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I will be very brief. I would like the Minister to deal with four points when he responds. First, why has such a huge volume of new clauses and
proposals been put before the House? They have not been debated in Committee and, because of the timetabling, they are subject to extremely curtailed debate in this place.
Secondly, treaty obligations, which I mentioned in an intervention on the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), concern me greatly. When the previous Prime Minister exchanged a series of letters with several countries in the middle east and north Africa to allow terrorist suspects to be sent back to them, it undermined, in my view, the principle behind international treaty obligations, especially the treaty on torture. I should therefore like the Minister to assure the House that nothing in the amendments would continue that practice. I hope that the Governments policy will be, in future, to return prisoners only to countries that are, like us, signatories to international conventions on basic human rights, such as those on torture and peoples treatment.
Thirdly, the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) made an important point about reciprocity. Many of us have constituents who have unfortunately been arrested, charged and convicted abroad and are serving sentences abroad. Many of us have made representations to try to get those prisoners returned to this country to complete their sentences here. I wholly support that process. I, like, I imagine, many other hon. Members, have made representations on behalf of constituents in that position so that they can return and get the family support and rehabilitation that is necessary before release.
I am worried that we might send prisoners to another jurisdiction where prison conditions are far worse than those in this country, where they could be subject to ill treatment, which they would not receive here, and where they may not have anything like similar rights. I would therefore be happier if we sent prisoners only to countries where there was a reciprocal agreement. In many cases, there is no reciprocal agreement. I would have thought that the principle should be to encourage reciprocity between jurisdictions, which would ensure at least some equality of standards.
The hon. Member for Cambridge also made a point about the lack of an appeal against decisions. Surely it is basic natural justice that, if somebody who has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to prison in this country, where the sentence is passed, is then to be removed to another jurisdiction, where they may be subject to charges that would not apply in an English or British court, they should at least have an opportunity to appeal against the decision.
I repeat that I am concerned that so many new clauses, which would make serious procedural changes, are suddenly dumped on us, with no scrutiny in Committee. The only people who will get a chance to examine them are their lordships. We will consider them only if the Lords decides to amend the measure and it returns. That is an unsatisfactory way of undertaking major legislative changes that may affect many peoples rights.
The key point is that the purpose of the amendments is to support the Governments belief that, when possible, foreign national prisoners should
serve their sentences in their home countries. I also believe that prisoners who are to be deported at the end of their sentence should, if possible, be transferred while still serving it.
The issue is important because, as the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said, some 11,211 foreign national prisoners were in jails in England and Wales as of 30 September. That is perhaps balanced in some way by the 2,500 British nationals who were held in prisons abroad as of 30 September.
Hon. Members made several points, to which I shall try to respond. First, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough asked what close ties meant. The phrase, close ties mirrors existing provision in the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984 and means, for example, the right of residence in the United Kingdom, or having close family heresome of the foreign national prisoners who might be subject to deportation or transfer might have lived here for many years and be parents of children born here. A number of issues are clearly defined in the Repatriation of Prisoners Act.
In relation to the hon. Member for Cambridges point about the lack of a right of appeal in proposed new section 4C(6), that provision is inserted simply for consistency with other provisions in the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984. He is correct that that is still subject to potential judicial review, if appropriate, but again, the provisions mirror those of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and the hon. Member for Cambridge mentioned international obligations. I give them the commitment that we will maintain our international obligations in relation to such issues. It is important that we uphold those standards, and those obligations will be met within the framework that I have outlined today.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North mentioned, the amendments also allow the UK to ratify the additional protocol to the Council of Europe convention, so that transfer may take place only to countries that have signed the protocol. I hope that he will welcome that safeguard.
I can only apologise, in a sense, for the extensive content of the new clauses, and for the time that the House has to debate them. They are significant issues, but as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I wished to bring them forward to ensure that the UK has sufficient legislation to ensure the transfer of responsibility for the continuing enforcement of a sentence when no physical transfer of the prisoner can take place.
Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Minister for the assurance that he has just given. Is he in a position to say what negotiations are taking place with other countries that hold British nationals at present, and with which no normal repatriation agreement exists? Is his Department actively seeking reciprocity, so that we end up with better rights all round, and a better standard of treatment of people all round?
Currently, the UK has transfer agreements with approximately 100 countries, ranging from Albania,
Andorra and Armenia through to Latvia, Korea, Japan, Italy, Tonga, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela. In addition, a significant number of countries have ratified the protocol, and we are working to extend that to territories where the prison transfer agreement has been extended. We have recently signed transfer agreements with a number of other countriessuch as Jamaica, in August last yearand I want additional transfer agreements to be put in place. At official level, we are continuing to try to do that on a regular basis. I commend the new clauses and amendments to the House.
(1) This section enables responsibility for the detention and release of a person to whom subsection (2) or (3) applies to be transferred between the relevant Minister in the United Kingdom and the appropriate authority in a country or territory outside the British Islands.
