I thank the Minister for the Government’s response to my amendment—or rather the amendment I have moved; it is not purely my amendment. The Government’s argument appears to be based on two or three strands. The first is an inference that another country—realistically, we are talking about the USA—might not be willing to conclude an agreement with us under the Bill, including of course a reciprocal agreement, if this amendment is passed with its provisions for prior assurances on non-application of the death penalty. Why, though, should we not have the assurances that this amendment seeks, when we are talking about information from this country? Why should we have to compromise on our stance of opposition to the death penalty by having to hand over electronic data following an order in a court, or made in a court in another country, which could lead to the death penalty being applied if that information helped in securing a conviction in that other country?
I notice that the Government said that such information would not be used in evidence. However, information can be of value in securing a conviction without that evidence in itself being produced in evidence, since it may point people in directions which will lead to other evidence being produced which could assist in securing a conviction. It surely is not opposition to the death penalty—and government Ministers keep telling us that we are opposed to it—if you conclude an agreement that you know could allow the death penalty to be applied thanks to our assistance and co-operation over the provision of data. We need the safeguard that the death penalty will not be applied.
The other point is that orders will be made in that other country that the international agreement we conclude with it will expect to be adhered to and data supplied without any ability of a British court or the Government to say no on the ground that the death penalty could be applied. No assurances have been given that that will not be the case. In the absence of any detail about any disputes procedure and the circumstances in which it would operate, we will not be able to stop information being handed over on the ground that it could allow the death penalty to be applied.
In that regard, we do not know how many overseas production orders will be served on service providers in the UK by other countries with which we reach an agreement and where the death penalty could be applied. It could be a considerable number, and the Government cannot deny that. We could, in fact, be assisting in the application of the death penalty on a not infrequent basis.
As I understand it, the Government have now indicated that they will put down an amendment when the Bill reaches the Commons. It appears that that amendment might provide—I am really not sure—for some kind of review of any agreement reached on overseas production orders with another country, the outcome of which would presumably be available to Parliament before Parliament decides whether or not to ratify the agreement. But Parliament will presumably have to say yes or no to the agreement and will not be able to amend it, and neither will there be any requirement on the Government to accept the findings of any prior review or investigation of an agreement with another country reached under the terms of this Bill and, in particular, on any recommendation that an assurance should be sought on the non-application of the death penalty if it applies in the country concerned.
I really do not think that the assurance given and the statement made about the nature of a possible amendment in the Commons meet the provisions of this amendment, which clearly state that, if we are going to conclude such agreements with other countries on overseas production orders, and if it is a country where the death penalty can apply, firm assurances must be sought that, where information is handed over by service providers in this country, it will not be used to secure a conviction that could lead to the death penalty being imposed. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 208, Noes 185.