Considered in Committee (Programme Order, 22 June)
[Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]
Before I ask the Clerk to read the title of the Bill, I should explain that, in these exceptional circumstances, although the Chair of the Committee would normally sit in the Clerk’s Chair during Committee state, in order to comply with social distancing requirements I will remain in the Speaker’s Chair although I will be carrying out the role not of Deputy Speaker but of Chairman of the Committee. We should be addressed as Chairs of the Committee rather than as Deputy Speakers.
Power of Arrest for Extradition Purposes
I beg to move amendment 1, in page 1, line 6, at end insert—
‘( ) Nothing in this Act changes the effect of any rule of law or any enactment in force before the date on which this Act is passed in relation to extradition requests by or on behalf of—
(a) the People’s Republic of China, or
(b) the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.’
This amendment is intended to ensure the provisional arrest arrangements proposed under this Bill do not apply to extradition requests from China and/or Hong Kong.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 2, in page 1, line 6, at end insert—
‘( ) The power to make further amendments under this Act may not be used to make any provision in relation to—
(a) the People’s Republic of China, or
(b) the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.’
This amendment would prevent the power to make amendments under this Bill being used in relation to China and/or Hong Kong.
Amendment 7, in clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—
‘( ) The power to make further amendments under this Act may not be used to make any provision in relation to the United States of America.’
This amendment would prevent the power to make amendments under this Bill being used in relation to the USA.
Clause stand part.
Amendment 3, in clause 2, page 1, line 13, at end insert
‘except in relation to extradition requests by or on behalf of—
(a) the People’s Republic of China, or
(b) the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.’
This amendment would preclude the exercise in respect of China and /or Hong Kong of the powers under the Extradition Act 2003 in relation to British overseas territories, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, in relation to any changes made by this Bill.
Amendment 8, page 1, line 13, at end insert
‘except in relation to extradition requests by or on behalf of the United States of America.’
This amendment would preclude the exercise in respect of the USA of the powers under the Extradition Act 2003 in relation to British overseas territories, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, in relation to any changes made by this Bill.
Government amendment 11.
Clause 2 stand part.
New clause 1—Annual statement on provisional arrests—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, at the end of the period of 12 months beginning on the day on which this Act is passed, lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement setting out how many individuals have been arrested under provisions within this Act.
(2) The statement must include a list of each incident broken down by protected characteristics of each person arrested, as defined in section 4 of the Equality Act 2010.
(3) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report in similar terms covering each subsequent 12 month period, within six months of that period ending.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay a statement setting out how many individuals have been arrested under provisions within this Act, broken down by characteristics of each person arrested.
New clause 2—Review of the Act—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must appoint a person to review the operation of the provisions of the Extradition Act 2003 as amended by this Act
(2) That person may, from time to time, carry out a review of the provisions of this Act and must send a report on the outcome of such a review to the Secretary of State as soon as reasonably practicable after completing the review.
(3) A review under subsection (2) may, in particular, consider operational effectiveness.
(4) The person appointed under subsection (1) must carry out and report on the first review before the end of the period of 12 months after the day on which this Act is passed.
(5) On receiving a report under this section, the Secretary of State must lay a copy of it before Parliament as soon as the Secretary of State is satisfied that doing so will not prejudice any criminal proceedings.’
This new clause requires the changes made by this Act to be kept under review, and the first review of the Act to be carried out within a year of its being passed.
Government amendment 12.
Amendment 16, page 3, leave out lines 22 to 24 and insert—
‘(4) The “designated authority” is the National Crime Agency.’
This amendment would define the “designated authority” as the National Crime Agency.
Amendment 4, page 3, line 36, at end insert—
‘( ) Regulations under subsection (7) may not add the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China as a specified category 2 territory.’
This amendment would preclude the exercise in respect of China and Hong Kong of the proposed power under section 75B(7) of the Extradition Act 2003 to add to the list of specified category 2 territories under Schedule A1 on whose authority a valid extradition request may be made.
Amendment 9, page 3, line 36, at end insert—
‘( ) Regulations under subsection (7) may not add the United States of America to the list in Schedule A1 of specified category 2 territories.’
This amendment would preclude the exercise in respect of the USA of the proposed power under section 75B(7) of the Extradition Act 2003 to add to the list of specified category 2 territories under Schedule A1 on whose authority a valid extradition request may be made.
Government amendments 13 and 14.
Amendment 17, page 6, line 42, leave out “Liechtenstein” and insert
‘All the Member States of the European Economic Area’.
This amendment would allow for all EEA Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) to be inserted into new Schedule A1.
Amendment 10, page 7, leave out line 2.
This amendment would remove the USA from the proposed list of specified category 2 countries to which the provisions of this Bill will apply.
Government amendment 15.
Schedule stand part.
I rise to speak to amendment 1, but with it are a whole bunch of other amendments that I have tabled alongside my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) and the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion). I had intended when I originally tabled them to speak on the basis that the Government needed to act, but since then they have acted—and that is never a bad thing. Although I, with my colleagues, may well have provoked the Government to act, I still want to speak, because things are happening at the moment which mean, I hope, that the Government will pay full attention to further action that may be required, stretching across extradition and into sanctions.
I thank the Government for finally agreeing to rule out the extradition arrangements with Hong Kong, but it is worth noting what has been going on since the imposition of the national security law, which is now making the lives of many in Hong Kong a misery. More than that, they now fear very much indeed not only for their lives but for their liberty in a way that none of us here, I sometimes think, could possibly imagine—or imagine what it is like to live in such an environment.
We have a historical relationship with Hong Kong, and we have a legal right, under the Sino-British treaty, to have an opinion and view on what is happening in Hong Kong. No matter what the Chinese Government may say, that is our right in international law. The imposition of the national security law runs counter to that arrangement—that treaty. On that basis, the Government have acted correctly in cutting off any potential problem that may arise as a result of the use of the extradition agreement—but there is more, even now, as we speak. Quite recently, we have seen action against a number of people who have done nothing other than use the kind of rights that we would take for granted in this House. Jimmy Lai, the owner of the largest pro-democracy publication in the city, has been charged with undermining the state. There have been arrests of young activists, some of which we have seen on television, but others go on. There have been media posts and people holding blank pieces of paper at protests. People have been arrested in shopping malls for sedition. The targeting of Hong Kong activists overseas is going on apace and gathering pace, as is retrospectively applying the law to supposed crimes that took place before it even came into force, which I find remarkable—perhaps I should not, but I do.
There are then all the elements that the UK Government will find themselves having to deal with, and I believe all the devolved Administrations are united in this sense as well. The evidence around censorship is really quite astonishing. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre have now been removed from all textbooks and all materials that might say anything at all about it—they are simply blanked out. There is a new cultural revolution, with teachers and students being asked and encouraged to spy on each other. If somebody says the wrong thing, or something that is considered the wrong thing, or if someone is remembered to have said the wrong thing, all such talk invokes the use of the security law. There is a new national security centre in Shenzhen to re-educate those who do not comply. Benny Tai, the organiser of the yellow umbrella protest, which is a peaceful movement—I stress that these are all peaceful movements —was fired from his teaching post at a university simply because he was party to that movement. The censorship of university content is now gathering pace, as they are filleting out anything that refers to any concerns or issues around the nature of China, and even its historical nature.
The latest issue that should concern the Government completely is that we are now seeing problems for journalists from the free world. I say the free world because it is not just a western issue; it is an issue of all those who believe in rights and freedom around the world, whether they be in the far east or in the west. The New York Times has to relocate its staff, completely—lock, stock and barrel—to Seoul after the visa renewal of a senior journalist was rejected; the threat was clearly there that the rest would follow. A senior journalist at the Hong Kong Free Press had their visa rejected. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong described the trend as a weaponisation of visas by China. We even saw on the news the other day that the Australians are being heavily targeted—brutally targeted—and not only with sanctions; their journalists are now having to flee the country. In fact, two journalists who were due to leave were stopped from leaving and ended up in the consulate. They have now finally left, but the authorities wanted to question them for writing stuff of which they did not approve.
The whole point of this issue then comes into focus. It is the co-operation of the Chinese officials that I find perhaps the most galling. In the announcement by Chief Executive Carrie Lam that they were postponing the LegCo elections that were due to take place on Sunday 5 September—the weekend just gone—she cited covid cases as a reason for the delay. I have heard a few excuses in my time but that one really did take the biscuit, because so many other countries have had elections, both local and national, even during the covid saga. It is also worth pointing out that the Hong Kong rate of infection is lower than pretty much any of the countries that have held elections already. The idea that they can latch on to covid as some kind of excuse for cancelling elections had nothing to do with the reality; the reality was that they did not approve of the opposition and wanted to stop the election so that they had time to make sure they arrested the key elements so that they would never be able to stand. Many members of the opposition have fled here to the UK and I have met and seen them.
There are two points, really, that dismantle the whole process. I made the point earlier that a number of countries—dozens, I think—have held elections. It is part of the total crackdown and acquiescence with what is in essence an illegal process going on in Hong Kong. That brings me to the next phase. The Government are right to have reacted and to have ceased the extradition procedures, but yet more needs to be done. I like to think this is something that unites us all. The sanctions that come from the Magnitsky amendments need seriously to be deployed by the Government. When I was most recently in the Chamber for exchanges on this issue, the Foreign Secretary said that the Government would review other actions that need to be taken with regard to Hong Kong, and that they would take it as the situation develops. The situation has been developing. It has been developing at a pace which, if my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security will forgive my saying so, is faster than the pace at which the Government or the Foreign Office seem to be able to move. We have nothing to lose any more by holding back. It is not as if the Chinese Government are going to turn around and thank us, because they already think that we have caused problems, so my answer is: let us get on with it.
