Clause 3 - Arrest under certified Part 1 warrant

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 9th January 2003.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:30 pm, 9th January 2003

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.