Extradition Bill

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Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, although it would have been better if he had done so earlier. On his point about the list being in the Bill, we made it clear on Second Reading and in moving amendments in our previous sitting that we want part 1 to apply only to terrorism. We were saying that if the Government were honest about their intentions, they would put the list in the Bill. We do not believe in it because we believe that the list is too vague, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon and I have both said. As we do not agree with the list, it would have been inappropriate for us to

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introduce an amendment to include it in the Bill. However, it is proper for us to say that if the Government are being honest about these matters, they should include the list in the Bill.

Mr. Ainsworth: I shall make three further points. As for people languishing in prisons abroad and awaiting investigation, it is clear that extradition may not take place for the purposes of investigation. It may be made only for the purposes of bringing someone to trial. Candidate countries were mentioned, and they will all have to meet the requirements of European Union conventions before they are allowed access to the mutual recognition arrangements. We have built in safeguards so that the systems in those countries can be examined against the requirements and, if necessary, the countries can be removed from the arrangements. We have tried to cover the situation that applies in countries whose jurisprudence is perhaps weaker than ours, but surely it is in everyone's interest to work to strengthen those jurisdictions and bring them up to the levels that have been enjoyed by our citizens for a long time.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon repeats the allegation that we are doing away with long-standing rights that have been built up over many years, which ignores the fact that the requirements of the European convention on human rights are contained not only in the framework decision, but in the Bill. That gives clear safeguards against unfounded and unreasonable extradition requests that would be considered by a British judge before extradition is agreed to.

Mr. Maples: I shall return to the delays in the case of Rachid Ramda, because the Minister took me to task for criticising the Home Secretary personally. I realise that the Home Secretary was not sitting with the file on his desk for two and a half years. However, in the case of Rachid Ramda, a committal hearing took place six months after he was arrested. It then took 12 months for the case to come to court. That is ridiculous in the case of someone charged with a serious terrorist offence, and I criticise the court system for that, because that is not to do with the Home Secretary. However, it then took 24 months for the case to go to appeal before the House of Lords, although the appeal was then dropped.

Our court system took three years over the case, and in the end did not deal with it. That is scandalous, and I do not believe that the Lord Chancellor—not specifically this Lord Chancellor, as some of the process took place under the Conservative Government—should tolerate that. Someone should make it clear to the court system that that sort of delay is unacceptable. The appeal to the House of Lords was dropped in May 1999, and it is now two and a half years later. There is no possible reason or excuse for the Home Office to take two and a half years over the matter. I realise that such a case is difficult, and that it must be put together in such a way that the House of Lords cannot chuck it out. However, it is inexcusable for there to be a delay of two and a half years in the case of a friendly country, one of our two closest allies, demanding the extradition of someone for a serious terrorist offence concerning bombs on the Paris metro.

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Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman advances a good argument for the need for reform, but he knows that I cannot go into detail on individual cases. He has no idea what representations have been made over the period to which he refers or what problems have been resolved, and I am not free to explain those to him. The issues that he raises are outrageous and unjustified. There is no deliberate delay. There is a judicial process and an extradition process that is cumbersome and wide open to the kind of abuses that the hon. Gentleman has exposed.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 4.

Division No. 2]

AYES
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Campbell, Mr. Alan Crausby, Mr. David Harris, Mr. Tom
Howarth, Mr. George Hughes, Mr. Kevin Stoate, Dr. Howard Twigg, Derek

NOES
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Maples, Mr. John Watkinson, Angela

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Part 1 warrant and certificate

10 am

Mr. Ainsworth: I beg to move amendment No.100, in

    clause 2, page 1, line 12, leave out from second 'warrant' to end of line 15 and insert

    'which is issued by an authority of a category 1 territory and which contains—

    (a) the statement referred to in subsection (3) and the information referred to in subsection (3A), or

    (b) the statement referred to in subsection (4) and the information referred to in subsection (4A).'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments Nos. 101 and 102.

