Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, my hopes were raised briefly when the noble Baroness said that she was going to congratulate me. She soon diverted from that possibility to congratulate the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod on spotting that it was talcum power that was being sent. Perhaps I may also congratulate him.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, if there were to be a disaster in Scotland or Wales, who will be ultimately responsible—the United Kingdom Government or the devolved Executive? Will the co-ordination be any better than it was during the foot and mouth epidemic?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the arrangements for civil contingency planning involve—

2 Dec 2002 : Column 968

for example, in relation to particular identified possible civil contingencies—identifying where the lead should be, how it should be dealt with and close co-ordination between the devolved assemblies and central government. Responsibility for particular parts of it may have to be separated depending on the nature of the emergency. But that is what civil contingency planning involves addressing.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, do the Government contemplate among their contingency planning the issue at some stage of gas masks?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is a whole range of contingencies, which is what contingency planning seeks to deal with. Of course it will depend on the particular contingency.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, does the Minister recall his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in a previous discussion on this subject at Question Time, revealing the existence of the Emergency Planning Committee for London, on which sat a number of very senior officials, including the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary? When I asked the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in a Written Question how often that committee met, he said he could not say because it was a matter of national security. Can the noble Lord either tell the House how often it meets, or will he accept that—as the more cynical of us may believe—it never meets at all?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I was not aware of the Answer from my noble and learned friend Lord Rooker.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Rooker. I am sorry. I apologise to him for associating him with all those lawyers. I know that he would regard that as a very unwise remark on my part. I do not know how many times it has met. I do not know whether or not it would be appropriate for me to say how many times it has met. But perhaps I may write to the noble Lord in that respect.


3.7 p.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lord Filkin will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on Northern France.

Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision with respect to the driving and use of vehicles drawn by horses or other

2 Dec 2002 : Column 969

animals on roads or in other public places; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business of the House: Standing Order 41

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 41 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Tuesday 10th December next to allow the Motion standing in the name of the Lord McIntosh of Haringey to be taken before the National Minimum Wage (Enforcement Notices) Bill [HL].—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Human Rights Committee

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I should point out that in paragraph (c) the reference should be to Standing Order 74, rather than Standing Order 73.

Moved, That a Select Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with a committee appointed by the Commons as the Joint Committee on Human Rights:

To consider:

(a) matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom (but excluding consideration of individual cases);

(b) proposals for remedial orders, draft remedial orders and remedial orders made under Section 10 of and laid under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998; and

(c) in respect of draft remedial orders and remedial orders, whether the special attention of the House should be drawn to them on any of the grounds specified in Standing Order 74 (Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments);

To report to the House:

(a) in relation to any document containing proposals laid before the House under paragraph 3 of the said Schedule 2, its recommendation whether a draft order in the same terms as the proposals should be laid before the House; or

(b) in relation to any draft order laid under paragraph 2 of the said Schedule 2, its recommendation whether the draft order should be approved;

and to have power to report to the House on any matter arising from its consideration of the said proposals or draft orders; and

2 Dec 2002 : Column 970

To report to the House in respect of any original order laid under paragraph 4 of the said Schedule 2, its recommendation whether:

(a) the order should be approved in the form in which it was originally laid before Parliament; or

(b) that the order should be replaced by a new order modifying the provisions of the original order; or

(c) that the order should not be approved,

and to have power to report to the House on any matter arising from its consideration of the said order or any replacement order;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the Lords following be named of the committee:

L. Bowness, L. Lester of Herne Hill, L. Parekh, B. Perry of Southwark, B. Prashar, B. Whitaker;

That the committee have power to agree with any committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a chairman;

That the committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the committee from time to time shall, if the committee think fit, be printed.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to; and a message was ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Procedure of the House Committee

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Select Committee on Procedure of the House be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

L. Alderdice, B. Blatch, V. Brookeborough, E. Caithness, L. Chalfont, L. Cope of Berkeley, L. Craig of Radley, L. Crickhowell, L. Denham, L. Donaldson of Lymington, L. Geddes, L. Gladwin of Clee, L. Goodhart, B. Goudie,

2 Dec 2002 : Column 971

L. Grenfell, L. Grocott, L. Haskel, L. Irvine of Lairg (Lord Chancellor), L. Judd, B. Rendell of Babergh, L. Roper, L. Strathclyde, B. Symons of Vernham Dean, L. Trefgarne, L. Waddington, B. Warnock, B. Williams of Crosby, L. Williams of Mostyn (L. Privy Seal).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Crime (International Co-operation) Bill [HL]

3.9 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill marks a significant advance in co-operation against serious crime and terrorism within the European Union. It will enable us to work more closely and effectively with both our European Union partners and others outside the EU.

