rose to move, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.
My Lords, this Bill will benefit greatly from scrutiny in Grand Committee. It is legally complex and it requires detailed consideration and dispassionate argument rather than rhetoric or humour. Compared with the Chamber, Grand Committee provides more time, a less adversarial atmosphere, better facilities, more direct engagement with officials and a better view for the public.
The Bill was published in draft and received pre-legislative scrutiny by the Commons Home Affairs Committee and by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. If necessary, I shall speak later about our recent experience of the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill in Grand Committee. I believe that those who took part in it thought that it was an exemplary example of scrutiny by this House.
The Bill is not about the principle of extradition, in which this country has participated for over 100 years, but about the processes. It seeks to make those processes fair to justice and fair to the individuals charged. It is precisely because of the fine balance of that endeavour that a considered process in Grand Committee is a first-class process for considering the Bill. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee.—(Lord Filkin.)
My Lords, I describe this as a manuscript amendment although, thanks to the good offices of the Public Bill Office, it is available in type. I hope that most of your Lordships have it.
The purpose of the amendment is very simple; that is, to ensure that the Committee stage of Part 1 of the Bill, which deals with the European arrest warrant, remains on the Floor of the House and is not removed to the Moses Room and subjected to the procedure of the Grand Committee. As I say, Part 1 contains the provisions which introduce into British law the European arrest warrant which means that extradition to other European Union countries will be virtually automatic subject to certain very limited exceptions.
The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has just said that the Bill is about processes not principles. If he describes the principle as "some extradition is a good thing and should happen", I suppose that he can say that the Bill is about processes. But beyond that very broad principle the Bill completely changes the system of extradition. It means that, subject to very limited exceptions, a warrant issued by any European country for the extradition of someone in this country will go through on the nod. That is a total change from extradition as we know it.
Whatever one thinks of the overall merits of that concept, there can be no doubt that introducing the European arrest warrant constitutes a very major change to our existing laws and one which has caused considerable concern to a large number of people who are entitled to have their views seriously considered. The matter has also aroused considerable public disquiet and concern, perhaps partly through a mistaken belief that the new law will allow foreign policemen to break into one's bedroom and drag one away in one's pyjamas to a Greek court, but also for more substantial reasons which are matters of substance.
I give an example of that concern. The European arrest warrant has been subject to two reports of your Lordships' Select Committee on European affairs. Those reports stated that the proposal raised important questions which they recommended should be debated in your Lordships' House. I shall say no more on the Select Committee as I notice that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, who chaired the relevant sub-committee is present. Following those reports debates took place and many speakers on all sides of the House expressed concerns about numerous aspects and urged the Government to resolve them before the latter committed themselves. It is fair to say that some of the difficulties have been resolved but others have not.
Since publication of the Bill it has been the subject of a report of your Lordships' Constitution Select Committee. That committee reported,
"The extensive review of extradition law proposed by the Bill was a matter of constitutional significance".
When the idea of a constitution committee was mooted the Government gave it warm support, but they are not giving much warm support to the Constitution Committee's assertion that the Bill raises matters of constitutional significance by ignoring that assertion and hustling the Bill to the Moses Room to be treated as if it were a matter of technical detail.
The Bill's Second Reading took place last Thursday. I believe that there were 16 speakers. They had varying degrees of enthusiasm or opposition to the concept of the Bill but virtually every speaker drew attention to serious specific matters which would require reconsideration, and probably amendment, at the Committee stage. Even the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the concept, listed four separate matters on which we,
"should look for better assurances from the Government".—[Official Report, 1/5/03; col. 879.]
He also referred to numerous other problems to be explored in Committee.
So many different points were made on Part 1 that even in his excellent 25-minute speech the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, in replying to the debate, was unable to deal with many of them. So we do not even know the Government's position on a large number of these matters. It is absolutely plain from that debate and from the matters that I have already mentioned that there will be many amendments.
