Extradition Bill

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Mr. Wills: I am happy to be teased by the hon. Gentleman as long as he wishes to continue, but he is slightly missing the point. He is trying to pin me down to a hierarchy of considerations. I refer him to the clear wording of subsection (3), where

    ''the Secretary of State must take account of these matters''.

It is left to the Secretary of State's discretion to weigh them up in the particular circumstances of each case. I will refrain from passing judgment on a particular case. We are trying to introduce clarity into delicate and sensitive cases that might be subject to protracted legal proceedings. If judicial review is relevant, the Secretary of State will have to take into account the considerations specified in the clause. It would be inappropriate to pin it down more firmly than that. It slightly misses the point and purpose of the clause.

3.45 pm

Mr. Hawkins: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am glad that I asked whether this was new law. For once the answer was yes, which emphasises how seriously we need to look at competing claims. I understand entirely the points made by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. There is a more general point to which the Minister may not want to respond today. I hope that he and those who advise him will bear this in mind.

In this new era of pre-legislative scrutiny it would be helpful if the explanatory notes were a little more clear. Opposition parties and outside organisations do not have armies of civil servants. When we are talking about complex legislation, it would assist us if the explanatory notes indicated when a clause was a restatement of the law and when, as here, it was a new provision they pointed that out and explained why.

I do not criticise the explanatory notes at all. I would not want the Minister to think that. It is helpful to have explanatory notes but my suggestion would be a useful addition to them. I do not expect the Minister to be able to give an undertaking to do that, but I put it on the record now, as this is an example where it would be terribly helpful to have that distinction made. This is one of the rare occasions when I have asked the question and not been told that this is what has always happened.

I understand that the Minister is trying to be as helpful as he can. He does not want to lay down a precise hierarchy, but I do not want to resile from the importance of the points made by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. I agree with them. The Government may wish to look carefully at this. The matter might be explored again in another place. There may be experts on extradition who want to contribute to the debate. It has been a useful little debate. I am glad that I was able to tease some more detail out of the Minister.

Mr. Burnett: I am not surprised to have received the reply that I got from the Minister. As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said, it is likely that the

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matter will be probed rather more in another place. It is fair for judges and litigants to know exactly where they stand, the weight to be given to these different conditions and criteria and the reasons for them. I heard what the Minister said. We might revisit this at a later stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 179 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 180 and 181 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 182

Grant of free legal aid: Northern Ireland

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No.172, in

    clause 182, page 96, line 9, at end insert

    'to which the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 apply.'.

I am indebted once again to the Law Society of Scotland for alerting us to the issue here. I should like to put on the record my thanks not only to the Law Society of Scotland, but to other organisations for keeping an eye on what is happening in our proceedings. As recently as yesterday morning I received a further note from Mr. Michael Clancy, the very helpful director of the Law Society of Scotland, saying that it had received some reassurances from the Home Office. He has also received confirmation from the Scottish Executive that the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 will be amended in the light of the passage of the Bill, if it is passed.

In other words, the Law Society of Scotland persuaded us to table an amendment, which was then selected for debate. As a result, there has been further scrutiny of the matter, and the Scottish Executive have now been able to reassure the Law Society of Scotland that the necessary change will be made to the regulations, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that on the record. That shows the advantage of tabling amendments and has been a good example of the system working properly. I wanted to pay tribute to the Law Society of Scotland on not only originally identifying the point, but keeping me up to date with the progress.

Mr. Burnett: It is important that our legislation is correct and that all parts of the United Kingdom take a part in its framing and completion. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath is right—we are all grateful to the Law Society of Scotland for its efforts.

I want to put one point on the record on legal aid, which is effectively straying to clauses 183 and 184, as well as 182, but I seek only—

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman should stick only to the terms of amendment No. 172, which refers to the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payment) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002.

