Clause 73 - Person arrested under a provisional warrant

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 2:45 pm, 14th January 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 159, in

clause 73, page 38, line 11, leave out '40' and insert '7'.

The amendment relates to another concern of the Law Society with which we agree. It is designed to replace the period of 40 days with seven days, thereby reducing the routine time in which a person could be

remanded on a provisional warrant. The 40-day period is an unacceptably long blanket period for a person to be under suspicion. The Minister will doubtless tell us that it already happens under current arrangements, but a period of 28 days is more common in provisions dealing with remands. We all know that the courts often remand people for 28 days, 14 days or seven days. We believe that under the new system of provisional warrants, while waiting for a full arrest warrant, the remand period should be much shorter. We would be happier, as would the Law Society of England and Wales, if the Government were to change the 14 days to seven days or even to 28 days, and to provide the opportunity to apply for an extension of time in exceptional circumstances.

Before the Minister says so, we are not being silly or trivial, or trying to row back from the previous position. We feel strongly about this issue, as does the Law Society of England and Wales. Certain requesting states may be given longer without showing any exceptional circumstances relating to the request for extradition.

Whatever the current situation might be under extradition law, we are discussing provisional warrants and a new system of extradition law—the European arrest warrant is a totally new animal. The Government have introduced this Bill because of the European arrest warrant and the framework directive. The Bill will put all those new arrangements into force. This is therefore an opportunity to re-examine the situation and to see what is appropriate. The Law Society of England and Wales are right to say that the period should not be 40 days for a provisional warrant: that is too long.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I should say that while I am not in particular sympathy with the terms of the amendment, I agree with the general tenor of the speech made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. I would require some persuading that seven days is an appropriate blanket period: it seems to me that that is a tad on the short side, whereas a period of 40 days in those circumstances seems excessive. Will the Minister reconsider that point between now and Report?

A compromise such as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath has suggested would be ideal. That would allow, for argument's sake, 14 or 20 days as the initial period with application to be made thereafter for extension on cause shown.

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

The limit specified in the Bill is 40 days, and that is the period that currently applies. As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath predicted, I would argue that the reason for the 40-day period is because that is what is specified in the European convention on extradition. At the risk of upsetting him yet again, that convention was passed and adopted by the UK in 1991 under the Conservative Government. However, as well as seeking to upset the hon. Gentleman again—I do not see anything the matter with that—I would also argue that it would cause us a problem if we sought to move away from that provision. The hon. Gentleman asked, quite reasonably, whether such a long period was necessary, but that period is generally specified in

extradition treaties made during the last two centuries. It features in most of the UK's bilateral extradition treaties, and although the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said that there has been a change in his party's position on the issue, we are bound by the convention and by those treaties.

While I am superficially attracted to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath and supported by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that the period could be reduced to 28 days, we would then be required to renegotiate all our extradition treaties and the convention itself.

We are not discussing the European arrest warrant, or any massive draconian measure. I note that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath has stopped using the word ''draconian''—I lost count of the number of times he used it, but he applied it to every clause in part 1. We are talking about part 2 arrangements and what is provided in the existing arrangements. We have a limited ability to move away from 40 days, unless we are prepared to do what has been suggested.

For the record, so that Members can decide whether to continue making representations that 40 days is too long, let me say that exceptions to the 40-day rule are allowed under current regulations only where our bilateral treaties or extradition agreements with other countries specify a longer period. Again, we have translated that into the Bill, as the only possible variation of the time frame is when an Order in Council specifically provides that a longer period is allowed in relation to the category 2 territory.

Forty days has proved appropriate for provisional arrest cases, and we see no reason why that should not continue. That period provides a suitable amount of time for the counsel to prepare the case, which would not be so if we cut it to seven days. If the position is thought through logically, there are good reasons why the period should not be changed. Provisional arrest is most likely to be used in urgent cases where there is a good reason why it has not been possible for a full request to be made.

