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We all want a special relationship with the United States. I am the great-grandson of probably the only woman in the entire 19th century who emigrated from the United States to Scotland. She may have got on the wrong boat, but that was what she did— [Hon. Members: “Send him back.”] I am probably the
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only man who will not be asked back to the United States, because the last time I went there I gave them a bloody good hiding.

All we want is a special relationship that does not resemble that between Miss Lewinsky and a former United States President: unequal, disreputable and with the junior partner always on their knees. That is not the kind of special relationship that we want, but as the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) powerfully made clear, it is exactly the kind of special relationship that most people in Britain think that we have with the United States of America, whether that is true or not.

What does the Minister think that the public deduce when they hear that a treaty was agreed between British Ministers and the Government of George Bush in secret? What does he think that the British public think when they hear that the agreement that was secretly reached between George Bush’s Government and new Labour was then passed on the royal prerogative without debate in this House? Does he think that the British people regard that as their Government standing up for them, or does he think that the British people imagine that that is just another example of the obeisance of the Government when it comes to the United States of America? I am absolutely sure what public opinion is on this matter and that the Government are absolutely isolated on it.

Had I been able to talk about other cases, as the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) was, I would have gone much further down this road, but in view of your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I cannot. However, I say this: we are talking about sending our citizens—these three and two others, McKinnon and Babar Ahmad—into the maw of a US justice system that stands condemned around the entire world. There is no point in soft-soaping this. One cannot separate the facts of Guantanamo Bay, orange jump suits, cages in the tropics, people being hooded, manacled and forcibly injected with drugs, Abu Ghraib, Bagram air base and extraordinary rendition—by which people are flown around the world to be tortured by the United States Government, although we do not even know who those people are, or the jails in which they are hanging upside down, being water boarded and tortured—from the proposal to send our citizens casually into that maw. The British people do not separate them. Last night, the other place spoke for Britain. Would it not be good if this place could speak for Britain on this, too?

3.4 pm

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): First, the House will want to say to Mr. Speaker through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we are extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to debate such an important matter. I know that we do not have much more time for the debate, so I will be brief. I will address just three matters: the condition of those who are extradited to overseas countries; what I think that we should do in the immediate future; and some longer-term actions.

I, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox), have considerable experience in the criminal courts. I can say without any question that those who are extradited and tried
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overseas are in great difficulty for several reasons. First, and inevitably, they are in a foreign country away from their home and their family’s support. They will not have a home and they will not know lawyers. They will face considerable costs. Frequently, although this does not apply in the case of the United States, they will have serious language problems. Sometimes they will be held in custody and not granted bail, which makes the task of preparing a case yet more difficult. Defendants who are extradited to a country of which they are not a national face grave disadvantages that raise the prospect of an injustice taking place.

Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for citing the problems for those who are extradited, such as my constituent, Gary McKinnon, and his family. He has expressed great concern that as someone who does not have means—he is on benefits—he will have great difficulty meeting any bail conditions with which he will be obliged to comply. We heard the concerns expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), and Gary McKinnon will not be able to comply with any of the conditions that we know might be put forward, such as high financial penalties.

Mr. Hogg: My hon. Friend makes an important point. This goes back to what the Prime Minister said: bail might be granted, but on conditions. If one cannot meet the conditions, one does not get bail.

Dr. Murrison: Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Hogg: Forgive me, but I had better press on because I think that the wind-ups will start in about 10 minutes.

My second point is specific to the United States. I speak as one who is a longstanding friend of the United States. My grandmother was an American citizen from Tennessee, and my father was proud of his close relations with the United States. My children have very close relations with the United States. However, I am deeply troubled by aspects of its policy and, especially, about its attitude towards the legal process. We cannot overlook Guantanamo Bay and we must not overlook extraordinary rendition. Although the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was right to say that the Supreme Court has intervened—that is a good thing—the situation tells us about the underlying attitude of the Administration.

We must keep two related points in mind. First, the lengths of the sentences that are being imposed in the United States in respect of white-collar fraud are quite different from those imposed in this country. I am well aware that Mr. Lay is dead and has not been sentenced, but there was much discussion of the fact that he would have to spend years and years of his life in prison—perhaps a whole life sentence—which would have been wholly disproportionate to what we would impose in Europe.

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I have been in many prisons. I was the Minister with responsibility for prisons, and I visit my clients in prison regularly in the United Kingdom. I have also seen United States prisons and frankly they are ghastly. Those that I have seen are an affront to civilisation. It seems to me that that is the background against which we ought to consider our attitude towards extradition.

