Extradition Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend is right. The problems would be insurmountable. One would have to be able to challenge not the crime of which the person was accused, but their motives, to decide which procedure to use. My example of a Spanish bank robber goes straight to the point. If exactly the same crime were committed in exactly the same way, with the same degree of violence or financial gain, a decision on which jurisdiction or extradition legislation should be used to decide whether that person should go back to Spain would have to be based on the robber's motives. I ask the hon. Member for Surrey Heath to explain to the Committee exactly how we would deal with that or to drop this completely ridiculous amendment that would make part 1 apply to terrorist offences and nothing else. I did not hear him attempt to justify it when he was speaking to the amendment.

The amendments also suggest that the European arrest warrant should be limited to countries that apply the presumption of innocence, which the right hon. Member for West Dorset also suggested on Second Reading. Despite it being clearly set out in the European convention on human rights that everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent under an inquisitorial system, he contends that the presumption is reversed because the examining magistrate starts from an assumption that a suspect deserves investigation. I do not see how that argument is sustainable. If we accepted it, we would operate the European arrest warrant only with other countries that operated a common-law system. It would therefore operate only with the Republic of Ireland. His contention is untrue, because the police investigate someone in this country for a crime committed in this country. There is no presumption that they are guilty when that investigation commences, yet the right hon. Member for West Dorset and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath suggest that an inquisitorial system somehow denies the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence is enshrined in the European convention on human rights, as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath knows.

I ask the Committee to accept that the amendment is inappropriate and should not be supported. I also ask the Committee to reject all the Opposition amendments to this clause, but with the proviso that, although I have yet to hear an argument in favour of the Home Affairs Committee's recommendation that the affirmative rather than the negative resolution procedure should be applied, I am happy to consider it. However, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I am far from convinced that that is necessary. If I am prepared to reflect on that, perhaps the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, when he responds to the debate, will justify his proposal based on what has happened in the past, and will think about what I said about the

Column Number: 025

Government's intention not to extend the application beyond Iceland, Norway and other European Union countries. He should think seriously about whether he wants to bog down parliamentary procedures on issues that will not be contentious or contended.

The Chairman: Before I call the hon. Member for Surrey Heath to respond to the debate on the amendments, I must point out that I am minded not to allow a separate clause stand part debate in view of the full and discursive nature of the hon. Gentleman's previous remarks. He might like to bear in mind this and my previous counsel about detailed discussion of matters that are open to debate in our consideration of later parts of the Bill when he responds.

Mr. Hawkins: If I respond extremely briefly, Mr. O'Hara, by dealing with just one or two of the Minister's points, may I, in anticipation of what the Government Whip may propose, try to persuade you to have a clause stand part debate when we sit again? We may have a clause stand part debate at that stage, so I shall leave things there at this point. Even before you spoke, Mr. O'Hara, I genuinely intended to be extremely brief. I have tried to set out the central issues because, as you accepted earlier, many of them are encapsulated in the front part of the Bill. The Minister also helpfully accepted that this is very much a front-loaded Bill.

I am grateful to the Minister for being prepared to consider further the question of affirmative resolution. I am pursuing my point seriously. It would not be a case of bogging down Parliament; it is essential to have that parliamentary safeguard. I am therefore glad that the Minister is happy to reflect on what the Select Committee and I have said. Perhaps we can have constructive discussions based on its views, which I share, before the Committee stage is finished.

6 pm

I would be delighted if the Government tabled their own amendment to provide for the affirmative resolution procedure. As the Minister said, my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has also made a case for that.

I wish to press amendment No. 1 to a vote. I also wish to vote on some of the other amendments in this group, but they are to later clauses, so I think that I am right in saying that those votes will take place later. However, I flag up now the fact that, unless the Government change their mind, I will seek to vote on amendments Nos. 74 and 83 to clauses 63 and 64 respectively, and on amendment No. 85 to clause 65 and its counterpart.

