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9 Dec 2002 : Column 113—continued

Dr. Palmer: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hawkins: No, I am pressed for time so if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me I shall not give way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) talked about the history of mutual recognition and the Cassis de Dijon case. He rightly pointed out that our sovereign Parliament had no say in drawing up the list of offences and will have no say in any future changes to the list. As he said, Parliament should object to that.

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The hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Gareth Thomas) said that a sifting process was necessary and that hon. Members were right to express reservations about how that would work in practice. He expressed concern about the lack of counterbalance in the measure.

My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) exposed the lack of logic in the Minister's case on the death penalty. My hon. Friend expressed concern that the Council of Ministers had the power to change the categories of offence when Parliament had no scrutiny of that process.

The hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) said that the concerns of the civil liberties lobby could not be ridden over roughshod. He expressed anxiety that various matters were not dealt with in the Bill; for example, diplomatic immunity and the death penalty in Rwanda. He shared some of the reservations expressed about the Bill by the Select Committee on Home Affairs.

The hon. Gentleman did not refer to any of the differences between category 1 and category 2 extradition, but he believed that the provisions were needed to deal with the costa del crime problem. May I point out to him that category 2 extradition, with which we are happy, would deal with that? He really should study in greater detail the comments of the Select Committee on category 1 extradition. That is the real problem. The hon. Gentleman also referred to Guantanamo bay, mercenaries and political cases although I do not think that they had much to do with the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) said that, like my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset, he supports the provisions on category 2 extradition, but not those on category 1. He rightly pointed out that to tinker with the current rules is extremely dangerous. He talked about the belief of some writers in the French press that terrorists operate in London with impunity. Before the Government start threatening the safety and security of my constituents and those of other hon. Members, many people would probably want them to deal with the difficulties in deporting some of the mullahs who preach treason.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) ventilated his lawyer-bashing tendencies and said that previous legislation had not worked successfully. He and his colleagues are always the first to say that everyone must have the right to representation, but it seems from his speech that people have that right only if he and his colleagues agree with them.

Mike Gapes: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hawkins: No, I am coming to the conclusion of my speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Witney in the final contribution to the debate, said that he was proud to be a member of the Select Committee that produced the report. He drew attention to the fact that it is almost entirely impossible to deport the type of people we need to deport in order to protect our security. He referred to the recent cases of Soering and Chahal. He showed the contradiction in Government policy as regards the problems with the Human Rights Act 1998, to which we have already referred, in terms of delay, cost and

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injustice. Like so many speakers, my hon. Friend supported the safeguards that would be provided by district judges and the scrutiny of the Home Secretary.

There are many things to which we shall return in Committee. We need to press hard so that the Government make the changes that will be forced on them by another place. The Bill is dangerous; it goes much too far and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said, part 2 would have achieved all that the Government wanted. Part 1 should be anathema to all British citizens.

9.39 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): Although spiced with prejudice and Eurosceptism, the debate has been thoughtful and serious, as it should be on such a serious issue. Although the Conservative party has decided not table an amendment or to vote against the Bill, one thing is clear: our present extradition arrangements are unsatisfactory, and I have not heard a single Opposition Member say that that they can be allowed to continue. It is simply not right that it can take more than five years to extradite a person accused of a serious crime, especially when the requesting state is another EU country. Of course there must be proper protections for those who are subject to an extradition request, but that should not extend to their being allowed to launch appeal after appeal, all on the same point, for the sole purpose of frustrating the process.

Mr. Maples rose—

Mr. Ainsworth: I will try to give way to the hon. Gentleman in a while.

The Bill will ensure that no one can be extradited where the request is politically motivated, where the double jeopardy rule applies or where the fugitive's medical condition—an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen)—would make it unjust. On conviction in absentia cases, we will extradite only where the fugitive can be sure of a retrial. We will not extradite unless we are certain that the death penalty will not be carried out. Finally and very importantly, extradition cannot take place where it would be incompatible with the fugitive's human rights.

Many detailed points have been made during the debate, and I shall try to respond to at least some of them. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) raised the issue of the internet and asked whether someone who put neo-Nazi propaganda on a German website would be liable for extradition under a European arrest warrant. In those circumstances, the court would probably take the view that the conduct had occurred outside the requesting state and apply the dual criminality test. Since holocaust denial is not an offence in the United Kingdom, the dual criminality requirement would not be met and extradition could not take place.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), who is not now in his place, asked whether the Bill would extend to British overseas territories. The relevant provisions, with modifications as appropriate,

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can be extended to British overseas territories by virtue of clauses 174 and 175, but that will apply only to category 2 procedures, not to the European arrest warrant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead asked about the language in which a European arrest warrant may be sought. Article 11.2 of the framework decision provides that the person who is arrested for the purpose of extradition under a European arrest warrant will have a right to be assisted by legal counsel and any interpreter needed in accordance with the national law of the executing member state.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) and my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead raised the issue of diplomatic immunity—one on one side of the argument and one on the other. Nothing in the Bill will affect state or diplomatic immunity. That may reassure the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon and it may be a matter of concern to my hon. Friend, who may want to raise the issue further with us, but it goes far wider than the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) raised a number of concerns, as did the Home Affairs Committee in its report. Those concerns are shared by many of my hon. Friends, who have broadly supported the Bill, but have none the less sought reassurances in some areas. They include my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) and my hon. Friends the Members for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) and for Clwyd, West (Gareth Thomas), as well as other hon. Members on both sides of the House.

In relation to speciality, extending the list—whether in relation to other offences or to other states—and effective oversight and scrutiny arrangements in the House, I hope that we will show in Committee to the satisfaction of hon. Members that we have covered those issues. Alternatively, as I understand the point made about not trusting honeyed words, we will genuinely listen to hon. Members' concerns, and, where they remain, we will seek to make changes to the Bill in relation to the framework document.

The Bill contains clear safeguards on the death penalty, on whether people will be extradited to face execution, on whether people could be extradited in contravention of their human rights, and on whether people could be extradited for reasons of their political opinions. The right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) shakes his head. I know from his opening speech that he has read the Bill, so I refer him to clause 13 on extraneous considerations, under which extradition will not be allowed of people being prosecuted or punished for crimes that are accounted for by their race, religion, nationality or political opinions. Extradition is specifically barred when those cases apply, and it is specifically barred in category 1 and category 2 when a death sentence might be carried out. It is specifically barred, too, under clause 21, when a person's human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European convention on human rights would not be fully protected.

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