Extradition

– in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 19th December 2001.

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Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons) 5:47 pm, 19th December 2001

I beg to move,

That the draft European Union Extradition Regulations 2002, which were laid before this House on 17th December, be approved.

In moving the 2001 regulations, I shall start by responding to the point of order raised by Simon Hughes. Obviously, it would be preferable for the hon. Gentleman to have a copy of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. As he knows, it includes an enabling provision, which we approved, to allow debate on the regulations. I know that he does not have the precise words of that provision, but is only an enabling measure and does not affect our ability to debate the regulations, of which I hope he has the full text.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I have the full text. Will the Minister explain why he is introducing what he called the 2001 regulations, whereas the published regulations include the words "Regulations 2002"?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I apologise for the error. I am sure that Hansard will correct it and make sure that the right regulations are in the text of our debate. Clearly the season of good will has not yet hit Liberal Democrat Members.

I am pleased to be able to introduce the regulations, both because they are intrinsically worth while, as I hope I shall be able to demonstrate, and because, as I have just pointed out, they are the first such regulations to be made under the provisions of section 111 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, which received Royal Assent last week.

The regulations demonstrate the value of the enabling power that that section created. The changes that they make are desirable, but essentially quite minor. It would simply not be worth devoting the parliamentary time that would be required to enact primary legislation to give effect to their content; the previous Government were evidently of the same view, because they did not introduce primary legislation to make the required changes when they were in office.

Now, however, we have the opportunity to give effect to the 1995 and 1996 European Union conventions on extradition, which will bring our extradition arrangements more closely into line with those of most of our European partners.

Before describing in detail what the regulations do, I shall say a little about what they do not do. They do not give effect to the European arrest warrant, which is a subject that has attracted some comment in recent weeks. I therefore do not propose to deal with that. The necessary legislation to give effect to that instrument will be contained in an extradition Bill, which will be introduced early in the new year. There will be adequate opportunity to debate that Bill, which will go much wider than Europe, and cover our extradition relations with the rest of the world.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

Does that mean that the Home Secretary cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom for xenophobia?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I shall continue with the serious elements of the debate.

As I have said, the regulations are designed to give effect to two European conventions. These are formally known as the convention on simplified extradition procedures between member states of the European Union of 1995, and the convention relating to extradition between member states of the EU of 1996. The first was signed on 10 March 1995 and the second on 27 September 1996. The two conventions make a number of changes to speed up and simplify extradition between EU member states, and require amendments to the Extradition Act 1989.

Assuming that the regulations are agreed to, they will come into force 90 days after the date of the United Kingdom's notification of our ratification to the Secretary General of the Council of the EU under the provisions of the conventions, which we intend will happen immediately.

Currently, extradition between member states of the EU takes place on the basis of the European convention on extradition of 1957—the ECE. The two conventions amend the provisions of the ECE between EU states. Their provisions do not affect our extradition arrangements with the Republic of Ireland, as those are regulated not by the ECE but by reciprocal legislation.

We are bringing the regulations forward in advance of the extradition Bill, which will be introduced in the new year to meet the deadline for the ratification of the two conventions by all member states set by the special Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 September as part of its response to the terrible events in the United States on 11 September.

The conventions are nothing new. Indeed, they were the impetus for the review of extradition law that began in 1997. That was ultimately to lead to the consultation paper published earlier this year entitled "The Law on Extradition: a Review", which contained nine specific recommendations regarding the two conventions, as well as a wide range of other proposed amendments. A summary of the responses received was placed in the Library, as well as on the Home Office website, on 24 October. In addition, the conventions were subject to, and cleared, the parliamentary scrutiny process while they were being negotiated.

The amendments to the Extradition Act 1989 are set out in schedule 9 to the draft regulations. They are limited to countries in respect of which the conventions are in force between them and the UK. The provisions of the conventions, and hence the amendments to the Extradition Act, apply only to requests made after the regulations come into force.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I have been reading the regulations and schedule 9. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that under the proposed regulations, anyone indicted under the recently passed terrorist legislation could be extradited without having appeared in open court in the United Kingdom, or am I wrong about that?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

My understanding is that my hon. Friend is wrong on that point. However, I shall check. I hope that I shall be able to respond later. I do not want to mislead him. If he cannot remain in his place throughout the debate, I shall certainly write to him. It is important that we get these things right.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I thank my right hon. Friend. If the regulations applied to someone indicted under the legislation that we have so recently passed, could he or she be extradited without having gone through a legal process either here or in the extraditing country?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

