We are surprised not to have seen any Government amendments to the clause in view of what the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety said in an exchange with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) on Second Reading. The amendment seeks to introduce political accountability so that there can be parliamentary scrutiny of the procedures in the Bill. We also suggest that a senior British police officer should take an active part in the scrutiny. Amendment No. 118 has a similar purpose. The Liberal Democrats obviously do not like, any more than we do, the vagueness of the phrase ''an appropriate person''. Amendment No. 16 seeks to delete subsection (3) because we believe that it should be put on the face of that Bill that only British police officers should have the powers to use the warrant.
I should like to refer back to what was said on Second Reading to reinforce our surprise at the absence of Government amendments. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset asked:
''The Minister said that only a British constable would exercise the warrant. Does that mean that he accepts that we need to amend clause 3, which allows the Secretary of State to designate absolutely anyone as an appropriate officer?''
The Minister of State responded:
''I said that it is the Government's intention that only British law enforcement personnel would be permitted to execute a European arrest warrant in this country. That means the police, but it could also include Customs and Excise. There are plenty of legal precedents for using the term 'appropriate person', including in legislation adopted by the Conservatives when they were in government to deal with powers of stop, search and entry that
gave an even wider range of discretion to the Home Secretary. Given the point of principle that I have outlined, I have no doubt that the precise wording can be considered in Committee.''
That is what we are doing. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset then intervened again and said:
''It would be helpful if I could take it that the Minister is willing to redefine the clause so that it clearly applies to British law enforcement officers.''
The Minister replied:
''I am saying that there is plenty of precedent in almost identical circumstances in which Governments, including Conservative Governments, have restricted a power to British law enforcement personnel even though they have used the term 'appropriate person', or something similar, in legislation. That should give the House sufficient confidence in this Government's intention to use the Bill in the same way. I have no doubt that the matter will be considered in Committee.''—[Official Report, 9 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 42–43.]
After that exchange, in which my right hon. Friend expressed serious concerns about what should be in the Bill, which many outside commentators and bodies share, I was reasonably confident that the Government would clarify the matter by tabling their own amendments to specify a British police officer or a member of Customs and Excise. They have not done so, and as a result the Bill remains defective. It is not good enough for Ministers in the future to have the power to designate anyone to be an appropriate person. It should be stated in the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will undertake to keep the matter under consideration. There may be precedents in other legislation, as the Minister said, in which the phrase ''appropriate person'' has been used, but in this case the Government are introducing new and much more draconian powers. Therefore, British citizens need the protection of knowing exactly who will be able to use the powers. It should be just a British police officer or a member of Customs and Excise and the Bill should state that.
As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) said, the same thinking is behind amendment No. 14 and the amendment No. 118 that my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) and I have tabled. I have some reservations about the manner in which the Conservative amendment would achieve the Home Secretary's intervention through a senior police officer of chief inspector rank or higher. It seems an unnecessarily cumbersome and prescriptive way to achieve that end, but as regards what it seeks, there is not a great deal between us.
Like the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, I have considerable concerns about the phrase ''appropriate person''. I should be interested to hear who the Minister thinks is an appropriate person if it is not a constable. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that members of Customs and Excise would routinely execute warrants in the course of their duties and they might well fall within the ambit of consideration, but I can see no reason why such people should not be specified in the Bill. The only other people I can think of who would execute warrants are constables in the Transport police, who would probably be included in the term ''constable'' in any event.
With regard to subsection (c), which one of the amendments would delete, I am curious to hear why the Minister thinks that it is necessary to include it in the Bill. We are dealing with a situation that is outwith the ambit of the normal execution of warrants. Clause 2 deals with the information provided on the certificate. The Government have already included in the certificates a fair degree of detail about the identity of the person in respect of whom the warrant is sought. Having an arrest warrant at least in the possession of an arresting officer would be a useful device for avoiding any possible claim of wrongful arrest. I am interested to hear why the Minister feels that such a protection is unnecessary. The provision takes us outwith the ambit of what is normally acceptable in terms of an arrest warrant.
The point about deleting subsection (3) is much the same as the point about deleting the reference to ''an appropriate person''. I cannot think off the top of my head who the appropriate person would be, and I do not understand why the terms of the Bill are left so vague. This part of clause 3 seems to proceed on the basis that the law relating to the execution of arrest warrants is somehow easy, but the Minister should know from the substantial body of case law that that is not so. Not having that protection in the Bill leaves considerable scope for misunderstanding, miscommunication of identification and all the rest of it. Unless there is a good reason for not having such a protection, I see no reason why the amendment should not be accepted.
