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25 Mar 2003 : Column 180—continued

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The second piece of evidence given in court was that the perpetrator of the offence in question spoke colloquial Spanish. Apart from visiting his mother in Tenerife occasionally, my constituent has spent all his life in Kirby, and could hardly be thought capable of speaking colloquial Spanish. Nevertheless, despite that and despite the lack of any direct corroborative evidence, he was convicted.

The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon said in Committee that that case proved the unreliability of foreign courts and the need for additional protections. I believe that my constituent was convicted on the basis of hopelessly flawed evidence, and the proceedings took place in Tenerife—and Madrid, where my constituent's appeal was turned down. I do not think, however, that the Bill would have made any difference, because my constituent was never in this country to be extradited in the first place.

Mr. Burnett: I know that that case causes the hon. Gentleman enormous concerns and that he is a doughty fighter for his constituent, for which I pay tribute to him, but I think that my point in Committee was valid. Before we pass the Bill, we should ensure that minimum standards apply, especially in category 1 countries. In Committee, I gave examples of countries where such standards certainly did not apply.

Mr. Howarth: The hon. Gentleman's whole argument hinges on the question of minimum standards, a phrase also used by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. I accept the need for minimum standards, but all the countries involved signed the framework document and therefore, at least in principle, are "signed up to" minimum standards. I believe that there was a miscarriage of

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justice in my constituent's case, but to make a general case against the legal system in Spain and Tenerife is, in my view, to go a step too far.

Mr. Burnett: I do not want to repeat all that was said in Committee, but in some EU countries there is no legal aid; in some EU countries there is no provision for interpreters; in some EU countries judges are appointed at the age of 21, and are paid a derisory salary. People are concerned about that, and so they should be.

Mr. Howarth: I am concerned. My point is that commitment to the principle of minimum standards is evidenced by the fact that those countries signed the framework document. Unless the hon. Gentleman thinks it should never be recognised that a country is capable of signing up to a principle and delivering on that over time, he will surely agree that it is not the job of the House or of legislation passed here to redesign the legal systems of other countries, or to require the redesigning of those systems.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, if we pursued such ideas to their logical conclusion we would find ourselves returning to the foreign policy of Palmerston, and to gunboat diplomacy. I do not intend to bore the House with a recital of the Don Pacifico affair, but surely the Opposition do not really want us to return to those days.

Mr. Burnett: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howarth: I will give way once more, but I want to finish my speech soon.

Mr. Burnett: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way a third time. All we are saying is that before a fast-track procedure comes into play, minimum standards should apply in fast-track countries.

Mr. Howarth: I do not know how many times I can reply to the hon. Gentleman's question without repeating myself, which he is doing. Let me simply say that while I accept the need for minimum standards, all those countries signed the framework document and, in doing so, committed themselves to such standards. The fact that the standards do not always apply in specific cases does not alter the fact that the principle has been accepted. It is for the countries to decide, over time, how to implement it.

I end where I began. Although I do not suspect devious motives, I think the Opposition would rather vote against the whole of this part of the Bill than just vote for their amendment. If truth be told, they probably feel that they must make a stand, and are hanging their hat on amendment No. 20. I do not think amendment No. 20 is appropriate for the purpose; they should have been a little bolder, and voted against the whole section.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I shall try to be brief, and deal only with the most important points. Let me deal first

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with what was said by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) and supported by the hon. Member for Torridge and North Devon.

Mr. Burnett: West Devon.

Mr. Ainsworth: It is disgraceful that Devon should be moved around like that—unforgivable, indeed. I mean the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett).

Both Members suggested that the list was too vague, and that dropping dual criminality posed a risk to justice. What strikes me is that no one has been able to give even a bad example of how the arrest warrant proposals might have made a difference.

Opposition Members have majored on the Greek plane spotters case, which was not an extradition case. The plane spotters were accused of an offence that is also an offence in British law, so the dropping of dual criminality would have made no difference. Similarly, the constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) was accused of a crime that exists in British law. As for the Derek Bond case, in which the extradition to the United States of a person who was in South Africa was sought, nothing in the Bill would have affected that either.

No one will be subjected to a "vague list". The generic list is there to facilitate mutual recognition, and to end the requirement for dual criminality in cases covered by it. In the case of any and every request for extradition under the European arrest warrant procedures, the specific crime of which the person is accused will be spelt out on the warrant. It must be an offence in the requesting state: there is nothing vague about that. It must be an offence in French law, or in German law, but not in British law. We expect people who come to our country to abide by our laws and not their own, and the reverse must also be true. We have said that many times, but it needs to be said again.

The case of Derek Bond raises the issue of identity. The acceptance of the European arrest warrant in our courts, and the issue of identity that arises before extradition, will be dealt with by a British judge. Anyone who says "I am sorry, but I am not the person who is sought in this warrant" will be able to make that case before a British judge.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): I am listening to the Minister with interest. If his argument is that the removal of the dual criminality test will have no practical effect, why is he removing it?

Mr. Ainsworth: That is not quite the argument that I was making, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. What I said was that the cases that have been prayed in aid against the proposals will not be affected by the proposals in any way. They occurred under current legislation and have nothing to do with dual criminality; indeed, the Greek plane spotters case had nothing to do with extradition. As I have said before, we have three choices. We live in a European Union in which we can all travel freely between our jurisdictions, and huge benefits flow from that, both economically and in terms of individual freedom. However, that point also applies to criminals. We can stand pat and hide behind arcane,

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cumbersome and extremely expensive extradition arrangements that are hard to operate, and say that that is the barrier against the rest of the world; we can seek to develop a European framework of justice; or we can enter into a method of mutual recognition that enables us to co-operate in an effective and modern way with our European partners.

Those are the three choices, but the Conservatives appear to have decided, despite the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to gloss over this issue, that they should stand aloof from the rest of the world and behave like a solitary little island, and to ignore the very real problems that would arise in respect of our ability to do justice to the victims of crimes committed in this country.

Mr. Letwin: We will be able to discuss the general points that the Minister is making, and which are wholly misconceived, on Third Reading, but the interesting question is this. Is he admitting that the removal of dual criminality will in fact have a range of practical effects, or is he arguing that it is otiose to remove it? I cannot understand how he can avoid telling the House which of those is the case.

Mr. Ainsworth: As I said in Committee—it was also said on Second Reading, and it continues to be our position—the removal of dual criminality is essential to putting in place a streamlined system; there is little doubt about that.

Mr. Letwin: Will it have a practical effect?

Mr. Ainsworth: Of course it will have a practical effect. While we are able to bring up issues of dual criminality, which repeatedly happens under current extradition regulations, people will be denied the opportunity to delay and to frustrate by using dual criminality arguments. That will be the practical effect, and that is why we are choosing to go down this road.

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath said that although he welcomed my efforts in respect of naming, through the Bill, those who can apply for a European arrest warrant as a judicial authority, he felt that I was taking back with one hand as I was giving with the other. He was joined in that view by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon, who raised concerns about the transitional arrangements for the Schengen information system.

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