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Before I finish, I want to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) that this matter does relate to the European treaty. We belong to a Community-a Union that we support-whose
members seek to operate together. In those circumstances, it is not unreasonable to have a mechanism that shortens the period needed for extraditing a person from one member country to another. I have no difficulty in accepting that. I have been through the list and do not see any cases that disturb me, except those where one country's law is wholly different from another's on a particular point. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) and others were right to draw attention, for example, to the question of holocaust denial. One can understand precisely why there is a law on it in Germany, but why there might not be somewhere else. That is a perfectly reasonable judgment to make, and we need to have a mechanism to overcome it, but in general there is no problem with the European arrest warrant. That has been proven by the period that has elapsed. What has not been proven is that there is no problem with the British-American agreement, and I wish to end on that. The problem with the agreement is that it leads people in Britain to believe that this country will do anything that the United States asks, without being prepared to stand up for its own people.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I was at a Home Affairs Committee meeting with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), which is the reason why I have not been present for the entire debate.
Is there not a danger that the situation creates anti-US feeling-a prejudice? Many people who would not otherwise be, or have no reason to be, prejudiced against the United States will now be rather anti-American for the reasons that we are debating.
Mr. Gummer: The hon. Gentleman has pre-stated what I was going to say. As somebody who is not anti-American but believes strongly in the relationship between Europe and United States, I do not want issues to get in the way which suggest that it is proper to refer to the relationship as "imperial"-something that the hon. Member for Eastleigh, who spoke for the Liberal Democrats, mentioned. We need to make it clear to the United States that we are partners not subjects. There is a constant refrain. We are told, "America cannot do this because of the constitution", but we have to do something. The business about ratification is universal. America still has not ratified the convention on international trade in endangered species, which it has signed. It has not done so because it does not think that partnership requires reciprocity.
I say to the Government that the reason why I feel so passionately about the issue is not just that I want to defend the human rights and freedom of my constituents and of the people of Britain, but that we need to bring it home to our American partners that they must treat the rest of the world as they expect the rest of the world to treat them. Reciprocity is a serious issue, not one that can be covered up by an argument between the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General about the precise details of what the wording under discussion means.
I finish where I began. As the Home Secretary is not present, I hope that the Minister will take this point back to him: the Home Secretary's chatty, jokey little comments at the beginning of the debate demeaned him. He is the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom. He is not here to perform second-rate, school-debating
tricks on a serious matter that concerns people's freedoms; he is here to uphold the most ancient rights of a nation of which he is fortunate enough-for what will be a very short time-to be Home Secretary.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), this time after his philippic about schoolboy debating techniques. I remember as a student at Oxford university attending perhaps my only Oxford Union debate. The right hon. Gentleman came in to represent the Conservative cause, as a former president of the Cambridge Union, and exactly the same vim, vigour, vivid metaphor and utter wrongheadedness that we sometimes hear today were on display all those years ago.
One paradox of the debate is that many of those who have spoken are convinced pro-Europeans, and part of the debate is about the application of international rule of law. The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) made for his constituent a very moving and compelling plea that does him and the cause honour. The hon. Gentleman said that he spent many years as a solicitor practising in criminal law, and were I ever to find myself in trouble I should be delighted, after that excellent speech, to have him defend me.
However, I was slightly alarmed when I heard that the gentleman-who is not mentioned in the motion but about whom we are talking and the Daily Mail is campaigning-was diagnosed with his distressing condition only last year. One gets a slight hint of the famous Ernest Saunders defence: he said that he was suffering from Alzheimer's to get off a criminal prosecution, but the moment that he was out of court, he somehow skipped off and his memory came back with marvellous vigour.
It is quite important that we read into the record article 94 of the treaty, on the death penalty. I was astonished that the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) had not read the treaty. Article 94 states:
"The Secretary of State must not order a person's extradition...if he could be, will be or has been sentenced to death for the offence concerned".
Mr. MacShane: We do not have much time. I am concerned that we should not send a signal to all our friends in America that one newspaper and one very hard cause will overturn the need to speed up extraditions between our two countries.
A case comes to mind; it does not concern my constituents, thank goodness, but it is of great concern in Yorkshire. It involves Simon Sheppard and Steve Whittle. I doubt whether Members know those names,
because this grave case has been given absolutely no national publicity. Last year, those two gentlemen were convicted at Leeds Crown court of publishing anti-Semitic and racist material on the web, including pictures showing Jews being cruelly disfigured. There were up to 4,000 hits a day. They also published a book called the "Tales of the Holohoax"-we get the sense of what they were trying to argue-and they sent it to synagogues.
