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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I am grateful to the Minister, and indeed to my noble friend Lady Carnegy for her important point. We were trying to stress that there was an inherent danger of crossover. Once there was hot pursuit for one, information there gained could be used in the other. We did not see how that could be avoided or eliminated. The Minister made a

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valiant attempt to deal with that concern by saying that this was not the thin end of the wedge, and I accept his stricture that if we are to ask about compatibility there are all sorts of clauses in all sorts of Bills requiring compatibility. That is perfectly fair.

I shall leave the matter by saying that we are grateful for the Minister's undertaking to reflect with the Bill team and come back to us if he can take our discussions any further forward. I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 256:

    After Clause 200, insert the following new clause—

The Secretary of State shall publish, and lay before both Houses of Parliament, an annual report on the operation of this legislation."

The noble Lord said: The amendment takes us back over further familiar ground, which is the provision of an annual report on the operation of the legislation. The purpose of the amendment is perfectly straightforward. The Bill is a new and supposedly streamlined piece of legislation that, in effect, is a root-and-branch overhaul of our existing extradition system. We have, for the first time, a situation where our extradition partners are divided into two categories, with very different procedures for each. Moreover, in the case of category 1 territories, we have an added complication in that Part 1 implements the framework agreement on the European arrest warrant and brings it into our domestic legislation.

It is fair to say, however, that during the Committee it has become clear that our category 1 partners may choose to implement the same framework agreement in their own domestic legislation slightly differently. We may find ourselves in the situation where we agree to the framework decision but discover that our standards—for example, in terms of the one-year/three-year argument for dual criminality—are different. That is both confusing and problematic.

Alternatively, I have to accept that we may find, contrary to the concerns of those of us on these Benches, that the new extradition arrangements are efficient and highly satisfactory and do not give rise to public controversy. Whatever way the cookie crumbles, we are embarking on a new policy on the sort of co-operation on—one might say the beginnings of an attempted harmonisation of—judicial decisions within Europe of which we have not seen the like before. In addition, as we have mentioned and will mention again in a moment, there are important issues about transitional arrangements and the integration of the old and new systems of extradition.

In the light of those important considerations, I do not think it too much to ask the Secretary of State that an annual report be prepared on the operation of this legislation and laid before Parliament. However, I am not so naive as to fail to anticipate what the Minister's reply will be—that the Secretary of State is always accountable before Parliament for any legislation

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stemming from his department, and that at any time he can be called to account by parliamentary Question or other means to comment on the operation of this extradition legislation or indeed any other legislation. We all know that that is true in theory and indeed practice, but if there is no positive obligation, defects in the operation of the Bill may slip through the net.

I understand why the Government may have some hostility to the amendment. We were talking about compatibility a minute ago and it could be argued that, if we included an annual report for the Bill, on every other piece of legislation in future there would be calls for an annual report using the Extradition Act 2003, assuming it becomes that, as a precedent. There are Members on our Benches who believe that the Sexual Offences Bill and what is now the Licensing Act deserved an annual report for similar reasons.

It could be argued, however—and I do argue—that in the special circumstances of this Bill, incorporating this particular piece of European legislation into our domestic law for the first time, an annual report would be one way in which the Government could make some positive move to alleviate the very real fears and concerns that abound, particularly in respect of the operations of Part 1 and how the proposed legislation would work in practice. It would be helpful. It might even be possible to do it for a few years, perhaps four or five, while the legislation was settling down.

Given the importance and the groundbreaking nature of the European arrest warrant, there is enough here for us to have some special report on the operation of the Bill, at least for the first few years. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: I have some sympathy with the thinking behind the amendment. This is a Bill of a good deal of importance, and it would be very helpful were it possible to bring together in one place the principal statistics related to it. It would be a matter of great interest to see whether the simplified Part 1 procedure led to a substantial increase in the number of extraditions and, if so, to which countries. It would also be very interesting to see whether the average time for extradition proceedings was reduced, as is the intention of the Bill. There are other matters that would also be of interest.

Having said that, speaking for myself and I hope for those on our Benches, we would be content with an undertaking to put that information into the annual report of the Home Office, or possibly into the judicial statistics. I would be satisfied with an undertaking that the material information on the progress of the then Act would be published, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for a period of years—at least until it has bedded down. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something on that point.

Lord Filkin: I feel again that it is a shame that my noble friend Lord Bassam is not with us today but is downstairs, because this is his territory. In a sense, to

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show the danger of his not being present to deal with questions on annual reports, I shall say something slightly different from what he normally says.

The Committee would expect me to say, as signalled by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, that we are resistant to a formal annual report. It has not been the tradition that even major and contentious legislation has had annual reports. An annual report could not cover some of the issues that might be of interest as to whether cases could have been resolved differently under the old system, as that could be only speculation, and it could not indicate what effect the absence of the Secretary of State's role had in Part 1, as that again would be pure conjecture.

The argument given in the past against annual reports is that for ever and a day one sets up a bureaucratic commitment and costs that lead to more paper being produced and consumed, and that is why the Liberal Democrats have often supported us on the matter. We also say on such occasions that, clearly, there is a retinue of mechanisms—Starred Questions, Unstarred Questions, PQs and debates—that allows proper scrutiny of the Government on such issues.

Having said all that, I think it would not be unhelpful if, after a period that allows enough cases through the system to make some analysis and reflection possible, one put into the public domain some of the monitoring information that we will undertake. I do not know quite what the period would be; there must be time to allow enough through the system, so I do not want to give a commitment by saying, "After one year", or, "After 18 months". That might be foolish. Am I going to be told to resign? No.

The information that I mean is on the operation of the legislation, particularly in relation to the number of requests received, the operation of time limits in the Bill, especially in Part 1, and the numbers extradited and discharged. There could be an analysis in some form of the time taken from request to fulfilment for both incoming and outgoing requests for Part 1 and Part 2 cases, because that goes to the heart of some of the issues about which we have talked. Officials are considering what additional categories of information they will gather, and how that can best be achieved.

I am happy to give a commitment that we will cover that information—we may go a little further if it seems sensible—on the operation of the Act after a period with the intention of putting it before Parliament if it so wishes to use it. I do not want to commit to doing that every three years, because that takes us back to the same trap from which we are trying to escape, but it would not hurt for us to find a mechanism for putting the information into the public domain. How to do that—whether through a PQ or the annual report—is a second-order issue on which we can reflect.

I do not wish that to be seen as precedental. I recognise the strength of feeling on the issue. Because of that concern, I am happy to say that in this circumstance we will be pleased to put into the domain, in a suitable form and after a suitable period, the sort of information about which I have talked.

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However, I hope that I will not have this quoted back at me or other Ministers in future, but I am a naive optimist.

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