Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Clinton-Davis: Amendment No. 28 is not in the name of the Official Opposition. The Minister said that but he was wrong—unless, of course, he refers to my noble friend Lord Wedderburn as the Official Opposition.

Lord Filkin: I stand corrected. The noble Lord is quite right. My noble friend is most certainly not the Official Opposition.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: Or even the unofficial Opposition.

Lord Filkin: I refrain from making another comment.

As I was saying, NCIS is well qualified to perform the role that I described because it is likely to have good links with its issuing counterparts across Europe and can easily send back warrants which are incomplete or incorrect. All of that is also true of the Crown Office in Scotland.

That is the extent of the role of the certifying authority—checking that the request contains all the necessary information and certifying that it comes from an appropriate source. It is entirely appropriate that that should be an administrative function that is performed by an administrative body. That involves the thrust of the question raised by my noble friend Lord Wedderburn; that is, why we see a distinction

9 Jun 2003 : Column GC43

between that and the issue involving adding countries into Part 1, on which we gave ground earlier in the Bill. That appeared to us to involve a different level of controversy, importance and sensitivity. We were pleased to respond to the comments of Members of the Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in that regard.

I cannot see what added value Ministers could bring other than adding a layer of delay to the whole process. I hope therefore that the amendment will be withdrawn.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Would the Minister mind answering the question I put to him? How wide could this go? Who else might be designated? Is a limit to be set? After all, the designated authority is fairly crucial. Nothing will happen unless it decides that it has received an appropriate warrant. I do not think that it is sufficient excuse to say simply that the whole thing is entirely automatic and so it does not matter. Who else might be designated?

Lord Filkin: I find it hard to see how Europol could be designated because it would not have the capacity to fulfil the functions required by the designated authority. I think that was one of the examples cited by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Under the Bill any body could be designated subject to the approval of Parliament but, as I have indicated, we intend to designate only NCIS and the Crown Office.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: The Minister dismissed rather summarily the argument put by my noble friend that the Secretary of State should be the designated authority. Would he like to reconsider that? If, as I understand from what was said earlier, we are not expecting a great volume of such warrants and if they are intended to address serious crime, is not there a case for saying that the Secretary of State should be the designated authority, even if only to ensure conformity in what is required when accepting warrants in this country?

I personally support the Bill to the extent that rightly and properly it helps to modernise the rules on extradition, but the Secretary of State had a vital role to play in that process because he had finally to approve the extradition of the individual concerned. Would it not perhaps demonstrate that the Government, while modernising the procedures, were not in any way diminishing needed protections if at some stage reference was made to the Secretary of State?

Might it not mean that in fact he has to be the designating authority, as the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, pointed out, without whom the process does not start? There might be a case for saying that it should be the Secretary of State.

Lord Filkin: It is with some regret that I cannot accede to the request of the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, in this respect, because I have been aware that while

9 Jun 2003 : Column GC44

probing the legislation is part of the Committee's work, he has nevertheless signalled his recognition of the importance of having in place an effective extradition to ensure that we can combat international crime. I respect that.

I have little to add to what I have already said on this point. No doubt we shall return to these issues at later stages. I shall certainly reflect on whether there are better arguments, but in essence I have said that, in our view, the role of Ministers in this respect is superfluous and otiose. All it would do would be to add another element of process, thus adding to delay.

I shall reflect on whether I can bring forward other arguments to persuade Members of the Committee at subsequent stages, but at this point I am not minded to change my view.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Does the Minister agree that reassurance for my noble friend Lord Pearson in his proper anxiety appears to be found in page 1, line 13, in Clause 2(1), which states:

    "This section applies if the designated authority receives a Part 1 warrant in respect of a person"?

It is hard to envisage how Europol could receive a Part 1 warrant, as, as the Explanatory Notes make clear, a Part 1 warrant must be issued within the requesting territory? I may be wrong, but that seems to be a reassurance.

Lord Filkin: I always take at face value offers of assistance in my defence from any Member of the Committee. Having said that, I shall double check whether, as I suspect, that is the case and that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, is right, as on many other occasions.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend and perfectly prepared to accept that Europol is off the pitch for the purpose of the relevant process. However, the Minister has not yet answered the question of how wide the designation could go. In the context of Amendment No. 10, I mentioned the European Union itself. I do not know. There are fears that many institutions beyond those that we are currently considering could be designated in future. That might be unacceptable.

Lord Filkin: I am always cautious about saying that I shall reflect, because that is open to such gross misinterpretation that it can lead to disappointment. The commonsense answer is that I cannot see how any European Union institution, even if we wanted it to—which we certainly do not—could act to fulfil the functions meant to be fulfilled by the designated authority.

Essentially, the designated authority is a body under the control of the UK Government—because it is our responsibility to administer that part of the Bill—that can receive incoming requests from other member states and, when it receives them, check that they meet terms and criteria set out in the relevant clause, to which we have already spoken—such as, do they meet the information tests? It therefore seems to me—I shall

9 Jun 2003 : Column GC45

say not self-evident, but clear—that it must be a body under the control of the United Kingdom Government to fulfil those functions.

I am extemporising on the wing from reflection. If there is any gap in what I say, I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, to clarify it; but that is what I believe to be the case.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate, which goes to the heart of the clause. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch for raising the issue at the nub of the debate: how wide can the designation of bodies go? It is not even a case of who might be designated but of who can be. What could be covered?

The Minister stated today that the Government's intention is not to be too specific, but that, effectively, they want NCIS and the Crown Office to be covered but not named, on the basis that it is practical to leave the matter open, so that if those organisations were renamed—in another place, it was said specifically if NCIS were renamed—they could still be designated. But the Minister also said, "Who knows what needs to be done in future?" That is precisely what underlies my concern and is why I tabled the amendments.

9 Jun 2003 : Column GC46

I shall reflect carefully before Report, but I am still not persuaded that the Government have the provision right in denying the Secretary of State a role. I was grateful for the contributions of my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow and my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew in assisting the definition in the first amendment.

In the Bill, the Government are giving up a series of safeguards, one of which I have addressed in the amendment. However, I put all those safeguards together. The Government seem to be knocking down the pillars of safeguards one by one in the Bill, just as it appears that, in the draft constitution, they are knocking away the third pillar.

I am not a Euro-sceptic—that may shock some of my colleagues, but I am certainly not—but I am sceptical about how Part 1 of the Bill meets our needs for extradition. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 27 to 29 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It may be convenient if the Committee adjourn until 18th June at 3.30 p.m.

        The Committee adjourned at twenty minutes before eight o'clock.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page