The men were arrested, fairly tried and convicted, but they jumped bail and fled to the United States. In Los Angeles, they claimed that they should be allowed to stay in America under the provisions of the first amendment to the US constitution which gives the absolute right to free speech. Had they been Americans and published the material in America, they could not have been prosecuted. One of the big problems for those of us who campaign against anti-Semitism and racism on the net is that the United States cannot take any control of the internet service providers.
I am glad to say that, having examined the case and heard the powerful plea that the men should be allowed to stay in America under the provisions of American law, the courts in Los Angeles said no. They said that the men were British citizens who had committed a crime in Britain and should be sent back. Last Friday, Whittle and Sheppard were sent to jail-for three and four years respectively, I think. That was an important victory in the fight against anti-Semitism, but it could not have been won without the willingness of the Americans to rise above their own constitution and free speech amendment and co-operate with us.
There is the similar case of Mr. Hussain Osman, who was one of the gentlemen involved in the 7/7 outrages. He fled to Italy and asked to be defended from British justice, which he said was unfair. The hon. Member for Eastleigh, who is not in his place, referred to the Council of Europe's observations about the justice systems in other countries. I serve on the Council of Europe and know something about it; its observations on aspects of British justice and police procedures do not always make pretty reading. We should look at motes and beams before becoming contemptuous of the legal, judicial, police and investigating systems in other countries.
I understand that the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) now accepts the European arrest warrant, although with many qualifications. He was not involved in the debates at the time, but when I was Minister for Europe the Conservative party opposed the warrant tooth and nail-so did the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. If the newspapers opposed to Europe, which are now legitimately campaigning for the constituent of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate, and the Conservative party had had their way, there would have been no European arrest warrant and Mr. Osman would still be protected in Rome by civil liberties lawyers.
We claim to be superior in all regards to all other countries, but let us not forget the case of Rachid Ramda. How many Members know who he was? He was an Algerian Islamist living in London who was arrested as a financier of the Paris Metro bombings of 1995, which were a huge shock in France. There was clear evidence linking him to the attacks. For 10 years, he was protected by our judges. The organisation Liberty said, "He can't go back to France. There is no justice there-they'll beat him up and bash him over the head."
The lawyers made a fortune defending him. Whitehall defended him. The Conservative Home Secretary at the time, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), accepted those arguments-so, I am sad to say, did a Labour Home Secretary, until my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) became Home Secretary and, in 2005, sent him home. At last, after 10 years of being protected by the British legal system, he had to face his accusers, and the families of the men who died thanks to the money that he was sending over to finance that terrorist plot. He is now serving a life sentence in prison.
We need an internationalisation of the fight against international criminality, whether it is terrorism, paedophilia, race hate or money laundering. I could not believe the arguments we heard earlier-that the men who were responsible for destroying the lives of scores of thousands of Americans in the Enron swindle were just copping a plea, that they had no real involvement and that they just pleaded guilty because it was a way of getting a slightly lower sentence. When are we going to understand that we need international law to deal with the swindlers, fraudsters and banksters who are destroying the lives of ordinary working people in America, in Europe and across the world?
We need, if anything, to extend and increase the idea of international arrest warrants and of rapid extraditions-no, not when the death penalty is at stake; I fully accept and understand that. I would be happy if the United States authorities could give some indication about the case of the constituent of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate, given that there is talk of a 60-year sentence. We heard the same with the NatWest three, but in fact it was not that long. If he stays in this country, I will have no problem with that; we have children, and we defend them as best we can.
We must understand that every nation has different rules of law. There are different rules of law, evidence and court procedures in Scotland and in England, but that does not mean that we have to have extradition between our two countries. The House and the nation needs to come to terms with the fact that the rule of law no longer has a national flag stamped all over it.
The message to the people of America is that the House of Commons, and above all the Conservative party, which has moved this motion, have nothing but contempt for American law and the rights of the American people. If the American people feel that a grave crime has allegedly-I stress the word "allegedly"-been committed that threatens their national security, then we here, praying in aid the "civis Britannicus sum" arrogance of Palmerston in the 1860s, can stop justice being done. The Conservatives have been cynical and opportunistic in tabling this motion; the Liberal Democrats, as ever, have been Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): I had not thought of the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) as a Robespierre of liberty, but I would not look to him to protect me in the face of an extradition order in any other country.
It is useful that the Home Secretary has come back at this moment, because this all goes back to something that happened long before his time as Home Secretary.
In March 2003, while Parliament was discussing the Extradition Act 2003, the then Home Secretary signed a new extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States. The treaty was subsequently published as a Command Paper in May 2003, after the legislation had been enacted. The most significant difference between the new treaty and its predecessor treaty, which was signed in 1972, lay in article 8 of the new treaty, which set out extradition procedures and required documents. The previous treaty required an extradition request to be accompanied by such evidence as would justify the person's committal for trial according to the law of the state from which extradition was sought, including evidence that the person requested was the person to whom the request warrant referred.
