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Moved by Lord Kennedy of Southwark
2: The Schedule, page 4, line 38, at end insert—“( ) The Secretary of State may only make regulations under subsection (7) if the following conditions are first met—(a) the Secretary of State has consulted on the merits of the change with—(i) each devolved administration, and(ii) non-governmental organisations which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, have a relevant interest,(b) the Secretary of State has laid an assessment before each House of Parliament on the risks of the change, and(c) if the regulations are to add a reference to a territory to Schedule A1, the Secretary of State has laid a statement before each House of Parliament confirming that the territory does not abuse the Interpol Red Notices system.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would create further requirements before adding, varying or removing a reference to a territory.
My Lords, Amendment 2 in my name would insert the new subsection as detailed in the Marshalled List. The amendment requires certain conditions to have been met before the Secretary of State can make a regulation under new subsection (7) to either add, remove or vary a reference to a territory. This proposal is both reasonable and proportionate and should present no problem to the Government. It should be accepted willingly today.
It is important to note that nothing in my amendment stops the Government doing what they want to do. It goes through a process; that is all—a process of consultation and assessment. Where the proposal is to add a territory, it requires a statement confirming that the territory does not abuse the Interpol red notice system. The first part of the amendment places a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult on the merits of the change. There are two groups in the consultation proposed here: first, the devolved institutions, which can be a source of valuable information relevant to changes being proposed, and, secondly, non-governmental organisations which in the opinion of the Secretary of State have a relevant interest. Discretion is given to the Secretary of State here but, equally, the Secretary of State has to act reasonably. They will not be able to get out of consulting appropriate organisations; they will get themselves into all sorts of difficulties if they attempt to do otherwise.
My amendment requires that, after the consultation, an assessment be laid before Parliament of the risks of the proposed changes and, finally, that where the proposal is to add at a territory, the territory does not abuse the Interpol red notice system. There is considerable evidence that some jurisdictions abuse that system. I hope that we would not want to deal with such countries on future extradition agreements. I know that a number of my noble friends will shortly speak specifically about abuse of the Interpol red notice system. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 2 in the name of my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark. The amendment would put in place a process to properly consider and then stop extraditions to countries that abuse human rights. It would require consultation, a risk assessment and a statement by the Home Secretary before any new or amended treaty was agreed.
Clearly there are times when treaties need to be, or indeed should be, amended. For example, in its current state the US/UK extradition treaty does not offer confidence to British citizens that they will not be surrendered to the US, when the British justice system is both qualified and able to try relevant cases here without prejudice. I hope the Minister will agree that this is an area in need of urgent reform. When the Government make reforms of this nature, as I hope they will in this case, consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, as outlined in the amendment, are therefore critical.
The amendment would also ensure consultation with the devolved Administrations. There is a strong case for this as there will be certain powers in these Administrations relating to justice, policing and prisons that need to be considered.
Respect for human rights must be a priority consideration when changing or entering into a new treaty. The NGOs have direct experience of the countries concerned. They understand better any issues that arise from individual territories, especially regarding human rights records. They need to be consulted, which is what the amendment seeks to do. It would open up the decision-making process. Being transparent about why decisions were taken about individual countries, and allowing proper parliamentary scrutiny of those decisions, will build trust and confidence in our extradition system.
I turn to red notices. Time and again, international organisations continue to report the widespread abuse by some states of red notices for political ends—for example, to persecute human rights activists, refugees or critical journalists. This violates international standards and human rights. The Government should therefore be mindful of those countries that abuse red notices. Through the guarantees given in the amendment, the Government would signal that they recognised that red notices from countries that abuse the system have no legal value, and would show that, as a country and as a Government, we will help to protect those individuals targeted by such countries that abuse the system. I hope the Government will agree to support the amendment.
The first aspect of the amendment is, as my noble friend Lady Kennedy has just spoken about, consultation with the devolved Administrations, an issue that I will come to in a moment, but also, rightly, with NGOs, as my friend also said. I had a lot of dealings with human rights NGOs and those involved with press freedom when I was general rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Council of Europe, and I found them very helpful for knowing up-to-date information about each country that we dealt with.
As far as the devolved Administrations are concerned, there is—with no disrespect to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams—an awful lot of talk of consultation but very little real, meaningful consultation with the devolved authorities. For example, on Covid recently, the Prime Minister talks about consulting but for a month now he has not chaired a meeting of COBRA in which the First Ministers have been involved. That is not the consultation that could be taking place, so we have to write it into legislation. The Joint Ministerial Councils, which ought to be working, are not working effectively, while the European arrest warrant was abandoned by this Government in spite of objections from the Scottish Government and other devolved Administrations. Consultation must be written into this.
