Mr. Hawkins: The Minister says that these warrants are in the same category as warrants that we have been used to over the years, but they are not. The answer to his point is provided by the intervention from the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. We are talking only about a small number of people—about the maximum number of British citizens subject to requests for extradition. I think that the largest number of requests in recent years that was set out in the papers relating to the Bill was 116.
These are very special provisions: the European arrest warrant is something entirely new. As a matter of principle, Opposition Members believe that the draconian powers that the Government are seeking to
Column Number: 73introduce are entirely inappropriate when applied to anything other than terrorism, as I have said. As the provisions are very special, new and draconian, extra protection is needed for civil liberties.
That is why we agree with Justice, whose amendments have been tabled by the Liberal Democrats. Had they not tabled them, Conservative Members would have done so, because we think that it essential to protect our citizens—the people whom we are sent to Parliament to look after. They should have the opportunity to have copies of this special warrant, with the six pages of A4 and the boxes, in a language that they understand.
It is unacceptable to say that what we are debating is just like an arrest for a domestic burglary. The Minister may say, ''Every constable will need to have notice of every European arrest warrant that is outstanding,'' as if there will be thousands of them. However, in the special circumstances in which a foreign country asks British police officers to find someone and arrest them, they should have available to give to the suspect a copy of the warrant in a language that that person understands. That is a special and restricted circumstance.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has had a chance to look at the briefing note provided by the commissioner's office in the Metropolitan police service. On what it calls the second key area, it states:
The key quote is where it goes on to say:
The hon. Gentleman quoted Liberty. Does not he think that the Metropolitan police service may be just as good an authority on this matter as Liberty?
Mr. Hawkins: I have seen that briefing and I entirely accept that the police would like to have the widest possible powers. However, I would have thought that Labour Members who, as the Liberal Democrats and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) said this morning, have a proud record of supporting civil liberties would be concerned to consider the massive extension of state power that the European arrest warrant constitutes. Labour Members should be saying that because this is something special that applies to a small category of people, the police should have protection for the subject before they execute a warrant. We are talking about perhaps 100 requests a year or thereabouts, not thousands.
Mr. Carmichael: That being the case, what the hon. Gentleman outlines would undoubtedly be best practice, but should failure to adhere to best practice necessarily be fatal to the warrant's execution?
Mr. Hawkins: That undermines the hon. Gentleman's and Justice's amendments Nos. 129 and 130 as much as mine, because he argues for best practice, which his amendments would put in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not resiling from Justice's amendments. If the Minister were to say that
Column Number: 74the Bill would state that in all but wholly exceptional circumstances a warrant should be executed with a copy in the language of the person concerned, that would be a different matter. However, that is not what the Bill states. As drafted, the Bill gives the police unfettered powers.
Mr. Ainsworth: I am not talking about exceptional circumstances. Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that a constable could be going about his normal duties, could be involved in a road traffic incident and could come across a renowned international terrorist and not have the arrest warrant with him. Does the hon. Gentleman expect that terrorist to go free, because that is exactly what the amendment would allow?
Mr. Hawkins: No, it is not, because what I and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said is that in the case of terrorism we are perfectly prepared to accept that there should be wholly exceptional powers. We made that clear on Second Reading and in Committee. Our amendments refer to the range of 32 crimes on the vague list in the European framework document. It is because that list is so wide that genuine protection for civil liberties is needed. We will not agree with the Minister on the matter, and I shall press the amendment to a Division.
Mr. Burnett: It may help the Committee if I were to distinguish between amendment No. 130 and the Conservative amendment No. 17. We do not necessarily believe that the warrant should be available at the time of the arrest, but amendment No. 129 makes it clear that the warrant should be in a language that the defendant can understand. Amendment No. 130 provides for the warrant to be shown to the defendant as soon as practicable after the person's arrest. That seems entirely reasonable. It is also reasonable that there should be a translation of it available at that time as not only are these cases extremely sensitive, they are few and far between. The amendment would be in the interests of justice.
The Minister said that legal aid and an interpreter will always be available. I wonder what he would say to us about information to the arrested person about the availability of legal representation, legal aid and interpreters. There must be minimum standards, so we shall divide the Committee on the amendments. I hope that Conservative Members will support the amendments, and I invite Labour Members to vote with us to ensure that the minimum standards of justice are available.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 9.
Division No. 7]
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill
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