International crime affects us all. Greater freedom to travel and live in other countries and the growth of international trade mean that crime is no longer confined by national boundaries. But the impact of international crime is often felt on a local scale. It is the larger criminal gangs that facilitate local crimes in the UK—for example, by supplying stolen goods or drugs.

Drug smuggling is one of the main cross-border crimes and the main activity of serious and organised criminals. It is estimated that two-thirds of organised crime groups are involved in drug trafficking, and international drug smugglers feed the local drug markets that in turn lead to theft locally. As many as two-thirds of persistent offenders have a serious drug problem and between a third and a fifth of all acquisitive crime is linked to the need to pay for illegal drugs. Theft and burglary bring insecurity and disruption to their victims, so there is a clear connection between tackling international organised crime and improving the safety of our streets and homes.

Nor is the problem confined to drug trafficking. Other cross-border crimes have an impact on society more widely—such as people trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering and cigarette smuggling. People trafficking is on the increase: 21,800 illegal entrants were detected in the first nine months of 2000 compared with 16,000 in 1999.

The best way to tackle international crime is to work closely with our neighbours. That is especially true of drug trafficking. The Netherlands and Spain are both

2 Dec 2002 : Column 972

significant bases for the secondary distribution of drugs within the EU, including to the UK. We are already working with our EU partners. For example, the first joint investigative team that the UK is setting up is with Spain, targeting cocaine traffickers. During the past 12 months, the UK has worked with Europol on more than 500 UK cases that have required European co-operation. Those have ranged from simple requests for information to major joint operations.

However, we need to do more. Too many obstacles to international investigations serve only to protect the criminal. Bringing multinational gangs to justice may involve several trials in different countries, each with their own criminal procedures. Ensuring success for such complex procedures means reducing the obstacles that block effective cross-border co-operation. That is what the Bill is intended to achieve.

The Bill will make the changes needed to enable the UK to participate in the non-border aspects of the Schengen Convention. The Schengen arrangements provide a clear framework for effective co-operation, especially for cross-border police operations. The UK first applied to participate in the police and judicial co-operation elements of Schengen in May 1999. Our application was accepted a year later, and I welcome this chance to legislate to make good our participation.

The question of UK participation in Schengen has been of considerable interest to your Lordships' House. Under the expert chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the European Union Committee undertook four separate reports into the Schengen acquis, its incorporation into the EU treaty structure and the UK's intentions towards Schengen. I am happy to note that a report published in March 1999—just before the Government made our formal application to participate in Schengen—concluded that:

    "if the United Kingdom does not opt-in, its influence over a broad range of Justice and Home Affairs matters may be seriously diminished . . . Weaker United Kingdom influence over the development of European policies will mean that such policies will reflect the preferences of others, and fail to take into account particular United Kingdom concerns".

We do not accept that our influence over EU affairs has been in any way weakened during the past few years—indeed, quite the reverse—but active participation in Schengen will serve only to strengthen our influence over justice and home affairs matters, as well as bringing material benefit to those involved in fighting cross-border crime.

Let me explain in more detail what the Bill will achieve. The first part of the Bill will modernise our arrangements for providing mutual legal assistance and bring them in line with the new proceedings brought in by Schengen and by the mutual legal assistance convention agreed in May 2000. The convention was part of the EU's anti-terrorism road map, agreed after 11th September.

Mutual legal assistance (MLA) is the formal process by which countries request and provide assistance in obtaining evidence located in one country to assist in criminal proceedings in another. Effective and swift

2 Dec 2002 : Column 973

MLA arrangements are essential if we and our EU partners are to run successful cross-border investigations and prosecutions. MLA is not new: we have undertaken it for many years. The new provisions will speed up and reduce scope for delay in respect of international co-operation. We will extend some of the modernising provisions to countries outside the EU.

The changes will allow UK prosecutors to send requests for evidence directly to courts in other EU countries, rather than going through the central authority system, allowing us to provide other countries with evidence by television link in MLA cases. That is an essential modernisation of existing arrangements to enable international co-operation to benefit from modern technology. We expect that that will be of most use in cases involving countries outside the EU, because greater distances make travel less attractive and TV evidence more attractive.

The Bill will also introduce mutual recognition of orders to freeze evidence, as provided for by the EU's draft framework decision on the execution of orders freezing evidence. That is a major step forward that will significantly speed up the process of securing valuable evidence. Mutual recognition takes MLA one step further by recognising directly, as between EU member states, a request made by a court, so enabling a direct response with the minimum of formality. The UK is a keen supporter of the principle of mutual recognition, which both speeds up co-operation and respects the diversity of legal systems. We therefore welcomed the conclusion at the 1999 Tampere Council—a special meeting of the European Council devoted to justice and home affairs—that mutual recognition should be a cornerstone of future development of judicial co-operation in the EU.

