|Draft European Union Extradition (Amendment) Regulations 2002
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire understands the nature of the error that we have made and are seeking to correct. He asked me why there was a difference of attitude between us and Luxembourg and Greece. It is difficult for me to say what the attitude is in Luxembourg or Greece, and why they should have no problem with extraditing people for, let us say, excise fraud, and yet have an aversion to extraditing people for income tax evasion. I am unable to set out the origin of that objection or desire to back out. We do not make that distinction. We have never had an aversion to extraditing people who have clearly committed crime abroad. As far as I am aware, other parties have never objected to that.
Without seeking to provoke the hon. Gentleman, or to lengthen the Committee's proceedings, the only other thing that I would say is that the European arrest warrant will be sorted out. That will be one of the small things that we will gain: for the first time, we will be able to extradite nationals from some European countries if they have committed crime in our country. That is a small addition to the benefits that will come from the European arrest warrants. We have adopted a proactive approach under different political regimes to extradition agreements with other countries. Other countries have a different take on that. I cannot justify their stance for the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Moray asked whether there is a Scottish dimension to the problem. There is not, and I shall give him points of reference to allow him to follow up the matter. The European Union Extradition Regulations 2002 inserted section 14A in the Extradition Act 1989. Subsection (4) states:
Subsection (5) mentions
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which relates to England or Wales.
Subsection (6) states:
The structure of the regulations kept Scottish legislation separate. The error was not made in the Scottish provisions but in those that apply only to England and Wales. Therefore, there is no problem.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) told us about the confusion of parties before Christmas. I thought that he was going to tell us about difficulties because people had been on sherry and mince pies when the matter was discussed, but he did not quite go that far. He then quoted himself for the first time. He might appreciate how worried those of us who have followed his career for a long time are that he has started down that road. He sent tremors round the Room when he told us what he was doing.
I can answer several of the hon. Gentleman's questions. France, Italy and Belgium have not signed up to the convention, although I am told that France and Belgium are expected to do so in the near future.
I turn to the use of the limited power. The regulations will remain in force after the end of June. However, we cannot use the power in section 111 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 after the end of June. The implementation of the European arrest warrant in the extradition Bill will follow. The regulations must remain in place—in a limited sense—to fill the gap between the discontinuation of section 111 of the 2001 Act and the enactment of the extradition Bill.
The hon. Gentleman recently wrote to ask about the timetable of the extradition Bill and when the draft Bill will be published. I do not know whether he has received my reply yet, although I have signed the letter. I am trying my best to get the draft Bill to hon. Members as quickly as possible. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the legislation will be complicated. We want to publish the draft Bill as soon as possible to allow people adequate time to examine our proposals. There is always a trade off that balances completeness, so that all the major policy is in the draft Bill, against taking additional time. I hope that it will be possible to examine our proposals before the Bill must be considered by Parliament.
Simon Hughes: May I press the Minister for clarification on the end of June point? I remember, as he will, that both Houses of Parliament were willing to agree to specific measures under the emergency legislation, but for only a limited time. What is the implication of that after the beginning of July? Although the regulations would exist under the terrorism legislation of last year, they could not be implemented. If we could not implement them, would we be in breach of our obligations? Do the Government have any plans to do anything about that matter before the before the extradition Bill? It
Column Number: 009will take much longer than between now and the end of June to sort it out.
Mr. Ainsworth: A short and honest answer to the hon. Gentleman is that I do not know. I have told him what is my understanding and given him the information that I have. The best thing to do, therefore, is to try to cover the intervening period. I will write to the hon. Gentleman and send copies to other members of the Committee, so that he, and those
Column Number: 010who follow our proceedings, understand exactly what is in place during the interim period before—I hope—we have a new extradition Act.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at ten minutes past Five o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
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