I hope that that brief introduction demonstrates that Part 1 constitutes a serious constitutional issue on which there will be many amendments which are not of a technical, specialist and lawyerly nature but which concern the basic rights and liberties of our citizens. I suggest that matters of that kind should be taken on the Floor of the House, and not sent to Grand Committee for consideration out of the public gaze merely by those who take a specialist and technical interest in the Bill.
There is another, separate point. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, indicated that the Government would bring forward amendments in Committee—indeed, they gave an undertaking to do so—to improve the position on dual criminality. That is the question of whether one can be hauled off to a foreign court for an offence that was fundamentally committed in this country—for example, whether one could be taken to a foreign court to be tried for publishing an article in, let us say, the Spectator, because a few copies of it appeared in that country and were alleged to offend against that country's laws against what there was called racism or xenophobia.
Those will be important amendments. Unless they go a very long way, it seems likely that they will be extremely controversial. Of course, no amendment can be made in Grand Committee save by absolutely everyone's consent. A single voice against prevents any amendment in Grand Committee. It would be a travesty if the Bill came back on Report without government amendments, so that the House could not consider them as part of the Bill until Third Reading.
I hope that that makes a fairly powerful case as to why the Bill should be taken on the Floor of the House. No doubt in reply the Government will say, first, that the matter has been agreed through the usual channels. With the greatest respect and admiration that one has for the noble Lords who compose the usual channels—I am sure that they are extremely useful people for deciding how our business shall be timed, when we shall have our lunch, tea and dinner, and so on—they are not the proper body to decide how constitutional Bills shall be treated and that they shall be moved from the Floor of the House.
Secondly, I am sure that the Government will say that they have an awful lot of legislation to get through. I was interested to hear a moment ago the Government Chief Whip giving what was not a very subtle or veiled indication that it might cost noble Lords their holiday if they agreed to the amendment. I hope that noble Lords will not succumb to that sort of bullying.
My Lords, I do not use the word pejoratively. I suppose that it is perfectly legitimate to say that we will not get our holiday if we agree, but our duty is to scrutinise the Bill properly. If that costs us our holiday, I suppose that we will have to bite the bullet and face it, but I do not believe that it really will.
My Lords, the noble Earl is of course right, which is why I say that I doubt that it will make much difference. However, the Chief Whip did rather stress the inclusion of how noble Lords decided on the Motions today. I took that to be a slight nudge on the Bills. I am not complaining or criticising; I merely seek to anticipate the answers that I fear that I shall get.
I hope that noble Lords will take the matter as serious. Part 1 of the Bill ought to be considered on the Floor of the House, and the remainder can properly go to the Moses Room. I beg to move.
My Lords, I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will reconsider the suggestion that the Bill be referred to a Grand Committee. I listened with a great deal of interest at Second Reading last week. The Bill is not on my particular subject, but it was an excellent debate. A number of points made by noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, and many others—led me to believe that the measure was very controversial indeed.
I speak from my experience of working on Bills in Grand Committee. I remember the then Employment Bill in particular, which it was felt was not controversial but later turned out to be very controversial. That meant that we spent an awful lot of time in Grand Committee when it would have been a great deal better had the points that we wanted to raise in amendments been debated in Committee on the Floor of the House.
I know that one can have votes in Grand Committee, but one does not, generally speaking. The assumption is that one will not do, which has a psychological effect on the way in which debate is conducted. Bills of such substance and controversy—the Bill really is very important, as has been said—would be much better debated by the House as a whole in Committee on the Floor of the House. I therefore hope that the Minister will give some consideration to what has been said this afternoon.
My Lords, we should be very grateful for the comments of the noble Baroness, who has not left me with very much to say. I appreciate that it is now well established that a number of Bills should go to Grand Committee. However, the Bill, with its constitutional implications, its implications for the liberty of the subject, and all the controversy that it has attracted because of the European arrest warrant, is really the last sort of Bill to be treated in such a way.
Bills in Grand Committee do not get the same publicity as Bills taken on the Floor of the House. It is a sad commentary on how another place now deals with its business that this important Bill has arrived in the House having attracted very little attention from the press, or indeed from Members of Parliament in another place. If the Government are saying that no other Bills are available to go to Grand Committee, so the Bill must go there to allow them to complete their legislative programme, that is a sad commentary on the way in which they are managing our affairs.