The deterioration of the situation has accelerated over the summer, and the US Government have already sanctioned Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for the implementation of the new law and for human rights abuses. I urge my right hon. Friend and the Foreign Secretary, who is not here, to move on to that and listen to Nathan Law, who fled directly after the Hong Kong Government did not agree to his standing. Others have also had to flee, and they have all called for those sanctions to be applied. I hope that the Government will listen to people whose lives have been under threat and whose families are still in Hong Kong and yet are brave enough to call for such sanctions, knowing full well that that might bring further problems for them.
A related issue is the excessive and expensive visa fees under the present Government policy for BNO passport holders, which could be prohibitive for those who wish to get passports. We have been generous in opening up and saying that individuals with BNO status who wish to get passports will have the right to get them and to travel to the UK if necessary, but we have then put another problem in their way, and we do not make it easy for them. It is surely not right that potential British passport holders should have to face these fees. BNOs are allowed to serve in our armed forces but are not yet able to become British nationals without paying a large cost. I hope that the Government will think about suspending those fees, to encourage these people—particularly young ones—to take advantage of what is essentially a lifeline. Many of the people I have met who have fled Hong Kong have spoken of their difficulties in obtaining these passports. I know that this is not directly my right hon. Friend’s responsibility, but I hope he will raise it with the Foreign Office, so that it can give its blessing.
The last point I want to make is an important one. We know about all the businesses that have been kowtowing to the Chinese Government, many of them in a shameful way, apologising, excusing and saying that it is somehow all about restoring order, despite the terrible abuses taking place. I will not go through them all, but I want to raise one that has recently been discovered. It appears that Disney worked with the security services in Xinjiang region—the place where the Uyghurs have suffered the most appalling abuse. It is those very security services that have been responsible for the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women. It is those very security services that have been rounding up those who have not co-operated and sending them to re-education camps, which have turned into labour camps, because they are now giving what I would call slave labour to companies situated in China.
That is appalling, and it is an illustration of what has been going on in China. I am astonished that, regardless of all the news there is at the moment, the news broadcasts have been pretty quiet on this issue. It is high time that we made a fuss about it. We should be the leaders on this issue. This country has a responsibility to Hong Kong and has a right to speak out. It is shameful that those companies turn a blind eye and act as apologists for a regime that brooks no dissent, is intolerant and is now arresting people for the most minor new offences that have nothing to do with normal law.
The situation is deteriorating fast. This Government need to pick up the pace, after having agreed to the extradition procedures being lifted. I urge the Government with all my heart to put China right up there as a priority, regardless of all our domestic rows and arguments, which are important. The freedom of people faced with the imposition of dictatorial regimes should always be our No. 1 cry. We should speak out when others are not able to have the freedoms that we take for granted in this House. If we do not speak out for them, who will?
Let me start by agreeing entirely with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith); he has argued forcefully that we should not extradite to China and Hong Kong, giving powerful humanitarian and human rights reasons, and he is right on every count.
Our extradition arrangements with the United States are not anything like as divisive as those with China and Hong Kong, but they remain deeply imbalanced and can lead to serious miscarriages of justice. As it stands, the Bill would allow individuals in the United Kingdom who are to be extradited to a list of specified countries to be arrested without a warrant. My amendments 7, 8, 9 and 10 would remove the United States from that list of countries, and I shall speak to those amendments now.
The Government say that they need the powers in this Bill because of suspects getting away if they are “encountered by chance” and it is not possible to arrest them without applying to a judge for a warrant. For hundreds of years in this country we have woken judges and magistrates up in the middle of the night to do precisely that: to carry out a police action, be it a search or an arrest. We do not bypass normal legal protections when a domestic suspect might get away, so why is this necessary in respect of individuals facing extradition? The Home Office’s own impact assessment of these new powers says that, with or without them,
“suspects are highly likely to be before the court in any event when the requesting state confirms that the suspect is at large in the UK.”
So one has to wonder why the provision is needed at all.
The methodology used in the impact assessment supporting the Bill is both opaque and bogus. It is too long to go into here, but I recommend that if Members want a confusing way to go to sleep, they should read it—it is completely useless. Even so, it asserts that the proposed change would result annually in just
“6 individuals entering the CJS more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.”
That is just six individuals a year in the criminal justice system, out of the more than 100,000 criminals we deal with in this country every year, and for that we are giving away a fundamental legal protection for the innocent, as well as for anybody else.
The Bill’s explanatory notes try to justify the legislation on the basis that it is similar to powers introduced by our European neighbours, such as Spain. Let me give the House one example of that in operation. Members will know the name of Bill Browder, who campaigned on behalf of Sergei Magnitsky, the man who died in Russian imprisonment; in effect, he was killed by the Russian state. The Russians put out a red notice through Interpol for Mr Browder, and the Spanish Government executed it. Right enough, a judge subsequently released him, but I ask the House to think how Mr Browder would have felt, sitting in a Spanish prison considering the prospect of being extradited to be imprisoned in Russia and put into the hands of the people who had killed Magnitsky. These things are not without price.
As for other European countries, a number of them have absolute embargoes on extraditing their own citizens to anybody outside the EU, for reasons that I will come to in a second, but which in essence relate to a lack of trust in other countries’ justice systems.
The Bill’s impact assessment states:
“Under the proposed new power, the police could arrest a suspect who was wanted for extradition by a trusted partner country”.
The Bill defines such a country as
“those who respect the international rules based system”—
broadly speaking, although not entirely, the United States does that—
“and whose Red Notices and Criminal Justice Systems the UK trusts”.
We like to think of the US justice system as similar to our own, but recent high-profile cases have highlighted just how wrong that is and how we cannot trust the system with the interests of British citizens.
When the 2003 extradition treaty and the associated Bill were introduced, they were sold to the House on the basis that they would be used principally for paedophiles, murderers and terrorists. I was shadow Home Secretary at the time and I remember it vividly. I remember the leader of the Conservative party at the time accepting it on those terms, because he thought it was in the interests of the country. But the people we are extraditing to the United States are mostly white collar businessmen who pose no danger to United Kingdom citizens, or indeed United States citizens.
My right hon. Friend is making a characteristically sensible and robust speech. Does he agree that at the moment the international rules-based system is under great pressure but matters hugely to all of us? Is the case of the United States not an example of a totally asymmetric approach to extradition, and will that asymmetry not be seen by people in Britain as most unfair and as bringing the whole process into disrepute?
My right hon. Friend is right on several counts, and I will elaborate on the unfairness in a second, but he is right also to highlight something else, which is that international rules-based systems work only if everyone sees them treating all countries and their citizens identically. If they do not do that, they fall down. An American exceptionalist approach, therefore, destroys the systems we are trying to uphold. So there is an interesting philosophical point in his intervention, as well as the moral one that I will major on.
My right hon. Friend is exactly right, and I was one of those, although at that time I was not allowed to say so. It was not the first time I have been overruled by my boss, and it will not be the last.
Since 2007, the United Kingdom has surrendered 135 UK nationals to the United States, 99 of them for non-violent offences. Over the whole period of the Act, 80% of the offences have been non-violent. So much for terrorism, murder and paedophilia! To put it another way, there have been only three violent offences per year requiring extradition to the United States.
The US deliberately uses its extradition arrangements to cast a wide legal net around the business world, seeking to be judge, jury and executioner for global commercial deals and aims. The Home Affairs Select Committee’s 2012 reported concluded that the United States
“has the power to reach out around the world and—provided there is a very, very tenuous connection with the US—it generally has the power to prosecute.”
Or as the distinguished extradition lawyer, Robert Dougans, puts it:
“The Department of Justice effectively uses criminal extradition as a lever for US interests in commercial matters, which is not what it is for.”
This has been shown in case after case, such as those of Ian Norris, the chairman of Morgan Crucible; the NatWest three; Christopher Tappin; and a number of others, including, most recently, Dr Mike Lynch.
How does it work? Once a person extradited from the UK arrives in the US, they are treated as guilty from the moment they land. They face invasive strip searches—that is exactly how it sounds—and they are electronically tagged. They are kept in appalling conditions completely alien to the British justice system. They are shackled and perp-walked into and out of court in front of television cameras and paparazzi, so that the US Department of Justice can claim a PR victory at the expense of the presumption of innocence.
Some of the people extradited sit in court facing allegations dressed head to toe in orange prison garb. They are then faced with enormous pressure from the US authorities to agree to a plea bargain. They are told that if they plead innocent they will face decades in these appalling conditions but if they plead guilty they will face a much lighter sentence in an open prison, with possibly half of it served back here in the UK. As the case is held in America, very often witnesses from the UK will not appear, because they themselves fear incarceration. That has certainly happened in some current cases. A massive 97% of cases are settled by plea in the United States. For a foreigner, unprotected by the US constitution, that is not a justice system; it is a very effective but not at all fair prosecution system. It is not justice.
Much of this would be better if the accused were tried in Britain, completely sidelining the need to extradite at all. The NatWest three, for example, were British citizens and their alleged crime was in Britain against a British company; at worst, they should have been tried in front of a British court, but the British authorities did not see them as having a case to answer. However, the extradition treaty does not recognise this. Anyone caught in this system faces an asymmetric and unbalanced treaty process. Unlike in the US, a person in the UK has no right to insist on probable cause before being extradited. The 2011 Joint Committee on Human Rights report called this a lack of reciprocity in the treaty, and it has resulted in the US surrendering only 11 individuals to the United Kingdom since 2007, while 135 have gone the other way. Since the United States is roughly five times bigger than the UK, this is an effective disparity of 50 in risk of extradition.
It is not just a case of lack of reciprocity. The people in the NatWest case, which my right hon. Friend mentioned, had no case to answer according to the British authorities, yet in spite of that they were extradited. That is an appalling abuse of their human rights.