Mr. Ainsworth: May I seek clarification as to what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do? I have made him an offer. If he is prepared to think seriously about whether he actually needs the affirmative resolution procedure, I will do the same, but now he says that he wants to press the amendment to a vote. At this stage, I ask my colleagues to vote him down, although that is not in the spirit of the offer that I have just made.

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister puts me in a slightly difficult position, but only by pressing the amendment to a vote now can I show him how strongly Conservative

Column Number: 026

Members feel about it. We always said that we would vote on the amendment. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset made that clear, and the fact that I have spoken at such length indicates how strongly we feel about it. The Minister knows that perfectly well. We want to leave the door open for further discussion, but only by voting on the amendment can we flag up this matter. I genuinely welcome what he said, however. He is an open-minded and fair-minded Minister, as I said in my opening remarks, and I know that he takes these matters seriously.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon said that we were of one mind on the question of affirmative resolution, but he also made it clear that there were reservations and, indeed, downright opposition to the restriction of this part of the Bill to terrorist offences. In addition, the Minister cogently suggested some serious practical problems that would arise from its application to terrorist offences only. To secure my vote, therefore, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath would need to provide something rather more substantial than we have heard hitherto on to the inclusion of that part in the amendment.

Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful for that intervention, because the hon. Gentleman highlights part of the difficulty. As amendment No. 1 deals with both the restriction to terrorism and the affirmative resolution, if I did not press it to a vote, I would be doing less than justice to my whole case. I recognise that as those two aspects are in one amendment, I will probably forfeit his support and I would also forfeit the support of the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon were he here. That may be unfortunate, but perhaps these matters will be considered in a different way in another place. Perhaps we can return to the matter of affirmative resolution.

One reason why I need to press the amendment to a vote is that Conservative Members feel strongly not only about the affirmative resolution aspect, but about restricting part 1 purely to terrorist offences. I have made that clear. Despite the Minister's strictures, I have set out all the reasons why the aspect of the Bill that we are discussing is draconian.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): If the hon. Gentleman feels that strongly about it, can he tell us why only two Tories are present? His other two colleagues have not put in an appearance.

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman may not have been listening when I explained why my hon. Friends are not with me this afternoon: in one case there is family illness and in the other a distinguished and senior former shadow Cabinet member has to sit on the Select Committee on Defence this afternoon. We are all well aware that family illness must be given priority over even our important duties. Mr. O'Hara is aware of the circumstances.

Mr. Howarth: May I put the same question to the hon. Gentleman that I put to my hon. Friend the Minister? I do not know whether in his detailed scrutiny of the Select Committee report he has had to time to read the Library research paper. I refer him to the comments of Lord Diplock in the case that I

Column Number: 027

quoted earlier. Does he not feel that restricting the provisions purely to terrorism would render them inoperable?

Mr. Hawkins: No. That was one of the two points that I wanted to deal with briefly, and partly in response to what the Minister said. One must remember that in addition to the draconian provisions in part 1, there is the part 2 procedure. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said that the part 2 procedure would be fine for everything but terrorism. We shall come to some detailed points, but one of the reasons why we will have only one Committee session on part 2 is that it is relatively uncontroversial. Part 1 contains the new draconian provisions that are so controversial.

The Minister in responding to the debate appeared to be saying, ''Under the current law there will never be any opportunity for anyone to intervene to stop extradition. Why on earth should anyone worry about what happens now?'' The Minister has obviously completely ignored what the Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committee says in paragraph 48, which is that

    ''in the 13 years since the Extradition Act 1989 was enacted, UK courts have intervened to refuse extradition in a significant number of EU cases,''—

since the 1989 Act, there has been the opportunity for judicial intervention—

    ''and the Home Secretary has refused to extradite in a significant number of other cases where extradition would have been plainly wrong or unjust.''

In other words, the current system, contrary to the impression that the Minister gave with his weasel words about prime facie cases, offers the opportunity for both judicial intervention and political intervention to stop extradition. The Home Secretary is responsible to the House. That is what the Government want to take away.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 7 January 2003