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Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Extradition Bill

(Third Day) Wednesday, 18th June 2003.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill) in the Chair.]

Clause 2 [Part 1 warrant and certificate]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin) moved Amendment No. 30:

    Page 3, line 3, leave out subsection (11).

The noble Lord said: I hope that I can deal with this amendment briefly. As noble Lords will be aware, the Bill was amended on Report in another place to make explicit the stipulation that all European arrest warrants must be issued by a judicial authority. We were pleased to respond to those representations. At the same time, we included a transitional provision, which is now Clause 2(11), to allow us to deal with pre-existing alerts on the Schengen information system, or SIS. Members of another place were happy to go along with what we were proposing on that basis. However, on further examination, we considered that some additional minor modifications would be required to enable us to deal with SIS alerts. We concluded that it would be better to have a self-contained provision explicitly dealing with SIS alerts. The provisions that we have in mind will be in Part 5 and we will not reach them for a while, but I assure noble Lords that it is our intention to table the relevant amendment in good time for us to consider it before it is debated. On that basis, I invite noble Lords to agree to the removal of the now redundant Clause 2(11) from the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I simply rise to agree to the removal of the provision. Because we are in Grand Committee, amendments may be made only with agreement, and I signal that. It is logical that it should be removed. I also place on the record congratulations from the Grand Committee to the Minister on his new post in the Government's reshuffle over the weekend. We shall all be sorry to lose him eventually from the Bill but we notice that he is still working hard with us today. He will be welcome for as long as he is allowed to remain with us but we appreciate that he must go elsewhere at some stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 2, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: We discussed the clause pretty thoroughly and I do not want to say more about

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identification. However, it is convenient at this stage for me to raise another matter that has implications for the Bill. I refer to the agreement reached between the European Union and the United States on extradition and mutual legal assistance.

It is difficult these days in this place to keep up with all that is going on. So much is going on that unless one is a miracle worker one cannot always know exactly what is happening. I find it odd that such an agreement, which was negotiated in secret, should be made by the European Union with the United States at the same time as Parliament—this Grand Committee—was discussing this Bill. Because the EU-US arrangement was being discussed in secret, I was not aware—no doubt this also includes most other noble Lords—of what had been going on for some 18 months. Any arrangements with the United States would be on a bilateral basis and not by means of an EU-US agreement.

Virtually out of the blue, the EU-US agreement appeared. Apparently, the matter was of such great urgency after 18 months of discussion that the House of Lords European Union Committee was asked to lift the scrutiny reserve, which I believe it was reluctant to do, in order that the agreement could be signed on 7th June 2003. It is true that Mr Bob Ainsworth, who was then Under-Secretary of State—I believe that he has since changed his job; so quickly do things happen—agreed to appear before Sub-Committee E on 4th June. The minutes of evidence will no doubt soon be available. However, that will be too late for the House to do anything because this is already a done deal and the arrangement was signed, I believe, on 7th June—three days later. Or was it? I assume that the signature was put on the document and that this is a done deal.

One must ask: why the extreme haste? Why did the agreement have to be signed by that Friday? Because, of course, it must go through the arrangements in the United States. The Senate must debate it, agree to it and sign it into law. The Senate will not hurry that and I really must ask why there was such a rush to sign it without proper discussion in this House through the usual procedures.

How does the EU-US agreement affect the future bilateral arrangements between the UK and all category 2 countries under the Bill? I ask that because in his presentation to the European Parliament, Mr Vitorino discussed the EU-US co-operation agreement. He said:

    "This is the very first Union agreement in the field of justice and home affairs and it will be an historic precedent".

That is very significant and must be explained. Just exactly what does that mean? Does it mean that a precedent has been set to enable the EU to negotiate all extradition and other justice and home affairs matters with third countries? If so—a strict interpretation of Mr Vitorino's statement seems to imply that—is not this Bill redundant? That might sound silly but the fact is that if the agreement between the EU and the US sets a precedent, that may very well be the case. I should like to know about that.

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What if any parliamentary procedures will be necessary to implement the EU-US agreement into UK law? I understand that the agreement is binding on the UK. Is that correct? If so, how has that situation arisen? Justice and home affairs are still, as I understand it, intergovernmental matters. Will primary legislation be necessary or will the procedure be by ordinary affirmative order or a negative order?