My right hon. Friend is exactly right. Interestingly, in their case human rights were not used as a defence mechanism, whereas in another case the only thing that stopped Gary McKinnon being extradited was the implementation of the human rights law. My right hon. Friend is right more generally, too; they did not have a case to answer in a normal justice system, but they gave in and confessed to guilt rather than face 30 years in a grim high-security Texan prison, never seeing their families again, which is what this would have amounted to. That illustrates where the disparity lies, and why it is so unfair.
The US Government also have much greater discretion in refusing extradition requests. Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State “must”—the word is “must”—issue a certificate for extradition. The equivalent US code states that the Secretary of State “may” order the person to be tried. Of course, there is no stronger demonstration of this than the case of Anne Sacoolas, the person responsible for the tragic death of Harry Dunn. In Ms Sacoolas’s case the US Secretary of State used this discretion—I think in the view of most in this House, wrongly—to prevent her extradition. The Dunn family may now have to settle for a wholly unsatisfactory virtual trial of Anne Sacoolas, because our extradition arrangements have failed to give them proper justice.
That is just the latest example of how the completely lopsided treaty allows US citizens to evade justice while exposing United Kingdom citizens to miscarriages of justice. The Prime Minister himself has recognised this imbalance. At Prime Minister’s questions on 12 February he said:
“I do think that elements of that relationship are unbalanced, and it is certainly worth looking at”.—[Official Report, 12 February 2020; Vol. 671, c. 846.]
Owing to the scope of the Bill, my amendments would not rebalance the extradition arrangements with the US, but they would prevent, in a very small way, further facilitation of further miscarriages of justice. That would be a tiny improvement in a system that requires an entirely radical rewrite, so I have tabled them only as probing amendments.
The simple truth is—I make this point very firmly to my right hon. Friend and very old friend the Minister for Security, who is sitting on the Treasury Bench—[Interruption.] He is older than you think. I say to the Minister that this really needs, in the words of the Prime Minister, a rethink. I do hope that the Government will rethink this treaty and ensure that in future when we extradite British citizens to any other justice system in the world, that justice system will work as it is supposed to, and give them what is in the title: justice.
This is an important Bill. We need an extradition system that ensures that UK law enforcement agencies are supported in apprehending dangerous criminals in order to keep the public safe, both in Britain and abroad. This Bill helps facilitate the extradition of those who have committed serious crimes abroad, and all of us in this House can support that.
However, it is vital that this Bill includes the necessary safeguards. The amendments, both from the other place and those put before the House today, share common themes of transparency, fairness and support for parliamentary scrutiny; these are values that every Member should hold. It is right that the Bill compels the Government to consult with the devolved Administrations and non-governmental organisations before adding or removing a territory, as well as confirming to Parliament that the territory does not abuse Interpol red notices. That amendment promotes dialogue and discussion among relevant parties, respects the role of the devolved Administrations, and ensures a level of transparency that is necessary in Government. It is difficult to see how any reasonable Government could object to that. Moreover, given the trouble that the Government have had with carrying out consultations before making major decisions, it is important that such a measure is included in the Bill. If any Member needs evidence of that, I refer them to the former Department for International Development.
The second amendment carried in the other place, which mandates that territories can only be added to the extradition process individually, is designed to increase both transparency and scrutiny. If we allow territories to be added when grouped together, there is a real risk that a country with a problematic human rights record could be included alongside countries that respect human rights. Considering the Government’s vocal support for a Magnitsky Act to deter human rights abuses, it would be somewhat hypocritical to oppose an amendment that has the same purpose.
Furthermore, by considering whether to add a territory on its own merits, we are not only ensuring that those countries do not abuse Interpol red notices, but adding a further layer of parliamentary scrutiny to the process. The House should seek to support additional scrutiny, not limit it. It is therefore disappointing, if not surprising, that the Government seem set on opposing these common-sense safeguards. Following the amendments passed in the other place, it is important that this House further strengthens the Bill. Given that the legislation includes increased law enforcement powers with the purpose of keeping the public safe, it is right that the House should be able to see the effectiveness of those measures. Compelling the Secretary of State to update the House annually on the number of arrests made would help to achieve that. For the same reason, it is important that the Act is kept under regular review by this House. Again, that would strengthen Parliament’s role while ensuring the measures are working as intended.
Finally, although the Bill rightfully updates our extradition process with territories such as New Zealand and Canada, it is clearly wrong that there is still uncertainty regarding our justice and security arrangements with members of the European Union. Many of those states are some of our closest allies, while a potential lack of access to the real-time European criminal databases will undoubtedly affect the ability of UK law enforcement agencies to protect the public. It is concerning that the Government have yet to address that point adequately.
While the Bill should be supported by the House, it is not perfect and there are still gaps and uncertainties in it. The Opposition amendments seek to fill and strengthen the Bill and ensure that it is fully effective, while also aiming to increase transparency and co-operation. I urge Members to support those amendments today and to protect the amendments agreed to in the other place.
Two very important principles should be in all our thoughts when framing extradition legislation. First, there is the imperative to make sure that when someone has committed a serious and violent crime, such as a terrorist offence or murder or some other such crime, in the United Kingdom and has escaped abroad, we have arrangements so that we can pursue justice against them through co-operation with countries around the world. We should also have very much in our mind the issues that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) drew to the attention of the House. We should be very concerned about innocent people in our country who may be the object of extradition requests or demands from countries abroad to take them into justice systems that are not up to the standards of our own, or not the kind of thing we would want an innocent person, particularly, to have to approach, only to see justice not done in those countries if we have undertaken such extradition matters. I echo my right hon. Friend’s request that we look again at how the US relationship is working. This was sold to the House some years ago on the basis that it would be targeted on those criminals we could all agree about—the terrorists, rapists and murderers who were committing violent crime—and it is of concern for us to discover that that has not been its main use at all.
I hope the Minister will share with the House his thoughts on what arrangements we will move towards with the other European countries now we have left the European Union. There may be a move to put all European Union, or European economic area, countries under these provisions, but we should definitely look at the different standards of justice system in those countries. While many of our European friends have excellent justice systems that we would be very happy with, there are very variable standards throughout the European continent. Given that we are rethinking our foreign policy and our position in the world generally, this is a good opportunity to look at them one by one and to ask whether some of them are below the standards we would expect, and whether they have not made good use in the past of the very widespread powers granted to them under the European arrest warrant.
When I was preparing for this debate, one set of figures I saw in a commentary was for the period from 2010 to 2018. It said that over that period, continental countries had used the European arrest warrant eight times as often as we had used it for criminals, or alleged criminals, for whom we needed to undertake it in our courts, so it has been asymmetric. In part, that is because there are many more people on the continent than there are in the United Kingdom, but it also tells us something about the seriousness of the offences that they are interested in for extradition.
I am pleased to see that there is some recognition in the legislation that extradition should be reserved for more serious offences. One does not want a complex and expensive system such as this to be used for a lot of minor offences. The Government have chosen to define it as something that is an offence in the United Kingdom and which would command a prison sentence of three years or more in the event of somebody being found guilty. I think that is a good start, because one of the features of the European arrest warrant that many people did not like was that somebody could be extradited under it from the United Kingdom for something that was not actually an offence in the United Kingdom. That did not seem a very fair system or proposal.
I hope the Minister will share with us some of his thoughts on what would be an appropriate list of European countries and whether they should just slot into the proposals that we are debating today. I think I am happy with the list of countries that we are being asked to endorse, with the caveat that we need to look at the American relationship in the way that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden suggested. I fully understand that now is not the afternoon to try to make dramatic changes to that and why he has tabled only a probing amendment. We are asking the Government about that, but there are big issues here that we would like them to review.
It is a pleasure to speak on a Bill that is so crucial to the security of our country and the safety of our citizens. The extradition Bill plugs the capability gap that currently exists whereby the police become aware of a person who is wanted by a non-EU territory but are unable to arrest them without obtaining a warrant from a court first. Owing to the delay, the suspect may abscond to avoid justice or to commit further crimes, this time in the UK. It is not a point of debate that we all want to see those who perpetrate such serious crimes brought to justice, wherever they may be. Furthermore, the people of Rother Valley do not want foreign criminals exploiting loopholes in our system to commit further crime in our communities. This Bill enables British police to quickly and efficiently arrest suspects without warrant for the purpose of extradition. It is similar to the powers that already exist under the European arrest warrant, and will apply to a small number of countries with legal systems that are equally as rigorous and robust as ours.
Much has already been said about the aim and substance of the Bill, so I wish to turn the Committee’s attention to the amendments tabled for our consideration. Amendment 15, tabled by the Minister for Security, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), allows for the territories listed in new paragraph 3A to be inserted into new schedule A1. Those territories are for the most part member states of the European Union. As we heard in the other place, the Bill is not a move to replace the European arrest warrant or to second guess the Brexit negotiations. It does, however, seem prudent to list the territories in new schedule A1, just in case we do lose access to the EAW. If other arrangements are made, the paragraph will be repealed at the end of 2021, which is a good thing. I certainly support such a measure, and I follow with interest the Norway or Iceland-style fast-track extradition security partnership that the Government are currently considering to replace the EAW.
The sole aim of the Bill is to enable the arrest of a suspect wanted by a trusted non-EU country. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are models of good judicial practice and fairness, but will also be some of our key partners going forward. In addition, the highly respected National Crime Agency must be satisfied that a valid request has been made, that such a warrant or conviction exists and that the offence is a serious one.
Given that, I note with concern the Opposition’s new clauses 1 and 2, which would require the Secretary of State to lay a report before Parliament giving a breakdown of extraditions. That would be required every 12 months, and the new clauses demand a list of each incident broken down by the protected characteristics of each person, as per section 4 of the Equality Act 2010. There is no reason to think that extraditions under the Bill would be any different from those under the European arrest warrant, not least because of the high confidence we have in the legal systems of the category 2 territories. The new clauses tabled by the Opposition are needlessly bureaucratic and would place an onerous burden on the Secretary of State for little benefit.
