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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I think that I am next. The Speakers' List appears to have been thoroughly messed up. I do not at all understand what is happening, but I think that I am to speak next.
First, I want to say something so commonplace that if it were all that I was to say, I should not be justified in rising. It is that, according to our traditions, the Second Reading of a Bill is an important set-piece political occasion. To use an analogy from the First World War, it is the heavy artillery barrage that precedes the infantry going over the top, during which the various interests involved prepare to engage each other in trench warfare over the Bill's various clauses. In due course, those clauses are likely to become part of the law of the land.
At first blush, the Bill looks no different from many others. But is that so? As the Minister pointed out in his opening remarks and as is made clear in the summary section of the Explanatory Notes, the Bill implements political deals that have already been closed in either the European Union or an inter-governmental forum. So we are in truth discussing not legislation, as we traditionally know it, but the transposition of deals done elsewhere into United Kingdom law.
I do not want anyone to get me wrong; I do not complain about that. In an increasingly interdependent world, described so vividly by my noble friend Lord Renton, decisions must now be taken in such fora. The wilder reaches of Euroscepticism, which suggest that the United Kingdom Parliament should specifically mandate our Government in such circumstances and then have some form of veto over what is to be agreed, are a fantasy. That kind of approach is a recipe for doing nothing, which will inevitably lead to criminal anarchy.
A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in the selection of my successors as Conservative candidates for the European Parliament for the North West of England. During that somewhat unedifying experience, I was struck by one particular hopeful, who had an essentially Eurosceptic disposition. However, when asked about his views on a European arrest warrant, he responded firmly in favour of the principle. He had been a policeman in the Mersey Docks, so he knew at first hand how crime and criminals do not respect national borders. He realised that the only response to the threats that they pose was to deal with them on a multilateral, transnational basis.
The real question for Parliamentand especially for the House of Lords since the publication of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Wakehamis: how should we deal with the politics of that? I am certain that the Minister will confirm that the Government cannot tolerate any deviation from what has already been agreed elsewhere. I suppose that it may be said that in this House, constrained as we are by the Parliament Acts and the Salisbury Convention, that is nothing especially new. However, I am sure that the Minister can also confirm that exactly the same criteria apply to the other place. That is something more radical.
I recall with pleasure my spell on Sub-Committee F of the Committee on the European Union, when we discussed some of those things. I remember one particularly robust exchange with one of the Ministers of the day about her having gone beyond the scrutiny reserve. By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that the agreements are given the line-by-line scrutiny that a Bill is given in Committee or on Report. Given that there is one meeting a week, which includes the calling of witnesses, that is hardly surprising. It could hardly be otherwise.
As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, it is often the case that the only detailed public scrutiny of such things is in the European Parliament. Depending on the legal framework within which the matter is set, that work may be consultative and not legislative. I shall make my position clear: I am not one of those who advocate the general application of the Community method to all European Union business. However, if, as in this case, the governments of Europe and elsewhere are to commit themselves internationally to legislating in detail, we must ask whether there is proper scrutiny of what is going on. I ask the Minister and, through him, the Government whether, committed as they are to parliamentary government and the democratic exercise of political power, they consider that the scrutiny of such areas of their responsibility meets the general standards of openness, transparency and accountability appropriate to the wider exercise of public business in general.
I turn away from the de facto accountability deficit that such legislation throws up and focus my final remarks on transposition. As we all know, transposition can be done in various ways. In any event, it is both an art and a science. In addition, it is the fig leaf behind which all kinds of additional gold-plating are carried out, to the invariable detriment of the wider public. I would like the Minister to tell the House whether the Bill faithfully and exclusively transposes the international agreements and European legislation from which it is derived. Is there, in fact, a certain amount of rococo embellishment added, in the public interest and on our behalf, by the man from Whitehall, who knows best?
For me and, I dare say, for other noble Lords, the difficulty is not that it is not possible to do it for oneself; it is that, especially for part-time politiciansI cannot claim to be one at presentit is incredibly difficult and time-consuming to compare the original source texts with the Bill that we are considering. I ask the Minister to ensure that an analysis is deposited in the Library of each House, showing how the source texts are being transposed into UK law in the legislation. It should also indicate the embellishments, if any, that may be added in order to improve it on our behalf.
