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David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con):
I thoroughly agree, but does my hon. Friend not also agree that the Americans could send an even more positive message about the importance of the special relationship not
only by offering reciprocity but by returning to Britain some of the IRA murderers who live freely in the United States at the moment?
Mr. Johnson: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point; that is the very reason why the Senate has, as has repeatedly been said, been so tardy in ratifying the treaty, and why, indeed, I think it highly unlikely that it will ratify it.
David Howarth: The hon. Gentlemans point about ratification of the treaty seems to contradict in part what he said before. Because the treaty is inherently unequal, it might be a very good thing that the Senate will not ratify it. What we should do is go for a new treaty that is more equal.
The absence of reciprocity was introduced by the signing of the treaty, which we enacted in the Extradition Act 2003. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe rightly used the verbor adjectivepoodle. It was a poodle-like act of [Interruption.] It is, indeed, a noun. It is also, however, a verb: to poodle is a verbwe poodled.
We poodled in implementing the treaty before the Americans had even ratified it, therebythe point the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) was trying to makenegating the symmetry that pre-existed in the 1972 extradition treaty, which involved a rough parity. We have reached consensus that that parity was not totally perfect, but it certainly was not as asymmetrical and imbalanced as the arrangements into which the Government have entered now. The plain fact isthe Minister must accept it, as the point has been made to him beyond peradventurethat the United States does not now have to supply prima facie evidence. The key difference therefore is that a British national can be supramagnetically suctioned to America without any scrutiny of the evidence, as, on Thursday, the three are about to be, whereas the Americans would never allow that to happen to any of their nationals. That is the fundamental problem. We are failing to protect our nationals.
John Hemming: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are a lot of odd things about this situation, not least the word pauchle and the fact that we have had demonstrations without the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway), but also the fact that if an offence had been committed under UK law, it would have been tried within the UK? If an offence has been committed, it was committed within the UK, but because it is not charged in the UK, people are to be extradited.
The Prime Minister and the Solicitor-General have told us that the three suspects, whom they brought into the debate, would have been extradited anyway under the terms of the 1972 arrangements. I am not at all sure that they can possibly know that. I am not at all sure that they have any right to say that in this House. The propositions that have been put, and which have obviously persuaded the Solicitor-Generalwho calls the men the Enron threeof their potential culpability, have never been tested in a court or a judicial proceeding in this country. That procedure would have taken place under the previous arrangements, and that is the procedure that has been wiped out by the Governments poodle-like acquiescence in the treaty. The Solicitor-General is clutching at the Dispatch Box as if he wants to intervene; perhaps he does not, so I shall move on.
That is the injustice at the core of this debate, and that is why we should suspend the treaty, undesignate America as a category 2 country, and do justice by our people. Anyone who seeks evidence of the imbalance and asymmetry in our arrangements with America may look at the numbers. Look at the numbers going from this country to America, which had, last time I looked, a population approaching 300 million, and the number that America is sending to us. More than 40 a year go to America
Mr. Johnson: My hon. Friend says 45. And two or three a year come from America. I make no comment on the respective criminalities of the two populations, but that seems extraordinary. I see the Solicitor-General reaching for the statistics; he should apprise himself of the basic data. They are patently unreciprocal and asymmetrical.
I was interested earlier to hear a Labour Memberthe hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills)say that all extradition treaties were asymmetrical. Did anyone catch that? He said that all extradition treaties were asymmetrical and that we should not complain about it. That seemed to be the gist of it. The fact is that he is, of course, as he was in much that he said,
wrong. There is reciprocity in the Euro-warrant system, for instance. Among the many things that we do in common with our European friends is that we allow some measure of political decision making over whether or not a crime was committed in our jurisdiction.
If we want to get around the problem, and I know that the Solicitor-General does, we should implement the course I have urged on him in an early-day motion, signed by many Members on both sides of the House, which is to insert article 7 of the 1957 convention on extradition into our arrangements with America, so that a British authority may decide whether or not, in the interests of justice, the crimeif there was a crimetook place in this jurisdiction. That would be a clear and elegant solution to the problem. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe pointed out, that is a basic protection that the Irish give their citizens and the French give their citizens. Why cannot we give that protection to our citizens? I look forward to hearing the response of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan).
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): My hon. Friend makes a powerful and persuasive point. Is it not a case not only of justice being done but being seen to be done? If a matter has a direct nexus with this country, it is essential that that matter should be disposed of here so that we can send a clear message that if something is criminal and happens here, we will deal with it and that we will not rely on other authorities to deal with matters that we should be dealing with ourselves.
Mr. Johnson: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I am grateful to him. It is incredible: what comment are we sending to the outside world about the seriousness with which we take white-collar crime if the allegations that the Solicitor-General was happy to read out earlier are so trivial and footling that we take no account of them in this country but none the less think them serious enough to be tried in America? It is quite extraordinary.
The Government seem to have decided on a twin-track strategy in their manipulation of this growing public relations disaster. The Prime Minister comes to the House, as he did earlier, and says that he is very concerned about the fate of the NatWest three and their families. It is a measure of the complete chaos that the extradition treaty has wrought that he is obliged to dispatch senior Ministers around America to plead on behalf of individual cases. It is absolute chaos. That is the compassion that he wants to show on the one hand. However, he then sends his understrapper, the Solicitor-General, to the House, who repeatsvery largelythe case against the three. He called them the Enron three as though to prejudge the matter.
I do not necessarily dissent from that. If the torrent of allegations that the Solicitor-General read out against the three are so compelling, why cannot he put them on trial in this country? It is not
too late for him to do that. He has the power at the stroke of a pen. Given the serious allegations that he has put before the House, he could command them to be arraigned before the courts in this country.
