Hywel in Parliament - Debates

Extradition Debate

5th December 2011

Dr Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett). It is striking that they both spoke, in essence, about what I will concentrate on this evening, which is the way in which the debate in Westminster Hall and the debate this evening have arrived at a consensus for reform on this major issue.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) on securing this debate, just as I congratulated him two weeks ago when he secured the debate in Westminster Hall. He is a stalwart member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and he is beginning to call me comrade. I also thank the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to this debate, following the recent and successful Westminster Hall debate, which showed such impressive, unanimous support for extradition reform and for strengthening the human rights of UK citizens, as recommended in my Committee’s report earlier this year.

I remind Members that this debate is about human rights. My purpose is simple: it is to give the motion my full support as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I do so officially on behalf of the Joint Committee. I confirm that the motion embraces all the key recommendations of the Committee’s report, which was adopted unanimously. I got the sense that the two previous contributions endorsed the recommendations of my Committee. We await the Government’s response to our report and to the Baker review. Perhaps we will get a response this evening.

I respectfully suggest that there is a way forward for the Government. I believe that it will emerge in this debate, if it has not done so already. The debate will draw out the positives of the report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Baker review. Notwithstanding the criticisms of the Baker review, I think it is fair to say that there is a degree of consensus between the two. Without going into the details, I believe that there is consensus on legal representation, proportionality, a road map for suspects’ rights, the removal of European arrest warrant alerts, excessive pre-trial detention, time limits, people serving sentences in the UK, which many speakers have mentioned, and the Secretary of State’s discretion. The Government should see the merit of proceeding with that consensus as a starting point.

Beyond that, the Government should look carefully at the big fairness and human rights issues on which my Committee is more unequivocal and forthright, such as rebalancing the US-UK treaty, mistaken identity and the use—or, as I would say, the misuse—of the European arrest warrant as an aid to investigation, which is sometimes a travesty of justice.

I cannot recall a time in the decade since I entered the House when there has been such unanimity across the Back Benches. For that unanimity to be achieved on such a major policy area as the human rights of our citizens is gratifying to me as the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, particularly given that extradition engages so many fundamental human rights, such as the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of discrimination, the right to respect for private and family life and, most fundamentally of all, the right to a fair trial. I believe that all Members are united in striving to achieve those fundamental human rights and long may that continue, throughout the length of this Parliament and beyond. I will end, Madam Deputy Speaker, by paraphrasing one of your great heroes and a fellow feminist, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a great champion of human rights. She asked: if we do not defend human rights in our own back yard, how on earth can we fight for human rights universally?


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