Criminals operating across international borders are often also involved in financial crime and money laundering. It is recognised that the ability to obtain comprehensive banking information from other EU countries would be of significant assistance to domestic law enforcement. The Bill will increase our ability to respond to requests from other EU countries for information relating to bank accounts of criminal suspects. By implementing the protocol to the mutual legal assistance convention, the EU has created a reciprocal obligation between member states to respond to requests for financial information. The requests will reflect the new investigative tools introduced by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Part 2 of the Bill deals with terrorism. Like criminals, terrorists do not respect national boundaries. We need effective measures with persuasive penalties that are imposed consistently across the EU. Following the events of 11th September last year, the EU agreed a framework decision that requires all member states to introduce extensive anti-terrorism legislation. As the UK already has wide-ranging domestic anti-terrorist legislation, which was largely the inspiration for the Commission's proposal, we are already broadly compliant with the body of the framework decision. So implementing that measure does not require us to create any new offences or

2 Dec 2002 : Column 974

penalties. It simply requires us to take extra-territorial jurisdiction over a wider range of terrorist offences than at present.

The Bill will therefore take extra-territorial jurisdiction over terrorist offences committed overseas against UK nationals, diplomatic staff and diplomatic premises. It will also take ETJ over terrorist offences committed overseas by UK nationals. We supported that measure during its negotiation in Brussels and we welcome this opportunity to implement promptly the changes needed to bring it into force.

Part 3 deals with driving disqualifications. It is not right that people who commit a driving offence for which they are disqualified while abroad should be able to escape being disqualified when they return home to their usual state of residence. The EU Driving Disqualification Convention is intended to promote the principle that drivers should abide by the rules of the road, no matter where they are driving. That will help to promote greater road safety across the EU. There are safeguards to ensure that the arrangements are not misused and do not lead to any unfair decisions. The process for notifying a disqualification will apply only once any appeal has been completed and there will be a right of appeal in the UK against recognition of foreign disqualifications that can be suspensive.

Part 3 also allows for recognition in Great Britain of driving disqualifications imposed in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. The fact that none of those jurisdictions recognises driving disqualifications imposed in any of the others is an anomaly whose remedy is long overdue. A more uniform system across the UK is also essential for implementation of the wider EU measures.

The last part of the Bill wraps up a number of changes that we need to make before we can participate in the Schengen Convention. It provides a safeguard by giving the Information Commissioner new powers to inspect independently the UK national sections of the Schengen information system, the Europol information system and the Customs information system. Creating a statutory basis for the role of the Information Commissioner in that way is a new departure. We are doing it partly because it is required by the agreements setting up the systems, but more importantly we are doing it because we think that it is right to create an extra level of protection for the rights of the individual under the systems, where UK participation is a new departure.

Part 4 of the Bill also deals with Schengen cross-border surveillance. Fast and effective arrangements for agreeing cross-border surveillance operations are an essential part of effective international police investigations. Criminals do not stop at national borders, and, if our law enforcement agencies are to investigate them and gather the evidence that they need, they too must be able to carry on past our national boundaries in specific circumstances. Schengen provides a clear framework for agreeing to this sort of international operation. Joint and

2 Dec 2002 : Column 975

multilateral surveillance exercises will allow UK officers to cross national boundaries with the same ease as criminals, improving prevention and detection.

UK police have welcomed the Schengen arrangements because they are reciprocal and because joining them will make it much easier for us to mount cross-border surveillance operations and pursue UK criminals who are active internationally. The basic legislation needed to permit cross-border surveillance, if operations are pre-arranged, was included in the Police Reform Act 2002, which the House considered in the last Session. This Bill will make changes necessary to cover urgent cases in which the surveillance cannot be pre-arranged and the foreign officers are expected to be able to continue in the UK until UK officers can take over.

The Bill will amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000—RIPA—to authorise surveillance by overseas officers, in tightly controlled circumstances, for up to five hours. The measure marks a new departure in international co-operation, but we believe that there are proper safeguards attached. Article 40 of the Schengen Convention makes it clear that officers acting under its terms must abide by the rules of the country in which they are operating. It is not in anyone's interest to contravene those rules; Schengen is firmly based on mutual co-operation and respect, which are central to its continuing success.

The final measure in the Bill addresses the growing problem of the counterfeiting of plastic cards. More and more, that type of offence occurs on an international scale, which is why the EU agreed a framework decision to ensure that all member states had effective legislation to deal with that sort of crime. Implementing the measure in the UK requires an amendment to the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 to cover bankers' drafts, promissory notes and debit cards.

All the EU agreements that underlie what is in the Bill have already been scrutinised by the EU scrutiny committee of this House, as well as that in the Commons. We commend the excellent work that the committee does. No doubt, it will have much to say about our proposals for implementing these measures. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Filkin.)

