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Mark Durkan: I encourage the Minister in that flexibility. The only effect of the provisions as they stand would be that Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist party would have an absolute lock on the appointment of policing and justice Ministers. If d'Hondt is not used, only Sinn Fein and the DUP, through the office of the First and Deputy First Minister, will have control of nominations. If the Minister relies only on the parallel consent form of approval, Sinn Fein and the DUP alone will control the election to those postshardly the spirit of inclusion, with no side deals and prior agreements, about which we are being told.
I understand the Assembly's desire to choose the method it wants, or that the Government should specify both methods. We have chosen 50:50:50 because we recognise that there is a correspondence, in a general sense, with the posts of First Minister and Deputy First Minister but, as I said to the hon. Member for Solihull, I am relatively flexible about the matter.
If it is helpful to the hon. Lady, I shall be happy to reflect on the proposal and discuss with the political parties whether they want to consider an alternative method. If she pushes the amendment to a vote, I shall have to ask my hon. Friends to reject it, but if she withdraws it I shall reflect on what has been said, which will be subject to discussion on another day in another place.
I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment and I am sure that other hon. Members will also support it. We have moved on to the very interesting and vexed issue of extradition. Of course, I say "vexed issue", because if we had had easier and more co-operative procedures between the Republic of Ireland and America in the past, we might not have had such difficulty with the ghastly, horrible measure referred to as the OTRson-the-runslegislation. However, that has now been withdrawn, and we are where we are.
"make provision amending . . . the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003; or . . . the Extradition Act 2003, for the purpose of transferring to a Minister or a Northern Ireland department, with effect from any date specified in the Order, any relevant function under the Act."
Under that drafting, whether we like it or not, the Government may transfer extradition functions to the Assembly. The purpose of the amendment is to include the requirement that no such recommendation will be made by Order in Council
for once this afternoon, I hope that the Liberal Democrat spokesperson will support the amendment, because it refers to cross-community supporta resolution praying that extradition be transferred to a Department or Minister.
Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way so early in her argument. I want to reassure her that the Government's intention is not to transfer and devolve extradition legislation and policy to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The clause deals with the devolution of certain administrative functions in the exercise of a UK-wide extradition legislation policy.
Mr. Hanson: I am sorry that the hon. Lady found my explanation as clear as mud. It was meant to be helpful to her. UK extradition policy remains a UK responsibility. Legislation remains a matter for the House. The policy will be the same in Belfast as it is in north Wales, Liverpool and elsewhere in the UK. Certain administrative functions that relate to a range of matters that are currently devolved to the Assembly may be devolved under the Bill to help the administration of that legislation, but not to change the legislation itself.
Given that extradition policy will remain primarily or exclusively a matter for Westminster, that the United Kingdom will be treated as a whole and that no special
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arrangements will prevail in Northern Ireland, I wonder what negotiations have taken place and what efforts have been made by the Government to ensure the full implementation of the new extradition arrangements between America and the United Kingdom as a whole that were agreed between the Prime Minister and President Bush in March 2003.
Following the appalling events in New York and the massive loss of life in 2001, a new arrangement was made between the British and American Governments that extradition procedures would be changed, so that a prima facie case did not have to be made either in the British courts by the Americans. Likewise, the reciprocal basis should be that the British Government need not make a prima facie case before an American court to extradite an individual.
Since the Minister has assured us that extradition remains primarily or exclusively a matter for Parliament in London, will he enlighten us about why the Irish-American lobby in America, vast as it is, has been able to prevail on the American Government to ensure that the reciprocal part of the arrangement entered into in March 2003 has not been implemented in America, whereas the British Government have honourably implemented their part of the arrangement?
Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising the matter. I hope that my muddy explanation helped, at least in part. As I have said to her, the Government believe that it is important to maintain a single legislative framework for international co-operation between criminal justice agencies and for extradition arrangements throughout the United Kingdom. For that reason and for the reason that I mentioned in my intervention, the provision does not transfer any legislative competence from this House to the Northern Ireland Assembly for these matters of extradition. Nor do we intend to do so in any future devolution under section 4(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
Instead, the provision is in place to allow Northern Ireland Ministers to assume direct responsibility for those administrative functions that fall directly within their control and which they are best placed to carry out. It may be helpful if I give the hon. Lady an example in relation to Scotland, where criminal justice and policing are the devolved responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Under the Extradition Act 2003, a guarantee may be needed about the future treatment in custody of an individual being extradited to the UK jurisdiction. In England and Wales, that guarantee will currently be given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on behalf of the British Government. In Scotland, because justice matters are devolved and the Scottish Parliament has taken responsibility for them, it will have to be responsible for any guarantees. At the point in the future when the Northern Ireland Assembly assumes responsibility for criminal justice and policing, there may be areas of administration where guarantees are required under legislation and a British Government Home Secretary cannot not give them because, for example, the Court Service and the Prison Service are devolved matters in Northern Ireland.
The legislation framework is a UK framework, which I think is the point that the hon. Lady is most concerned about. That will remain paramount and that is the responsibility of this House, for the United Kingdom as
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a whole, under its international obligations. However, as now happens in Scotland, the administration of certain aspects of the implementation or operation of the legislation will be the responsibility of the devolved Administration. The purpose of clause 21 is to allow the administrative functions that can be transferred to be transferred, where it is appropriate to do soat the moment, I do not know all the details of when that might be. When the functions are entitled to be transferred, the Bill will give us the power to do that, without diluting in any way, shape or form the UK responsibility for extradition and for those matters that the hon. Lady remains concerned about.
The hon. Lady mentioned the extradition treaty, which, as she said, is not yet in force. Some of its provisions were given effect in UK legislation by the Extradition Act 2003, which came into force on 1 January 2004. For the treaty to come into effect, it needs to secure the advice and consent of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As a Government, we are urging very strongly that that be considered at the earliest opportunity. Obviously, she will understand that it is not within my gift to ensure that a separate legislature, particularly in America, can agree that matter very quickly, but it is the Government's certain intention to ensure that the treaty comes into effect. Once the United States and the United Kingdom have exchanged the instruments of ratification, the treaty will come into force. I hope that that will happen as soon as possible. I hope that I can reassure the hon. Lady by saying that it is the Government's intention to make sure that it does. She will know that, in this House, Select Committees take their time to examine issues. The same thing happens in the United States Senate, but I am confident that this matter will be resolved speedily and I hope that that reassures her on both counts.
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