Amendment No. 91, in

    clause 2, page 1, line 21, at end insert—

    '(c) contains a summary of the facts of the offence referred to in paragraph (a) above, including the date and place of the offence, the object and value of the property if theft is alleged, or the injury suggested by the victim if personal violence is alleged.'.

Government amendments Nos. 103 to 108.

Mr. Ainsworth: I was remiss earlier in not welcoming you to the Chair, Miss Begg. I know that this is the first Standing Committee that you have chaired, and I am certain that your skills of chairmanship will equal the other skills that you have brought to the rest of your involvement in the House of Commons.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to present the Government amendments to the Committee. I know that some people, in the House and elsewhere, were concerned that clause 2 lacked detail about the

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information to be contained in the warrant. That information would always be provided as part of the warrant, and the framework decision requires that. However, we thought that it would be sensible to summarise the key contents of the warrant in our domestic legislation, and the amendments have been drafted for that purpose.

Amendment No. 91, although tabled by the Opposition, appears to have been drafted to achieve the same aim. I will explain why I believe that amendment to be deficient. If I explain the reasoning behind the Government amendments, that should clarify why I believe that the Opposition amendment does not go as far as it should.

The substance of the group of amendments can be found in amendments Nos. 103 to 106, which clearly list the information that a warrant must contain to be accepted as the basis of a person's arrest. Amendment No. 103 deals with cases where a person is wanted for prosecution and amendment No. 106 applies when a person has been convicted, but is yet to be sentenced, or when a sentence has been imposed, but not yet served. It will not have escaped the Opposition's notice that amendment No. 91 does not deal with the latter scenario, addressing only accusation cases.

The Committee will agree that amendment No. 103 examines these cases in a more comprehensive and rational manner than the alternative. It is designed to seek the details of any other warrant that may have been issued in the requesting country for the extradition offence: amendment No. 91 does not. The amendment would also secure details of the potential sentence that could be imposed in the event of a conviction: again, the alternative amendment does not.

In the case of a convicted person whose extradition is sought so that he can be sentenced or serve a sentence, amendment No. 106 is clear in its effect. It requires not only details of identity, the conviction and other warrants, but information about the sentence that has been or could be imposed.

I am confident that these Government amendments go a long way towards meeting the concerns that have been expressed. The information would be a required part of the warrant, as set out in the Bill, making it clear to everyone exactly which person is sought, for what reason and what is likely to happen in the event of a conviction or sentence. These measures will ensure that the British courts can make the appropriate assessment of the relevant details without having to second-guess or prejudice the proper role of the judiciary in the requesting country. I commend amendments Nos. 100 to 108, and I invite the hon. Member for Surrey Heath to withdraw amendment No. 91.

Mr. Hawkins: I can be brief. As the Minister said, when we tabled amendment No. 91, to which the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) and for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) added their names, we did so because, as the Bill stood on Second Reading, none of the required detail was

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evident. The Government have responded to our and others' criticisms on Second Reading, endorsed by organisations such as the Law Society of England and Wales, that the detail needed to be included in the Bill. We are pleased that the Government have responded, and the Minister is right to point out that the Government amendments go further in some respects than amendment No. 91, which I will not press to the vote.

Can the Minister confirm that in cases of personal violence, the ''circumstances''—the term used in the Government amendments—would include the injuries suggested by the victim? In allegations of theft, would the date and place of the offence and the value of the property also be set out? If so, it would satisfy the Law Society of England and Wales, because it was those omissions from the original drafting that led to the precise wording of amendment No. 91. The wording in the Government amendments is wider, but less specific. If the Minister will tell us that his more general phraseology of the particulars of the circumstances and alleged conduct would definitely include all the points in our amendment No. 91, under the rule of Pepper v. Hart, a court will be able to examine the Minister's wording when it deals with such a case, which would satisfy everyone. If he does so, we will be prepared to withdraw the amendment and let the Government's wording stand in its place.

 
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