Extradition Bill

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Mr. Hawkins: The Minister is protesting somewhat too much. He attacks me and, by implication, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, for raising the point, and says that although the Law Society of England and Wales is an august body, that does not mean that we should try to row back on what the Government are doing.

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I take the contrary view. We are considering a wholesale change—this is not only consolidation but a major alteration of our extradition law. The Bill, in whatever form it finally reaches the statute book, will be the Act that sets out all the law on extradition for the foreseeable future, or until another Act is passed. If we have representations from external organisations saying that we should examine the issue of whether category 2 countries should be divided into two different types, and if such an august body—as the Minister put it—as the Law Society of England and Wales expresses concern about fishing expeditions, it is the purpose of Committees such as this to consider those matters. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said on Second Reading, there will be issues that repay scrutiny.

We are considering part 2, and we are not as rushed as we were towards the end of this morning's proceedings. I was therefore surprised by the Minister's aggrieved tone, because the purpose of the Committee is to consider the serious concerns that we raised, which are shared with the professional bodies, and with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland on behalf of his party. The Minister should not, therefore, sound so aggrieved.

The debate has been helpful because the Minister has said, on the record, which countries will fall into the category. I am sure that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland would agree that that has moved the debate forward. That was not said on Second Reading.

It would be even more helpful if the Government were to produce a comprehensive list, because this afternoon the Minister was able to refer only to countries such as Canada, Switzerland and Australia. The debate has, however, been useful. I opened it in brief and moderate terms, and so I am surprised that the Minister was so aggrieved in his tone.

Mr. Ainsworth: A list of countries might seem superficially attractive, but I would ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect further on that issue. The arrangements need to be considered and entered into bilaterally. Therefore, drawing up a list of the countries that we would and would not be prepared to consider would be quite a delicate thing to manage, and could also be a mistake, because it could might send the wrong signals to countries in either category.

Mr. Hawkins: I am not sure whether the Minister is right about that. I am concerned that there should be proper parliamentary scrutiny of any Government's—not just this Government's—actions in this area. I am sure that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland shares my concerns. We want to ensure that arrangements such as this are made openly and clearly, and that the Government will be held to account for their actions.

When I spoke about a list earlier, I did not suggest that the Government should draw up another list stating that certain countries would never be placed in another part 2 category. I said only that it would be helpful to have a list of which countries—only Switzerland, Canada, Australia or countries like them—are covered by part 2. I do not want to rule

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out the inclusion of other countries, but our debate shows that it was right to voice concerns about two different tiers of part 2, as the Law Society of England and Wales put it. We exposed a real problem, and it was right to probe.

I hope that the Minister will not be so aggrieved when we raise other concerns about part 2. It is not good enough for him to harp on about what a previous Conservative Government did. This is new legislation on extradition, and it provides an opportunity to consider the issues afresh. I was not a Minister in the previous Conservative Government and I took no decisions. We need to reflect more seriously on the matter, but we have had a useful debate and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 71

Person arrested under section 70

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Hawkins: As the Committee can see, we tabled amendments Nos. 155 and 156, but they were not selected for debate. They match what we sought to achieve for the similar provision in part 1. The same protections that we argued for in the counterpart provisions of part 1 should apply to these provisions. I hope that it is appropriate to say that in general terms, without debating unselected amendments. The Minister should be aware that that reinforces our concerns about the need to protect people by showing them warrants in a language that they can understand.

The Chairman: Order. It is not that the amendments have not been selected, but that they have already been debated.

Mr. Hawkins: I was trying to check the previous list to establish whether we covered them. I must have been looking at an incomplete list.

The Chairman: We debated them with amendment No. 50.

Mr. Hawkins: I tried to check it before I stood up to speak, but I obviously did not look at the right piece of paper.

The Chairman: It is not the most important of arguments between us.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 71 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 72 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 73

Person arrested under a provisional warrant

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 159, in

    clause 73, page 38, line 11, leave out '40' and insert '7'.

The amendment relates to another concern of the Law Society with which we agree. It is designed to replace the period of 40 days with seven days, thereby reducing the routine time in which a person could be

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remanded on a provisional warrant. The 40-day period is an unacceptably long blanket period for a person to be under suspicion. The Minister will doubtless tell us that it already happens under current arrangements, but a period of 28 days is more common in provisions dealing with remands. We all know that the courts often remand people for 28 days, 14 days or seven days. We believe that under the new system of provisional warrants, while waiting for a full arrest warrant, the remand period should be much shorter. We would be happier, as would the Law Society of England and Wales, if the Government were to change the 14 days to seven days or even to 28 days, and to provide the opportunity to apply for an extension of time in exceptional circumstances.

