My Lords, I now address Amendments 3 and 4, made in the other place, to remove amendments made here at Third Reading. Amendment 3 commits to Parliament having the same opportunities to scrutinise this issue as it does now in the specification of territories under the Extradition Act 2003. The addition or removal of any territory is by the affirmative procedure and, as I have emphasised throughout the passage of the Bill, any statutory instruments laid before Parliament are accompanied by Explanatory Memorandums, which set out both the legislative context and policy rationale.
Throughout this process, relevant officials are engaged in regular discussions with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations and law enforcement agencies, which operate across the UK to ensure the effectiveness of our extradition system. This system, which gives Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise such proposals and accept or reject them, has been in place for over 15 years and has proved effective and fit for purpose. The amendment ensures legislative consistency between the Bill and its parent Act, the Extradition Act 2003. There is no need for alternative provisions, and I hope noble Lords will support the amendment, which the other place considered in detail and decided, on balance, to comprehensively support.
I will now address Amendment 4, made in the other place, to remove the amendment made here. This provides that the removal or addition of a country will take place under the existing process in the Extradition Act 2003, where multiple countries may be added or removed at once. The Bill is consistent with that legislation and any Government seeking to add countries in the future can do so only with the consent of Parliament.
Unnecessarily burdensome legislation is an inappropriate use of parliamentary time and resources, and the Government are under a duty to use proportionate systems to legislate. Any additions are dictated by the will of Parliament and, if Parliament does not agree that a country should be specified, the relevant regulations will be voted down in the normal way.
The Government are well aware of the importance of parliamentary support to continue or commence any extradition arrangements with new countries. Our arrangements with Hong Kong are a good recent example, and amendments tabled to the Bill in the other place demonstrated the strength of parliamentary feeling on the matter. Our extradition arrangements with Hong Kong have been suspended indefinitely and these events exemplify that this kind of parliamentary scrutiny is already highly effective. As with the previous amendment, we do not think there is any need for this provision in the Bill. I therefore ask noble Lords to support these amendments and I beg to move.
My Lords, I add my regret about the position on the European arrest warrant. Our post-Brexit arrangements in the realm of security and policing seem precarious or, at best, a poor substitute for what we have now.
When noble Lords debated what went to the Commons as new Section 74B(8)—the subject of Amendment 3 —the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said that the conditions were a “reasonable and proportionate” process. I say they are more important than a process; they are about consultation, assessing the abuse of the Interpol Red Notices system, and trust in the system. The Government gave assurances then that they would not include countries likely to abuse the system and that the amendment would not conflict with how the Government plan to deal with the regulations.
I will focus on what was our amendment, which is currently the new Section 74B(9), which the Government seek to remove by Amendment 4. That provides for regulations to Schedule A1 that can add specified category 2 territories. That is jargon for something quite important.
The amendment has an impeccable pedigree. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Ipswich and Lord Kennedy, supported it at previous stages—I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, will be speaking on it shortly. I can think of no reason for the Government resisting this provision other than “It is not how we do things”, or possibly “It was not invented here”. I took comfort that I was not on the wrong track by the support that I received from Cross-Benchers, eminent lawyers whose perspective could not be thought to be distorted by party-political considerations, although I do not think that this issue is party-political.
The provision that the Government seek to remove allows regulations to designate only one country at a time. There is a simple reason for that: to enable Parliament to play its proper part. We all know that such instruments cannot be amended, so if we are presented with a list of countries including one bad apple, in human rights terms, could we expect Parliament to agree to the bad apple to avoid losing the arrangements with all the others, or to reject them all when only one is an issue? I used the examples of an order applying to both the Netherlands and Turkey, or to Sweden and Venezuela. No two countries are quite alike. I could extend the first pairing to a trio, as someone said to me yesterday: France is quite different from Turkey, and Turkey is quite different from Syria.
At previous stages, noble Lords explained their concern that the Government’s judgment could be swayed by factors unconnected with the assessment of a country’s human rights record. Favours for trade concessions were mentioned. That has happened. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, put it neatly, saying that the time may come when another Government seek a favour from this country or we seek a favour from them. He gave an example: “Do you really want our safety equipment? Do you really want our artificial intelligence? Let’s have a mutual extradition arrangement.” He could also envision the possibility—not immediately, but not remotely either—of the Government of the day wishing to associate themselves with a country that shared their political views but was nevertheless not a desirable country with which to have these arrangements. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, described the provision as meeting the problem of a non-amendable instrument without insuperable difficulties for the Government.