I have not had a chance to welcome you to the Chair, Miss Begg, although you had a watching brief during yesterday morning's sitting—[Interruption.] I mean Tuesday morning; I lost a day because I returned to my constituency to give prizes at a school last night, and I am slightly worn by the cares of time and distance. Nevertheless, I am delighted to welcome you as Chairman.
I wish to add a few points to those made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath and my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael). Will the Minister be so kind as to say who he believes will be the appropriate person? The provision is particularly nebulous and unsatisfactory in our view. The people and agencies involved in this important task should be defined in primary legislation. Increased numbers of civilian members of the police and other bodies—for example, the security services—are executing a power of arrest. To deprive a person of his liberty is a significant matter, so there should not be scope to allow the power for persons not currently authorised to arrest. Liberal Democrats and, I believe, Conservative Members look forward to hearing the Minister say exactly whom he believes will be authorised as an appropriate person under the clause.
I will happily do that. Under the Bill, a European arrest warrant may be executed—that is to say, a person arrested—by a constable or an appropriate person designated for
the purpose by an order passed through the House of Commons by affirmative resolution. That is a well established formulation, for which there are ample precedents.
I invite members of the Committee to consider section 7 of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990—they should remember who was in power at the time—which confers powers of entry, search and seizure. It provides that
''the Secretary of State may by order direct that any of those powers shall be exercisable by a person of any other description specified in the order''.
That was passed by members of the Conservative party in government. It was adequate for them then, but in opposition the reference to an appropriate person to be designated by an order passed by affirmative resolution has become unacceptable. My only fear in changing the words is that we would pander to blatant Euroscepticism in so doing. There is an important difference: the order made under the 1990 Act was subject to the negative resolution procedure. We are proposing the affirmative resolution procedure. No one other than a constable will be able to execute a European arrest warrant unless there has been a positive vote in both Houses of Parliament.
The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon asked whom I regarded as an appropriate person. There is no contradiction between what I and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety said on that point. Customs and Excise and various service police forces are significant players in the area, given the number of military personnel who seek service overseas. Those are the sort of people who we see as appropriate.
We have no plans to designate any other persons or bodies, but we need to retain some flexibility as the structure of British law enforcement changes. It changed recently when we established the National Crime Squad, which did not previously exist. It would be ridiculous for us to have to return to primary legislation in such circumstances.
No foreign law enforcement officials will be designated to execute a European arrest warrant in this country. That is not what the Government want or have ever intended. Hon. Members should stop reading certain sections of the press, or at least stop believing them. Having set out why we believe that the current formulation of the Bill is appropriate, I turn to the detail of the amendments. Their effect would be to make it impossible to designate any individual law enforcement officers committed to execute a European arrest warrant. The Opposition propose instead that each time a person other than a constable wants to execute a warrant, he will need the Home Secretary's permission on a case-by-case basis. Let us suppose that a Customs officer investigating a domestic case stalls a foreign individual subject to a European arrest warrant. If these amendments were passed, the Customs officer could not arrest or even detain the person until the Home Secretary had personally given him his permission. If the Home Secretary happened
to be unavailable, that would just be bad luck and the suspect would go free. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not therefore press for what would clearly be a ridiculous set of arrangements.
Constables, Customs officers and members of service police authorities are the only sort of people who we foresee in the role. We are talking not about the negative procedure, about which hon. Members became so exercised on another clause; we are talking about the affirmative procedure whereby the order will come before both Houses of Parliament for the approval of any extension beyond a constable. That gives people an understanding of the control that Parliament still has over any extension of the powers of arrest under the European arrest warrant. The Liberal Democrat amendment would go even further, and would limit the power of arrest of the EAW to a police constable—end of story. In the scenario that we have just considered, a Customs officer who came across someone subject to an EAW could take no action other than to inform the police of the whereabouts of the person, and in some circumstances would watch them sailing out of sight and beyond the reach of any action.
If we were to delete subsection (2)(c), as the amendment seeks to do, a constable would have to have a copy of the arrest warrant in his possession in order to effect an arrest. Overwhelmingly, arrest warrants are going to be effected proactively.
I am sorry. I sought to respond to the point raised by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. I will leave my comments at that point.
I apologise. The issue is therefore whether ''an appropriate person'' is an acceptable term, coupled with the affirmative resolution procedure in the House for any extension to include someone other than a constable. I argue that that is a well-worn formulation. It is acceptable, and I ask the Committee to accept my assurances in the clearest terms that there is no intention to allow, now or in the future, any foreign law enforcement officer to exercise his powers in the United Kingdom. The provision is intended to be applied to the people whom I have detailed.
