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Extradition: United States

3.24 pm

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty’s Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government are entirely satisfied with the current extradition arrangements between the United Kingdom and the United States. Recent court judgments have not persuaded us that a change is either necessary or desirable.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. If he is so satisfied with current arrangements, would he care to reflect on the case of Mr Lotfi Raissi, who was the subject of an extradition request from the United States concerning terrorism, was imprisoned in Belmarsh, was found by a British court to have no case to answer and, last week, was judged by the Court of Appeal to be entitled to apply for compensation for wrongful imprisonment? Is he aware that an official of the FBI has said that it applied for the extradition warrant for fishing purposes to see what it could find out about that person? Is it not an indictment of the Government’s arrangements, with which he is so satisfied, that a person who was found by a British court to have no case to answer, had he been arrested prior to 2003, would now be languishing in an American prison?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I understand that my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is studying the judgment on Mr Raissi’s application for compensation and considering what action to take in the light of it. It would be very unhelpful and unproductive to speculate—it would be speculation—that a US request on the same facts for Mr Raissi would have succeeded where the earlier one had failed. That is pure speculation and, as the matter is ongoing, I do not intend to comment further on it.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, in the absence of the Minister being able to respond to that question, does he not agree that it would make the extradition arrangements between the US and the UK more balanced if a judge were allowed to rule that if a significant part of the offence had been carried out in the United Kingdom, any trial should take place in this country and extradition be barred?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, it is worth saying that the US is a mature democracy; it has a system based on the Bill of Rights, which came from our Magna Carta; and it is one of many countries that this applies to. It would be bizarre—or should I say perverse?—if we did not demand a prima facie case for places such as Albania, Ukraine and other countries in Europe, but demanded it of the United States. On concurrency of jurisdiction, the Attorney-General has talked with her American counterpart about how that should be taken forward in British courts.

Lord Elton: My Lords, to what extent does the American Bill of Rights extend to Guantanamo Bay and the people there?



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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, my confidence in the US judicial system has been reinforced by the fact that the US Supreme Court has ruled that foreign nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay without charge were entitled to bring legal actions in the US federal civilian courts challenging their captivity. I have been reassured by the US legal system.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that we on these Benches opposed the US-UK bilateral treaty at every stage on the grounds of its lack of reciprocity? Since then, we have had the case of Mr Alex Stone, a 34 year-old blind man who was extradited to the United States on the say-so of an American enforcement officer and held there in prison for six months for 23 hours a day in a cell, only for the charges to be dropped. Since the United States ratified the treaty in November 2006, how many US citizens have been extradited to this country on the say-so of a British policeman alone?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I fear that I cannot give a precise answer to that. I will have to get back to the noble Lord in writing.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I have been given the answer by the House. I go back to what I said: it would be perverse if we were demanding of the United States something that we did not demand of all the countries of the Council of Europe—countries such as Albania and Ukraine—and countries such as New Zealand and Australia and demanded more of the United States than we did of those countries. All our treaties in this context are bilateral, so that would be extraordinary.

Lord Richard: My Lords, does not my noble friend not think that we should demand from the United States the same as the United States demands from the United Kingdom? Does he not agree that this is one of those difficult issues where the Government may have proceeded in an unwise direction? Perhaps they should look at it again.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot agree with my noble friend. Before the arrangements were changed they were definitely unbalanced in that we were demanding a prima facie case whereas all that was needed from us was probable cause. Therefore I do not think that the arrangements are unbalanced. I think that on the whole they are balanced. Fifty-two people have been extradited from this country since 2004—in four years, 52 people—and 17 people have been moved the other way.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there is a serious disparity that warrants the attention of Government? It is no use referring it to the Lord Chancellor, who is no longer a Lord Chancellor; it is a matter for Government. Will the Government attend to it?



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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I believe that he is still the Lord Chancellor. There is balance, and I do not think that the arrangements are unbalanced. They fit in with bilateral agreements we have with about 100 countries.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, did my noble friend hear the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, to a fishing expedition being the justification? Is that approach being adopted in other cases and how can we be assured that that is not the case?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am not aware that there was a fishing expedition. I can certainly look into that to see whether we feel that was the case, and I will come back in writing.

Banking (Special Provisions) Bill

3.31 pm

Brought from the Commons in the morning of Wednesday 20 February and printed pursuant to Standing Order 51; read a first time.

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Select Committee.

London Local Authorities and Transport for London (No. 2) Bill [HL]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Select Committee.

Business

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, my noble friend Lord West will now repeat a Statement made in another place on earned citizenship. After that, we will come to the Second Reading of the Banking (Special Provisions) Bill. Noble Lords may wish to note that, if Back-Bench contributions were kept within 10 minutes, the House should rise by our normal target rising time of 10 pm. Given the further pressure on business, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill will not be further considered in Committee today. The next day for that Committee stage will be Tuesday 26 February.