The arrangements must come into force through the regulations. The process of extradition would go through the process of request. The issues that relate to the amendments would apply if they applied to that situation. They would not apply retrospectively. There would need to be a request from the requesting state, and a response from us as the requested state.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Perhaps it is appropriate to ask the Minister now if at some stage he will set out which other countries are involved. In theory, that could mean all the EU countries—but I gather that they are not yet all parties to the conventions. It would be helpful to have the current lists of the two sets of countries.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I will provide that information during the debate. As I have said, the provisions of the 1989 Act will continue to apply, so extradition will be able to take place only after there has been a hearing in open court. These provisions do not affect that process.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Will my right hon. Friend give way again?

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

My right hon. Friend has been patient. He will understand, however, that there are genuine concerns.

If someone were arrested in this country as a deemed international terrorist, under an order made by the Home Secretary, is it right to say that they could not be extradited under the Act, but only after going through a process governed by earlier legislation, which would mean an open court rather than the closed sessions envisaged in the Act that the House has just passed?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

That is my understanding. If further clarification is needed, I shall write to my hon. Friend.

As I have said, the amendments to the Extradition Act are set out in schedule 9 to the draft regulations. They are limited to countries in respect of which the conventions are in force between them and the UK. The provisions of the conventions, and hence the amendments to the Extradition Act, apply only to requests made after the regulations come into force. I shall mention the countries later.

It may be helpful if I set out in more detail the provisions of the two conventions and the amendments to the Extradition Act that the regulations will make. The 1995 convention sets out streamlined procedures for cases in which the fugitive and the requested state consent to extradition. When a person is arrested pursuant to an extradition request, they are to be informed of the possibility of consenting to their surrender under the simplified procedure. The convention sets out the conditions under which consent can be given. It must be expressed voluntarily and in full awareness of the consequences.

The convention sets out various deadlines on the stages of the case, the most notable of which is that the individual must be surrendered within 20 days of the requested state making its decision. Consent may not be revoked, and in consenting to extradition the fugitive is also renouncing specialty and re-extradition protection. The regulations make changes to sections 6, 9, 14 and 18 of the 1989 Act to implement those provisions.

The 1996 convention makes a number of amendments to the provisions of the ECE. Its main provisions are as follows: to reduce the extradition crime threshold from 12 months in both the requested and the requesting state, to 12 months in the requesting state and six months in the requested state; the abolition of the political offence exception; and a provision that a person who has been extradited may be proceeded against for an offence committed before surrender other than that upon which the request for extradition was based, without obtaining the consent of the requested member state where the offence is not punishable by imprisonment or any other form of detention or where the person will not be detained in connection with his trial, sentence or appeal. Finally, there is relaxation of authentication requirements, which is particularly important for us as it is widely recognised that the UK's authentication requirements are among the most onerous in Europe.

I promised that I would respond to the question about the countries that had not yet ratified the conventions. In the case of the 1995 convention, those are France, Belgium and Italy; in the case of the 1996 convention, France and Italy. They have all undertaken to ratify by 1 January 2002, and all other EU member states have ratified both conventions. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey.

The regulations make amendments to sections 2, 6, 18 and 26 of the Extradition Act 1989 to achieve the changes that I outlined. In addition, there are some provisions in the 1996 convention that we can implement without the need to amend the 1989 Act. The main ones include article 3, which relaxes the principle of dual criminality for the offence of conspiracy or criminal association to commit certain serious crimes, including terrorist offences. The regulations do not make any legislative changes in respect of this article, as the UK can already extradite in all the circumstances covered by the article.

Similarly, article 6 provides that extradition is not to be refused for offences related to taxes, duties, customs and exchange which correspond under the law of the requested member state to a similar offence. Extradition may not be refused on the grounds that the law of the requested member state does not impose the same type of taxes or duties or does not have the same type of provisions in connection with taxes, duties, customs and exchange. No changes to the Extradition Act 1989 are required to implement article 6.

Article 7 states that extradition shall not be refused on the ground that the person concerned is a national of the requested state. There are no legislative implications for the UK, as we do not currently refuse extradition on those grounds. However, it is an important provision for those of our European partners that have traditionally been reluctant to extradite their own nationals, such as Germany and Greece.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I accept the Minister's assurance that the regulations do not change the law in respect of the offences to which he referred, but it would be helpful if he could provide, in his winding-up speech or later, a definition of the categories of offences under article 3—terrorism, drug trafficking and other organised crime. Otherwise, where do people look for such a definition?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I shall endeavour to provide a definition in the course of the debate, but if that is not possible, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and give as much detail as I can.