The Government's programme is obviously overloaded. They should put their house in order and have a programme of a scale that can be dealt with properly. The Bill will not be dealt with properly if it is treated as a merely technical Bill that can, so far as its Committee stage is concerned, be safely dealt with in Grand Committee where no amendments can be carried to a vote.
The noble Viscount should be commended for approaching the matter in a spirit of compromise. I hope that the Government will either accept the amendment or, perhaps even better, withdraw their Motion so that there can be further discussions through the usual channels to try to sort something out.
My Lords, before the noble Viscount made his proposed amendment known, I wrote to the Minister to ask him not to press his Motion to send the Bill to a Grand Committee. I have three reasons that I would like to outline briefly to the House, and I hope that they will receive some support along with the amendment.
First, Part 1 of the Bill—I appreciate that the whole Bill might be involved as a matter of convenience, but Part 1 is picked out by the amendment—is controversial. For medical reasons, I was unable to be present in the House last Thursday at Second Reading, but no one who reads that debate can fail to notice that highly controversial individual human rights issues were raised from the Cross Benches, most particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington. If there is any ground on which the case should be supported, it is that I found myself in agreement with him.
The noble and learned Lord made a most powerful case, along with noble Lords from the Conservative Back Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said that it would be a pity if the Bill were sent to the empty theatre of the Moses Room. Speeches were made on all sides of the House—including by the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and from these Benches—on points overlapping controversial matters relating to human rights. We had previously received reports, not only from the Constitution Committee but from the Home Affairs Committee of another place and from your Lordships' European Union Committee; and there are outstanding issues from the speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, on 23rd April last year.
My noble friend Lord Filkin, said at Second Reading that the Government intend to bring forward in Committee most important amendments on the principle of dual criminality as regards which there could be a no more fundamental issue than that of human rights. These matters need proper scrutiny—that means a proper Committee stage.
My second argument is that this proposal would lead to a Committee stage that would not be a proper Committee stage. That is not to say that I am in any sense opposed to the reforms of my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House—indeed, I warmly supported them. But to press matters such as this into Grand Committee could ruin those reforms. The Government should pay attention to that point.
My noble friend Lady Turner referred to the fact that some of us had long and unhappy experience of the remission of a controversial Bill—the Employment Bill 2002—to a Grand Committee, which was a mistake. Your Lordships will know that it is impossible to have Divisions in a Grand Committee. It is not held in the Chamber. Therefore, debate is inadequate. It is stultified. In the case of the Employment Bill, I found that the preparation of ministerial answers was not so good as it sometimes is in the Chamber.
More particularly, the Grand Committee is not attended by noble Lords whose minds are not made up. In 26 years of debating some very controversial legislation in Committee in this Chamber, I have found that people attend whose minds are not made up, who are not specialists in the subject. One often has to address one's arguments to them. In Grand Committee that simply does not happen.
I want to say immediately—because the point has been misrepresented in the past—that in making this comment I am not in any sense criticising Hansard, but it is a fact that the resources of Hansard in Grand Committee are not as full as they are in the Chamber. On one occasion, when dealing with the Employment Bill, we were asked to repeat our speeches because the recording tape had broken down during an earlier period and there was no record; therefore we had to make it up again.
It was said to us then—and mutterings from the prefects' room begin to indicate to us now—"What are you making a fuss about? You can have your Divisions on Report"—or even, these days, at Third Reading. Some noble Lords say "Hear, hear"; but the logic of that is not to have a proper Committee stage in the Chamber for most Bills.
One of the worst developments in the past 25 years is that Report and Third Reading have become yet another Committee stage. It is Committee stage in the Chamber which is the mark of this House. It is rare for me to think that, but it is the merit of this House that the Committee stage of Bills dealing with controversial human rights issues takes place in the Chamber.