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Citizenship

3.33 pm

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on immigration and the path to British citizenship. I have today laid in the Library of the House copies of the “Earned Citizenship” Green Paper. Britain is a tolerant and fair-minded country. The British public know that carefully managed migration brings great benefits to the United Kingdom: economic, social and cultural. But I also recognise and understand concerns about the impact on local public services of migration. At a time of change, we have responded to the need to control migration to the benefit of Britain and to protect our borders. We have made substantial progress in recent years, and we are seeing the results: record numbers of foreign national prisoners deported last year; fingerprint checks now in place for all visas for those travelling to Britain; and asylum applications now being processed more quickly than ever before. “And this year we are delivering further radical changes to the UK’s immigration system. First, we are ensuring that those who come to Britain do so in Britain's interests. The Australian-style points-based system, which goes live at the end of this month, will allow only those whom we need to come to work and study. Secondly, we have strengthened the way in which we police the system and protect our borders. We will soon have systems in place to count people in and out of the country.“From 1 April, the new UK Border Agency will bring together the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, UKvisas, and Customs at British ports of entry. Later this year, we will also begin to introduce compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals who wish to stay in the United Kingdom, making it clear whether they are allowed to work and how long they can stay.“Building on these measures, today’s Green Paper sets out our plans for the third phase of immigration reform—ensuring that the path to British citizenship reinforces our shared values. Today, we are setting out a new deal for citizenship, where the rights and benefits of British citizenship are matched by the responsibilities and contributions we expect of newcomers to the United Kingdom.“Our proposals are based on a United Kingdom-wide programme of listening events, which we have conducted over the past five months with the British public. In framing our proposals, we have listened to their views. They were clear about what we should expect of newcomers who choose to come to the United Kingdom and start on the path to citizenship: they should speak English; they should work hard and pay tax; they should obey the law; and they should get involved and contribute to community life. British people want the system to

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be fair and transparent, and I am clear that progress to citizenship should be earned. “The Green Paper proposes that all migrants coming to the United Kingdom will be admitted as temporary residents. A limited number of categories—highly skilled and skilled workers, those joining family, and those granted our protection—will then be able to become probationary citizens for a limited period. “Probationary citizenship is a new and crucial stage in our immigration system, and will determine whether a migrant can progress to full citizenship or permanent residence. The Green Paper sets out clear expectations of migrants as they move through the stages of this journey. We will expect the vast majority of highly skilled and skilled workers entering under the points-based system to speak English, and we are consulting on whether spouses entering on marriage visas should speak English before arrival. “In order to become a probationary citizen, we will expect everyone to demonstrate English and knowledge of life in the United Kingdom. Refugees who legitimately require our protection will continue to receive their current entitlements. We will continue to expect temporary residents to support themselves without general access to benefits. We now propose to defer full access to benefits and services until migrants have successfully completed the probationary citizenship phase, so they are expected to contribute economically and to support themselves and their dependants until they become British citizens or permanent residents. It is only at this point that they will have full access to our benefits and services.“We also expect migrants to obey our laws. As well as deporting record numbers of foreign national prisoners, we will refuse applications to stay or progress for anyone given a prison sentence, so they will be denied access to British citizenship and will lose their right to stay.“There should also be consequences for those given non-custodial sentences. We therefore propose that minor offences should slow down progress to the full benefits of citizenship. Such offenders will therefore need to demonstrate compliance with our laws over an extended period to earn the right to progress in the journey to citizenship.“I believe that criminality should halt, or slow down, progress on the path to British citizenship, but we should reward those who play a more active role in the community. We will therefore enable people to move more quickly through the system where they have made a positive contribution to British life by, for example, volunteering with a charity.“I am today proposing a fund to help local service providers to deal with the impacts on our local communities of rapid changes in population. Money for the fund will come from charging migrants an additional amount on immigration application fees.“At a European level, we are making a concerted effort with member states to deal with criminal activity by EEA nationals. We deported 500 EEA

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nationals last year and we will continue this robust approach by identifying ways to return them more easily to their countries of origin.“I can today announce that we are setting up two new units to work across departments on how we work with EU partners to tighten our provisions on criminality and benefits, and we will work closely with employers to ensure that workers can speak the necessary standard of English. “Finally, the Green Paper sets out proposals to simplify and consolidate immigration law, allowing us to increase the efficiency of decision-making, strengthen public confidence in the system and minimise the likelihood of delays and inconsistency in decision-making. Our proposals will make it easier for migrants, decision-makers and the public as a whole to understand the rules and have confidence in their operation.“This is a comprehensive package of measures to strengthen our immigration system and to reinforce our shared values. It will deliver a clear journey to British citizenship, which balances rights and benefits with responsibilities and contributions. I commend this Statement to the House”.My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
3.40 pm

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating this Statement made earlier in the other place. The Green Paper deals only with those who are aiming to enter this country legally. It is right that we should lay down as firmly as we can what is expected from those who do, but let us be under no illusion that what we are talking about is the tip of the iceberg as far as foreign nationals and migrants entering this country are concerned. We are setting up a complicated and bureaucratic system for a relatively small proportion of the total number of people who are crossing our borders.