I am interested in exploring the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) that would prevent the application of the Bill to the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong. I am pleased that the Government are supporting such an amendment. After the PRC’s interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and Beijing’s undermining of Hong Kong’s common law system, we should not consider extradition requests from those territories.
Conversely, while recognising the valid points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), I fundamentally disagree with excluding the United States from the list of permitted territories. The US, for all its flaws, is our greatest friend and ally. It values liberty and due process above all else. To exclude the United States would be manifestly wrong and would send the wrong message to its Government.
I support the Bill and the Government’s amendments. In the words of Max Hill QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions,
“this Bill strikes the right balance between ensuring sufficient human rights safeguards and delivering the capabilities that the police and CPS require in order to safeguard the public”.
That is exactly what the people of Rother Valley and the United Kingdom want us to do.
First, I thank the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) for setting the scene so very well. When he referred to the persecution of the Uyghur Muslims, I was tempted to intervene on him to put on record my concerns about the brutality, violence and outright criminality that the Chinese Government are committing against their own people. That is abhorrent and it goes against everything that is decent, and it underlines the fact that we cannot do this on our own. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we can do it in conjunction with other countries. However, that goes part of the way to setting the scene, but we have to recognise that we must work with others to make things happen.
It is nice to see the Minister of State in his place again. He is doing double-duty in this Chamber. He did last night, and he is back again for more. My goodness, he is some Minister. It is very pleasant to see him in his place.
I welcome the opportunity to make some comments. The UK has extradition arrangements with more than 100 territories around the world. That partnership is essential to ensure not only that criminals are properly processed, but that our need to extradite, and the ability to do so, is subsequently reciprocated. However, it is right and proper that the Secretary of State announced in July an end to the Hong Kong extradition treaty in the light of the imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong by Beijing, which is a serious violation of the country’s international obligations. I welcome the statements that the Secretary of State has made in this House on the matter.
I am not sure whether Members have had the chance to check today’s press, but it contains the story of a 12-year-old child who was arrested in Hong Kong by three burly police officers, if I can say that they were burly, ever mindful of their size; they had certainly in excess of five times the strength of the child. The child was out getting paints for her school classes, but was perceived to be a protester. The actions of the Hong Kong police were totally outrageous, as they have been with everyone, but that event in particular concerns and rankles with me greatly.
I declare an interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international freedom of religion or belief. I am aware of and very disturbed by the treatment of those who do not fit the mould of how the Chinese believe things should be done. The treatment of Uyghur Muslims in particular has been in the news of late. I have spoken about the issue before and the APPG has been reporting on it for some time. The thought that the extradition treaty with the Hong Kong Government could mean the inhumane treatment of many people extradited to China after a pause in Hong Kong is quite simply frightening, and it is absolutely right that the Secretary of State took the steps that he did.
It is not only the persecution of the Uyghur Muslims; there is also persecution of Christians, who have had their churches desecrated and attacked, and their right to worship monitored and restricted. In addition, people of the Falun Gong belief have been systematically used for organ transplants, sometimes on a commercial scale. China has been guilty of all the worst crimes in the world against those who do not fit the form that it wants them to. I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green, and unfortunately do not see enough steps on human rights in the legislation, although I am quite sure that the Minister will give us some reassurance on that.
It is essential that we get this legislation right and fulfil our moral obligations. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) referred to moral obligations, which I think we all have. There are duties that we have the capacity to alter and change as is necessary. I fully condemn any Government who carry out any human rights abuses or the persecution of religious minorities and ethnic groups. I am concerned about the lack of human rights safeguards in the Bill. The background information from the Library refers to the discussion of the Bill in the other place, referring to the lack of human rights safeguards as well as
“the use of wide regulation-making and Henry VIII powers; the lack of specific criteria or safeguards to be applied when adding Category 2 territories to the specified list in the future…the integrity of the Interpol red notice system; the impact of losing access to the EAW, and what other measures might be necessary to mitigate against those risks”.
Perhaps the Minister will give us some clarification on those matters.
I am all for trade deals and for working in partnership, but not at the expense of lives. Furious as those who are removed from our treaty list may be, doing the right thing may mean doing the difficult thing. Sometimes the difficult thing is the moral and right thing to do, and this legislation must be given the freedom to do those things. I welcome the Government’s commitment to legislate to change, and am sure we will all support the introduction of the Magnitsky Bill that the Secretary of State has mentioned.
I am a great admirer of America, and not just because I go there on holiday every two or three years. I love the American people. I love the escapism that America has and I am proud of my Ulster Scots foundation, history and tradition. I am pleased to say for the record that 18 Presidents of the United States of America have had Ulster Scots ancestry, which tells us something about the wee part of Northern Ireland that I come from—that we can produce 18 Presidents of the United States of America. It tells us that they were fine Presidents, by the way, and that the history of the United States comes from here and other countries in the world.
I am aware that our extradition policies may not be equally reciprocated, and when it comes to our dealings with the USA, that should be taken into account. Therefore, when I saw the amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden that highlight the US situation—other Members have spoken on this—they gave me pause, and they should give the Committee great pause for thought about what they do. We all know the cases—I do not need to mention them again; other hon. Members have referred to them—that are in my mind and in the media spotlight, and are therefore important.
There have been various examples. Indeed, this year, our Prime Minister was open enough to admit that it might be appropriate to characterise our relationship on extradition as lopsided; I think that tells us all about the position between the UK and the USA. It has been well argued that the current legislation and the 2003 treaty require the UK to meet a higher evidential threshold—I understand that—than the US before extradition will be ordered. It is abundantly clear that we must take steps to rectify that in the Bill, and I am pleased that that seems to be the case. Again, however, perhaps the Minister will give us some clarification.
I also ask the Minister about contact with the local Administrations—the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly—to which the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) referred. Will the Minister confirm that those talks and discussions have taken place and that the regions’ full input is part of the deal?
It seems that there are certain nations that allow us to give but do not reciprocate at the same level. The National Crime Agency must have the ability, under the authority of this legislation and the Secretary of State, to make changes to ensure that if we are at pains to help others to bring home criminals to be accountable for their crimes, we get at least the same level of help when it comes to our own criminals.
Hailing as I do from Northern Ireland, as other hon. Members will remember—I have said it in the past but I want to put it on the record—it was disheartening to see men and women who carried out terrorist activities and left people with unspeakable loss, pain, injury, hurt and lives that would never be the same wandering about in the Republic and living their lives in defiant freedom. Some of those who carried out some of the worst atrocities have walked around the Republic of Ireland in comparative safety and sanctuary for some time.
Those who killed my cousin Kenneth Smyth and his friend Daniel McCormick on 10 December 1971 escaped across the border and have never been held accountable for their crimes, so hon. Members can understand how, 49 years later, I feel quite concerned. I have lived my life knowing that murdering criminals unrepentantly live their lives in freedom just miles across the border from their dreadful deeds, and that is something I would wish on no one.
The basic principle of our extradition treaty must be that we will help others to get criminals off the streets, but the underlying pin that holds it together must be that the moral duty, to which the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden referred and to which I believe we all adhere, and the duty towards human rights are premium. The Bill is our opportunity to get that right.
I welcome some of the tidying up that has been done by Committee members, whose input and commitment I also welcome. A lot of work has taken place to get us this far, but again, I ask for the Minister’s assurance that he believes that our human rights obligations are fully enshrined in this legislation, not simply for today’s globe but future-proofed for our ever-changing world.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak briefly in this important debate. There have been some excellent contributions from hon. and right hon. Members, and it is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Many Members have rightly highlighted the positives in the Bill, but they have also drawn attention to some of the perceived negatives. I echo the comments of the hon. Gentleman when he said that we have a strong history of doing the right thing and doing the lawful thing, even when there is perhaps an imbalance in relationships, which we occasionally see. However, I wish to approach the Bill from a slightly different perspective.
I do not expect my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security to comment in detail on the issues that I raise; it would be extremely unfair to expect him to do so. But in every extradition case, whether the person is a criminal or not, at heart there is an individual, whose human rights must be protected. In that vein, I draw to the Minister’s attention the case of my constituent Jonathan Taylor, who is fighting extradition on an Interpol red notice, because his case highlights some of the issues and examples that have caused my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) to express so passionately his fears about what could happen to individuals who, at the end of the day, are British citizens and our constituents.
I do not expect the Minister to comment in detail, but Mr Taylor is on bail in Croatia, where he is fighting an extradition notice from Monaco. I note that Monaco is not included in any of the changes laid out in the Bill, and I do not seek to bring in anything that might be considered out of scope, but I wonder whether the Minister might be tempted to comment on the reasoning behind that.
I have quite correctly, as Mr Taylor’s constituency MP, raised his case with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I know that Members from all parts of the House have highlighted that case, because Mr Taylor is a whistleblower. I seek reassurances from my right hon. Friend the Minister that in cases where whistleblowing is involved, the individual who has done the right thing and provided evidence to jurisdictions as far-flung as the United States, Brazil and the Netherlands should not find themselves caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare where it is they who are held responsible, and find themselves fighting extradition to foreign countries when they have done nothing wrong.
In this case, the whistleblower is being pursued by Monaco, which leaves him in an extremely vulnerable position. That is causing great anxiety to him and to his family—hence the need to raise these concerns with reference to the Bill as it comes before the House today.
In this country, we seek to protect whistleblowers. Legislation laid down in 1998 and in 2013 does exactly that. I seek reassurance from the Minister that nothing in the Bill will undermine those protections for British citizens who find themselves caught up in such a situation. I acknowledge that Mr Taylor’s case is not strictly applicable to the Bill, but it is pertinent, and it would have been remiss of me not to use this opportunity today. So I have done so: I have highlighted a very real situation that is of massive concern not only to my constituent, but to other British citizens. Many others will be in similar situations. They are seeking to oppose their extradition to countries that are giving every appearance of pursuing a political rather than a judicial agenda.
