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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, as ever, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I was struggling with my papers to see whether I had received the letter. Perhaps I have, but I was not aware that we had been written to on this specific point, at least I have not received a copy. That is probably my fault and not that of the officials. I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 307:

    After Clause 208, insert the following new clause—

"Annual report
For the first five years after the commencement of this Act, the Secretary of State shall publish and lay before both Houses of Parliament an annual report on the operation of the provisions of the Act."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we listened carefully to the debate which took place on the point in Grand Committee. I take the opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, in particular, for the constructive attitude with which he approached the amendment.

We made very clear at that stage our belief that there should be an annual report in view of the unprecedented nature of the new overhauled extradition procedure, especially taking into account the implementation for the first time of the European arrest warrant. We have been told repeatedly that the new system will speed up processes, that the time limits in the Bill are appropriate and that the new procedure will lead to a more efficient system of surrender, in particular, with category 1 states. All we ask is that a report should be published which gives us the required information and statistics to see whether the operation of the Act in practice delivers its promised results.

In Committee, the Minister intimated that he saw some merit in analysing and monitoring the performance of the Bill for a limited period after its enactment and in making sure that this information was placed in the public domain. That is clearly a progressive and big step forward. We thank the noble Lord for agreeing that there is something to be said for keeping track of the performance of the legislation in its early years. He mentioned keeping a record of such data as the number of requests received, the operation of the time limits, especially in Part 1, and the time each extradition request takes to be processed in its entirety as well as some other statistics.

We, of course, welcome the Government's commitment to put such information before Parliament. We have tabled the amendment today in order to try to elicit from the Minister any further thoughts the Government might have had on the form such information would take, or the time period during which it would be provided. On reflection, and following the comments made in Committee, we have concluded that an annual report for an indefinite period of time was too much to ask for.

We have, therefore, limited our request to an annual report for the first five years of the Act's operation. That would be a sufficient period for the Act to overcome any teething troubles and to settle down into our national legislation. It is also likely that most of the transitional provisions for dealing with outstanding requests under the old system would have been cleared up in the first year or two and, therefore, data on the operation of the Act would be more accurate and representative. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for tabling the amendment and speaking to it with such clarity. I was expecting the

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noble Baroness to speak to it, as she loves annual reports, but I shall not dwell on that. The amendment has been tabled in different guises at regular stages during the Bill's progress through Parliament. Noble Lords opposite will not be too surprised to hear that the Government could not advise your Lordships' House to support the amendment. However, I wish to make a positive response and to build on what my noble friend Lord Filkin said in Grand Committee.

It is right that there should be continued interest in the operation of this and all legislation once enacted. Home Office Ministers are, and will continue to be, ready to respond to Questions on the operation of the legislation, giving details of numbers of cases, time taken to process cases and other important information. But, as I am sure the noble Lord would expect, we would resist commenting on specific cases.

There is no need for a formal annual report. Reports on the operation of legislation are not a common feature. There is no such requirement for existing legislation, and we are not convinced that the requirement to publish an annual report is a desirable precedent to establish in this context. It has been claimed that the Bill is a radical departure from existing procedures and legislation and that it therefore merits greater scrutiny and accountability. The Bill is a clear change from current arrangements, as are many Acts of Parliament, but radical change alone does not necessarily warrant a statutory requirement for an annual report.

In this context, it might be worth considering where annual reports are most commonly used. The most obvious example is in terrorism and security legislation, which often deals with matters and procedures conducted in secret. In those circumstances, it is obviously right that an independent commissioner should consider their operation and produce a report to Parliament.

Although the Extradition Bill may be technical and complex at times, its provisions are thorough and transparent, at each stage of the process, on what is to happen and how. The intention behind the proposal is that the annual report would look into the operation of the legislation, with particular emphasis on those points where it differs from the old system.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is it not perfectly possible for anybody in this House to table a Question, orally or in writing?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. That is one of the points that we have made previously on the issue.

We would not expect a report to cover individual cases or to make assumptions about how cases would have been resolved under the old system. It would not be able to go usefully beyond the statistical information that would be available, in any event, through Questions in your Lordships' House. It could not reveal, for example, whether dual criminality was an issue in a case, or indicate what effect the absence of the Secretary of State's role had in Part 1. The first would involve looking at individual cases and the

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second would be pure conjecture. There are therefore good reasons why it would be undesirable to impose a formal statutory requirement to provide an annual report.

Having made all those negative remarks, I recognise that there is, properly, real interest in the operation of the legislation. I therefore echo what my noble friend said in Grand Committee: the Government will place in the public domain information about the operation of the new system. We envisage doing that once the new legislation has had time to bed down—probably after it has been operating for a year or so.

The information that we have in mind is: the number of requests that we have received, both Part 1 and Part 2, and the countries from which they have come; the proportion that have been successful; the average length of time taken to complete a case; the number of outgoing requests that the UK has made and their success rate. As the noble Lord will appreciate, it is not an exhaustive list; it could probably be expanded. The Government will be interested to hear from the noble Lord about other ideas and subject headings that he might wish to see covered. Anything that we publish will not contain details of individual cases; nor can it contain any comparison, other than a purely statistical one, with the existing system.

We are still considering how best to put that information into the public domain. The most obvious way would be an arranged Parliamentary Question or a written Ministerial Statement in another place, but we have not taken a final view on that; nor have we taken a view on regularity. I hope that noble Lords will welcome the Government's clear commitment to publish information about the operation of the new system so that they, and everyone else with an interest in the subject, can judge whether it has lived up to its promise of expediting and simplifying our existing and future extradition procedures. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

12.45 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I was disappointed that he fell straight back on to the old chestnut of Written Questions. Officials who deal with Written Questions are expert at glancing it down to long leg for a single. Trying to get information out of a Written Answer is very difficult—it is not debatable either. We argue that this is a distinctively different type of legislation because it includes the European arrest warrant.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He is quite wrong about not being able to debate the issues. If, for example, the reply is unsatisfactory, what is wrong with a debate during the dinner hour? That is perfectly possible, is it not?

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, of course it is possible, but it is a question of having enough information gathered together from Written Questions, putting it together in a comprehensible

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form and finding a slot in the dinner hour for the debate to take place. That is quite a major effort. We argue that this is a distinctively different type of legislation because of the European arrest warrant.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that annual reports were not a common feature, he was good enough to say that the contents of this legislation represent a radical departure. We can argue about the European arrest warrant, and we have done so, but there is public concern about it. We think, therefore, that it is a sufficient break with past practice for it not to be unreasonable for us to ask the Government to have a check for the first five years—we accept the argument against a longer period. It should not be a check that must be dug out by a series of Written Questions; it should be a proper check in the form of an annual report. I am afraid that I do not find the Minister's response convincing, so I wish to test the opinion of the House.

12.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 307) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 56; Not-Contents, 128.

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