The second reason I strongly support my noble friend Lord Kennedy’s amendment relates to the red notice system. I want to mention the terribly tragic death of Harry Dunn at the age of 19, with his whole adult life ahead of him, in a hit-and-run accident. It was really terrible. The driver of the car, Anne Sacoolas, an American citizen, the wife of a diplomat, escaped justice by fleeing from the UK back to America. That was disgraceful. Her diplomatic immunity itself was very doubtful. Can the Minister confirm that an Interpol red notice has been issued in relation to Ms Sacoolas? I think the Prime Minister has said that she should return, but what are the Government doing to insist on that and take action?
For those two reasons, I strongly support the amendment. As I say, I hope my noble friend will take real courage in his hands and call a Division on this matter if the Government refuse to accept his very strong and persuasive arguments.
My Lords, in Committee on
“The Government have no intention of specifying countries likely to abuse the system to political ends”— that is, the Interpol system. Obviously, that was an important pledge, but it does not conflict with the need for Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, with an assessment of the risks and a statement confirming that the territory does not abuse Interpol red notices.
I also agree that devolved Governments and NGOs should be consulted. Fair Trials International, of which I have been a patron for two decades, has long campaigned to ensure that Interpol does better at filtering out abuses of its system before information is sent out to police forces across the globe. When abusive “wanted person” alerts slip through the net, victims should have redress through an open and impartial process. There is no court in which to pursue an appeal. Fair Trials has highlighted shocking cases of injustice and the devastating impact that these alerts can have on those affected. Bill Browder has said that your life as a human being is over.
Fair Trials has helped dozens of people who have been subject to abusive Interpol alerts from countries including Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Venezuela, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. FTI has also worked constructively with Interpol to develop realistic reform proposals. It held a positive meeting with Interpol’s secretary-general, Jürgen Stock, to discuss reforming the red notice system.
In the context of mounting political pressure for reform, changes were introduced in 2015, when Interpol announced that it had taken the first steps towards implementing reforms, including the introduction of a new refugee policy. Then, in 2017, Interpol introduced a number of further reforms, including greater independence, influence and expertise of the supervisory authority, the CCF; better transparency and respect for equality of arms; reasoned and public decisions on individual cases; and a working group to review red notice operations.
The Minister said, again on
“the UK is currently working with Interpol to ensure that its rules are robust, effective and complied with. The former chief constable of Essex was recently made the executive director of policing services for Interpol, the most senior operational role in that organisation. A UK government lawyer has also been seconded to the Interpol legal service to work with it to ensure that Interpol rules are properly robust and adhered to by Interpol member states.”—[
Can she tell us any more about what further changes and reforms have been introduced since 2017 to prevent abuse? Although that is essential, I still hope that she can tell us that she will accept Amendment 2.
My Lords, I cannot imagine that the Minister is going to tell us anything other than that the Government would consult the appropriate authorities before exercising the power under paragraph 7 of the Schedule, so the obvious question is: if the Government are committed to consulting, why will they not put it in the Bill, given the extent of the concerns that have been raised?
My Lords, I too support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, but with one reservation about where it can be strengthened in relation to NGOs. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, has just spoken convincingly about their importance. In proposed new sub-paragraph (a), the amendment reads that the Secretary of State should consult
“on the merits of the change with … (ii) non-governmental organisations which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, have a relevant interest.”
For me, this gives the Secretary of State carte blanche to consult or not, as he or she thinks fit. It might be better to add: “iii) those non-governmental organisations which have made representations to the Secretary of State.” That said, I still support the amendment.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Kennedy’s amendment as it would add to the system of fairness and justice, since a further check and balance would be written into the Bill. It ensures that the territory in question would not abuse the Interpol red notices system. As noble Lords will know, a red notice is a request by Interpol on behalf of one member state to all other member states to locate a suspect or convicted person, and take steps to facilitate their surrender to the requesting state. Extradition proceedings then follow.
However, not every country treats red notices as a valid warrant and the legal effect therefore currently differs between states. In February 2019, the European Parliament published a study that examined abuse by some states of Interpol’s notice system to persecute national human rights defenders, civil society activists and critical journalists in violation of international standards of human rights. The study, entitled Misuse of Interpol’s Red Notices and Impact on Human Rights—Recent Developments was commissioned by the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights. The study acknowledged that the reforms implemented in 2015 have improved the situation. However, abuses of the Interpol system against individuals, including refugees, continue.
There is still a lack of established rules and procedures to govern the vetting process and adherence to Interpol’s constitution. It is therefore of utmost importance that we in this House have the opportunity to finesse and refine the statute so that weaknesses in established systems are not exacerbated by any vague legislation coming from this House. I therefore support my noble friend Lord Kennedy’s amendment.
My Lords, in this amendment the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has successfully combined a number of issues raised during the passage of the Bill. As noble Lords know, it is very difficult to resist even an affirmative instrument. That is the reality of the system, so it is particularly important that the Government are transparent and inclusive.