In 2002, the world in which we live may not be a Brave New World, but it is certainly very different from what it was even a few years ago. The problems that such legislation poses relate not merely to the suitability or otherwise of the effects of its provisions. As I said, they may already have become de facto immutable. They also lie in identifying the limits of what Parliament can and cannot do with the UK legislation that it is discussing. Until we are clear about both those aspects, we cannot give the detailed clauses the attention that they deserve.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I suppose that I am one of the Eurosceptics to whom the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, just referred. One of the reasons why I am sceptical about the whole business of the European Union is that we are told one thing one day and something else another day.
I well remember taking part extensively in the debates on the Amsterdam Treaty, when we discussed the Schengen agreement. Then, of course, we were told that the British Government had opted out and that there was no reason why we should opt into the agreement, because we were an island and, therefore, completely different. Now, here we are, going into it step by step, although we were told that we would not go into it. No wonder I am sceptical.
We were also assured that corpus juris was only an insane idea in the brain of Eurofanatics. Yet, step by step and bit by bit, we adopt some of the matters put forward by those so-called Eurofanatics. No wonder I am sceptical. Mind you, I have always been sceptical about the whole arrangement. It is not good and has not been good for this country. I have declared my interest.
Apart from the foreign surveillance operations, which I shall come to, the Bill will, as I read it, make details of the bank account of every citizen of the United Kingdom available to and subject to surveillance by existing EU member states and, after 2004the way things are goingthe 10 extra members. Is it not a fact that, if details of a bank account are requested by a participating state, they can be provided to a foreign state without getting permission from or even informing the account holder? Is that what it is all about? We know that that can be done in the domestic situation, but I am not sure that people in this country understand that those details will be made available to 24perhaps, moreother countries. That is an alarming matter and an invasion of individual privacy. I am not sure that people in this country will like it much.
I come now to search warrants for crimes committed outside the United Kingdom. I am not sure whether such warrants can be used, if the alleged offence is not a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. That is not clear to me, even though it may be clear to others, and I hope that the Minister will make it clear in his winding-up speech.
Nobody could quarrel with the application of driving disqualifications in other countries. However, we must ensure that United Kingdom citizens driving abroad and foreign citizens driving in the United Kingdom are made fully aware that disqualification applies in all the participating countries, wherever that disqualification is imposed. I do not know how that will work. It is difficult to enforce driving disqualifications in this country. There are, I believe, hundreds of thousands of people driving around disqualified, and nothing can be done about it. I do not know what we will do when it applies to 350 million peopleperhaps, 500 millionin Europe. I shall be interested to know what new enforcement arrangements there will be.
I turn to the foreign surveillance operations in Clause 83. It is totally unacceptable to allow police and customs officials from other countries to operate unaccompanied and unsupervised in the United Kingdom for any period of time; whether it is five hours, one hour, five days or for ever. That is entirely wrong. The five hour period is simply the beginning; it is the thin end of the wedge. There is no doubt in my mind, because I am a sceptic, that the intention is to extend progressively the period as a prelude to the establishment of a European federal bureau of investigation.
That was foreshadowed at the Seville summit. Indeed, Herr Schroder only recently said that there should be a European police force, and as I said, it has been envisaged by the European Council. The French and the Germans are putting forward this proposition to the Convention on the Future of Europe. It is a live issue. No wonder I and so many others are sceptical. The Government must be aware of those developments. What is their opinion of the establishment of a federal bureau of investigation under the control of Europol?
I shall focus on the Bill's proposals. When these foreign police and officials operate in the United Kingdom, they will apparently not be liable for damage they may cause or for legal action to which they may be subject. They will be indemnified under Clauses 84 and 85 by the Government, and the bill will be picked up by the British taxpayer. But what is the position concerning criminal acts? Are those people to be immune from arrest? Even royalty has no such immunity, as we have seen recently.
It seems that these foreign policemen and officials will not be subject to the police complaints procedure, which is the final protection of the British citizen against the British police. Will they be allowed to carry arms? That would be outrageous, because British police are not allowed to carry firearms except under special circumstances and strict control. How can it then be right to allow foreign police and officials to carry arms?
