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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, when I looked at Amendments Nos. 51 and 52, I thought for a moment that I was seeing double. The two, Liberal-promoted amendments seem to have very much the same intention. I realise that there is a subtle difference. The Law Society of Scotland has informed me of its point of view on Amendment No. 52, which has been well described by the noble Earl. It will be interesting to see which of the amendments the Government prefer and whether they prefer Amendment No. 214 or Amendment No. 215.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 51, but I confess that I do not understand why it is suggested that if Amendment No. 51 were barred, we would need Amendment No. 52. Amendment No. 52 would not achieve the purpose of Amendment No. 51, if Amendment No. 51 were not agreed to. I therefore support Amendment No. 51, but not Amendment No. 52.
One could perhaps argue succinctly in favour of Amendment No. 51 by translating it into the negative. If we were not to accept Amendment No. 51, the Bill would provide that the judge may not postpone the hearing and fix a new date, even though the interests so require, unless there are exceptional circumstances. That would be a remarkable provision, but it would be what the Bill means at the moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that the Government have conceded that, on the day of the hearing, the judge could grant an adjournment. That is strictly wrong. The judge should begin the hearing so that it is formally started and does not trigger subsections (7) and (8), but he could then say, "Well, I've begun it, but I see that you're not ready to go on, so now go away". That has enormous disadvantages. First, it means that the unfortunate parties must be ready. If they do not have legal aid, they must be ready in some other way. It also means that since the judge has now started the hearing, he is tied in to presiding over the next hearing, which will make it much more difficult to fix a date.
The whole purpose of the Bill, I thought, was that parties should be properly represented and have proper translation and so on. Very frequently, that will not have been achieved in 21 days. It is desirable that the case should be heard as quickly as possible, but the best laid plans of mice and men often do not achieve their desired purpose. In the presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, I will not try to render that quotation more accurately.
The fact that one's lawyers are not ready or that the translator has not turned up or that one cannot secure legal aid are not "exceptional circumstances"; they are absolutely bog standard circumstances. As a lawyer, one can readily admit that they are the most unexceptional circumstances that one can think of. To say that because one's lawyer has not turned up or the translator is not there, one cannot have an adjournment because that happens very often, seems to be utterly extraordinary.
I shall be interested to hear how the Minister can seek to advance an argument that one cannot have an adjournment and postpone the hearingeven though the interests of justice require itjust because the circumstances are not exceptional.
Earl Russell: My Lords, when I first looked at the amendment of my noble friend Lord Goodhart, I had a sudden sense of dejavu. It is almost identical to one which I put down on the CSA in 1991, save that my noble friend's amendment is, needless to say, more carefully and more elegantly drafted than mine was.
That amendment fell due for debate at two in the morning. I decided that it was not the time to ask the House to consider matters of that kind. I looked at the programme of amendments for Report and decided that if I were to put it down at that stage, it would again come up for debate at two in the morning, so I did not put it down.
One can imagine then my astonishment when I found it on the Marshalled List in the name of the then Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I honour him deeply for that decision. I hope that I may honour this Minister equally deeply for a parallel decision.
Lord Cameron of Lochbroom: My Lords, perhaps I may address the point that has been raised about Amendment No. 52. Of the two amendments, I would prefer Amendment No. 51, which deals with the matter in a slightly better way than that which has been suggested by the noble Earl, for the good reason that it contains words which are familiar to judges, whereas the phrase "exceptional circumstances" produces an almost subjective element into the matter, with which I suggest the judiciary should be careful when dealing with matters such as extradition. There is only one matter to which I would draw the attention of the House. Noble Lords would perhaps wish to consider whether the wording proposed by Amendment No. 51 might produce ambiguity about the point of time at which the application should be dealt with. That apart,
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the debate has ranged gloriously. At one point, I had a sense of dejavu myself, having heard the arguments before. However, I assure your Lordships' House that I am going to make a "bog standard" concession. I give advance notice of that. Concessions come in different shapes and sizes, but this one is definitely bog standard.
During Grand Committee, amendments were tabled to change "exceptional circumstances" to "good reason". We could not support those amendments at that stage. All experience shows that fugitives will use any and every trick to try to string out the extradition process and delay their extradition.
We were fearful that "good reason" as a test would allow far too many postponements. That would run contrary to one of the key purposes of the Bill, which is to speed up the extradition process. It would also run counter to the interests of justice.
I think that noble Lords who were in Grand Committee saw the force of that argument. However, this afternoon, the two Opposition parties have come forward with an entirely different formulation with which we find greater favour. I think that it was inspired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden. If that is so, I am sure that it comes with an impeccable pedigree. The words used are,
As I said, we have given that further consideration. Clearly, where it is in the interests of justice that a hearing should be postponed, that hearing must be postponed. At the same time, this particular form of words should prevent hearings being postponed for trivial or improper reasons. I listened to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said about that. I think that his points about exceptional circumstances were both right and compelling.
Accordingly, I am happy to give an undertaking today that we will bring forward government amendments at Third Reading which will allow for hearings to be postponed where that is in the interests of justice. If your Lordships care to look at the amendments to Clauses 31 and 113, standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Scotland, you will see that we have already started down that route. It is essentially a down-payment towards a bog standard concession.
I hope that in the light of that firm commitment, noble Lords will feel able to withdraw or will not press their amendments. In turn, we promise to bring back government amendments on Third Reading that we think will tidy up the loose ends on this issue.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am, of course, extremely pleased with that concession. If one can call it a victory, I think that it is a victory for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, whose wording is now incorporated in the amendments in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. On that basis, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that I can be brief on the amendments in this group as I think that their effect is clear enough, although their history might be slightly less obvious. They respond to a point raised by my noble friend Lord Wedderburn in Grand Committee. We made a commitment at that time to go away and see what we could do to act on his suggestions. I am pleased that we have been able to come back with these amendments.
As currently drafted, both Part 1 and Part 2 of the Bill contain a clause barring extradition if the extradition request has been made for the purpose of punishing a person because of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions or if the person is liable to be prejudiced at his trial for those reasons. These amendments extend the list of factors to include gender and sexual orientation. In other words, if an extradition request is made to the United Kingdom which is motivated by the desire to persecute a person because of his or her gender or sexual orientation, the court will have clear grounds for refusing it.
I am confident that none of your Lordships will object to that and that, accordingly, your Lordships will support these amendments. I beg to move.
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