain very concerned about the civil liberties aspects of the Bill. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I take great comfort from the sunset clause that has been adopted. Like him, I hope that the Minister will assure us that no attempt will be made to reverse it in another place. That would not bring credit to the Government or make the Bill any better.
The Bill needs to be put in perspective. It may help to deal with the problem of soccer hooliganism, but I do not think that it is the cure-all. I know that the Minister agrees that we have to ensure that the players, the media and the clubs play their part. All those parties need to think carefully before they kill the goose that is laying their golden eggs. Sponsors and 474 advertisers will not continue to pay large sums for ever if, in the public mind, soccer is identified with the worst elements of behaviour in our society.
One of the most important things to come out of the Government's initiative is not the Bill or its fourth power, but the Minister's committee. I hope that he grabs that opportunity with both hands. Far too many people in the Government like to be associated with soccer for its ersatz glamour. They imagine themselves as football directors in camelhair coats, puffing on their cigars. However, I know that the Minister is a genuine soccer fan. I hope that his committee looks at issues such as the influence of drink on hooliganism, good policing practices as well as failures, the effectiveness of measures such as club life bans, as applied by Leeds, the importance of a vigorous prosecution policy—a real truth and consequences for hooliganism—and the theme of extraterritoriality.
There is also an urgent need for the appointment of a soccer regulator. I am not being frivolous when I say that our debates have shown that the Government have a candidate in the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds. I would have much more confidence if I thought that he was going to regulate soccer than I have in some of the names that have been bandied about.
We have gone through a rather fevered period for the Home Office. The Home Office works best when it is occupied by cool heads who keep matters in perspective, not by people seeking eye-catching initiatives. The Home Office should not be a ministry of internal security; it should be our first line of defence for civil liberties. We have had enough Home Office Bills that chip away at our civil liberties. We expect Home Office Ministers to be as conscious and wary as everybody else of short-term expediency that could have long-term consequences for civil liberties.
The sunset clause means that the Bill is experimental. Let the Government have their experiment and we shall return to these matters another day.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, in almost his last speech, the Minister used certain words again and again: "intended", "likely", "unlikely", "not intended". Ministers should not be telling us what their legislation is "intended" or "likely" to achieve. It should be clear what legislation will achieve in judicial terms. The Bill has been so sloppily drafted that it is in danger of encountering the law of unintended consequences. As noble Lords know, that law is that if an unintended consequence is possible, it will almost certainly follow.
I have two thoughts on the issue. First, if we had let the Government have the powers for which they asked in the form in which they asked for them as the Bill came to us from another place, there would have been even more unintended consequences. It is because this House has been rather difficult—generally good humoured, but occasionally fractious—that the Bill is no worse than it might have been.
Secondly, had I, as a Minister, had the difficulty of dealing with the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and had I relied on the 475 advice of my officials that he was wrong and they were right, I would be uneasy in my ministerial seat. I have a feeling that it will not be long before the Government regret that they did not make it possible for the noble and learned Lord's amendment to be fully discussed, and preferably accepted.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, I disagree with only one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said: that the Bill has been significantly improved in this place. It has not. It is a striking contrast with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, on which the noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord Bach, laboured, as did my noble friend Lord McNally and I, together with the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Lucas. That Bill came to this House in a tawdry and inadequate state and left it much improved. This Bill came to us in a tawdry and inadequate state and leaves us in that condition. There has not been a single major concession to the fears expressed not just by the Opposition, but from the Government Benches.
I may be a recent arrival in this place, but if ever a Bill called not for emergency speed, but for emergency slowness and deliberation, this was it. Some noble Lords have taken a cavalier view of the Bill. There has been too much concentration on hooligans, whom we all deplore, and not nearly enough consideration of the fundamental legal aspects. I fear that I, too, have fallen prey to that tendency many times, thinking about hooligans when I should have been thinking about hooliganism. We have all slipped into the temptation to draw up a Bill designed to convict people whom we know are guilty.
The problem with hooligans is that they are difficult to find and to pin down, as the experience of Euro 2000 clearly shows. Let us make no mistake about what we have done. We have a long and proud history of dealing with difficult issues that balance liberty against public order. For the first time, we have ended up with legislation that will ban people from an activity for up to 10 years on the basis of wholly lawful conduct that could have taken place up to 10 years in the past.
