Clause 39 - Amendments to the Extradition Act 2003 etc
Police and Justice Bill
Celia Barlow (Hove, Labour)
We can be proud of our judicial system in this country. The enduring image of the statue of justice on top of the Old Bailey is seen as the very symbol of the fairness and impartiality of British justice. I wish to raise concerns about a possible circumvention of British law as a consequence of the Extradition Act 2003, which rightly enables us to work alongside the United States in the ongoing fight against terrorism.
I understand the need for terrorist suspects to be extradited to the United States when there is due reason to suspect that they are a threat to the security of the American homeland. However, I do not fully appreciate why the 2003 Act should extend beyond terrorist subjects. I am sure that most of us are familiar with the case of Ian Norris and the NatWest three—British citizens working for British companies who face trial not by British courts, but by United States courts, on allegations of fraud. It is absurd that our citizens could face extradition to the United States for crimes allegedly committed on British soil and largely against British company interests, particularly when no prosecution has been forthcoming in Britain. That is taking the principle of outsourcing one step too far.
I find it troubling that an extradition request can be made purely on the basis of a statement of fact about the alleged offence, as opposed to the serving of evidence, especially as Britain must produce evidence to secure an extradition from the US. I believe that an amendment to the Bill that would close that gap might be considered by the Minister at a later date, and I encourage her to do that.
Our business is now conducted in a global economy; UK business now has worldwide interdependency as never before. Understandably, organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry are worried when another country with laws different from ours is able to affect machinations in our own country. I do not advocate that those accused of committing corporate fraud should be allowed to walk free, but it is worth considering that our allies should have faith and confidence in our judicial process, which has evolved over hundreds of years. Perhaps the Minister will consider that we have an opportunity to work closer with our judicial counterparts in the United States on matters such as these.
Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative)
I allowed the hon. Lady to range wide of the clause, and some of the discussion may have taken place more appropriately under schedule 12. However, there is a degree of movement between the two, so I intend to stick to the amendments to schedule 12. If hon. Members want to contribute generally to any points that are not covered by the amendments, now would be the time for the general debate, and schedule 12 will just deal with the amendments specifically. I hope that have not confused everybody with that advice. Does the Minister wish to speak on clause stand part?