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Police and Justice Bill - Extradition Act and Independent Inspectorates amendments rejected by the Commons

The House of Commons has rejected the Lords' Amendments on the Extradition Act 2003 in the Police and Justice Bill in two votes today.

They rejected Lords' Amendment 36 by 320 Ayes to 263 Noes.

This would have taken the United States of America out of Schedule 2 of the Extradition Act, thereby reverting the US-UK extradition arrangements back to the 1973 Treaty, which is still in force, since the 2003 Treaty has still not yet been ratified, it is awaiting signature by President Bush, which we guess he will not do until after the mid-term Congressional elections in early November.

They rejected Lords' Amendment 81 by 313 Ayes to 272 Noes.

This would have provided for a UK Court to hearsome actual evidence (which does not mean the full evidence which would be presented at a trial) to determine the legal forum where a case is to be heard, in transnaional border cases. This would have rectified most of the problems about accusations without the chance to refute evidence before extradition proceeds e.g. in Gary McKinnon's case, the spurious amount of alleged financial damage which he is alleged to have committed, which we do not believe will stand up in court.

The Commons also voted on the amalgamation of the 5 independent Inspectorates of Prisons, etc. into one super-bureaucracy, which will be under the control of the Home Secretary.

This was resoundingly defeated in the Lords on the 10th October, with nobody speaking in support of the Government, except the Minister, who had no convincing arguments to counter those made by the former Army General and former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham, who pleaded that the 5 inspectorates should remain independent.

What was the government's response ?

Tony Baldry: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that it is in order.

There are occasions when I feel ashamed to be a Member of this House. The next group of amendments relates to Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons. Because of the guillotine process, when the Bill was last before the House of Commons there was no opportunity for us to debate that issue on Report or Third Reading. The Bill then went to the other place, where the subject was debated for almost a day. The Government were defeated, and the other place said that the inspector should remain. The Government purported to make a concession, which they withdrew on Third Reading by giving the Secretary of State powers of intervention and direction.

Tonight we shall reach 10 pm without having had any opportunity to debate the inspectorate of prisons at all. I submit that that is something of which this House should feel thoroughly ashamed, in view of the work done by people like Judge Tumim, Anne Owers and the present inspector of prisons. It is a disgrace. I can do no more than ask for you, Mr. Speaker, or someone else to start giving the House and Back Benchers some protection. Otherwise, I do not think that people outside can begin to understand how the House conducts its business.

This is an utter disgrace !

The Government has won the vote to allow the knobbling of the Lords' Amendments on the 5 Inspectorates, by 302 Ayes to 216 Noes.

The remaining Lord's Amendments, which we think include (we will check the transcripts tomorrow) the changes to the Computer Misuse Act "dual use" hacker tools amendments, all got lumped together and passed without a debate and without a vote.

This last minute flurry of pages of Government Amendments, with no opportunity for proper debate, is, we fear, going to be the pattern for legislation in the rest of this Parliamentary session.

What an utter mockery of proper Parliamentary scrutiny and debate this is.

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