I rise to give my party’s support to the amendments in the names of the right hon. Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). I should also say that the Scottish National party supports the official Opposition’s new clauses 1 and 2, which seem eminently sensible.
The Scottish National party fully supports reasonable measures to keep our citizens safe from those who have committed serious crimes furth of this country, and we fully support working with international frameworks to do so. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why we, and the majority of people in Scotland, were so keen on the security and justice co-operation afforded through our membership of the European Union, and why we voted for its continuance repeatedly and are so sad to see it go.
Let me return to the amendments. It is important to remember that, in addition to a duty to protect the safety of our citizens, this Government and this Parliament have a duty to uphold international human rights standards. We should be loth, therefore, to do anything to permit extradition to regimes that do not uphold the right to a fair trial, free speech or freedom of expression. Many of our constituents are extremely concerned about human rights abuses in China, particularly in respect of the Uyghur Muslims. These and other human rights abuses are indicative of a regime that is very far indeed from setting the same store by human rights as we do. Many of our constituents have watched with horror as the situation in Hong Kong has unfolded and as the brutal suppression of pro-democracy activists continues. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) referred to the footage of a 12-year-old girl being subject to a violent arrest at a pro-democracy protest—I am sure we are all very grateful to those brave enough to film that footage and get it out to the rest of us. I very much want to associate myself with the comments of those who are keen to impress on the Minister—I am sure he is alive to this—the importance of not making it any easier for human rights-denying regimes to get their hands on their citizens who have sought refuge in these islands.
Let me turn now to amendments 7 to 10 in the name of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden. I share his concerns about the unbalanced extradition arrangements that we have with the United States of America. There is a lot that could be said about those today, but I will not go into it in detail because it is beyond the scope of this Bill to redress that imbalance. None the less, I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising it, and I wish to impress on the Government as we move forward, particularly given the nature of the current President of the United States of America, that we should be looking afresh at these unbalanced extradition arrangements, particularly when we see the outcome of a number of high-profile cases at the moment.
I want to turn now to the Government amendments. I am keen to know from the Minister—I realise that we have received a letter from him in the past hour or so, but I have not had time to digest its contents properly—just exactly why Government amendment 15 is now seeking to include EEA countries in proposed new schedule A1. Is this the start of our growing and perhaps inevitable recognition that, when we leave the transition period at the end of this year, there will not be any replacement for the European arrest warrant? If that is so, it is a most regrettable state of affairs, and one that is of great concern to my colleagues in government in Edinburgh and also to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland and to Police Scotland. An update on exactly what is going on here would be very much appreciated, particularly as the Solicitor General told us on Second Reading that this Bill was not about the European arrest warrant. If that has changed, we really deserve a full explanation of why it has changed and where we are in the negotiations in that respect.
I wish to oppose Government amendments 13 and 14. Government amendment 13 removes a provision that was inserted in the other place imposing certain conditions about a consultation assessment and requiring reports on the making of regulations under section 74B(7) of the Extradition Act 2003. I very much regret that the Government are attempting to remove these additional safeguards. I regret in particular the Government’s determination to remove the obligation to consult the devolved Governments before adding, removing or varying reference to a territory. I very much fear that this deletion is indicative of the Government’s lack of good will towards the other Governments of these islands. It will come as little surprise to viewers in Scotland that the Government will do anything they can to get out of any obligation to take account of public opinion in Scotland or the views of Scotland’s elected representatives. In that respect, I urge them to think again, because, as was said in the other place, the devolved institutions can be a source of “valuable information” relevant to changes that might be proposed in relation to individual territories. Although extradition is a reserved matter, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have responsibility for justice, policing and prisons, and their views ought to be considered. Furthermore, many members of the Scottish Government and Parliament have expertise in relation to human rights, and a particular interest in human rights aspects of territories that the British Government might seek to add.
That brings me to the deletion of any obligation to consult non-governmental organisations. I have already spoken about how central human rights must be to our decision on whether to add any territories to these provisions. NGOs will have direct experience or information in relation to the human rights position on the ground of a particular country or territory, which can only aid Government decision making and, importantly, parliamentary scrutiny.
Finally, I support what the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) said about the unfortunate deletion of the obligation to do this territory by territory, with one statutory instrument per territory, rather than rolling up a number of them into one. As was said in the other place, by exiting the European Union we have made ourselves as a state “vulnerable to pressures” in the context of seeking trade agreements. If we have one statutory instrument per territory, it is much more likely to be identified on the Floor of the House where such undue pressure has been brought to bear. I will leave it at that for now.
It is always a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Dame Rosie, and to follow the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), with whom I have shared many assignments on the Floor of the House and in Committee on these matters. I rise to speak to new clauses 1 and 2 and amendments 16 and 17, in my name and those of the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Home Secretary.
There is a slight irony in the fact that we are discussing a Government Bill designed to strengthen international law just a matter of hours after we heard from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the Dispatch Box that the Government intend to break international law in relation to the withdrawal agreement. I want to put on record how good it is to see the Minister for Security in his place. I thank him for the co-operative and courteous way in which he has worked with me over the last number of months since I was appointed. I would expect no less from a person of his calibre, but it is very much appreciated.
We have heard a serious tone in the debate. As a relatively new Front Bencher, I find it quite daunting to follow the speeches of such distinguished and senior parliamentarians as the right hon. Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and for Wokingham (John Redwood). We also heard from the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) and the esteemed Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), as well as my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy), who shows that there are still a few reds left in the red wall, thankfully. We also heard characteristically dignified words from my friend, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).
This Bill seeks to fill a gap—notably, the situation in which UK law enforcement becomes aware of someone wanted by a non-EU territory but is unable to arrest them without first seeking a warrant. The risk that the Bill seeks to address is that a wanted person may abscond or even reoffend before they can be detained. We acknowledge the context, the arguments and the safeguards set out by the Government on Second Reading, and we have carefully considered the comments made by the Director of Public Prosecutions and others. We also believe that the scrutiny and refinement of the Bill during its passage in the other place has significantly improved and strengthened it.
We have approached the Bill in a constructive spirit, with a determination to work across the House to get important legislation right for the protection of all our citizens. It is critical to ensure that serious criminals—some of whom, let us not forget, are wanted abroad for the most heinous crimes—are arrested and swiftly brought to justice before the opportunity arises for them to reoffend or abscond. We fully accept that, in a world where criminals increasingly respect no national borders or boundaries, we must work to achieve our overriding priority to keep the British public safe in collaboration with our international partners. However, important amendments have been tabled, and I hope that the Government will listen carefully to the points raised on both sides of the Committee, to ensure that we build the strongest, most robust and fairest legislative framework for our extradition process.
New clause 1 would require the Secretary of State to lay a statement setting out how many individuals have been arrested under provisions in the Act, broken down by the characteristics of each person arrested as set out in section 4 of the Equality Act 2010. This would ensure that Parliament receives the information and facts to enable us to fulfil our duty in scrutinising the effectiveness and impact of this Bill, and in particular to know to whom it is being applied. First, it is important to understand how many people this is applied to, which will enable us to understand the breadth and reach of the provisions in this Act and to compare its effectiveness with current provisions, and secondly, it is equally important that we understand to whom it is being applied.
The purpose of the Equality Act was to protect people from discrimination on the basis of nine protected characteristics. In a situation such as requests for extradition, when we are responding to requests from other jurisdictions, we do not have any way of recognising whether those requests are forming any patterns or disproportionately affecting any group of persons. If our own equalities legislation is to have any meaning or to be effective, it is vital that we at least have the evidence and the data before the House to analyse the effect of these extradition provisions on protected groups. We therefore request that this information be published to enable this analysis so we can more effectively understand the impact of the Bill.
New clause 2, in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. colleagues, would require a change made by this Act to be kept under review and the first review of the Act to be carried out within a year of its being passed. Again, this is an important part of making the legislation better, because we live in a permanently changing world, where both international relations and the issues of crime and security are fluid and constantly evolving.
Moreover, there remain concerns in many areas about the approach of several countries to the use of Interpol red notices, as we have already heard. In February last year, the European Parliament published a study that examined abuse by some states of Interpol’s notice system to persecute human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists in violation of international standards of human rights. The study acknowledged that the reforms implemented in 2015 had improved the situation. However, abuses of the Interpol system against individuals, including journalists, continue because there is still a lack of established rules and procedures to govern the vetting process and adherence to Interpol’s constitution.
It is of the utmost importance that we in the House have the opportunity to finesse or refine this legislation in respect of extradition, so that weaknesses in existing systems are not exacerbated by any vague legislation coming from the House. It is important that this is regularly evaluated. As our new clause 1 makes clear, it is only through comprehensive access to good information and evidence that we can truly understand the impact and effectiveness of this important legislation.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I will come to the European arrest warrant and that point very shortly.
I hope the Minister recognises the importance of these new clauses to the effectiveness of the Bill, and responds accordingly.
Government amendments 12 and 16 define the designated authority as the National Crime Agency. We recognise that, and are pleased to see that the Government have tabled an amendment to that effect. I have no doubt that this will give an important sense of clarity and purpose to those brave men and women working in the National Crime Agency and their operational partners, whose efforts, let us not forget—right at this moment, in fact—do a great deal to keep the public safe and secure. The role of the designated authority is fundamental to the success of the legislation, given that it will be carrying out the functions of certifying requests. However, will the Minister confirm that powers of redesignation, if ever necessary, will be open to scrutiny by both Houses of Parliament? I think he will appreciate that that is an important issue for future oversight.
We feel that Government amendment 13 seeks to undo the valuable amendment made in the other place by my noble Friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark. It received support from all sides in the other place, and it requires certain key conditions to be satisfied before the Secretary of State can add, remove or vary reference to a territory. That amendment was reasonable, proportionate and practical, and it should present no problem for the Government, so I am not quite clear why the Minister is seeking to undo the good work done by the Lords.
