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9 Dec 2002 : Column 105—continued

Mr. Hawkins: Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that many of his own party's supporters in the upper House have been voting with the Conservatives and the Liberals to take out the more outrageous parts of his Government's legislation?

Mike Gapes: No; what I recognise is that many people in the legal profession who have made their living as QCs over many years have a view of the realities of the world different from that of my constituents and those who suffer from the effects of drug dealers, paedophiles and all the others who engage in international criminal activity. It is time for the voice of the ordinary people who suffer from the effects of international criminality to be heard.

Let us take another example. In east London—and other parts of the city—at this moment, international gangs of criminals are operating prostitution and drug rackets. We need effective measures to deal with them. Such people often flee this country to escape justice. As we enlarge the European Union and get better

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international co-operation, we must ensure that the new member states—as well as the applicant states and those that aspire to become part of the European Union, perhaps in 10 or 15 years—will get their house in order, and use our support and the support of others to do so. For example, British drug enforcement officers and police officers are working in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria today. Similarly, we are doing good work in Kosovo.

We must work together with our European Union partners, and that will involve our having the ability to extradite criminals from those countries. I was in Pristina last year, where I saw hundreds of motor vehicles with German, Austrian and Italian registration plates. They had been stolen and driven across into Kosovo. Those activities do not happen by accident; they are carried out by organised gangs. We then hear stories of people in our constituencies inadvertently buying vehicles that have been stolen in some other European country and re-badged. We must get to grips with these problems, and the way to do that is through international co-operation. We talk about international law, and about the United Nations, but this is really all about getting rid of our petty, narrow-minded belief that, because we are British, we somehow have the best legal system in the world, despite the fact that it has not delivered justice to many people for many years. Instead, it has delivered fat fees to lawyers and given many of the victims of crime a sense of growing frustration.

If we are to have effective law, we must ensure that our systems work quickly and get the right results. We do not want the wealthy—whether it is the van Hoogstratens, the Kenneth Noyes or the Jeffrey Archers of this world—to be able to escape justice because they have a large amount of money. Those three people have all been subjected to justice, and one of them was brought back from another country to be tried. We need a structure that will give the people on the street the confidence that the criminal justice system is doing its best for them. That will mean greater international co-operation in extraditing those who are living on the Xcosta del crime", and those who are exploiting the poor and weak in our own communities and taking their assets out of this country to some other part of the world. For that reason, I welcome the Bill and I hope that it gets through both Houses very soon.

9.9 pm

Mr. David Cameron (Witney): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), who speaks with great passion. If I were a lawyer, I would not want to meet him on a dark night. My brother is a lawyer, so I will tell him to avoid Ilford when the hon. Gentleman is around.

I serve on the Select Committee on Home Affairs and I am pleased to contribute to the debate. I think that we produced a good report in a very short time, although I would have liked it to go a little further. I will vote against the Bill because I disapprove of part 1, specifically the changes to dual criminality. It has for many years in this country been a safeguard that one cannot be extradited for something that is not an offence in this country, and that safeguard should not be lost. I did not sulk, but tried to help the Committee to suggest

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some safeguards, particularly our ingenious safeguard of involving the district judge and the Home Secretary in checking on the dual criminality element.

The Government are going in entirely the wrong direction in respect of extradition and deportation. It has become close to impossible to deport or extradite those who might actually be a danger to this country—my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) made that point. That is why we have the stern detention powers in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001—vast powers to detain people without charge and without trial. One reason we have those powers is that it has been so difficult to extradite or deport those who pose a threat to the life of the nation.

The reason for that is not the European convention on human rights itself, but the way in which it has been interpreted. Two cases are essential to understanding why that has happened. The first is the Soering case, which I raised with the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety. The judgment in that case was that an alleged murderer could not be extradited to Virginia because of the conditions on death row. In one step, the Soering case internationalised the European convention on human rights so that it applied not only to the countries that had signed it, but to America and other countries that had not signed it.

The second case, which might be regarded as more serious, is the Chahal case, in which it was found that the Home Secretary was no longer able to balance the risk to national security of keeping someone here against the risk to the individual of being maltreated if he were to be deported or extradited. The judgment in that case stated:

I repeat, Xhowever undesirable or dangerous". Imagine that, by some chance, Osama bin Laden arrived on the shores of this country. If the Americans tried to extradite him and refused to waive the right to impose the death penalty, the Chahal case, as I understand it, would make it impossible for us to extradite him from this country to the United States of America.

We have a crisis in extradition and deportation, but what are the Government doing about it? They are not sorting out the problem of the jurisprudence under article 3 by re-acceding to the European convention on human rights and admitting some exceptions, as the French have done. Instead, through the Bill they are adopting the European arrest warrant, which means that UK citizens can be extradited for alleged offences that are not crimes in this country. It is extraordinary that, on the one hand, it has become harder to extradite people who have done something that is an offence in this country and could present a grave risk to the life of the nation, but, on the other hand, it will become easier to extradite someone who has done something that is not a crime in this country. That is why I say that the Government are going in the wrong direction.

I find the European arrest warrant highly objectionable because of the problem of dual criminality. Hon. Members have spoken about that, but

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let us be clear about what it means. One of our constituents goes to Spain on holiday, commits an alleged offence, and returns home. All that is necessary for him or her to return is that the warrant is correctly filled out—in its report the Select Committee set out what a warrant looks like—and that a district judge in the UK sees the warrant and judges that the offence falls into one of the 32 categories. At no time is it asked whether the offence is a crime in this country.

When one examines the matter, as the Home Affairs Committee did, one finds that the position is far worse than that. Nowhere in the Bill are the 32 categories of offences mentioned or written down, as the hon. and learned Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) pointed out. The Committee asked the Home Office why the 32 categories were not listed in the Bill. Our report states:

Whole new classes of offence could be added to the European arrest warrant without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

That is bad enough, but it gets worse: individual EU countries can decide which offences fall within the 32 categories. It is a case of—I quote from the report—

Again, we asked the Home Office—this sounds a bit like XThat's Life", and XWe went back to the gas board . . . ". The Home Office said that it

We simply do not know what we are letting our citizens—our constituents—in for.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer), whom I am pleased to see back in his place, made one good point in his long speech. It is difficult to list all the offences, and to ask all the other EU countries to list them all. The Select Committee recognised that, and it is a good reason for doing away with the dual criminality provisions altogether.

The situation gets even worse: countries can add to the offences in the 32 categories. The Select Committee made an important point in paragraph 26, which states:

They can add to the offences—

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