Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 21st January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 11:15 am, 21st January 2003

The Minister is being unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon. He has spoken about toughening up in certain respects, but also about safeguards. But it is not just my hon. Friend or me—the Select Committee has also made the point that when one is redrafting the whole of extradition law and making many more things automatic, and removing some safeguards and some of the dual criminality provisions, one needs to look again at thresholds. The Minister does his cause no service by making a simplistic attack on our detailed arguments.

When we have discussed extraditing people back to this country, the Minister has put a lot of stress on making sure that we get back the big villains—the bank robbers, the kind of people who flea to the costa del crime. We agree that there ought to be an easier way to get serious criminals back to this country. However, they are the sorts of people who have committed offences that will attract sentences not of three years but of 20 years or life imprisonment. We do not want situations to arise, as has happened under existing law, in which people are extradited to places such as Belgium and the Czech Republic for trivial offences that attract no sentence. Under pressure from British solicitors such cases are dropped because the offences are so trivial. However, in the meantime, British citizens have wrongly been in custody for lengthy periods. That is what we are talking about.