That brings me on to two final points: first, what we should do now; and secondly, the longer term. As to what we should do now, we should stop the extradition of these three persons. We can do so because, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe pointed out, there is the order-making power by which we can de-designate the United States as a designated country. We should do that because the other place has passed amendments which, if carried in this place, would have that effect. We will debate that in October. It would be monstrous if we approved those changes, yet in the interim these three people were sent to the United States. So we should de-designate the United States immediately.

Mr. Winnick: When the United States authorities read the debate, if they are not watching it, will it not help if they know the feelings of Members and the pressure from them? The fact that not one single Back-Bench Labour Member has spoken against what is being advocated by many of us is an indication of the strength of feeling in the House of Commons.

Mr. Hogg: That is a valuable suggestion. The Americans have a distinguished ambassador in Britain. I feel sure that his officials in the embassy will be looking at what has been said in the Chamber and in the other place, and I very much hope that they will report back to their Administration.

There are two other steps that we should take immediately. We should immediately review the 2003 treaty. We can terminate it under article 24 in order to bring it to an end. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said on that point. Lastly, we must look again at the 2003 Act. That takes me to the last point that I want to make.

When we look at the 2003 Act, we must ask ourselves whether there is sufficient safeguard for our citizens. I believe that the Act needs amendment, in at least two particulars. First, we need to reintroduce something like a prima facie test. It has been explained by other right hon. and hon. Members, so I will not repeat it, but a prima facie test needs to be reincorporated in our extradition law, as the United States in its constitution provides for its citizens. Secondly, I very much agree with the forum test, which is a point that my hon. Friend and others made. The district judge ought to have the discretion to refuse extradition on the grounds that it is more appropriate—the language is negotiable—that the trial should take place in the United Kingdom and not in the jurisdiction of the country seeking extradition.

I have been brief because this is an important and urgent matter and others wish to speak. The liberty of our citizens is at stake and, for that matter, the good name of the United States.

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3.12 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has indeed been brief, eloquent, to the point and wholly right in what he said. I cannot claim any American ancestry, as he can. I can claim to be proud to be an honorary citizen of Texas, but for all my admiration for America and for that great state, I am full of apprehension about what will face these three people when they go to Texas.

My right hon. and learned Friend spoke about the appalling conditions in American jails. What has conditioned public opinion in this country perhaps more than anything else over the past two or three weeks are the accounts of the chains, the manacles and the cages, and people who are innocent until proved guilty being put in those conditions thousands of miles away from home. It is emotive and I make no apology for being emotive. It is important that Ministers should recognise how deeply concerned and disturbed people are by those accounts.

The Solicitor General did not give way to me, although he made some pleasant enough remarks. I was seeking to ask him precisely what assurances would be given about bail. It is all very well for the noble Baroness Scotland to go to the United States. I have a high regard for Baroness Scotland. She is a most eloquent and persuasive Minister, but that is not good enough.

My right hon. and learned Friend spoke about the present American ambassador to Britain and in what high regard he is held. What should be done in a case like this is that the American ambassador should be politely invited to No. 10 Downing street by the Prime Minister, and the Attorney-General should be there. The American ambassador should be presented with a copy of the report of this debate and told just how concerned hon. Members in all parts of the House are about the matter.

Dr. Murrison: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene. My constituent, Mr. Giles Darby, is facing extradition tomorrow. Does my hon. Friend understand that he will hardly be reassured by the Prime Minister’s protestations that all is being done to improve the bail conditions for him? Once he is there, he will be subject to due process, which involves all the penalties to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Yes, but we are close allies of the United States. I strongly agree with the points made about the extradition process by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and others, but we are where we are. I deplore the fact that the constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) will be getting on a plane tomorrow. I hope, even at this late hour, that there will be a delay, but there may not be.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend’s constituent and his colleagues are guilty or innocent. I do know about the disparity in sentences so eloquently described by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, and I know that in this country it has been deemed that there are no charges to
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answer. Whether there is guilt for some crime committed in the United States I do not know, but I am exceptionally concerned that those people should get on a plane tomorrow or at any other time and be incarcerated in those conditions.

I hope that the Solicitor-General will speak to the Attorney-General immediately after the debate. I hope that they together will go and see the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is highly regarded in the United States. He has been given the congressional medal of honour. I teased him about that at the Liaison Committee last week, suggesting that he should go and get it. He is held in high regard, and this is a serious matter because three people’s lives—the conditions in which they live their lives over the next two or three years—are at stake.

