Extradition Bill

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Mr. Burnett: I, too, am anxious to know what effect the Government think the Bill will have on members of the armed forces, particularly in connection with offences alleged to be committed by UK service personnel in UK bases overseas.

Our service personnel are of the highest calibre in the world, but occasionally they can be slightly boisterous. When I was in the Royal Marines in Singapore in 1966, I remember only too well attending the traditional Trafalgar cup soccer game against the Royal Navy. The Royal Marines usually get on very well with the Royal Navy, especially when there are members of other armed forces or overseas people about the place, but when they are locked together the rivalry can be fairly fraught. Of course, the Royal Marines triumphed in the game—I think the score was 6–1—which was organised on a day when there were two commando units in Singapore. Usually we had far fewer people from whom to choose our team than the Royal Navy had, and after the game a building was destroyed. I do not say that that was necessarily a crime, but these things can happen in boisterous circles when the blood is up, especially after troops have been away on operations. Relaxation, rest and recuperation are part and parcel of the job.

It is important to know how our servicemen will be treated under clause 153. It is imperative that this law dovetails with the Naval Discipline Act 1957—yes, it is still in force—and military and air force law. Will the Minister explain how offences alleged to have been committed by UK service personnel in UK bases overseas will be treated? As he knows, they were dealt with in the past under military, naval or air force law.

Mr. Ainsworth: It is already possible under the Armed Forces Act 1989 for the UK services to make a request for those who have committed military offences to be extradited. The clause clearly states that such requests can be made only for those subject to military or air force law or the Naval Discipline Act 1957.

Members of the Committee have spoken about the British armed forces. Let me emphasise that these

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requests are rare, but we have allowed them in the past and see no reason for change. Any such arrangements would require the Secretary of State to make an order to apply part 3 provisions. Outgoing requests to category 2 countries would have to be made via the royal prerogative.

It is necessary to specify which persons are able to issue outgoing requests—who is entitled to do so under military discipline. It will be different people under the different military laws, and it will be different from civilian law. The people issuing the request will be those entitled to exercise military discipline. Modifications will need to be made to limit the provisions to military offences.

Mr. Burnett: The Minister said that the Government have allowed such requests, but will he clarify what criteria the Government apply before they accede to them?

Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman is worried about his old mates who wrecked the building in the course of rest and recuperation.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): Can the Minister assure us that none of the modifications will be retrospective, so that any member of the Committee who regrettably played a part in events after the Trafalgar cup in 1966 will remain free from prosecution?

Mr. Hawkins: Before the Minister replies, the hon. Gentleman might like to consider supporting our new clause, which deals with an exception, allowing the Secretary of State discretion to take political factors into account before acceding to an extradition request. That could provide the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon with another loophole through which to slip.

The Chairman: Order. I have been patient in allowing two interventions on the Minister. I hope that he does not feel unduly badgered.

Mr. Ainsworth: The last thing that we want to create is an untrue impression. The issue of retrospection is neither here nor there, because I have already explained that the rules apply currently. Extradition requests for military personnel can be made under current provisions. We merely want to carry them forward so that the appropriate people are designated as entitled to apply for extradition in military cases. Obviously, that will not be JPs or district judges, but the appropriate people within the services.

10.15 am

Mr. Hawkins: I did not know, when I started a stand part debate on clause 153, that we would hear about the past record of the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon when he was a Royal Marine. I did not know that he had been a Royal Marine, which is a distinguished part of the services. I am aware of the rivalry to which he referred between the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy when no one else is about. As the son of a naval officer I have heard some stories, and as a former naval cadet who has been on naval bases I have seen some of the rivalry. As the hon. Gentleman says, when the Marines and the Navy are

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in the company of the other services they always work together. Long may that continue.

I have been to some Trafalgar day ceremonies, but I am too young to have had anything to do with the Trafalgar cup in 1966 in Singapore. It has been a useful debate. It would be helpful, as the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon said, if the Minister would drop us a line to indicate, on the rare occasions the provision has been used in the past, what modifications were needed to the previous legislation regarding the people who made the request—

Mr. Burnett: And the conditions the Government applied.

Mr. Hawkins: And the conditions the Government applied. The Minister was fair in accepting that the

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issue is open-ended in the Bill. As such cases are so rare, it is not necessary to make explicit provision in the Bill, but this is a short clause which seems open-ended.

Mr. Ainsworth indicated assent.

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister nods. It would be helpful if he were to write to us, but the matter is without the same degree of urgency.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 153 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Derek Twigg.]

Adjourned accordingly at sixteen minutes past Ten o'clock till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Begg, Miss. Anne (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob
Burnett, Mr.
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Carmichael, Mr.
Crausby, Mr.
Dobbin, Jim
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hawkins, Mr.
Howarth, Mr. George
Hughes, Mr. Kevin
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Maples, Mr.
Stoate, Dr.
Twigg, Derek
Watkinson, Angela

 
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