Football (Disorder)(Amendment) Bill

- Wednesday, 14th November 2001

 

Mr. Peter Lilley: I shall endeavour to be brief. The position is very clear--sections 14B, 21A and 21B give the authorities the power to deprive British subjects of their liberties and rights even though they may not have been convicted of any offence. That power ought not to be on the statute book at all. It certainly ought not to be on it permanently, and I therefore support the amendment. None the less, the power is on the statute book temporarily. We have some experience of its operation. That experience may not be adequate or complete, but none the less we have to use it to make an assessment of whether the powers are effective and of whether they are necessary to meet desirable objectives.

Since the powers were introduced, there has been a period of calm at home and abroad with respect to English football hooliganism. Clearly, the Act as a whole has either been effective or it has coincided rather happily with a period of calm for which it is not responsible. Let us assume that it has contributed to that calm. We know that, of the 400 or 500 people who have been detained or prevented from travelling, only about 10 per cent., or a little more, have been detained and prevented from travelling under these offensive sections. Therefore, about 90 per cent. of any improvement that has been achieved by the measure has been achieved by their inoffensive or less offensive aspects.

The Government say that although only a relatively small number of people have been detained, the clauses provide a deterrent effect. The other clauses presumably also provide a deterrent effect, so I still maintain that 90 per cent. of the effect of the Bill could be achieved without these clauses. They have not been shown by the experience of the legislation to be necessary to achieve the aims that the Government set themselves. That is certainly not a reason for putting them permanently on the statute book, and it reinforces the case for this sunset clause.

I shall consider the position in principle. The reason that section 14B is offensive is that it enables people to be detained even when they may not have been guilty of any criminal offence. In particular, it requires the court to be satisfied that the condition in subsection (2) is met. Subsection (2) states:

"That condition is that the respondent has at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere."

Broadly speaking, therefore, three kinds of behaviour are involved. The first is behaviour which may constitute an offence in the United Kingdom, but for which no conviction has yet been obtained. In Committee, the Minister pointed out that Lord Justice Laws had said that the standard of proof required would be practicably indistinguishable from the criminal standard. If, therefore, it is possible to bring forward proof of a criminal standard that someone has engaged in behaviour that constitutes an offence, why do we not simply charge them with that offence and convict them? For that kind of behaviour, we do not need section 14B.

The second kind of relevant behaviour is that which does not constitute a criminal offence in the UK or abroad. If something is not a crime, it should not be punished. If it deserves to be punished, it should be a crime. The Government have not resolved that or told us whether they believe that there is a category of behaviour that does not constitute a crime but can none the less be described as

"causing or contributing to any violence or disorder in the UK or abroad."

What is particularly abhorrent is that non-criminal behaviour is to be punished, quasi-administratively, retrospectively. People acting legally can be retrospectively punished by being deprived of their right to travel and of their freedom in the UK for some hours or days.

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The third category of behaviour is that which constitutes an offence abroad but has not resulted in conviction abroad. The Minister said that we all understand that foreign Governments do not want to charge and convict British hooligans but prefer to send them home. Foreign Governments have that right but, essentially, their duty is to uphold the law in their territory and our duty is to uphold the law in ours. There has always been a strong presumption against extra-territory legislation--against us legislating in this House for offences committed outside our jurisdiction and in other parts of the world. We have always believed that that is wrong and undesirable. It should be avoided partly because it can lead to a double jeopardy--people can be held accountable by our courts and courts abroad--but, more practically, because it will always be more difficult for a British Government and our courts to have the necessary access to evidence, witnesses and so on for offences carried out abroad. That applies in these circumstances.

If Belgium, France and Germany do not wish to charge and convict British citizens for behaviour in their territories, it is certainly wrong for us to do so. Obviously, we should co-operate if we have evidence about people by sharing it with foreign Governments so that they can either pursue cases in the courts or, if they wish to restrict British citizens‘ access to their countries during football tournaments, they can do that and it is their responsibility. We should not set ourselves up as legislators for the rest of the world. The Government have a slight tendency to think that they rule the world, but that is a wider issue and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not allow me to deviate in that direction.

Simon Hughes: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the Government wanted to present extra-territorial legislation or seek an agreement with foreign Governments, they have plenty of immediate opportunities to do so? An extradition Bill is coming up for debate this year and there are plenty of European Union directives dealing with common practice that the Government seek to implement. The Government have plenty of opportunities to get the agreement to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in other forums. Whether he or I would agree with them is a separate question.

Mr. Lilley: Yes. Emphasising the hon. Gentleman‘s final point, I agree with the principle of what he said.

Practically, these measures account for at most a tenth or an eighth of the total consequences achieved by the Bill as a whole. Within that 10 per cent. or so, a significant element of behaviour must be criminal, established to a criminal level of proof, charged under the relevant criminal statute and taken out of the Bill. The residual element, which is either non-criminal behaviour in the UK or criminal behaviour abroad, should either not be punished at all or left to the foreign authorities.

I hope that the House will pass this amendment and time-limit the offensive clauses of the Bill, remembering that, as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) said, they have been quoted by the Government as a precedent for other legislation restricting British citizens‘ rights. We shall consider in due course whether that other legislation is necessary, but we must be aware that if we allow offensive legislation on to the statute book, it tends to spread. It is infectious. Bad precedents lead to further bad legislation, so I urge the House to pass the amendment and ensure that the offensive clauses are with us for only a short period.

14 November 2001 c928-30

 

 

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