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 Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:15 am, 21st January 2003

This is well-trodden ground. It does not need to be gone over at great length. The hon. Gentleman's rhetoric says that we should be dealing with serious criminals, not with trivial matters. His position on the Bill, as we discussed earlier, would have the effect of imposing a lengthier system on serious criminals unless they are terrorists or can be proven to have a terrorist motivation for the serious crimes that they commit. We have tried to explain the problems of definition, but to no avail; that is his position, even if his rhetoric says something slightly different.

I should like to address one other specific point. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath made a detailed intervention about extradition to Italy. He has had representations from people about the way in which the Italian justice system operates, which is very different from ours. I would remind him that I have already made a commitment to see whether we can find new wording for clause 2(3)(a) to make it clearer, if possible, that extradition can be sought only for an accusation, not for the purposes of investigation or interrogation. We are extraditing people to Italy now and have been doing so for a long time. All the arguments that he puts forward suggest that we ought not to be able to do that, and that we should not do it, because people are treated in an inappropriate way in Italy and it is not a jurisdiction that can be trusted to deal properly with people. If that is so, why have we been extraditing people and why have we dropped the requirement for prima facie evidence to be available in this country? The framework document is clear about the purposes of extradition. We have tried to draft the

Bill to make it clear; we shall look again at the purposes of clause 2(3)(a) to see whether we can pick up on the point raised by the hon. Gentleman's amendment.

I turn briefly to the question of mutual recognition, in response to the hon. Member for Henley. He seems to be saying that British citizens cannot be expected to have detailed knowledge of the law when abroad, and said that we will expose people to legal uncertainty. I have never heard Conservative Members seriously argue, in debates on this or other Bills, that ignorance of the law is an excuse for breaking it. The hon. Gentleman did not give a direct response to my question about whether, when in Spain or France, he should abide by Spanish or French law or whether he ought to ignore it and abide by British law instead. His argument was that he should be able to do exactly that—that he was a British citizen and that he should be obliged only to know the British law—and that those pesky foreigners should not expect him to understand their laws or expect him to abide by them.

We could go into detail about extra-territoriality. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that we are able to claim it. We have increased the areas where we seek to claim extra-territoriality—for instance, in computer crime as a result of changes in technology, and in other areas of criminality as a result of a widening in the international nature of crime. However, the hon. Gentleman said that we should be able to claim them, but that other jurisdictions should not; and that we should never have accepted them. He would not even answer the basic question about whether he ought to be subject to another set of laws when in another country, which goes to the heart of the Bill.

Conservative Members seem to be saying that the mere fact of being able easily to cross a border somehow changes the principles of justice. When in Spain, people should abide by Spanish law; but if they can escape back to Britain, we would say that Spanish law does not meet certain minimum requirements, and we are not prepared to extradite people to Spain to face the charge that they had broken the law while there.