That leads me to my third point. I hesitate to say this as I see heads nodding on the Opposition Front Bench, but this problem falls not only, indeed perhaps not mainly, from the hands of the Government. It is agreed in the usual channels, and that means, first of all, by those on the Front Bench of the Official Conservative Opposition. Yet at Second Reading last Thursday the Official Opposition made the bold—some would say extreme, as I think it is—proposal that in Committee the whole of Part 1 dealing with the European arrest warrant should be excised from the Bill. But having made that proposal they now appear to have agreed to a process in Grand Committee whereby no amendment on that or any other matter can be put to a Division.
That is a mystifyingly self-contradictory intellectual position which should not be allowed to control your Lordships' procedure. In a post-Freudian age it would be quite wrong for the Government to take advantage of the eruption in the usual channels of some self-emasculatory anxiety to determine the procedures of the House.
My submission is that in those circumstances it becomes the duty—and we should be grateful to the noble Viscount for expressing this in his amendment—of those of us who serve only as spear carriers in the shadows of the Back Benches to ask your Lordships' House to give a proper Committee stage to a Bill which manifestly involves controversial issues of human rights.
It is not a question of being for or against the European arrest warrant in principle. I am all in favour of bringing people to justice when they flee to the Costa del Sol, but there are issues in the Bill relating to the mechanisms of the European arrest warrant which require that Parliament properly debates them and properly decides them.
As my noble friend the Minister said at Second Reading, Parliament is sovereign, and Parliament can do what it wishes in this respect, and that includes your Lordships' House. In the light of those three submissions I earnestly ask my noble friend the Minister not to press the Motion today but to take soundings in various corners of the House as to why these objections have arisen and how they should be dealt with, and to come back with a consensual and agreed procedure which we can then follow.
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene at this point, but there are new points that can be made and I understand that the debate is open-ended.
As someone who has served much longer in another place than in this House, I should be properly bashful about arguing about the procedures of this House. But the arguments advanced by the noble Viscount seem enormously strong. I say that with some knowledge of how the conventions have operated in another place over 35 years in relation to the discussion of constitutional Bills. There was a convention that such matters should normally be considered by that House as a whole and not in Committee. It became latterly, when there was rather a lot of constitutional legislation, a convention more honoured in the breach than in the observance. That seemed to me at the time to be an unfortunate tendency. It would be unfortunate if one of the most attractive aspects of the procedure of this House were to follow in that direction.
The substance of the Bill before us is in a sense not important. I agree with those who have already said that whether or not they agree with the arrest warrant is not the issue. What is important is the manner in which the arrest warrant legislation was decided in the European Union—which, there too, was novel. That is a subject that merits further consideration, because it is a portent of more to come, and the Bill should be considered in the traditional manner in this House.
There is one aspect of the business of this House which is potentially superior to that of another place. In another place, whether a Bill is or is not constitutional is not decided by Erskine May, or indeed, I believe, by anyone other than the Government, relying on the support of their Members. In this place, an important step has been taken to determine whether or not a Bill is constitutional. I refer to the setting up of the Constitution Committee. We owe that committee considerable respect and should listen to its advice; that is, that there are significant constitutional issues in this regard that merit consideration. We should follow that advice and, acting on it, consider these matters in the way in which the noble Viscount suggests. I hope that his powerful arguments—I have rarely listened to a speech in which the points were more carefully marshalled—will be given full and deliberate weight.
My Lords, I support the noble Viscount's amendment. In view of what has already been said in support of the amendment, I confine myself to one matter of particular importance. No one doubts the constitutional importance of the Extradition Bill or the fact that one of the most important aspects of the Bill is the abolition of the safeguard of dual criminality in relation to extradition to category 1 countries—that is, by and large, member states of the European Union—over a whole raft of categories of offences, of which there are some 32 in all. A feature of the categories is that they cover matters in which there is no harmonisation between the criminal laws of the various member states.
Conduct falling within one or other of the categories may be criminal in one member state but not in another. An example involves the category of racism and xenophobia. I shall concentrate on the racism half of that composite expression because no one has provided any explanation of what xenophobia adds to racism. Within that category, there are relevant types of conduct in, for example, Germany, but not in this country. Holocaust denial is the obvious example.