The Minister is well aware that no Government can bind their successors. I have no doubt that he is entirely genuine in expressing his personal views about what the legislation means and how he hopes that it will be exercised. Unfortunately for him, the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill is currently being debated in the other place. The
Minister may have noticed that we have tabled new clause 4 on the compatibility or, as we would say, the mismatch between that Bill and this one. Although it is starred, we hope that we will have the chance to debate it later. My noble Friend, the Baroness Aneley of St. Johns, is the Opposition spokesman on the Bill in the other place, and has pointed out that, contrary to what the Minister said, the Government are proposing in that Bill to give foreign police officers the power of hot pursuit into this country.
I am sure that the Minister is honest in his comments on this Bill, but we see the floodgates opening and a general trend emerging towards overseas officers coming into the country. A future Government might say that, as the Crime (International Co-operation) Act already contains a provision that allows hot pursuit for a few hours, perhaps they will designate these people as appropriate persons. We are concerned that the two Bills run contrary to each other.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, which is open to scrutiny to all Members, albeit in the other place, provides for a surveillance operation that has been started abroad to be continued for up to five hours in order to effect a handover. It gives no powers of entry or of arrest. It would be wrong of the hon. Gentleman to suggest that it does.
I made it clear that it is only for a matter of hours, but in that Bill we see for the first time the prospect of foreign police officers operating on our territory. The Minister cannot bind a future Government, but they may well say, ''Now that the precedent has been set in the Crime (International Co-operation) Act, we will designate those people as appropriate for the subsequent Act.'' That is the slippery slope down which we do not want to go and it is why I shall press the amendment to the vote.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 9
On a point of order, Miss Begg. To be absolutely clear, I wanted to record an abstention, but I used the expression, ''No vote''. Has that been recorded?
With this we may take the following amendments:
No. 17, in
clause 4, page 2, line 34, leave out 'and he asks to be shown the warrant'.
No. 129, in
clause 4, page 2, line 34, before 'must', insert 'in a language he can understand'.
No. 92, in
clause 4, page 2, line 35, leave out 'after his request'.
No. 130, in
clause 4, page 2, line 35, leave out 'request' and insert 'arrest'.
No. 155, in
clause 71, page 36, line 2, leave out ', and he asks to be shown the warrant,'.
No. 156, in
clause 71, page 36, line 2, after 'it', insert 'in a language that he can understand'.
I understand entirely why the Minister was getting ahead of himself just now and becoming confused. It is easy to confuse provisions such as ''delete subsection (c)'' and ''delete subsection (3)''. When a Liberal Democrat Member mentioned the other issue, I was going boss-eyed myself trying to work out which provisions came in what order.
To make it clear, we are now dealing with a group headed by our amendment No. 15, which is designed to delete subsection (2)(c). It is vital in dealing with such serious powers that the person executing the warrant actually possesses the real warrant at the time of the arrest. Otherwise, where are the protections of our civil liberties? It is extraordinary that the provision allows the execution of the warrant even if neither the warrant nor a copy of it is in the possession of the person executing it at the time of arrest. That goes far too far.
Distinguished commentators are also concerned about the problem. I have often referred to the worries of organisations such as Liberty, the Law Society, Justice and the Freedom Association. On this occasion, a distinguished constitutional lawyer and jurist, Leolin Price QC, has written to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and discussed with me his concerns about the wide nature of the Government's powers. The Government propose that if the person making the arrest does not possess either the warrant or a copy, a copy must be shown to the person as soon as possible after the arrest, but as Leolin Price QC rightly says, why should the burden of the request fall on the person being arrested, who is likely to be stressed, anxious and confused? Surely the burden should fall on the person making the arrest—the state, as it were. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming a police state.
It is extraordinary to hear the Government say that it does not matter if the arresting officer does not have a warrant or a copy of it. It is a tradition of British law, civil liberties and the protection of the subject that people are entitled to ask, ''Where is your warrant?'', if
they are about to be arrested or have their home searched. Traditionally, without a warrant, it cannot happen. Here, however, a warrant or a copy of it only has to be produced later on.
The concerns of Leolin Price go much further. He argues that the provisions do not comply with article 11(1) of the framework decision, even if allowance is made for the scope of a member state's choice of form and methods under article 34.2(b) of the Treaty of Union—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Leolin Price QC's opinion reads:
''When [which means at the time when and not at some subsequent time] a requested person is arrested, the executing competent judicial authority shall, in accordance with its national law, inform that person of the European arrest warrant and of its contents''.