Nothing in the Lords amendment stops the Government doing what they want to do; it simply ensures a proper process of consultation and assessment, which any major changes to a framework of this significance should undergo. Where the proposal is to add a territory, it requires a statement confirming that the territory does not abuse the Interpol red notice system. The first part of the amendment places a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult on the merit of the change, and there are two groups in the consultation proposed here: first, the devolved institutions, and secondly, NGOs and civic society. As the Bill stands, after consultation an assessment has to be laid before Parliament outlining the risks of the proposed changes and confirming that where the proposal is to add a territory, it does not abuse the Interpol red notice system. It is my contention that that should remain in the Bill.
In a similar vein, we will also be defending the amendment made in the other place by Baroness Hamwee, which the Government are attempting to remove by means of their amendment 14. The Bill as it now stands requires each order to add, vary or remove a territory under new schedule A1 to contain no more than one territory. There is of course nothing to prevent the Government from laying several instruments, each relating to one territory, at the same time, so there should not be any delay to process. Each country will have differing characteristics and varying degrees of compliance, so grouping them could result in the waving through of some territories with questionable human rights records purely because to fail to do so would jeopardise a potentially urgent extradition agreement with another country. Each country will have varying levels of compliance and different approaches to issues of human rights and criminal justice, and this is important because while we agree with legislating on the basis of those currently specified as trusted partners in this Bill, we should not leave the door open. We intend to defend the inclusion of this clause as a safeguard for the effective application of this legislation.
We have tabled amendment 17 to allow all European economic area member states to be inserted in new schedule A1, and we note that the Minister has made a similar proposal in Government amendment 15, but, frankly, the lack of progress on the justice and security talks with the European Union gives us a great deal of concern, and 31 December is approaching with no positive signs of agreement on these hugely important issues. I ask the Minister: is he concerned about our losing access to the capabilities afforded by the European arrest warrant? We on this side of the House are clear that any loss of capability, regardless of whether it is mutual, would have disastrous implications for UK law enforcement’s ability to identify and question suspected criminals and thus keep our country secure.
I refer the Minister to comments made in February 2019 by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, the UK law enforcement lead for Brexit and international criminality, in relation to the loss of the European arrest warrant and the Schengen Information System, and the potential implications for policing of no deal. He said:
“Every fallback we have is more bureaucratic, it is slower”.
He said that while policing was “not going to stop” and would still meet the threat,
“we will be much more limited than we currently are”.
He went on to say:
“If something takes two or three times as long as when you were doing it before, that’s probably another couple of hours maybe you are not back on the streets”
and not being visible doing your core role. Such an outcome would be not only undesirable but unacceptable.
Specifically on extradition, we know that the UK and EU falling back on prior arrangements in the 1957 Council of Europe convention would complicate proceedings and add needless delay. That is not my assessment but that of the previous Conservative Government and their former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). We entirely accept that the Bill’s scope relates solely to the powers conferred on UK law enforcement, so I would like to ask the Minister exactly what the Government are doing to ensure adequate levels of reciprocity in future extradition arrangements, particularly if we lose the powers we presently enjoy under the European arrest warrant and other such mechanisms.
I will turn briefly to the amendments tabled in the names of the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green and other colleagues. I listened carefully to the powerful speech the right hon. Gentleman made today about the admirable work he has been doing on this issue over previous months, which is wholeheartedly supported by those of us on this side of the House. We welcomed the Government’s decision to suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, which will offer much needed assurance to the Hong Kong diaspora and pro-democracy activists. It is important that the UK works with democratic partners around the world to ensure a co-ordinated international response that enables holders of the British national overseas passport, pro-democracy activists and the people of Hong Kong to travel without fear of arrest and extradition. The Government must not waver in their commitment to the people of Hong Kong, and we will support them in their endeavours if that is the case. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s assurances.
I also acknowledge the work of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden and his amendments. I stressed before that we acknowledge that the Bill’s scope relates predominantly to powers of arrest conferred on UK law enforcement, not the extradition process itself, but we need to do all we can to ensure levels of reciprocity when it comes to our extradition agreements, not least with our most trusted partners. It is not acceptable that we are not able to bring those wanted for serious offences to justice here in the UK because they are elsewhere when the reverse would be perfectly possible. That is all too often the case. For an extradition agreement to have any value—this goes to the heart of the right hon. Gentleman’s point—British citizens must believe that their Government will support and stand up for them and uphold the integrity and equivalence of any agreement. I hope the Minister will take those arguments seriously.
We have, as always, sought to be a constructive Opposition during the progress of this Bill, and our amendments today serve only to strengthen and improve the legislation, building on the cross-party work done in the other place.
It is a privilege and pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Rosie. I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions during the course of this thoughtful debate, and I recognise and appreciate the support for the principles that are enunciated within a short Bill with a defined purpose.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), and I will come to his amendments and his important points in relation to Hong Kong. I will also address the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis)—my long-standing friend—on extradition. Indeed, he and I have debated such points over many years, and he will remember the changes that were brought about on things such as forum bars and where the right forum actually is. I can certainly say to him that we will always keep our extradition arrangements under review.
I thank the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) for her challenges, and I will come to them later. I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), that there are obviously issues around the EU and how we negotiate, and how we use the freedoms that we now hold as an independent state. I hope to explain further the negotiations in relation to the EU, which are very much extant. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) for his support and for so clearly setting out the purpose of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) made several wide-ranging points, underlining why we have extradition to uphold our justice system and to ensure that those who need to be brought to justice are, including in significant cases that touch so many of our constituents. On that note, I appreciate the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes). We are clearly aware of the constituency case she highlighted, and we are working with our colleagues at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in connection with the case. It is important in that context to highlight how we approach such matters, ensuring that appropriate standards are met and applied. My right hon. Friend sought to underline certain issues. I will not comment on the detail of the individual case she raised on behalf of her constituent Jonathan Taylor, but I say to her that this Bill does not change the role of the court or the Secretary of State in relation to a person’s extradition or any of the existing safeguards in the Extradition Act 2003. No individual will be extradited if the request is politically motivated. That touches on the broader point she was seeking to highlight, and I can give her that assurance.
The purpose of the Bill is to create an immediate power of arrest for UK law enforcement when it first encounters extradition fugitives in certain circumstances. It introduces a new power of arrest by amendment to part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003, makes necessary consequential amendments and provides a power to make further consequential amendments by regulation. I appreciate the warm and generous comments made by the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) about the broad support for the Bill, and I thank him for his kind personal comments, too. I wish him well and look forward to many discussions in the future on a range of issues straddling security, organised crime and, more broadly, the extradition matters we are touching on today.
Currently, we do not have a power to arrest equivalent to that under the European arrest warrant for extradition purposes for those wanted by non-EU countries. Instead, our police have to apply to a UK court for an arrest warrant before they can arrest fugitives wanted by those countries. By creating the power to arrest certain suspects immediately, without obtaining a warrant first, we are ensuring that if the police come across an individual wanted by a specified country whose systems we trust, they can arrest them. That prevents any risk that such a person might pose to the public here in the UK if left on the streets, and the risk that they might abscond and not be brought to justice. It is important to express it in these terms: this Bill is about the protection of our citizens in this country. It is a determination that we make that this is an important right and power for our police to have, bounded by appropriate safeguards, of course. We know that some fugitives wanted for extradition can sometimes come to the attention of the police through a chance encounter, which is why the ability to arrest a suspect immediately is an operational necessity. That power is created by this Bill.
My hon. Friend makes an important point about safeguards. He will see that the arrested individual will need to be before a judge as soon as practicable after arrest. That is one of the safeguards that I wanted to highlight, as it underpins the Bill. The new arrest power, in the prescribed circumstances, is the only change—this is another important point to stress—to current extradition law and practice that is introduced. It is designed to bring a wanted person into extradition proceedings under part 2 of the Extradition Act in an expedited way, without changing the likelihood of successful extradition. It does not change the current legislative framework, or any of the process for the extradition proceedings themselves. The Bill is purely about shifting the point at which the police can intervene and arrest a wanted person. It in no way reduces the safeguards that must apply to any subsequent extradition proceedings considered by the court or the Home Secretary. Judicial oversight will continue as it does now after any arrest. The courts will continue to assess extradition requests as they do now, to determine, for example, whether extradition would be compatible with the individual’s human rights or whether the person would receive a fair trial. If they would not, extradition would be barred.
The Bill includes five main safeguards. It applies only to certain specified countries. Countries with a poor human rights record or those that have abused Interpol systems could not be considered suitable for this provision. The addition of any countries would require the consent of both Houses, and it only applies to sufficiently serious offences; the power will only be available in relation to offences that would be criminal in the UK for which an offender would receive a prison sentence of at least three years and which is a sufficiently serious form of that offence to justify arrest.
The designated authority must be satisfied that arrangements are in place to ensure that requests made by the country concerned are made on the basis of an underlying warrant or a conviction. Also, as I have indicated, the arrested individual will need to be brought before a judge as soon as practicable after arrest, and the power does not alter extradition proceedings in any other way and does not interfere with the court or the Secretary of State’s role in extradition proceedings.
I hope that that sets out quite clearly the importance of the safeguards. I know that some Members raised the issue of Interpol. I stress that the UK continues to work with Interpol to ensure that its rules are robust, effective and complied with. It is notable that the former chief constable of Essex was recently made the executive director of policing services for Interpol—the most senior operational role in that organisation—and a UK Government lawyer has also been seconded to Interpol’s notices and diffusion taskforce to work to ensure Interpol rules are properly and robustly adhered to by Interpol member states.