For requests made by the United Kingdom to the United States, the new treaty required such information as would provide a reasonable basis for believing that the person sought committed the offence for which extradition was requested-"probable cause". There is no corresponding requirement for requests made by the United States for extradition from the United Kingdom.
The 2003 treaty between the UK and the US did not remove the need for the US to provide prima facie evidence at extradition hearings in the UK. That was achieved by the designation order made in this House under the 2003 Act on 17 December 2003. Right up until that order was made, designating what are called part 2 countries, there was a need for the US to provide prima facie reasoning before the courts in this country.
When the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 2 Territories) Order 2003 was debated in the House of Lords on 16 December 2003, the then Home Office Minister, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, referred to the intended effects of the designation orders being made under the 2003 Act:
"Every country with which we currently have general extradition relations is being redesignated."
"the thorny issue of the United States",
"If this order is approved, the United States will no longer be required to supply prima facie evidence to accompany extradition requests that it makes to the United Kingdom. This is in line with the new bilateral extradition treaty signed by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary earlier this year.
By contrast, when we make extradition requests to the United States we shall 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. The fact is that under the terms of its constitution the United States of America cannot set its evidential standard any lower than 'probable cause'."
"For all of these countries there is no change to the evidential standard which they will have to meet."-[ Official Report, House of Lords, 16 December 2003; Vol. 655, c. 1062-1063.]
That is at the heart of what this is all about. There was no requirement to drop the prima facie rule. It was an act of the Home Office-God knows why the Home Secretary was negotiating an extradition treaty when it is normally the function of the Foreign Office, but it was nevertheless done. It was in the designation orders of December 2003 that we changed the whole process, which has given rise to indignation and a sense of injustice.
All those matters were debated on 11 July 2006, when the Government suffered defeats in the House of Lords on the Police and Justice Act 2006. The Conservative peer, the late and much lamented Lord Kingsland, successfully moved amendments that sought to remove the United States from the designation order under the 2003 Act listing of part 2 territories, which are those not required to provide prima facie evidence when seeking a person's extradition from the UK, and to prevent the Home Secretary from designating the US as such a territory until reciprocal arrangements had been made in respect of the information and evidence required to support an extradition request for a person who had not been convicted. The Government lost in the Lords but set that right by a majority in the Commons. That is at the heart of the debate and the justification for it, and I plea with the Home Secretary to review properly the workings of this dire mechanism.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I will be very brief, because I know that time is short. I begin with an apology. The Select Committee on Home Affairs met earlier, and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and I were there, so we missed part of the debate.
I have only three quick things to say. On my way to the debate, I bumped into a previous Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), and asked him whether I could quote what he had said to me about the time when he signed the treaty. He said that I could. He is on record as saying that when the treaty was signed we did not get the best deal, and that frankly the Americans got a better deal than we did. That is why there is a difference between the standard of proof required to get someone over from America and the standard of proof required when the Americans are seeking to get someone from this country.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) for what he has done for his constituent. I appreciate that we are governed by the sub judice rule, though it was waived briefly for the purposes of the debate. I tried earlier to sign the early-day motion that the hon. Gentleman tabled about Mr. McKinnon, but it was withdrawn because it was out of order.
There is a time when the House and, indeed, the public, should be listened to. Of course, some of us went along with the Government on 42 days, even though my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) warned me that the meaning of the slightest word in a Select Committee report could be widened. He was right. In the discussions on the Gurkhas, the Government again lagged behind public opinion and certainly did not take the will of Parliament into account, though as soon as Parliament expressed its view in a vote, they changed their mind.
This is another occasion when the Government should listen, and I am therefore minded to support the motion. It is a modest motion, which calls for a review of the Extradition Act 2003. It is important that we examine it, now that it has existed for five years, measure what it has achieved and ascertain whether we can improve it.
The motion is not against Government policy-it would not undermine extradition to a friendly country that is an ally, but it would give us an opportunity to review what has happened, so that cases such as Mr. McKinnon's can be tackled in this country.
I greatly admire the Home Secretary, who appeared before the Select Committee yesterday. When I put it to him that he had the power to intervene and halt Mr. McKinnon's extradition, he said that he had no power to do that. I think that he has that power and that, if he sought a different set of legal advisers, they would tell him that. Surely the Home Secretary can exercise discretion in the public interest. Mr. McKinnon, who has already admitted to committing an offence, should be tried in this country. I urge, even at this late stage, the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions and ask that that happens. That is the sensible, pragmatic way in which to deal with the situation, and I hope that the Government will take that course of action.
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