The amendment would mean that everything—the full request, the paperwork and the evidence or, where appropriate if we drop the prima facie requirement for the particular country, the information—had to be prepared, translated and sent over in haste. That could be, and often is, a significant bundle of documentation. In addition, the papers would then have to be examined by the Secretary of State and, if he considered it appropriate, certified before being sent on to the judge.

It is not feasible to do all that, starting from scratch in the issuing state, in seven days. There would be no time to query any possible errors or omissions, although they would be all the more likely to occur if we forced countries to prepare their case in such a tight time frame. There would be no flexibility if, for example, the Secretary of State was temporarily unavailable, or the seven days happened to begin over the Christmas break.

I understand what the hon. Gentleman said, and I accept that, superficially, the period of time appears long. However, that is the current provision, and an awful lot of work needs to go into these cases. I do not think that there is evidence of undue delays leading to injustice—if people believe that there is, they may present it later—so we are replicating in the new legislation what has existed for some time and is enshrined in various treaties across the world, as well as in the relevant convention.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:00 pm, 14th January 2003

I understand what the Minister says and I am grateful that he has been more serious about this issue. I am particularly grateful for his acknowledgement that, at first sight, 40 days seems a long time. I understand his point about treaty obligations; I am sure that none of us wishes to force this or any Government to tear up their treaty obligations.

Unlike the Minister and his advisers, I have not studied individual treaties, and I am slightly surprised that they do not provide for flexibility or for 40 days to be a maximum. I wonder whether he might talk to his officials again, or whether it might still be possible, without tearing up all the treaties, to substitute a slightly shorter period of 28 days. The Minister acknowledged that, while advancing my case for seven days, I referred to 14 or 28 days as possible alternatives, as did the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland.

I hope that the Minister will at least consider that point, because this is an opportunity to change extradition law if it needs changing, and to look afresh at some of the issues. Again, it was right of the Law Society of England and Wales to draw our attention to that point, because this may be the only opportunity for a decade or longer to reconsider what should happen in extradition cases.

If an arrest is under a provisional warrant, there should be some obligation on those who are putting the paperwork together to get a move on, in fairness to the potential subject of the extradition request and the lawyers representing him. The amendment tries to be fair to that person and to give his legal representatives an opportunity to prepare the case without unfairly hampering the interests of the state. There is balance to be struck. I am glad to see the Minister nodding in agreement. I hope that the Minister will reconsider this matter and will keep it under review, because the other place may need to discuss it. It is a point of detail, but not an insignificant one.

Having alerted the Minister to the concerns and having heard his reasonable response, I am happy not to pursue the matter at this stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I have a brief point to make, and I should be grateful if the Minister would take it away and consider it. It might equally be said to apply to clause 71. Subsection (3) states:

''The person must be brought as soon as practicable before the appropriate judge.''

Subsection (4)(a) provides that that need not apply if

''the person is granted bail by a constable following his arrest''.

Subsection (11) says:

''Subsection (4)(a) does not apply to Scotland.''

That is perfectly proper, as in Scotland the police do not grant bail. I do not take issue with that. However, it seems that the police having the power to grant bail is a useful provision that gives a degree of flexibility.

Perhaps between now and Report the Minister and those advising him could give some consideration to the question of a parallel provision being put in for Scotland. I do not want to see terminology starting to be confused and constables in Scotland getting the power to grant bail, but under Scots criminal procedure there is a provision whereby police officers can arrest people on an undertaking to appear at a court at a later date. That is very close to what I understand police bail in England to be. In fact in Scotland it is often referred to in shorthand as police bail, but bail is something quite distinct and different.

Without that flexibility there can sometimes be logistical difficulties in taking people from, for example, the remoter parts of my constituency to the sheriff at Lothian borders sitting in Edinburgh. As soon as practicable can sometimes be a couple of days. There is good flexibility in the police being allowed to give bail. If some mechanism could be found to allow that to be extended north of the border, it would have a lot to commend it.

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

I shall take some advice and will come back to the hon. Gentleman as soon as I can.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 73 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 74 to 82 ordered to stand part of the Bill.