I went back to look at the Delegated Powers memorandum and realised—I had not noticed this before—that we are told as part of the justification for taking the power that a
“response to changing circumstances”— which I will come to—
“provides certainty and clarity as to the appropriate manner of request from amended or newly specified territories. For example, if the UK were not to have access to the European Arrest Warrant or a similar tool, with the effect that EU Member States become re-designated as category 2 territories, it is likely to be appropriate to specify some or all of them for the purposes of this legislation.”
We had quite a bit of debate at the beginning as to whether the Bill is really preparing for us not being part of the EAW system, so there will be some interesting debates to come as territories are added.
As a member of the EU Select Committee, I have had the opportunity of hearing the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster mention this on a number of occasions. He said that what is important is to preserve our sovereignty, matters of proportionality and the state’s readiness for trial. As I say, there will be quite a bit to discuss as we add other countries.
The delegated powers memorandum also says:
“in the unlikely event of a deterioration in the standards of the criminal justice system of a specified category 2 territory, it is likely to be appropriate to remove” it; well, the United States has been mentioned already by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley. I suppose the answer to that is in the question of deterioration, because there are plenty of concerns about its processes now.
The House will be aware of our enthusiasm for consultation. I know that they do not claim this, but the Government do not have the monopoly of wisdom. Like other noble Lords, I am often very impressed by the knowledge that NGOs have. My noble friend Lord Paddick raised this point. I hope the Minister can confirm that, in legislation-speak, the Secretary of State’s opinion must always be a reasonable opinion and can be challenged on the basis that it is not reasonable.
I tabled an amendment in Committee to the effect that the designated authority—in our case, the NCA—must be satisfied that the request is not politically motivated. The Minister responded carefully and in detail, and I was grateful for that. The Committee was then reminded that the Extradition Act has safeguards in respect of requests motivated by a person’s political views. I want to make a distinction between that amendment and the one in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, which is about the abuse of the red notice system. I think that is different; it is to do with the requesting territory’s approach on a wider basis. I hope that the House will accept that the narrower amendment has been disposed of, as it does not deal with the wider point. From our Benches, we support the amendment.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment. Amendment 2 deals with the proposed statutory requirements for a consultation, the laying of statements before Parliament setting out the risks of any amendment to add, vary or remove a territory to the Bill and, in the case of additions, confirming that a territory does not abuse the Interpol red notice system prior to laying any regulations which seek to amend the territories subject to the Bill.
The Government are committed to ensuring that Parliament has the ability to question and decide on whether any new territories should come within scope. Therefore, it is mandated in the Bill that any Government wishing to add a new territory should do so through the affirmative resolution procedure. Any statutory instrument laid before Parliament will, of course, be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum that will set out the legislative context and the policy reason for the instrument. This procedure will give Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise proposals and allow the House to reject any proposals to add, remove or vary any territory to, from or in the Bill. The reasoning put forward will need to satisfy Parliament that the territory in scope does not abuse Interpol red notices or create unacceptable risks.
While extradition is a reserved matter, relevant officials are engaged in regular discussions with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations about how it should operate in practice. They would of course engage with them as a matter of good practice were any secondary legislation to be introduced in relation to it. Similarly, several relevant NGOs and expert legal practitioners have been consulted by officials in the normal way; this answers the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. All external stakeholders are able to make direct contact with parliamentarians so that their views are included in all debates connected with secondary legislation associated with the Bill, as they have done during its current passage by contacting several noble Lords in this House.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Ludford, talked about the abuse of Interpol channels. I will expand on that a bit. In arguing that maybe a power should not be enacted, given previous abuse of Interpol channels by some hostile states, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, cited the case of Bill Browder. International organisations like Interpol are critical to international law enforcement co-operation and are aligned with our vision of a global Britain. Interpol provides a secure channel through which we exchange information on a police-to-police basis for action. The UK continues to work with Interpol to ensure that its rules are robust, effective and complied with. The former chief constable of Essex was recently made the executive director of policing services for Interpol, which I was delighted about. It is the most senior operational role in that organisation. A UK government lawyer has also been seconded to the Interpol notices and diffusion task force, to work with it to ensure that Interpol rules are properly robust and adhered to by Interpol member states.
In terms of the specification of non-trusted countries, the power will be available only in relation to requests from the countries specified in the Bill—countries in whose criminal justice systems we have a high level of confidence, and that do not abuse Interpol systems. The Government will not specify any country that is not suitable. The addition of any country must be approved by both Houses, and I trust that neither House will be content to approve the addition of a country about which we have concern.
I will try to make it easy for the House, because we will now have our first ever virtual vote in the House of Lords. I understand that noble Lords would like to divide on this, and I hope that they will join me in resisting the amendment.
My Lords, this has been a good short debate. I thank my noble friends Lady Kennedy of Cradley, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Lady Wilcox of Newport and Lord Adonis, as well as the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for their support. All noble Lords carefully set out the need for this amendment in a most convincing way. I am not persuaded by the response of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, which I found disappointing. I will not disappoint her, and I will make it very clear that I certainly wish to test the opinion of the House in this first ever virtual vote.
Ayes 275, Noes 256.