Crime (International Co-operation) Bill [HL]
Lord Goldsmith (Attorney General, Law Officers' Department; Labour)
My Lords, in responding to the amendment, I shall go somewhat further then I did in Grand Committee. I hope therefore to be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart.
The general position in relation to mutual legal assistance—and the general position under the Bill and the 1990 Act—is, as I think I heard the noble Lord say, a matter for the discretion of the state that receives the request. I am told—something of which I was not aware when I responded previously, and which may be helpful—that on occasion, by relying on that general discretion, conditions are imposed in relation to particular requests where there is concern that a fishing expedition may be being conducted. There are examples where that has taken place.
There is therefore a general ability to impose a condition in certain cases. We would not want as a matter of policy and practicality to establish a general power to do so in relation to incoming requests. Indeed, in certain cases that would be impossible. The noble Lord rightly referred to the bilateral treaty with the United States, which contains restrictions, but there are international obligations that, in a sense, go the other way. Article 23 of MLAC states that certain personal data communicated under the convention can be used for specific purposes that go beyond the proceedings to which the particular request applies. So there would be a problem with the provision contained in the amendment.
However, I hope that what I have said gives the noble Lord the reassurance that he seeks on the particular problem, and that he will therefore not feel it necessary to press the amendment.