Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, has raised a question about

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC306

definitions that might run wider than that before the Committee for consideration. I do not know; I am not an expert in these matters. Nor am I expert in the origin of the common law definition of a constable, but it is the definition on which we rely and it has a long history. However, I am advised that if we were to define constable in terms—the noble Lord did not raise terms—it would call into question where constable is not defined in all other legislation. That is the nub of the matter.

That probably does not satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, who is after all one for precision. He is rightly so; precision helps us in our deliberations. However, that would be the effect. If he wants to raise the issue of providing for a statutory definition of "constable" where we have relied on the common law understanding of the term, that question probably runs rather wider than that we are considering in the terms of this legislation.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I begin by saying how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, for their support for the amendments. It is inherently unsatisfactory when the Bill is not entirely clear but the Government say that they have no plans to do something.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: Why is my noble friend so keen that only British policemen can arrest people in this country? It would be much better if foreign policemen could arrest people in this country. Then we would see what the purpose of the Bill was. That purpose is to make people subject to foreign law and deprive them of the protection that they have had in court in the past. It may lead to them being taken out of this country purely for the purposes of interrogation, not for trial and imprisonment. We have had no response on the clause stand part debate. It would be much better if we had gendarmes marching up and down London threatening people with warrants.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I shall not be tempted down that particular road. However, my noble friend has a serious point. The Government say that they have no such plans. I made it punctiliously clear by quoting from the debate in another place that we never said that the Government had any such plans. What is the danger of putting "United Kingdom" into the Bill? It would not do any harm, and it would answer some of the points and concerns that have been raised in all parts of the Committee.

It is clear beyond peradventure that the Minister and his colleagues elsewhere in government do not wish non-UK constables to arrest people in this country. However, the Minister will not be here for ever; in fact, we know that he will probably be here for a very short time indeed. Therefore, it would be nice to have that in the Bill.

With regard to the question of the definition, my noble friend Lady Anelay points out that in the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, on the Committee

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC307

on which I did not serve, "constable" was defined as a UK constable. The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, led for the Government on that Bill. Therefore he will know that, so perhaps we can have a look at that matter.

I am delighted to realise that the Government have picked up on the points about Customs officers. It is a bit hard on those of us slaving away in the salt mines to pick up amendments that were tabled only on the day of the Committee and be able to appreciate them. However, I am glad that the inadequacies and inaccuracies—perhaps I should say inconsistencies—as regards Customs officers in Parts 1 and 2 have been corrected. We look forward to reading those amendments with care. However, we deserve the right to come back for absolute clarity. We are entitled to ask for that, and to make it absolutely clear on behalf of our fellow citizens what the actual remit of who may do the arresting is. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Person arrested under Part 1 warrant]:

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 33:

    Page 3, line 30, leave out "and he asks to be shown the warrant"

The noble Lord said: Clause 4 concerns the actual position of the person arrested under a Part 1 warrant, his ability to see the warrant under which his arrest has taken place and the speed with which he must be shown it. The consequential amendments, Amendments Nos. 33 and 36, are concerned with those two issues in respect of a Part 1 warrant. Amendments Nos. 154 and 170 are concerned with the same issue of arrest and provisional arrest under Part 2. Amendments Nos. 157 and 172 are concerned with the time scale in relation to that issue. Some Liberal Democrat amendments are in the same group, to which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, will wish to speak.

The amendments focus on Clause 4(2) and the consequential provisions in Part 2, Clauses 71(2) and 73(2). Clause 4(2) states:

    "If neither the warrant nor a copy of it was shown to the person at the time of his arrest and he asks to be shown the warrant, the warrant or a copy of it must be shown to him as soon as practicable after his request".

We do not propose to challenge the fact that an arrest can take place if the warrant or a copy of it is not to hand. Understandably, there are circumstances in which that might be necessary. However, we have some fundamental difficulties with the subsection.

First, there is no obligation to show an arrested person the warrant or a copy of it unless he asks to be shown it. As Liberty pointed out in a briefing—I am sure that other Members of the Committee have had it—there is also no obligation to inform the person of his right to request to see the warrant or a copy of it. Those facing extradition may well be foreign and therefore unfamiliar with their rights in the United Kingdom. It is surely vital, then, that the Bill states

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC308

that a warrant or a copy must be shown to the person, whether he asks to see it or not. That is what Amendment No. 33 seeks to achieve.

Secondly, Amendment No. 36 puts a time limit on the period within which the person must be shown the warrant or a copy of it. We feel that "as soon as practicable" is too vague. It is not acceptable for someone to be held for more than five hours without seeing the warrant that authorises their arrest. We selected five hours because it is the length of time limit employed in the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill within which foreign policemen would be permitted to enter the country in hot pursuit. However, we are quite open to an alternative time scheme or limit if one is proposed. The importance lies in the principle of having some limit shown in the Bill.

So far as the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, are concerned, we are perfectly happy with the insertion of "arrest" in the place of "request", but feel that our amendments go further in offering more protection for the rights of the person arrested. We are rather ambivalent on being "given" as opposed to being "shown" a copy of the warrant, so we shall wait for the persuasive powers of his oratory to convince us of the rightness of that cause.

The key issue behind the group of amendments, so far as we are concerned, is that the person must be informed of the charges against him automatically in writing, and he must be informed promptly. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I remind the Committee that, should the amendment be agreed to, Amendment No. 34, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, would have been pre-empted.

Lord Goodhart: I would like to speak to four amendments in the group, Amendments Nos. 34, 37, 153 and 158. Amendments Nos. 34 and 37 follow Amendment No. 33, which I fully support and would have put my name to had there been space to do so. Amendment No. 34 is incorrect, I am afraid. It should be a reference to "shown" in line 31 rather than line 30, where I agree that it is pre-empted by Amendment No. 33. I am entirely happy with and strongly support Amendment No. 33.

The aim of my amendments is to ensure that the subject of the warrant is always given a copy of it—not the original; that would be inappropriate—either on arrest or as soon as practicable after arrest. The warrant is an extremely important document that will contain a very considerable amount of information. For instance, it has to contain under Clause 2(2) the statement and information required. It is clearly essential that the person arrested should be told in a document—one that he is entitled not merely to be shown but to keep—why he is being arrested and on what grounds his extradition is sought. Therefore, a copy of the warrant should be provided automatically to the subject of it. It should not have to be asked for.

Having expressed full support for Amendment No. 33, I am less happy with Amendments Nos. 35 and 36. I am not sure that it is appropriate for the warrant to

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC309

be in a language that its subject understands, for two reasons, one of which is that it may not be possible for the person serving it to know for certain what languages its subject understands. The warrant has to be prepared before the person is arrested and can be interrogated about which languages he knows.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord's oratory, but is not Amendment No. 35 in a separate group? We will come to the issue.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page