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Mr. Bradley: The arrangements must come into force through the regulations. The process of extradition would go through the process of request. The issues that relate to the amendments would apply if they applied to that situation. They would not apply retrospectively. There would need to be a request from the requesting state, and a response from us as the requested state.
Simon Hughes: Perhaps it is appropriate to ask the Minister now if at some stage he will set out which other countries are involved. In theory, that could mean all the EU countriesbut I gather that they are not yet all parties to the conventions. It would be helpful to have the current lists of the two sets of countries.
Mr. Bradley: I will provide that information during the debate. As I have said, the provisions of the 1989 Act will continue to apply, so extradition will be able to take place only after there has been a hearing in open court. These provisions do not affect that process.
If someone were arrested in this country as a deemed international terrorist, under an order made by the Home Secretary, is it right to say that they could not be extradited under the Act, but only after going through a process governed by earlier legislation, which would mean an open court rather than the closed sessions envisaged in the Act that the House has just passed?
As I have said, the amendments to the Extradition Act are set out in schedule 9 to the draft regulations. They are limited to countries in respect of which the conventions are in force between them and the UK. The provisions of the conventions, and hence the amendments to the Extradition Act, apply only to requests made after the regulations come into force. I shall mention the countries later.
It may be helpful if I set out in more detail the provisions of the two conventions and the amendments to the Extradition Act that the regulations will make. The 1995 convention sets out streamlined procedures for cases in which the fugitive and the requested state consent to extradition. When a person is arrested pursuant to an extradition request, they are to be informed of the possibility of consenting to their surrender under the simplified procedure. The convention sets out the conditions under which consent can be given. It must be expressed voluntarily and in full awareness of the consequences.
The convention sets out various deadlines on the stages of the case, the most notable of which is that the individual must be surrendered within 20 days of the requested state making its decision. Consent may not be revoked, and in consenting to extradition the fugitive is also renouncing specialty and re-extradition protection. The regulations make changes to sections 6, 9, 14 and 18 of the 1989 Act to implement those provisions.
The 1996 convention makes a number of amendments to the provisions of the ECE. Its main provisions are as follows: to reduce the extradition crime threshold from 12 months in both the requested and the requesting state, to 12 months in the requesting state and six months in the requested state; the abolition of the political offence exception; and a provision that a person who has been extradited may be proceeded against for an offence committed before surrender other than that upon which the request for extradition was based, without obtaining the consent of the requested member state where the offence is not punishable by imprisonment or any other form of detention or where the person will not be detained in connection with his trial, sentence or appeal. Finally, there is relaxation of authentication requirements, which is particularly important for us as it is widely recognised that the UK's authentication requirements are among the most onerous in Europe.
I promised that I would respond to the question about the countries that had not yet ratified the conventions. In the case of the 1995 convention, those are France, Belgium and Italy; in the case of the 1996 convention, France and Italy. They have all undertaken to ratify by 1 January 2002, and all other EU member states have ratified both conventions. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey.
The regulations make amendments to sections 2, 6, 18 and 26 of the Extradition Act 1989 to achieve the changes that I outlined. In addition, there are some provisions in the 1996 convention that we can implement without the need to amend the 1989 Act. The main ones include article 3, which relaxes the principle of dual criminality for the offence of conspiracy or criminal association to commit certain serious crimes, including terrorist offences. The regulations do not make any legislative changes in respect of this article, as the UK can already extradite in all the circumstances covered by the article.
Similarly, article 6 provides that extradition is not to be refused for offences related to taxes, duties, customs and exchange which correspond under the law of the requested member state to a similar offence. Extradition may not be refused on the grounds that the law of the
Article 7 states that extradition shall not be refused on the ground that the person concerned is a national of the requested state. There are no legislative implications for the UK, as we do not currently refuse extradition on those grounds. However, it is an important provision for those of our European partners that have traditionally been reluctant to extradite their own nationals, such as Germany and Greece.
