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The fact is that the Government are not taken seriously because they are lousy at negotiating. They give away their position up front and do not retain any cards to play at the end of the game when things get difficult. That is what has happened in this case. The Minister is new to the job and I ask him to think
seriously about the points that have been made. I hope that he is listening, because I do not think that this is a party political issue.
Mr. Maples: I am sorry. I was looking at the wrong Minister. Perhaps she is not so new to the job. I ask her to think seriously about this issue, because British citizens are being put at risk of serious injustice. The case of Ian Norris involves price fixing, which was not a criminal offence here at the time when he committed it. If the dual criminality rule were properly applied, he could not be extradited to the United States for it. However, because the United States can pick up on an offence for which there is dual criminality and charge him with that, it can apply the weak prima facie evidence test that is now in the treaty.
I suggest that, inadvertently, the treaty with the United States and the Extradition Act are resulting inand will continue to result inserious miscarriages of justice in which innocent British citizens are put through extradition and a court procedure in the United States that they should not be put through. If the proper protections were in place, they would not be put through that. The Government must be galled that the United States Senate refuses to ratify the treaty, but they have it in their hands to accept the amendments, or something like them, and simply put the favourable treatment that the United States gets on holdin abeyance, in escrow, or whatever one wants to call ituntil the United States performs its side of the bargain. We would not have so much trouble then. However, I suspect that the United States will not ever implement its side of the bargain and that at some point we will have to renegotiate if we want to get the United States to sign up to a new treaty. Perhaps the sooner we get there, the better.
In pursuit of the interests of justice, I hope that the Government will consider the matter again. They should not feel that it would be a terrible climbdown or loss of political machoism to admit that a mistake has been made. They can blame the United States. They need to find some way out of the problem that we have been led into by the Extradition Act.
Mark Pritchard: I rise to support the new clause that has been tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends. We can understand why the Government have introduced a new extradition regime. The events of 9/11 are an important political context. I think that we would all agree that extradition laws needed to be updated and speeded up. However, that has been done at the cost of explicit due process, equity and fairness. Many critics of the treaty with the United States quite rightly cite the lack of reciprocity, which we have heard mentioned many times in the Chamber today. They suggest that the treaty is unbalanced, unfair and leaves UK citizens at a great disadvantage compared with US citizens. They are right. Unless the legislation is amended, UK business men and citizens will become increasingly vulnerable to over-zealous and extraterritorial US prosecutors.
There is inequity not only in the process, but in the application of the law. It cannot be right that UK
citizens alleged to have committed crimes in the United Kingdom, with perhaps the vaguest of links to any criminal activity in the United States, can be extradited without the requirement for prima facie evidence. In many cases, we no longer have physical borders when it comes to white-collar crime. Cybercrime and commercial crime through the internet are increasing. We need to be mindful of that. Nevertheless, cases need to be driven by evidence.
Like the UK, the US should be required to provide evidence amounting to probable cause. Instead, the Government have created an extradition regime that has lowered the evidence threshold for the United States authorities alone. They have entered into an agreement that allows the US authorities to use extradition powers that perhaps go far beyond what the Government originally envisagedto be fair to them.
I would like, if I may, to ask the Minister on a point of law whether the 2003 extradition treaty is actually ratified. We know that the 1972 treaty was ratified here in the United Kingdom and in the United States, but the 2003 treaty was ratified in the United Kingdom, but not in the United States. Was the treaty ratified? There are 44 cases involving people who might go to the United States, and I believe that 12 UK citizens have already left the country and gone to the US. If the treaty has not been ratified, is there not a case to say that the Government or the judicial process have acted ultra vires, or beyond their legal powers? There might be a strong case to answer on that, and I would be interested if the great legal minds in the House would like to advise me on the matter either inside or outside the Chamber.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) rightly said in his most excellent speech, there are many friends of the United States on both sides of the House. I declare an interest because my wife is a US citizen. However, we need to move to a position of equity, fairness and reciprocity so that US-UK relations are safeguarded.
Joan Ryan: It is with pride that I rise to speak at the Dispatch Box for the first time for my Government. I am especially pleased to be facing the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and to be in the Chamber with many other hon. Members, both in front of me and behind me, with whom I have long worked on Home Office matters. However, I have not been able to use my voice on these issues, certainly for the past four years, so I hope that I will use it well on this occasion and others to come.
Government amendments Nos. 66 to 71, 78 and 79 are largely technical in nature. Government amendments Nos. 66 and 67 simply correct a drafting flaw in the Extradition Act 2003 to ensure that it reflects the devolution settlement.
Paragraph 21 of schedule 14 to the Bill would extend legislative powers to allow time served abroad on remand while awaiting extradition to the UK to count towards a persons sentence. In practice, judges usually deduct time served abroad from sentences, but we had intended
to take this opportunity to reflect the practice in legislation. However, on closer inspection, and bearing in mind recent changes to our domestic sentencing law, the provisions in paragraph 21 of schedule 14 do not close the technical gaps that we have identified in legislation relating to offenders who are convicted before, but sentenced after, extradition, and to certain juveniles. It became clear that paragraph 21 required amendment. Indeed, we have concluded that it would be better to omit paragraph 21 and its associated provisions and start again. The area of law is complex and it has taken further reflection to get an amendment right. Government amendment No. 69 ensures that the power to give credit for time served pending extradition applies equally to all, regardless of when the offender is convicted or sentenced in the UK, and regardless of the offenders age.
