Extradition Bill

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Mr. Wills: I could expatiate at great length on the matter but I am baffled by the hon. Gentleman's continuing concerns about the clause, which is straightforward. Everyone agrees that Customs officers should have the power. The Committee has had reassurance that a Minister will lay the order and Customs officers will be bound by the normal precautions that bind them in every area of their activities which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are extremely sensitive and delicate and go to the heart of the matters about which he is most concerned. I hope that the Committee will now accept the clause.

Mr. Burnett: I recall, when I was in practice, receiving a number of telephone calls about the robust attitude of Customs and Excise. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 173 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 174

Extradition to commonwealth countries etc.

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

Mr. Hawkins: I need not detain the Committee long, but it might be helpful, with regard to the first amendments relating to Commonwealth countries and others, to have a brief stand part debate. We

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understand that counterpart provisions are needed on extradition to Commonwealth countries, British overseas territories and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

Will the Minister clarify whether there are any changes in this legislation as compared with the previous extradition law? Obviously, one change since the late 1980s or early 1990s is that there was no such thing as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and special arrangements may have been made after Hong Kong became such a region after the lease came to an end. Will the Minister say briefly what changes, if any, the Bill introduces? I thought this the appropriate moment to raise that general point. I have specific queries on one or two clauses, but at this stage I should be grateful if the Minister would just give us the background.

3.30 pm

Mr. Wills: I can be brief. The Committee is aware that clause 174 provides that an Order in Council may apply any relevant extradition provision—that is, those that would apply to extradition from the United Kingdom to certain category 2 territories—to a British overseas territory in modified form. These provisions, when applied, will govern the extradition arrangements of that British overseas territory when extraditing to Commonwealth countries, other British overseas territories and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The clause allows part 2 provisions to apply between British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries, or other British overseas territories or the HKSAR by Order in Council. The part 2 provisions can be applied with special modifications. It is in line with the Extradition Act 1989 that we make provision for the British overseas territories to be subject to an extradition request, and the clause enables us to do that. With that explanation, I hope that the clause will stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 174 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 175 to 177 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 178

British overseas territories and

the United Kingdom

Mr. Wills: I beg to move amendment No. 109, in

    clause 178, page 94, line 11, leave out from 'applicable' to first 'to' in line 12 and insert 'to extradition'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 110.

Mr. Wills: These are minor technical amendments. My ministerial colleague wrote to every member of the Committee before Christmas to explain their purpose, so I hope that the Committee will understand if I am very brief.

The amendments enable all the provisions relating to extradition from the UK to be applied in cases where the extradition is to a British overseas territory. Clause 178 enables those aspects of part 3 of the Bill—

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which deals with outgoing requests—that apply after extradition to the UK has taken place to be applied to extradition from the UK to a British overseas territory. It does not enable those provisions in part 3 relating to before extradition to the UK has taken place to be applied to extradition from the UK to a British overseas territory. The amendments simply ensure that all the provisions of part 3 apply in cases of extradition from the UK to a British overseas territory.

Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful to the Minister. He is right to say that his fellow Minister wrote to all members of the Committee to explain the provisions. It never ceases to impress me that, even once a Bill has been brought into existence, the Ministers' civil servants in whichever Department is involved continue to keep it under scrutiny just to check the work of the parliamentary draftsmen. We are all grateful that they do so, because otherwise we would need to revise legislation further. It is one of the strengths of our procedure, and I pay tribute to them.

I have always had an interest in how law applies to the British Overseas Territories. The Minister may recall the numerous occasions where I have spoken on Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and other places. I am glad that we are getting this legislation right. I have no objection to the Minister's amendments. It seems sensible that if the part after extradition should apply, then the parts before extradition should also apply.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 110 in page 94, line 12, leave out from second ''to'' to ''to'' in line 13 and insert ''extradition''.—[Mr. Wills.]

Clause 178, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 179

Competing claims to extradition

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

Mr. Hawkins: I seek some clarification from the Minister, because the explanatory notes do not clearly show whether there are any changes from the previous legal position in the arrangement for competing claims to extradition. It is likely that the subjects of competing claims to extradition will be serious villains. Will the Minister tell us whether there are concerns about this area of law? It strikes me that these will be among the most serious extradition cases and there will be particular sensitivities. I understand the proposal in clause 179 and there does not seem to be anything wrong with it. I do not object to it in principle, but I hope that the Minister will confirm my analysis that these cases are likely to be particularly significant. If we are talking about serious villains—as in most extraditions—we need to ensure that the law is right, because if we get such cases wrong, they are likely to lead to multiple appeals. I am conscious of what my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) said about the case of Ramda and the length of time people were able to delay matters before the British courts. We do not want to see any loopholes left.

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Mr. Burnett: I refer the Minister to subsection (3), under which the Secretary of State must take into account various matters. Most of these I can understand; they are clearly based on judicially sound principles:

    ''the relative seriousness of the offences concerned'',

which is obvious; and

    ''the date when the warrant was issued''.

The priority of time is often a legal principle; one is protected by the speed with which one acts. I do not understand the consideration in paragraph (b):

    ''the place where each offence was committed (or was alleged to have been committed)''.

I should like the Minister to explain its relevance as a criterion for the Secretary of State's decision on competing extradition claims. These conflicts are difficult and it is important to specify what details the Secretary of State should take into account in reflecting on these matters and reaching his conclusions.

Mr. Wills: I am grateful to both Opposition spokesmen for raising important issues. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath is right to say that some quite dangerous people may be committing these serious offences, so we must be careful and clear. Competing requests have never been dealt with in law. Until now, it has been purely at the discretion of the Secretary of State. The clause's purpose is precisely to pin down the criteria and the procedures.

The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon asked about the relevance of place. It is quite straightforward: it is to help the Secretary of State to differentiate between an offence committed in the requesting country and one in a third state. ''Place'' is therefore one of the criteria that must be taken into account.

Mr. Hawkins: I am thinking about the question asked by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. In the Pinochet case, the request came from a Spanish magistrate, but related to crimes committed in the native country of Chile. Is that the sort of case that the Minister has in mind?

Mr. Wills: Yes. I do not want to make a judgment about that particular case, but it is precisely what is envisaged in the provision. I hope that the Committee will accept that we are attempting to bring some clarity to the procedure in highly serious cases. As a result of my assurance to both hon. Gentlemen, I hope that the Committee will accept the clause.

Mr. Burnett: The courts will probably reflect on what we say in Committee today with an eye to judicial review. I understand the Minister's difficulties, but could he give us a little more guidance? He is talking about the circumstances in which a requesting country and a third state are involved. One could conceive of having to make a choice between two requesting countries. I do not fully understand where ''place'' enters the picture in the circumstances posited by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, for example, where a Spanish jurisdiction seeks extradition of a Chilean national. I acknowledge that these are sensitive matters, but it is wise for us to attempt to

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tease the problems out and make the law as clear as possible on behalf of judges as well as litigants.

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