Extradition Bill

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Mr. Burnett: I also look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on situations in which there are concurrent claims for extradition and asylum. Presumably it is envisaged that the extradition proceedings will be closed before the asylum proceedings, but perhaps the Minister will let me have his views on how the provisions will work. We wish to ensure that there is a fair system of adjudication in both areas, that the claims of those who come here as asylum seekers and who are sought for extradition are properly and fairly weighed up, that the necessary civil rights and liberties are accorded to them, and that we do not seek to be moved too fast and too far by the fashion of the moment.

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Mr. Wills: The contributions of the hon. Members for Surrey Heath and for Torridge and West Devon tell us exactly what the clause is designed to do. Of course we must deal with an expeditious disposal of the process. The problems, which I will spell out, are costly, bureaucratic, and deny justice in the fullest sense of the word. Equally, as the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon said, we must balance the rights of the individual, which is what the clause aims to do.

The clause deals with a situation in which someone who is subject to extradition proceedings has claimed asylum but has been refused. Ordinarily, that person can appeal to an adjudicator. The clause replaces that appeal, as reference to section 83 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, with an appeal to the High Court. Under existing legislation, someone who is the subject of an extradition request would be entitled to apply for asylum like anyone else. Refusal of their application would open up several avenues to appeal the decision, which, when added to the various routes of appeal in extradition cases, could lead to a lengthy and complex process that overlaps with and duplicates arguments in court.

The provisions simplify and expedite the process while safeguarding the rights of the individual. The Government are determined that the asylum system should not be abused to delay a person's extradition. At the same time, we must be concerned that no person is deprived of the fundamental right to seek refuge in the face of persecution. Clauses 185 and 186 ensure that the asylum system will not be abused, but that it will not unfairly deprive the individual of their fundamental human rights. We have been invited to go further, which we do not want to do, and risk breaking our obligations under the refugee convention. Taken as a whole, clauses 185 and 39 strike a balance between these two different imperatives.

I hope that I have managed to satisfy both hon. Gentlemen.

Mr. Burnett: I am trying to determine whether an individual who is claiming asylum will have his full rights and entitlement under British law to proceed with his claim, whether he will be able to resist extradition proceedings under the provisions, and whether his rights will not be unnecessarily and unfairly curtailed.

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Mr. Wills: I am sorry if I have not already given the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I sought to make it clear that there will be no unfair and unnecessary curtailment of an individual's fundamental human rights.

Mr. Burnett: Under asylum legislation and extradition legislation.

Mr. Wills: That has been made clear. We are replacing the existing mechanisms with an appeal to the High Court, which is a more expeditious way of dealing with the issue. Otherwise, we would run into the problems about which the hon. Member for Surrey Heath is concerned, as are the Government. The asylum process is in place to protect vulnerable people fleeing persecution. It is not to be abused by people who properly and rightly should be extradited to whatever country to face justice. That is our concern. The asylum system must not be abused, but we must protect the fundamental human rights of any individual. The clause achieves both those objectives.

Clause 185 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 186 to 190 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 191


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

Mr. Hawkins: I was pleased recently to hear the Government announce plans—rather belatedly, in my view—to restrict some of the so-called rights to bail under the Bail Act 1976. Indeed, the Home Secretary spoke about that the other day in relation to other legislation. Will the Minister say something about the interlinking between this legislation and other projected legislation? On Opposition amendments, we have talked about a potential mismatch in thinking in relation to the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, which is in another place. We have sought to expose the Government's lack of logic between that legislation and this measure.

In this instance, I suspect that we are talking about the Criminal Justice Bill. I am told that the Committee considering that Bill will sit for a number of weeks—almost as long as the Committee that considered the Proceeds of Crime Bill last year, on which I served with other members of this Committee. I gather that there are due to be 28 Committee sittings, some of which will be double sittings in the afternoon, with only a quarter of an hour break. If I may say so without going out of order, Mr. O'Hara, that is more of the nonsense that the new hours have brought upon us. I am genuinely concerned about that.