I hope that I have not been too technical. The Government believe that the changes are desirable. Although the changes proposed are hardly earth- shattering, they should help to simplify and speed up extradition between EU member states. The regulations will also enable the UK to honour an important international obligation and will contribute in yet another way to the fight against terrorism. I trust that they will be supported by the official Opposition—after all, the two conventions were agreed in 1995 and 1996 and signed by the UK in those years—and I hope that they will also be supported in all other parts of the House.

I remind the House that very recently, during the debates on the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, which received Royal Assent last week, it was accepted in both Houses that it was right for the conventions to be given effect under the enabling powers in that Act. On that basis, I commend the regulations to the House.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking 6:04 pm, 19th December 2001

It may be for the convenience of the House if I speak briefly on the motion to approve the European Union Extradition Regulations 2002. I thank the Minister for the thoughtful way in which he introduced them. The official Opposition do not find them controversial and will not oppose them.

Crime is increasingly an international phenomenon. Criminals have no respect for territorial boundaries, and the freedom of movement that the single market gives to Europe's peoples and businesses unfortunately creates new opportunities for criminals to expand their illegal activities. That creates a serious challenge for our law enforcement agencies and our different criminal systems. Measures and actions taken by our Government and other EU Governments to increase co-operation between member states in speeding up the bringing of criminals to justice are to be welcomed by us all.

It is important to recognise that the EU is made up of a diverse group of nations with different legal traditions. Criminal law is, rightly, a matter for each member state to decide for itself. Let us recognise that each member state may protect human rights in a different way. Let us also recognise in a debate such as this some practical difficulties, including language difficulties.

Liberty is, of course, the most important freedom. Any steps taken by any Government must be in accordance with that freedom. Each state must protect the rights of its citizens and of those resident within its borders. With that background, I shall say a little about each of the conventions with which are dealing—first, the convention on simplified extradition procedure, the 1995 convention.

Extradition law is complicated. My friends the district judges at Bow street magistrates court have mastered the subject, but few others have ever been able to do so. We know of the complex stages in extradition and of the potentially lengthy time scale involved, so it is refreshing to see the word "simplified" in the title. Under the measure, member states undertake to surrender to each other, under simplified procedures, persons sought for the purposes of extradition, subject to the consent of such persons and the agreement of the returning or the requested state.

May I raise one or two queries with the Minister? If he cannot deal with them during the debate, perhaps he could write to me. First, can he confirm that the person's consent will not be given only orally, but that it will be required to be confirmed by the person in writing?

Next, in article 5 of the 1995 convention, there is reference to the "competent authority" of the requested state. In article 7, there is reference to the "competent judicial authority" of the requested state. "Competent authority" for the UK is defined in schedule 2 of that convention as

"the Home Office, the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Executive Justice Department, the Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate) or another District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) and a sheriff of Lothian and Borders."

However, I do not see anywhere a definition of a competent judicial authority, which seems to be a different authority from a competent authority. I assume, and perhaps the Minister will confirm, that the competent judicial authority will be the senior district judge or another district judge, magistrates courts. Will the Minister also confirm that the person for whom extradition is sought will have a right not only to choose his or her counsel—I assume that there will be a free choice in that regard—but to claim legal aid, subject to the normal means test?

I should like to turn briefly to the 1996 convention. Like the 1995 convention, it allows the Government to retain their role in the extradition process and protects the concept of dual criminality, which is dealt with in article 2, and speciality, which is dealt with in article 10. It is worth pointing out that the 1996 convention has nothing to do with the proposed EU arrest warrant, about which we will have a great deal to say in the weeks and months ahead. I hope that we can take the festive mood of the House—at least, it seems festive at the moment—into the new year, but we will, of course, be considering the EU arrest warrant, and I suspect that the atmosphere may change a little—if not a lot—when we do.

I should like to raise with the Minister a couple of queries in relation to the 1996 convention and especially article 10. I referred to the protection of the concept of dual criminality and to the issue of speciality. I think that article 10 relates to a person who is to be dealt with by a court in the requesting country, perhaps for an offence that is separate and was not included, so to speak, in the initial proceedings. It states:

"A person who has been extradited may . . . be prosecuted or tried" for that sort of offence when it is

"not punishable by deprivation of liberty."

