Debate yesterday in parliament
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Of course I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on his sterling defence of the Essex police force. However, I wish to draw attention to an opportunity that the Bill gives us to rectify a matter of serious and widespread public concern, which has already been addressed by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) and my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). That matter is the extradition arrangements that we have with the United States, and what we may expect from America and what they may demand from us.
I do not wish to indulge in an anti-American polemic, but I wish to suggest a speedy way in which the problem could be rectified in a way that would reassure the Americans that those suspected of serious criminal offences will be speedily yielded up to them–in a way that they would expect from their most important international friend and ally–while at the same time protect the rights of UK nationals. I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who have signed my early-day motion on the subject.
I hope that the Government will agree that the neatest solution would be to insert a line into the Bill–along with the many other amendments to the Extradition Act 2003–to incorporate article 7 of the European convention on extradition, so that any country may refuse extradition if the offence may be deemed to have been committed in whole or in part on its territory. I shall explain why I believe that change to be essential.
There are currently several cases before the courts that arise directly from the Extradition Act 2003. I know of one of those cases particularly, because it affects one of my constituents, who is one of three bankers who are being electromagnetically sucked–hoovered, even–across the Atlantic without any duty on the Americans to produce any prima facie evidence.
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I have no direct evidence of whether the Americans are right or wrong to say that my constituent has committed the offences, but everybody–including the American authorities–agrees on one point. Insofar as there were any offences, in this case and all other analogous cases, they were committed by UK nationals, in this country and against UK interests. If there was a crime, it was a British crime. We may ask, therefore, why we are exporting our nationals to the US so willingly, when the natural forum for trial is obviously this country and when it is inconceivable that we would willingly export our nationals to any other part 2 country–any other country in category 2.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the rules of sub judice relating to individual cases currently before the courts. Reference to sub judice in the legislation is acceptable, but detail on individual cases should be avoided.
Mr. Johnson: I am indebted to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not think that anything that I have said, or am likely to say, could in any way prejudice the outcome of any trial, but I am grateful for your reminder.
Why is it inconceivable that any other country could be treated in that way? It is because America, rightly or wrongly, takes a wide view of her jurisdiction and awards herself a great deal of latitude in deciding who to demand and how to treat them when they arrive in America. The Prime Minister himself has said that Guantanamo bay is an anomaly. There are people on both sides of the House who would use stronger language. It is in that context that people in this country need reassurance about our arrangements. What I am proposing, what I hope my Front-Bench colleagues are about to propose and what my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) has already suggested would provide that reassurance. We have set out to bring our extradition arrangements with America into alignment with those of every other European country.
The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety does not seem to be attending with the interest that one would hope, but it might be of interest to her to know that in virtually every other European country there is no tradition of extraditing nationals. We do it, and the Irish do it, but they have incorporated article 7 of the European convention on extradition into their extradition law in exactly the way that I have suggested so that if one of their nationals has committed a crime in whole or in part in Ireland, there is no question of extradition.
Mr. Francois: I am mindful of the guidance that Madam Deputy Speaker has given the House with regard to sub judice and I shall attempt to abide by it. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that when that powerful treaty was put through the House, we accepted it on the basis that it was necessary to fight the war against terror, on which we have stood shoulder to shoulder with our American counterparts? However, practical experience has shown that the US Administration have begun to use the treaty for other measures. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service
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has attempted to use the arrangement in order to extradite people to the US to face charges relating to white-collar crime. Does my hon. Friend accept that while the protection of revenue is important, such extraditions are against the spirit of the agreement and there should at least be equivalence on both sides, rather than allowing this anomaly to continue?
Mr. Johnson: My hon. Friend is exactly on the point. It would not only be reassuring to people in this country if we were to restore that symmetry, it would also be reassuring to the Americans because they do not want to keep hearing anti-American claptrap. It would take away a stick that anti-Americans–perhaps there are some on the Labour Benches–might use to beat them.
There is a second and related problem that greatly inflames the whole question. We are obliged by the terms of the Extradition Act 2003 to send our nationals to America without prima facie evidence, yet America is under no corresponding duty to send people we want from America without prima facie evidence being supplied by us. I will not breach your guidelines on sub judice, Madam Deputy Speaker, but let us suppose that a group of New York bankers was accused of having used an e-mail account in the UK to defraud a New York bank. It is highly unlikely that the authorities in this country would seek their extradition to Britain, but even if they did so, the American authorities would insist that the UK showed due cause. However, we place no such parallel and symmetrical obligation on them. That is a grotesque imbalance.
Why does that grotesque imbalance exist? The Prime Minister said in Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday that it is because the American Congress has not ratified the 2003 treaty. That is not, strictly speaking, true. It is right to say that Congress does not want to ratify the 2003 treaty because many Congressmen want to keep the ability to retain in America people whom they fear would not get a fair trial overseas and they want to keep a political bar to extradition. That is why we have not succeeded in extraditing a single IRA suspect from America to this country in 30 years. However, even if Congress were to ratify this treaty, it is a dismal fact that–I am sorry if I am speaking loudly, but I thought that the Minister was not listening and I am delighted to see that she is; I thank her for paying attention because what I am saying is very important–there would be no symmetry because we have to show due cause and they do not. Therefore, I think the whole treaty should be renegotiated. It is a mistake, it was done in great haste and it should be renegotiated.
In the interim, I have a proposal that I hope the Minister can accept. We could clear up the anomaly, rectify the injustice and remove the asymmetry if we inserted a single line into the Bill to say that in designating a part 2 territory the Home Secretary should do nothing inconsistent with the terms of an extant treaty. That would be a neat and useful method because the Americans have not ratified the 2003 treaty, therefore the 1972 arrangements are still in effect and they provide an element of reciprocity in our arrangements. Under the 1972 treaty, both sides have to show prima facie evidence. Therefore, if we inserted such a line into the Bill the asymmetry would be removed, America and the UK would be on the same
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footing and we would be obliged to show in court why we wanted so-and-so to be extradited to face trial in our territory, and they would have to show why America was the place to have the trial and not the UK. In the interim, it would also supply the Americans with a powerful incentive to get on with ratifying the 2003 treaty.
I know that a great many people in the House share my concerns. I hope that the Minister–unlike the Home Secretary, who has been really rather rude in his treatment of this matter–will accept that there is merit and justice in this case and that a great many people on both sides of the House care about it very deeply. It would mean that a good deal of public disquiet about our extradition arrangements would be alleviated and that we in this country would no longer give the impression of being obedient little lapdogs. It would mean the removal of a weapon from the arsenal of anti-American prejudice and we in the House would be fulfilling our most vital function, which is to protect the rights of our citizens, UK nationals, in the way that every other country in Europe protects the rights of its nationals.