The Government have argued that countries can be added in multiples under the parent Act and so there is no need to make a change, but should we not always be on the lookout for better ways of doing our job of scrutiny? They also said that the courts would throw it out if a country did not respect rule of law. However, the courts can only consider applications from individuals, case by case. They can only consider what the Government put in the regulations when those regulations are applied and the individual affected challenges the action.
The Minister has told the House that she would not present an SI that she knew would run into trouble. I say this so often that the Minister must think that I have got it in for her—I really have not, not personally—but we must depersonalise these things. She may be the Minister for longer than I am here, but she will not always be the Minister. There may be a Government whose judgment she questions. She says that the House could vote down an instrument. The House is responsible and would not want to because of one bad apple.
At Second Reading in the Commons, the Minister said that the Bill was not concerned with the UK’s extradition relationship with other countries, but it is. He said that when a fugitive is wanted for a serious offence by a trusted country, he is brought before a UK court, but that is not the issue. The Commons were told that the amendment is not required and is unnecessarily burdensome. It had not occurred to me but, as a Member put it, considering the Government’s vocal support for the Magnitsky Act to deter human rights abuses, it would be hypocritical to oppose an amendment that has the same purpose.
In Committee in the other place, the Minister, James Brokenshire, said:
“Any additions will be dictated by the will of Parliament”— that is what this provision would put in place—
“not by an unusual process such that this would impose. If a country is proposed that Parliament does not agree should be specified, then the regulations will be voted down in the normal way. We judge that that remains the rightful process.”—[
It may be an unusual process, but why is the process invariable? Voting down regulations listing 10 or 20 countries would cause a lot more nuisance for the Government than voting down regulations relating to a single country and there would be very little pressure on parliamentary time.
We are not challenging the premise of the Bill, but we are defending the sovereignty of Parliament, as distinct from the Executive. I still do not understand the technical, practical or political arguments. We would deal with a bundle of instruments, one after the other, which is a bit tedious, but does that matter? There is no delay, just a sensible opportunity for each House properly to give or withhold approval. I fail to see why the Government feel threatened by such a common-sense proposal. When the moment comes, I will seek the opinion of the House.
My Lords, I add my regrets to those expressed by other noble Lords on the loss to this country of the European arrest warrant. I was in the European Parliament when it was born, nearly two decades ago, and my last initiative as an MEP was to write a report on reform of the European arrest warrant, in which the former Home Secretary, Theresa May, expressed great interest before making some unilateral UK amendments about its implementation. It is not a perfect instrument, but it is a lot better than the alternatives, particularly the 1957 extradition convention.
I am focusing on Amendments 4 and 4A. In Committee, the Minister told us:
“The Government have no intention of specifying countries likely to abuse the system to political ends.”—[Official Report, 5/3/20; col. GC 364.]
First, Governments can, and sometimes do, change. Secondly, intentions, however sincere when made, do not always survive unscathed. Presumably the Government intended to act in good faith in respecting the EU withdrawal agreement that they negotiated, signed and recommended to Parliament and the country, but now they want to give themselves the power to override a key part of it. They no doubt intended to keep their promise to uphold high standards of food safety and animal welfare. If they reach a trade agreement with the United States, imports from there will not comply with those standards and our own farmers will become uncompetitive, putting pressure for deregulation here.
As my noble friend Lady Hamwee mentioned, there is also apprehension about what pressure might be exerted by potential trade partners. Outside the EU, the UK is more vulnerable because it is only one country. As part of a bloc of 28, we could say: “Sorry, we’re bound by EU law, we can’t give you an individual concession, so there is nothing we can do, chaps.” We are much more exposed to that pressure if trying to reach a bilateral trade agreement with a single country.
Those are the reasons of principle why we need individual statutory instruments, country by country. There are also practical reasons. By insisting that this House takes an all-or-nothing approach, the risk is that the House feels compelled to vote down an SI that contains some perfectly respectable countries and one dodgy one—my noble friend gave some examples. This would waste more time than if the Government had the good sense to take them one by one. It is quite puzzling why they are being obstinate in refusing to see the good sense of that. It would be far more efficient, effective and respectful of human rights and the transparency of parliamentary scrutiny to allow Parliament to focus on one country at a time. That need not slow down the process at all; it could possibly streamline it.
