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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for referring to the letter, which I believe is in the Library. I am happy to clarify the points he raised. I shall try to short-circuit them but it may be important that I make three points. First, our obligations extend only to the offences covered by the convention. For example, another Tokyo Convention country can make an extradition request to us only for an offence committed on board an aircraft. Similarly, the extradition obligations imposed on us by the UN convention on the protection of nuclear material extends only to the illicit handling and trafficking of nuclear material.
Secondly, I confirm that extradition requests made under conventions are, as noble Lords have indicated, very rare. We can trace only a small handful in the past 15 years, none of which has been successful. That brings me to a third and very important point. Conventions provide a mechanism for the request to be made. They do not oblige the United Kingdom to act on such requests. Any request is still subject to all the normal safeguards which the Bill provides. Earlier
This new clause enables the Secretary of State to designate by order convention countries as extradition partners for the purposes of the offences covered by the relevant convention. For the avoidance of doubt I should make clear that any requests will be treated as Part 2 requests and will always require prima facie evidence to be provided. I would expect that as now, such requests will be few and far between. I hope that I have dealt with all the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 298 relates to Clause 197 of the Bill, which deals with special extradition arrangements where there is a bilateral agreement with a country that is not a regular extradition partner of the United Kingdom and is neither a category 1 or 2 territory. That agreement concerns the extradition of a person to that territory in special circumstances.
One would have thought that extradition arrangements either have or have not been made. The Secretary of State will know, not just believe, that they have been made. The Secretary of State will certainly know whether the territory is a category 1 or 2 territory. Indeed, if arrangements have not been made it would appear that it would be ultra vires and beyond the powers of the Bill to order extradition. The effect of Clause
The only circumstance of which I have been able to think in which it might be relevant to refer to the belief of the Secretary of State is where the Secretary of State believes that arrangements have been made but is not absolutely certain whether the persons with whom the arrangements have been made in the foreign territory have the authority to make those arrangements on behalf of that territory. That is a possible scenario.
However, if there is real doubt over the existence of that authority, the matter should be investigated before extradition is ordered. Under those circumstances the issue ought to be raised and the Secretary of State's view may amount to prima facie evidence. Certainly it should not be conclusive. I beg to move.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for tabling the amendment, which follows on from our interesting debate on this matter in Grand Committee. Clause 197 enables the United Kingdom to respond to ad hoc extradition requests from countries with which we do not have general extradition arrangements. The clause is modelled closely on Section 15 of the Extradition Act 1989, as I am sure the noble Lord will have recognised, and designed to serve exactly the same purpose. Such ad hoc requests are very rare and successful requests even more so. We can find no record of a successful ad hoc request made to the United Kingdom. There are obvious reasons for that because the UK has general extradition relations with over 100 countries, so there are not that many countries which would ever need to use the ad hoc procedure. The countries with which we do not have general extradition arrangements are, if I may be blunt, often the kind of countries where we might be unable to extradite for human rights reasons.
Nevertheless, it is important to preserve our ability to deal with ad hoc requests. One reason is that we cannot rule out the possibility that we will receive ad hoc requests in respect of a serious criminal, on which we would want to be able to act. Additionally, being able to point to a facility in our legislation allowing us to deal with ad hoc requests increases the chance that any ad hoc requests that the UK might make to a country will be successful. Even though we know of no instances of a successful ad hoc request made to the UK, we can point to at least one case where an outgoing ad hoc request was successful. We were able in 1999 to secure the return of a person accused of multi-million pound fraud from Morocco.
Therefore, I emphasise that the clause simply replicates the current situation. Ad hoc requests must always be accompanied by prima facie evidence. That is the background. I now turn to the amendment.
Clause 197 applies if the Secretary of State "believes" that an ad hoc arrangement has been made with another country. If so he may issue a certificate to that effect. The amendment removes the reference to the Secretary of State's belief. I am not sure of the difference that would
I do not think that the Secretary of State will ever be in any doubt as to whether special extradition arrangements have been made. Nor, more importantly, for the purposes of the amendment, could he ever certify that such arrangements existed when they did not. Given that this would occur through diplomatic and political channels, there is no way that the Secretary of State could ever hold the "belief" that special arrangements were in place unless that was the case. Looking at the question of "belief", the Secretary of State is always in the position of saying, "On the information presented to me it is my belief that this is so", bearing in mind that the Secretary of State is not able independently to ratify that those matters are proven that he is told are proven. He or she is always reliant upon the information to form that belief.
I do not see that the amendment is necessary. There is not a gap or a loophole that we need to plug. Where problems do not exist, we should not be amending the Bill for the sake of it. If we were to change the Bill I can foresee a large number of carefully planned submissions about teasing out on what basis the Home Secretary said that he "knew", as opposed to "believed", that the facts were indeed as they were described to him. The current wording will do well, because that is the way it has worked so far.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I remain entirely unpersuaded by the Minister. It is undesirable as a matter of drafting to refer to the Secretary of State's "belief" on matters which can be established one way or anothernot simply as a matter of belief. The fact that the wording is based on previous wording which has been used only on a very few occasions is no reason why it should be repeated in the Bill. I suggested one circumstance to the noble Baronesswhen there is uncertainty about the authority of the officials acting on behalf of the other state to enter into an agreement. There could then be genuine grounds for challenging the Secretary of State's belief that arrangements have been made. However, this is a matter that is unlikely to give rise to issues of importance. Somewhat reluctantly, I take the view that I should not take up the time of the House by calling a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.