We all understand that. It goes on to state that such a person may be prosecuted if the proceedings

"do not give rise to the application of a measure restricting his personal liberty".

We understand that also, but it seems possible that the person could be dealt with if the offence, which was not known about earlier, is met with a financial penalty, which is another method of punishment. Certainly, in this country—I believe that this also applies in other countries—if one is given a financial punishment, but cannot manage the payment, which could be very large, one suffers a custodial sentence in lieu. I hope that we are not facing the prospect of a sleight of hand in terms of the absence of protection for such a person. On the face of the regulations, that protection appears strong, but I hope that that strength is actual and that the Minister can comment on that point.

That is as much as I need to say about the regulations. I have not exactly given them a thundering welcome, but as the Minister said, the conventions are from 1995 and 1996, and the EU arrest warrant is not an issue for debate now. It is proper, therefore, that the Opposition should act responsibly and take no steps that would result in a vote against these sensible measures.

I see that I have been on my feet for nine minutes. An hon. Friend sitting not more than six feet away from me suggested earlier today that three minutes might be a suitable period in which to advance my arguments. He did not recognise, however, that I am a lawyer by background, and very few lawyers ever manage such brevity.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 6:14 pm, 19th December 2001

May I declare an interest, as I am not a lawyer—probably the only non-lawyer to speak in the debate?

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I am in good company.

I shall be brief. I rise because I was slightly concerned by the fact that when the Minister introduced the regulations, he set them in the context of the current issues of terrorism and the legislation that the House enacted last week—in my view, regrettably—to bring into effect new anti-terrorist measures. It seems that there is a danger of confusing several issues. If I understood correctly what he said later and what Mr. Malins said in his speech, the regulations have their basis in the 1995 and 1996 conventions. While some terrorist offences may be covered in that regard, I would like it to be confirmed that the new legislation does not apply to the regulations.

It is important that we set the record straight on that, because in the legislation that we passed last week, we not only sought a derogation from the European convention on human rights in respect of part of its operation, but passed into law the ability of the Home Secretary to try somebody on the basis of private information and put them in prison. The measure ensured that such a person could appeal only to a private committee in which they would not see the evidence against them. The only right of appeal will be based on a point of law and dealt with through a judicial review process, where, again, the evidence would not be tested in court. I would find it horrific if legislation of such a standard was then used as a basis for extradition, so I would be grateful for the Minister's confirmation that I am wrong about that.

Will the Minister also confirm another point made by the hon. Member for Woking and give an assurance that legal aid will be available, providing that the defendant fulfils the normal criteria? It is important to ensure openness and justice, so legal aid is very important.

I make my final point having sat through days of hearings on the application of the Spanish courts to the English courts to extradite General Pinochet to Spain so that he could face charges there. It was a fascinating experience and the standard of legal argument was very high. A number of landmark judgments were made, not the least of which was the House of Lords ruling on the right to try people for offences committed elsewhere in the world. At the end of the day, however, the extradition hearings and debate did not add up to very much, because the Home Secretary has the final say in these matters and considerable discretion. In the case of General Pinochet, he used that discretion in respect of the rather curious wording "humanitarian grounds", under which it was decided that General Pinochet was not fit to stand trial. He was then allowed to return to Chile, where further legal action against him was contemplated and indeed attempted.

Will the Minister explain exactly what discretion the Home Secretary has? In relation to all the other contracting parties to the extradition arrangement, will the equivalent Home Secretary or Minister of the Interior again have the final say, or will the extradition proceedings with which we are dealing take away such discretion and allow compulsory removal of the accused person from this country, providing that the legal arguments stand up in court? In the whole Pinochet experience, it seemed to me that justice was not done in the end because of the powers of discretion that were available to the Home Secretary and to the equivalent Ministers of the Interior elsewhere. If extradition is to mean anything, it must be decided on legal grounds rather than on the basis of political discretion, which is what is available under current extradition arrangements.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:18 pm, 19th December 2001

This is a bit of a challenge for all of us. The Minister, who took interventions, was good enough to keep his speech to 17 minutes, Mr. Malins took 10 minutes, and Jeremy Corbyn five. I am, therefore, conscious that there is a challenge and that we nearly stand between this place and its holiday. We also face a challenge because the regulations are a serious matter and the final Adjournment debate is on spina bifida, which is also a serious matter. Only between the debates is the more festive element to which the hon. Member for Woking referred, in respect of why we should or should not go on holiday—something that we all hope to do when we break up at the end of this evening. In case I am accused of misrepresentation, I know that the House of Lords is sitting tomorrow and does not break up until then.

