Clause 53 - Presumed consent to other

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 14th January 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

It is important to have a brief stand part debate on the clause, which refers back to the issue of what the statutes variously refer to as specialty or speciality, on which the debate began under clause 17. Significantly, the Labour-dominated Select Committee on Home Affairs states in bald terms that clause 53 should be deleted. Paragraph 70 of the Committee's report states that the clause

''provides for the possibility of the UK giving a blanket waiver of the speciality rule. Article 27.1 of the framework decision provides that a state may give notification that it may be presumed to have consented to another EU member state taking proceedings against a suspect other than those for which the executing state surrendered

the suspect, where the other member state has also given such notification under article 27.1. Clause 53 provides that where both the requesting state and the UK have given such notification under article 27.1, then the requesting state may proceed as if the appropriate UK judge had given consent to the extradited person being dealt with for the other offence (unless the judge makes a statement to the contrary in any given case).''

We talked about the importance of the specialty provision under clause 17, but the Home Office told the Home Affairs Committee that the Government intend to give such notification under article 27.1 and that the Home Office believes that when the issue of specialty arises, the UK's position

''should be guided by the principles of mutual trust and mutual recognition.''

I am beginning to think that the Minister believes that mutual recognition is the answer to a maiden's prayer and the solution to all the country's woes. As I have said repeatedly, I do not have the same faith in mutual recognition as the Minister and the Government. The Home Affairs Committee goes further than that. It says:

''We find it difficult to reconcile what the Home Office has told us with a statement made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Bob Ainsworth MP, at the time of the Bill's publication. The Minister stated that 'the Bill also safeguards the rights of fugitives . . . we're retaining the principle that fugitives will only stand trial for the crime they were extradited for'' '.

As the Select Committee points out, that would appear to be a reference to the specialty rule, and it admits that nothing in the Bill would in itself limit the application of the specialty rule, which is preserved by clause 17. However, if the Government give notification under article 27.1, as the Home Office told the Select Committee they intended to do, the specialty rule will be undermined. The Select Committee goes on to say, in strong words:

''In the context of the information we have received from the Home Office, we consider that the Minister's statement can be described at best as incomplete and at worst as misleading.''

I am sure that the Minister did not intend to mislead the Home Affairs Committee, because it is not in his nature. The Select Committee carries on:

''We have serious reservations about the Government's intention to give notification under article 27.1.''

That is the view of not only the Labour-dominated Select Committee, but the organisations Justice and Liberty. When we were in government and the present Government were in opposition, Labour Members constantly talked about the concerns of organisations such as Justice and Liberty, but here and now they are flying in the face of such organisations. The Select Committee made that point, saying that

''the Home Office failed to respond to the concern raised by JUSTICE that, although such cases are at the moment infrequent, agreeing to what is effectively a carte blanche to proceed against an extradited person in relation to any offence whatsoever may well lead to a significant rise in the number of such cases.''

The Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Conservatives agree with Justice and Liberty that specialty is a key safeguard against abuse of the extradition process, and that for the UK to give notice under article 27.1 would infringe the safeguard. The Law Society for England and Wales also opposes any exceptions to the specialty rule. Like the

Conservatives, the Home Affairs Committee considered

''that any notification under article 27.1 would amount to a blanket waiver of the specialty rule. Instead of such a blanket waiver, we would prefer that such waivers should be given on a case-by-case basis and with the consent of the person to be extradited.''

It is for that reason that the Select Committee recommended, in bold type, that clause 53 should be deleted from the Bill. We agree and do not understand why the Government, having included the specialty rule in clause 17, are proposing blanket waivers to it in clause 53. It undermines the protections to which people have always been entitled, and the Government will find it difficult to justify keeping clause 53 in the Bill.

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

I wholeheartedly agree with the points made by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which were admirably set out by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. I agree strongly that specialty is a crucial protection for individuals and a vital safeguard. There should be no demurring from it, diminishing of its importance or dilution of its effect.

As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath noted, the Minister made a statement quite clearly to the effect that the Bill also safeguards the rights of fugitives. His words were:

''We're retaining the principle that fugitives will only stand trial for the crime they were extradited for.''

The Home Affairs Committee drew that to our attention. The importance of this principle is recorded by the organisations to which the hon. Member for Surrey Heath referred. It will be fundamental when the Bill is debated in the other place. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments about his statement. I warn him now that these principles will not be surrendered.

