Clause 147 - Extradition offences

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 16th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 9:25 am, 16th January 2003

An issue arises about length of sentence, which we have already debated. However, this clause relates to the other side of the coin: that is, extradition to, not from, the United Kingdom. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) pointed out, there have been far fewer objections about this part. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats accept the need to speed up extradition proceedings and make them more efficient. We have no difficulty with that, as we said on Second Reading. We accept that there are tremendous advantages to being able to extradite back to the United Kingdom those people who have managed to get to another state but who should be facing a British court. We strongly support that law and order measure. Nevertheless, the question remains: what is the appropriate length of sentence to enable someone to be extradited? I merely probe the Minister, and am not seeking to strike out the clause.

We discussed whether it should be a sentence of three years' imprisonment, as the Select Committee on Home Affairs suggested in its remarks on extradition from the UK to a requesting state. Subsection (1) proposes 12 months. The provisions in subsections (4) and (5) refer to four months. It is therefore appropriate to question the Minister on the matter. I know that he will refer again to what has already existed in extradition law. I must make it clear that the Opposition are not trying to water down the Bill, but to question the Minister and discuss the matter with him. The Opposition are generally in favour of what the Bill proposes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) has repeatedly said, there have been great abuses of the system by people able to delay proceedings. We do not want those who have committed serious offences to be able to hide out in the so-called costa del crime in Spain or Italy and avoid justice in this country. However, it is right to at least probe the Minister, and I look forward to his response.