In effect, we shall be punishing past actions under provisions of a law that did not exist at the time they took place, actions that were lawful and actions that are lawful now. Many instances have been cited of such cases: student demonstrations and riots, peaceful demonstrations, demonstrations in regard to genetically modified crops, demonstrations against animal treatment and a 101 other such instances. There has been too much of an assumption that we all know with whom we are dealing. I am afraid that down the ages tyrants have said, "We know who we are dealing with".
I have not been impressed with the reassurances given again and again by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, that we should not worry that the powers in the Bill are uniquely wide. The noble Lords, Lord Tebbit and Lord McNally, and others have made the point that the hurdles set by the Bill are uniquely low. We are told, "Do not worry, the police will be responsible and the justices of the peace will be wise". If that were the basis on which we legislate in matters 476 of this kind we would forget "intent", we would forget "proof beyond all reasonable doubt" and we would forget most of the protections to which we have clung in fair weather and foul down the long course of our history.
Most disreputable of all is the attempt by the Government to dress up this Bill as a civil measure. It is not a civil measure. It has punishments of a criminal nature; its context is of a criminal nature; it involves detention; it involves endless processes before magistrates' courts; it involves the police at every turn. My heart goes out to the police who will have to implement the Bill and my heart also goes out to the magistrates who will have to construe it and apply it. I repeat that it is disreputable that the Government have cast a civil shroud around this corpse so that they can get by on a civil test of proof and so that they can justify retrospectiveness.
In the two years that I have been a Member of this House I have always felt, when a piece of legislation has been concluded, that the House has done its best. I have always felt that we have done a fairly good job. But in this case I have the sense that this shoddy Bill has not been dealt with in the way that is expected of us. We have not discharged our duty of protecting fundamental liberties in balance with our proper purpose of trying to deal with an extremely intractable social evil.
This is a precedent that will ring down the ages. It is all well and good to say that there is a "sunset" clause, but the sun should never have risen on this Bill. The Government are already justifying the Bill on the back of the anti-social behaviour orders, which have been attacked and which were the subject of the sort of reassurance that we have had, but we have gone three steps further than the Crime and Disorder Bill ever went. At Second Reading I attempted to explain how the reassurances given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, at Second Reading of the Crime and Disorder Bill, have been broken in every instance in this Bill.
Although lawyers have a reputation for being money-making cynics, I believe that all lawyers in the House are extremely disillusioned by this measure. It is difficult not to use rather inflated language. Enough said. I wish the Bill well. I fear for it; I fear for the precedent that it creates. I hope that when, under the "sunset" provisions, the Bill comes back, it will be consigned to the place it deserves.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for his courtesy, good humour, patience and stamina. I confess that I am puzzled and disappointed by the attitude of the Opposition. I do not refer to the Back Bench opposition—to the rigorous, hard-hitting and effective opposition provided, for example, by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and above all by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, which cannot be faulted—but to the Front Bench Opposition, or perhaps I should say the shadow Cabinet Opposition. I mean no criticism of the noble 477 Lord, Lord Cope, whose interventions have been most effective, particularly in speaking to the second amendment this afternoon.
This is a Bill, which according to the organisation Justice, seriously breaches European Community law, which does not comply with the Human Rights Act and, as a number of noble Lords from all sides of the House have said, is contrary to British traditions. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has most effectively pointed out, it has not improved since it arrived in this House. If a Bill, or parts of it, are so wrong in principle, merely curtailing the period during which its provisions have effect scarcely makes it any better.
Suppose that, worried by a sharp increase in muggings and burglaries and other forms of robbery, the Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, were to stand up in the House of Commons and announce that he was to introduce a Bill to provide for the introduction of Sharia punishments for the worst forms of theft, encouraged perhaps by focus groups that had reported to the Prime Minister that such punishments would play well with the tabloids. One cannot deny that such punishments may be extremely effective, judging by one's knowledge of the Middle East. Would the Official Opposition say, "We are uneasy about this legislation that seems to run counter to the tradition of British justice, but on the other hand it cannot be denied that the crime wave is extremely serious, so perhaps it is a reasonable compromise to agree to Sharia punishments being applied for a trial period of two years, after which we shall review the situation". One has to wonder!