Are there any other Members present who would like to contribute at this point? If not, we can move on. The next speaker is the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich.
I supported both the amendments to which the response of the Commons is considered in this grouping. Indeed, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I put my name to the “one at a time” amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, which Commons Amendment 4 would remove.
I described that amendment at Report as a sensible and practical safety valve. Given the unamendable nature of statutory instruments, it would have made it possible, at least in theory, for your Lordships to vote down the proposed addition to Schedule A1 of an unacceptable country without jeopardising the desirable inclusion of other countries proposed at the same time. As such, it would have been a contribution—a tiny contribution, I acknowledge—to the solution of a much larger and increasingly pressing problem: the need for some sort of practical and meaningful parliamentary control over the content of statutory instruments laid before us.
The Minister is right to say that the issue raised by the amendment has been properly debated in the Commons; the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has, I am sure, borne that in mind, together with whatever prospect her amendment may have of succeeding today, in deciding to put it to the vote. If she persists in that course I shall, because I still support the principle of her amendment, vote for it.
My Lords, it is disappointing that the Government are not moving on either of the two issues on which this House agreed some time ago.
Looking first at Amendment 3, I hope the noble Baroness is right to say that the previous amendment, which is subsection (8) of the Bill at present, is unnecessary because the Government will consult widely with devolved institutions and other organisations before regulations come before Parliament. I know it is a different issue, but when we consider the Covid pandemic, we often hear representations from devolved institutions and the metro mayors about the lack of consultation, so there is concern more widely across government that the Government do not consult as much as they should. I hope we can accept what the noble Baroness is saying: that the Government would consult. Of course, no matter what the good intentions of the noble Baroness—I have a lot of respect for her—she will not always be the Home Office Minister in charge and this Government will not always be in place. People come and go over time, and we are setting down something that may be here for much longer. That is important to note.
There is also the issue of Interpol red notices, which certain countries abuse. I hope the Government will be firm on that and clear that they will not accept abuse of those notices.
The other issue we discussed was whether we should deal with a number of territories together or just singly. I put my name to and supported the decision to deal with them one by one, for very good reasons. There could be a number of countries with which everyone is very happy, but one that raises some concerns. Again, the noble Baroness has said, “We would never do that”. I am sure she would not but, as I said on the previous amendment, people change, Governments change and at a later date, a particular Government may want us to agree to a particular proposal. In that sense, it is disappointing to find ourselves in this position today.
I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, whom I respect very much, says that she is going to divide the House. We on these Benches take the view that we have pursued these issues as far as we can, so if she does divide the House, although I have great sympathy with what she is saying, we will not be supporting her.
My Lords, I start with the issue that has been mentioned by all noble Lords who have spoken: the specification of non-trusted countries. Speaking as a Minister, when we look at secondary legislation we always look to see where the risks are and where the opposition might lie. For a Minister to bring forward a statutory instrument that might contain a country to which the whole of Parliament would be opposed would be to absolutely guarantee that that instrument would be voted against. The addition of any country must be approved by both Houses of Parliament, and I trust that neither House would be content to approve the addition of a country about which it had any concerns.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about politically motivated extradition requests. I certainly have sympathy with her point, but the power is not being afforded to countries known to issue politically motivated extradition requests, nor does it alter the ability of a UK judge to discharge such requests in the normal way. The independent courts are the proper forums for deciding which extradition requests should fail, so it would not be appropriate to make provision relating to politically motivated extradition requests through this Bill, which is about a power of arrest. The immediate power of arrest proposed by the Bill will apply only to requests from specific countries: currently, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and, if necessary, the EU member states. These countries are specified as we already have effective extradition relationships with them, and we have confidence in their use of Interpol and the international arrest alerts that they issue. The Government have no intention of specifying countries which are likely to abuse the system to political ends.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about the abuse of Interpol channels. International organisations such as Interpol are critical to international law enforcement and provide 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 Police Services for Interpol, which is the most senior operational role in that organisation. A UK Government lawyer has also been seconded to Interpol’s Notices and Diffusions Task Force to work with it to ensure that Interpol rules are properly robust and adhered to by Interpol member states.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, made a sensible point about consultation. Of course, extradition is a reserved matter, but we have worked very closely with the devolved Administrations regarding the contents of the Bill and will of course engage with them as a matter of good practice where any secondary legislation is to be introduced in relation to it.
Motion on Amendment 3 agreed.