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19 Jun 2003 : Column GC353

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Extradition Bill

(Fourth Day) Thursday, 19th June 2003.

The Committee met at a quarter before four of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale) in the Chair.]

Clause 5 [Provisional arrest]:

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin) moved Amendment No. 46:

    Page 4, line 6, after "authority" insert "is a judicial authority of the category 1 territory and"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 [Person arrested under section 5]:

[Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 not moved.]

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton moved Amendment No. 50:

    Page 4, line 34, leave out "taken to be"

The noble Lord said: I can be very brief. Clause 6(5) of the Bill states:

    "If subsection (2) is not complied with the person must be taken to be discharged".

There is a parallel provision in Clause 4 which raises wider issues and to which different arguments apply. However, the semantics points raised by the amendment may also be considered in relation to Clause 4. and

I do not in any way criticise the draftsman, but I do not understand the drafting of Clause 6(5). I thought what we meant was that if subsection (2) was not complied with—for example, if the person was not brought before the appropriate judge—he should be discharged and, as indicated in previous debates, discharged immediately. I do not understand why the clause does not state that.

It may be that I am ignorant of some special meaning of "taken to be discharged", but I would prefer to see a clear statement of what we mean. I do not understand what is meant by "taken to be discharged" if the person is not actually discharged. I

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believe we mean that he should be discharged immediately. If so, why do we not say so? That is what the amendment seeks to do. I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden: I have put my name to the amendment, which is grouped with Amendment No. 51. The amendment will lead to greater clarity. If "taken to be discharged" means anything it means that if the proper procedures have not been followed the individual concerned has a right to be discharged—and, quite clearly, has a right to be discharged immediately. I support the amendment.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: We believe that the first of the two amendments has value in the sense that, unless there is some special legal phraseology attached to "taken to be", clarity should be sought. We therefore support that amendment.

Unless there is a special reason for not doing so, the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, may also wish to bring forward an amendment to remove the words "taken to be" from subsection (6) in order to ensure that the two subsections run together.

We had slightly more difficulty with Amendment No. 51. The use of the word "immediately" must be squared with the 48 hours available to the police under Clause 6(3). We debated at some length the 48-hour issue during the last meeting of the Committee. Clearly there are rights and wrongs in connection with provisional arrest which we do not need to go over again. However, it is not clear how the word "immediately" inserted at the end of line 36 could be squared with 48 hours. The two could lead to discontinuity and difficulties for the police, the prosecution and the defendant.

Lord Filkin: I shall speak succinctly because my noble friend Lord Wedderburn is right in what he infers we should impute by these words—that "must be discharged" means discharged forthwith—when the relevant test has been triggered by other clauses in the Bill. However, we are worried that that phraseology would imply that there must be a formal discharging process. That is why the Bill is so worded rather than in the way proposed in the amendment. If it is intended that the person should be released immediately, taking him before a judge to bring about that discharging process would slightly negate that intent.

What we wish to do, therefore, is to take the spirit of what has been said by my noble friend, reflect on whether there is any better way of expressing this to make it absolutely clear that it is our intention that when the tests have been applied—for example, when the 48 hours have expired—the person should be released immediately without the need for a court hearing to do so. We shall reflect on whether it is possible to improve the drafting in that respect. I hope that my noble friend will regard that as helpful.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: Naturally I am pleased with that response. As I said, I do have a reason for not applying this to Clause 4, where various other points arise. However, I have to admit that I was

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grossly negligent in not having looked at subsection (6) and, in regard to Amendment No. 51, I do see the slight problem that could arise with the use of the word "immediately" and the terms of Clause 5. I am glad that the Minister will look at this issue again. No doubt he will solve all the problems with the ingenuity that only his advisers can command.

Obviously I shall withdraw the amendment but, while I am on my feet, I seek the leave of the Committee to refer— either now or immediately after the amendment is withdrawn—to a problem which has arisen in regard to our procedure. Perhaps noble Lords think that I should speak to it now? Several Members of the Committee are nodding—I do not see many dark looks—so I shall do so.

I should like the Government Whips, or whoever is the authority in this matter, to make a Statement shortly, at a time convenient to the Grand Committee—the word "shortly" is one that we are used to in this Committee—on whether the Government will consider afresh a request that I have already made to the Chief Whip. He felt that he could not concede to my request earlier today, but would the Whips consider arranging, in some ingenious way consistent with the interests of all noble Lords taking part in the Committee proceedings, to adjourn the Grand Committee on the Extradition Bill when our proceedings coincide, or are obviously about to coincide, with the proceedings in the Chamber on the Fire Services Bill?

In view of what has been said about this request, I wish to emphasise that I do not seek this simply for my own convenience but for the convenience of other noble Lords. It is true that my noble friends and myself who are concerned with both this Bill and the Fire Services Bill have a special interest, but I apprehend that we are not the only Members of the Grand Committee who have an interest in both matters.

I am sensitive to the fact that the increased use—indeed, the greatly increased use—of Grand Committees to suit the interests of the executive, especially after the debate we had in the House on this Bill going into Grand Committee, obviously raises the problem pretty often. I quite understand that proceedings in Grand Committee cannot be adjourned every time any Member or a few Members of a Grand Committee have an interest in what is going on in the Chamber. That is the way in which the reforms have been interpreted. However, I have looked again, and I find it hard to believe that that is, in fact, what the report we adopted in the House envisaged.

The Fire Services Bill is a measure of constitutional importance in the view of a number of Members of your Lordships' House. It was first scheduled on Monday, then the Chief Whip proposed that it should be scheduled for Tuesday. At that point, some of us had our names down to debate the Bill. It was then changed to a date which did, as the others did not, coincide or conflict with the proceedings in Grand Committee. Some of us had already put our names down to amendments in Grand Committee. So the third rescheduling meant that this conflict would

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inevitably arise if the Bill was likely to be debated earlier than 7.30. The Government knew that, and they knew it might well require some of us to be in two places at once, if only to meet the requirements of our names being down on both lists. Eager though we are to put ourselves at the service of the House, this degree of agile versatility is not available to us or, I think, to anyone.

In a sense this is the first time that this problem has emerged. It is likely to arise again when Bills of even greater constitutional importance are debated in the Chamber and the Government choose to propose that another Bill coincide with it in Grand Committee. I have looked very carefully at the Companion. While I do not wish to elaborate the case now, under paragraphs 689 and 690, the inability of a Grand Committee to have a Division on a procedural matter, as against a substantive question on the Bill before it, is not at all clear. I do not wish to press the point now, but I refer it to those Members of the Committee who are interested in just what a Grand Committee can do in the face of the stultification of its debates for those who have put their names to amendments in the Chamber, according to the arrangements in the House, to constitutionally important Bills.

I very much hope that some accommodation might be suggested because I do not believe that the problem will be very acute tonight. It is said that the Fire Services Bill may be debated at 5.30, but that seems slightly optimistic. A very short period of time could be sufficient to avoid the problem.

With deep gratitude, I have pursued the points sufficiently with the leave of Members of the Committee. It remains for me to hope that a statement can be made on the Government's behalf to look at this again and not give a simple "no" to the request, but to realise that they are in face of a new problem created by the new procedures. In the interests of the House as a whole—and this Grand Committee is to sit as though it were a Committee of the House, with certain exceptions, which need to be carefully looked at—I hope they can make a statement other than a blanket "no". Having said that, I shall be withdrawing the amendment.

4 p.m.

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