Before the Minister says so, we are not being silly or trivial, or trying to row back from the previous position. We feel strongly about this issue, as does the Law Society of England and Wales. Certain requesting states may be given longer without showing any exceptional circumstances relating to the request for extradition.

Whatever the current situation might be under extradition law, we are discussing provisional warrants and a new system of extradition law—the European arrest warrant is a totally new animal. The Government have introduced this Bill because of the European arrest warrant and the framework directive. The Bill will put all those new arrangements into force. This is therefore an opportunity to re-examine the situation and to see what is appropriate. The Law Society of England and Wales are right to say that the period should not be 40 days for a provisional warrant: that is too long.

Mr. Carmichael: I should say that while I am not in particular sympathy with the terms of the amendment, I agree with the general tenor of the speech made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. I would require some persuading that seven days is an appropriate blanket period: it seems to me that that is a tad on the short side, whereas a period of 40 days in those circumstances seems excessive. Will the Minister reconsider that point between now and Report?

A compromise such as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath has suggested would be ideal. That would allow, for argument's sake, 14 or 20 days as the initial period with application to be made thereafter for extension on cause shown.

Mr. Ainsworth: The limit specified in the Bill is 40 days, and that is the period that currently applies. As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath predicted, I would argue that the reason for the 40-day period is because that is what is specified in the European convention on extradition. At the risk of upsetting him yet again, that convention was passed and adopted by the UK in 1991 under the Conservative Government. However, as well as seeking to upset the hon. Gentleman again—I do not see anything the matter with that—I would also argue that it would cause us a problem if we sought to move away from that provision. The hon. Gentleman asked, quite reasonably, whether such a long period was necessary, but that period is generally specified in

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extradition treaties made during the last two centuries. It features in most of the UK's bilateral extradition treaties, and although the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said that there has been a change in his party's position on the issue, we are bound by the convention and by those treaties.

While I am superficially attracted to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath and supported by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that the period could be reduced to 28 days, we would then be required to renegotiate all our extradition treaties and the convention itself.

We are not discussing the European arrest warrant, or any massive draconian measure. I note that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath has stopped using the word ''draconian''—I lost count of the number of times he used it, but he applied it to every clause in part 1. We are talking about part 2 arrangements and what is provided in the existing arrangements. We have a limited ability to move away from 40 days, unless we are prepared to do what has been suggested.

For the record, so that Members can decide whether to continue making representations that 40 days is too long, let me say that exceptions to the 40-day rule are allowed under current regulations only where our bilateral treaties or extradition agreements with other countries specify a longer period. Again, we have translated that into the Bill, as the only possible variation of the time frame is when an Order in Council specifically provides that a longer period is allowed in relation to the category 2 territory.

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Forty days has proved appropriate for provisional arrest cases, and we see no reason why that should not continue. That period provides a suitable amount of time for the counsel to prepare the case, which would not be so if we cut it to seven days. If the position is thought through logically, there are good reasons why the period should not be changed. Provisional arrest is most likely to be used in urgent cases where there is a good reason why it has not been possible for a full request to be made.

The amendment would mean that everything—the full request, the paperwork and the evidence or, where appropriate if we drop the prima facie requirement for the particular country, the information—had to be prepared, translated and sent over in haste. That could be, and often is, a significant bundle of documentation. In addition, the papers would then have to be examined by the Secretary of State and, if he considered it appropriate, certified before being sent on to the judge.

It is not feasible to do all that, starting from scratch in the issuing state, in seven days. There would be no time to query any possible errors or omissions, although they would be all the more likely to occur if we forced countries to prepare their case in such a tight time frame. There would be no flexibility if, for example, the Secretary of State was temporarily unavailable, or the seven days happened to begin over the Christmas break.

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I understand what the hon. Gentleman said, and I accept that, superficially, the period of time appears long. However, that is the current provision, and an awful lot of work needs to go into these cases. I do not think that there is evidence of undue delays leading to injustice—if people believe that there is, they may present it later—so we are replicating in the new legislation what has existed for some time and is enshrined in various treaties across the world, as well as in the relevant convention.

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