Previous SectionIndexHome Page

25 Mar 2003 : Column 169—continued

1.15 pm

Government amendments Nos. 12 and 13 are purely

25 Mar 2003 : Column 170

technical adaptations that are required for the Scottish jurisdiction. Amendment No. 12 makes it clear that all the rules of court to be made under this legislation will be made by act of adjournal in Scotland. Amendment No. 13 reflects the different terminology used in Scotland, where appeals are "abandoned" rather than "discontinued".

I am sorry that this has taken so long, but the group of amendments is extensive. I commend the Government amendments to the House and ask the Opposition to consider withdrawing amendments Nos. 20, 18, 4, 92, 93 and 94.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): As the Minister has said, this is a detailed group of amendments. We on the Front Benches hope that our colleagues will bear with us as we wrestle with the complexities and technicalities of extradition law and procedure.

I should stress at the outset that we welcome some of the provisions in the Bill. They are a welcome improvement and will help our police to extradite back to the United Kingdom people who are wanted here for serious offences. We welcome the fact that not only in this group of amendments but in subsequent ones, the Government have made several concessions in response to points that we made in Committee. However, they have not addressed all our concerns—not least the very big issue, as the Minister is well aware, of the European arrest warrant and the consequences of it. The Government have signed up to offences in the framework decision list, many of which are vague and some of which are not offences in UK law. There is a danger that British subjects will be shipped abroad without a British court being able to analyse or challenge the basis of a warrant issued by a foreign court.

We repeatedly raised in Committee the example of the British plane spotters in the Kalamata court in Greece. That was a dire warning, which we discussed extensively. Since proceedings in Committee were concluded, we have had a further dire warning of the risk to UK citizens as a result of paperwork sent from one country to another demanding someone's arrest. The British pensioner Derek Bond was held for weeks in South Africa because the American authorities mistakenly thought that he was a wanted man. We shall deal later with the detail of why we feel that the draconian powers in part 1 should apply only to terrorist offences, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) said on Second Reading.

We welcome Government new clauses 10, 17 and 18 and Government amendments Nos. 32, 33, 83, 84 and 87. They are a response by the Government to concerns we raised in Committee. A foreign requesting country will now have the right to appeal against the granting of bail. I raised in Committee and on other occasions the fact that bail is too readily available in a wide variety of criminal proceedings in such courts. In UK courts, the granting of bail certainly ought to be reviewable in extradition cases, so we welcome what the Government have done.

Government new clause 18 deals with juveniles going to local authority secure accommodation if they are not granted bail. Related amendments, as the Minister said, deal with the slightly different bail arrangements in

25 Mar 2003 : Column 171

Scotland. We accept entirely that the Government are once again responding to concerns that we and others have raised. However, in passing, will the Minister note that we still have great concerns about the limited quantity and poor quality of local authority secure accommodation? There may be relatively few cases in which that will be needed in an extradition context, but we will no doubt return to the issue in other legislation and other debates.

Government new clauses 12 and 13 are technical, as the Minister said, and we are happy to accept what the Government are suggesting. Government new clauses 14 and 15 address a mismatch between part 2 and part 1. It is good that the Government now accept that part 2 proceedings should be brought into line with part 1 on the issue of adjournment if a judge is informed that the fugitive has been charged with a UK offence or is a serving UK prisoner. We appreciate the need for consistency, but given the Secretary of State's recent mauling on many issues at the hands of British judges, it is perhaps a little surprising that he is abandoning his decision-making power and giving it back to the judges.

Our amendments Nos. 20 and 18 go together to some extent. We intend to ask the House to divide on amendment No. 20, although I am advised by the expert Clerks that the vote will not take place at the end of the debate on this group of amendments, but later in our proceedings. We have made it clear that we are not comfortable with the concept of the European arrest warrant. We said in Committee that legislation introduced in the House should be honest and complete, and that all UK citizens should be able to see clearly what they are being made subject to by the Government. As a result, the proposed warrant ought to be included in the Bill—that is what our amendment No. 20 seeks to do, and we see no good reason why the wording of the warrant should not be included in the legislation. That must help honesty, clarity and—a word Ministers are fond of—transparency.