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

I have been going through the Home Affairs Committee report trying to see exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said. Hon. Members are right to allude to the Select Committee's belief that I have in some way attempted to say something that was not true. I hope that the Committee accepts that that is not so.

The Bill as drafted protects the rule of speciality. We have been fairly open about the intention. We have already discussed this under previous amendments. We said that if we could get reciprocal arrangements and if we thought that it would be appropriate, we would be prepared to move to a higher level of mutual recognition and abandon speciality. Some people are completely and utterly opposed to that in principle. I can understand their worries, but there are potential advantages for victims and the criminal justice system in moving to such arrangements with countries in whose justice systems we have a high degree of faith and whose treatment of fugitives we accept.

It is not only fugitives who should be considered in such cases. We should not forget that there are victims of all extradition crimes. There are great advantages in our being able to enter into such an arrangement with a country with whom we feel at ease, so that we can get people back to this country without delay. This is not

only about individual cases, but about the victims of these crimes who will be our constituents. Is it a matter of principle? Should we in every case in respect of every state insist on individual extradition arrangements for each offence that is being alleged? I have a little more confidence and hope that we will be able to accept a higher degree of mutual recognition with our close European partners.

I have not attempted to deceive the Home Affairs Committee. It is obvious from its comments that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South decided to give me a kick up the backside on this. I know that that is not parliamentary language, but I hope that he and everyone else is prepared at least to reflect on the potential advantages of dropping the speciality arrangements when we can get those reciprocal arrangements. This has not been foisted upon us by other European countries. We were at the centre of the debate and we took a lead on it. We have attempted to encourage people to go down the road to mutual recognition, not for any abstract reasons, but because we believe that it is in the interest of our own citizens and our own justice system to enter into such arrangements, where appropriate.

No one seems to have noticed that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) has slipped quietly into our proceedings. We should welcome him. The only problem with his slipping in quietly is that he incapable of doing so because he brings his hairstyle with him wherever he goes. He is welcome; it is good to see him here.

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Conservative, Henley 11:00 am, 14th January 2003

I want only to ask the Minister whether mutual recognition is the right term to apply in this case. Mutual recognition, as customarily used in the European Union context, means that a widget in this country is accepted as a standard in another EU country, and vice versa. What principle of legal philosophy does the Minister rely on to decide that mutual recognition should apply exclusively to what is deemed to be criminal? Why does it not apply to what is deemed not to be criminal?

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

I think that I shall withdraw my welcome to the hon. Gentleman. In his absence—I understand the reasons why he was absent—we have debated the principles of mutual recognition. I repeat that we are not setting out on the road to corpus juris across the European Union: the provision is an alternative to it.

We have some basic choices. We could stand firm on our British justice system and maintain barriers to our ability to co-operate with our European partners, or we could accept that in a world where criminals as well as law-abiding citizens can move freely between borders, we need a higher degree of co-operation to secure the rights of victims and to promote justice. If we believe in making changes accordingly, two answers are possible. We either seek to establish corpus juris at the European level, or we enter into effective mutual recognition arrangements. That means saying to other EU countries that we

recognise that their justice systems secure fairness, and in return they have to recognise ours. I have already acknowledged that big steps forward are still required. Presently, Austrian nationals cannot be extradited to this country when they commit certain crimes, and other extradition problems can result in British victims.

Photo of John Maples John Maples Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon

The Minister—and, indeed, the Secretary of State—consistently ignores the other alternative in part 2. None of us has any problem with part 2: it could provide an equally effective solution to problems with our European partners and other countries. Part 1 is abhorrent because it removes every single protection against the extradition of a British citizen from Britain. Part 2 does not. If the Minister were to drop part 1 and accept part 2, I suspect that we could all go home now. Yet the Minister consistently fails to enumerate that alternative.

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

I understand the Conservative Opposition's viewpoint, which has been voiced repeatedly by the hon. Gentleman from the Back Benches, by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath on the Front Bench and by the right hon. Member for West Dorset. They fundamentally oppose going any further down the road of mutual recognition, but we simply disagree.

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

Because we disagree so fundamentally, we shall press for a Division.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 6.

Division number 13 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 53 - Presumed consent to other

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 6 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 53 ordered to stand part of the Bill.