Simon Hughes: I accept the Minister's assurance that the regulations do not change the law in respect of the offences to which he referred, but it would be helpful if he could provide, in his winding-up speech or later, a definition of the categories of offences under article 3terrorism, drug trafficking and other organised crime. Otherwise, where do people look for such a definition?
I hope that I have not been too technical. The Government believe that the changes are desirable. Although the changes proposed are hardly earth- shattering, they should help to simplify and speed up extradition between EU member states. The regulations will also enable the UK to honour an important international obligation and will contribute in yet another way to the fight against terrorism. I trust that they will be supported by the official Oppositionafter all, the two conventions were agreed in 1995 and 1996 and signed by the UK in those yearsand I hope that they will also be supported in all other parts of the House.
I remind the House that very recently, during the debates on the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, which received Royal Assent last week, it was accepted in both Houses that it was right for the conventions to be given effect under the enabling powers in that Act. On that basis, I commend the regulations to the House.
Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking): It may be for the convenience of the House if I speak briefly on the motion to approve the European Union Extradition Regulations 2002. I thank the Minister for the thoughtful way in which he introduced them. The official Opposition do not find them controversial and will not oppose them.
Crime is increasingly an international phenomenon. Criminals have no respect for territorial boundaries, and the freedom of movement that the single market gives to Europe's peoples and businesses unfortunately creates new opportunities for criminals to expand their illegal activities. That creates a serious challenge for our law enforcement agencies and our different criminal systems. Measures and actions taken by our Government and other EU Governments to increase co-operation between member states in speeding up the bringing of criminals to justice are to be welcomed by us all.
Liberty is, of course, the most important freedom. Any steps taken by any Government must be in accordance with that freedom. Each state must protect the rights of its citizens and of those resident within its borders. With that background, I shall say a little about each of the conventions with which are dealingfirst, the convention on simplified extradition procedure, the 1995 convention.
Extradition law is complicated. My friends the district judges at Bow street magistrates court have mastered the subject, but few others have ever been able to do so. We know of the complex stages in extradition and of the potentially lengthy time scale involved, so it is refreshing to see the word "simplified" in the title. Under the measure, member states undertake to surrender to each other, under simplified procedures, persons sought for the purposes of extradition, subject to the consent of such persons and the agreement of the returning or the requested state.
May I raise one or two queries with the Minister? If he cannot deal with them during the debate, perhaps he could write to me. First, can he confirm that the person's consent will not be given only orally, but that it will be required to be confirmed by the person in writing?
Next, in article 5 of the 1995 convention, there is reference to the "competent authority" of the requested state. In article 7, there is reference to the "competent judicial authority" of the requested state. "Competent authority" for the UK is defined in schedule 2 of that convention as
I should like to turn briefly to the 1996 convention. Like the 1995 convention, it allows the Government to retain their role in the extradition process and protects the concept of dual criminality, which is dealt with in article 2, and speciality, which is dealt with in article 10. It is worth pointing out that the 1996 convention has nothing to do with the proposed EU arrest warrant, about which we will have a great deal to say in the weeks and months ahead. I hope that we can take the festive mood of the Houseat least, it seems festive at the momentinto the new year, but we will, of course, be considering the EU arrest warrant, and I suspect that the atmosphere may change a littleif not a lotwhen we do.
I should like to raise with the Minister a couple of queries in relation to the 1996 convention and especially article 10. I referred to the protection of the concept of dual criminality and to the issue of speciality. I think that
That is as much as I need to say about the regulations. I have not exactly given them a thundering welcome, but as the Minister said, the conventions are from 1995 and 1996, and the EU arrest warrant is not an issue for debate now. It is proper, therefore, that the Opposition should act responsibly and take no steps that would result in a vote against these sensible measures.
I see that I have been on my feet for nine minutes. An hon. Friend sitting not more than six feet away from me suggested earlier today that three minutes might be a suitable period in which to advance my arguments. He did not recognise, however, that I am a lawyer by background, and very few lawyers ever manage such brevity.