Clause 70 - Arrest warrant following extradition request

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 14 Ionawr 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:30, 14 Ionawr 2003

I would make a plea to get real on this issue and recognise that even the representations of an august body such as the Law Society of England and Wales cannot absolve us of the responsibility to consider treaty obligations and other longstanding arrangements, or of the need to consider in detail the workings of extradition procedures. These considerations may not be at the forefront of hon. Members' list of concerns, but they are important.

Amendment No. 154 amounts to opposition for opposition's sake. The clause deals with the requirement to produce prima facie evidence in category 2 cases. Subsection (4) provides that a request from a country specified by Order in Council need be accompanied only by ''information'' rather than ''evidence''. The amendment would erase that with no further comment, and no justification is provided.

In this context we are talking not about European Union countries, so the hon. Member for Surrey Heath should not get so excited. Does he really believe that we are removing essential safeguards and denying people proper consideration in extradition cases? That is not true.

The subsection is designed to meet our existing obligations under the European convention on extradition, which was agreed by the Government—the hon. Gentleman supports it—and has operated for 12 years. The Conservative Government signed up to the ECE in 1990 and it was their introduction of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Extradition Act 1999 that allowed prima facie requirements to be removed in the first place. Her Majesty's Opposition have some responsibility for bringing us to the present position, whereby such requirements were removed for those other than category 1 countries, so why are they suggesting that we should go back on that now?

The hon. Member for Surrey Heath asked why we insist on a certain set of regulations for Australia, but perhaps we are not. Australia is not party to the European convention on human rights and we have no intention of bringing the country into part 1 procedures. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that we should enter into arrangements with countries that have a broadly similar criminal justice system to our own, in which we have a high degree of confidence, and remove the requirement for prima facie evidence? Has the Conservative party descended into that wholly inappropriate position?

We are talking about countries such as Switzerland, Canada and Australia, with which we have done considerable extradition business over time and for which sound judicial arrangements obtain. We deal with the Governments of those countries, whatever party is in power, so are we to enter into treaty arrangements with them on the basis of removing the requirement for prima facie evidence? What we are doing is common sense. The other provision concerns those countries for which we have already removed that requirement, which occurred when the Conservative party was in government.

Does the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland really believe that we would allow category 2 countries to go on fishing expeditions? A proper judicial process would have to be followed. The application made would have to be stronger than that made for a part 1 case. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman seriously believes that the sort of countries to which I referred would be allowed to go on such fishing expeditions. I therefore wonder why he suggests that we rip up that convention and row back from it at a time when we are trying to encourage increased international judicial co-operation. He appears to be suggesting that we should say that although we have been party to that convention, which was negotiated a long time ago and has been in operation for the past 12 years, we intend to reimpose a prima facie requirement of evidence on those countries. Why should we do that at this stage? I do not see any justification for doing so.