§ The Secretary of State may by order provide for any provision of this Part which applies in relation to police officers or persons arrested by police officers to apply with specified modifications in relation to service policemen or persons arrested by service policemen.'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government amendments Nos. 38 and 39.
Amendment No. 19, in page 3, line 10 [Clause 3], after second 'person', insert 'of British nationality, sworn to serve only the Crown, and'.
Government amendments Nos. 40 to 42, 57, 58, 60, 61, 75, 78, 79, 81 and 82.
§ Mr. Ainsworth
In its current form, the Bill provides that a European arrest warrant can be executed in this 213 country by a police officer or designated appropriate person. That formulation already exists in legislation, but as an added safeguard—in contrast to what the Conservatives did in government—we have provided that designation orders should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
It has been said that the use of the phrase "appropriate persons" was a means whereby we sought to disguise our wish to include foreign police officers in the powers applied in this country. Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) and I stated that the term "appropriate person" was intended to cover Customs and Excise officers, service police officers and, possibly, other UK law enforcement agencies.
Our new clause and amendments are intended to make things absolutely clear, in black and white. Presumably all Members will now accept what was the Government's intention from the start—that the powers apply to police constables, customs officers and members of other police services of our country, and not to foreign police or customs officers.
§ Lady Hermon (North Down)
I ask the Minister to clarify one point. After the Patten reforms, the number of police officers in Northern Ireland dropped dramatically, so the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland—and, indeed, the Policing Board—are very keen to recruit police officers through secondment and lateral entry. That may well include members of the police service of the Republic of Ireland—the Garda Siochana. It would be very helpful if the Minister could confirm whether those constables, if they should come, will have the power to execute an extradition warrant?
§ Mr. Ainsworth
I am not familiar with all the details of the Northern Ireland jurisdiction, but I was coming to the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and in doing so I should be able to clarify the point.
I assume that the amendment seeks to achieve what we now propose to achieve, but under it no one other than a British citizen would be able to execute a European arrest warrant. Under the terms of various laws governing the police in the United Kingdom—notjust in Northern Ireland—any British citizen, a citizen of the Irish Republic or a Commonwealth citizen may serve in our police force. It is not our intention to make such people second-class members of those police forces, and our amendment would not have that effect. They will be members of the British police force, and they will be able to issue extradition arrest warrants in the same way as they can issue domestic ones.
I hope that new clause 11 fits with the true intention of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, who did not want to go further by ruling out people from Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland backgrounds who were serving in the British police force. Our provision will not rule them out, but his would have done so, and I hope that he can accept our solution.
§ 4 pm
§ Mr. Hawkins
I can deal with this group of amendments fairly quickly. As the Minister said, the important issue is Government new clause 16 and the 214 linked Government amendments: Nos. 38 to 42, 57, 58, 60, 61, 75, 78, 79, 81 and 82. As the Minister has made clear, the Government have made a significant concession in the light of our comments, supported by the Liberal Democrats, in Committee. That also reflects the very strong view of the Home Affairs Committee that the Government's original proposal—that "an appropriate person" should execute a European arrest warrant—was too wide. As the Minister said, he sought to reassure us in Committee, but we wanted the Bill to make the position absolutely clear. I am therefore very pleased that we succeeded in persuading the Minister and his advisers that it would be sensible to put it beyond doubt that only police officers, constables, armed forces' police and Customs and Excise personnel can execute a European arrest warrant.
Although we welcome the Government's provision, I should mention in passing that we have some remaining concerns about the exact role to be undertaken by Customs and Excise in the light, as the Minister will be aware, of the collapse of recent cases involving Customs and Excise on such matters as bonded warehouses. The Minister is aware of issues that have been raised recently in this Chamber, and of the fact that there is an ongoing inquiry into the collapse of those cases. [Interruption.] The Gentleman nodded when I first raised this point, and, helpfully, he does so again. I hope that he will continue to keep the matter under review, because in our view there is much need for care if greater powers are to be used by Customs and Excise officials, given the very strong views expressed by the judge when those cases collapsed. We will continue to scrutinise this issue, and in our view reforms may well be required. This House will have another opportunity to debate this issue when the independent reports on the collapsed trials are received. [Interruption.] It is again very helpful to note the Minister's assent.
The Minister referred briefly to the fact that amendment No. 19 seeks to bring in a requirement to a similar effect. However, as he rightly pointed out, we tabled our amendment before the Government tabled theirs. We were seeking to move in the same direction, and I understand the Minister's point about problems in cases, for example, in which someone from the Commonwealth is already serving in our police force. The Minister was kind enough to recognise that we were aiming at the same target and his amendments fulfil our request in Committee. I welcome that, with the proviso that I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Burnett
I do not want to go over ground that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) has already covered. I welcome these sensible amendments, which were supported by the official Opposition, Liberal Democrats and the Home Affairs Committee. On the matter of customs and the bonded warehouse cases, the Treasury has experienced a massive loss of revenue, and it is no bad thing that customs prosecutions will now come under the aegis of the Attorney-General's Department.
§ Mr. Bob Ainsworth
Customs will have only those powers within its remit to issue European arrest warrants. I can also confirm for the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) that if the individuals whom she mentioned have the powers of a constable 215 while they are serving in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, they will also have the powers to use the European arrest warrant in the same way as other constables in that service.
§ Lady Hermon
I am pleased that the Opposition are willing to withdraw their amendment on that issue. The problem is not only the nationality issue, but the words that were used in amendment No. 19—sworn to serve only the Crown".That would not reflect the new oath taken by new members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, so it would effectively disqualify new members of the service from executing extradition warrants, no matter what nationality they were.
§ Mr. Ainsworth
In the interests of cross-party cooperation, I can confirm on behalf of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that that was not h is intention. He was trying to achieve what the Government amendment will achieve and he is satisfied with our proposal—in this regard, if not in others.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.