3.23 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his presentation of the Government's proposals. Nobody can be in any doubt that those who engage in international crime and terrorism will never find friends in this House.

We welcome wholeheartedly Part 2 of the Bill, which will give us extra-territorial jurisdiction over terrorist offences committed by UK nationals anywhere in the world and over attacks on UK nationals and diplomatic premises wherever they occur. We must show that the fight against terrorism

2 Dec 2002 : Column 976

is being taken seriously by authorising closer co-operation between police forces, customs authorities and intelligence services throughout the EU.

That does not mean that we should not scrutinise the Bill carefully; nor does it mean that we should not improve it—far from it. It is important to make the distinction between constructive co-operation and harmonisation, and we must ensure that measures in the Bill do not undermine our civil liberties. In that context, some elements of the Bill raise concerns. In particular, we will consider with extreme caution the provisions to allow customs officers and police officers from abroad to conduct surveillance in the UK without first having obtained the permission of the UK authorities.

The Bill implements so many elements of the Schengen acquis and related agreements that it looks as though the Government are leading us gently by the nose into Schengen by the back door. We shall consider that very carefully. How much has our scrutiny role in the UK Parliament already been undermined by the Government's signature to various protocols and agreements? Exactly what room for manoeuvre does Parliament have to improve the Bill? The full regulatory impact assessment lets the cat out of the bag. It tells us that the Government have already agreed,

    "to urgently ratify the Protocol"—

their split infinitive, not mine. The assessment goes on to state:

    "Ministers have already agreed to ratify the Protocol in the UK and are under an obligation to do so . . . Failure to ratify the Protocol in the UK would break an international agreement".

That protocol has regard to mutual assistance on criminal matters.

Have Ministers thereby effectively usurped Parliament's powers to reject the Bill, if it wishes to do so? Have they usurped our power to amend it? In Committee, we shall ask the Minister to put on the record what our EU partners will do to enact national legislation that we hope will impose exactly the same obligations and penalties upon their citizens. We shall also ask what timetable they have adopted to comply with the various protocols.

The backdrop to our consideration of the Bill must be the question of how far we have confidence in the judicial and police systems of other countries that will be party to the reciprocal agreements enshrined in the Bill. During the debate on the European arrest warrant earlier this year, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, encapsulated the problem when he posed the question:

    "Can we have sufficient confidence in the judicial process in other member states to justify giving up the traditional safeguards?".

I agree with the noble Lord, as I do on so many occasions, that it would be wrong to claim that our procedures are always the best in the world. As he said:

    "Others may be our equals and in some cases perhaps better than ours, but not all. Italy is notorious for its delays. The system of criminal administration in Belgium is so bad that it has caused a national scandal".—[Official Report, 23/4/02; col. 226.]

2 Dec 2002 : Column 977

In a Community in which judicial and policing systems are not the same, the question of trust is paramount.

So far, the Government have left too much to delegated legislation. In particular, too much is to be dealt with by negative resolution. That has been done in the mere hope that our colleagues in mainland Europe will abide by the Schengen handbook to the letter. The Minister has already raised an example. He talked about the countries that would participate in the arrangements set out in Part 1 of the Bill. He said that he hoped that the new procedures enshrined in the mutual assistance agreement would be extended to countries outside the European Union. In Clause 52, the Secretary of State is given a wide, open-ended power to extend the list of such countries as he chooses, subject only to negative resolution.

Which offences will be the relevant offences for the hot surveillance powers? Clause 83 gives the Secretary of State the power, by order, to list any crimes that he likes. We shall examine the intention of the Bill and consider whether we will end up with listing activities that are crimes in other EU countries or elsewhere but are not crimes here. That would not be acceptable. Why is there nothing in the Bill to prevent foreign customs officers and police from carrying guns while they carry out hot surveillance—hot watch—in this country? We shall want to remedy that omission.

Clause 83 should also state clearly that, when they carry out hot watch, foreign customs officers and police officers should not be allowed to enter private homes. They should not be able to challenge or arrest the person under surveillance. They should be required to contact the authorities immediately on crossing the border, and they should submit a formal request for assistance as soon as possible. That is not an unreasonable request from these Benches. It cannot be, because the Government say that those rules will be the first to be put in an order, which they will put before your Lordships after the Bill has received Royal Assent. As the Government already know that they want to do that and we agree that it is the right thing to do, we should have it in the Bill now.

Most of the Bill refers to the sharing of information, and I would be the first to accept that good intelligence must be the key to successful detection and subsequent prosecution. We therefore want to ensure that the UK and other EU countries and their agencies are able to enjoy as much access to relevant information as is compatible with civil liberties. So we shall look carefully but constructively at the sections which deal with banking information and access to the valuable and valued—

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page