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I express entire agreement with my noble friend Lord Tebbit. I also express the hope that in reply the Minister will bring himself to say that he agrees with every word of the very effective speech of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. If the Minister does not agree with every single word, I hope that he will indicate his disagreement and explain why he disagrees.
In other contexts I have asked about this matter. I hope that Ministers who bring this kind of legislation before Parliament will pause to reflect on what they themselves would have said if they had been sitting on this side of the House and had been faced with this kind of sloppy rubbish. I have always rather admired the skill of the Labour Party in opposition. It has had a good deal of experience in that role. Had it been faced with a Bill of this kind, it would have been the first to protest again and again at almost every tenet in it. It would have seen no justification whatever for the measure. I believe that the Government are motivated by purely populist motives. They have no respectable legal argument.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will be able to tear the curtain of privacy aside for a moment and explain to the House the processes through which the Bill passed before it was printed and presented to Parliament. I would love to know who took part in 478 those discussions. I suspect that the Bill was composed by a multitude of cooks who ruined what would always be a very bad broth.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, this is undoubtedly the worst example of tabloid legislation that I can remember in all the years I have been following parliamentary affairs. It panders to the headlines of the last couple of years. It was bad when it started because it had not been adequately thought through; it remains bad because there is not sufficient time to consider it.
That is a serious accusation. I hope that if one lesson has been learnt it is that the Government will never again introduce in such a rush legislation which has such serious implications. This legislation tramples on liberty, which should be one of the highest priorities in our consideration of any legislation. Above all, I hope that this House will never again acquiesce in curtailing the proper discussion of such legislation.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, I do not like this Bill. I have said that before and will not say it again. I say only this.
I hope that when we come to evaluate the effects of this Bill before the sunset clause kicks in we take proper care to conduct a good, objective, academic study—perhaps a combination of British and foreign academics—starting now. Then, when we come to review this legislation, we shall have a proper evaluation of it. The success of these provisions should not be that the tabloid headlines go away—tabloids have other things to think about—but that we have not violated the liberty of too many citizens.
§ Lord Lucas
My Lords, I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Desai. I hope that the Government will prove more co-operative than departments sometimes are in letting us know what is happening with the enforcement of this Bill as time goes on. I hope that we will be able to table questions asking, "In relation to such-and-such a foreign football match, how many people were detained under Sections 14A, 14B and 21A? And if under 21A, what was their treatment and what were the grounds?". I hope we do not receive the answer that those statistics are not held centrally. It is the usual answer to questions about what is happening in magistrates' courts. Proper answers are crucial. I hope the Minister will confirm that statistics will be collected centrally and will be made available promptly to Parliament either in an organised way or on request when noble Lords table questions.
With his colleagues through the usual channels, I hope also that the Chief Whip will consider the desirability of setting up a committee of this House or perhaps of both Houses to watch over this Bill. With a two-year sunset period, the process of the next Bill through both Houses of Parliament will start in about 15 months. Before then we need to have looked carefully at the way this Bill is being put into effect; to have consulted widely; to have a clear idea of where it falls in relation to the Human Rights Act and European law. There is much we can do by discussion 479 and consultation which has not been possible in bringing forward this Bill. I hope that the powers that be will allow this House to take the time to look at the legislation carefully, so that when we come to the next Bill we do so in an informed manner.
We are looking at a Bill which trespasses on human rights in a way which we should be extremely careful of doing. First, it is arbitrary. The tests in new Sections 14A and 14B will be met by over half the young white males who attend foreign football matches, though not nearly that number will be picked up. The people who are arraigned under this Bill will be chosen arbitrarily by the police on the basis of what they wish to do. That application of the law is extremely undesirable. It will impose on people who have not committed a crime—they may never have committed a crime—the stigma and inconvenience of a criminal conviction from the restrictions under which they are placed. It may even result in their serving a term of imprisonment under new Section 21, and that term of imprisonment may be quite extended.
