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25 Mar 2003 : Column 206—continued

Mr. Cameron: No, I did not say that.

Mr. Ainsworth: Wait a minute, that is what the hon. Gentleman said. If he wants to check the record, he can do so, as that is clearly what he said. I do not know whether he spoke in error.

Mr. Cameron rose—

Mr. Ainsworth: I urge the hon. Gentleman to sit down, as I am not going to give way to him. That is what he said. If he said it in error, I accept that, but he did say it.

That idea is being bandied around in Conservative circles, and people are beginning to believe their own propaganda. There is nothing whatsoever in the Bill that says that people can be extradited for activities in this country that are not an offence here. I wish that hon. Members would stop making that allegation because it is not true. The Bill includes a requirement that provides the legal certainty that the hon. Member for Henley asked for. The Bill contains a requirement that whether or not somebody crosses a border, people must abide by the law of the country within which they are. That applies to people who come to our country as it applies to UK citizens who go abroad. If a German, a Frenchman or a Spaniard comes to our country and breaks our—

Mr. Cameron: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth: Hold on for a moment.

If that person comes to our country and breaks our law, he or she would be punished under our law while present in this country. In my view, there is no reason why they should be able to jump on a Eurostar train and for things to change all of a sudden when they get half way through the tunnel, with the result that they are not as vulnerable to being punished under our law—

Mr. Hawkins: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman and then I will give way to the hon. Member for Witney.

Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way.

I think that the point that he is missing—my hon. Friends the Members for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and for Henley (Mr. Johnson) have been trying to get it over

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to him—is that one of the real mischiefs in the Bill is the vagueness of the categories of offence. The Minister must understand that one of the reasons for our concern, which is shared by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett), is that if there are vague categories that will lead to British citizens being vulnerable, that is a concern and a particular reason why there should be a modest longstop, as a Labour dominated Home Affairs Committee suggested.

Mr. Ainsworth: I do not know how many more times the hon. Gentleman will say "a Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committee". It is a good phrase of his own. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention because it brings me directly to the point that I want to make. He keeps saying, in the hope that it will become true, that people will be subjected to vague categories of crime. They will not.

Mr. Burnett: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth: Hold on for a moment.

The warrant that requires the arrest will be clear. It will spell out the offence that has been committed as defined in the law of the jurisdiction in which the person was when they are alleged to have committed the offence. It will not use vague terminology. It will use a clear and specific allegation in French law, Spanish law or German law, stating that "this person is accused and wanted to stand trial for this offence."

Mr. Cameron rose—

3.45 pm

Mr. Ainsworth: Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, I would say that we have offences that are not recognised in other European countries. The offence in this country of incitement to racial hatred is not an offence in many other European countries. Another example is the offence of fraudulent trading. If hon. Gentlemen are saying that we should not be allowed to seek extradition for people who have broken our clear law—not a generic list, not a vague definition but our offence of fraudulent trading—because they happen to be in France or in Belgium, please let them say so and give us the reasons for so doing.

Mr. Cameron: I want to clarify the point. The Minister was misrepresenting what I said entirely. I hope that he will give me some credit. I sit on the Home Affairs Committee and with others I spent hours producing its report. I was making the point about a constituent who went off to Spain and allegedly committed a crime in Spain. When the arrest warrant is filled out, at no time will it be asked whether the offence is an offence in this country. That is the simple point that I was making. I cannot think how the Minister can take issue with it. It is up to him to prove the case. He is the

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one who is taking away a safeguard that has been in the law of this country for decades. It is up to him to make his case.

Mr. Ainsworth: I take issue with the hon. Gentleman because that is not what he said.

Mr. Cameron: That is what I said.

Mr. Ainsworth: It is not what the hon. Gentleman said. If I am wrong, I will apologise. We shall have a look at the record if that is what we need to do. I am not trying to disparage the hon. Gentleman.

Let us say he says what he says he said. At no time will it be necessary to prove that the offence that was committed is an offence in this country. The accused was in Spain and committed an offence there, and the warrant will define the offence in Spanish law. What is the matter with that? Effectively, the hon. Gentleman is saying that while his constituent was in Spain, he should have been prepared to abide not by Spanish law, but by English law, and that the warrant should take account of whether the offence was an offence in English law. The person in question was not in England when he committed the offence, but in Spain. The warrant will spell out not some vague category of crime, but a specific crime in Spanish law committed in Spain. If the threshold for extradition is exceeded, yes, that person will be extraditable.

I see no problem with that arrangement and believe that it is positive. After crimes are committed in Spain, there will be Spanish victims who are entitled to justice. When crimes are committed by other European citizens in our country, British citizens will be entitled to justice, so I see no problem with mutual recognition. I believe that it is the way forward and the direction that we need to take.

The hon. Member for Witney asked about the position of the Prime Minister, Ministers, diplomats and all the rest of it. The Bill contains absolutely nothing that changes the position on diplomatic or state immunity, so those who currently enjoy such immunities will continue to do so under the European arrest warrant arrangements.

I have dealt with the main point of contention in this discussion, but in order to bring a lighter note to the debate, I should like to respond to the threat of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that some fundamentalist or left-wing Government in Turkey might use the European arrest warrant to arrest me or another member of the Government and that, in that event, he would be here to say "I told you so." I do not know whether that is an indication of his confidence that he will be sitting on the Opposition Benches for many a long year to come, but I certainly hope so.

The measure has been widely misrepresented. The generic list of offences is a mechanism by which mutual recognition is facilitated. Nobody will be extradited from one European country to another for anything other than an allegation of a clear breach of law in the other country, and hon. Gentlemen should not seek to suggest otherwise.

Mr. Hawkins: I thank the Minister for again giving way. He is laying a great deal of stress on the suggestion

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that certain things will be made absolutely clear in the warrants if the measure becomes law, but I ask him to address the question asked by the Opposition and by the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs from his own Back Benches. The Government have refused to include in the Bill the format of the arrest warrants or to accept what the Home Affairs Committee has said about including the list of very vague offences. I do not see how he can say at the Dispatch Box that he is confident about how the system will work unless he is prepared to include all the details in the Bill, as we have urged him to do.

Mr. Ainsworth: I think I have said that it is extremely clear that the warrant will have to say exactly what the offence is, who issued it and whether they were an appropriate authority to do so—the Bill states that that authority will have to be a judicial authority—and that it meets the threshold in an accusation case that is required to allow extradition to be considered. If any of that information is not complete to the satisfaction of the National Criminal Intelligence Service in England or the Crown Office in Scotland, the warrant will not go forward and the case will not even be considered.

Let me deal with the reasons for not including a minimal safeguard at the back of the Bill. We cannot do that without opening up the issue of dual criminality and the playground to which it would lead on every single case. We cannot use the backstop of the Home Secretary without any decision that he makes being open to challenge and judicial review, yet the hon. Member for Henley claims that he wants a speedier system. He says that he does not want the sort of delays that occur in our current system, but tries to reintroduce provisions that allow the sometimes appalling delays under existing legislation. The Bill is designed to avoid them.

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