|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, Her Majestys 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 Governments 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 Raissis application for compensation and considering what action to take in the light of it. It would be very unhelpful and unproductive to speculateit would be speculationthat 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 bizarreor 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 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 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 Europecountries such as Albania and Ukraineand 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 2004in four years, 52 peopleand 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?
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?
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.
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 countriesregardless of whether they speak English, undertake voluntary service or bring with them their mothers, children, wives, uncles and auntsare 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
20 Feb 2008 : Column 180
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 understandswe certainly dobarely 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,
20 Feb 2008 : Column 181
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.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|