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Lord Filkin: The noble and learned Lord asked first whether the framework decision is critical to our extradition arrangements. We believe that the decision is extremely important in seeking to put in place a better system of extradition in our relationships with European Union member states. As I signalled in the debate at Second Reading—I thought that we had a good debate—there are substantial benefits for British citizens as a consequence. I shall not go into detail at this point, but I am sure that Members of the Committee will recollect that the key issue was that it would allow us to bring to trial over here people who otherwise would have avoided justice and who are currently avoiding justice.

Secondly, yes, the framework decision puts in place a system of extradition. Thirdly, the framework decision does have to be implemented in British legislation. The noble and learned Lord is absolutely correct. I make again a point that I think was made clear at Second Reading. If the decision is to have legal force in Britain, and if we are to derive the benefits that it will bring to British citizens, then it has to be legislatively enacted by Parliament. Until such time as it has been enacted, we shall not derive those benefits.

Finally, while the Bill does give effect to the framework decision, it also governs extradition with the rest of the world. I hope that I have answered the questions advanced by the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: The argument appears to turn on whether this is merely an alteration in extradition or whether it marks the shrinkage of the

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extradition procedure to such an extent that either it justifies the word used by my noble friend—"surrender"—or, as others have used it, the phrase, "the abolition of extradition". If it is not an alteration, as has been maintained by Members on this side of the Committee, perhaps the Minister can remind us by how much the Government expect the speed of handling extradition cases to increase. In the past the Minister has referred to the length of time that extradition proceedings can take and has implied that that is wrong and intolerable; we must shorten the process. He has put a figure on that. Can he remind us of what is now the average length of an extradition case and what he expects it to come down to?

Once we have the figure, can the Minister then tell noble Lords how it is to be achieved? What will be cut out? Plainly something must be cut. What kinds of cases are being cut? What stages of cases are being cut? As I recall from what he said previously, we are to see a quite dramatic reduction in the time that extradition cases are expected to take. How is that to be achieved and what is to be cut out?

The Minister has stated that safeguards are still built into the process. No doubt he will refer to Clause 21 which concerns human rights. However, to judge from all that has been said about the validity and the mutual recognition of the legal systems of other countries, it does not appear that Clause 21 will be invoked in very many cases. Although it is long on words, given the comments about the legal systems operating in other countries within this single legal space, one would not expect it to be used all that much.

We do know that dual criminality is to be abolished and that the grounds on which extradition can be resisted are to be narrowed. This is important because it is one of the premises of the whole argument. There should always be wider grounds to plead against extradition, not only on those such as, "I am not Mr Brown, the accused; I am Mr Smith". I say that because extradition by itself places the accused in an extremely difficult position. The accused is taken to another jurisdiction where he is less likely to secure bail because he is a foreigner. Because he is less likely to secure bail, he will be less able to prepare his defence. Following that are all the other points that we have discussed: whether he will understand the proceedings; whether adequate interpretation will be provided; and the matter of legal representation.

There is quite a strong presumption that a person being extradited is placed at a disadvantage. That is why there ought to be in place a process and a series of hurdles. You cannot have an automatic extradition process. Because of that, it is incumbent on the Minister to prove to noble Lords that this is not just a system of automaticity. He must prove that proper extradition cases will be heard. Given his remarks about the shrinkage in time, I remain unconvinced.

Can the Minister also give the Committee further information about how the system as it is being set up compares with extradition proceedings between the individual states of the United States? I understand—I stand to be corrected because I may be wrong on this—

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that in certain states such as California, people may not always be extradited to states such as Alabama, except in serious murder cases, because of concerns about the quality of justice in Alabama. That is something which can be brought before the courts. It is not something that can be easily brought under the Bill. I want the Minister to compare the single legal space of the United States and the single legal space that has been created in this sense in the Bill because I would be very alarmed if extradition were to become even easier from one country to another in the EU than it is between states in the United States. It would be helpful to have a detailed statement later about the United States and extradition procedures between the two as that is relevant to our considerations.

As the framework decision has been mentioned, en passant I ask the Minister: is it right that there is a delay in Austria's implementation of this directive in terms of extraditing its own nationals or has that now gone? My main point is the reason why there has to be some kind of procedure and whether we are not shrinking it so much that actually there is some validity in what is being said about this being called "the abolition of extradition"?

4 p.m.

Lord Filkin: The thrust of the question of the noble Lord, Lord Lamont—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Is the Minister going to answer every contribution individually?

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: Yes.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: That is unusual.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: Perhaps I may return to what my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew said.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Can we clarify the position? Are we to have a discussion as normal on the first amendment where the Minister responds at a later stage, or is he going to reply to each contribution?

Lord Filkin: After the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, had moved and spoken to his amendment, I looked around the room. Members were sitting down and silent. I therefore stood up to make my response to the debate. During my response, my noble friend Lord Wedderburn asked whether before I sat down—although I seem to recollect that I was—I would answer some further questions, which, out of courtesy, I did. Since then it appears that the debate has reopened on the amendment. Therefore, I have sought to be courteous to Members and to respond to their questions. That is my understanding of what has happened. I am always open to the advice of the Committee and the Chair if I am wrong in my understanding.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: On behalf of my noble friends perhaps I may offer this clarification. In Committee, one of the great advantages for Back-Benchers is that once the Minister has responded at any stage of the debate they are able to ask questions.

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Members on the Front Benches are able to ask questions or to make speeches towards the close of the debate and we do not try to reopen it.

Surely it is one function of Committee that any Member, but in particular Back-Benchers, may make speeches at any time. It is only in that way that Back-Benchers manage to hold the executive to account. That becomes progressively more difficult for them as we progress to the Report and Third Reading stages. If I am mistaken in my understanding, it is important to have that made clear by the Chairman and the authorities. I would not wish, for example, the speeches made earlier by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden to be considered as an intervention, which is how the Minister referred to them. I realise that that may have been a slip of the tongue.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Before anyone goes further, I ask Members not to suggest that the Chair can intervene in these matters, because it cannot. If there are matters of procedure which need clarification, it is normally the Whips who would intervene, but certainly not the Chair.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I thought the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, was being unfair to the Minister. The Minister was showing his usual courtesy to the Committee in attempting to answer a speech made by my noble and learned friend before other Members has entered the debate. I appreciate that, although I hope that we shall have general debates on the various amendments as we go through the Bill.

I want to return to the point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew, which I think is important. He asked: what is the objection of having Amendment No. 1? I get more and more worried about the complexity of legislation and its wording. At Second Reading I had the temerity to point out that in a Bill that was said to be intended to simplify the law of extradition, we were in fact starting to consider a Bill of 213 clauses and 116 pages for the purpose of simplifying one Act of 38 clause that covered 33 pages. That is true of many other parts—this is no party-political criticism—of the legislative procedure today. We have become very complicated in the language we use.

My noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew is asking what is wrong with having a first clause which sets out the purpose of the Bill so that people at least understand where they start. I understand that the Minister did not suggest that my noble and learned friend's purpose was not an accurate one in the intentions of the Bill. Therefore, I believe there is some advantage in having the new Clause 1 setting out that purpose before we consider the various clauses that follow.

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