Extradition Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I wonder whether he is being a little too alarmist about the effect of foreign policemen coming to these shores. I watched a programme with my children the other night in which Inspector Clouseau was allowed to come here with no judicial authority whatever to investigate important crimes with the co-operation of the Government, so that seems to have been well tested—[Interruption.]

Mr. Hawkins: As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster says from a sedentary position, that sounds like a dangerous precedent. The last thing that we want is for Inspector Clouseau to come out of the realms of fiction and into fact.

Despite this levity, I am making a serious point, which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset made on Second Reading. My noble Friend Baroness Anelay of St Johns proposed a provision in Committee in another place on the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill that would require this Bill to be compatible with that one. We do not want two pieces of legislation going their separate ways without referring to each other, so that we make it clear to those who follow our proceedings and the public that we are alive to what the Government are really up to. We think that that has serious implications and we want new clause 4 in the Bill.

I can deal with new clause 5 much more briefly. We are talking about big changes in extradition law; even the Minister accepted that. The framework decision introduces 32 new categories and corpus juris, as we have said. The part 1 provisions are very significant. Concerns have been expressed by a range of organisations, from Liberty and Justice, which are traditionally regarded as on the left of politics, through the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, who are in the centre, one way or another, to the Freedom Association and the Democracy Movement, which are on the right of politics. The fact that all those organisations and parties express concerns shows that the changes that the Bill makes to extradition law should be kept under review by Parliament.

Column Number: 20

The framework decision makes such major changes, especially in respect of part 1 countries—as I think the Minister accepts when he is being frank—that there should be a report to Parliament by the Secretary of State on how all that is working. If the Minister chooses to adopt that proposal, he could say that it is part of the Government's modernising agenda. I am normally the bitterest opponent of anything called modernisation; I am a traditionalist. I believe that when the Conservative party returns to its rightful place in government, we should have a Traditionalisation Committee, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), whose mandate is to reverse each and every one of the so-called modernisations that this Government have introduced.

Despite that, I would like to think that the Government would give a fair wind to the idea of keeping the legislation under review. That is a serious point; I do not say any more than that.

Mr. Ainsworth: We should have a public inquiry into the problem of all these foreigners who are infiltrating our political system. Apparently they have been doing so for some time, and it is not just the Labour party that is responsible.—[Interruption.] I understand that Bonar Law was a Canadian, yet the Conservative party allowed him to climb to the very heights. God knows what damage he did to the British parliamentary system as a foreigner with his hands on the levers of power, courtesy of the Conservative party. So that sort of thing has been going on for some time, and is very dangerous indeed.

Whatever we do, we are scolded by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. Both Bills are in Parliament at the same time. We have obligations that we have entered into that we must try to enact in a reasonable period of time. However, the Government wanted to ensure that both Bills went into Parliament at the same time so that nothing would be hidden.

If we had delayed the Extradition Bill until we had dealt with the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath would have stood up and said that we were doing it in that way because there was another train coming along the track that would be far worse, and would have serious ramifications. If we had done it the other way round, he would have suggested that the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill would contain some appalling measures of which he had not yet had sight.

Both Bills are published, both are in Parliament and both can be scrutinised at the same time. There is nothing hidden, as the hon. Gentleman tried to imply. I reiterate once again the cast-iron, copper-bottomed commitment that we have repeatedly tried to give.

Mr. Hawkins: It cannot be cast iron and copper bottomed. That is a mixture of metals.

Mr. Ainsworth: If the hon. Gentleman can expostulate on the centripetality of the issues, I can do what I like.

The Government have no plans to designate anyone other than a British law enforcement officer to execute warrants under the Bill. Arrests will be carried out

Column Number: 21

only by British police officers, by British law enforcement officers such as members of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, or by members of the services' police forces. My hon. Friends and I have made that clear repeatedly.

Unlike the corresponding powers enacted by the Conservative Government, we are giving Parliament the fullest possible say in the matter. No one other than a constable will be able to execute a European arrest warrant unless there has been a positive vote in both Houses of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman has no grounds for his suspicions.

Under clause 83 of the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is amended with a new clause 76A. That new clause states:

    ''This section applies where—

    (a) a foreign police or customs officer is carrying out relevant surveillance outside the UK which is lawful under the law of the country or territory in which it is being carried out;

    (b) circumstances arise by virtue of which the surveillance can for the time being be carried out only in the United Kingdom; and

    (c) it is not reasonably practicable in those circumstances to request a person in the United Kingdom to apply for an authorisation under Part 2, or the corresponding Scottish legislation, for the carrying out of surveillance.''

That is a clear statement, which concerns surveillance in very limited circumstances, and does not cover stop and search, seizure or arrest. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have tried repeatedly to raise a scare that this is the thin end of a wedge that will give powers to foreign police officers to operate within our country. All such powers, where they are sensible and operate at the margin, will be scrutinised by Parliament. If Parliament comes to the conclusion, in the case of the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, that it is unreasonable to allow foreign surveillance to continue for a short period of time to affect a changeover, Parliament can strike that down. If Parliament chose to do that it would not have the support of the police, as they think these powers are eminently sensible and necessary. They enable them to pursue criminals who escape across jurisdictions and to co-operate with our European partners. They are limited powers. The Bill is before Parliament and available for scrutiny. Nothing has been hidden. The hon. Gentleman should not have suggested that it had.

Mr. Carmichael: The Minister has restricted his remarks almost entirely to new clause 4. We gained an interesting insight into the workings of a Conservative Front-Bench Member's mind as to what constituted the thin end of the wedge. Although it was a fascinating exposition, some substantive points were made on new clause 5 which I thought had some merit. I should be grateful if the Minister could address them.

Mr. Hawkins: I was waiting to see whether the Minister would respond to the hon. Gentleman. I was going to say that he not responded to me either.

Column Number: 22

Mr. Ainsworth: I got a bit carried away in my enthusiasm to knock down the hon. Gentleman's outrageous allegation.

New clause 5 would require the Secretary of State to produce an annual report to Parliament on the operation of the Bill. Given that we do not believe that the Secretary of State should perform the roles assigned to him by some of the amendments, it will not surprise the Committee to know that I do not share the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for his new clause. Home Office Ministers are and will remain accountable to Parliament. They are obliged to answer parliamentary questions on the operation of our extradition legislation and on every other part of their responsibilities.

It is not necessary to go further and to add a requirement to give an annual report to Parliament on the operation of extradition procedures. There is no need for a formal annual report. Annual reports on the operation of legislation are not a common feature. There is no such requirement in relation to our existing extradition arrangements. Why should the Bill warrant such treatment? The Opposition would probably reply that it is a radical departure.

Mr. Carmichael: The Minister provides my response. Is it not therefore appropriate, as we have an exceptional measure in the Bill, to have an exceptional measure to monitor it and to report back to Parliament?

Mr. Ainsworth: It is a clear change from what has gone before. Most Acts of Parliament are. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath repeatedly complains—occasionally a Liberal Democrat will join in—that this is draconian legislation, but that does not prove that it is. What they are calling for is unusual. The Bill will be subject to the same ongoing scrutiny as other legislation. Home Office Ministers will be accountable to Parliament in the usual way. I see no justification for an annual report.

 
Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index


©Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 21 January 2003