When my party was in government, I spent much time arguing that we needed to amend the Bail Act 1976 because it was one of the least workable pieces of legislation. When I practised at the Bar from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, I found that the Act led to more people being out who should have been in custody, if I may use that shorthand, than any other piece of legislation. It got things completely wrong. The Act was introduced when the previous Labour Government, the Wilson-Callaghan Government,

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were still on their civil liberties kick, which the present Government seem largely to have abandoned.

One thing that went wrong with our criminal justice legislation was the establishment of the so-called right to bail. I believe that, if someone is accused of a criminal offence, particularly a serious one, they have no such right; it is a question of what the state decides is appropriate.

I am always interested when the 1976 Act appears for amendment in other legislation. I remember saying to colleagues when I first studied to be a lawyer—not long after the Act had been implemented—that one reason why I wanted to pursue my interest in politics was to try to do something about the appalling 1976 Act if I ever got into Parliament. That was genuinely one of my motivations for standing for election to this place, which is why I feel so strongly about any amendments that are proposed to that Act.

Did the Minister and his advisers think through the interlinking between these changes and the other things that they are planning to do to restrict the operation of the 1976 Act? I shall be delighted if the Government one day repeal the Act and replace it with something much tougher, in the same way that the Bill replaces previous legislation.

Mr. Burnett: I take it that the hon. Gentleman believes in the presumption of innocence. It is a fundamental tenet of our justice system that someone is innocent until proved guilty and that the burden of proof is beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr. Hawkins: Of course I do. The hon. Gentleman has heard me talk about the presumption of innocence in moving some amendments, but the presumption of innocence is different from a so-called right to bail. The most important function of any criminal justice system is to protect its citizens. If someone had a propensity to commit serious offences, especially if they had a record of having done so on bail, it would go too far for any legislation to refer to a right to bail. It certainly goes much further than the presumption of innocence in which every proper citizen of this country and all legally qualified people should and do believe. Having got that off my chest, I hope that the Minister will address the narrower point of how the change to the Bail Act 1976, which we welcome, will interlink with other current Government proposals. Will he also set out how it differs from the arrangements for bail under the previous extradition legislation?

Mr. Wills: I do not intend to get involved in the argument between the two hon. Gentlemen about the jurisprudential basis for bail, although I assure the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that I listened to him with a great deal of care and attention, perhaps more than his party did when it was in Government. It ignored all his strong views on bail.

I will not get into that discussion because the amendment raises a simple point that does not bear the weight of rhetoric that we heard from the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. The clause simply amends the 1976 Act so that extradition proceedings under the Bill are governed by the bail provisions that apply in other criminal justice proceedings. The hon. Gentleman asked about other Bills that are currently

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passing through the House of Commons. This Bill will bring extradition proceedings in line with other criminal justice proceedings, so if the provisions of bail are altered, so will provisions of extradition.

The amendments to section 4 of the 1976 Act contained in the Bill will extend the presumption in favour of bail to proceedings in extradition cases in which a person is accused of an offence. That presumption does not currently apply—that should answer the hon. Gentleman's question—and the Bill will remove that anomaly by bringing extradition proceedings into line with other criminal proceedings. In conviction cases, the presumption in favour of bail rightly does not apply.

Subsections (7) to (11) will apply when a person has been granted bail in the course of extradition proceedings and will mean that the person is subject to the same liability to arrest as if he or she is granted bail and under a duty to surrender into custody in the course of a criminal case. Therefore, when a person fails to surrender as required, a magistrates court has the power to issue a warrant for his or her arrest. In addition, if there is reason to believe that the person is likely to break bail conditions or fail to surrender, he or she may be arrested without warrant by a constable.

All that we are doing is bringing extradition in line with domestic proceedings, and I hope that, on the basis of that explanation, hon. Members will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

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