Extradition Bill

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Mr. Hawkins: Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that we are seeing more and more of these Henry VIII clauses in more and more Bills? If the Government simply adopt a Henry VIII clause mentality on every Bill—

The Chairman: Order. We are considering the Extradition Bill.

Mr. Carmichael: I have a great deal of sympathy for the sentiments that the hon. Gentleman expresses. Of course, one can refer only to the clause as it is drafted, but it is legitimate that we all express some disappointment in the Minister. I am not angry with him, simply a little sad and disappointed that he should seek to usurp the proper functions of Parliament.

3.15 pm

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman says that he is disappointed in the Minister, but we should bear it in mind that it is not necessarily this Minister's fault. He may have been immortalised on celluloid as the aggressive Whip in ''The Project'', with fellow former Labour Whips accusing him of being a bully, but I cannot believe that of him. I suspect that he is an old softy at heart, and that it is those behind him—the forces of darkness, about whom we have read so much—who are responsible.

The Chairman: Order. The clause has nothing to do with whether the Minister is soft or hard.

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Mr. Carmichael: I can add nothing that would be in order. I conclude my remarks.

Mr. Ainsworth: The attempts of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland to heal the rift that has opened up in his party are fairly transparent. He tries his best to row in behind his hon. Friend, but instead of using the scolding language of the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon, his remarks are so reasonable that he completely undermines what he is trying to do.

Mr. Burnett: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth: No. I would be out of order if I were to do so, and the hon. Gentleman would be out of order regardless of what he said. We should get on with discussing the substance of the debate, although I know that that is a dreadful imposition and undermining of parliamentary democracy.

The clause allows the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965 and the Extradition Act 1989 to be amended or repealed by an Order in Council, as we will need to get rid of our existing legislation once the new arrangements for dealing with extradition requests are in place. I realise that there has been criticism of our taking powers to repeal the existing legislation by order rather than repealing them under the Bill. I acknowledge that the Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committee—and initially the Joint Committee on Human Rights—expressed concerns about the matter, and that the Home Affairs Committee report suggested that the clause should be deleted and that the Bill should include a provision to repeal the Acts.

I take the opportunity to explain why we drafted the clause in this way. The provisions and procedures will replace the existing legislation—

Mr. Hawkins: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ainsworth: I want to put this on the record so that the hon. Gentleman will see what draconian measures I am introducing, and what I am not introducing! We clearly intend to repeal the 1989 and 1965 Acts—

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon did not refer to the final paragraph of the Select Committee's report, which relates to warrants to and from the Republic of Ireland. Will the Minister also deal briefly with the Select Committee's final recommendation 29, which states that

    ''central statistics on extraditions to and from the Republic should henceforward be maintained''?

That is relevant to one of the Acts, and it would be helpful if the Minister could confirm that that will be done. It is a small point, but one that the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon did not mention.

Mr. Ainsworth: Yes, it would be helpful, and we intend positively to respond to that point, just to prove that we do not ignore everything that Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committees recommend, if for no other reason.

The important substantive issue was misunderstood in the scolding that I received from the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. He will obviously vote

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against the clause if I do not manage to satisfy him. When the Bill receives Royal Assent and is enacted, there will still be a number of outstanding extradition cases that will be governed by the 1989 Act. It will therefore be necessary to keep the new and the current systems operating in tandem until every extradition request that has been started under the existing procedures or the backing of warrants legislation has reached its completion. Once that has happened, the 1989 and the 1965 Acts will be repealed in their entirety. I am sure that hon. Members will understand that it is not possible to predict when will then happen. It therefore seems reasonable to repeal those Acts by Order in Council.

As I have explained, the Joint Committee on Human Rights questioned us about the matter, and considered our explanation. I heard the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland and for Lewes (Norman Baker) talk extensively about the weight that they give to the Joint Committee, whereas the hon. Members for Surrey Heath and for Torridge and West Devon do not seem to be that bothered about human rights.

Mr. Burnett: The Minister cannot get away with that. Does he not recall that, in one of the first amendments that we discussed, I sought to incorporate in the definitions of any country to be classified as category 1 that such a country should be, among other things, a signatory to the European convention on human rights?

Mr. Ainsworth: I am glad to have lured the hon. Gentleman out on that. I hope that his commitment to human rights is complete and absolute and that his support for the Joint Committee is as substantial as that of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland.

We were questioned at length by the Joint Committee, and that Committee's conclusion is contained in the ''Scrutiny of Bills: Progress Report'', which was published on 20 December. I quote from paragraph 60 on page 21 of that report:

    ''On the relationship between the Bill and the Extradition Act 1989, we were told that the 1989 Act would be repealed in its entirety, together with the Backing of Warrants Act 1965. However, this cannot be done until the last cases to be brought under the Act have been finally disposed of. The power to repeal by Order will be used to repeal the earlier legislation when that time comes. In our view''—

that is the view of the Joint Committee, on which I believe that the Liberal Democrats are represented, in which they play a full part, and in which the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon has great confidence—

    ''this is a satisfactory explanation of the power.''

I would hope that at least some weight would be given to the considered view of the Joint Committee by the hon. Members who are members of the Home Affairs Committee—a Labour-dominated Select Committee—and that this Committee will also give some weight to those views. I therefore hope also that any further scolding that I receive from the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon will be toned down.

If there is another approach that does not present any problems, being the reasonable man that I am—not the one that is portrayed in a disgraceful television

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programme—I will consider it. I do not think that Opposition Members want those who have been in the queue for extradition for a long time to be able to escape justice. We need the powers to run in tandem and to continue for an indefinable period until all the cases have been disposed of. Having considered the matter, it seems to me, and to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, that what we propose is a sensible way forward; the measures will removed in their entirety at the appropriate time. I hope that that will soften the assault from Opposition Members, and that they will withdraw their scandalous remarks and support the proposal, unless they can offer an alternative, to which I shall give due consideration.

Mr. Carmichael: It is proper that the Joint Committee on Human Rights should have regard to the provision from a human rights perspective, but the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon and others is more far-reaching than that. It is a fundamental constitutional principle that primary legislation should not be amended by secondary legislation other than in the most exceptional circumstances. That goes beyond human rights considerations, and it would fall only narrowly within the ambit of debate in the Joint Committee. The proposal is not the trump card that the Minister seems to think it is.

It is possible for the Bill to include a proposal to repeal the relevant measures. I am no draftsman, but I believe that it could be done by the construction of a schedule, which could be brought into force at a later date by a separate commencement order.

Mr. Ainsworth: I was not using the Joint Committee on Human Rights as the only trump card; I was using it to damp down Liberal Democrats' outrage about the powers. If the Joint Committee shared that outrage, it would have said so clearly in its report on 20 December. I am happy to consider hon. Members' suggestions if they do not create major problems or introduce loopholes that would prevent our taking the appropriate action against those who are currently in the system. It should be acknowledged that we are discussing exceptional circumstances that might justify withdrawing primary legislation by secondary legislation. However, I do not want to impose on Parliament a ludicrous procedure that does not make sense, nor do I want to provide loopholes that enable people to escape due process and justice. If another way cannot be found, I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept that these are exactly the exceptional circumstances that justify primary legislation being withdrawn by secondary legislation.

The hon. Gentleman appears to be happy to do that if we can satisfy him that there is not another way. Everyone knows what principle I am talking about, and if the great minds in the other place or anywhere else can come up with a proposal I will be happy to consider it. I do not have a closed mind on the matter. I hope that we can proceed, without allegations of unconstitutional practice, to try to find a sensible way to bring the old arrangements to a conclusion and the new ones into being.

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