I very much hope the Prime Minister will exercise the influence that he undoubtedly has upon the American ambassador and, through him, on the American Administration to say that there are certain things that we are above all enjoined to do in any democracy. One of those is to protect the welfare of our citizens, who are innocent until proved guilty.

I am not suggesting that we can go back to the days of 1850, when Palmerston spoke for some hours in the predecessor of this Chamber. As dawn broke, he was speaking in the Don Pacifico debate. However, the lessons of the Don Pacifico debate are to some degree still relevant today. I took the liberty of re-reading Palmerston’s speech and I should like to quote from it. He said that

We in the Chamber may not use such grandiloquent terms today, but we still have the same duty as our predecessors had to protect the innocent until proved guilty, to uphold the dignity of mankind, and to ensure that even the closest of alliances does not lead to any supine posture on our part. So although I have a regard for the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General, and I make no comment about the merits of the case or judgments or any such thing, on the simple issue of human decency we have a duty to look after these three people and to ensure that if they have a trial, it is a fair one, and if they have to wait for their trial, they wait in civilised conditions on this side of the Atlantic with their families, not on the other side of the Atlantic. I look to the Government and to the Prime Minister in particular to ensure that that is so.

3.19 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The speeches made over the best part of three hours have amply demonstrated the importance of the debate and justified Mr. Speaker’s confidence in providing the time for it to take place. I am grateful to all those who have taken part.

I shall not discuss every contribution for the simple reason that all but one of those who contributed spoke from the same perspective: we have an unacceptably asymmetric treaty and extradition arrangement that act against the interests of British citizens. The sole exception was the Solicitor-General, who clearly
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wanted to concentrate his remarks on the specific position of the three individuals who are to be extradited tomorrow, we believe. Their position is important, of course; it is important in human terms, it is important because they are constituents of some hon. Members, and it is important as an exposition of the effects of the treaty. However, I shall concentrate on the treaty and the orders as a whole and examine the ways in which they will affect, not just those three individuals, but many others in the months and years to come.

The Solicitor-General: The hon. Gentleman says that I wished to focus entirely on one case; in fact, I did not. My notes were broad in relation to the treaty and the Extradition Act. I found it necessary to focus on the one case because I took a large number of interventions that dealt with it and therefore responded to the House’s wish to examine some of the issues in that case. I agree that we ought to have spent more time discussing the treaty and the Act rather than the specific case.

Mr. Heath: I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for his comments, but I think that most right hon. and hon. Members found an opportunity to discuss the general principles.

Let me sound one serious note of criticism in respect of the Solicitor-General’s remarks. I found his reference to “the Enron three” abhorrent. It was suggested that that is common usage, but in fact it is common usage only among Ministers. It is clearly pejorative and it is not an expression that the Solicitor-General—a Law Officer—should have used in this Chamber.

The Solicitor-General: When it was pointed out to me that the reference may well be prejudicial, I agreed not to use it.

Mr. Galloway: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I counted five references to “the Enron three” after the Solicitor-General said that he would not use the term again. The record will show that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for me. It is a matter for argument and debate.

The Solicitor-General: To complete my intervention on the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). If I did as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway) says, let me make it clear that I repeatedly said that at no point did I seek to prejudge or prejudice in any way the case in relation to those individuals, who, like all accused people, have a right to be considered innocent until proved guilty. That is my fundamental view and it applies to those individuals as well as to any others.

Mr. Heath: Of course I accept the Solicitor-General’s words at face value, but I repeat that the term is pejorative and could have been regarded as prejudicial had it been used in relation to a case that was still
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before a British court. It is extraordinary that it was almost claimed that a prima facie case had been proven against those individuals, despite the fact that no court has had the opportunity properly to examine the evidence and irrespective of the points made by the judge in the initial case.

Let me now discuss the general points on which the debate has focused. There is real concern about the asymmetry of the arrangements. That is nothing to do with the fact that the treaty is yet to be ratified—a fact that, to many people in this country, adds insult to injury. Even if the treaty were ratified tomorrow, it would remain an unfair treaty that the Liberal Democrats would oppose. I almost welcome the fact that it has not been ratified, because that might give us the opportunity to renegotiate.

The Government have behaved in an extraordinary fashion. First, let us consider ratification. The then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), in a written statement on 31 March 2003—our first opportunity to know about the treaty—said:

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