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Session 2003 - 04
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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Extradition Act (Designation of Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 Territories) and Draft Extradition Act 2003 (Police Power: Code of Practice) Order 2003

Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Monday 15 December 2003

[Mr. Mike Hancock in the Chair]

Draft Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 1 Territories) Order 2003

4.30 pm

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Hancock. Before we start the debate on the orders, I want to draw your attention and that of the Committee to a concern that I have, and that I have raised in relation to the Home Office when we have considered previous statutory instruments. There are many papers that it is crucial for Committee members to see. It is also crucial that hon. Members of all parties—particularly those who have been chosen to serve on Committees—are properly notified when the Committees will take place. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) and I did not receive the cards that indicated that this Committee was sitting. However, as a shadow Minister, I was notified last Wednesday. I am concerned if, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, the cards notifying hon. Members about Committee sittings are not going out.

A further, more substantial problem—for which I do not blame the Minister— concerns me because it seems to happen repeatedly with Home Office matters, and this is the third or fourth time it has happened. Before the hon. Lady became a Minister, the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), then a Home Office Minister, had to respond to a number of debates for which we did not receive complete sets of papers.

I was notified last Wednesday that these orders would be debated and, because I had served when the Extradition Act 2003 went through its stages in the House, I am the shadow Minister dealing with them. I therefore contacted the Vote Office and other parts of the House to try to get a full set of papers. I was given what the Vote Office believed to be a full set, but it contained only three of the four orders. The missing one was probably the most controversial of the four given what appears in the media today on the subject. I refer to the part 2 order. I have made the point before that an incomplete set of papers is almost worse than no set at all, but I was not able to get all four orders from the Vote Office until today. It struck me as strange, and most unfortunate, that we did not have all the papers together. The Government should take responsibility for that.

Because the problem has happened on several previous occasions, I want to put these points on the record. I ask the Government, all Ministers and officials to ensure that when sets of papers—particularly those relating to four orders to be taken together—go to the Vote Office to be distributed to

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Committee members and shadow spokespeople, there should be all or none of them. We do not want incomplete sets to go out.

I do not know where the fault lies, but it is important for the good governance of the House that both the issues that I have raised should be addressed. Every hon. Member who is to serve on a Committee such as this should know that he or she will serve on it and they should also be able to obtain a full set of papers. At this time of year, the Government should consider a longer time scale when scheduling such Committees as part of the business of the House, rather than trying to rush them through before the House rises for Christmas. I suspect that the short time between the Government's decision to hold this Committee today and the date of its sitting has led to both problems.

The Chairman: The notification cards that are sent out are the responsibility of the Committee of Selection, so the Minister need not worry about that point. However, I believe that the cards were sent out on Thursday, and that is far too late. We should therefore address the matter. It is completely unacceptable, and unfair to the Committee—particularly just before Christmas—to send out cards for a sitting only three working days in advance. I hope that no hon. Members are absent simply because they did not receive their cards in time. The record should clearly show the Committee's disappointment that this has occurred. I shall leave the question of the papers to the Minister.

Lords Commissioner to the Treasury (Mr. John Heppell): I am a member of the Committee of Selection, and the normal process for selecting Members was carried out. There was no rush before Christmas; nothing was different. In many respects, it is the responsibility of my office and the Opposition and Liberal Whips Offices to inform their Members who is sitting on a Committee. Indeed, they should have informed them before attending the Committee of Selection. The problem is no reflection on the Minister or the Department.

If I am wrong, Mr. Hancock, I shall apologise, but I understand that all four orders were deposited in the Vote Office at the same time. There may have been an administrative mix up, but if it is the fault of the Home Office, we shall try to ensure that it does not happen again. I undertake to look into the matter and report to my colleagues on the Opposition Benches. I intend to ensure that this will not happen again.

The Chairman: I am grateful for that helpful comment, and I hope that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) will accept it.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Hancock. I am grateful that the matter has been raised because, like others, I did not receive a card. When hon. Members are notified late, it would also be a helpful courtesy to tell them in which Room the sitting is to take place. It has taken me a little while to discover that we would be in this Room, as I wished also to hear the Prime Minister's statement, which did not finish until 4.30 pm.

