Daisy Cooper contributions to the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL] 2019-21

Mon 22nd June 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
5 interactions (701 words)

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords]

(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
Daisy Cooper Excerpts
Monday 22nd June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con) - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I agree with the shadow Home Secretary that this legislation fills a gap. It is a really important, sensible, sound and sober piece of legislation that meets a need and builds on our existing tried and tested relationships with valued partners across the globe. It is limited in scope and tightly focused, and the amendments passed in the other place to ensure that people should be brought to a judge as soon as possible are incredibly sensible, understanding the geographical nature of our country and addressing clause 39 of Magna Carta—no imprisonment without due legal process.

The Bill addresses a real need to get people off the streets as quickly as possible. The most interesting part of the Bill has been that most extradition seems to revolve around chance encounters; as the Minister said, 60% of people just happen to be stopped in traffic incidents or other minor legal infractions. I am particularly glad that this legislation will enable us to get those people to speedy justice, rather than allowing them to slip through the net for something that might not have been a crime that they would otherwise be arrested for. I am also glad that it does not change any safeguards in our extradition practices; that is a fundamental underlying principle of this legislation. As the legislation only applies to people whose crimes would lead to a sentence of over three years, and is considered a serious offence in the UK, there are quite clearly sensible safeguards in place to protect people.

This piece of legislation is not before time, and I welcome the fact that speedy extensions can be made to new countries via statutory instrument with the appropriate safeguards in place, rather than having to go back to primary legislation. I support the Bill and look forward to its speedy passage through the House.

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper (St Albans) (LD) - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 5:09 p.m.

I want to address the question of whether and how the Bill could be used after the end of the Brexit transition period. For 16 years, the European arrest warrant has been Britain’s best crime-fighting tool. It is significantly faster and cheaper than its predecessor arrangements, and it may well be faster and cheaper than what might replace it. The Minister was at pains to highlight the limited scope of the Bill, but the Government themselves have suggested that the Bill could be used to extend extradition arrangements to other countries, including EU countries after transition ends and our membership of the European arrest warrant ceases. The Bill focuses only on extraditing criminals from the UK, but it is clear that this could be used as a basis for striking bilateral deals in the future.

The Government will know that Germany, Slovenia and Austria do not extradite their own citizens to other countries, with the sole exception of its being done under the European arrest warrant. What kind of arrangements do the UK Government hope to operate in those cases? If EU countries do not want to sign bilateral extradition deals, the UK could become a haven for criminals. The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), herself warned in 2014 that leaving the European arrest warrant made the UK potentially a “honeypot” for all of Europe’s criminals on the run from justice. Similar concerns were raised in the House of Lords just last week in the context of this Bill.

The Government have said that they are committed to the European convention on human rights, yet they are refusing to formalise that commitment, even though that jeopardises our chances of agreeing a deal on extradition and other security issues. If the Government are genuinely committed to keeping the European convention on human rights, why not put us in a stronger negotiating position by making that commitment clear? We are four years on from the Brexit vote, with no agreed plans on what will replace our best crime-fighting tool, which we are due to lose in less than six months.

When the UK was a member of the EU, we participated in about 40 free trade agreements with more than 70 countries. We are now about to embark on renegotiating some of those from scratch. If the UK seeks to do valuable trade deals with a country that has a poor human rights record, to what extent will the Government be prepared to soften their extradition arrangements in favour of that country in order to secure that deal? What mechanisms will the UK put in place to ensure that that does not happen, so that we do not make ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of having to extradite people to countries with poor human rights records, where we do not have confidence in their justice system? I agree with the shadow Home Secretary, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), who said that the amendments passed in the House of Lords were the most effective way to uphold our commitment to human rights, and the Liberal Democrats support them.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con) - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 5:12 p.m.

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Lady has said, and I have to tell her that I do not have much confidence in the justice system in Romania, bearing in mind the Adamescu case. Surely she must appreciate that within the EU there are severe shortcomings with the European arrest warrant scheme.

Daisy Cooper Portrait Daisy Cooper - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 5:13 p.m.

That is one example that backs up the justification from the shadow Home Secretary earlier about why we should be dealing with individual applications from individual countries, so I see the hon. Member’s point as an argument in favour of the amendments that the Lords brought forward last week.

But we are discussing this Bill, which on paper is very limited in scope but which we know could be used more widely at the start of next year to create extradition arrangements with EU countries if those other fast-track deals are not done. Given the sombre statement that we have just had from the Home Secretary about a suspected terrorist act on our own soil, and the importance of ensuring justice for all those affected by that incident, it seems barely believable that we are now discussing an incredibly limited Bill that might, albeit not by design, become a poor and incomplete replacement for the European arrest warrant, our best crime-fighting tool, which we might lose in just six months, putting the UK at risk of becoming a “honeypot” for Europe’s criminals.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I have spoken on the issue of extradition on a number of occasions in the House, as I seek to ensure that we have in place understandings to allow the extradition of terrorists to our shores, as well as reciprocal arrangements. I commend the Minister and our Government for presenting the Bill—well done to him for introducing it. He outlined an example of something that will not be able to happen again, and that is why it is good to have this extradition legislation in place.

I am grateful to the Lords for their amendments that introduce additional safeguards to the process of adding further territories in future. I have no doubt that there will be a need to do just that. This accurately reflects the concern about the possibility of countries with poor human rights records abusing the extradition system. We simply cannot allow that to take place, and the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) outlined that well in his intervention.

It is clear that these initial countries—Australia, Canada, Lichtenstein, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA, along with some other EU countries—will not abuse human rights, and we can be content to allow them to be included. However, the Lords amendments look to the future to ensure that, for example, while we might have trading deals with China, we would not be comfortable extraditing political prisoners there. The same can be said for many countries, and for many reasons, such as freedom of religion or belief. I chair the all-party group on international freedom of religion or belief, and I think of China’s human rights abuses of many people—of Christians, in particular, and of the Uyghur Muslims and Falun Gong. It is really a despicable country when it comes to human rights. This is an issue of grave concern to me, and we must ensure that we offer protections for those who face losing their life simply because they chose to follow Christ.

I further agree with the terms for the Brexit negotiations and I welcome a withdrawal based largely on the EAW, but including further grounds on which extradition can be refused. These include the right for parties to refuse to surrender their nationals, as well as a requirement of double criminality. The act for which the individual is sought must constitute an offence in both jurisdictions, but the parties can waive this requirement on a reciprocal basis for certain serious offences, and that has to be good news. Unlike the EAW, this waiver will be optional.

The Bill also provides for parties to refuse on a reciprocal basis to surrender individuals sought for political offences, with an exception of certain specified terrorist offences. I agree on all these matters. In Northern Ireland, we saw many years of terrorists fleeing from their crime and finding refuge in the Republic of Ireland, only to return to carry out further crimes. I have spoken in the House before about my cousin, Kenneth Smyth, who was a sergeant in the Ulster Defence Regiment, and his comrade, Daniel McCormick. Both were murdered on 10 December 1971. Those responsible escaped across the border and nobody ever made them accountable for their crimes. It is absolutely despicable and wrong. They may not have been made accountable in this world, but they will certainly be accountable in the next, and I look forward to that. Acts of terrorism cannot be excluded from any extradition policy. Indeed, they must be the foundation for it and that is why I look to Government for leadership and commitment, which clearly will be there.

I welcome the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), to his place. He and I have been good friends over the last few years and I am very pleased to see him there. Extradition is an essential part of any civilised country, and I believe that the foundations contained in the Bill allow effective extradition in all good conscience. I welcome the Bill.