Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Scott of Foscote: My Lords, I support the noble Viscount's amendment. In view of what has already been said in support of the amendment, I confine myself to one matter of particular importance. No one doubts the constitutional importance of the Extradition Bill or the fact that one of the most important aspects of the Bill is the abolition of the safeguard of dual criminality in relation to extradition to category 1 countries—that is, by and large, member states of the European Union—over a whole raft of categories of offences, of which there are some 32 in

6 May 2003 : Column 962

all. A feature of the categories is that they cover matters in which there is no harmonisation between the criminal laws of the various member states.

Conduct falling within one or other of the categories may be criminal in one member state but not in another. An example involves the category of racism and xenophobia. I shall concentrate on the racism half of that composite expression because no one has provided any explanation of what xenophobia adds to racism. Within that category, there are relevant types of conduct in, for example, Germany, but not in this country. Holocaust denial is the obvious example.

The proposal is that dual criminality will not be necessary for the extradition of someone in this country to another member state, notwithstanding the fact that the conduct in question was not criminal according to the law of this country. That is justified—and can only be justified—by the proposition that all member states share common values and common respect for human rights, guaranteed by the European convention. Each therefore owes to the other mutual respect and recognition of the criminal laws and procedures in each country.

That justification works where the conduct of which one is speaking is conduct committed within the territory of the member state in question. However, some types of conduct cannot be so easily classified. Some types of conduct are committed partly in one country and partly in another, and the conduct as a whole may be said to constitute the offence in question. That is particularly so when one considers what constitutes various offences that some member states may have within the "racism and xenophobia" category.

Currently, the Bill's provisions do not cater satisfactorily for cases in which the conduct crosses borders in the way I have described. Let us suppose a case involving publication on the Internet by which there was publication in this country but downloading in another member state. We might consider the case of newspaper articles: an article may be written and published in this country but distributed in another member state. Let us suppose that the content of the article on the Internet would be regarded as criminal in the other member state because it contains, for example, holocaust denial. Is that a case in which we should have to extradite without the requirement of dual criminality to the foreign country in question, notwithstanding the fact that a substantial part of the conduct had taken place in this country?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, for giving way. I answered those important questions in the European Union Committee last week and did so a second time in the Second Reading debate. On the specific examples that he gave—they relate to the nature of the Bill rather than our current debate—I have already answered the point and put beyond doubt the fact that the concerns that he is raising will not be issues because we will move amendments to that effect.

Lord Scott of Foscote: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I was trying to set the background

6 May 2003 : Column 963

before coming to the very careful and clear evidence that he gave only last Wednesday to the sub-committee of the European Union Committee of which I have the honour to be the current chairman. He made the position clear and gave assurances—no one doubts those assurances—that the Government will introduce amendments so that there will not be extradition where a substantial part of the conduct, albeit not all of it, took place in this country. However, that is the vice, as I understand the procedure, of sittings in Grand Committee. We have not yet seen this highly important amendment, but it must be considered by Members of this House. It may be necessary to suggest alternative wording to that important amendment; it may be thought that one could more satisfactorily achieve the aim—the common aim of all—in that way rather than with the wording the Minister proposes.

I respectfully suggest that that is a reason why the Bill should continue to be considered in a Committee of this House and should not be sent to Grand Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for anticipating the point that I was going to make. That is the point of importance that I suggest justifies support for the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, when this issue came to the committee in November of the year before last, we were not able to conduct proper scrutiny; there was pressure of time and we were assured that that would be remedied by proper consideration in this House when it came to legislation. For that reason also—because scrutiny was not satisfactorily completed—it is vital that we handle this Bill on the Floor of the House. That is where it should be.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, there is no dispute about the significance of this Bill but I do not agree with the noble Viscount's amendment. Let me explain why.

Perhaps I should first declare an interest. I have attended, I believe, three Grand Committee sittings in their entirety on three different Bills. I do not know whether any other noble Lord has done so. I speak with a little experience of how Grand Committees work. I am satisfied that the process of scrutiny in Grand Committee is thorough: in many ways, it gives more opportunity for proper discussion and debate than does the more formal context of debates in a Committee of this House. It is not as if we are short of the opportunity to move amendments at later stages of the Bill. That contrasts with the situation in another place—I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, in this regard—where the opportunities on Report are limited by the Speaker's selection of amendments; we know that opportunities are few and far between there. There is also no opportunity to amend at Third Reading in another place. In contrast, we have a wonderful opportunity to debate and vote on amendments on Report and at Third Reading. We have adequate opportunities in this place.

6 May 2003 : Column 964

We do not need a further Committee stage that is taken on the Floor of the House as a matter of course. Indeed, I believe that, as a matter of course, Bills should go to Grand Committee. That is a better way of debating the details and of testing the Government's view in order that amendments can be tabled at a later stage. We should not indulge ourselves in the luxury of being able to have the same debate three times on the Floor of the House. Twice is surely enough.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, there is only one fundamental reason—it is a short one—why the Bill and Part 1, which contains points of principle, should be taken on the Floor of the House. We are not concerned, if I may say so with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, with whether the scrutiny in Grand Committee in the Moses Room is first rate or not. In my opinion, it is first rate. However, that is not the issue. The issue is that on points of principle, and for the reasons given throughout the House, the Committee stage should be on the Floor of the House.

4 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I shall explain briefly why the noble Viscount's amendment, and a number of points made in this debate, are wrong. A Grand Committee is a Committee of the Whole House in exactly the same way as is a Committee in the Chamber. Every Peer who wishes to attend or speak may do so. I cannot believe that if noble Lords are so interested in the merits of this issue, they cannot walk to the Moses Room or a Committee Room upstairs to deal with the point that they want to raise. In my view, every point that has been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, can be dealt with in a much better way in Grand Committee, where scrutiny is better.

For obvious reasons there is more time in Grand Committee than on the Floor of the House. The only difference is that your Lordships cannot vote, a point to which I shall return in a minute. If unsatisfactory government amendments are tabled, they cannot be inserted in a Bill in Grand Committee unless such a committee is unanimous. If one voice says "No", such an amendment has to be withdrawn and brought back at Report stage. If there are alternatives, a government amendment may be brought forward in Grand Committee and considered there.

The fallacy in the argument advanced by noble Lords is that if noble Lords wish to vote in Committee they will give the Government no chance to think again. We all know the rules of the House and once the House has made a decision noble Lords cannot return to the matter at a later stage of the Bill. If the arguments are as strong, as I am sure that they are on the part of the Bill that is causing concern, they can be advanced in Grand Committee. Then the Government will have to realise that they will have to make concessions at Report stage if they wish those issues to go through. It seems to me that the argument of principle is fallacious.

6 May 2003 : Column 965

It is easier—I say this as a former Chief Whip—between Committee stage and Report stage to get the Government to realise that they have to make concessions or they will be defeated on Report but if the decision has already been taken in Committee, the Government will have no chance to rethink. I ask your Lordships to realise that a Grand Committee is a Committee of the Whole House; all the points made there can be made again and explored; and there is not the same pressure of time as there is on the Floor of the House. But noble Lords must realise that if they force this part of the Bill onto the Floor of the House and insist on voting on it, noble Lords will give the Government no chance to make a concession.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page