If time had permitted, we might have sought a vote on amendment No. 18, but we do not want to detain the House in too many Divisions this afternoon and this evening. It may well be that the matter is revisited in another place, but the amendment expresses our concern that the Bill threatens the freedom of all UK citizens. Our concerns are widely shared across the political spectrum by organisations like Justice and Liberty, traditionally perceived as being on the left, and the Democracy Movement and the Freedom Association, traditionally thought of as on the right. Once again, I urge the Government to think about exactly what they are doing.

I know that it would be embarrassing for the Government to do that because they have already signed up to the framework decision, but in the Labour-dominated Select Committee on Home Affairs many concerns were expressed about the way in which justice systems operate, not only in current EU countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece, but—this was raised in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), a distinguished former shadow Foreign Secretary and shadow Defence Secretary—in future EU countries such as, perhaps, Turkey and ex-Warsaw pact countries. Distinguished jurists such as

25 Mar 2003 : Column 172

Leo Price QC and Torquil Dick Ericson have written extensively about those concerns, as have many specialist extradition lawyers practising in the UK who deal with the sharp end of extradition cases. We referred to a number of those concerns in Committee. We need the protections that we are suggesting, and I stress again that we will not withdraw amendment No. 20, but will press it to a Division.

Mr. George Howarth: The hon. Gentleman said that he wants to include the European arrest warrant in the Bill, and that that is the purpose of amendment No. 20 in particular. However, does he accept that clause 2(3)(b) states that

The key word is "prosecuted". In view of that and the assurance that my hon. Friend the Minister gave me, does the hon. Gentleman not think that his concern has been covered?

Mr. Hawkins: I do not accept that. Almost exactly the same words as those that the hon. Gentleman has just read out were used by the Minister in a letter to me about the issues that we raised in Committee. We feel that it would be much better and clearer if the specific wording that we suggest were included in the Bill.

Government amendments Nos. 35 and 36, as the Minister said, represent a significant concession made in response to concerns that we have raised, along with members of his own party and the Home Affairs Committee. We stressed that any warrants should be issued only by judicial authorities overseas. We are rather concerned that in Government amendment No. 37, the Government want a transitional right to disapply the concession if a country has already used the so-called Schengen information system for requests before 1 January 2004. We are not comfortable with the disapplication—the restriction to a judicial authority should apply to all requests whenever they are made. We do not have much faith in bureaucratic European administrative systems of justice, about which we have expressed concerns before. I do not want to be churlish—we recognise that the main thrust of the Government amendments is to make a concession in response to concerns expressed by the Home Affairs Committee and us—but there is an element of giving with one hand then snatching a little bit back with the other.

Government amendment No. 43 and the linked Government amendment No. 63 deal with the need to define the standard of proof to be used when determining the fugitive's identity at the initial hearing. I understand from a letter that the Minister wrote to me that there was particular concern following the tragic and appalling murder of Detective Constable Oake in Manchester. When the defendant appeared in court, the Crown Prosecution Service said that it could not be certain that the information that it had on the defendant's identity was correct. In the light of that tragic and appalling case, which once again demonstrated how much we owe to the brave police officers who are dealing with those matters at the sharp end, we have to bear in mind the standard of proof used to determine identity. The Government have chosen the

25 Mar 2003 : Column 173

civil balance of probabilities test. There was quite a bit of discussion about what was the appropriate test in Committee, and we accept the Government's concern about terrorists and other serious criminals who may seek actively to destroy any documents from which they could be identified. However, we also need to look at the case of the blameless British pensioner Derek Bond, who was arrested in South Africa on the request of the FBI. What would a balance of probabilities test of identity have led to if a European requesting state were using a European arrest warrant to arrest somebody?

Next Section

IndexHome Page