Mr. Burnett: In that case, I shall leave some of my comments until later. However, will the Minister confirm that in Scotland full legal aid will be available for the necessary representation of individuals throughout proceedings in extradition

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cases, including not only legal representation, but interpretation?

Mr. Wills: I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

I was not sure whether the hon. Member for Surrey Heath already said that he would withdraw the amendment, but I will not surprise him by inviting him shortly to do so. I think that he can guess why, and there are two grounds. First, I am concerned that the amendment would change the arrangements for legal aid in Scotland, which is a devolved function and responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Any such changes should be left to Edinburgh and its Committees. Having said that, the hon. Gentleman's understanding is correct. Scottish Executive officials, to whom he referred, have said to the Law Society of Scotland that proceedings under the Bill will be exempt, and when the Bill comes into effect, the necessary regulations will be amended in the Scottish Parliament. I understand that the Scottish Executive have already given a commitment to make the changes, so there is nothing between us.

Secondly, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the amendment is technically flawed as well, as it refers to regulations rather than primary legislation. As we know, regulations have a habit of changing titles, often simply because of consolidation, and it would be impractical for the House to amend the legislation every time that the Scottish Parliament approved a new system of fixed payment regulations. The amendment also refers to amendment regulations rather than the main regulations, which are the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 1999.

I hope that on the basis of that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hawkins: I am entirely happy with that. The Minister has confirmed the position. I moved the amendment to get that on record, and I thought that it was important to pay tribute to Mr. Clancy. I understand the Minister's point about the amendment's technical deficiency, but he will understand that we tabled it in the terms that were given to us by the Law Society of Scotland. It has been helpful to have that, and if we had not tabled the amendment, the Scottish Executive officials may not have been able to deal with it. We have achieved the objective and there is nothing between us, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 182 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 183 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 184

Free legal aid: supplementary

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

Mr. Burnett: I have the Minister's confirmation that full legal aid will be available for all extradition proceedings in Scotland, which will include the costs of providing an interpreter or interpreters. I hope that the

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Minister will give me the same confirmation with regard to Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

Mr. Hawkins: I was not going to detain the Committee by calling a stand part debate, but since the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon has raised a different point I shall ask a question. I am curious as to why the two subsections (2)(b) and (4) are printed in italics. Perhaps it is a peculiarity of the printing. Can the Minister shed any light on that?

Mr. Wills: I cannot shed any immediate light on why those subsections are printed in italics. I hope to be able to do so shortly—in fact I find that I am able to do so now. I am reliably informed that they must be printed in italics until the money resolution is passed. I am sure that many of us will have been enlightened by that.

I am happy to give the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon the assurances he requires, although I should point out that the clause refers to Northern Ireland.

Having given those responses, I hope that the clause can stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 184 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 185

Asylum appeal to High Court

where extradition ordered

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

Mr. Hawkins: I am seeking reassurance from the Minister on a point that applies to both clauses 185 and 186, so perhaps he could deal with them together.

I was not sure whether the hon. Member for Doncaster, North was rising in his seat to try to catch my eye to intervene, but perhaps not. Given that he was so helpful last time he intervened, supporting our side and not his own, I live in hope.

We are concerned, and I know that the Government are also concerned, that there will be no slowing down of extradition, and that people will be able to appeal at every stage. I refer to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon about the length of appeals, and the length of time spent in the courts delaying the extradition of someone who should have been dealt with years ago by the courts of France. I want to ensure that the Government felt that they were toughening up the legislation sufficiently. Certainly I know that the Minister, unlike his fellow Minister, will not be able to accuse the Opposition this time of trying to water down the provisions. We are asking whether this legislation is tough enough, and whether there is still a danger that people will be able to slow things down by concurrently running asylum claims and trying to battle against extradition.

I suspect that this may be an area in which the law is new, and therefore differs from the previous extradition legislation. In this brief stand part debate, will the Minister speak about those matters in relation to this clause and to clause 186, so that I need not raise the same point again on the next clause?

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