I hope that the Committee agrees that this is a legitimate matter to raise in light of this development and that I am right to be concerned about it. I am not the only one to have concerns. I shall quote what one of our colleagues, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, said in the European Parliament. Members who know about these things will be very much aware that my views and those of the noble Baroness on the European Union are, in general, poles apart. She said:

    "We have objections to these agreements on grounds of both procedure and content. I am sorry to see that . . . as others have said, the degree of unwarranted secrecy imposed by the Council has been utterly scandalous. Council is not here today. No adequate explanation has been given. The only possible explanation is the wish to avoid accountability to Parliament. The failure to consult the European Parliament formerly is a disgrace, and the justification for this democratic deficit—that the agreements fall under foreign rather than justice policy—is thin in the extreme. I very much hope that the new EU Constitution will stop this ever happening again because we will have future agreements of this kind. I wish the European public could understand—and one day will—that the real threat to their rights comes not from this Parliament or the Commission—the Community institutions—but from the arrogant, executive powers wielded in intergovernmental cabal by the Council".

Those are not my words; they are from someone who is very friendly to the European Union, which I am not. I am concerned about the Grand Committee and the rights of this Parliament. I hope that noble Lords will agree that it was correct for me to raise this matter. In so far as he is able—I gave the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, notice that I would raise this matter—I hope that the Minister will answer my questions.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I recognise that in procedural terms it is correct for the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, to raise this matter now. On the first day in Committee, the Question whether Clause 2 should stand part was grouped with my earlier amendments. I said then that I had tabled the vast number of clause stand part debates in relation to the whole of Part 1 only as a device to enable the deletion of Part 1. I did not wish to remove the right of other noble Lords to have a clause stand part debate whenever that was appropriate. I give notice that when we reach Clause 13, I will speak to the Question whether that clause should stand part. I will use that approach very sparingly.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, raised an extremely important matter. I will not repeat what he said; he asked the right questions. I simply add that the figures show how important extradition to the United States is. I notice that the home affairs report points out that during the three years from 1999 to 2001, the UK extradited 139 fugitives and that of those, 82—or four out of every seven—were extradited to other EU

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member states. The remaining 57 were extradited to non-EU member states. Of those 57, 23 were extradited to the United States. This is a very important matter in numerical terms as well as in relation to matters of principle.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I appreciate that this is a proper matter to raise now in view of what happened in the past 10 days or so. I attended, as it was a public meeting, the meeting of Sub-Committee E on, I believe, 8th June, when my honourable friend Mr Ainsworth gave evidence to us. I heard those proceedings and took no active part. Broadly speaking, I personally confirm the account given by my noble friend Lord Stoddart and want to add one word about it.

I was a member of Sub-Committee E for many years about 10 to 15 years ago. I remember an occasion when a Minister said that he would like scrutiny of a very important agreement at European level within the week. I can only say that there was something of a rumpus about that. The chairman at the time expressed his displeasure. This time the Minister opened by offering his apologies, but said that he was asking for scrutiny and approval on the same day. All that will appear in the documents of Sub-Committee E.

I apologise for not giving the Minister notice of this particular point, but it is a special point. There is now on the website a letter from the chairman—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote—of Sub-Committee E to the Minister, which sets out the reactions of the scrutiny sub-committee. If the Minister has the letter in his papers, perhaps he would now, or on a suitable occasion, distribute it to Members of the Grand Committee, not all of whom are sufficiently expert in the modern electronic processes to find it through that route.

It would be very helpful for noble Lords to see the letter because, in the very respectful manner that noble Lords who chair that committee have always had, it sets out the restrained reactions of a sub-committee which, from observation, I notice were somewhat strong. Without going into detail, the discussion on the EU-US treaty raises a vast number of issues which, beginning with Clause 2, are relevant to this Bill.

Three documents were approved; I do not remember their precise titles. There is the EU-US treaty, the mutual assistance agreement, and a third document. Perhaps all those documents should be looked at by Members of the Committee and they would see the extent of the matters. The issues include the difficulties of the death penalty in the United States and the extent to which a federal assurance can prevent any action by a state authority, including elected judges and the like, in respect of death penalty executions in the US. The Minister answered all these points with considerable skill, but nevertheless disturbing matters have been raised which the Grand Committee should consider.

I hope that the Minister recognises that we are placed in a new situation, in which some matters will have to be reopened in the light of what the British

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Government have now done—namely, the limits placed on Parliament in the normal execution of the royal prerogative in signing treaties, and the limits placed on us which will come up directly under certain amendments that we are about to discuss. Therefore, it is very appropriate that the Minister should make a statement at this convenient point as to just what we have been led into by this rash signature in Portugal before proper scrutiny could, in fact and in reality, be given.

3.45 p.m.

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