Government amendments 11 and 15 provide a contingency measure to keep an important current law enforcement protection for the UK public in place after the end of the transition period, whatever the outcome of the current negotiations. As the Committee knows, the negotiated outcome we are seeking with the EU would create a warrant-based system based on the EU’s surrender agreement with Norway and Iceland. The purpose of amending the Bill in this way at this time is to ensure the continuation of relevant arrest powers, should that prove necessary. Amendment 11 is a consequential amendment that will ensure that amendment 15 will be commenced only if we do not have in place new extradition arrangements with the EU at the end of the transition period. If an agreement is reached, these provisions will not need to come into effect. This is simply a contingency measure, and the provisions also provide for a contingency in the event that we do not agree new extradition arrangements with Norway and Iceland to maintain the arrest power currently available by virtue of the EU-Norway-Iceland surrender agreement.
Opposition amendment 17 covers similar ground, although framing it in EEA terms. I hope the hon. Member for St Helens North will appreciate that we should approve participants on a state-by-state basis— which he would probably acknowledge—and that is why we think the better approach is to name countries individually.
On the progress of the negotiations on law enforcement and criminal justice, I think there is a good degree of convergence in what the UK and the EU are seeking to negotiate in terms of operational capabilities. We will keep working to bridge the gap where differences remain. There is still an agreement to be had and we will continue to work hard to achieve it.
Government amendment 12 specifies the National Crime Agency as the designated authority for this legislation. The designated authority is the agency that will have the task of certifying that the international arrest alerts conform to the right criteria for them to carry the new power of provisional arrest. The drafting is future-proofed, as it allows for the designated authority to be changed by regulation should the need arise. We have taken that approach as the direct alternative to using secondary legislation on this occasion, to ensure the best use of parliamentary time. The amendment therefore represents a change of process rather than policy, and is reflected by Opposition amendment 16. I hope that the Opposition will recognise, because of the future-proofing arrangements, that this is an improvement on the technical approach that they would take.
Government amendment 13 will overturn one of the two changes made in the other place. Statutory requirements are added for the Government to consult on the merits of adding, removing or varying a territory from the Bill with the devolved Administrations and relevant interested stakeholders. Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have been clear in our commitment to ensuring that Parliament can scrutinise any decision to bring a new country within the scope of this power in exactly the same way as Parliament does in relation to the Extradition Act. To that end, the Bill mandates that the addition or removal of any territory is by the affirmative resolution procedure. This gives Parliament the right to scrutinise in detail such proposals and to accept them or, indeed, reject them.
It is important to stress that while extradition is a reserved matter, relevant officials are engaged in regular discussions with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations and law enforcement agencies, which operate right across the UK to collaborate on operational policy and ensure the effectiveness of our extradition system. Indeed, such discussion and consultation has already taken place in relation to the Bill and the amendments. Of course, given that any countries being added would be subject to the affirmative procedure, there will be opportunities for Parliament to probe the extent to which the views of the devolved Administrations and other organisations have been sought. Therefore, we believe that there is no need to add this provision to the Bill.
Government amendment 14 would overturn the second alteration in the other place, which provides that the removal or addition of a country must use a single statutory instrument. Any additions will be dictated by the will of Parliament, not by an unusual process such that this would impose. If a country is proposed that Parliament does not agree should be specified, the regulations will be voted down in the normal way. We judge that that remains the rightful process.
Turning to amendments 1 and 2 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green, I am grateful to him for the way in which he has approached this, and for the important points that he and other Members have made. It may be useful to set out the measures the Government have taken in dealing with the situation in Hong Kong since the amendments were tabled. As the Committee will be aware, because of the new national security legislation in Hong Kong, the Government have indefinitely suspended the 1998 UK-Hong Kong agreement on the surrender of fugitive offenders—our extradition treaty. As a result, the Government will not deal with extradition requests sent by Hong Kong to the UK under that treaty. We are also creating a new bespoke immigration route for citizens from Hong Kong to come to the UK, reflecting the unique and unprecedented circumstances in Hong Kong and the UK’s historical and moral commitment to British nationals overseas citizens.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend and Members across the House who have brought this issue to the Committee to ensure that we stand with the people of Hong Kong. This Government have demonstrated our absolute commitment to the people of Hong Kong. Any changes to the Bill in the form of these amendments would not change our extradition relationship with Hong Kong, as I think my right hon. Friend has recognised. However, the points that he has made are very powerful, and I know that colleagues in the Foreign Office will equally have recognised them. We will certainly keep this issue under careful review.
In relation to the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden, I reiterate that the purpose of the Bill is to rectify a policing capability gap, to better protect the public. I recognise that he perhaps makes his points within a broader purview, and that his amendments were probing and there are other issues that he might like to return to on another day. The US is just one of the UK’s extradition partners, and the legal processes in each of those jurisdictions will be different. My right hon. Friend has been a champion of the important liberties that this Government seek to protect in relation to each and every extradition case that goes to the UK courts. I recognise and respect the approach that he takes. While we take a different view on these issues of imbalance, he will recognise some of the previous reviews that have looked at these issues to see whether that imbalance does exist. As I have indicated, we keep all our extradition arrangements under review, and I look forward to continuing this conversation with him in the weeks and months ahead.
I am also grateful to my right hon. Friend for rightly drawing attention to the case of Anne Sacoolas. Harry Dunn’s death was a terrible tragedy. We have every sympathy with his family for their tragic loss and share their desire to ensure that justice is done—a point that the Prime Minister himself has reaffirmed in the last few days.
Finally, I turn to new clauses 1 and 2. Throughout the passage of the Bill, there has been considerable cross-party consensus on its aims and measures, alongside the robust scrutiny that I have come to rightly expect from this House. New clause 1 would require the publication of an annual statement on arrests. The National Crime Agency already keeps data and publishes statistics on arrest volumes in relation to part 1 of the Extradition Act. It does that without having been required to do so by primary legislation. We have no doubt that it will similarly do so in respect of arrests under this new arrest power, as this is sensible operational practice. While I have some sympathy for the new clause, I am not persuaded of the necessity of a statutory obligation at this time. I hope that we will be able to review this as that information is published.
I hear what the hon. Member for St Helens North said in relation to new clause 2, which I think has been tabled as a probing amendment, on the issue of a review. Again, we believe that there is sufficient transparency. This House will no doubt have the chance to assess the operation of the Bill through the normal post-legislative scrutiny. For those reasons, we are not minded to accept the new clause, although we recognise the need for constant challenge through this House.
I am grateful for the amendments that have been tabled and the informed debate that we have had.
I have listened carefully to my right hon. Friend and, given the nature of what the Government have already undertaken since the amendments were tabled by my right hon. Friends and me, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Extent, commencement and short title
Amendment made: 11, page 1, line 16, at end insert
‘, but paragraph 3A of the Schedule may not be commenced so as to come into force in relation to a territory before that territory is a category 2 territory for the purposes of the Extradition Act 2003.’—(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment is consequential on amendment 15 and provides that the amendments that are to be made by amendment 15 to Schedule A1 to the Extradition Act 2003 (inserted by paragraph 3 of the Schedule to the Bill) cannot be brought into force in relation to a territory before the territory is designated as a category 2 territory for the purposes of that Act.
Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Power of arrest for extradition purposes
Amendment made: 12, page 3, line 22, leave out from beginning to end of line 24 and insert—
‘(3A) The “designated authority” is the National Crime Agency.
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section so as to change the meaning of “designated authority”.’—(James Brokenshire.)
The Bill currently provides for the Secretary of State to designate the “designated authority” in regulations. This amendment instead provides, on the face of the Bill, that the National Crime Agency is the designated authority and confers a power on the Secretary of State to amend new section 74B to designate a different authority.
Amendment proposed: 13, page 3, line 37, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 4.—(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment leaves out a provision inserted in the Lords imposing certain conditions relating to consultation, assessments and reports on the making of regulations under new section 74B(7).
Government amendment 13 agreed to.
The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
Amendment proposed: 14, page 4, leave out lines 3 and 4.—(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment leaves out a provision inserted in the Lords preventing regulations under new section 74B(7) adding more than one territory at a time to the list of territories in new Schedule A1.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
Government amendment 14 agreed to.
The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
Amendment made: 15, in schedule, page 7, line 2, at end insert—
‘3A In Schedule A1 (as inserted by paragraph 3), at the appropriate places, insert
“Austria”; “Belgium”; “Bulgaria”; “Croatia”; “Cyprus”; “Czech Republic”; “Denmark”; “Estonia”; “Finland”; “France”; “Germany”; “Greece”; “Hungary”; “Iceland”; “Ireland”; “Italy”; “Latvia”; “Lithuania”; “Luxembourg”; “Malta”; “The Netherlands”; “Norway”; “Poland”; “Portugal”; “Romania”; “Slovakia”; “Slovenia”; “Spain”; “Sweden”.
3B Paragraph 3A is repealed at the end of 2021 if, or to the extent that, it has not been brought into force before the end of that year.’—(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment would allow for the territories listed in new paragraph 3A to be inserted into new Schedule A1. If or to the extent that new paragraph 3A is not brought into force before the end of 2021, new paragraph 3B provides for new paragraph 3A to be repealed at the end of that year.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.
Bill, as amended, reported.
Bill, as amended in the Committee, considered.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I thank hon. and right hon. Members in all parts of the House for their scrutiny of the Bill, and I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to the debate in Committee today and on Second Reading before the recess. Bills that relate to extradition are not always the easiest, and I thank all Members for their really informed and stimulating interventions and amendments that have helped to shape and inform the Bill.
There is no doubt that important contributions were made by many and, as ever, the scrutiny that this House provides continues to test and improve the legislative programme that the Government seek to pass into law. All of us on these Benches benefit from the work of officials from the Home Office. I also pay tribute to the officials in the Public Bill Office and all those who have supported the Bill’s passage.
