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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I did not speak before because I was very keen to hear what the Minister had to say about this issue. It is a very important point. I am picturing what it feels like to be confronted with a warrant with a view to extradition. It is fairly shattering. One would want to read the warrant very carefully. I quite realise that describing an offence
Possibly the Minister can think hard and find some words which would allow the offence to be expressed in the proper terms, but with the rest of the description of the particulars and so on inperhaps one should say, so far as possibleordinary language. I do not know whether that suggestion is of assistance to the Minister, but I believe that it would be helpful for people to understand everything possible on the warrant at what is a moment of great trauma. I suggest he thinks quite hard about that issue.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I was going to put this point to my noble friend when he was semi-recumbent, but now I must speak to it as a point that is separate in itself. There are later amendments about language and issues that overlap. I am not trying to advance the debate to later amendments, but there is an overlap. I want to ask the Minister about something that has worried many people about the Bill as it stands.
The Minister spoke about making the charge clear and so on. Clause 2 is valuable and I appreciate everything that is in it. Can the Minister point to any part of the Bill which ensures that these statements should be in English? This is not just a debating point because the Act, if it is passed as it stands, will be read in the context of the agreement we have made under the framework decision. The annex to the framework decision states:
I have tabled later amendments about translation and explanation of the charges, so I am a little tentative about asking the Minister to go very far. I merely ask him at this stage whether there is any provision in the Bill to state that these statements must be in English. Is there any interaction with the framework decision that would prevent the argument that it is valid to present the warrant in one of the languages, or a translation, of the member states? The annex has mystified some people on that issue. I should be grateful if the Minister could point me to a part of the Bill that I have missed that solves the problem.
Lord Filkin: I start at the end because the matter shouldalthough I say that with some hesitation knowing this Billbe relatively straightforward. These are not naive or foolish questions but straightforward and necessary ones. The framework decision allows us to demand that all European arrest warrants are in English. We will do that as a point of government policy.
Lord Filkin: We shall turn to that matter on subsequent amendments as there will be debates about how a person can understand a warrant that is not in his language. The short answer is that it is important that a translation service is provided for that person. The reason for putting the warrant into English is because we operate in English and our lawyers and our courts understand English. Therefore, the requesting state has to put the warrant into English. As a matter of policy, that will be our position.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I am most grateful to my noble friend. This matter must be cleared up. If what the Minister says is rightthat we are relying not on the Bill but on the framework decisionthere might be an advantage in putting that in the Bill. Then we would all understand the issue. But which part of the framework decision gives us the power to demand that the warrant be in English as opposed to the annex, which says that it need not be in English?
Lord Filkin: We will hunt for that specific clause. It is usually sufficient for a Minister on behalf of the Government to make an absolutely clear statement of how one would put something into practice, for that to be taken in good faith. In particular, when that is reinforced by the practice of common sense, one can see why we would want it to be in English, for our processes to work appropriately.
There are two further points on the matter. The foreign country which completes and sends the warrant to us actually initiates it. It puts on to paper what the offence is that it believes this person has committed. Therefore, the burden is with that country. One may say, "Well, that leaves the issue totally at large". It does not because there are two further tests within the Bill. First, NCIS, before it allows a request from another member state to proceed, must be satisfied that the warrant contains the information specified in Clause 2(4). Therefore, if the information is not there, or for some reason it is incomprehensible,
NCIS has that duty which it must discharge. One may further ask what happens if it makes a mistake and does not spot something that was unclear. There is a further test: the district judge who hears the initial application must be satisfied that the information is full and adequate. Therefore, there is a second protection if the judge thinks that it is unclear that the test in Clause 2(4) has been met.
Those points deal as well as one can expect in a reasonable world in terms of trapping through proper judicial processes the test of Clause 2(4). They do not necessarily mean that the person who has been served with a warrant will understand every word of it. But I have given my answer as to why it is safest and soundest to phrase it as the exact legal offence, as specified by the requesting authority. We then expect the lawyer advising the person being sought for extradition, to give him the advice as to what it means. So, as one would wish and hope, he would be under no doubt as to what the charge was for which he was being sought for extradition.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I want to ask the Minister a question, but I want to preface it by saying that in no sense was I questioning the good faith of the Government. I accept what he says: the Government will say that they want the warrant in English from the judicial authorities that are the source. Unless I am wrongand I shall check Hansard, of coursewhat I understood him to say was that the framework decision allowed us to demand English. What I was saying to the Minister was that that is not what the annex says. The annex says that it can be in any of the,
I do not understand whether the Minister is telling us that he will not consider amending the Bill on Report in order to make it absolutely clear in our own legislation that, without needing to go to the framework decision, we require all these things to be in English. It may be a very small point, but it simply seems sensible.
Lord Filkin: I am perfectly happy to be challenged on the authority for my statement that we have the power to request this. However, if we have such an authority, I am less inclined to be challenged that we should have to include in the Bill a provision to specify a point which is so blatantly common sensethat we want these points in English, for the reasons that I have already granted. The reference, which I do not expect the whole Committee to thrill to at this point, is on page L190/13 of the framework agreement of 18th July 2002. The footnote states:
The UK has only one official languageEnglish. I therefore believe that it is beyond doubt that we have the power to request that all extradition orders made to us should be in English. It beggars my belief that we would not wish to do so.
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