Leolin Price has rightly underlined ''and of its contents''. That is the point we are dealing with. The Government's legislation specifically does not provide for that and therefore allows the arrested person not to be shown a warrant.
As Leolin Price points out, a European arrest warrant extends to no fewer than six A4 pages, including 11 boxes, one of which occupies an entire page. He rightly asks:
''How is an arrested person to be informed of all that material [and 'the contents' means all the contents] if neither the warrant nor a copy is in the arresting person's possession at the time of the arrest?''
Proper civil liberties in this country require that the arresting person must have in his possession either the warrant itself or a copy. We are not being unrealistic and saying that it must always be the original warrant, but it should be a minimum requirement that the arrested person should be shown a copy of the warrant at the time of the arrest.
What reason would there be for the arresting officer not to have a copy of the warrant? It could be pure incompetence only if it were not possible to provide a copy of the warrant. It seems to me the minimum requirement. As Leolin Price puts it, the only satisfactory and fair rule is that there should be a copy of the warrant and the person who is to be subject to it should be
''allowed time to read it and to listen to the arresting officer's explanation of its contents''.
Leolin Price then talks about the question of appropriate persons, with which we dealt under the previous group of amendments. I cannot see any good reason why it should not be a minimum requirement that a copy of the warrant should be available to the arrested person.
I apologise to the Committee for having thrown a red herring into the debate on the previous group of amendments. It was my fault that we started talking about the deletion of subsection (2)(c). The benefit is that it allows me to ask the Committee to disregard anything that I said previously.
I cannot see the need for this provision because it does not leave the arresting officer in any different position. If it did not exist, a European arrest warrant could be exercised and executed in the same way as any other arrest warrant. Why is it necessary to have express provision if the document need not be in the possession of the arresting officer or the person executing the warrant? I do not understand. The Minister will say that greater clarity could have been achieved, if it was needed, by providing that the warrant would be subject to the same law as governs the execution of any other warrant in any jurisdiction in the United Kingdom. I do not see what has been achieved.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath's comment that the only reason the person making the arrest would not have a warrant on them would be incompetence. In my experience, warrants of arrest are often executed when a person comes to the attention of the police or, as it will apparently be, the appropriate person in relation to another matter, which might be something as trivial as a speeding or other traffic offence. At that point, it is routine for the police officer on the beat to radio the station to say, for example, ''We have someone who says that he is Alexander Morrison Carmichael, date of birth 15 July 1965. Can you tell us whether there are any warrants outstanding for his arrest?'' As I am a Liberal, I have no convictions, so it should not be a problem. That was a wee bit subtle, so I will try not to do that again.
I am touched, although I have now completely lost the thread of what I was saying.
In the circumstances outlined by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, every constable in the Northern constabulary would have to carry round six pages of A4 per European arrest warrant. That would surely cause difficulty as more and more arrest warrants are issued. I do not understand why European arrest warrants should be in a different category from arrest warrants issued by a British court, and I do not see why they need an express provision either.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me about the comments of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath on the tradition in England, Wales and Scotland of an individual being able to demand an arrest warrant before giving him or herself up to the police? Is it not true that the police have always been able to arrest someone whether or not they have a warrant for their arrest? Although that is not specific to the European arrest warrant, the tradition is not set in stone that the police need to carry an arrest warrant or have one issued before someone is arrested.
Yes, I agree up to a point. The power of arrest without warrant is old, but there are other requirements. There has to be a reasonable suspicion or belief on the behalf of the arresting constable that the individual has committed a crime.
The basis of an arrest on warrant has to be that the constable or appropriate person has reasonable cause to believe that a warrant is in existence for that person. That is normally done by the constable radioing back to the station and being told that a warrant is held in the Scottish Criminal Record Office or the English version of it. Once the person is taken back to the police station, they can be shown the warrant then. I do not see why a European arrest warrant should come under a different system.
I should like the Minister to elaborate a little further about how he sees the arrest proceeding. It would also be interesting to hear what legal advice would be available to a person, when it would be available, what duty there is on the state to provide that legal advice, and when the state—
Thank you, Miss Begg. I asked those questions because they touch on amendment No. 17. An ordinary layperson who is arrested might be ignorant and not alive to the fact that he should see a copy of the warrant. Once he seeks and obtains legal advice he will be probably be advised to get a copy of it.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath for his support. Amendment No. 129 is self-explanatory. It would require that when the warrant is produced—I look forward to hearing from the Minister on the matter of legal advice, for the reasons that I have just given—it should be intelligible to the individual concerned, and not just to the legal adviser. Amendment No. 130 would require that the warrant should be made available as soon as practicable not after the individual's request, but after his arrest.