We are considering the last Home Office business of this calendar year and of this term. It is no coincidence that Question Time on the first day after the recess was followed by a statement from the Home Secretary about the consequences for this country of the events of 11 September. Several of us who are present are responsible for Home Office business in our parties, and I am conscious that a lot of legislative water has flowed under the bridge since our return. The motion is only a trailer for the next torrent. We hope that there will be a gap of a few weeks before it.

We are considering the first and least controversial of at least three substantial extradition matters. We shall subsequently discuss the European arrest warrant, which is controversial, and an extradition Bill, which is both technical and controversial.

The Government clearly stated to Opposition parties and Labour Members that the United Kingdom had an obligation to implement the two conventions by the end of the calendar year. Under an agreement with European Union member states, we said that we would enshrine them in law. As hon. Members have said, we signed them six and five years ago respectively, but we cannot ratify them until we have legislated. The Government therefore approached both main Opposition parties and asked whether we would be content to legislate by the method that we are considering.

The usual method is primary legislation. Like the hon. Member for Woking and Conservative Members, Liberal Democrat Members decided that it was important to honour our international obligations. We therefore accepted that the conventions could and should be two of only four matters that are implemented under the European third pillar arrangements, which cover justice and home affairs, through secondary legislation. We accepted that process to honour Britain's obligations to our partners, and because while the conventions are technical and complex, their substance is relatively uncontroversial.

The Liberal Democrats are happy for extradition to be made simpler and for the process to be improved without eating into individuals' rights. The record of the hon. Member for Islington, North on such matters is good and reliable. It is right to flag up the big issues on extradition procedure. We will debate them in the new year when the Bill is introduced.

It is reasonable to have speedier processes when people consent to extradition. That is the core of the 1995 convention. It is also reasonable to try to deal with some of the more complicated issues in the 1996 convention. I was grateful for the Minister's answer that the three other countries that have not yet ratified are, like us, obliged to do that by the end of the year. The conventions will therefore apply to France, Italy and Belgium, provided that they get their house in order, as well as to us and other EU countries by 31 December.

Let us consider the controversial issues. Under the conventions, individuals who are extradited for substantive, major matters can be tried for subsidiary, less important matters. That is valid, provided that they are genuinely minor and not other major offences.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Is it the hon. Gentleman's understanding that, under the proposed regulations, people who have been extradited from this country to another EU country cannot subsequently be charged with an offence other than that for which they were extradited?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

That is not correct. I think that the arrangements provide that, for example, someone who was extradited for trafficking people or drugs could be charged with a subsidiary offence of cheque fraud or a crime for which the penalty falls short of imprisonment. Another example is a driving licence offence for which the penalty would be a fine. The technical answer is therefore no, but the offence must be subsidiary. We must protect the guarantee that people will be tried only for subsidiary matters. The hon. Member for Woking is more knowledgeable than me about such matters, but I believe that a subsidiary offence is defined as "non- imprisonable".

The conventions reduce the severity of the punishment for the offence for which one can be extradited. The Minister mentioned a six-month term of imprisonment. They also prevent people from arguing before British or EU authorities that their extradition is sought for a political offence. That is important. If we sign up to the conventions, we accept that there is no such thing as a political offence in the EU. That appears proper to me. I would not accept it in the case of other countries.

The conventions allow for a wider definition of terrorism and related offences than we would perhaps ordinarily wish. We have already permitted such a gateway through legislation. To be fair, the Opposition parties agreed to it, but the Government will use it for only seven months, until the end of next June. After that, they cannot try to implement other such measures without primary legislation, for obvious reasons. We wanted only immediate and specific anti-terrorist legislation to be made through secondary legislation. That is why I asked in an intervention whether at least definitions could be provided of the three broad heads: terrorism, trafficking and drug-related offences.

The conventions also technically allow dual criminality. They allow extradition for something that is not deemed to be a specific offence in the same terms in another country. However, that is subject to twin protections. First, the provision lasts for only seven months; the orders can be passed only in the seven-month period. Secondly, it is limited to the three general heads that I mentioned.

