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Standing Committee D
Tuesday 21 January 2003
Mr. Edward O'Hara in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Standing Committee recommends that the programme order of 9th December 2002 in relation to the Extradition Bill be amended as follows:-
In paragraph 4 of the order, for ''one hour'' there is substituted ''two hours''.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): As members of the Programming Sub-Committee know, we have agreed to extend the protected time for Third Reading of the Bill from one hour to two hours. I want to place on the record the reasons for that extension. I am delighted that the Government agree with it. We did not have the benefit of the presence of any Liberal Democrat on the Programming Sub-Committee, but took it that their absence connoted consent for what the Government and the official Opposition agreed.
We wanted to extend the time because both the Government and the Opposition feel that this is a slightly unusual Bill. It involves not a huge number, but a certain number of major issues of principle. The fact that the Committee spent four out of nine sittings debating part 1 on those major issues and one whole sitting debating one clause stand part and two new clauses shows where the burden falls. It is not one of those long Bills with a huge number of issues of principle, and Report takes much longer than Third Reading. Some hon. Members on both sides may not have had a chance to catch the Speakers eye on Second Reading, and may want to contribute on the issues of principle and not just on each individual issue on Report. The Government and the Opposition thought that it would be fair to provide an opportunity for more Third Reading speeches of a general nature.
There is a risk that if there are several statements on urgent matters before the House that afternoon, protecting two hours rather than one hour might result in Report being truncated, but the Government have kindly said that they will use their best endeavours to avoid that, and we recognise that that is all they can say to try to protect Report stage so that we can have a substantive debate on the major issues and still have a bit longer for Third Reading. That is the view of Conservative Members, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats do not disagree, or they would have made their point in the Programming Sub-Committee, and the Government are happy with it. That is why we thought it better to protect a little longer, and I have the approval of my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench for saying that.
Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): I did not know that there was a meeting at 2.15 this afternoon, and I regret to say that I was not present for it. However, I am entirely happy that instead of
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one hour we should have two hours for Third Reading, not least because a number of hon. Members may want to contribute. Some serious issues of principle need to be discussed, and the more time, the merrier, if that is appropriate.
The Chairman: I should point out that the hon. Gentleman is not a member of the Programming Sub-Committee.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I was going to encourage the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) to ring his office more often, but I then realised that the problem was not the Liberal Democrats' internal communication. The hon. Gentleman was not invited to the meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee because he is not a member of it. However, his hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) is a member. We kept the proceedings going artificially to try to facilitate the arrival of a Liberal Democrat Member. We have no desire to make decisions behind their backs. We shall use our best endeavours to avoid statements, although we cannot legislate for what might arise on the day, and the Opposition accept that. We may want to curtail the debate, but in the absence of any argument to the contrary, the points made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) appear to be eminently reasonable. We thought that we should accept that reasonable request.
Mr. Hawkins: This may not have been a matter for the Programming Sub-Committee, but I should mention that there has sometimes been a short gap between the end of the Committee stage and the Report stage to suit the Government business managers. I hope that the Minister can reassure us, after receiving any necessary advice from his hon. Friend the Government Whip, that we will not suddenly see the Bill going to Report within a week. There is usually a gap of at least a week, and we ask that that is observed, or preferably increased, to enable us to consult outside organisations before Report.
Mr. Ainsworth: I cannot comment. It is a matter for the usual channels to decide, which I am sure they will. We will be as reasonable as we can, notwithstanding other business pressures that the Government place on us.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): I should, perhaps, make it clear that I was a member of the Programming Sub-Committee and was aware of the change. I expressed certain views this morning, and I am grateful for the offers of assistance. Unfortunately, I had business outwith the House at lunchtime, and was unable to get back in time. I blame the Mayor of London and the current traffic-management fiasco in Trafalgar square. My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon already made the position clear: it is a matter of supreme indifference to us.
Question put and agreed to.
Mr. Hawkins: On a point of order, Mr. O'Hara. When your co-Chairman, Miss Begg, was in the Chair before lunch, I asked on a point of order whether we should press new clauses 7 and 8 to a
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Division then or later as we were running up against the Adjournment. The Clerk advised us that there would be a Division at the end of the sitting, which I accept. However, I want to make it clear that we had had a long debate all morning on clause stand part and new clauses 6, 7 and 8, and we voted against clause 193, because we believe that it should have with it the provisions under our new clauses, not because we disagree with its basis.
I do not want any Minister suddenly to say on Report or on Third Reading that the Conservatives were trying to drive a coach and horses through the Bill and were voting against the national security exemption. I believe that our intentions have been clear during the debates, but it is important to state them for the record. The pressure of time meant that we had to take an instant decision about voting on the clause, and it was logical to vote against it and to try to argue in favour of our new clauses.
The Chairman: The point has been made and is on the record.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster): The clause is short, but contains the innocent-looking word ''reasonable''. I know that the word ''reasonable'' has a legal meaning, and doubtless one of the many of lawyers in the Room will tell me exactly what that is. To me as a layman, it is open to interpretation. Bearing in mind the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, it is important that the word is clarified for the benefit of the police and others who may exercise the powers under the Bill, and for the people who are being extradited.
I shall refer to a briefing paper from the Metropolitan police. One of the key areas of concern was the need for a code of practice in the exercise of their powers. It said:
''These powers are welcomed by the MPS and we acknowledge the considerable value added to the fight against international crime which these powers permit. In the main these are powers with which police officers are familiar and their existing domestic equivalents are well tested within domestic legislation. We note the intention to write a Code of Practice for these extradition powers and we would ask to be involved in that process in order that our experiences to date with similar legislation can be considered.''
I add my support to the request that the police should be consulted on the formation of a code of practice, to ensure that no loopholes remain.
Mr. Hawkins: I agree entirely with the point made by my hon. Friend. Had she not done so, I was planning to refer to the Metropolitan police's helpful brief, but I do not need to repeat what she said merely to endorse it. I look forward to reassuring words from the Minister about codes of practice.
All of us who are lawyers are well aware of discussions about apparently innocent words in short clauses mentioning such issues as ''reasonable force''.
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The definition of what is reasonable is often left for the decision of a court, and thus is a matter of interpretation. I was therefore surprised to see that the clause was as short as it is. Will the Minister tell us whether a longer draft, with more explanation of the clause, was contemplated at any stage? I hope that he will also shed some light on the concerns raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson).
Mr. Ainsworth: Opposition Members will recall that we discussed this matter last week under part 4 of the Bill. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady was present for the discussion, as I know that she has had other Committee duties to juggle during the passage of the Bill.
In the past, it was thought that the police could carry out their functions in the extradition system under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, or by using their common law powers. However, the Rottman case cast doubt on that. In that case it was initially held that the search and seizure powers in PACE applied only to domestic offences and that, since the advent of PACE, the police could no longer rely on their common law powers in that area. Part 4 of the Bill was drafted to ensure that the police have powers in extradition cases that are modelled on those in PACE. It will therefore be clear to everyone concerned that they can use powers in extradition cases that are as near to the PACE powers as is appropriate.
The PACE code of practice C allows for reasonable force to be used if necessary to secure compliance with a reasonable instruction and to prevent escape, injury, damage to property or the destruction of evidence. The Bill incorporates the same ability to use reasonable force as is contained in the PACE codes. ''Reasonable force'' is a well known and understood phrase.
We will be issuing a code of practice and we will consult the police on that, as we consult them on the need to update the PACE codes from time to time. When we draft that code, the ramifications of the mirror powers in the Extradition Bill will also need to be consulted on, if any changes are necessary. The police will be an important part of the decision as to whether such updates or changes are required.