Suppose they are carrying arms when they get on the ferrywhat are they to do with them; throw them overboard? Or where will they deposit them? We need to know the answers to those questions. Will those people be wearing uniforms bearing means of identification? Our own police have to do so. Will these foreign officials and police be identifiable by uniformjackboots or whatever they might wear? Or, if in civilian clothes, how will they be identified?
How will the local police know when foreign police and officials are operating in their area? Surely we are not going to allow foreign police to enter a police area and operate on police work without the knowledge of the chief constable or his senior officers? There is nothing in the Bill about that. We want to know the answers to those questions.
Many more questions will arise during the Bill's passage, which brings me to ask, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay did, what is the status of parliamentary scrutiny? I understand that an inter-governmental agreement has already been reached. What happens if Parliament rejects the Bill or amends its provisions? Can the matter then go to the European Court of Justice, or will there be political or other consequences? If so, what are those consequences? I shall be listening carefully to the answers to those questions.
Finally, I am not at all sure that this Bill should be sent to the relative obscurity of Grand Committee. Individual rights of our citizens are at stake. This Bill should be discussed on the Floor of the House. I am sorry that it has been agreed that it should go to Grand Committee. I was thinking of dividing the House, but perhaps that would be taking matters a little far. Therefore I shall not do so, but I hope that we will have a good, clear and sufficient discussion in Grand Committee. It may be necessary to table further amendments on the Floor of the House when we can vote on them to improve the Bill, although it is difficult to see how.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for having interrupted the beginning of his speech. At the same time, I hope that it will be accepted by the officials of the House that it would be a good idea to see that when the order of speakers is changed, every speaker taking part is served with a changed order list. I was out of the Chamber for only about five minutes during the debate when making a couple of quick telephone calls. It would not have been difficult to let me know that there had been a change of order.
I thank the Minister for explaining the Bill, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, for his extremely good speech and the points he raised. That is only to be expected as he is probably the authority on the subject, not excluding the Ministers. I agree with almost everything the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said. I must say on behalf of the Green Party that when we look at the Bill, which on the whole we support, we shall look at it carefully in detail.
However, as a number of noble Lords have said, some parts of the Bill are not acceptable. We are very concerned about making it a criminal offence to commit an act abroad or outside the jurisdiction even if it is not illegal in the country in which it takes place. We believe that that is contrary to traditional British jurisprudence.
Our main objection to the Bill stems from the wide definition of "terrorism"or, rather, the non-definition of "terrorism"and, in particular, the failure to make a distinction between damage to property and harm to people. Thus we object to the inclusion of criminal damage offences, which could
The Bill fails to recognise that there are corrupt or illegal regimes against which armed resistance is justified. For example, most of the Iraqi opposition groups in this country could technically be prosecuted under this legislation. Already there have been misconceived prosecutions of people coming to this country who are accused of financing terrorism when all they have been doing is managing funds for opposition political or community organisations. It is thought in some quarters that it is because the governments they oppose are important customers of the British arms industry that they have been prosecuted.
Equally, Members of your Lordships' House who buy or are given leaflets while on a human rights fact-finding mission abroad could be liable to prosecution if those leaflets were produced by one of the more vigorous opposition groups.
There are many issues in the Bill, particularly in the second half of it, which need detailed examination. I agree that it is most inappropriate that the Bill should go to Grand Committee. I hope that we shall examine it in detail and amend it.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, the Minister will be well aware that although there has been general agreement in principle for the Billand in particular for his wish to combat crime on a truly international basissome serious misgivings have been expressed by a number of noble Lords about the detail of what is proposed.
Perhaps I may start by following up the speech of my noble friend Lord Inglewood. He asked the Minister whether it would be possible to provide an analysis to put alongside the Schengen proposals together with the proposals which follow Framework Decisions and other Conventionsso that noble Lords will be able to judge for themselves the extent to which the House is being asked to follow the detail of those provisions or whether, as is the suspicion of a number of noble Lords, we are being asked to go further than has been requested in other jurisdictions.
My noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns outlined considerable misgivings about the extent to which it will be possible for this Houseor, indeed, the other placeto amend to any degree the provisions of the Bill. In reaching a conclusion as to what action is necessary, it would be of great assistance if the Minister could arrange for such an analysis to be available in the Library.
Would it be possible also to have a direct comparison with the source texts? It would be of assistance to the House if an analysis could also be made of the timetable during which other countries have either already implemented these provisions or are in the process of implementing them.
Thirdly, if the Minister is as good humoured at the conclusion of the debate as he undoubtedly was at the start, he might also look with favour on a suggestion, which arises out of a number of contributions, that we should also have an analysis of the conclusions reached by the Select Committee on the European Union and its sub-committees in this House and the European Scrutiny Committee in the other place in regard to corpus juris, the European arrest warrant etc., and the extent to which these matters are directly related to the provisions of the Bill and what account the Government have taken of them.
I ask for those three provisions in the belief that they will be of great assistance in enabling noble Lords to follow this legislation. The Bill has not been published in full in draft form. I know that the Minister and several of his colleagues in government have identified draft legislation as the most appropriate way forward, but as that was not pursued in this case it would be helpfulparticularly as the Bill is to go to Grand Committeeif those kind of analyses could be provided. They probably already have been provided to the Minister and it perhaps would be only a matter of his ticking the box to allow them to be distributed on a much wider basis. If they have not been presented to the Minister already, they should have been.
The Minister opened the debate by identifying a number of obstacles to the effective pursuit of criminals across boundaries. This found a resonance with noble Lords and he was right to identify those obstacles. But, as my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns pointed out, some elements in the Bill raise concerns. In particular my noble friend identified the provisions to allow Customs officers and police officers from abroad to conduct surveillance in the UK without first having obtained the permission of UK authorities. A number of noble Lords have identified these provisions as causing concern and it may well be that the Minister should be pressed to give further details of the safeguards it is proposed to introduce.
My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith highlighted the danger of fishing expeditions. That must be a cause for concern, in particular as Customs officers as well as police officers will be able to conduct surveillance operations without the UK authorities giving their permission. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, spent nearly three minutes identifying his interest as a Eurosceptic, but that in no way undermines the strength of his point, in agreement with many other noble Lords, that we do not like the idea of unlimited surveillance by officers from outside the United Kingdom. These officers will not be liable for whatever damage they may do during the course of these operations, may perhaps be allowed to carry firearms and may not be in uniform, so what protection is there for UK citizens against some degree of foreign surveillance in those circumstances? I believe that the whole idea of there being unrestricted, open, order-making powers leaves a lot to be desired. My noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns identified a number of areas that cause her and many of us considerable concern.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, also identified a range of issues on which the Minister should concentrate in seeking to reassure us. I refer, in particular, to the absence of sufficient safeguards with regard to data protection and identity checks. Those are just two examples set out by the noble Lord on which we seek reassurance.
It was a great privilege for us all to hear the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. He has the reputation of being one of this country's foremost authorities on many of the issues in the Bill. The noble and learned Lord reassured us about Clause 83. No doubt we shall take time to consider his reassurance, just as I hope he will also consider whether there are sufficient safeguards around Clause 83.
I was particularly struck by his wish to see a detailed definition of "terrorist offences". My noble friend Lord Renton did a little to reassure us by saying that perhaps it was the motive behind the criminal act that was the element that sets terrorism apart. Even though that may be the case, we are entitled to see a more adequate definition of terrorism, other than by analogy through the additional clauses, which raise issues such as murder and other serious offences.
There is unanimity in seeking to press the Minister for some definition. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, suggested that he might draft a schedule. I do not know whether that was a rash offer, but it was one about which I believe I speak for the whole House when I say that we welcome and accept it. We look forward to seeing that draft. It is important to have unanimity and clarity on what constitutes terrorism.
When the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, suddenly realised that he was not in the other place and did not have to make party political points, or question the bona fides of the Opposition Benches, he echoed the serious concern about civil liberties. That concern is shared on all sides of the Chamber. After criticising my noble friend Lady Anelay, he said that he agreed entirely with her. If that is criticism, I understand that she is willing to accept it.
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