My Lords, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor made it clear at the weekend that consideration shall be given to whether any changes to the Human Rights Act are required to protect public safety.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she realise that while the Attorney-General calls the Human Rights Act one of the Government's greatest achievements, many more people will agree with the Prime Minister that it is an abuse of common sense that we cannot extradite from this country people who have arrived here by hijacking passengers and aircraft? Who got us into this mess in the first place, and is it not time we had an urgent amendment of the Act?
My Lords, we need to be clear straightaway that issues of removal are governed by the ECHR. The noble Lord will remember, because his Government were then in being, that it was the case of Chahal in 1996 that imposed an impediment with regard to removal. Of course the noble Lord would not wish me to comment on a case that is still sub judice.
My Lords, will my noble friend accept that it is puzzling that those who so abuse our hospitality that they are prepared to maim or kill our citizens cannot be extradited to their countries of origin when we have doubts about the judicial system in that country or the regime of punishment? Will she confirm that our French colleagues take a far different and rather more robust view of extradition, for example to north Africa?
My Lords, the comparative task my noble friend asks me to perform regarding the French system and ours would require a much longer response. There are those of us who honour our own system, and say it is sufficiently robust to respond appropriately. With regard to extradition, my noble friend will know that the Government have been working extremely hard to develop and pursue memorandums of understanding with other countries so that proper returns consistent with ECHR obligations can be undertaken. We are pursuing those with the greatest energy.
My Lords, rather than trying to send people back to countries where they are likely to be killed and tortured, will the Government consider encouraging more use of the existing powers to prosecute in the United Kingdom terrorist offences committed elsewhere, and, if necessary, extending those powers?
My Lords, the noble Lord will know, because we have had delightful, extensive conversations on terrorism across the Dispatch Box and elsewhere in this House, that we are taking every proper step to address terrorism, eradicate it and keep this country safe. I am sure that we on all Benches will use every effort to pursue that end and make sure the citizens of our country are as safe as we can make them.
My Lords, I take this opportunity to wish my noble friend a very happy birthday. Of course it is critical that we look with the greatest care at all issues of administration to make sure we have an administrative system that is as robust and effective as we can make it. That is something my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is determined to ensure we follow through on.
My Lords, is it not a fact that the Government have failed to protect the people of this country, and continue to do so? Until something sensible is done, or at least responsibility taken, that is going to continue, and it is outrageous.
My Lords, I wholeheartedly disagree with the noble Baroness. The Government have taken trenchant steps to make sure that this country is properly protected, often in the face of virulent opposition from Members opposite and the Liberal Democrats. We will continue to put the safety of the people of this country first, second and last.
My Lords, bearing in mind that the public rightly need continual reassurance on proper sentencing, deterrent and punishment, and that is the priority, does the Minister agree that that can all, none the less, be achieved under current arrangements without the Prime Minister having to dent severely the Human Rights Act 1998—which, as has already been said, is a precious instrument—just because he has thrown a wobbly over the Sun newspaper?
My Lords, I do not agree with the categorisation of the noble Lord, although I agree that we must do all we can to ensure that the criminal justice system is effective; that it has the confidence of the people we serve; and that we continue to deliver. The Prime Minister expressed a view echoed by many people in this country.
My Lords, as I understand the position, this matter has come to a head because the judges refused to extradite hijackers to Afghanistan, in spite of the fact that Afghanistan is now quite different from when they hijacked the plane. Will the noble Baroness make it absolutely clear that the Government deplore hijacking, will not tolerate it and will extradite those engaged in it under any circumstances?
My Lords, I am absolutely happy to say that the Government deplore hijacking. Noble Lords already know that an appeal is under way. Therefore I am unable to say anything else about that case until it is concluded.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness enlighten the House as to the difference between deportation by the Government from this country and extradition from this country at the suit of another country? There seems to be some confusion.
My Lords, I do not think that there is any confusion. We have arrangements under the new Extradition Act, which clearly sets out the basis on which we will respond to requests made by a convention country or requesting state. There are clear rules, under our immigration and asylum legislation, dealing with deportation from this country.