Our views on amendment No. 17 will be conditional on the response we receive from the Minister on the matter of legal advice, and in some respects amendment No. 130 marries up in part with amendment No. 17.
I look forward to hearing from the Minister about the immediacy of the legal advice and his comments on the fact that the warrant must be intelligible to the person arrested, in a language that the arrested person can understand, and that the warrant must be presented to him as soon as practicable after his arrest.
In many cases, where a warrant has been issued and communicated to the British authorities and the person's whereabouts are known,
someone will go out, armed with that warrant, and the person will be shown the warrant at the point of arrest. However, Opposition Members must understand that, as in domestic legislation, there will be circumstances in which police officers will come across people in the normal course of their duties, and will have reasons to phone through to check their whereabouts or the bona fides of the individual concerned because of some other incident that has arisen. While carrying out those checks, they may come across the existence of a domestic warrant and, via the police national computer, the existence of a European arrest warrant.
To ask that every police constable throughout the United Kingdom should carry every European arrest warrant with him at all times is nonsensical. If that is not what is being suggested, effectively we are saying that people who have been accused of serious international crime will be allowed to go free and to disappear. I hope that there is no one in the Committee who would support that. There is little else that needs to be said about the amendment, because that is the effect that it would have.
I am aware that, with regard to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland about whether we could say that this procedure should mirror domestic legislation, I am arguing what I argued earlier the other way around. For the purposes of clarity, the Bill spells out the procedures, and the procedures mirror the domestic arrangements. He says that we should refer to the domestic provisions, and I argue that things are a lot clearer this way round. I am aware of what I said in an earlier debate, but the hon. Gentleman has reversed his position too. The policy is clear and it is clearly drafted. The circumstances are exactly the same. The procedures are sensible, logical and easy to understand. We are following the same procedures with regard to domestic warrants and it is reasonable to act in that way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment, because it is nonsensical and detracts from our ability to tackle crime.
I turn now to the proposed amendments to clause 4 and the identical amendments to part 2. There is a requirement that a person be shown the warrant if he so requests as soon as possible after his arrest. We must bear in mind that that does not apply where he was shown the warrant at the time of his arrest. If having not seen the warrant on arrest and having been denied the right to see it after requesting it, the person would be entitled to be released. Amendments Nos. 17, 92, 130, 155 and 156 would place the onus of responsibility on the police to show the person the warrant, rather than the person having to ask to see it. That would be a departure from the current arrangements. We do not want extradition practice to be out of line with domestic provision, not least because any inadvertent failure to show the person the warrant would inevitably lead to his discharge.
As the Minister will know, there are few extradition cases every year. They are extremely sensitive and I should have thought that both
amendments Nos. 129 and 130 are only fair and reasonable in the circumstances.
Let me move on to amendment Nos. 129 and 156, which go even further. They require the warrant, when it is shown to the person, to be in a language that he understands. The person would be entitled to legal counsel and, if necessary, to legal aid. He would have access to an interpreter if one were required by virtue of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Under the amendment, it would be fine to show a person an incomprehensible warrant at the time of arrest, but if it were not available at that time, it would have to be translated word for word before it could be shown to him. That could cause a delay. It could prevent the warrant from being shown to him as soon as possible. Surely it would be in the interests of the individual that the warrant was shown to his legal counsel so that they could examine it, even in the unlikely event of there being some delay in translation.
Let us take an extreme, but not impossible, example. If the details of the person were known in full apart from the language that he spoke, it could take a long time before he could be shown the warrant. The framework decision provides that European arrest warrants sent to the United Kingdom must be in English. Why not show the document to him in English, which will at least help his lawyer if the individual does not understand it, and provide interpretation if necessary? That would allow things to proceed in a sensible way. Furthermore, it is clear from the decisions required of the judge at the initial hearing and the extradition hearing that he would need to have a copy of the warrant before him to take any decision.
The framework mirrors domestic arrangements as closely as possible and ensures that people understand exactly what the warrant contains by virtue of the provision of interpretation and legal advice and aid. There is also a requirement on the judge to check that that situation is acceptable before the matter reaches court.
