Backbench Business

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:27 pm on 20th April 2017.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 3:27 pm, 20th April 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans, and to follow Keith Vaz, who as ever speaks incredibly knowledgeably on such topics. I welcome the debate and thank David T. C. Davies for bringing it to the Chamber. The Scottish National party is fully behind the idea of a European arrest warrant and wants the UK to continue to participate in the scheme if that is at all possible. However, the hon. Gentleman has done us—all six of us—a favour by bringing the topic here for debate and highlighting important flaws in the scheme. I believe that there are key questions that the Government must address, about how they will seek to secure continuing participation in the EAW scheme or at least something similar.

The UK was of course hugely influential in shaping the EAW system. It has brought welcome benefits for law enforcement agencies and victims of crime. As the hon. Gentleman said, it does so by simplifying matters and speeding up the repatriation of suspects and criminals from other EU countries so that they can face justice. In the old days, when extradition proceeded under the 1957 European convention on extradition, it took an average of 18 months to extradite someone. Under the current system it takes 15 days in uncontested cases and 45 days if a case is contested. Today it takes three times as long to extradite from EU countries as from outside the EU. Some countries would previously have refused to extradite their nationals at all.

The hon. Gentleman is nevertheless right to remind us that, while the system often works perfectly well, it is not without flaws. There have been too many cases, some of which have been highlighted today, where the use of warrants has been frankly ridiculous. That stems from the fact that a proportionality test is not applied in some states as it is in others, such as the UK and Germany. That is behind quite a lot of the problems that the right hon. Member for Leicester East highlighted—I am talking about the imbalance between the number of requests that the UK makes and the number that it receives. The hon. Member for Monmouth highlighted differences in criminal procedures and standards across the EU. Those are also valid points.

From our point of view, the answer to the criticisms is to be part of the system but to seek reform, not to ditch it altogether and push for something else. We do not often say that any part of our criminal justice system is perfect, but of course we do not just rip it up and start again; we seek reform and improvement.