Jim Shannon contributions to the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL] 2019-21

Tue 8th September 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
7 interactions (2,131 words)
Mon 22nd June 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
3 interactions (659 words)

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords]

(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Jim Shannon Excerpts
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 weeks, 2 days ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office

That is exactly what the people of Rother Valley and the United Kingdom want us to do.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
8 Sep 2020, 3:51 p.m.

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. It abhors everything that is decent, and it underlines the fact that we cannot do it on our own. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, but we can do it in conjunction with other countries as well. 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 it 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 not only to ensure that criminals are properly processed, but also to ensure our need to extradite, and that 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 that 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 they that are burly—ever mindful of their size; they were 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 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 this legislation. 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. As 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 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 Ulster Scots ancestry, which tells us something about the 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—others Members have spoken on this—they gave me pause and should give the Committee great pause for thought about what they do. We all know the cases—I do not need to say 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 on that.

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 murdered criminals unrepentantly live their lives in freedom just miles across the border from their dreadful deeds, and it is something that 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 to 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.

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con) - Hansard

I appreciate the opportunity to speak briefly in this afternoon’s 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.

Break in Debate

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood - Hansard

We had a good debate earlier today, but I hope the Minister will come back to this House erelong on 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 this 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, in conclusion, this Bill is a necessary one. There are issues arising from it that could warrant further thought and treatment. I hope this 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 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.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard
8 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

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 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.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP) - Hansard
8 Sep 2020, 12:06 a.m.

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.

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords]

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

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Attorney General
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.

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab) - Hansard
22 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

It is a pleasure to close this debate for the Opposition with you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to follow my good friend, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).

This has been an insightful and productive—albeit brief—exchange on a Bill that is short and technical, but which contains important new provisions on very important matters. As the shadow Home Secretary said, the Opposition are committed to keeping the British people safe, and that includes making sure that serious criminals who make their way into our country or commit offences in other countries cannot rest easy, freely walk our streets or evade the law’s full force, and we fully endorse the UK working within an international framework to ensure that. That is why we broadly support the Bill and will not seek to divide the House this evening. We hope to work genuinely with the Government and Members from all parts of the House to improve the Bill as it progresses.

As has been said, the Bill aims to fill a gap that currently exists for UK law enforcement and allows a police constable, customs officer or service policeman to arrest without warrant a suspect wanted for serious offences in certain countries upon the basis of a certified extradition request, typically an Interpol red alert. As the hon. Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden) said, many encounters with such suspects take place by chance or due to other infractions, so it is good that the power will exist to deal immediately with other more serious issues on the basis of an extradition request. As such, the Bill will enable a similar process to that currently in place with the European arrest warrant for countries external to that mechanism, but with which the United Kingdom has formal extradition arrangements.

We understand the need for this change to expedite the proceedings through which suspects enter the criminal justice system, so we broadly support the Bill’s ambitions. It is of critical importance that we ensure that serious criminals—let us not forget that in some cases, they are wanted abroad for the most heinous crimes—are arrested and swiftly brought to justice before the opportunity arises for them to reoffend or to abscond. In carrying out our overriding priority to keep the British public safe, we fully accept that, in a world where criminals increasingly respect no national borders or boundaries, we must work to achieve that in collaboration with our international partners and their criminal justice systems.

As the Government take the legislation forward, we will press them to ensure that reasonable and proportionate safeguards, such as those won in the other place, are addressed. While we agree with legislating on the basis of those currently specified as trusted partners in the Bill, we should not and must not leave the door open for any future addition of countries that shamefully fail to uphold human rights and liberties or that frequently abuse the Interpol red alert system for nefarious ends by targeting political opponents, journalists, peaceful protesters, refugees, human rights defenders or people on the basis, as the hon. Member for Strangford said, of their religious faith.

I welcome the specific mention by the Minister of the role of the National Crime Agency in helping to adjudicate. We believe it requires a thorough process of consultation and assessment before a territory is added, varied or removed. Issues such as the use of the death penalty should be a factor in the decisions we make. Consultation —first with the devolved Administrations, who can bring valuable expertise and so often have powers relating to justice and, secondly, with relevant non-governmental organisations and experts—is at the heart of the amendment made in the other place. There should then be an assessment made on the risks of the proposed changes and, where the proposal is to add a territory, on the basis of evidence and judgment.

We also believe it sensible to ensure that key criteria are met for grouping countries, where more than one country is specified at any one time, allowing for proper parliamentary oversight of any territory taken on the merit of its respective case. It is for the Government to provide those assurances, otherwise we see no other way to add countries but individually.

We believe those to be reasonable, proportionate and practical suggestions that will improve the quality of the Bill, as well as any prospective changes to it in the future. That is why we urge the Government to engage with us on the changes as the Bill proceeds.

There are, however, several critical points that the Bill does not address, including the Government’s woeful lack of progress on future security and criminal justice arrangements with the European Union. Any loss of capability, regardless of whether it is mutual, would have a disastrous implication for UK law enforcement’s ability to identify and question suspected criminals and thus keep our country and its citizens safe.

Specifically on extradition, for example, we know that the UK and EU falling back on to prior arrangements —specifically the 1957 Council of Europe convention on extradition—would add delay, complexity and difficulty to proceedings.

That is not my assessment but that of the previous Conservative Government and the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Time and time again, the Government say they are optimistic that a full and comprehensive arrangement can be agreed before the transition period ends on 31 December, but frankly time is running out. We and the men and women who work every day in our law enforcement agencies need to see progress on this. Although I entirely accept, too, that the Bill relates solely to powers conferred on UK law enforcement, we need to understand what exactly the Government are doing to ensure adequate reciprocity in future extradition arrangements, particularly if we lose the powers we currently enjoy under the European arrest warrant and other such mechanisms—a point made forcefully by the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper).

Legal experts with specialisms in extradition have been clear that the loss of the European arrest warrant is of far greater concern than the current capability gap addressed by the Bill. Although the measures in the Bill are welcome, the countries it identifies represent only a tiny proportion of those subject to a European arrest warrant request in recent years. The assumption is that the provisions in the Bill could be applied to EU countries in due course, but the Government seem a little confused on that point. In the explanatory notes to the Bill they suggest that they would do precisely that through statutory instruments, but the Minister in the other place said the Bill was not an attempt to replicate the capability of the European arrest warrant. Will the Solicitor General clarify what exactly the Government’s approach to this is? It simply cannot be the case for our country going forward that we are unable to bring to justice criminals wanted for serious offences here in the UK because they are elsewhere, while the reverse is perfectly possible. That imbalance has occurred even in our relationship with our closest ally, the United States of America.

The Government must reassure the public that their priority is protecting British interests and British citizens, and upholding the international rules-based order in this process. We must do all we can to ensure that robust mechanisms are in place so that suspects wanted here in the UK who have made their way abroad can face justice. That has been articulated most ably in recent months by the family of Harry Dunn. I reiterate our support for them and our call for the Government to engage fully with them and provide the answers they are demanding.

In conclusion, we fully accept the need for comprehensive legislation to address the gap that currently exists for UK law enforcement prior to extradition proceedings. In a constructive spirit, the Opposition will work with the Government on the Bill, seeking to fully scrutinise it in Committee and ensure that reasonable protections remain in place. I am sure the Solicitor General will agree that it is important that we get this right, and I know that Labour Members, and Members across the House, will do our best to assist the Government in ensuring that we do.