Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the whole House is clearly united in seeking effective legislation against terrorism, although I am bound to

10 Dec 2001 : Column 1156

say probably not quite so united in enthusiasm for the amendments which Her Majesty's Government have brought forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, said that the six months sunset clause was clear, and I hope that is clearly set out in Amendment No. 77ZA. Although I am not a lawyer, I believe that I am in a position to assure the noble Lord that the European arrest warrant legislation will not be brought under this Bill. Indeed, we have made it clear that it never would be. It now cannot be brought under this Bill, because of Amendment No. 78A. Even if we had wanted to—which we did not—we now cannot. I hope that that has closed off a line of argument which perhaps has occupied your Lordships rather more than it should have done. It will be dealt with through separate primary legislation.

I turn to the points raised in regard to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) set out in Amendment No. 78A. The noble Lord asked whether any further proposals were in the pipeline. I should say that I do not know what will happen over the coming six months; that is, whether we shall see a further terrorist outrage or an incident that might prompt further emergency legislation. Sadly, we live in such times. However, I have given a specific assurance in relation to the Liberal Democrat amendment that Her Majesty's Government would not seek to bring forward through secondary legislation any further baubles, so to speak, to add to the Christmas tree following the passage of the Bill through this House. I hope that that point is clear. Any further action that needed to be taken would be dealt with through primary legislation, excepting those matters covered by subsection (1A), which we have already discussed in relation to the Liberal Democrat amendment.

I was grateful for what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. I believe that the Government have listened carefully to the exchanges in Committee. That stage is for the purpose of detailed and reasonable discussion. On this occasion, I believe that the House discharged that function in an exemplary manner.

Perhaps I may move on to the second point raised by the noble Viscount in relation to the Italian position. It is a fact that Her Majesty's Government disagree with the position adopted last week by the Italian Government. I should tell the noble Viscount that every other member state also disagrees. We shall need to discuss this further at Laeken where we very much hope to reach agreement.

Italy's position has made clear a very important point; namely, that decisions are taken by member states not, as many noble Lords fear from time to time, by the Commission or by the European Parliament. It is important that such decisions ultimately rest with member states themselves.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before the noble Baroness leaves the matter of the European arrest warrant, when primary legislation is brought before this Parliament, can she tell the House whether

10 Dec 2001 : Column 1157

we will be able to amend what may have been agreed at Laeken or wherever? Alternatively, is it the case that once Ministers have agreed the new European arrest warrant in Laeken or Brussels, our powers to amend it will be negligible?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I cannot say that we shall be able to amend the powers of the European arrest warrant. As is the case when discussing other European treaty matters, I believe that we shall need to look at a treaty and consider whether noble Lords feel able to agree with it and, similarly, whether another place feels able to agree. The legislation will be dealt with in a way that is familiar to noble Lords.

Perhaps I may move on. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, raised a number of points relating to the two-year cut-off point for offences. Given our amendments, the reference to creating offences with a penalty of more than two years only in practice will apply to the framework decision on combating terrorism. Even in that case it is unlikely that we shall need to impose a cut-off point of more than two years because in most cases UK law will already have in place severe penalties for terrorism. We shall do the minimum required to implement the framework decision. We are looking in particular at the need to impose sentences over two years in relation to offences committed abroad which may not be covered by existing UK law. I hope, at least to some extent, that the position has been clarified for the noble Lord.

I was very grateful for the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that my noble friend Lord Rooker and I have asserted from the beginning that we recognise the well-argued reservations of the Delegated Powers Committee. My noble friend made that point clear in the debate on Second Reading and I hope that I did the same in Committee. I am also grateful to the noble Lord for alerting Her Majesty's Government to the fundamental matters of principle which were laid out in the report of the Delegated Powers Committee. I can assure the noble Lord that we wish to discuss this matter again with the committee before any further legislation is brought forward. I believe that one of the strengths of your Lordships' House is its capacity to undertake such tasks. We are grateful for the wisdom that the noble Lord's committee is able to bring to bear on such issues.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, asked what we had in mind to bring forward under Amendment No. 78A. The 1995 and 1996 extradition conventions will simplify the extradition procedures between EU member states. The noble Earl may be interested to know that the United Kingdom is one of only five member states not to have implemented those conventions. That will have to be achieved through what I believe a noble Lord described as the Xwindow of opportunity" we shall have over the coming six

10 Dec 2001 : Column 1158

months. Indeed, secondary legislation on the extradition conventions will be brought forward next week.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I believe that we are in danger of getting into a serious muddle. As I understand it, over the coming six months we shall have new primary extradition legislation. We have said that we shall not have the European-wide extradition warrant. Now we are saying that, yes, there will be a certain amount of extradition law introduced under this arrangement. Can the noble Baroness tell the House exactly what that will be? I am in a serious muddle over this and I hope that I am not unique.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the extradition conventions were agreed in 1995 and 1996 by the then Conservative Government. We have an obligation to bring forward those conventions by the end of this year. That may be seen as stepping through the window of opportunity created by the legislation over the coming six months. We have an obligation in respect of those two conventions to complete the process before the end of the year.

The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, concerned whether we would then be in a position to retreat from the legislation. It is the opportunity for taking such secondary legislation which would then close down as a result of the sunset clause, as was kindly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. However, the secondary legislation so created will not die with the sunset clause. I hope that that answers the point made by the noble Baroness and endorses the issue spotted by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Furthermore, I hope that that answers the point put forward by the noble Earl.

I turn now to the convention on mutual legal assistance which will enable us to provide video evidence. That will prove extremely useful if a witness is unwilling to travel or if we do not want such a witness to travel. It offers a clear advantage as regards expediting proceedings against terrorists either here or abroad. Furthermore, there are other issues as regards the framework decision on asset freezing. I hope that those three bundles of issues at least give the noble Earl an idea of the kinds of matters that we shall be bringing forward.

I hope that I have responded to the points put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in relation to the sunset clauses. They provide an opportunity to bring forward the secondary legislation that will close on 1st July of next year. Thereafter we would introduce further legislation. We would not turn our backs on secondary legislation that, it is hoped, will be created during the period between now and 1st July of next year.

The noble Baroness also raised a point with regard to Europol. I have asked Home Office Ministers to write to the noble Baroness in answer to her question. Again, I shall return to the attack on behalf of the noble Baroness.

10 Dec 2001 : Column 1159

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, for the compliment she paid to my noble friend who, perhaps I may say, richly deserved it. As I indicated in response to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, we shall consider carefully the robust points that were put forward in the report of the Delegated Powers Committee. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss them.

I hope that I have answered the substance of most of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He went on to ask what constituted an act of terrorism. We have covered this ground in the past few weeks. Amendment No. 78A is specific on the sorts of issues that are covered, such as decisions on,

    Xfreezing property or evidence, on joint investigations teams, or on combating terrorism",

for acts of terrorism with which we are becoming all too dismally familiar. It is important, for example, that the placing of bombs—sadly seen so recently—is specifically covered as an act of terrorism.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page