Let us also be clear that we are talking only of those who seek to come from outside the European Union; the citizens from those 26 countries—regardless of whether they speak English, undertake voluntary service or bring with them their mothers, children, wives, uncles and aunts—are not included. In this Green Paper, we are not considering the refugees who come here for political and safety reasons. This Green Paper addresses not at all the thousands of illegal immigrants who cross our borders every day. Therefore, we are talking about only a proportion of those who will come here legitimately. What proportion of the total is that? If it is limited to only those whom we need to work and study here, under the new points-based system, which is the first part of the three-part system that is being introduced, what is the anticipated number of people we are talking about?

The participation of people who migrate willingly to this country has always been welcomed. We benefit from it and we enjoy the interchange of cultures and experiences. The extra hurdles now being put in their way, therefore, must be seen to be fair to them, as well as to us. Will the Minister go into a little further detail

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about the requirements under the probationary period? If this is to be a minimum of one year, what will have to be demonstrated to achieve citizenship within that time? What deficiencies will cause that period to be extended? Who will make the assessment of whether probationary citizenship has been successfully completed? How is the judgment on whether a probationary citizen can speak English and understand life in the United Kingdom to be tested? Presumably, there will be oral and written examinations, but who will undertake them? How will people demonstrate whether community involvement, which will accelerate the journey from temporary to permanent status, has been achieved? Will there be agreed forms of volunteering or community service? How will they be accessed and assessed?

The Government are intent on refusing the right to stay to those who do not ultimately meet their goals or who are convicted of criminal activity. In view of the very limited number of people currently being removed from this country after committing criminal offences, how realistic is it that deportation will take place? We already know that the Border and Immigration Agency does not deport anybody who has served a sentence of less than two years.

The Minister has announced that, in order to help with the costs of immigration, a sum will be added to the cost of a visa. The Home Secretary has said that this will raise possibly tens of millions of pounds for local government, but what does that mean? Has a proper estimate been made both of the costs borne by local government and of what will be raised to assist it? The Minister in another place portrayed the leader of the Local Government Association as welcoming this proposal, but my understanding is that he welcomed the theory of it. The estimated £15 million to be raised from this source will, as I think he understands—we certainly do—barely touch the costs incurred. If £15 million is accurate, it would provide less than 10 per cent of the cost to the National Health Service. It certainly would not also cover education, policing and the myriad other local government responsibilities.

Perhaps the Minister would say what benefits this will bring and, more important, how this money, which is presumably going to be put into some form of ring-fenced trust, is to be distributed. Will it be as part of the grant system? Will it be on demand and, if so, whose voice will speak loudest? Will it be based on increase in population or on increased demand for services? Indeed, how is this rather small amount of money to be allocated?

Green Papers usually herald a Bill. This will be the seventh immigration Bill that this Government have introduced. Will the Minister confirm that any further legislation would consolidate legislation arising from this Green Paper and the six forerunning Acts of Parliament?

Finally, I want to raise a point made by my right honourable friend David Davis during the debate in the other place, which was not properly addressed; in the intervening couple of hours, the Minister may have been briefed on it. In most cases, the granting of United Kingdom citizenship, permanent or probationary,

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will result in the loss of original nationality. Therefore, will any period of probation be a prior condition of citizenship and not a part of it? Under international law, people cannot be made stateless, so even a probationary period could make citizenship permanent. If that were the case, the UK could not revoke that citizenship unless it was absolutely clear that the previous nationality was not lost until full British citizenship was granted. If the Minister is not able to answer that question, perhaps he might give a written reply. It seems to me salient to the whole way in which this is being carried out. I thank the Minister again for introducing the Statement.

3.48 pm

Lord Avebury: My Lords, we, too, are grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement from another place. We are delighted to welcome the renewal of the undertaking to consolidate the law on immigration, as the Statement makes clear. We ask the noble Lord whether that will also cover citizenship. The law on citizenship has not been consolidated since 1981, so it is in almost as much disarray as the law on immigration. It would be useful to know whether the two will be handled together.

In view of the range and complexity of these proposals, we ask the Government to allow more than the usual 16 weeks of consultation on the Green Paper. Some of the proposals are presented for the first time. During the consultations that led to the Green Paper, which are referred to in the Statement, there was no mention of probationary citizenship. This is a new concept, which has not yet been tried out on the public.


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