Clause 53 - Presumed consent to other

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

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 10:45, 14 January 2003

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.