The Minister for Security (James Brokenshire)
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendments to Designations) Order 2020.
Thank you, Mr Davies, and a happy St David’s day for yesterday to you too. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship and to move the draft order. The order is required for the UK to fulfil its obligations under bilateral extradition treaties with Kuwait and Morocco and an extradition agreement between the European Union, Norway and Iceland, to which the UK is party during the transition period. I shall explain in a little more detail why the changes are being brought in at this time and the effect that they will have on our extradition arrangements.
First, the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 1 Territories) Order 2003 will replace the current designation of Norway and Iceland as part 2 territories based on the European convention on extradition. It will make clear that Norway and Iceland will become territories designated under part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003, based on the surrender agreement between the EU, Norway and Iceland, which entered into force on 1 November 2019. The agreement facilitates the exchange of warrants between judicial authorities, which are executed through a simplified system based on judicial decisions. Norway and Iceland will therefore be treated in a similar way to EU countries for the purposes of extradition. However, there are some differences—notably, parties can refuse to extradite their own nationals and can refuse extradition on the basis that the offence concerned is political. The agreement also allows parties to require that the relevant offence is an offence in both the requesting and the requested country—a rule known as dual criminality.
As the Committee is aware, during the transition period, the EU justice and home affairs tools that the UK has opted into, including this agreement, will continue to apply. The legislation will ensure that there is no disparity between our international obligations and domestic law, which could result in legal uncertainty and impunity for wanted fugitives.
The second part of the order will implement the extradition treaties concluded between the UK and Morocco in 2013 and the UK and Kuwait in 2016. The designation of these countries under part 2 of the 2003 Act will allow the UK to process extradition requests from Kuwait and Morocco in line with the obligations in the treaties. Both treaties set out a timeframe in which a full extradition request must be provided to the UK by Kuwait and Morocco when an individual has been arrested on a provisional arrest warrant.
The order therefore ensures that that is reflected in our legislation, by setting out that, in the case of Kuwait and Morocco, the judge must receive the papers within 65 days of the person’s provisional arrest, in line with standard practice. That will allow for the countries to provide the request to the Secretary of State within 60 days, as the treaty provides for, and for the Secretary of State to have five days to certify the request and send it to the appropriate judge. Once the designations have been made, the Kuwait and Morocco treaties will be ratified. Morocco and Kuwait are both important partners for the UK, and the treaties will enhance our ability to work in close co-operation with both on important issues.
The introduction of the formal bilateral basis for extradition for conduct covered by the treaties will lead to a more efficient and effective process for extradition between the UK and respective countries. I urge the Committee to consider favourably the amendments made by the statutory instrument, to ensure that the United Kingdom can comply with its obligations under the relevant international extradition arrangements.
When considering any request for extradition, our arrangements are balanced by provisions in the 2003 Act, which serve to protect an individual’s rights where extradition is not compatible with our law. We must remember that extradition is a valuable tool in combating cross-border crime. Offenders should not be able to escape justice simply by crossing international borders; no one should be beyond the reach of the law. Having efficient extradition arrangements that are clear and effective is vital for safeguarding our security and preventing fugitives from escaping justice. I commend the order to the Committee.