Mr. Howarth mentioned controversial subjects such as xenophobia, environmental crime or crime that is related to information technology, which have nothing to do with terrorism. Their definition can be wider than that for specific offences. There will properly be much debate about whether dual criminality should apply to them and whether people could be extradited for such controversial matters that do not constitute crimes in the country from which they are being taken. We will revert to such matters.

We would normally wish to discuss the arrangements at greater length in Committee and deal with them through primary legislation. The House's acceptance, and especially that of Liberal Democrat Members, of the foreshortened process is the exception rather than the rule. We have accepted it because of two pressures. First, the previous Government contracted the obligation to implement the conventions by the end of the year, and it is important to honour our international obligations. Secondly, the events of 11 September mean that there is a desire to get maximum agreement throughout the EU about non-controversial matters.

This month, the press has reported on people's treatment and rights to, for example, legal aid, legal representation, translators, and on periods for which people can be held. Let us be honest: I am a pro-European, but I accept that different standards exist in countries throughout the EU, and I must stress that Greece is not always the worst offender. Delay occurs in other countries. It is proper to raise such matters in relation to extradition.

When we reconsider the law, we need to be satisfied that there are minimum European standards. If we are willing to sign up to conventions under which a properly constituted court in, for example, Italy, Portugal, Sweden or Denmark goes through the process to extradite a UK citizen, all EU countries need to be satisfied that no one will be detained for long without being brought to court, and that people have proper access to, for example, legal representation.

Those are the issues, but I have one last question for the Minister. I would be grateful if he would tell us now for the record, if that is possible, or later if it is not, whether the convention options that we have chosen, which appear in a complicated table, are in every case those chosen by the other countries. Derogation is possible under the convention—we can derogate from this or sign up to that—and various choices can be made, so it would be helpful to know how the EU countries are implementing the convention and which options they have chosen. I am happy for that information not to be conveyed across the Floor of the House; indeed, it may be safer and more accurate to provide it in other ways.

Twelve minutes—I am not doing too badly, and I am just about to sit down. This is important business and we on these Benches support it. We shall not divide the House and we are willing to co-operate, but we reserve the right to renew our questioning and challenging on the more substantive issues when they are debated in the new year. That is not the most festive note to end on, but I hope that, in difficult waters and on delicate matters, we have managed to do a good job and that we all believe that the processes that we are adopting are fair, just and respectful of people's rights, wherever they come from in the EU.

I further hope that, as far as extradition can ever be coupled with a festive greeting, those who exercise these powers do so fairly, if not festively, on all occasions. After completing our business, we should all wish each other a relatively festive time, even if it is not festive business in itself.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells 6:31 pm, 19th December 2001

I do not want unnecessarily to disturb the tranquillity of the House on the eve of the Christmas recess and I certainly approach the matter from the perspective of a non-specialist—indeed, a non-lawyer. That makes two of us, as Jeremy Corbyn claims to be a non-lawyer, and I believe him.

My interest has been aroused in recent weeks partly by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. The Government, certainly initially, were far too dismissive of the opinion of those whom I respect, so a degree of vigilance is required when the criminal justice system and the liberties of our constituents are being discussed.

I am afraid that the Department's record on complying with the scrutiny needs of the House is poor and the matter of the European arrest warrant is little short of a disgrace. In the first debate on it, the Minister did not have the right documents; in the second, in a European Standing Committee, he was, to put it charitably, a little under-briefed. We have since received a clarifying letter on one matter, which was not accurately described.

For all those reasons, we are wise to pause, even though I understand that there have been discussions between the usual channels about how the matter should be dealt with. The normal position should be that criminal justice matters are considered during debates on primary legislation. I thought that we had established that during debates on the 2001 Act and that, following pressure from the Opposition and in another place, use of secondary legislation would be restricted to matters more directly related to the events of 11 September. Of course, the regulations considerably predate them and, as usual, deal with matters that go considerably beyond any imminent terrorist risk.

As the heart of the regulations appears to be the voluntary principle that the accused must assent to extradition, they are unlikely to apply to many suspects whom we hope will be apprehended following the air attacks in New York. I am therefore a little surprised that the matter is proceeding in this way, particularly as an extradition Bill is to come before the House next month. I understand that we have made at least a moral commitment to pass those matters into law by the end of the year, but, having waited so long and given that the appropriate vehicle is on the horizon, I should have preferred the matter to be argued out during consideration of primary legislation.

