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25 Mar 2003 : Column 220—continued

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): I shall not follow the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) in speaking about new clause 1. I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 24, 28 and 29, which are in my name. I thank the Government for their amendments Nos. 34, 46 and 48, which prevent any countries that retain the death penalty from becoming category 1 countries, to which fast-track extradition could apply. That removes one of the Select Committee's major areas of concern.

Apart from the proposals in connection with countries' retention of the death penalty, however, the Bill does not define which territories should fall into the two categories. It lays down no guidelines or principles governing the choice. Apart from the belated exclusion of the death penalty countries, the Bill contains no limits on which countries the Government can, by Order in Council, designate either as category 1 or as category 2 countries. Which countries appear in which categories, and on what basis a category country could be promoted to category 1, seemed to the Select Committee

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to be issues that are absolutely fundamental to the Bill. Future Orders in Council could dramatically change what Parliament understood to be the intention of the Bill at the time of enactment. We believe that Parliament should know clearly what policy and what principles it is being asked to agree, and we have therefore attempted to lay down some limits to the powers that Ministers are seeking for themselves.

4.15 pm

Amendment No. 24 would insert in clause 1 a provision that only countries that are signatories to the framework agreement may be category 1 countries—in effect, that means only EU states plus the Schengen countries, Norway and Iceland. Since we have been assured that those are the only countries that the Government intend to designate as part 1 countries, that should not pose the Government any problems.

Amendment No. 28 would amend clause 68 so that part 2 countries are either those with which we have bilateral or multilateral treaties governing extradition arrangements.

If none of that is acceptable to the Government—I cannot rule out that possibility, as they made it clear in their reply to the Select Committee that it was not—at the very least clause 205 should be amended to provide that Orders in Council to designate new countries or to move them from one category to another should be laid on an affirmative procedure so that they can be subject to proper scrutiny in Parliament. In his reply to the Select Committee, the Minister said that he would be prepared to consider that if a strong case for change could be made, but that he had yet to be persuaded. The case seems to me to be self-evident. It is to prevent countries, some of which may have very dubious human rights records, from being added solely at the whim of Ministers. I suggest that if the Minister is not minded to concede the point today, he should at least undertake to have another look at it when the Bill goes to another place.

Amendments Nos. 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31 and new schedule 1 would amend clause 65 to incorporate in the Bill the 32 offences listed in article 2(2) of the framework document—again, in line with the recommendations of the Select Committee. I tabled the amendments because I consider it highly undesirable that Parliament should have no say in future changes to the categories of offences listed in the framework decision, just as I consider it highly undesirable that Parliament should have no say as to which countries fall into which categories. Amendment No. 27 proposes, for the same reason, that any future amendment to the list of offences should be subject to an affirmative resolution.

As with previous amendments tabled in my name, this is an argument about whether Parliament or Ministers in some future Government who might not be as benign as this one should decide what should constitute an offence. Faced with that choice, I back Parliament every time. As matters stand, Ministers will be able to change domestic law by signing up to proposals from the EC for the creation of new offences without reference to Parliament. With all due respect, it is not good enough for the Minister to say, as he does in his—very useful, by and large—reply to our report:

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Nor is it good enough to say, as he did, that they need the flexibility to deal with any changes that are proposed. The Minister can have all the flexibility that he likes, provided that he takes Parliament with him. I hope that even at this late hour he will recant on this point.

Mr. Burnett: We have signed up to a number of the amendments that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) has mentioned, particularly those that deal with the issue of which countries can fall into category 1. We believe that there should be a more tangible definition, and we have said that such countries should be European Union countries that have abolished the death penalty in all cases. As the hon. Member for Sunderland, South said, we have won half that battle. We are not satisfied, however, that the Government should have carte blanche to decide exactly which countries should be category 1 countries. The negative resolution procedure is inadequate for such decisions, and we should have liked them to be subject to the positive resolution procedure. At least, we want there to be a clearer definition, and we should have liked that to include only European Union countries that qualify for category 1 status.

The simplification of the extradition procedure and the consequential removal of traditional safeguards such as the dual criminality requirement mean that the EU member states and Britain will be operating under a new arrest warrant system that will involve mutual recognition. Mutual recognition rests on the presumption that judicial systems are equal across the European Union, and there is no justification for extending the principle of mutual recognition and relinquishing many procedural safeguards in the case of non-EU member states that are not part of the European arrest warrant scheme. I understand that the Commission has recently published a Green Paper on procedural safeguards for suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings which, once adopted, will further substantiate mutual trust between member states. That adds a more compelling argument to our amendments Nos. 89 and 90.

I want to say a few words about amendments Nos. 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31, and new schedule 1. We have talked about new countries coming in, and the amendments deal with the corollary to that, in the form of new offences. We have discussed the existing nebulous and unsatisfactory nature of the offences, and I shall return to that point on Third Reading if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the Minister made some points with which I would like to take issue. He suggested that, when in Rome, we should do as the Romans do, and of course we should obey the laws in other countries, but the provision of a schedule listing 32 nebulous offences in the Bill ensures that any extension of the list to include further types of offence would be subject to parliamentary control. If there are to be further offences, let us get them right this time.

The Conservatives have talked about not joining in with these amendments because they do not approve of the list. We do not approve of the list—or of a lot of its drafting, which has led to a lack of clarity—but unfortunately the Government have signed up to it. Our amendments would provide damage limitation. If the

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Government were to propose any further offences, at least Parliament would have some say in the matter. For that reason, we wholeheartedly support the new clause.

Mr. Rosindell: My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) made it clear that it matters not what our views on the death penalty are. What matters to me—and what should matter to the House—is that we respect the laws and punishments of sovereign nations. The Bill will undermine that principle. Indeed, the Government appear very confused over this particular aspect of it, and I am sorry to see that happen. There appears to be a level of hypocrisy coming through in relation to this part of the Bill, because they are proposing one thing to be right for Europe but not for the rest of the world. That is unacceptable.

On Second Reading, during a challenge from my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) about whether the famous plane spotters could have been extradited from the United Kingdom to Greece for their so-called crime, the former Home Office Minister, the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), revealed that hypocrisy in spectacular style.

He said:

On serious charges relating to crimes such as terrorism or murder, I agree: sovereign states should be free to set their own laws. Equally, however, they should be allowed to set their own punishments when those laws are broken. Under the Bill, a murderer could not be extradited to the United States of America because that country continues to apply the death penalty, which is condemned under the European convention on human rights.

The Government defend the sovereignty of Greece and its right to prosecute British citizens under Greek law, yet they say that we cannot help to bring a murderer to justice because American policy on capital punishment does not conform to the ECHR. Either Britain respects the sovereignty of other nations or it does not.

I oppose the proposals.

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