|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
25 Mar 2003 : Column 195continued
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): Will my hon. Friend consider this further possibility? Were someone in Finland to access the Downing street website and read the many arguments for war that it puts forward, it might be possible for an alert judge or prosecuting magistrate in Finland to extradite the Prime Minister for warmongering.
Mr. Cameron: Absolutely. We have only to look at the Downing street website to see many statements in support of military action. They could be taken as an attempt to encourage the brave and plucky Finns to join us in the Gulf.
I observed that the Minister was laughing at that example, but the problem is that the Bill is removing dual criminality as a protection. It is an important safeguard that people in this country have had for years. All that our modest new clause 9 proposes is to give a
Proponents of the European arrest warrant always ask why someone should be protected just because they have managed to cross a border. They have been in Germany, Spain or Portugal, so why should they suddenly have protection when they get back to good old Blighty? My answer would be that our legal system is here to protect our citizens, and that that protection should be given up only if we can really trust the legal systems of other states. It is one thing to do that, as we have done in extradition cases for many years, when a crime that we recognise has been committed. It is quite another thing to give up that protection if we do not recognise the crime. This whole question turns on whether we trust other member states' criminal justice systems.
The case of the plane spotters in Greece has been mentioned several times. It is not directly relevant to the EU arrest warrant because they were arrested in Greece and did not make it back to the UK. However, it showed people in this country that one could be held in prison in Greece for weeks on end before even being charged, let alone tried. That is what shocked so many people in the UK: those people had not even been charged, yet they were languishing in a Greek jail.
My argument does not rely merely on one case, however. There are four vital objections to the removal of the protection of dual criminality. I shall deal with them briefly. First, we do not know for certain which offences will be covered by the EU arrest warrant. As I said earlier, the 32 categories include some extremely vague offences, such as xenophobia. We do not have a detailed definition of the offences that will fall into each of those categories in each member state. The Home Office told the Home Affairs Committee that it did not have detailed definitions of offences in the criminal justice systems of other EU member states. The Home Office cannot tell us for which specific offences we might be in danger of extradition.
Secondly, the 32 categories do not appear in the Bill. When the Select Committee asked the Home Office why that was so, the response was that article 2.2 of the framework decision allowed for the list to be amended. We have thus been told that new classes of offence and extra offences could be added without proper parliamentary scrutiny. We are certainly not discussing them today. As those new classes of vague offences are added, we will not know which crimes fall within them. The Government rejected the Committee's recommendation to import the list of 32 offences directly into the Bill. Their response stated only that, although they do not know of any plans to amend the list of 32 offences, they believe that they must retain the flexibility to deal with any such changes.
Do the Government want to amend the number of categories or not? The Select Committee's response to the Government was clear, and I could not agree more:
My third objection is that the situation is not static. Individual countries can add extra offences in each of the 32 categories[Interruption.] I think that the Minister said "So can we". Even if he can tell us about every offence under each of the categories, including Finnish warmongering, he cannot reassure us that Governments will not create new offences in future. The protection of dual criminality would not exist for any of them.
My final objection is that countries joining the EU could automatically be designated category 1 countries and therefore be part of the European arrest warrant system. In fact, there is no restriction on any country being designated category 1it does not have to be a member of the EU. The Government said that they do not intend to designate other countries as category 1, but they seem to be retaining that possibility. Their reason for rejecting the Select Committee's recommendation was that they required flexibility to be able to designate other countries as category 1, so there is no reassurance there.
Countries that join the EU or that become subject to the European arrest warrant can decide on their own interpretation of the 32 categories. They can decide which offences fall under them and add other offences in future.
In summary, what that means for our constituents is that getting rid of dual criminality is no small thing. The Minister is not saying, "Here is a small list of offences in a small number of countries. They will not change and all I ask is that you trust their criminal justice systems in those limited cases." He is not saying that at all. In effect, he is saying, "Here is a list of 32 vague categories of offence but I cannot tell you which crimes will be included in them, nor can I tell you which new categories will be added in future. I cannot tell you which new offences will be added to those categories and I cannot tell you what countries joining the EU in future will do". There are no guarantees whatever.
To put the matter in tabloid form, the Minister is not telling us to trust the current Greek, Portuguese or Spanish criminal justice systems. Instead, he is saying that we must trust any criminal justice system of any present or future EU country not as it is today but as it may be decades in the future.
That is why we need a safeguard. New clause 9 is modest, and I can see no objection to it. We are asking only that the Home Secretary be allowed to decide in cases in which the offence is not a crime in this country. We should give him that backstop power. Will the Minister explain what is wrong with that?
I can see only two possible objections. The first is that such a role is not appropriate for the Home Secretaryperhaps because he is too busy. I cannot believe that. Only a few cases would be involved. The Home Secretary should appoint another Minister to replace the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham). That would reduce the workload[Interruption.] I am trying to help the Minister to have a fulfilling life. The Home Secretary has played a role in extradition for decades, so that cannot be an objection. As I said, there would be
The only other possible objection is the one that I raised with the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett). I now know that the hon. Gentleman is a good man as well as a good European, because he supports a Europe of nation states.
Mr. Burnett: Independent nation states.
Mr. Cameron: The hon. Gentleman gets better. Soon he will outflank me on the right.
The other objection relates to whether the provision would be allowable under the European arrest warrant. Will the Minister tell us what legal advice he has received on that?
The House should try to get the law right for this country. There certainly should be expeditious extradition arrangements between European countries but we should not get rid of fundamental protections. The House should include a backstop power for the Home Secretary in the Bill and then we should see what the European Court makes of it. We should not lie down meekly because Ministers signed things away in Europe without thinking them through and say that we have to go along with them with no further debate.
I hope that we shall divide on new clause 9 and that it will receive support from both sides of the House or, at the very least, from all the members of the Home Affairs Committee.
Mr. Boris Johnson: It is with great humility that I shall try to follow the masterly summary of the arguments given by my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron). My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell) also spoke passionately and well. I support in every particular the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins).
It would be foolish to pretend that the Bill is objectionable in every respect. I welcome some aspects of it, such as the speeding up of some of the procedures. The Minister heard a great deal in Committee about cases such as that of Rachid Ramda who was involved in the Paris metro bombing and succeeded in spinning out his case against extradition from the UK to France for seven years. It would be a very good thing if men like him were not able to monkey around with the judicial process for so long.
I want to focus on dual criminality, as my hon. Friends the Members for Witney and for Romford and other hon. Members have done. I can understand that we have something to gain and something to lose by getting rid of the principle of dual criminality in the case of European extradition warrants. We have heard that we would gain in cases where we wanted to extradite to this country someone who was guilty of something that we had made a crime in this country. but was not criminal conduct in another country where that person happened to be. Swindling, the age of consent and various other examples of how we might gain have been raised.
We would have something to lose, of course, and I want to range against each other two principles of lawmutual recognition and legal certainty. In my judgment,
I had the great joy of spending five years in Brussels, reporting on the creation of the single European market, very largely brought about by Baroness Thatcherit was in many ways a Conservative programme of extending the benefits of free trade and mutual recognition of standards and norms across the EU. Lord Cockfield, a former Conservative Cabinet Minister, who was the Commissioner responsible for the single market, pioneered the principle of mutual recognition, which is, of course, instantiated in the famous Cassis de Dijon case.
Under the principle of mutual recognition, if the Minister manufactures sausages that contain a red dye that is approved in his constituency, but not in Germany, or the Germans do not approve of the standard of sausages that he makes because they contain too much red dye, that sausage must be