Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Perhaps the Minister could answer one question. Do his officials have information on what is now the longest outstanding extradition case? How long might we have a transitional period? If a case has been outstanding for four or five years, as I believe could occur, then if something is received on 31st December 2003—that is, the day before the coming into force of the Act in his example—we could be talking about 2008, 2009 or 2010 before the old procedure dropped away. Is that what the Government envisage?

Lord Filkin: I pause while cogitation is taking place on that—cogitation has been very fast. The longest outstanding case is approximately seven years.

Turning to the specifics of the amendments, I am sure that Members of the Committee are aware that it is virtually unprecedented for commencement orders to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. There is good reason for that. Parliament has expressed its wishes by enacting the legislation, and it should then be brought into force as soon as practicable without the need for further parliamentary debate. Therefore, we see no need to depart from established practice in this respect, and that is why we cannot support the amendments.

However, I repeat that we do not expect many, if any, cases already in the system to be transferred to the new arrangements. That will happen only if it is clearly in the interests of justice.

I have done my best to explain why we believe that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, would be impractical. Similarly, I have sought to explain why I do not believe that we should take the unprecedented step of making commencement orders subject to the affirmative

10 Sept 2003 : Column GC46

resolution procedure. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Goodhart: I obviously feel unhappy with the fact that the Government are unable to shift their position on Amendment No. 257. Of course, I recognise that they have now put themselves in a position where they cannot do so without breaching the international obligations entered into by not making a declaration at the time when they agreed to the terms of the framework decision. Having said that, I shall of course beg leave to withdraw the amendment today. I shall consider how far, and whether or not, it would be desirable to bring back this matter on Report for further discussion. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 207 agreed to.

Clause 208 agreed to.

Clause 209 [Orders and regulations]:

[Amendments Nos. 258 to 260 not moved.]

Clause 209 agreed to.

Clause 210 [Orders in Council]:

[Amendments Nos. 261 to 266 not moved.]

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 267:

    Page 115, line 26, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: I believe that this is the last amendment at the end of nine hard days. It takes us back to one of the early days in Committee and the vexed issue of Orders in Council. It seems to be a long time since we discussed this matter on our first day in Grand Committee. I want to repeat our thanks, which we gave then, to the Minister for his commitment to making Orders in Council under Sections 1 and 68, designating category 1 and category 2 territories, subject to the affirmative rather than the negative procedure. We were very grateful to him for that.

My purpose in moving Amendment No. 267 is simple. It is to query the power in Clause 210(4), which allows orders for such designations to have specified modifications in relation to specific territories. That seems to be a wide-ranging and potentially dangerous power to propose. I am not clear, and should welcome an explanation, as to what the purpose of such a clause is and what "specified modifications" might be.

I appreciate that we are nearing the end of our lengthy discussions on the Bill but I should like some clarification from the Minister as to why we should not strike out Clause 210(4). I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Filkin: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for his probing amendment that seeks clarification on this issue. There are various references in the Bill to specified modifications on which, understandably and rightly, the Opposition have probed.

10 Sept 2003 : Column GC47

The Ministers responding have generally pointed out that the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform queried only the use of the term in one place and that we would provide the explanation when we got to that point, and we are now here.

The first point that I should put on the record is that the Delegated Powers Committee did not consider that Clause 210(4) was inappropriate. All that the committee suggested was that the Government should provide an explanation as to why it was necessary, which I shall endeavour to do. We expect to designate all of our existing extradition partners as either Part 1 or Part 2 countries under the new legislation, as one would expect. There is no obvious reason why, broadly, the new Act cannot apply to all of them in the form that Parliament has enacted it.

The only likely problem is that, as we have already discussed at some length, we may need to vary the period in which papers have to be supplied following provisional arrest to take account of the terms of our various bilateral extradition treaties. However, we have specially catered for that by means of Clause 73(10). So, to put it simply, I do not believe that we will need to make any great use of the "specified modifications" provision when it comes to designating our current extradition partners under the new legislation. However, that provision is necessary to enable us to cope with the future.

The Committee may recall that at the seventh sitting of the Committee, my noble friend Lady Scotland read onto the record the list of the UK's extradition partners. It is a pretty comprehensive list so, currently, there are no plans to extend it or to negotiate any new bilateral treaties. Nevertheless, there are gaps. To cite one interesting omission, we do not have extradition relations with Japan. That has not given rise to any problems but were it to do so in future and the Japanese to approach us about the possibility of a treaty, it would obviously be sensible to proceed. I am sure that Members of the Committee could not be opposed to that in principle.

As part of that treaty, we may want to insist on a two-year threshold when negotiating a treaty with a new country, because the sentence thresholds in that country were much lower than elsewhere, so that a two-year sentence there was equivalent to 12 months in the rest of the world, to give an instance. Again we would want to use Clause 210(4) to ensure that the operation of the Act reflected the terms of a treaty. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of Clause 210(4)—to allow us to ensure that the peculiarities of any future treaties can be accommodated.

I remind your Lordships that as a result of an earlier concession, all orders designating countries, as the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, indicated, as extradition partners will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure so Parliament will know fully what is happening and have the fullest opportunity to consider whether any such modifications are appropriate.

10 Sept 2003 : Column GC48

I repeat that we would not expect to use this facility very often, but equally I do not think that we should put ourselves in the position where our future room for manoeuvre is unnecessarily limited. I hope that this explanation answers the concerns that lay behind the probing amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, spoke.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I am grateful to the Minister for that fairly full reply. As I expected, he said, "It's in there but we don't expect to make any great use of it". That always begs the question why it is needed. I accept that he then went on to raise issues concerning the peculiarities of the extradition system, and I consider that the example of Japan was a very good one.

I believe I am happy with what he said but, without going over other ground that we have discussed this afternoon, this type of matter could be dealt with usefully in an annual report. One talks about some of the places where specified modifications have had to be made because at issue is the liberty of a subject and the subject being moved to countries around the world. The kind of issues mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and which I raised, come up again when one looks at Clause 210(4). We shall return to that matter but, in the meantime, I am happy to accept the Minister's explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 210 agreed to.

Clause 211 agreed to.

Clause 212 [Extent]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 267ZA:

    Page 115, line 35, after "Sections" insert "(Restriction on bail where undertaking given by Secretary of State),"

The noble Lord said: I shall be brief in moving this amendment. It relates to Clause 212, which specifies the constituent part or parts of the United Kingdom to which certain clauses do or do not apply. The need for the amendment has arisen from the amendment of the Bill in another place to insert a new clause—Clause 194—modifying existing Scots law—

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Is the noble Lord not speaking to Amendment No. 267ZB?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page