I think that we have covered the situation. I do not believe that there is any danger along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath and I do not accept that we are entering a police state. If we are, we are already there and have been there for some time, because we gave constables powers of arrest without the immediate production of a warrant a very long time ago.
The Minister says that these warrants are in the same category as warrants that we have been used to over the years, but they are not. The answer to his point is provided by the intervention from the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. We are talking only about a small number of people—about the maximum number of British citizens subject to requests for extradition. I think that the largest number of requests in recent years that was set out in the papers relating to the Bill was 116.
These are very special provisions: the European arrest warrant is something entirely new. As a matter of principle, Opposition Members believe that the draconian powers that the Government are seeking to
introduce are entirely inappropriate when applied to anything other than terrorism, as I have said. As the provisions are very special, new and draconian, extra protection is needed for civil liberties.
That is why we agree with Justice, whose amendments have been tabled by the Liberal Democrats. Had they not tabled them, Conservative Members would have done so, because we think that it essential to protect our citizens—the people whom we are sent to Parliament to look after. They should have the opportunity to have copies of this special warrant, with the six pages of A4 and the boxes, in a language that they understand.
It is unacceptable to say that what we are debating is just like an arrest for a domestic burglary. The Minister may say, ''Every constable will need to have notice of every European arrest warrant that is outstanding,'' as if there will be thousands of them. However, in the special circumstances in which a foreign country asks British police officers to find someone and arrest them, they should have available to give to the suspect a copy of the warrant in a language that that person understands. That is a special and restricted circumstance.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has had a chance to look at the briefing note provided by the commissioner's office in the Metropolitan police service. On what it calls the second key area, it states:
''These powers are welcomed by the MPS and we acknowledge the considerable value added to the fight against international crime which these powers permit.''
The key quote is where it goes on to say:
''In the main these are powers with which police officers are familiar and their existing domestic equivalents are well tested within domestic legislation.''
The hon. Gentleman quoted Liberty. Does not he think that the Metropolitan police service may be just as good an authority on this matter as Liberty?
I have seen that briefing and I entirely accept that the police would like to have the widest possible powers. However, I would have thought that Labour Members who, as the Liberal Democrats and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) said this morning, have a proud record of supporting civil liberties would be concerned to consider the massive extension of state power that the European arrest warrant constitutes. Labour Members should be saying that because this is something special that applies to a small category of people, the police should have protection for the subject before they execute a warrant. We are talking about perhaps 100 requests a year or thereabouts, not thousands.
That being the case, what the hon. Gentleman outlines would undoubtedly be best practice, but should failure to adhere to best practice necessarily be fatal to the warrant's execution?
That undermines the hon. Gentleman's and Justice's amendments Nos. 129 and 130 as much as mine, because he argues for best practice, which his amendments would put in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not resiling from Justice's amendments. If the Minister were to say that
the Bill would state that in all but wholly exceptional circumstances a warrant should be executed with a copy in the language of the person concerned, that would be a different matter. However, that is not what the Bill states. As drafted, the Bill gives the police unfettered powers.
I am not talking about exceptional circumstances. Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that a constable could be going about his normal duties, could be involved in a road traffic incident and could come across a renowned international terrorist and not have the arrest warrant with him. Does the hon. Gentleman expect that terrorist to go free, because that is exactly what the amendment would allow?
No, it is not, because what I and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said is that in the case of terrorism we are perfectly prepared to accept that there should be wholly exceptional powers. We made that clear on Second Reading and in Committee. Our amendments refer to the range of 32 crimes on the vague list in the European framework document. It is because that list is so wide that genuine protection for civil liberties is needed. We will not agree with the Minister on the matter, and I shall press the amendment to a Division.
It may help the Committee if I were to distinguish between amendment No. 130 and the Conservative amendment No. 17. We do not necessarily believe that the warrant should be available at the time of the arrest, but amendment No. 129 makes it clear that the warrant should be in a language that the defendant can understand. Amendment No. 130 provides for the warrant to be shown to the defendant as soon as practicable after the person's arrest. That seems entirely reasonable. It is also reasonable that there should be a translation of it available at that time as not only are these cases extremely sensitive, they are few and far between. The amendment would be in the interests of justice.
The Minister said that legal aid and an interpreter will always be available. I wonder what he would say to us about information to the arrested person about the availability of legal representation, legal aid and interpreters. There must be minimum standards, so we shall divide the Committee on the amendments. I hope that Conservative Members will support the amendments, and I invite Labour Members to vote with us to ensure that the minimum standards of justice are available.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 9.