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"No longer do the American authorities have to provide prima facie evidence for extradition, but what is also of concern is what happened to Alex Stone when he was returned to the US".
This in an example in which there was not even sufficient evidence to pursue a case once the extradition had taken place. That surely underlines the concerns that rightly exist about the current system. We think that those imbalances need to be addressed and that there should be reciprocity in our extradition arrangements. We also think that a reasonable burden of proof should apply before someone can be extradited.
Mr. Gummer: Could my hon. Friend venture an explanation of why the Government thought it necessary not to enact the same level of evidential standards as the Americans demanded? What is it that led the Government to make this ludicrous decision that we did not need what the Americans insisted was constitutionally necessary?
Chris Grayling: I would love to be able to give my right hon. Friend an answer to that question, but I do not have a clue-it makes no sense to me, and I simply cannot understand the thought processes. I know that the Home Secretary has inherited from his predecessors a pig in a poke, but I cannot understand why reciprocity was not a basic principle of an extradition treaty. It makes no logical sense, and we can see the consequences in the cases I mentioned. I do not seek to comment on the guilt or otherwise of any of those people, but I believe their cases highlight the ways in which current arrangements are rightly subject to criticism and why there is a real need for reform.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): Notwithstanding the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a very simple matter for the Government to support our motion today because it implies no criticism of the Government whatever? They could support it without any loss of face.
Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Home Secretary and I will have days when we spar and days when we do not, and I very much hope that today can be one of constructive discussion leading to a genuine consensus across the House that a review is necessary to deal with a whole range of actual or potential injustices that have taken place in our extradition system in recent years as a result of these agreements.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): I seem to recall that the original negotiations were done in an unusual manner and were peculiarly related to terrorism, war and defence implications. The heart of the Government's argument at the time was that there was "rough equivalence", but the very use of the word "rough" demonstrated that there was no equivalence. That lies at the heart of our current difficulties. If the new Home Secretary could stand back from all this and see the process leading up to these arrangements, I think he might come around to the view that it is reasonable to establish protection for British citizens that is not rough equivalence, but equivalence.
Chris Grayling: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I am tempted to say "very rough equivalence", because the gap is really quite big, as we have seen in some of the cases. I do not suggest that it was initially the Government's intention that some of these injustices should take place, but none the less they have taken place, and there are real concerns about individual cases. Perhaps more than anything else, those cases underline the need for change. All our debate and discussion of these issues is relevant to the concerns about Gary McKinnon, yet his is but one of many cases brought to our attention by right hon. and hon. Members that amplify the need for change.
Sir Menzies Campbell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. I have been interested in this matter since 2003. I have sought an explanation, including from the former Prime Minister, of why the UK was willing to enter into a treaty that disadvantaged British citizens to the advantage of American citizens. I have received no such explanation, but may I suggest that it may well be that in the period immediately after the military action against Iraq, the then Government's policy of staying as close as they possible could to the United States was the motive that lay behind the treaty. It is a policy that has been shown, if I may say so, to be rather barren and unhelpful by subsequent events.
Chris Grayling: The right hon. and learned Gentleman may well be right, but sufficient time has now passed, regardless of the original reasons, for it to be both sensible and logical to embark on a review of those arrangements in order to see what can be done to improve them.
Some other countries refuse to extradite their citizens at all. As a nation, we have not chosen that path, but we should exercise maximum caution in circumstances where we allow the extradition of British people. We should seek proper reciprocity in our mutual arrangements with other nations; we should be much more clearly willing to try in this country cases that affect multiple jurisdictions; we should make sure our arrangements do not have mission creep and are used for the purposes they were intended for-not those they were never
intended for. I believe that the will of this House is for these issues to be looked at again. After six years of the Act's operation, it is time to examine not only where it is working-
"a series of high profile cases".
Chris Grayling: If the Home Secretary wants me to do so briefly, we could take the case of the former chief executive of Morgan Crucible, for example. We greatly debated the NatWest three at the time, and I suspect that as our debate continues we will hear from a number of hon. Members about cases where similar issues have arisen. I do not know the exact number, but there are many cases-probably a dozen-where these issues are relevant. I found the particular case of the former boss of Morgan Crucible to be one of the most alarming. He was threatened with extradition for committing an offence that did not exist at the time his actions took place. This is a matter of particular concern to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who will undoubtedly say more about it in his winding-up speech.
