Clause 172 - Interpretation

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 16th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:00 pm, 16th January 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 171, in

clause 172, page 91, line 34, at end insert—

'(c) in Scotland has the meaning given by section 33 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995.'.

As I suggested, the Law Society of Scotland has helpfully sent us some possible amendments. I am slightly disappointed that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) is not with us. I make no criticism of that, because he has been an extremely diligent member of the Committee, as he has been of all the Committees on which I have served with him, but I had hoped that we would have our Scots expert with us to talk about the provision.

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

I should at this stage give my hon. Friend's apologies. As has been said from the Government Benches, he is fishing—an important fisheries debate is taking place, in which he is either leading for our party or making a compelling contribution.

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

As I would expect, the hon. Gentleman is missing only because he has other

duties in the House of Commons. That gives me the opportunity to say that the new experimental hours will mean that hon. Members of all parties will often find themselves trying to be in two places at once. It was a free vote, and I want to put on the record that I totally opposed the new hours for that reason. I am amazed at the number of times that I come across Government Members in the Palace of Westminster who say, ''Don't blame me; I didn't vote for it.'' I am starting to wonder whether I should re-read the Division list to discover exactly who voted for the change, as it would never have been passed if all those Government Members had voted against it.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

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

I simply wanted to get that off my chest and put it on the record, Mr. O'Hara.

I make the serious point that it will be increasingly difficult for Committees considering important legislation to examine all the matters that are before them, especially if Members are missing. Under the old arrangements, there was an opportunity, more or less, for Committees to finish. Their sittings did not overlap with the sittings of the main Chamber as much as they do now. That is something that you might seriously take up as a member of the Chairmen's Panel, Mr. O'Hara. It is not a facetious point.

I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, who is in the main Chamber, may have given his hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon, who represents a constituency at the other end of the country, some insight into Scots law that he is about to share with us. I do not claim to be a Scots lawyer, although I once had to go on a crash course on Scottish matters as I used to do a great deal of work in Corby when I was a lawyer in the midlands. As some hon. Members will know, Corby was a steelworks town at that time. Much of its population had been transplanted from steelworks in Scotland to otherwise rural Northamptonshire. For some years, I regularly used to prosecute at the Corby magistrates court. Corby residents would ask me what the PF said. I had to be aware that if one came from Glasgow, as the residents' families did, the PF was the procurator fiscal. One needed to be aware of Scottish terminology, so I acquired a little indirect knowledge of what happens north of the border.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

Order. I trust that the Committee will find the hon. Gentleman's intervention relevant.

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

The relevance is that the amendment would insert into the Bill

''the meaning given by section 33 of the Criminal Law Consolidation (Scotland) Act 1995.''

I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will have briefed the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon on how that operates in Scots law, and that the hon. Gentleman is about to tell us.

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

I apologise abjectly and nakedly that my knowledge of Scottish law is probably less extensive that that of the hon. Member for Surrey

Heath. That said, I practised as a tax specialist and occasionally came across odd expressions under Scottish law such as ''legitim''. I cannot explain what it means, but I believe that is has something to do with succession rights.

I raise the matter of legal privilege and ask the Minister to provide reassurance on subsection (4), ''Items subject to legal privilege''. It is important that legal inroads are not made into legal privilege, and that individuals who are the subject of extradition proceedings are given the same civil rights and civil protection as others under our legal system. I am anxious to extract a reassurance from the Minister that legal advice and legal correspondence will always be protected from the prying eyes of the prosecution. Additionally, we want a similar level of protection for legal advice, correspondence and documents from overseas as well as UK lawyers. I am sure that the Committee would agree that the Minister's assurances on that matter are crucial.

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System IT) 3:15 pm, 16th January 2003

May I say for the record that not every member of Committee shares the analysis of House of Commons modernisation put forward by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath.

I can be a little more constructive in responding to this amendment. We sympathise with its thrust and accept many of the arguments of both Opposition spokesmen. It is appropriate to include a definition of legal privilege for Scotland. As the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon rightly said, under English law, legal professional privilege is a well recognised expression, covering communications between a client and his or her legal adviser and between them and third parties if made for the dominant purpose of pending or contemplated litigation.

The closest equivalent in Scots law is confidentiality. Section 33 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1995, to which the amendment refers, is shortly to be repealed on the commencement of certain provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Section 412 of that Act restates the relevant definition in section 33 of the 1995 Act. We believe that it would be more appropriate to refer to the definition in the 2002 Act. On the understanding that we will table a Government amendment to achieve the same purpose on Report, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment. I also hope that that meets the hon. Gentleman's concerns.

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

The Minister has provided precisely the sort of assurance about legal privilege that we and the Law Society of Scotland wanted. As mentioned by the Under-Secretary earlier, I was one of the two Opposition spokesmen on the Proceeds of Crime Bill, so it is appropriate that I accept its definition in section 412. Clearly, the Law Society of Scotland had not realised that the 1995 Act was about to be repealed and replaced. It is encouraging to hear that our concerns have, for the first time in Committee, brought about an express commitment to table a Government amendment. It may be minor triumph, but at least we have achieved it.

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

I wish I could remember more clearly, but I believe that we extracted a concession from the Minister's colleague earlier. I remind the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that time has not yet run on the Bill.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

I was about to call order—[Interruption.].

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

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 172 ordered to stand part of the Bill.