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Courts Bill [HL]

3.21 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 6, Schedule 1, Clauses 7 to 31, Schedule 2, Clauses 32 to 40, Schedule 3, Clauses 41 to 60, Schedule 4, Clauses 61 to 91, Schedule 5, Clauses 92 to 99, Schedules 6 and 7, Clauses 100 to 102.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Railways and Transport Safety Bill

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Local Government Bill

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Extradition Bill

3.22 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin) rose to move, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Bill will benefit greatly from scrutiny in Grand Committee. It is legally complex and it requires detailed consideration and dispassionate argument rather than rhetoric or humour. Compared with the Chamber, Grand Committee provides more time, a less adversarial atmosphere, better facilities, more direct engagement with officials and a better view for the public.

The Bill was published in draft and received pre-legislative scrutiny by the Commons Home Affairs Committee and by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. If necessary, I shall speak later about our recent experience of the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill in Grand Committee. I believe that those who took part in it thought that it was an exemplary example of scrutiny by this House.

The Bill is not about the principle of extradition, in which this country has participated for over 100 years, but about the processes. It seeks to make those processes fair to justice and fair to the individuals charged. It is precisely because of the fine balance of that endeavour that a considered process in Grand Committee is a first-class process for considering the Bill. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.—(Lord Filkin.)

Viscount Bledisloe rose to move, as a manuscript amendment to the Motion, at the end to insert—

    ", save for Part 1, which shall be committed to a Committee of the Whole House".

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I describe this as a manuscript amendment although, thanks to the good offices of the Public Bill Office, it is available in type. I hope that most of your Lordships have it.

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The purpose of the amendment is very simple; that is, to ensure that the Committee stage of Part 1 of the Bill, which deals with the European arrest warrant, remains on the Floor of the House and is not removed to the Moses Room and subjected to the procedure of the Grand Committee. As I say, Part 1 contains the provisions which introduce into British law the European arrest warrant which means that extradition to other European Union countries will be virtually automatic subject to certain very limited exceptions.

The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has just said that the Bill is about processes not principles. If he describes the principle as "some extradition is a good thing and should happen", I suppose that he can say that the Bill is about processes. But beyond that very broad principle the Bill completely changes the system of extradition. It means that, subject to very limited exceptions, a warrant issued by any European country for the extradition of someone in this country will go through on the nod. That is a total change from extradition as we know it.

Whatever one thinks of the overall merits of that concept, there can be no doubt that introducing the European arrest warrant constitutes a very major change to our existing laws and one which has caused considerable concern to a large number of people who are entitled to have their views seriously considered. The matter has also aroused considerable public disquiet and concern, perhaps partly through a mistaken belief that the new law will allow foreign policemen to break into one's bedroom and drag one away in one's pyjamas to a Greek court, but also for more substantial reasons which are matters of substance.

I give an example of that concern. The European arrest warrant has been subject to two reports of your Lordships' Select Committee on European affairs. Those reports stated that the proposal raised important questions which they recommended should be debated in your Lordships' House. I shall say no more on the Select Committee as I notice that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, who chaired the relevant sub-committee is present. Following those reports debates took place and many speakers on all sides of the House expressed concerns about numerous aspects and urged the Government to resolve them before the latter committed themselves. It is fair to say that some of the difficulties have been resolved but others have not.

Since publication of the Bill it has been the subject of a report of your Lordships' Constitution Select Committee. That committee reported,

    "The extensive review of extradition law proposed by the Bill was a matter of constitutional significance".

When the idea of a constitution committee was mooted the Government gave it warm support, but they are not giving much warm support to the Constitution Committee's assertion that the Bill raises matters of constitutional significance by ignoring that assertion and hustling the Bill to the Moses Room to be treated as if it were a matter of technical detail.

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The Bill's Second Reading took place last Thursday. I believe that there were 16 speakers. They had varying degrees of enthusiasm or opposition to the concept of the Bill but virtually every speaker drew attention to serious specific matters which would require reconsideration, and probably amendment, at the Committee stage. Even the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the concept, listed four separate matters on which we,

    "should look for better assurances from the Government".—[Official Report, 1/5/03; col. 879.]

He also referred to numerous other problems to be explored in Committee.

So many different points were made on Part 1 that even in his excellent 25-minute speech the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, in replying to the debate, was unable to deal with many of them. So we do not even know the Government's position on a large number of these matters. It is absolutely plain from that debate and from the matters that I have already mentioned that there will be many amendments.

I hope that that brief introduction demonstrates that Part 1 constitutes a serious constitutional issue on which there will be many amendments which are not of a technical, specialist and lawyerly nature but which concern the basic rights and liberties of our citizens. I suggest that matters of that kind should be taken on the Floor of the House, and not sent to Grand Committee for consideration out of the public gaze merely by those who take a specialist and technical interest in the Bill.

There is another, separate point. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, indicated that the Government would bring forward amendments in Committee—indeed, they gave an undertaking to do so—to improve the position on dual criminality. That is the question of whether one can be hauled off to a foreign court for an offence that was fundamentally committed in this country—for example, whether one could be taken to a foreign court to be tried for publishing an article in, let us say, the Spectator, because a few copies of it appeared in that country and were alleged to offend against that country's laws against what there was called racism or xenophobia.

Those will be important amendments. Unless they go a very long way, it seems likely that they will be extremely controversial. Of course, no amendment can be made in Grand Committee save by absolutely everyone's consent. A single voice against prevents any amendment in Grand Committee. It would be a travesty if the Bill came back on Report without government amendments, so that the House could not consider them as part of the Bill until Third Reading.

I hope that that makes a fairly powerful case as to why the Bill should be taken on the Floor of the House. No doubt in reply the Government will say, first, that the matter has been agreed through the usual channels. With the greatest respect and admiration that one has for the noble Lords who compose the usual channels—I am sure that they are extremely useful people for deciding how our business shall be timed, when we shall have our lunch, tea and dinner, and so on—they

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are not the proper body to decide how constitutional Bills shall be treated and that they shall be moved from the Floor of the House.

Secondly, I am sure that the Government will say that they have an awful lot of legislation to get through. I was interested to hear a moment ago the Government Chief Whip giving what was not a very subtle or veiled indication that it might cost noble Lords their holiday if they agreed to the amendment. I hope that noble Lords will not succumb to that sort of bullying.

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