Let me turn to the amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) and new clause 8. I should say at the outset that many Labour Members will be surprised by the content and tone of Conservative Members remarks. I will explain why during the course of my speech and attempt to respond to the points that have been raised. However, I ask Conservative Members to bear in mind the limited time at my disposal today, because we wish to allow time for all Back Benchers to have a full opportunity to contribute.
New clause 8 is perhaps the most surprising of the amendments and new clauses that have been tabled to this part of the Bill. We do not recall the official Opposition taking quite the same attitude to our extradition arrangements with the United States when the relevant legislation was debated in Parliament. They are now revealing a deep distrust of one of our longest and most trusted extradition partners. We look back to the Act of 2003. Conservative Members expressed shrill opposition to the European arrest warrant, which has proved its worth. We no longer hear that opposition. It seems that Conservative Members go about seeking their enemies. It is clear that
It is clear that particular cases that we cannot discuss in the House have motivated some of the current concerns, but I am certain that those concerns are misplaced. The proposed amendments would have the effect of requiring the US once more to provide prima facie evidence with its extradition requests, as it did before the legislation of 2003, along with the subordinate legislation that came into effect.
As we have said on many previous occasions, the 2003 Act provides a better and faster approach to extradition than previous legislation. It applies not only to the US, but to all our extradition partners. Some 47 other countries have exactly the same agreement with us, and we have exactly the same extradition arrangements. It may throw some illumination on the issue if I mention some of those countriesfor example, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Chile, Colombia, the Cook Islands, Macedonia, Jamaica, Kenya and the Russian Federation. Where else can we go? There is Turkey, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Australia, as I have said, Canada, Zimbabwe and the United States of America.
We have before us a better and faster approach to extradition. Among the provisions was secondary legislation to designate those countries that do not need prima facie evidence. Those countries, some of which I have listed, are in category 2 for extradition consideration. The removal of the prima facie requirement was possible long before the 2003 Act came into force. The possibility dates back to when the Opposition were in Government in 1991, when the UK became an active party to the European convention on extradition.
Signatories to the convention do not require prima facie evidence from one another. By the end of 2003, the convention applied between almost all European states. We have heard the convention praised by Conservative Members. It applied to almost all European states, including Russia and other former Soviet states, which are all members of the Council of Europe, as well as to Israel and South Africa. The convention still applies to our extradition arrangements with all these states except for those which have joined the European Union, with which we operate the European arrest warrant mechanism.
Mr. Howard: Will the Minister identify any cases from any of the countries that she has so painstakingly and painfully listed that have given rise to concern and therefore make those countries relevant as compared with the United States, where we know that there has been a series of cases that has given rise to concern? Will the hon. Lady deal with the cases of concern that have been referred to by everyone who has spoken from the Opposition Benches rather thanI am sorry to say thisinsulting the intelligence of the House by reciting a list of countries in respect of which there have been no cause for concern?
We added the US to the list because, despite what the Opposition imply, it is a trusted extradition partner and a mature democracy with a fair system of justice. Its requests therefore deserve at least the same level of consideration as requests from other countries.
Mr. Grieve: Why did we embark on a treaty revision with the United States if we could have proceeded on the basis of what she has said, and given the US what it wanted? We embarked on that revision because we believed that we could benefit from concessions by the United States. Surely, that is the basis of trust, buttrust cannot be maintained without reciprocity. Furthermore, as the Minister well knows, while some aspects of the US legal system seek justice, they can be onerous and the extra-territoriality of US jurisdiction is quite extraordinary.
Joan Ryan: There is a deep misunderstanding on the part of the Opposition of the issue of reciprocity, perhaps because of certain cases that have arisen. We have reciprocity precisely because of the Extradition Act 2003. Before it was passed, the bar for the US to extradite people from the United Kingdom was much higher, and was based on prima facie evidence. For the UK to extradite people from the US, the requirement was probable cause but, as a result of the 2003 Act, we have come into line. One could characterise the requirement as one of reasonable suspicion, but the reciprocal arrangement is based on the fact that it is not just identification that is required. Sufficient information is needed to issue a warrant for arrest, and that is the basis of reciprocity with the United States. There is never 100 per cent. reciprocity, but probable cause and reasonable suspicion are equivalent. We do not require prima facie evidence from many of the countries on the list, because we trust their judicial system and we have reciprocity. However, we do require prima facie evidence from the Cook Islands and other countries.
Turning to the proposal to insert the word, forum, in schedule 14, the Opposition wish to turn our prosecutorial system on its head and subvert it. They suggest setting up a system whereby a judge considering a request to extradite an individual makes a decision as to whether they should be prosecuted in this country. If they do not think that they should be, that individual could escape scot-free. Extradition aims to bring people who have committed a crime to justice. The ordinary people of this or any other country want justice to be applied equally to the perpetrators of white-collar crime and to the perpetrators of any other crime. The 2003 Act aims to speed up and simplify the process, but it has never applied only to terrorist acts. It applies to any crime that attracts a 12-month sentence. On that basis, I urge the House to reject the Opposition amendments.
Mr. Grieve: Although I warmly welcome the Ministers arrival at the Dispatch Box, I cannot welcome her words this afternoon. She has failed completely to meet the issues that have been raised. She suggested that asking judges to consider the question of forum is in some way wrong. Judges deal with abuse of process applications frequently. It is perfectly within their competence to do so. I find incomprehensible her misunderstanding of the issues concerning the United States, our friend and ally. If we want to maintain friendship and alliance, reciprocity is the basis.
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