Clause 39 - Position where asylum claimed

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 14 January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 10:30, 14 January 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 49, in

clause 39, page 18, line 18, leave out 'must not' and insert 'may'.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 142, in

clause 39, page 18, line 39, leave out paragraphs (9) and (10).

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Our amendment No. 49 is quite small, and the Liberal Democrat amendment No. 142 is grouped with it. Our amendment would replace the words ''must not'' with the word ''may''. Although it is a small amendment, it has a significance well beyond the small changes to the wording, as often happens in the law.

We suggest that the legislation, rather than stating,

''The person must not be extradited in pursuance of the warrant before the asylum claim is finally determined.''

should say ''may be extradited.'' That reverses the power of the courts.

I shall wait to hear what the Minister says about that, but I believe that it is a potential toughening up of the legislation. There is great concern in the United Kingdom that people can find legal loopholes by which they can stay in the country, when they should not be able to stay. We have repeatedly said that the Bill gives the Government powers that are too draconian, but we believe that, in this instance, there

should be the opportunity to give the Government greater powers. We do not say that the wording of our amendment is perfect, and we will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about the matter.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon

I shall speak to amendment No. 142, which is in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael). It would delete subsections (9) and (10).

Clause 39 relates to the interaction of asylum and extradition. As drafted, the clause, particularly subsection (9), removes all protection and the possibility of appeal when an asylum claim is rejected by the Secretary of State and certified as clearly unfounded. The certification procedures under the asylum legislation should not apply when the individual is subject to an extradition request. There is a danger of extradition being used to enable a state to persecute its own nationals. We must be particularly sensitive in these matters, and let the asylum and extradition procedures stand on their own merits. They should not be coupled together, as that could cause a serious failure of justice and give rise to events that all members of the Committee would find deeply abhorrent and thus deprecate.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The amendments relate to the complex provisions of the Bill that deal with situations in which extradition and asylum meet. It is not a simple subject; strong and basic principles are involved.

Amendment No. 49 would add uncertainty to an already complex clause. It appears to breach the fundamental principles of an individual's rights. Amendment No. 142, on the other hand, would completely reverse our efforts to ensure that the asylum process should not, and cannot, be misused to introduce unnecessary delay to the extradition process.

The clause as drafted provides that no person who has claimed asylum shall be extradited until a decision has been reached on that claim. Amendment No. 49 would wipe out the basic right to seek refuge, and would mean that a person would be extradited regardless, before his asylum claim had been determined.

We are well aware that the asylum system can be abused, and we know that it has been used as a means to delay and frustrate the extradition process. We therefore included provisions to deal with that difficult situation and to address spurious asylum claims and appeals. If it is considered that the claim is unfounded, it can be certified as such by the Secretary of State when he refuses the claim. The effect of that certification will be that the person will be able to appeal against the asylum refusal but extradition can take place. However, the appeal will have to be from abroad and only when the Secretary of State is prepared to state that the claim is clearly unfounded.

I imagine that the hon. Gentleman's intention in tabling the amendment was that the extradition process should not be unduly delayed in the case of a spurious asylum claim, but that is already provided for by the clause. The Bill is drafted to prevent people from using the asylum system to delay extradition

inappropriately. However, it is entirely different, and it would be wholly improper, for us to refuse even to consider representations from a person making an asylum claim before they are extradited, which would be the effect of the amendment.

Liberal Democrat amendment No. 142 would undo our efforts to reach a sensible and constructive solution by erasing the provisions on certification. I have just explained what the provisions do and why they were so drafted. They reflect the approach taken in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. The arguments are well trodden and we do not need to waste the Committee's time repeating them. We can consider asylum appeals and prevent the abuse of the asylum system in inappropriate circumstances through the certification process. When we have decided that that should be done and the person is extradited, we can still listen to the appeal from abroad. That strikes the right balance. It ensures that people's fundamental convention rights are secure, yet it prevents them from abusing the system.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

The Minister is right to talk about what we intended to achieve, and I am grateful to him for putting on the record how the system cannot be abused. Amendment No. 50, which was not selected, makes our intentions clear, but it would be out of order to discuss it. Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 taken together set out what we want to achieve. I am not convinced that there will not be problems if the Bill is unamended, but I accept what the Minister says, that in order to try to prevent people from slipping through loopholes, subsections (9) and (10) must be retained. On this occasion, I agree more with the Minister than with the Liberal Democrats, as amendment No. 142 would delete some of the protections against abuse that the Government introduced.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon

I suspect that the matter will be revisited in the other place. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath talked about protection against abuse. I would speak about securing people's civil liberties and rights.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.