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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Labour 'inaction' blamed for violence
England fan arrested by Belgian police after England - Germany match
Laws to stop suspected soccer thugs leaving the UK were dropped
The Conservatives are blaming the government for England being on the verge of expulsion from the Euro 2000 football championships.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said Labour's "complacent" attitude and "woeful inaction" over football hooligans travelling abroad.

After a weekend which saw violent clashes between English and German fans in Belgium, the row over hooliganism took to the floor of the Commons.

German fans will try and get England fans into a riot situation to get them thrown out

Joe Ashton MP
Miss Widdecombe said Home Secretary Jack Straw had failed to take all the measures against hooliganism taken by other countries in the Uefa tournament and said he should have also put forward tougher legislation to tackle football violence when he had had the chance.

She was speaking after Mr Straw announced plans to ban those fans convicted of violence abroad from all Premiership matches for life.

Government blames the opposition

The shadow home secretary took Mr Straw to task for failing to create government time for a travel ban on those seen as likely to cause violence abroad.

She said his attempts to blame the opposition of a few Tory backbenchers against the bill, brought in last year, simply did not wash.

Miss Widdecombe said it was "pathetic" to watch the home secretary "trying to blame the opposition for his own inaction".

Issuing a challenge to Mr Straw, she called on him to tack the measure on to a Home Office bill now in its final stages in the Lords.

Straw accused of 'spin'

If he did not act now, Miss Widdecombe asked: "Will he instead leave it to the next Conservative government?"

She was joined in her attack on Labour's handling of the issue by MP Simon Burns.

Mr Burns had included the measures against those suspected of the potential to cause football violence in his private member's bill, but they were later dropped.

The best way forward is to concentrate not on what might have been but what we can do now

Simon Hughes
The Tory MP accused the home secretary of using "spin" to hide the part of three Labour MPs in opposing the bill and added he only dropped the proposals after being told that the complicated measure "was more important for the government to do".

Defending Labour's policies, the home secretary said that little would have been achieved by the implementation of the proposed law.

This was because, he said, the intelligence services had suspected almost none of the hundreds of England fans arrested in the Netherlands and Belgian of being likely to cause trouble.

Alcohol ban

Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes said: "The best way forward is to concentrate not on what might have been, but what we can do now."

He called for the Belgian authorities to introduce alcohol bans around the areas likely to be affected by thuggery and also called for more police 'spotters' to work among fans to discover any plans they may have to cause mayhem.

While Labour backbencher Joe Ashton warned the House that unless England fans behaved, Uefa would have no hesitation in banning England from playing in the rest of the tournament.

He also told MPs that England's bid to hold the 2006 World Cup was also at stake.

"German fans will try and get England fans into a riot situation to get them thrown out."

He added: "We could lose the World Cup because a handful of yobbos thew some pint glasses."

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17 Jun 00 | UK
England fans deported
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