Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 21st January 2003.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:00 am, 21st January 2003

The hon. Gentleman should not try to push what I said further than I did. Also, I should clarify that I meant to refer to the State Immunity Act 1978. I apologise if I misread that.

Another point that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon raised and majored on was the need to include a definition of ''manifest injustice'' in the Bill.

All I would ask is how would we define such a thing? He saw the problem in his presentation to the Committee. He was raging about how a particular case had taken an inordinate length of time, and the argument could be made in such cases that it would be manifestly unjust to extradite. How would we define such an issue? By giving responsibility to the Secretary of State to define such a matter, we would leave the matter open to judicial review and delays.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has fully expanded his reasons for his proposal, because in some categories of persons he would like us to go further and be more robust in our dealings, but for others he is extremely reluctant and wants to build in safeguards. He wants to draw the Secretary of State back into extradition proceedings that lead to the delays that he complains about, and I do not know how we could define the law so that it applied more robustly in some cases than in others, which appears to be his desire in pushing for the inclusion of a safeguard of manifest injustice that the Secretary of State could use to overrule some extraditions. He is right to say that it is a drafting problem, but it is an insurmountable difficulty unless we accept consequences that he would not want.

On the de minimis requirements and trivial offences, I rest on what has been said repeatedly in Committee. There is an argument that we have to settle. For someone to be extraditable both under existing law passed by the hon. Gentleman's party when it was in power and operated without a difficulty and with what we are proposing in parts 1 and 2 of the Bill, the offence will have to attract a maximum penalty of at least 12 months' imprisonment in the requesting state. That is a significant threshold.

I know that the Home Affairs Committee said that we should go for three years and asked why we were going further than the framework decision requires us to do. Why? The reason is that under both parties we have been prepared over a number of years to behave in an outgoing and fairly internationalist way. We have been prepared to co-operate with other jurisdictions and to allow them to seek extradition where they thought it was appropriate above a certain threshold. The threshold has been 12 months. In return, we would ask others to be prepared to extradite to our jurisdiction where we thought it appropriate.

The issuing state has to decide whether it is worth the candle to seek extradition, because the offence is so trivial. Some hon. Members disagree with us and think that we should not be prepared in any circumstances to extradite people for less than three years. That is not what the Home Affairs Committee argued, by the way, as the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon appears to think. It argued that dual criminality should not be dropped for less than the three-year sentence. He should not misinterpret the Home Affairs Committee report.