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Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I have one question for the Minister. He explained that the subsection contained the word "may" which gave the Home Secretary a discretion in responding to the request under Section 1(1). He went on to explain that that would give the Secretary of State the power to refuse to do so in matters that, as has been said, might arise at present in Zimbabwe or Iraq. Does the "may" have anything to do with the method of service? The Bill states that the Secretary of State may,
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will reflect on these matters and report back; it is most helpful. He clearly highlighted why the issues are important when he said that there may be a need in later proceedings to prove the efficacy of servicewhich is what the amendment itself hinges on. We are not in any way trying to create extra bureaucracy to entangle anyone. We were trying to find a hanger for the provision, and this was a convenient place to deal with it. The Minister was right to say that there are occasions when it is not necessary to refer to regulations in the Bill itself and that parliamentary scrutiny of those regulations is occasionally not necessary. On other occasions, however, it is absolutely vital that there are such regulations by order. We shall come to those regulations later in our consideration of this Bill and of other legislation.
Amendment No. 4 was moved merely to stimulate debate and I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. In regard to service of these documents, they are, as he said, served on those who are witnesses and not on those who are yet accused persons. As he knows, particularly in international crime, a witness may become an accused person. It is therefore important that service is properly achieved.
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6 and 8. The amendments would clarify the form of the statutory notices that will accompany the service of overseas process. In that respect, the Bill again replicates provisions in the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990.
The amendments simply raise the issue of the drafting of the statutory notices and whether they are drafted in terms that are easily understandable to those upon whom they are served. That is particularly important for the giving of notice about the effect of subsection (2) of Clause 2, which makes clear that there is no obligation under the law of the United Kingdom to comply with the process. Are the terms of the form left to the Home Office and to individual chief officers of police, or is there a standard national or
Lord Filkin: The overall purpose of the amendments is to ensure that people served with process relating to overseas proceedings are made fully aware of the consequences of that service. Evidently, the amendment reflects the Opposition's concern that recipients of such documents may not fully understand the implications. It is right and proper to make sure that that is not the case. The Government are sympathetic to the intention behind the amendments, but we do not believe that they are necessary or would add anything to the existing situation.
Clause 2 merely replicates Section 1(3) to Section 1(6) of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990, which governs existing MLA arrangements. It was brought in by a Conservative government. The clause already contains adequate safeguards to ensure that the recipient of such process is aware that it does not impose any obligation under UK law and to ensure that recipients are aware of the consequences under the law of the country where the process was served.
The amendments would require the letters informing the recipients of overseas process to be written in "ordinary language". That would cause difficulties. It would be difficult to know what was meant by "ordinary language", as the concept is itself open to interpretation. The more substantial point is that the letters are nothing new. The UK Central Authority, based in the Home Office, has sent them out since the 1990 Act came into force. I can assure the Committee that the letters are written in straightforward language. I have had a look at them, and even I could understand them. To put that beyond doubt, I am happy to give illustrations to the Opposition Front Benches.
Is it open to the Home Office to determine the format? Yes, it is. There is no international form, and I shudder at the thought of the negotiations that will lead to its production. For those reasons, I hope that the Opposition, when they see the letters, will see that we share the intent of making sure that people who are served process understand clearly and fully their obligations.
Lord Clinton-Davis: I am unable to understand what the noble Baroness means by "ordinary language". Ordinary language in Smithfield Market is different from ordinary language in Carey Street. That being the case, I cannot understand why it was necessary to table the amendment.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I can understand what the noble Baroness is getting at. The Minister said that the letters were written in language that even he could understand. He is a Minister of the Crown and a
I do not want to make too much of this, for I understood what the Minister said. Nevertheless, we are discussing a complicated Bill. Some of the documents that are served on people are just as complicated. We need Explanatory Notes to tell us the way through, so we should not be too critical if someone tables an amendment to get clarification and some assurances that people will be able to understand exactly what any notice served on them means. The consequences of not understanding could be serious.
Lord Filkin: I can add little to what common sensea dangerous termtells us about that. It is up to an individual who is invited to reflect on whether he needs legal advice to make a judgment as to whether he should go to a solicitor, to the NACAB, which gives simple legal advice in some cases, or to others. In many cases, that decision would be straightforward, and the person would go to a solicitor, if he needed advice on a potential criminal prosecution. I understand, however, that such a person cannot apply for legal aid in such circumstances.
I am grateful to Members of the Committee for their contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, was right to go to the heart of the matter: what do we mean by "ordinary language"? We mean language that the recipient of the notice can understand. It highlights our greatest difficulty, which is that we are drafting legislation that should be appeal-proof and judicial review-proof. The Bill will achieve government policy objectives, but it should also be written in something resembling real language that can be understood not only by practitioners but by others. That is the greatest problem. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, said that it was important that the consequences for someone who does not understand something could be severe.
I am grateful to the Minister for pointing out that it is the Home Office that determines the matters. We shall return to the matter of comprehension of proceedings, particularly in cases in which people do not have the language in which the notice would