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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I was not being unkind to the Minister. Indeed, I was amazed by his courtesy in replying to every Member as soon as he finished making his speech. So I was certainly not criticising the Minister. I thought that perhaps he was making more
I think that the amendment is perfectly reasonable and necessary. The reason it is necessary is that we seek to implement the framework agreement in the same Bill that deals with extradition. The problem with the Bill is that it is two Bills. It is two Bills because Parts 1 and 2 aim to obtain different results. Therefore, there should have been a Bill to deal with the framework agreement and then a separate Bill to deal with extradition outside the framework agreement. That is what has caused confusion. As noble Lords who took part in the Second Reading said, if this was a plain extradition Bill about Part 2 there would have been little quarrel with it. Most of us would accept that that would have been a tidying-up operation of the existing extradition procedures.
The issue has become complicated because of the intrusion into the Bill of legislation to implement a framework directive which seeks to achieve a uniform system in the European Union of exchanging people accused of crimes in various parts within it. It would have been far more honest andperhaps I may suggestfar easier if the Government had introduced two Bills.
In the country there is a great deal of confusion as to what is happening. Like noble Lords, people in the country see little objection to Part 2 of the Bill. However, they "fear"and I use that word advisedlyPart 1 and the framework directive because they believe that it removes from them rights which they previously enjoyed and which they will no longer enjoy. Therefore, this is a good amendment because it makes clear that there are two distinct matters dealt with in a single Bill.
It is too late for the Government to rethink the issue and to bring forward two Bills; but that is the reason for the confusion; and that is why Amendment No. 1 would be helpful to the Minister and to the Government.
Lord Filkin: I shall respond first to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. He asked the very important and probably the central question that this scrutiny process needs to addresswhether we are convinced that there will be a proper process for people who are to be extradited from this country as a consequence of the Bill. In broad terms, I accept that challenge. It seems right and proper that that question should be posited on our first amendment on our first day of our Committee. It is certainly one of the tests and measures that the Bill has to meet. It is not the only one, but it is an important part of the process. I shall touch on that matter now. I suspect that we will need to return to it in more detail at subsequent stages.
The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, next asked about current time periods. From recollection, the average time taken for a contested case from the United Kingdom to abroad is some 18 months. The average cost for a contested case is £130,000. The noble Lord was right to indicate that we are talking about
The noble Lord then asked what period we would expect that process to take as a consequence of the changes. The short answer is probably about three months. Therefore, he was right again to ask the question: what is cut out as a consequence of those changes and does the suspect lose out proper protections as a result? In broad terms, what is cut out is the attempt by some, not all, people charged with serious criminal offences to use the legal system to the utmost to prevent or avoid extradition. It would be surprising if they did not, if they knew that they were to face a charge of murder or serious drug running or so on in another country. They are extremely vigorous in using every available legal mechanism.
At a later stage, perhaps in a response, I shall go into more detail and specify step by step what currently happens and how people who, understandably from their point of view, seek to avoid extradition by using the legal system to its maximum. That includes the use of judicial review and, if possible, using it again and again to try to delay extradition.
A further change which we shall reach later in our discussions is the removal of ministerial discretion. I shall not pre-empt our discussion on that issue. Clearly, that is a further reduction in time and process. It is an otiose process, which will be taken out as a result of these actions. That is beneficial because we believe, as I shall subsequently argue, that there is a full, fair and accurate opportunity for someone for whom there has been an extradition request to come before a judgethere is an appeal process against that hearingand to put their case as to why they should not be extradited.
I return to the debate we had at Second Reading, that the essential thrust of this issue is about recognising that crime is international. It is much more international than it ever was. It is important that we have effective arrangements to bring to justice people who are charged with crime, whether they commit an offence in this country and then run abroad, or whether they commit an offence abroad and therefore need to be extradited to another country abroad. One of the reasons why this is particularly important in the European Union, although not exclusively in the EU, is that this is an area of free movement.
Therefore, if the UK persists with its current extradition arrangements we are unlikely to meet the needs of justice or of the victims of injustice and crime. If one can delay extradition long enough, the prospects increase that witnesses will fall away and no longer be prepared, willing or able to give evidence. The matter will become clouded with time. Justice will not be done because the person will not be brought before a proper
The noble Lord also asked about a comparison with the extradition arrangements between different states of the United States. I am certain that he shares my view that the European Union is not, and should never become a federal state like the United States of America. I do not know the detail of how the arrangements work between states, but I shall research it and come back to him.
The noble Lord asked also about Austria. Austria has a limited extension in respect of its own nationals until 31st December 2008 at the latest, only for offences not punishable under Austrian law. Article 33(1) of the framework decision refers to that. I think that that answers the question.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, asked what is the objection to a purpose clause. We believe that we already have a purpose clause. The Bill as written sets out its purpose. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure effective extradition. I do not wish to raise hopes, but I will always listen to noble Lords. However, I must in truth say that the Bill's current purpose is a true, fair, accurate and sufficient purpose. I doubt that I will change my mind, but I shall nevertheless reflect on the point.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked, "Why not two Bills rather than one?" I think that I would reverse it and ask, "Why not one Bill rather than two?" We are seeking both to put into practice a framework decision which we think is right and in the interests of British citizens and to bring about wider reform of our extradition laws which we signalled well before September 11th were needed and overdue. The Bill therefore attempts to address that issue in the round. Clearly, as we shall see, there is an intersection between Part 1 and Part 2. It is not simply about the European Union.
As for a uniform system in the European Union, I think that the UK's position on extradition has always been broadly positive. The UK has always recognised that one has to extradite in order to serve the cause of justice. In 1991 the Conservatives themselves introduced significant changes to extradition which I think have stood the test of time. We have not sought to change that and we do not intend to do so. The problem with many other European countries at present is that they will not extradite to this country. We think that that is wrong. The framework decision and the Bill change that. So a Frenchman who comes to this country and commits a murder will now be brought to trial in this country for that murder. The
I shall reflectalthough I do not think that I will change my mindon whether anything is wrong with the purpose as set out. I shall certainly take the central challenge put by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. I shall try to ensure that I can convince the Committee and then the House that there is an adequate system for those accused of an offence so that they can put their case under British justice before extradition.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has replied. It was a helpful reply. I stress that I am open-minded on the issue and open to persuasion, although I am currently very unconvinced and very sceptical about the good effects of the Bill. I hope he will forgive my saying so, but at one point he said that he might come back to the issue on Report. I hope that he will actually answer questions in Committee. To leave it to Report seems to be saying, "We will go away and reflect". With respect, I do not think that it is a brilliant idea to say, "I will come back on Report".
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