As I was saying, I think that the will of this House is for these issues to be looked at again. After six years of the Act's operation, it is time to examine where it is working and where it is not. The Home Secretary says he wants lots of cases, but I believe that if there is just one injustice as a result of these arrangements, it is one injustice too many. We are conducting this debate today because we fear that there may well be one injustice too many, and we need the Government to look at what they can do about it. People outside the House will be looking at what we say and do today and hoping against hope that Ministers will go away from this debate with a commitment to look at not only one injustice, but all of them. I hope that Ministers will accept the need for review, and that they will go forth today accepting that the will of the House is for change. I hope that the House will back this motion and that it will lead to a proper review of our extradition system.
"notes that it is beneficial to the public to be able to extradite people accused of crimes in another country who might otherwise escape justice and that extradition treaties such as the US-UK Extradition Treaty 2003 work to the significant benefit of both countries; notes that the UK must demonstrate 'probable cause' to the US courts while the US must demonstrate 'reasonable suspicion' to the UK courts; notes that these tests are broadly equivalent given the differences between the legal systems in the two jurisdictions; recognises the view that ascertaining whether prosecution ought to take place in the UK should be considered by relevant prosecutors at the beginning of the process and not by
judges at extradition hearings, which could result in serious criminals evading justice; and further notes that since 2004, people have been convicted on murder, manslaughter and smuggling charges in the UK following extradition from the US, whilst those charged with murder and terrorism offences have been extradited to the USA.".
I appreciate the tone in which the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) introduced the debate. The issue is important, and it is important to discuss it. The reason why I shall be urging the House to support the Government amendment is that I do not think that the Opposition have made the case for amending the Extradition Act 2003. The motion refers to
"a series of high profile cases".
Without stretching the definition of the words "high" and "profile", I believe that there are two such cases. I shall deal with those two cases, but I shall also deal with some low-profile cases which, while they may not have made the newspapers, have been handled successfully under the 2003 Act.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I do not think that we should confine ourselves to an examination of our relations and extradition treaties with the United States, because the issue goes very much further than that. The 2003 Act facilitates extradition under the European arrest warrant in circumstances in which, I suggest to the Home Secretary, it has been called into question, because of anxieties about the systems of justice in some of the states to which people can be extradited, and indeed in other parts of the world. It is not just a question of UK-US relations.
Alan Johnson: I am sorry, but the headings on the Order Paper read as follows: "Main Business", "Opposition Day (16th allotted day)", "US-UK Extradition Treaty". I am well aware of the points that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made, but the point that I am making is that a case has not been made for reviewing the 2003 Act. As for
"a series of high profile cases",
First, I want to talk about the 2003 Act. I am pleased that the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) mentioned the European arrest warrant. I have read the report of the Second Reading of the 2003 Act, which took place in December 2002. It was a very interesting debate. The right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron)-at the time, he was a member of the Home Affairs Committee, which did an awful lot of work on the Bill-said:
"I will vote against the Bill because I disapprove of... specifically the changes to dual criminality."-[ Official Report, 9 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 106.]
That issue related specifically to the European arrest warrant. However, I cannot find a single mention of reciprocity in the report of the Second Reading debate. The issue on which the Liberal Democrats, I believe, abstained and the Conservative Opposition walked through the No Lobby was, once again, their absolute fixation with Europe and the European arrest warrant. [Hon. Members: "Rubbish!"] Those who are saying "Rubbish" should read the report of the debate in Hansard.
Mr. Gummer: As one who cannot be accused of being in any way antagonistic to the European Union, let me say to the Home Secretary that he is not doing either himself or the Government any good by not facing the real issue. There is profound dissatisfaction and unhappiness not about what happened originally, but about the workings of the 2003 Act. Will the Home Secretary address the question why he will not look at that again?
Alan Johnson: I have been around for long enough to know that when one is advancing an effective argument, there are an awful lot of interventions. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield has said that this is not about UK-US relations, although the heading of the Conservatives' own motion says that it is. Then there is what happened on Second Reading. I am not making this up; it is on the record in Hansard. There was no mention of reciprocity or UK-US relations- [ Interruption. ]-apart from by the Liberal Democrats. Her Majesty's official Opposition were concentrating on the European arrest warrant, to which the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield referred in his intervention. The debate was totally dominated by that issue.
Mr. Shepherd: I am obliged to the Home Secretary. He has referred to the Second Reading debate, but the fact is that we had a series of debates on the subject, including an important one when the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid) was Home Secretary. The arguments about rough equivalence and so forth were examined and fought over. The underlying principle was that when a British citizen was involved, the case should be made in a British court in the ordinary, traditional way. That imperative originated before the European arrest warrant and the war on terrorism. It relates to a meeting in Washington, and we have argued it.
Alan Johnson: I am sure that people have argued it. I am telling the House what happened on Second Reading. Second Reading is important to this debate, because we are talking about reviewing the 2003 Act, and I returned to it to see what was controversial at that time.