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The Chairman: Does anyone else wish clear the air? I do not want anyone to feel that they have not had the chance to have their say.

Mr. Hawkins: Further to that point of order, Mr. Hancock. I, too, am grateful to the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell). However, I take seriously what you said—that as a Member of the Chairmen's Panel, you take the view that Thursday is too late for cards to be sent out, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. You might want to refer the matter to the Chairmen's Panel, because if the hon. Gentleman right to say that this is normal practice, we will clearly face the problem again.

I know that a number of your fellow Chairmen have expressed similar views. The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) and other members of the Chairmen's Panel have expressed similar concerns in Committee when such problems have arisen—when Home Office papers were not complete or had not been delivered to Members. Indeed, he once suspended a Committee because the papers had not been properly provided. I am happy to leave the matter in your hands, Mr. Hancock, as a member of the Chairmen's Panel.

The Chairman: I am grateful for those comments. I am also grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the courtesy of giving me some forewarning of his point of order.

4.37 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 1 Territories) Order 2003.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient also to consider the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 2 Territories) Order 2003, the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Part 3 Designation) Order 2003 and the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Police Powers: Code of Practice) Order 2003.

I remind the Committee that even though we are taking the orders together, hon. Members can vote on them separately should they wish.

Caroline Flint: Although we are on the run-down to the Christmas break, these are working days for Parliament. Press criticism may reflect the reluctance of some Opposition Members, perhaps including the shadow Minister responsible for Home Affairs, to work in the lead-up to Christmas. The Government are taking every opportunity to do the best that they can to ensure that legislation is dealt with properly, regardless of the number of invitations that might be received as part of the Christmas spirit.

The Chairman: Order. The Minister should stick to the business of the Committee.

Caroline Flint: I do not think that many controversial issues are contained in the orders, except for one that came up during the discussion in the House on the Extradition Act 2003 and that has also

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been raised in debates elsewhere. That exception is the designation of the United States. I will come to that towards the end of my remarks.

As my colleagues will be aware, the Extradition Act 2003 received Royal Assent on the last day of the previous parliamentary Session. It underwent intense scrutiny both in this House and in the other place. I hope that we can avoid going over the arguments of principle again. The Committee is concerned with the secondary legislation required to bring the Act into force. Our aim is to bring it into force from 1 January 2004, which will enable us, inter alia, to comply with our obligations under the framework decision on the European arrest warrant.

The first two orders are concerned with the designation of the UK's extradition partners. The first order deals with those countries that are designated under part 1 of the Act—those countries that will be operating the European arrest warrant from 1 January 2004. It contains seven names, rather than the 14 that might have been expected. Those seven countries are the countries that have confirmed that they will be able to operate the European arrest warrant from the start of next year. All but one of the seven European Union countries that are going to miss the deadline have indicated that they expect to be up and running within the first few months of next year. We have put those countries that are able to operate the European arrest warrant from the first day of next year into category 1. The remaining EU countries will be designated as category 2 countries and moved into category 1 at the point at which they begin operating the EAW.

As well as those EU member states that are not yet ready to operate the European arrest warrant, the second order designates all our remaining extradition partners as category 2 partners. Every country with which we currently have general extradition relations is being re-designated.

The third order designates those people who can apply to a UK magistrate for an outgoing European arrest warrant. The police and a procurator fiscal are catered for on the face of the Act, and we are also giving that facility to the Crown Prosecution Service, the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and the Serious Fraud Office.

The final order brings into force the codes of practice governing the exercise of police powers in extradition cases. The powers are closely modelled on those in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, although the necessary modifications have been made to reflect the fact that the police are not actually investigating the offence. As in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, there is a requirement to produce codes of practice and those are set out in the order. We put them out for consultation over the summer. We are grateful to all those who took the trouble to respond, and many of the comments have been incorporated into the final version.


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Prepared 15 December 2003