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Lord Donaldson of Lymington: I fully understand the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, about other forms of justice being different but not necessarily worse. Any judge faced with a system of justice outside his own would be bound to make those noises. I do not necessarily mean that they would be entirely a matter of politeness, although they might, in some cases.

For someone threatened with extradition from this country—most of whom will be British residents or will be normally resident here—it is this system with which they are familiar. If they are to be extradited to another country with a system with which they are unfamiliar, they will certainly take the view that it is an inferior system for various reasons—some good, some bad, some indifferent. That undermines a theme that has run through all the Government's thinking, as I understand it, which is that there is a straight balance here and that, as long as we can get criminals extradited to this country, the ordinary British citizen will be content that there should be a reciprocal arrangement whereby he can be extradited to another country. I do not believe that for one moment.

I am sure that the main worry of the ordinary citizen here is the risk that he may suddenly find himself bundled out of this country and tried in another country. However excellent we may say—or even think—the system of justice in another country to be, the ordinary citizen would give up every right to have criminals extradited to this country, if he could be sure of his own judicial safety.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The problem is further compounded by what the Minister confirmed at Second Reading. If there is any doubt as to whether a crime has been committed, it is purely the issuing magistrate who will define the crime. My noble friend Lord Lamont of Lerwick used the example of the

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plane-spotters. If the extraditing magistrate said that they were guilty of sabotage or were indulging in computerised crime because they were carrying pocket PCs, that would be the end of the matter. That aspect of the arrest warrant makes the amendment or something like it more necessary.

Lord Filkin: I shall deal first with the specific points and will return to the general case for why we think that amending the Bill to confine Part 1 to terrorism would not be appropriate.

I do not apologise for re-stating the broad picture. In the Government's view, there is nothing wrong with the European arrest warrant. It is a step forward in achieving justice for British citizens and with other member states. Great benefits will flow to justice and the fight against crime as a consequence of the warrant. I do not wish to over-state the case, but the warrant is a necessary part of effective action against serious international crime in the context of people's increased mobility. There are full and adequate safeguards to protect the individual from mischief or wrongful process as a consequence.

If I commit an offence abroad, I should face trial for that offence. If someone from abroad commits an offence in Britain, he should be brought to trial here. It is not in the interests of justice not to support and promote such principles, subject to the important qualification referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick—namely, that there should be a fair process for bringing people to trial. That is not in the interests of victims or in the interests of more effective action against international crime.

Let me turn to the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, about harmonisation of judicial procedures. I think that I shall shock him when I say that the Government share many of his views. The harmonisation of judicial procedures is not on our agenda and it is not our intent. Turning specifically to the European public prosecutor, I have been pleased to be part of the process of discussion with my fellow Interior and Justice Ministers about why this is an inappropriate remedy for an issue of crime or fraud against European Union budgets. We are making some progress on the argument, but I shall not delay the Committee by going into further detail as it would be inappropriate to do so at this point.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question on that point. I understand that at present we have a veto on this, being a third pillar matter. If we assume that the convention proposals are introduced—which again I understand would collapse all the pillars—so that instead of having one unified treaty or constitution, would that mean that we would lose our veto? Whether in the future we had a public prosecutor or further harmonisation would not depend on the British Government because qualified

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majority voting would apply and the Government, no matter how good their intentions or how similar to my own they were, could or would be overruled.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I wonder if I could query what the Minister said. I have a letter dated 10th December 2002 written by his colleague, Mr Dennis MacShane, the Minister for Europe. I do not know exactly to whom it was written because it is addressed to "Dear friend". In the letter Mr MacShane sums up the Prime Minister's and the Government's view on what they want out of the Giscard convention on the future of Europe. Obviously they start by seeking a proper constitution for Europe, but it is the second point which seems to go against what the Minister has said. It states that they want:


    "A stronger Commission: with real authority to ensure Europe's rules are obeyed".

I suggest that then comes the killer point, which is quite simply this:


    "Tackling crime and bringing justice to Europe's citizens should be communitised".

There it is, and it is that which worries us.

Lord Filkin: I do not wish to be discourteous either to my noble friend Lord Stoddart or to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, by not going into detail. I shall be pleased to discuss the issues at another time.

In short, the issue of the European public prosecutor is being debated in the draft constitution. The current draft puts it in subject to unanimity—a lock—rather than to qualified majority voting. The Government's view is that even that goes further than we would wish. It is not subject to QMV. However, these are broad issues and it would be helpful to hold further discussions on another occasion.

On whether this has been rushed, the Government's discussion paper of March 2001, which Members of the Committee may recollect was produced before the events the following September in the United States of America, proposed a system very similar to that set out in the Bill covering all serious crimes. In fact, the framework decision was heavily influenced by the United Kingdom's own proposals for the reform of extradition. We have never claimed that the European arrest warrant should be limited to terrorism, nor has anyone else. The discussion paper clearly did not focus on that.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for his welcome in principle to the European arrest warrant, and his recognition that delay damages justice, both for the person who is charged and, even more important, for the victim. The issue must be brought to a fair conclusion. However, this is not the time to go into further detail on the specifics.

We touched on this point at Second Reading, and all I would mark is that one either takes a position that we should never extradite until every country to which we are extraditing has either exactly the same judicial system and processes as ourselves, or that we harmonise our judicial processes. Both of those seem to me to be positions that the Government would not wish to take. Alternatively, we can recognise that the

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interests of justice are served, after a proper process of testing, to allow people to be extradited to face trial in other countries. There is nothing new in that. It has been the practice of United Kingdom governments for over 100 years. We have been positive and co-operative partners on extradition, whereas others have been laggards.

As a consequence, we see no case at all for confining the process only to terrorism, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, concluded. However, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, was right to point out that this touches in part on his earlier argument. He questioned whether the focused and shortened procedure set out in Part 1 gives an adequate opportunity for a person to make the case that they should not be extradited. Our position is quite clear on this. We believe that it does, and the Committee process, along with the other stages of our discussions, will test and challenge it.

Given that there is an adequate process for a person who is the subject of an extradition request, in our view there is no justification not to allow other crimes and charges to be subject to Part 1 requests for Part 1 processes of extradition to countries where we believe it is reasonable to do so. In a sense that will be the focal area of our debates in Committee and I am happy to repeat my acknowledgement of that to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont.

I wish to make one qualification on what the noble Lord said about Austria. Austria does not have a derogation in respect of dual criminality. It is not permitted to extradite its own nationals in cases without dual criminality until it amends its constitution, or by 2008, whichever is the earlier. That is the position.

With regard to the Greek plane-spotters, as we know that was not an extradition case. We discussed this at Second Reading. In fact the people concerned were bailed to the United Kingdom. They then returned to face trial, and all credit to them. However, had they been charged and had they then moved to the United Kingdom, while I do not wish to comment in detail, there would have been no particular reason why we would not have acceded to an extradition request from the Greek Government for people charged with espionage, which was the charge laid. I repeat that that is totally in line with legislation introduced in 1991. Had the Greek Government made the case, we would have looked reasonably at the issue. However, I cannot prejudge the case without looking into it, but in principle there is no reason why we would not have agreed to extradition.


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