The proposal is that dual criminality will not be necessary for the extradition of someone in this country to another member state, notwithstanding the fact that the conduct in question was not criminal according to the law of this country. That is justified—and can only be justified—by the proposition that all member states share common values and common respect for human rights, guaranteed by the European convention. Each therefore owes to the other mutual respect and recognition of the criminal laws and procedures in each country.
That justification works where the conduct of which one is speaking is conduct committed within the territory of the member state in question. However, some types of conduct cannot be so easily classified. Some types of conduct are committed partly in one country and partly in another, and the conduct as a whole may be said to constitute the offence in question. That is particularly so when one considers what constitutes various offences that some member states may have within the "racism and xenophobia" category.
Currently, the Bill's provisions do not cater satisfactorily for cases in which the conduct crosses borders in the way I have described. Let us suppose a case involving publication on the Internet by which there was publication in this country but downloading in another member state. We might consider the case of newspaper articles: an article may be written and published in this country but distributed in another member state. Let us suppose that the content of the article on the Internet would be regarded as criminal in the other member state because it contains, for example, holocaust denial. Is that a case in which we should have to extradite without the requirement of dual criminality to the foreign country in question, notwithstanding the fact that a substantial part of the conduct had taken place in this country?
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, for giving way. I answered those important questions in the European Union Committee last week and did so a second time in the Second Reading debate. On the specific examples that he gave—they relate to the nature of the Bill rather than our current debate—I have already answered the point and put beyond doubt the fact that the concerns that he is raising will not be issues because we will move amendments to that effect.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I was trying to set the background before coming to the very careful and clear evidence that he gave only last Wednesday to the sub-committee of the European Union Committee of which I have the honour to be the current chairman. He made the position clear and gave assurances—no one doubts those assurances—that the Government will introduce amendments so that there will not be extradition where a substantial part of the conduct, albeit not all of it, took place in this country. However, that is the vice, as I understand the procedure, of sittings in Grand Committee. We have not yet seen this highly important amendment, but it must be considered by Members of this House. It may be necessary to suggest alternative wording to that important amendment; it may be thought that one could more satisfactorily achieve the aim—the common aim of all—in that way rather than with the wording the Minister proposes.
I respectfully suggest that that is a reason why the Bill should continue to be considered in a Committee of this House and should not be sent to Grand Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for anticipating the point that I was going to make. That is the point of importance that I suggest justifies support for the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
My Lords, when this issue came to the committee in November of the year before last, we were not able to conduct proper scrutiny; there was pressure of time and we were assured that that would be remedied by proper consideration in this House when it came to legislation. For that reason also—because scrutiny was not satisfactorily completed—it is vital that we handle this Bill on the Floor of the House. That is where it should be.
My Lords, there is no dispute about the significance of this Bill but I do not agree with the noble Viscount's amendment. Let me explain why.
Perhaps I should first declare an interest. I have attended, I believe, three Grand Committee sittings in their entirety on three different Bills. I do not know whether any other noble Lord has done so. I speak with a little experience of how Grand Committees work. I am satisfied that the process of scrutiny in Grand Committee is thorough: in many ways, it gives more opportunity for proper discussion and debate than does the more formal context of debates in a Committee of this House. It is not as if we are short of the opportunity to move amendments at later stages of the Bill. That contrasts with the situation in another place—I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, in this regard—where the opportunities on Report are limited by the Speaker's selection of amendments; we know that opportunities are few and far between there. There is also no opportunity to amend at Third Reading in another place. In contrast, we have a wonderful opportunity to debate and vote on amendments on Report and at Third Reading. We have adequate opportunities in this place.
We do not need a further Committee stage that is taken on the Floor of the House as a matter of course. Indeed, I believe that, as a matter of course, Bills should go to Grand Committee. That is a better way of debating the details and of testing the Government's view in order that amendments can be tabled at a later stage. We should not indulge ourselves in the luxury of being able to have the same debate three times on the Floor of the House. Twice is surely enough.