The 2003 Act provides the necessary framework to ensure that people who have committed serious crimes cannot evade justice by virtue of their residence in another country. Such arrangements are critical in an age when crime-in particular, serious and organised crime and terrorism-knows no national borders, and bringing perpetrators to justice depends increasingly on effective co-operation between criminal justice systems across the world.
It was wrong to suggest that the 2003 Act was brought before the House as a result of 9/11. In fact, the report on which it was based was published in March 2001, months before 9/11, as a result of a long and studious examination by the Home Affairs Committee and others. The reason a change was needed then-unlike now-is that extradition was then governed by the Extradition Act 1989, whose purpose was to ensure that the UK
complied with the European convention on extradition, signed in 1957, which in itself consolidated legislation made as long ago as about 1879. There was a real need to update the system.
"Our extradition arrangements are in urgent need of reform. On average, it takes 18 months to extradite someone from the UK and, in many cases, much longer. The system allows the fugitive to raise the same-arguably, often spurious-points time and again, and to mount numerous legal challenges. Even when-as has happened many times-an individual appeals all the way to the House of Lords following the committal hearing, he
"can, once the Secretary of State has considered the case, appeal all the way again on exactly the same grounds."-[ Official Report, 9 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 39.]
This was a system that had been in urgent need of reform for many years. The point that I am making is that before saying that we want to look into and reform a system, we must consider the effects that that would have. We should not be changing the Extradition Act every couple of years. The 2003 Act dealt with some serious anomalies, and it dealt with them successfully.
Kate Hoey: I take the Home Secretary's point that there was a need to examine this whole area, but does he not accept that at a certain stage it became clear that the system was not working in terms of natural justice, in the contexts of both public confidence and individuals? Can he not spend a little time telling us how he feels that it could be changed in order to end ridiculous situations, which the public will not accept, involving individuals such as Gary McKinnon? The present system is simply not acceptable. It is not fair, it is not just, and we should be able to do something about it in this Parliament.
I was explaining why we had to change the previous system. The 1989 Act was both unwieldy and cumbersome. Extradition procedures took too long, and we were not able to respond flexibly or quickly to the evolving and increasingly global nature of criminal activity today. The Bill was not produced in a rush after 9/11; it took a long time and much consideration in the House, including consideration by the Select Committee.
The 2003 Act has simplified extradition procedures, while ensuring that the rights of those wanted in other countries are upheld. The amount of time that it takes to extradite people from other countries in Europe has been reduced from an average of 18 months to 50 days. The 2003 Act has been instrumental in bringing criminals to justice. It has made possible the operation of the European arrest warrant, which I do not believe has failed-for instance, it led to the extradition of Hussain Osman, who was wanted in connection with the failed
bombing attempts in London on 21 July 2005. The use of the European arrest warrant meant that he was returned to the UK in a matter of weeks as opposed to months or even years, as might have been case under the 1989 Act.
Mr. Burns: I am extremely grateful to the Home Secretary. He has explained how the 2003 Act has reduced the amount of time that it takes for someone to be extradited from this country. Given the way in which the American courts can be used to string out decisions for years, has he any figures to indicate whether the 2003 Act has concertinaed the time that it takes for people to be extradited from the United States?
Alan Johnson: I have not got any figures, but I have no reason to think that that has not been a result of this new treaty. [Interruption.] I stand to be corrected, but I do not have any information that it has failed in that regard.
Mr. Heath: I understand why the Secretary of State is trying to mix and match the Extradition Act 2003 and the precise terms of the US-UK treaty, but will he confirm that this House first had an opportunity to express opinion on the treaty on 15 December 2003? I was a member of the Committee that considered it, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) and I voted against it; I was supported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell). We have consistently taken that view. When we brought the treaty back to the House, we opposed it, but unfortunately it was supported by a margin of 243 to 43. We Liberal Democrats have continuously and consistently opposed this treaty. We have done so because we believe that it is one-sided, that it is wrong to have this sort of negotiated treaty with the 51 jurisdictions of the United States, each of whose judicial systems have widely different terms, and that in its effect it is unfair to British citizens. We cannot believe that the British Government adopted a position of such supine acquiescence as not only to agree it in the first place, but then to implement it long before the United States Senate itself had got around to ratifying it.
Alan Johnson: Well, I am allowed to mix and match in that way on a motion that is headed "US-UK extradition treaty", the terms of which talk about looking at the Extradition Act 2003. I accept that the hon. Gentleman has been consistent; he has not been right on these issues, but he has certainly been consistently wrong.
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