|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Before the treaty can come into force it needs to be ratified by the United States Senate.[ Official Report, 31 March 2003; Vol. 402, c. 42WS.]
As a statement of fact, that is true. Before the treaty can come into force, it has to be ratified by the Senate. What he omitted to mention was the fact that the British Government would not bother with bringing the treaty into force, but would instead ensure that its provisions came into force long before the Senate had had even the opportunity to not consider it. It is almost irrelevant whether the treaty is ratified, because the British Government, in an apparent attempt to curry favour with the US Administration, have already enacted all its provisions into our law.
Secondly, there is the matter of reciprocity. We have heard what I can only describe as sophistical arguments from the Law Officers and other Ministers about the equivalence of the provisions. I simply cannot reconcile their statements with what was plainly said by Home Office Ministers when we considered the orders made under the 2003 Act. In the Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) stated:
In contrast, when we make extradition requests to the United States, we will need to submit sufficient evidence to establish ''probable cause''. That is a lower test than prima facie but a higher threshold than we ask of the United States, and I make no secret of that.
Thirdly, there is the matter of application. We were told explicitly by Ministers that there was a limit to the application of the measures. I challenged that in the Committee, but was told by the hon. Member for Don Valley that
We do not have such a range of offences involving financial crime. The cases mentioned by the Financial Timessuch as price fixingwould not apply. Dual criminality would have to exist.
That is directly countermanded by the fact that dual criminality was expressed in the form of the catch-all
conspiracy to defraud provision, which meant that the individuals in the very case to which attention was drawn in Committee are now subject to extradition proceedings, so I cannot talk about the matter further.
Throughout the early stages of the legislation, we heard the refrain that it was all about terrorism. I do not want to dwell on the Conservatives position, because I welcome their support today. I utterly respect what the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said. I agreed with everything he said, which is a rare occurrence indeed. He admitted that the Conservatives had been gullible in believing what the Government said, he acknowledged that mistake and said that he would recommend to his right hon. and hon. Friends that they avoid repeating it. I exempt the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who was a member of the Standing Committee and failed to vote on the draft order, who said
perhaps the US-UK arrangements are a little less unbalanced than the Liberal Democrat spokesman has suggested.
Well, he was wrongthey were every bit as unbalanced as I suggested and the right hon. Gentleman has now come to realise the folly of his position. The fact is that it was suggested that the legislation was to deal with big crimes and terrorism, when it was clear that it would apply to every offence that carried a tariff of more than one years imprisonment. That was clear to me right from the beginning.
We have an imbalance in the evidential requirements. The American authorities have to do little more than establish identity and the grounds for issuing a warranta much lower evidential test than anyone else must meet. We know that huge mistakes are made as a result of misidentification. Mr. Derek Bond, a rotary club member from Clifton in Bristol, was arrested in South Africa on the basis of CIA information that he was an international gangster and money launderer.
However, I ask those who feel tempted or disposed to vote for the orders to wait until a constituent is the subject of extradition proceedings on the basis of identification alone. I am willing to bet my bottom dollar, since we are talking about the US, that they will be beating at the doors of the Minister and the Home Office to say how unfair and unreasonable our provisions are that allow for their constituents to be treated in that way.[ Official Report, Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, 15 December 2003; c. 7, 26, 19, 21.
We should be concerned about the fact that we are dealing with 50 different state jurisdictions, plus the federal jurisdiction. Who knows what applies to Guantanamo Bay? We should be worried about the extra-territorial jurisdiction claimed by the Americans and about retrospectivity. Most of all, we should be concerned that we alone of the 132 states with which the US has bilateral extradition arrangements are willing to allow our citizens to be extradited on the basis of such a low and unequal burden of proof. A Minister acting under duress could not have signed a worse treaty and I object to that supine acquiescence, not because I am anti-American, but because a sovereign power such as Britain should defend the
interests of British citizens. We are not a wholly owned subsidiary of the US. I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to consider tabling amendments to the Police and Justice Bill in another place, to consider revisions to the Extradition Act 2003, and to consider renegotiating the treaty. They should not be afraid to abrogate it, because it has been abrogated by the American Senate, which refused to ratify it. Let us deal with a situation that the people of this country recognise as unfair and which, I am pleased to see, the vast majority of hon. Members recognise as unfair, too.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): I apologise in advance to right hon. and hon. Members if I fail to address their points, as I have only five or six minutes in which to respond.
We have had extradition treaties with the United States since 1796 and, for most of that time, those relationships have been uncontentious. The only criticism has been that procedures are often slow. Indeed, we heard about cases in which people waited eight or 10 years to be extradited. I am pleased that, under the Extradition Act 2003, such lengthy processes before someone can even stand trial, which are not in the interests of justice, will no longer take place. The Government have a responsibility to review and modernise the UKs extradition laws, as that has not been undertaken thoroughly since 1870. The Home Office published a full review of extradition law in March 2001, which was well before 9/11a point that has already been made. Many right hon. and hon. Members said that the treaty and the Act dealt only with crimes related to terrorism, but that is not the case. The Act deals with our relationship with a particular country and it covers all crimes, not just terrorism. I have a record of our debates in Standing Committee, in which the United States was designated as a country that did not require prima facie evidence. We made it clear that the designation, which changed our relationship with the United States, did not just apply to terrorism. Much of the debate, if anyone chooses to read it, was about different kinds of crime.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): How would my hon. Friend regard a British firm whose criminal activity led to the destruction of thousands of peoples lives, their homes, pensions and their childrens education? What if we wanted to bring back to this country someone to give evidence on the international ramifications of such activity, but another sovereign legislature refused to accept our claim? We should not forget that we are talking about international law and international crime.
I shall concentrate on a few issues that arose in our debate. First, the Liberal Democrats requested a debate because they said that there had not been enough time or scrutiny. When the treaty was ratified, it was laid before the House for 21 days with an explanatory memorandum. It was submitted to the Select Committee on Home Affairs under the Ponsonby rules,
which hon. Members can read in Erskine May. There was therefore an opportunity to examine the treaty, and it was dealt with in the way that new treaties are normally dealt with. The Extradition Bill proceeded through both Houses in an appropriate period, as is the case with any Bill, so hon. Members had an opportunity to comment on it. When the designation was made, it was subject to affirmative resolution in Standing Committee in both Houses, as normal. Conservative Members did not oppose the measure, but I accept that the Liberal Democrats did. We could therefore say that there is honourable opposition from our Liberal Democrat colleagues, but Conservative Members did not express opposition to the Bill, to the treaty during the 21 day-period in which it was laid before the House, or to the order in Committee. Provisions in the European convention on extradition were incorporated in the Extradition Act 1989 by a Conservative Government, who did not ask for natural
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I am sure that you are well aware, Erskine May makes it clear that, in this House, according to ancient practice, votes should follow voices. In my distinct observation, Government Front Benchers shouted, No, on the Division, but I have not seen any of them vote in the No Lobby. Will you therefore explain whether Erskine May has been observed by Government Front Benchers and confirm that that is the practice of this House? Perhaps you will even suggest why the Government are not voting in the Division.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has misinterpreted what is set out in Erskine May. The best thing that we can do is wait to see the result of the Division.