If we are concerned about the imminence of further terrorist activity, we ought to act more urgently on the complete mess that is the extradition system. I am still worried about the Soering case, which I understand represents a total block on our ability to extradite to a number of countries outside the European Union. I remind the House of the facts: a German national admitted to committing a murder in the United States, but could not be extradited from this country as the Strasbourg Court ruled that the state of Virginia would subject that individual to degrading or cruel treatment as the death penalty was on its statute book.

During debates on the 2001 Act, the Home Secretary was forced to introduce a wholly illiberal measure of indefinite detention without trial to bolt on to this terrible system a way out, so that we can at least detain some of the more dangerous suspects. The problem lies there rather than with passing in short order conventions dealing with extradition from one member state to another.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Is not the right hon. Gentleman concerned that UK law and the European convention on the death penalty will be undermined if extradition is allowed to American states that practise the death penalty? Indeed, the death penalty would be reintroduced by subterfuge.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

No, I do not accept that interpretation. The Strasbourg Court is attempting to externalise our policies on the death penalty. That is a moral imperialism of which I disapprove. It is up to the United States to decide how it deals with criminals convicted under its legal system. I happen not to be in favour of the death penalty—that is my position for this country—but it is not right to use the European convention on human rights to impose a system outside the EU. That is a clumsy way to proceed, and it has led to the Home Secretary resorting to detention or internment as a way to deal with the problem. The suspects would be in this country, although they should be tried in other countries.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is straying wide of what is a technical motion.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was seduced along that path by the blandishments of the hon. Member for Islington, North, who raised a valid point.

We are going for the wrong target and doing so rapidly when more urgent matters should be attended to. I have a number of specific questions about the regulations to put to the Minister. Will he say more about the apparent fact that individuals could be extradited for offences that are not crimes here? He may respond that the crimes in question must be connected with the suppression of terrorism,

"drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime or other acts of violence against the life, physical integrity or liberty of a person".

That is a quotation from the convention. The definition is fairly wide, however. I can imagine crimes in other member states coming under that general heading, and the possibility of extradition for offences that we do not recognise here.

Here is another question for the Minister. Could a person be extradited from this country for a crime committed here? Usually, we understand extradition to mean returning an individual to the state where that individual is alleged to have committed an offence—returning the individual to the jurisdiction of the state concerned. It seems to me, however, that in some cases the crime could have been committed here and the individual could be extradited for it. That certainly obtained according to the terms of the European arrest warrant, as first drafted, and it led to considerable questioning and concern in another place. I realise that we are not discussing the European arrest warrant now, but I would like the Minister to comment.

My third question is this: could someone be extradited for an offence for which they had already been tried in absentia in the requesting state? That too was raised in connection with the European arrest warrant, but again I would like the Minister to comment.

I understand that, by definition, the individual concerned must consent to the extradition, but may I ask the Minister a final question? Having given up the entitlement to specialty, could that person be put on trial on the receiving state for virtually any other crime? Simon Hughes understands that those other crimes would have to be subsidiary to the offence for which the person had been extradited, but that is a rather imprecise phrase, and I would like the Minister to say a little more.

I can imagine circumstances in which someone who had been extradited was put on trial for an almost entirely unrelated offence that, nevertheless, came under the general heading of drug trafficking, alleged terrorism or whatever. Will the Minister tell us whether there are any practical or even theoretical limits to the number of other crimes with which such people could be charged?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons) 6:43 pm, 19th December 2001

As a non-lawyer, I listened with great interest to the speeches of lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Although few Members spoke, quality made up for the lack of quantity. I shall answer as many questions as I can, and write to those whose questions I cannot answer: I shall ensure that they are given full details as soon as possible.

Mr. Malins raised a number of points. I confirm that consent for a person who has voluntarily agreed to extradition will be given in writing. As for the question of the competent judicial authority, the United Kingdom will make a reservation to the effect that consent under article 7 can be given to any of the competent authorities in accordance with article 15, and is not limited to a judicial authority. The competent authorities are therefore those listed by the hon. Gentleman. The question of legal aid was raised by my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn as well as the Opposition. Fugitives will be allowed legal aid in the normal way, and the normal rules of legal aid will apply.

