1.The Proposal of Amendment to Article 1 and new Article 34 BIS of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic (the Road Traffic Convention amendment proposal) was laid on 29 September, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 22 November 2021.
2.The Agreement inserts two new definitions and a new article to bring automated vehicles compliant with domestic and international regulations within scope of the Road Traffic Convention. As such, it is the first binding international agreement specifically on automated vehicles. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) accompanying the proposed amendment states that it will facilitate the development and safe use of automated vehicles, but also emphasises that the amendment is “merely clarificatory” for the UK in that it simply restates what the UK is doing already. In the Government’s view, the 1968 Convention (and the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic) were sufficiently flexible to accommodate the safe use of automated vehicles.
3.The amendment will enter into force on 14 July 2022, subject to no objections from a third or more signatories, or a separate call for a conference to consider it.
4.The amendment applies to the UK only, and does not extend to the Crown Dependencies or Overseas Territories. The EM explains that although it covers a reserved matter, the Government consulted the devolved administrations and shared the draft text with them.
5.The EM confirms that no new legislation is required to implement the amendment.
6.We report the Road Traffic Convention amendment proposal to the House for information.
7.The Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Albania on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (the Prisoner Transfer Agreement) was laid on 19 October 2021, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 24 November 2021. It was considered by the Committee on 17 November 2021.
8.The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) notes that the Prisoner Transfer Agreement will replace an earlier Agreement signed with Albania in 2013 due to variations in sentencing guidelines. The EM states that “returned prisoners were serving a longer proportion of their sentence in Albania than they would have if they had not been transferred and served their sentence in the United Kingdom. This was solely due to the difference in release provisions”. This resulted in a reduction in the number of prisoners returned to Albania due to the increased risk of legal challenge.
9.The EM indicates that amendments were agreed between the Parties to “allow for a wider adaptation of sentences to align the custodial periods on transfer”. Notably, Article 7 of the new Agreement will enable the Albanian authorities to reduce the headline sentence to the equivalent UK level, when Albanian release arrangements are applied. The EM also highlights some other minor amendments that were made to the 2013 Agreement, including to make clear that a transfer can be made without an individual’s consent in some circumstances.
10.Such transfers without consent can be made where prisoners are subject to an order for expulsion, deportation or removal, provided that this is compliant with the UK’s international obligations, including Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The EM confirms that “in deciding whether or not a prisoner should be transferred without his or her consent, account is taken of the prisoner’s links with the United Kingdom and with Albania”. Albania is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.
11.Additionally, the EM explains that Article 3 of the Human Rights Act provides for prison conditions in Albania being taken into account in UK decisions on prisoner transfers, should concerns be raised. We note that the European Court of Human Rights factsheet on Albania published in July raises concerns around the treatment of persons detained in hospital and inadequate medical treatment in prison.
12.We call on the Government to set out how it will satisfy itself that Albanian prison conditions are adequate when deciding on prisoner transfers.
13.A transfer still requires the consent of both Parties. The Government has stated that Albanian nationals currently represent the highest percentage of foreign nationals in custody with more than 1,500 in prison in England and Wales, representing around 10% of overseas criminals in jail. The EM, however, does not provide information on how many prisoners are expected to be returned under the Agreement. This information is necessary in order to establish, in future, whether the Agreement has had its intended effects.
14.We call on the Government to submit an updated EM that includes the total number of Albanian prisoner transfers expected under the Agreement.
15.The Government press release about the new Prisoner Transfer Agreement made clear that the Government sees it as a way to remove more Albanian prisoners from the UK, while ensuring that they are detained for as long as they would have been in the UK. It noted that “removed prisoners will be barred from ever returning to the UK” and that “Albania will pay the costs of housing prisoners transferred from Britain”. We note that although the EM states that there will be a reduction in accommodation costs resulting from the Agreement, it is otherwise vague on the overall financial implications. There have been press reports regarding the UK Government potentially providing financial support to Albania’s prison system, about which the EM is silent.
16.We call on the Government to submit an updated EM that clearly sets out the financial implications of the Agreement, and what funding, if any, the UK Government has agreed to provide to Albania’s prison system.
17.Article 14 of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement provides that “any dispute between the Parties arising out of or in connection with this Agreement shall be resolved through diplomatic channels”. The Agreement does not have a specific provision on amendments.
18.The Agreement can be terminated in writing by either Party, with six months’ notice.
19.The EM confirms that the Agreement can take effect once both Parties have completed their domestic legal procedures. No new legislation is required to implement the Agreement in the UK.
20.The Prisoner Transfer Agreement extends to the United Kingdom and to the Isle of Man. The EM indicates that it is intended that this Agreement will be extended to any Crown Dependency or Overseas Territory that wishes to be included in the future, provided they have the necessary legislation for the transfer of prisoners in place.
21.The Agreement relates to immigration laws, policies and procedures, which are a reserved matter, although the EM notes that there will be implications for the devolved administrations. The Government consulted with the administrations of Scotland and Northern Ireland, sharing the draft text in advance of signature. No reference is made to consultation with the Welsh Government. We note that the Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee, in its report on the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, pointed this out too, but did not raise any specific concerns.
22.We report the Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Albania on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to the House for information, noting that the Government sees this as a way of transferring more prisoners to serve their sentences in Albania. In particular, we highlight our comments at paragraphs 12, 14 and 16.
1 Proposal of Amendment to Article 1 and new Article 34 BIS of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic, CP 540, October 2021: [accessed 17 November 2021]
2 Department for Transport, Explanatory memorandum on Proposal of Amendment to Article 1 and new Article 34 BIS of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic, October 2021, para 3.2: [accessed 18 November 2021]
3 EM, para 4.1
4 Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Albania on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, CP 523, October 2021: [accessed 17 November 2021]
5 Ministry of Justice, Explanatory memorandum: UK/Albania: Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, October 2021, para 3.4: [accessed 18 November 2021]
6 Article 7(2) of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement provides for the adaption of sentences. Article 7(4) ensures that “the sentence to be enforced in the receiving State shall not aggravate, by its nature or duration, the sanction imposed in the transferring State.”
7 It notes that these can be found at Articles 2, 4, 7 and 8 of the Agreement.
8 On the question of human rights, Article 9 of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement provides that: “Each Party shall treat all sentenced persons transferred under this Agreement in accordance with applicable international human rights obligations, particularly regarding the right to life and the prohibition against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
9 EM, para 8.1
10 EM, para 8.1
11 These include concerns around treatment of persons detained in hospital and inadequate medical treatment in prison: ECHR, Press country profile: Albania, July 2021: [accessed 18 November 2021]
12 EM, para 3.6
13 When the UK agreed the original prisoner transfer agreement in 2012, there were only 193 Albanian nationals in UK prisons. Ministry of Justice, ‘Press Release: Government strikes deal to remove more Albanian prisoners’ (26 July 2021): [accessed 17 November 2021]
14 Ministry of Justice, ‘Press Release: Government strikes deal to remove more Albanian prisoners’ (26 July 2021): [accessed 17 November 2021]
15 ‘Albania, UK Prisoner Deal Waits on Albanian Parliament’, Balkan Insight (3 August 2021): [accessed 17 November 2021]
16 Article 14
17 Welsh Parliament, Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee, International Agreements, Agreements considered on 1 November 2021: [accessed 17 November 2021]