My Lords, there is only one fundamental reason—it is a short one—why the Bill and Part 1, which contains points of principle, should be taken on the Floor of the House. We are not concerned, if I may say so with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, with whether the scrutiny in Grand Committee in the Moses Room is first rate or not. In my opinion, it is first rate. However, that is not the issue. The issue is that on points of principle, and for the reasons given throughout the House, the Committee stage should be on the Floor of the House.
My Lords, I shall explain briefly why the noble Viscount's amendment, and a number of points made in this debate, are wrong. A Grand Committee is a Committee of the Whole House in exactly the same way as is a Committee in the Chamber. Every Peer who wishes to attend or speak may do so. I cannot believe that if noble Lords are so interested in the merits of this issue, they cannot walk to the Moses Room or a Committee Room upstairs to deal with the point that they want to raise. In my view, every point that has been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, can be dealt with in a much better way in Grand Committee, where scrutiny is better.
For obvious reasons there is more time in Grand Committee than on the Floor of the House. The only difference is that your Lordships cannot vote, a point to which I shall return in a minute. If unsatisfactory government amendments are tabled, they cannot be inserted in a Bill in Grand Committee unless such a committee is unanimous. If one voice says "No", such an amendment has to be withdrawn and brought back at Report stage. If there are alternatives, a government amendment may be brought forward in Grand Committee and considered there.
The fallacy in the argument advanced by noble Lords is that if noble Lords wish to vote in Committee they will give the Government no chance to think again. We all know the rules of the House and once the House has made a decision noble Lords cannot return to the matter at a later stage of the Bill. If the arguments are as strong, as I am sure that they are on the part of the Bill that is causing concern, they can be advanced in Grand Committee. Then the Government will have to realise that they will have to make concessions at Report stage if they wish those issues to go through. It seems to me that the argument of principle is fallacious.
It is easier—I say this as a former Chief Whip—between Committee stage and Report stage to get the Government to realise that they have to make concessions or they will be defeated on Report but if the decision has already been taken in Committee, the Government will have no chance to rethink. I ask your Lordships to realise that a Grand Committee is a Committee of the Whole House; all the points made there can be made again and explored; and there is not the same pressure of time as there is on the Floor of the House. But noble Lords must realise that if they force this part of the Bill onto the Floor of the House and insist on voting on it, noble Lords will give the Government no chance to make a concession.
My Lords, I want to refer to how we have reached this procedure. While I was a Chief Whip in opposition, the bane of my life was the ability, by virtue of our procedures, of noble Lords to have not one or two bites but three bites at the cherry. Colleagues in the House who felt passionately about an issue, whether they lost heavily or not at the first bite in Committee, would return to the matter at Report stage and at Third Reading. One can have too much of a good thing.
About a year ago when the decision was taken to modernise procedures I took the view that in general we wanted not just to speed up our procedures but to take account of a situation in which a small number of Members would keep a large number of Members about the House waiting for a vote. I am not as involved as other colleagues—I believe that the laughing noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, is one of them—and I am not one who understands the issues passionately. I come completely fresh to this discussion.
However, I understand that the procedure that the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, suggests is one that has the approval of the usual channels. As someone who once was a member of the usual channels, I sometimes look aghast at the ability of people who, in general, are happy to be led by the usual channels but who reserve the right from time to time to go against that leadership. If the usual channels have recommended or agreed to or acquiesced to this procedure—I declare where I come from—that is almost good enough for me.
However, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, when replying to the debate—I shall give way to my noble friend Lord Wedderburn when I am ready—will have the opportunity to tell the House that perhaps there are special issues in this case that deserve reconsideration. For my part I have heard nothing that justifies a change from a procedure that I and the whole House were happy to support less than 12 months ago.