Article 10 of the 1996 convention, which was mentioned in connection with fines, protects a person who has been extradited from being dealt with in regard to an offence committed prior to his surrender. Obviously, however, an offence committed after his surrender will be a matter for the requesting state.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North asked about ministerial discretion. There will be no change to those arrangements. We are not talking here about the Terrorism Act 2000; we are talking about the Extradition Act 1989, and amendments to that Act. The 1989 Act will apply in the normal way. When we produce a new extradition Bill, my hon. Friend may have further thoughts.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

Could the Minister at some stage drop me a note, if he cannot reply now, about a little concern I have about penalties in lieu of fines? In this country we say, "Pay a fine or go to prison." That may be the case in other countries. It would be helpful to know whether the phrase I used, "sleight of hand", could be brought into operation somehow.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I will reflect further, and give the hon. Gentleman further advice in writing.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I am grateful for what the Minister said about the right of discretion. Will he confirm that, under both the existing legislation and the regulations, the Home Secretary—through the Attorney-General—has the right to decide whether a case can proceed against someone in regard to an extradition request? Could the Home Office block the request in the initial stages?

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I can confirm that the arrangements under the 1989 Act will continue to apply until we make any changes in a Bill to be presented early in the new year.

Simon Hughes asked which options the United Kingdom had taken, and how the UK compared with other countries in that respect. The answer can be found in schedules 4 and 8 of the regulations, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman if he wants some more information.

I was slightly surprised when Mr. Heathcoat-Amory protested about the fact that the regulations were not incorporated in primary legislation. It was his party—indeed, I think he was a member of the Government then—that signed up to the conventions. I do not know what representations he made then about primary legislation, but we, as the official Opposition, would have been happy to debate such legislation.

I feel that we are making progress—the provisions in the new Act allow us to do so—but the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to learn that the new Bill will provide an opportunity for a full debate on extradition. I am sure that he will participate with his usual assiduity.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I do not want to make a meal of this, but the Minister seemed to suggest that the last Conservative Government might have intended to introduce these measures by means of statutory instrument rather than primary legislation. As I am sure he knows, until the passing of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill last week it would have been impossible to do that.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

Either the hon. Gentleman misunderstood, or I did not make myself clear. I was trying to say that the last Government had an opportunity to produce primary legislation, but for whatever reason—obviously, I was not privy to discussions on business management at the time—chose not to do so. We now have the opportunity to do so through secondary legislation and the new provision in the 2001 Act. We have taken that opportunity, because of the link with terrorism. It is right to do so, but I stress that there will be a debate on the primary legislation when a new Bill is introduced in the new year.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

We all signed up to this provision coming in by this route, given the time constraints to which we were subject. However, that does not mean that the Government should not have introduced it in the period since they came to office in 1997. I share the concerns of Mr. Grieve. The Conservative Government had a maximum of only two years left in office, whereas Labour has had four years in which to introduce primary legislation. I am not being over-critical, but it is always better to introduce such measures in primary legislation, and never better to do so in this way.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Minister of State (Prisons), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Prisons)

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. He always manages to find a way of criticising while protesting that he is not doing so. I shall not pursue the point. We are old adversaries on these matters.

The right hon. Member for Wells referred to the reform of the extradition process and the Soering judgment. The Government will be reforming extradition, and we shall introduce primary legislation in due course. These regulations are being debated today because of our commitment to ratify them by 1 January. I think that I have explained our position.

The right hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of crimes committed in the United Kingdom. The position of extraterritorial jurisdiction is not affected by the regulations. The Extradition Act 1989 remains the same, subject to the alterations to the sentencing threshold in section 2.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether there is a limit to what a person can be tried for once extradited. If a person consents to extradition and waives specialty protection, he could be tried for any offence once returned. However, if the person contests extradition, he will benefit from specialty protection, subject to the provisions of these conventions, which will allow other minor charges to be brought.

I hope that, in the time available, I have covered most of the questions that have been put by right hon. and hon. Members. If I have not picked up all the points or have not been able to answer them, I shall ensure that hon. Members receive the information that they have requested. That will be important in guiding us into the further debates on these matters in the new year.

From the comments that hon. Members have made, it is clear that I should enjoy my Christmas because 2002 may be a challenging time on these matters. I wish everyone a merry Christmas, and I hope that they return in 2002 with a spirit of good will as we continue to debate what are important matters, as hon. Members have recognised. I hope that we approve these regulations today.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft European Union Extradition Regulations 2002, which were laid before this House on 17th December, be approved.