Clause 83 - Case where person has not been convicted

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:30 pm, 14th January 2003

With regard to Government Back Benchers taking the opportunity to badger Ministers on such important civil liberties issues—this has some relevance to the debate, Mr. O'Hara—it occurred to me that at that time the hon. Member for Doncaster, North had a colleague in the Whips Office, and I am sure that many liberal conversations took place between them. They would not have been so constrained as they are now. The Minister was certainly not so constrained in his views when he was a Whip.

The hon. Member for Doncaster, North made an important point that reinforces our concern. The Minister has had to accept that the Government are proposing a major change to the present arrangements. We feel that, even if a policeman has to come from the northern territories of Canada, he should come for the reason given by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, whose experience in the courts in Scotland reflects my experience prosecuting in the courts of England. If one saw a case note from what were county prosecuting solicitors in the late 1970s and early 1980s—it later became the Crown Prosecution Service—which was supposed to be a summary of the case, and then called to see the full witness statements, the difference between the two could be enormous. I am afraid that that could easily happen under this provision.

It is not that we do not trust judges to use their discretion, and we are not saying that there should be a bar. The Minister has to justify what he is doing, because he and the Government are making the change. I accept the Minister's good faith when he says that he will reconsider the matter. I certainly accept what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland says in drawing the Minister's attention to our unselected amendment that would reintroduce an element of discretion. However, because we feel so strongly about the matter, because of the points made by the hon. Member for Doncaster, North and the views of Liberty and the Law Society for England and Wales, we must put it to a vote.