My Lords, perhaps I may speak now that my noble friend is ready to give way. I was laughing not at him, but with him. Is he aware that one of the first things that was explained to me when I came to the House 26 years ago was that we did not debate issues at Report and Third Reading stages—especially at Third Reading—that had been decided in Committee. Therefore, the logic of his remarks, and unhappily the preference of the executive, is not to have Committee stage in the Chamber at all, but to send all Bills to a Grand Committee. That is the logic of the position. Therefore, my mirth was because I was sure that that was not his position, and that he too would be aware that the two or three bites at the cherry argument is non-existent.
My Lords, this Motion and those previous Motions on earlier Bills are the result of a decision that the House took last summer on the recommendation of the Procedure Committee that for a two-year trial period more Bills should go to Grand Committee and that, in consequence, the House should normally rise at about 10 p.m. For our part, we do not like any Bill being committed to a Grand Committee. I certainly do not agree with the over-glowing description made by the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, of the process by comparison with a Committee of the Whole House. However, we have done our best to implement the decision of the House taken last summer and we support the Motions today for that reason.
I am well aware, as I was before this debate, that there are many noble Lords in all parts of the House who are unhappy about this Bill and the important Local Government Bill—an earlier Motion—being committed to a Grand Committee. We also know that the Government have problems with the 10 o'clock arrangement and we continue to deplore the idea that the Government can have one half of last summer's deal, which the House accepted, and not the other half. Of course, the 10 o'clock finishing time means that a Bill that may have taken four days in Committee under the old system, may now take six days. For that decision to be implemented, more Bills must to go to Grand Committees. In many cases the process also means that Report stage is likely to take longer than it would have done.
The problem is compounded, as my noble friend Lord Waddington said earlier, by the weight of government legislation and by the fact that these days so little is reviewed in another place. The Government Chief Whip, when speaking about recess dates earlier, indicated the pressure that the Government's programme is under for all those reasons.
In the terms of his amendment the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, calls for the consideration of the Extradition Bill in Committee to be split between the Floor of the House and a Grand Committee. Last summer the Procedure Committee considered the matter briefly, but did not accept in principle that Bills should be so split. I believe that it was right to take that view. If we split this Bill, why not split many other Bills? Frankly, I do not relish having to negotiate on every Bill which clauses should be discussed where. Different aspects of particular Bills are thought to be controversial by different groups of Peers. Furthermore, when there is controversy about an aspect of a Bill, the proposed changes often affect other parts of it as well as the immediate one that is under consideration. I also think that splitting Bills would make it even more difficult than at present for noble Lords and those outside the House to follow our proceedings from reading Hansard and so on.
On this matter we are, as always, in the hands of the House itself. Today, I think that it should stick to the experiment that was decided upon last summer. It should review the position as a whole, including the 10 o'clock arrangements, in due course when the experiment has run at least more of its course than it has so far.
My Lords, I shall try to be brief. I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for his honourable speech and position on the point, which is much appreciated. The Procedure Committee said in July 2002 that the Grand Committee is right for Bills of the kind considered suitable by the Rippon Group. The usual channels have agreed that this Bill passes that test. As to whether the Bill is constitutional, many Bills have elements in them which touch on the constitution, but that does not mean they are constitutional Bills. In the Commons, where constitutional Bills are normally committed to a Committee of the Whole House, this Bill was considered in Standing Committee in the usual way.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, is exactly right that splitting the Bill in the way proposed by the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, would be extremely complicated and damaging. It is inappropriate because many of the same issues arise in Part 2 as in Part 1. Indeed, I note that the Official Opposition's Front Bench have tabled identical amendments to both Parts 1 and 2. If the amendments were to be made we should run the risk of having the same debate twice, once in Committee on the Floor of the House and once in Grand Committee.