The Solicitor-General: I want to make it very clear that decisions about whether the matter is investigated are not made by Ministers; in this case, they are made by the Serious Fraud Office and the director of the Serious Fraud Officean independent prosecuting servicewho took the view that, because much of the evidence was in the United States and the alleged conspiracy was likely to have taken place there, if indeed it ever did, the matter would be better dealt with there. I remind him, too, that the district judge was also concerned that if there was an investigation here, it might in due course result in an abuse of process argument, because of the length of time such an investigation would take. It is appropriate to deal with the matter in the USA.
Mr. Johnson: I would say that I was grateful to the Solicitor-General, but I am not really. Lord Justice Laws himself was amazed that the UK authorities had sought to take no interest in this matter. Because there is no protection and no forum requirement inserted in the current Extradition Actin the way that I propose and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe agrees that it should be insertedand because Parliament has failed to protect its citizens in the way that it should, the three are being sucked off to America.
Mr. Hogg: May I suggest an elegant solution building on the solution of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard)? The other place has passed certain amendments, which will come back to this House in October, the effect of which if passed will be to remove the United States from the fast-track procedure. Given that, the Government, pending a decision of this House, should pass the orders referred to by my right and learned. Friend, which would take the United States out of the class of a designated country, at which point the process of extradition would have to cease.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the logical corollary of the statement by the Attorney-General is that any crime involving an e-mail that is routed through a server in, say, California will fall within the jurisdiction of the United States? Does he not think that that is absolutely bizarre?
The United States Government take a broad view of their legal jurisdiction. The United States has few limits to its ambitions in the context of where a crime is committed against the interests of the
United States. That is a matter for the United States. It is perfectly entitled to take that view, but it should be a matter for usfor this House and the Solicitor-Generalto protect British citizens from injustice and the arrogance and abuse of power. I think that the Solicitor-General would agree that he is losing the argument. Increasingly, the Government have shown that they are losing the argument by the panic-stricken measures that they are taking in dispatching Ministers off around America. I do not believeas I think that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said earlier, and I wholly agree with himthat it is the will of the House or the country that these unjust arrangements should persist. Above all, and paradoxically, I do not even think that it is the will of America. It is increasingly a matter of embarrassment that unnecessary hostility and unease is being engendered in this country by this incompetently negotiated treaty. I urge the Solicitor-General to have the humility to think again.
Mr. George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Respect): It is true, as the hon. Gentlemanwhoever he wassaid, that I was not on any demonstration for these three bankers, although I have been on demonstrations over the last two years on another case that you have precluded discussion of this afternoon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Neither is it any good Labour Ministers trying to slip on their old class warrior clothes, fulminating about the Enron three. Eleven times in his remarks the Solicitor-General of the United Kingdom referred to the three individuals as the Enron three, in what can only have been an attempt to describe them pejoratively, which must be prejudicial and unprecedented from a Law Officer of the Crown in a matter such as thisfulminating about expensive public relations companies. With everything that we know about new Labour and its relationship to the corporate world and to PR companies, the idea that some sin has been created by a PR company being or not being involved is an allegation that can come from almost anyone except new Labour.
Not allowing crime to escape over borders versus supporting the PR campaign of multi-millionaires charged in relation to the biggest fraud in US corporate history.
The Lib Dems have been spun by opportunistic PR merchants. We are fighting to get the benefits of the treaty for Britain to tackle crime. The opposition are supporting the campaign of multimillionaire bankers accused of serious crimes.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would appreciate your advice in relation to an allegation that I have seen something, when I have never
seen whatever has been read out. Am I in a position where I can call the Member to order in relation to that?
Mr. Galloway: I do not think that it is effective at all, because if it was not by means of a pager, it must have been by means of telepathy that the briefing notes read out by the shadow Solicitor-General were echoed in every particular in the contribution that the Solicitor-General made earlier. The country will not have missed the fact that Ministers, who a couple of weeks ago were wrapping themselves in the flag, are, on this occasion, wrapping themselves in quite a different flaga point to which I shall come. The class warrior clothes no longer fit Ministers and they should not attempt to adopt them.
Equally hard to take was the contribution from one Conservative Member of Parliamentnot otherswho said that he had supported the unequal treaty because he thought that it was all about terrorists. He did not know that bankers, rich people, upper-class people, and white people might be caught up in this unequal relationship. British citizens accused of terrorist crimes are entitled to exactly the same protection and standards of justice as British citizens accused of white-collar crimesnot least because the reason why the Senate has not ratified, and I predict will never ratify, the treaty is because of the power of the lobby in the United States, in a state of perpetual election and re-election, in relation to the supporters of Irish republicanism in the United States of America.
Of course, as has been asked many times, why will the Senate have to ratify the treaty if we are already operating our half of it? Can the Minister not see that the absolutely logical conclusion from the national concern about these matters is to withdraw temporarily from our obligations under the treaty by whatever measures can be taken until the Senate has ratified it and we have reciprocityit will be of an unequal kind, but at least reciprocity in that America will have signed the treaty and not just us. That is clear to everyone in the country except those on the Treasury Bench. It is clear to every newspaper and it is made clear on every radio phone-in show. It is clear in every one of our inboxes and postbags, and everyone in the House knows itonly those on the Treasury Bench resist it.
The most revealing thing of all in this whole debate was the near apoplexy of the Solicitor-General at the very idea that anyone in the House would suggest abrogating a treaty with the United States. He almost had a seizure. He asked the Conservatives to repeat the statement slowly so that people could hear it. The very idea that we would abrogate a treaty with the United States was quite beyond his ken, and that is the problem.
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