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Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: Will my noble friend give way? I am sorry to stop him in full flow, but I am sure that he will appreciate that some of us get a little disturbed when Holocaust denial is equated to the whole problem of xenophobia. I hope that, in relying so much on what the German authorities would do about Holocaust denial, he is not pre-empting our
The debate on xenophobia is still to come. I appreciate that the Minister is giving an example, but it is significant that authority always turns to that example. "enophobia is a much wider problem that may well disturb the noble Baroness who moved the amendment in a more general way, to which the Minister might address himself.
Lord Filkin: I shall certainly do that, but let me respond more specifically to my noble friend Lord Wedderburn. He is right, of course. "Racism and xenophobia", which is the phrase used in other European member states, tends to be a more portmanteau term. We use the example of Holocaust denial because it is the one example that comes to mind of an action that is clearly not racist but xenophobic.
I would be pleased to widen the illustration of other xenophobic acts that are offences in other member states but which are not offences here. We shall apply our mind and our officials' minds to that. I suspect that in practice there are not many, because in practice "racism and xenophobia" is used as a portmanteau term. I shall be delighted to return to my noble friend Lord Wedderburn either before Report or on another occasion, if we can find lots of other examples of xenophobia over and above the rather hackneyed example of Holocaust denial. I would not like to raise my noble friend's expectations that there will be many examples to get excited about, but we will go to it with a will, nevertheless.
Let me also remind Members of the Committee of what I said on Second Reading: the UK has serious offences that are not replicated in all other EU countries. We do not want a person to be able to commit a serious offence, such as fraudulent trading or inciting racial hatred, in the UK and then flee abroad. We believe that it is right that such people be brought to justice; I hope that Members of the Committee agree.
I note the support of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, for the idea that the involvement of the Home Secretary is unnecessary. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, rightly said that people may be unaware of breaking the law, but ignorance of the law has never been a defence. If that were the case, lawyers would be much more prone to prosecution than others, which would present a practical problem. For that reason, we cannot support her argument. I shall allow the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, to respond.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: It is all very well to say that not being aware that something is against the law is no excuse. The Minister's example of denial of the Holocaust is important, although it is getting a bit hackneyed. People might not have the slightest idea that they were doing something so dreadful. Yes, it would be insensitive of them, but they might well get carried away and break the law in that and other ways.
It is frightening to think that one cannot ultimately be protected by one's own country vis-a-vis another because one is in the European Union and because of the Bill. Of course, judicial review is greatly to be respected, but people want to feel that there is a political dimension and an ultimate backstop. I am concerned about the matter, which is the one aspect of the Bill that worries the publicif they know that it is part of the Bill.
Lord Filkin: I believe that I was in mid-sentence in my response to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, about the subject of an extradition being in ignorance of the law and whether that would place them at a disadvantage. Of course in the situation where someone is charged with an offence which is against the law in their own country, that would not raise an issue and therefore I presume that the debate focuses on the 32 serious generic crimes where an exact equivalent of legislative infringement is not required for a person to be extradited.
We have talked about racism and xenophobia being one instance but, without listing the other 32 crimes, they cover serious offences such as terrorism, trafficking in human beings, the sexual exploitation of children, trafficking in weapons, counterfeiting, murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, forgery, trafficking in nuclear weapons, rape, arson, the unlawful seizure of aircraft and sabotage of that type. At heart, the Government's position is aligned with that of other member states. These are such issues that one would not wish to frustrate a person being brought to justice only because an identical criminal offence did not apply in the two member states. That is the heart of it.
My point is that, for the types of offences I have just describedputting aside for a moment our debate about racism and xenophobiait is hard to believe that, under such circumstances, a person would not be aware that those were likely to be offences in any other civilised country. I feel that that is a reasonable position.
Let me say something about the second limb of these amendments which requires the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on the operation of this legislation. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Bassam is not dealing with this since he is the Government's expert on the matter. Given that we do not believe that the Home Secretary should perform the role assigned to him, we do not see the need for a report to follow. However, I should like to put on the record that Home Office Ministers will be happy to answer Parliamentary Questions on the operation of our extradition legislation, including details of the numbers of cases, the average time taken to process cases and any other such information. No doubt if the
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I should like to put on the record my thanks to the Minister for agreeing to suspend the Grand Committee so that noble Lords could attend the Statement. I found it most useful. As the Minister will be aware, our appetite had been whetted by the advance information circulated in the House that the last three pages of the Statement would not be provided to Front Bench spokesmen because they contained something that we would not have expected. Of course the Government are hoisted by their own petard. All noble Lords wanted to be in the Chamber. Perhaps our only regret is that the time taken by one or two of the earliest Back Bench speakers did not allow sufficient remaining time for all those who wanted to put questions and to contribute to the debate.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. As always, I listened with care to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. His comments were to the point with regard to the fact that judicial management could help resolve many of the problems which the Government say are besetting our current extradition processes. In the future we shall need to consider whether there can be greater co-operation between the executive and the judiciary. It is a matter to which we shall address our minds in some detail when we come to debate the Criminal Justice Bill, but it is also relevant here.
I am also grateful for the comments of my noble friend Lady Carnegy and for her support. She pointed the way to an important issue; that is, that the public is already concerned and will become even more concerned as it learns more about the Bill and the operation of the list of 32 offences to which dual criminality now no longer applies. Along with my noble friend, I was concerned about the lines of argument being developed by the Minister. They began by being rooted in fact, but then seemed to move to another sphere which we shall need to look at.
The first was that the list of 32 offences is important because it is important that people face justice. That reflects the oft-repeated argument: why should one commit an offence overseas and not have to face justice for it? However, equating justice with criminal proceedings is not always the happiest of circumstances, but we shall let that pass.
Surely the logical extension of the Minister's argument would be to say that there should not be a list of only 32 offences for which one loses dual criminality. If the argument that people must face justice whatever the consequences is so strong, then one would move eventually to argue that dual criminality could be set aside for all offences, not only for the 32 on the list. I am aware that that was not the
When responding to my noble friend Lady Carnegy, the Minister referred in particular to denial of the Holocaust. The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, made the important point that that is an important and significant offence, but we need to know about other offences. It is easy to pick on such an offence, one which would arouse disgust in any normal person in this country, but in worrying about something like that, it is possible to ignore debate on the broader issues. I was grateful to the Minister for what I thought was an offer made in his response that the Government would try to list what other offences might similarly be considered as offences of xenophobia throughout the EU. That kind of response would inform our future debates.
Lord Filkin: The noble Baroness is most gracious to infer from my body language that I want to put this point on record. The reason we have a debate about xenophobia is that it is one on the list of 32 offences to which people often respond: "If it is all silly, why should it be there at all?". That was why I sought to see whether there was anything else of more substance, over and above the issue of Holocaust denial raised by my noble friend Lord Wedderburn.
Again for the record, the thrust or drift suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is not the Government's position. It is also not the intent of other member statesso much so that there is a unanimity lock on adding to the 32 generic offences. I do not need to say how difficult it is to achieve unanimity in the Justice and Home Affairs Committee to indicate the strength that that lock implies in practice.
That is our position. We do not see this as a process of elision; but, for a limited range of offences, it is right and proper to waive the dual criminality test, which is the normal basis of our processes. We shall return to those issues later in our debates on the Bill.
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