Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 pm on 21st January 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Maples John Maples Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon 9:25 pm, 21st January 2003

Yes, I am. There must be many circumstances in which that would apply. I am anxious about what would happen if an event on which an allegation of an offence was based had taken place outside the United Kingdom and would have been an offence in the United Kingdom if it had taken place here. That takes us into clause 63. There are several circumstances in which a person's extradition could be sought either from the United Kingdom or from another category 1 territory to the category 1 territory that seeks that person's extradition.

In the case of the Kosovo bombings, it could be argued that all the decisions were taken in the United Kingdom, so it is not an issue. However, I suspect that some of the meetings, especially those that planned the bombing missions, took place outside the United Kingdom, in NATO headquarters. The Secretary of State was at NATO headquarters on many occasions. At that time, I was shadowing him closely, politically and physically, and I know he was there. I am not discussing the rights and wrongs of those policy decisions. We do not need to concentrate on Kosovo; I use it just as an example of a situation in which Ministers of this Government might be vulnerable. Our Ministers are accountable to Parliament and to the electorate for the exercise of their functions, and not to magistrates in other countries, especially when what constitutes the alleged offence did not actually take place there.

I want the Minister to deal comprehensively with this issue, because if he cannot satisfy the Committee, there is an overwhelming argument for building in a further discretion for the Home Secretary. That might even appeal to some of the Minister's Cabinet colleagues. If I could think of other examples I could stretch the area of national interest considerably further than the provisions of clause 193, which restricts it to national security in two pretty precisely defined sets of circumstances.

The second issue I want to raise is that of manifest injustice, which my hon. Friend's three new clauses attempt to deal with. If the Government are resistant to the idea, is it because of a drafting problem? Do they feel that it would not be possible to define manifest injustice tightly enough to prevent Rachid

Ramda and people like him from spinning out their cases for a long time? If so, it would be worth having a go at it. I cannot believe that it is not possible considerably to restrict the Home Secretary's discretion without eliminating it completely.

The third area, which relates to clause 63 and a point made by critics of the Bill, is the absence of a requirement for dual criminality in a category 1 extradition. The Home Affairs Committee report suggested that in such cases the Home Secretary might be allowed to use his discretion. The summary of conclusions and recommendations on part 1 of the Bill states:

''We recommend that, in order to provide some safeguard against clear abuses of the new procedure introduced under the framework decision, the Home Secretary give consideration to the following proposal: that in each case the district judge should look at the terms of the offence specified in the European Arrest Warrant and make a statement as to whether dual criminality applies. In cases where the alleged offence is not a crime in the UK a separate decision about whether to extradite should then be made by the Home Secretary, who is responsible to Parliament.''

The gist is clear. If a case involving a category 1 territory in which an extradition is sought concerns an offence that falls within the list of offences in the framework decision but which would not constitute a criminal offence in the United Kingdom, the judge could so certify and the Home Secretary would have the final say. That would remove many of our objections to the vague descriptions of offences, such as ''computer-related crime'' and ''xenophobia'', which is not an offence in the United Kingdom but is in other countries. If the Home Secretary had residual discretion in such cases, it would not set my mind completely at rest but would deal with many of the difficulties I have with the removal of the dual criminality requirement.

Will the Minister respond to the shared concern, which the Home Affairs Committee expressed better than I, that the list of offences in the framework document is too vague? I do not want to repeat my criticisms of that list—I have mentioned just a couple of the offences—but merely to point out that the definitions are too vague and could include acts that are not offences in the United Kingdom. There is common ground, as the Minister says that we should be prepared to live with the criminal jurisdiction systems and law of our European partners. I agree up to a point, but a British citizen is entitled to have some concern about being extradited to another country, and we must remember that category 1 territories do not consist of only present EU members, but will include any country that accedes to the treaties. There is a long list of such countries, not all of which have a wonderful record of objective and independent judiciaries or of treating people accused under their criminal law with the respect to which they have become entitled here and in many western European countries.

If the Home Secretary had that discretion it would give people a safeguard. It is a reasonable suggestion, as it is a unanimous recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee, and it would go a long way towards meeting the concerns of people like me who

are worried about the dual criminality requirement being overridden.

I want the Minister to answer three points. The first is about manifest injustice. The second point is that the national security provision should be widened to cover national interest, so that we protect Ministers and officials who have acted in the name of the Government and democratic authority but who might find themselves caught up in the system for alleged extraterritorial offences under the latter subsections of clause 63. The third point is about the Home Affairs Committee recommendation that the Home Secretary should have discretion in cases in which the judge certifies that, although the offence qualifies for extradition under the new law, it would not meet the dual criminality requirement if it were still in force.