The Bill is designed to bring a wanted person into extradition proceedings in an expedited way without in any way changing the likelihood of successful extradition or the legal process itself. It is about ensuring that our police have the right powers to keep the public safe and bring those who may flee justice before justice as appropriate. The extension of police powers in limited circumstances specifically to protect the public does not in any way interfere with the ensuing extradition process. It is about how suspects enter that process and about minimising the risk that a wanted person evades justice. There are powerful public policy reasons for and benefits in ensuring that those wanted for extradition for serious criminal offences enter the extradition process as quickly as possible, and that UK laws do not create the possibility of impunity for those accused or convicted of such offences.
I thank Members across the House for their support of the principles of this Bill today, and for making amendments and proposals that will ensure that we can continue to keep UK citizens safe. Throughout its passage, the Bill has not lost sight of our ultimate aim, which is to provide UK police officers with the arrest powers that they need to keep up with the challenges of transnational crime—crime that is often organised and often has more than one victim in more than one country. This law will prevent fugitives responsible for such crime from continuing to evade justice through an operational loophole, which puts the public at risk. The Bill closes that gap. I am pleased that we have been able to reach a position of broad consensus on all its provisions, and I very much appreciate not only the support, but the scrutiny that has been applied through its passage today and previously.
I commend the Bill to the House and commend the positive effect that I believe it will have to protect the public.
I echo what the right hon. Gentleman said in thanking his departmental officials who, alongside the Minister himself, have been courteous and helpful in providing us with information and briefings throughout. I also thank the officials in the Public Bill Office for their diligent work and assistance in helping the official Opposition and our colleagues across the House to scrutinise the Bill.
I do not intend to detain the House long. We had a good and wide-ranging debate on Second Reading and the Bill has had good scrutiny in Committee on the Floor of the House today. We are disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the Government did not accept our amendments, but we will not be opposing the Bill on Third Reading.
We have always said that we accept the need for comprehensive legislation to address the gap that currently exists for UK law enforcement prior to extradition proceedings. We hope that the Bill will assist in closing that gap and help to keep the British people safe. We are determined to ensure that serious criminals who make their way to our country or commit offences in other countries cannot rest easy on our streets and evade the full force of law, and we believe the Bill will help to achieve that.
We discussed in Committee the need for an extradition agreement to have integrity and that for it to have value, British citizens must believe that their Government will support and stand up for them and uphold the said integrity of any agreement. We have talked a lot about reciprocity, but I also want to talk about credibility. I say gently to the Minister that the credibility around international agreements and international law is not given in isolation, and it ill behoves the Government, on something as sensitive as this, to talk about wilfully breaking international law. I hope he and his colleagues will consider that in relation to other matters. However, on the substantive matter of this Bill, we will not divide the House this evening.
I was remiss earlier in not welcoming the Minister back to his place, and I thank him for his courtesy, as always, in keeping me apprised of his intentions in relation to this Bill. The Scottish National party supports the principles behind it and we support reasonable measures to assist in tackling transnational crime, provided the importance of protecting human rights is respected. As I said earlier, the SNP fully supports working with international frameworks to keep our citizens safe. That is one of the reasons why we and the majority of people in Scotland were so keen on the security and justice co-operation afforded through our membership of the European Union, why we voted for its continuance repeatedly, and why we have been so sad to see it go.
I will not divide the House on the Bill, but I regret the Government’s refusal to countenance an obligation to consult the devolveds when adding, removing or varying a provision in relation to a territory. The devolved Government in Scotland have a real interest here given the devolution of criminal justice, and as I said, I think it indicates the lack of respect from this Government about the impact of the devolved settlements on our constitution that no consultation has been forthcoming. It is also perhaps an indication of ignorance of the fact that Scotland’s separate legal system is protected not just by devolution, but by the Act of Union. I have recently expressed concerns about a potential breach of article 19 of the treaty of Union by the Government’s proposals in another field of law, in relation to judicial review. Let me pick up what was said by the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who speaks for the official Opposition. It seems now that the treaty of Union is not the only international treaty that the Government are bent on breaching, and I add my voice to his.
It is extremely shocking to see a Government Minister stand at the Dispatch Box and confirm that the Government intend to breach international law. I am sure that as I speak, the Law Officers who advise the Government—the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the Advocate General, the UK Government’s Law Officer in Scotland—will be considering their position very carefully, as will, I am sure, the Lord Chancellor, who is bound in terms of the constitution Act to respect the rule of law. I look forward over the coming days to seeing what the British Government’s Law Officers have to say about their and, indeed, the Lord Chancellor’s position in relation to a Government who promise on the Floor of this House to break an international agreement and international law.
This seems to be one of the many unfortunate consequences of our leaving the European Union, and, as I said, it was notable that the Government sought to amend the Bill today to provide for the situation that there will be no replacement for the European arrest warrant when we exit the transition period at the end of the year. This is a most regrettable state of affairs. It seems that this Government intend to pilot the United Kingdom into a period of lawlessness. For those of us who wish to see Scotland take a different path and who are rather sick of being lectured about how inappropriate that is, this course of lawlessness is much to be regretted.
We had a good debate earlier today, but I hope the Minister will come back to the House ere long to deal with a couple of important issues explored in the earlier debate. The first is the protection of British citizens who are the object of one of these extradition requirements once we have entered into these agreements. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) made a powerful speech about how we need to look carefully at the conditions offered to people when they are taken abroad on charges, particularly as they may be innocent and particularly when the most serious offences that most of us had in mind when these extradition regimes were drawn up may not be involved. We all wish to keep our country safe, and we all understand that we need reciprocal agreements to do that. We wish such agreements to be used to pursue those who are violent and commit the most serious crimes, but we need to think about how this can be extended, and how in certain jurisdictions where we have extradition agreements people may not be accorded the same decent treatment we would want to accord somebody who has been charged with a crime but who may, in the end, prove to be innocent.
We also need to come back to how we are going to handle our extradition arrangements with other European countries. We are still not sure how that might work out, and we fully understand that it is still the subject of various discussions and negotiations. It is entirely prudent to make some provision today. However, some of us think that if there is to be no European arrest warrant when we have completed our so-called “implementation period”, that could be an opportunity for us to have a better and more suitable system, because the European arrest warrant had features that were not to this country’s liking and there was an element of compromise in it—as there has to be. I hope that we will therefore have some greater guidance on what might materialise.
As two other speakers in this Third Reading debate have referred to a topical issue that goes a bit wider than this Bill, perhaps I may also be permitted briefly to do that. I have not heard or seen anything that implies that this Government wish to break the law or the international treaty. I have seen everything to say that the Government take very seriously section 38 of the European (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, which was the assertion of sovereignty, and it was a fundamental proposition of the political agreement and the withdrawal agreement, which the EU willingly entered into, that British sovereignty was going to be assured and central, just as it was central to that agreement that there would be a free trade agreement. If there can be a free trade agreement, the other legal issues fall away.
One did need to correct that wider point, but, let me say in conclusion that this Bill is a necessary one. There are issues arising from it that could warrant further thought and treatment. I hope the Government will take the advantage of that thought which our leaving the EU can provide to look again at how in the longer term we can have a good judicial relationship—a co-operative relationship—with the EU that is fair to both sides and to any innocent people in Britain who may have to stand trial abroad.
I wish to make a few quick points. I said to the Minister in the Lobby what a pleasure it is to see him in his place and looking so well. I told him that I do not think I have seen him looking so healthy in a long time. He asked me how my constituency was and I told him that it is getting more beautiful every day—he knows that, as I do. I am pleased to see him back, just as I am pleased to see the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn). He and I have been good friends for a long time. We might have a difference of political opinion on some things, but we agree on a lot of important things in this House, on behalf of our constituents, and it is good to do that.
The DUP supported the Bill and voted with the Government, and the Bill has now been passed and moves on to its next stage. The Government and the Minister have given a commitment to speak up for those around the world. The right hon. Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), and indeed myself and others, spoke about human rights abuses around the world. The human rights angle of the Bill perhaps does not put in place everything we would like to see, but we are pleased to see things moving forward. Around the world, people are suppressed, persecuted and abused; hopefully, the Bill will make people accountable and we can use this law for that purpose.
Today, our Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—I always love saying that, by the way, because we are better together; the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) might have a slightly different opinion, but I do not think we disagree too much—have made it clear that if someone does something wrong, they will be caught, and that there is a moral obligation to speak up. The House has supported the Government and the legislation they have brought forward, but we also have a moral obligation. It is important that all of us in this House speak often about this important moral issue: people cannot just do something wrong and get away with it. Legally and morally, the House has made the right decision.
I would love to see, as I have said previously, the Chinese Government being held accountable in a court of law—under moral law and legal law around the world—for what they do to others. There are many other countries like them, but this country and our Government have acted correctly.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Just over three years ago a constituent, Mr Glynn Brown, came to my office to indicate that his son Aaron, an adult with special needs and a resident of Muckamore Abbey Hospital, had been assaulted. He was concerned not only that his son had been assaulted, but that it had taken two weeks for the medics on whom he relied for care to speak to Mr Brown. After contacting the Department of Health, I remember getting a chilling phone call one month later that indicated that the assault of Aaron Brown was not isolated and that it would take some time to uncover all that was going on at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
In the intervening period, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has discovered 1,500 separate incidents of criminal abuse of adults who were under the care of our health trust. I raised this issue in the Chamber a number of times during the period when Stormont was not sitting. I have campaigned for a public inquiry alongside the families involved and their relatives. I wanted to make this point of order to put on record my gratitude at the fact that today a public inquiry has been granted. We will get the truth and families shall get justice for the most heinous abuse that their loved ones have faced under the care of our state.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point. He knows, as the Chamber does, that it is not a point of order for the Chair, but I fully understand why he wanted to take this opportunity to put that important piece of information on the record. He has had a very good reaction to it from those present in the Chamber.