I shall not respond in detail to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, on the substance of the Bill itself. This is not the place. It is not true that extradition is virtually automatic. If anything, as a country we extradite. Other countries in the European Union do not currently extradite to us, which is why there are great benefits in the Bill. The noble Viscount was right to say that I did not respond to all the points. We had about a three or four hour debate. I gave my usual commitment that every Member who speaks will have a full response in writing from me about any points that have not been fully handled on the Floor of the House before the first day of Committee. I repeat that undertaking. There can be a lot of serious amendments. In fact, it is important that there are many serious amendments in Grand Committee. That is when the process of testing starts.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, raised the amendment that I promised at the European Union scrutiny committee and again at Second Reading. I shall go further: I shall ensure that the House is aware of that amendment before we reach the first day of Committee so that all Members can see it. I can give the House the assurance that in general it will be well pleased with the amendment because it specifically addresses the issue that has been raised.
I think that the Bill is appropriate for Grand Committee because of my experience of working with noble Lords on Opposition Benches in Grand Committee. I do not say that the procedure is easy for the Government, but it strikes me that it is a good process for scrutiny. The Government are able to listen more; are able not to resist for the sake of it; and are able to respond where appropriate.
My noble friend Lord Carter stated the situation correctly. He pre-empted what I was going to say should the House want to persuade the Government to think again and not send the Bill to Grand Committee. On the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill—and please ask of colleagues who worked through that process—in response to the debates we had in Grand Committee we brought back amendments on Report, which progressively narrowed down the nature of the Bill. We did not dig in. We were able to give way willingly when we thought it was sensible for us to do so.
By comparison, defeat us on the Floor of the House in Committee and noble Lords lock the Government in to conflict for no good reason. I give the House my assurance that the tone and style in which we handled the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill will be applied to this Bill. We shall listen seriously to the arguments without fear or favour. If we think that we should be persuaded, we will be persuaded and will adjust accordingly. The House will have a full opportunity to test those matters at later stages of the Bill.
My Lords, I am most grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment. I am interested to note that—I may be wrong—the only noble Lords who have spoken against the amendment are all former Whips or operators in the Whips' department, which perhaps says something about the difference between those in favour and those against.
I was disappointed by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin. I had hoped that he would accept the invitation addressed to him by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden. Surely, if this procedure is to work, we should not send Bills to Grand Committee where a sizeable proportion of the opinion in the House does not agree. If the Grand Committee process is to work, the Bills that go there should be Bills that virtually everyone concerned with them agrees should be dealt with in that way. If the House is going to send Bills, by reason of Front Bench majorities, that the interested and concerned Back-Benchers think should be debated on the Floor of the House, the Grand Committee procedure will not work.
Perhaps I may say two other things. First, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Carter—
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. The same arguments were used before we went into Grand Committee with the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill. I have to say that I am satisfied that everyone who took part in the Grand Committee sessions were satisfied that all the important criteria for proper Committee scrutiny was met by that procedure on that Bill. It was certainly a controversial Bill; it was certainly a Bill that had constitutional implications; it had serious human rights implications; and it was a satisfactory process.
My Lords, having not taken part in it, I cannot comment on whether the process was satisfactory. It was—this may not be a good point and I may regret making it—a Bill of specialist interest relating, presumably, only to Northern Ireland; whereas this Bill relates to the whole of the country.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, he is of course right to say that if the Government indicate clearly that they will think again, the proposer of an amendment would be mad to press it to a Division when he may get something jolly good by negotiation. But that does not mean that where positions are really entrenched, it is not much better to put it to a Division in Committee so that the matter can be resolved.
Secondly, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, of course the Procedure Committee recommended that more Bills should be committed to Grand Committee; but that does not mean that everything should be, especially not Bills of such constitutional significance that have raised so much concern.
My proposal that only Part 1 should remain on the Floor of the House was advanced in a spirit of compromise. Of course I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that some Bills may be difficult to split and would require the usual channels to sit down with a microscope to study them to decide whether Clause 63(b) was appropriate. But it was clear from our debate on Second Reading—which I think that the noble Lord did not hear—that Part 1 concerns a totally separate matter and that almost all the points of criticism were raised about it.
If I am told that it is wrong to keep only Part 1 on the Floor of the House, I should be perfectly content to keep the whole Bill on the Floor of the House. I was trying to be co-operative; but this Bill is perfectly suitable for such treatment.
We submit that this is a battle between Whip convenience and principle; and I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.