This Bill trespasses on civil liberties in a way which we should be extremely careful about doing. We know that the Government have a penchant towards this kind of trespass. We know that there is a proposal in the wings which might unkindly be called, "Lock up the loonies", whereby people can be subjected to eternal imprisonment on the basis that it is thought they might commit a crime.
We can see the result of going down that road. We know that it will lead to a relative absence of crime. We can look at the history of Soviet Russia and see that crime, at least among the governed rather than the governing classes, was pretty low under that system. We can eliminate crime if we go down the route of eliminating civil liberties. When we look at Northern Ireland today we can see that the arbitrary enforcement of anti-drug measures by the IRA and others perhaps resulted in a reduction of drugs crime. But that is not the route down which we wish to go.
Liberty involves inconvenience; it costs us something. But it is a prize for which we have fought in the past and for which we should struggle ever to retain. We should not go back on the Petition of Right 1628. We gained that privilege after a long struggle and at the end of it suffered a civil war. We should not lightly allow the Government to trespass on that territory and allow arbitrary imprisonment as part of our civil law.
The amendment we won to restrict this Bill for two years is a ray of light. It gives me some comfort that we shall be able to consign it to the grave relatively soon, though I suspect it will have been badly mauled by the lawyers before then. I wish the Bill no good at all. But am afraid we have to let it pass.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, we have had a long Second Reading debate at the end of this Third Reading tonight. I listened carefully to all the contributions. I was merely going to rise and thank 480 everyone for their patience and forbearance with the debates we had on Monday, Tuesday and last Thursday on this Bill.
I particularly want to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for his constructive approach. I pay tribute also to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, whose views on football I share in almost every respect. We may have disagreed once or twice in relation to this legislation, but we are close in our analysis and understanding of what we need to do to change the nature and face of some of the support for part of our game.
I also want to pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Woolmer for his constructive and thoughtful observations based on his practical experience as a director and also to my noble friend Lord Faulkner. His was one of the best contributions in our Second Reading debate.
I thank my noble friend Lord Bach who has done a sterling job, not least for keeping me awake among other things. He also did an excellent job in fortifying the arguments.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for being the good civil libertarian that he undoubtedly is. I do not know whether he is a supporter of Sudbury Town or Sudbury Wanderers. They used to take part in a fiercesome local derby, though I doubt it ever led to hooliganism. However, it may have informed his opinions in your Lordships' House. He also contributed greatly by raising the issue of extra-territoriality. I gave an undertaking to the House that we would look at that issue seriously. It certainly receives a measure of support. I said it was not a strategy; I do not believe it is. But it may be part of one.
I suppose I should thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for his occasional contributions to this debate. I learnt, as did many Members of your Lordships House, that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has become a latter-day civil libertarian. I do not know whether or not that has anything to do with the fact that he once watched a football match in Scotland, about which he told us. I am amused by the notion of his being a civil libertarian; but better late than never! We have had a most constructive debate. I know that there is unease in your Lordships' House about some of the measures. However, I happen to believe that our primary purpose here is being well served; namely, to protect the civil rights and liberties of the honest, decent and law-abiding majority of people who wish to attend football matches in peace and enjoy such games as they should best be enjoyed. That is what motivated me in bringing forward this legislation and I know that it is the primary purpose that informs the way in which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary considers such matters.
It is not about eye-catching headlines in newspapers; it is about trying to deal with long-term problems. This is part of that strategy; indeed, it has been part of the strategy of not just this Government but also the previous government. I pay tribute to them in their endeavours and efforts to try to tackle such problems. We all owe it to the country to play a part in that 481 process. I appreciate the kind consideration that noble Lords have shown and the kind words that have been expressed during the course of the debates on the Bill. I am most grateful to noble Lords for the close attention that they have given to the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked me whether I could say something about the sunset clause. I regret to say that I am not in a position to advise the House on whether we shall look again at that particular amendment. However, I have certainly taken on board the comments made from all parts of the House during the debate. As I made plain at the time when moving a government amendment, we were sympathetic to a shorter rather than a longer period. But the House has spoken on that issue; it is for others to reflect upon it.
This is a good Bill. I am sure that it will be helpful. I have no doubt that it will be effective. This debate will doubtless continue over the next few years as we approach the point when we need to look again at the legislation.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.