(a) the United Kingdom is a party to international arrangements providing for the transfer between the United Kingdom and a country or territory outside the British Islands of responsibility for the detention and release of persons to whom subsection (2) or (3) applies,
(b) the relevant Minister and the appropriate authority of that country or territory have each agreed to the transfer under those arrangements of responsibility for the detention and release of a particular person to whom subsection (2) or (3) applies (in this Act referred to as the relevant person), and
the relevant Minister shall issue a warrant providing for the transfer of responsibility for the detention and release of the relevant person from that Minister (where subsection (2) applies) or to that Minister (where subsection (3) applies).
(7) The relevant Minister shall not issue a warrant under this section where, after the duty in subsection (5) has arisen, circumstances arise or are brought to his attention which in his opinion make it inappropriate that the transfer of responsibility should take place.
(8) The relevant Minister shall not issue a warrant under this section (other than one superseding an earlier warrant) unless he is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to inform the relevant person in writing in his own language
(c) in the case of a person to whom subsection (2) applies, of the effect in relation to his case of so much of the law of the country or territory concerned as has effect with respect to transfers under those arrangements of responsibility for his detention and release;
(d) in the case of a person to whom subsection (3) applies, of the effect in relation to his case of the law relating to his detention under that warrant and subsequent release (including the effect of any enactment or instrument under which he may be released earlier than provided for by the terms of the warrant); and
(9) A consent given for the purposes of subsection (5)(c) shall not be capable of being withdrawn after a warrant under this section has been issued in respect of the relevant person; and, accordingly, a purported withdrawal of that consent after that time shall not affect the validity of the warrant, or of any provision which by virtue of section 6 subsequently supersedes provisions of that warrant, or of any direction given in relation to the prisoner under section 4B(3).
(1) The effect of a warrant under section 4A relating to a person to whom subsection (2) of that section applies shall be to transfer responsibility for the detention and release of that
person from the relevant Minister (as defined in section 4A(10)) to the appropriate authority of the country or territory in which he is present.
(2) Subject to subsections (3) to (6), the order by virtue of which the relevant person is required to be detained at the time such a warrant is issued in respect of him shall continue to have effect after the transfer of responsibility so as to apply to him if he comes to be in the United Kingdom at any time when under that order he is to be, or may be, detained.
(3) If, at any time after the transfer of responsibility, it appears to the relevant Minister appropriate to do so in order that effect may be given to the international arrangements in accordance with which the transfer took place, the relevant Minister may give a direction
(a) to provide for how any period during which the detention and release of the relevant person is, by virtue of a warrant under section 4A, the responsibility of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom is to be treated for the purposes of the order; and
(6) Except in relation to any period during which a restriction order is in force in respect of the relevant person, subsection (2) shall not apply in relation to a hospital order; and, accordingly, a hospital order shall cease to have effect in relation to that person
(8) References in this section to the order by virtue of which a person is required to be detained at the time a warrant under section 4A is issued in respect of him include references to any order by virtue of which he is required to be detained after the order by virtue of which he is required to be detained at that time ceases to have effect.
(1) The effect of a warrant under section 4A relating to a person to whom subsection (3) of that section applies shall be to transfer responsibility for the detention and release of that person to the relevant Minister (as defined in section 4A(10)) and to authorise
(a) the taking of that person in custody to such place in any part of the United Kingdom as may be specified in the warrant, being a place at which effect may be given to the provisions contained in the warrant by virtue of paragraph (b); and
(b) the detention of that person in any part of the United Kingdom in accordance with such provisions as may be contained in the warrant, being provisions appearing to the relevant Minister to be appropriate for giving effect to the international arrangements in accordance with which responsibility for that person is transferred.
(3) Section 3(3) applies for determining for the purposes of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above what provisions are appropriate for giving effect to the international arrangements mentioned in that paragraph in a relevant persons case as it applies for the purposes of section 3(1)(c) in the case of a prisoner who is to be transferred into the United Kingdom.
(4) Subject to subsection (6) and Part 2 of the Schedule to this Act, a provision contained by virtue of subsection (1)(b) in a warrant under section 4A shall for all purposes have the same effect as the same provision contained in an order made as mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) or, as the case may be, sub-paragraph (ii) of subsection (2)(b).
(5) A provision contained by virtue of subsection (1)(b) in a warrant under section 4A shall take effect with the delivery of the relevant person to the place specified in the warrant for the purposes of subsection (1)(a).
(7) Part 2 of the Schedule to this Act shall have effect with respect to the operation of certain enactments in relation to provisions contained by virtue of subsection (1)(b) in a warrant under section 4A.
After section 4C of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984 (c. 47) (as inserted by section (Issue of warrant transferring responsibility for detention and release of an offender to or from the relevant Minister)) insert
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