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25 Mar 2003 : Column 212continued
It has been said that the use of the phrase "appropriate persons" was a means whereby we sought to disguise our wish to include foreign police officers in the powers applied in this country. Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) and I stated that the term "appropriate person" was intended to cover Customs and Excise officers, service police officers and, possibly, other UK law enforcement agencies.
Our new clause and amendments are intended to make things absolutely clear, in black and white. Presumably all Members will now accept what was the Government's intention from the startthat the powers apply to police constables, customs officers and members of other police services of our country, and not to foreign police or customs officers.
Lady Hermon (North Down): I ask the Minister to clarify one point. After the Patten reforms, the number of police officers in Northern Ireland dropped dramatically, so the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Irelandand, indeed, the Policing Boardare very keen to recruit police officers through secondment and lateral entry. That may well include members of the police service of the Republic of Irelandthe Garda Siochana. It would be very helpful if the Minister could confirm whether those constables, if they should come, will have the power to execute an extradition warrant?
Mr. Ainsworth: I am not familiar with all the details of the Northern Ireland jurisdiction, but I was coming to the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and in doing so I should be able to clarify the point.
I assume that the amendment seeks to achieve what we now propose to achieve, but under it no one other than a British citizen would be able to execute a European arrest warrant. Under the terms of various laws governing the police in the United Kingdomnot just in Northern Irelandany British citizen, a citizen of the Irish Republic or a Commonwealth citizen may serve in our police force. It is not our intention to make such people second-class members of those police forces, and our amendment would not have that effect. They will be members of the British police force, and they will be able to issue extradition arrest warrants in the same way as they can issue domestic ones.
I hope that new clause 11 fits with the true intention of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, who did not want to go further by ruling out people from Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland backgrounds who were serving in the British police force. Our provision will not rule them out, but his would have done so, and I hope that he can accept our solution.
Although we welcome the Government's provision, I should mention in passing that we have some remaining concerns about the exact role to be undertaken by Customs and Excise in the light, as the Minister will be aware, of the collapse of recent cases involving Customs and Excise on such matters as bonded warehouses. The Minister is aware of issues that have been raised recently in this Chamber, and of the fact that there is an ongoing inquiry into the collapse of those cases. [Interruption.] The Gentleman nodded when I first raised this point, and, helpfully, he does so again. I hope that he will continue to keep the matter under review, because in our view there is much need for care if greater powers are to be used by Customs and Excise officials, given the very strong views expressed by the judge when those cases collapsed. We will continue to scrutinise this issue, and in our view reforms may well be required. This House will have another opportunity to debate this issue when the independent reports on the collapsed trials are received. [Interruption.] It is again very helpful to note the Minister's assent.
The Minister referred briefly to the fact that amendment No. 19 seeks to bring in a requirement to a similar effect. However, as he rightly pointed out, we tabled our amendment before the Government tabled theirs. We were seeking to move in the same direction, and I understand the Minister's point about problems in cases, for example, in which someone from the Commonwealth is already serving in our police force. The Minister was kind enough to recognise that we were aiming at the same target and his amendments fulfil our request in Committee. I welcome that, with the proviso that I have mentioned.
Mr. Burnett: I do not want to go over ground that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) has already covered. I welcome these sensible amendments, which were supported by the official Opposition, Liberal Democrats and the Home Affairs Committee. On the matter of customs and the bonded warehouse cases, the Treasury has experienced a massive loss of revenue, and it is no bad thing that customs prosecutions will now come under the aegis of the Attorney-General's Department.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Customs will have only those powers within its remit to issue European arrest warrants. I can also confirm for the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) that if the individuals whom she mentioned have the powers of a constable
Mr. Ainsworth: In the interests of cross-party co-operation, I can confirm on behalf of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that that was not his intention. He was trying to achieve what the Government amendment will achieve and he is satisfied with our proposalin this regard, if not in others.
(1) Section 1 of the Bail (Amendment) Act 1993 (c.26) (prosecution right of appeal against grant of bail) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (1) insert
"(1A) Where a magistrates' court grants bail to a person in connection with extradition proceedings, the prosecution may appeal to a judge of the Crown Court against the granting of bail."
(3) In subsection (3) for "Such an appeal" substitute "An appeal under subsection (1) or (1A)".
(4) In subsection (4)
(a) after subsection (1) insert "or (1A)";
(b) for "magistrates' court" substitute "court which has granted bail";
(c) omit "such".
(5) In subsection (5) for "magistrates' court" substitute "court which has granted bail".
(6) In subsection (6) for "magistrates' court" substitute "court which has granted bail"
(7) In subsection (8)
(a) after "subsection (1)" insert "or (1A)";
(b) omit "magistrates'".
(8) In subsection (10)(b) for "reference in subsection (5) above to remand in custody is" substitute "references in subsections (6) and (9) above to remand in custody are".
(9) After subsection (11) insert
"(12) In this section
"court" in relation to extradition proceedings includes a judge of a court or a justice of the peace;
"extradition proceedings" means proceedings under the Extradition Act 2003;