HL Deb 10 April 1984 vol 450 cc1052-64

3.52 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Issue of warrant for transfer]:

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 28, at end insert (" including where possible details of his earliest possible release date and the provisions regarding remission and parole that would apply to him")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will doubtless recollect that during the passage of this Bill, which has its foundations in humanity and which therefore appeals very much to your Lordships, all of us were concerned that before a prisoner gave his consent to repatriation he should be in full possession of all the relevant factors. Your Lordships may remember that the words "the effect" occur in the Bill. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, supported the idea that the words "the effect" would cover quite clearly the balance of sentence yet unserved, parole and also the remission of sentence. However, in an exchange between us (when one has an exchange with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, the weight is on his side if it happens to be me on the other side, and the lightness on mine) I believe that the noble and learned Lord smilingly conceded that hereafter it would be better not to have arguments about what the words "the effect" might cover but to write the matter very clearly into the Bill.

The noble Lord the Minister also uttered words of sympathy for my amendment but wondered whether the words "the effect" might not cover the matter. However, with his usual courtesy he promised to consider what had been said. I, together with those who supported the amendment, felt that the matter was very definitely worthy of his consideration.

I have received a letter from the Minister and, if he will permit me to do so, I shall read from it the relevant excerpt, only because, as your Lordships will understand, I want it to be on the record. In the course of this very helpful letter the Minister said: The purpose would be to put beyond doubt that information provided to the prisoner about the effect of a warrant would include, where possible, information about the earliest date of release and about provisions for remission and parole. I indicated that I had no definite objection in principle to such a clarification but that questions of definition might present drafting problems. I think we shall probably be able to meet you on this point. As 1 anticipated, there are drafting problems, but we shall consider very carefully what is needed with a view to the possibility of introducing an amendment in the Commons. We must, of course, take care to get the drafting right, and I think you will agree that it would not be reasonable to try to rush this through for the Lords' Third Reading. I should emphasise also that we do not regard the present drafting as deficient in this respect. We are quite sure that the interpretation of 'the effect' of a warrant must include the matters in question, and it was helpful to have Lord Denning's support on this. We see no harm in principle, however, in providing the clarification proposed".

In the light of what is said in that letter, and recognising, obviously, the need to have careful drafting, and also the very short period which has elapsed between Report and Third Reading, I am more than happy to accept that assurance. If the noble Lord would merely nod his head, or say something in assent, I should at once withdraw the amendment, which I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, nods do not appear on the record, and I should not want the whole of my undertaking to be on the authority, as it were, of the noble Lord's very helpful reading of my letter. It is only necessary for me to say that I meant what I said when I signed the letter. I am glad to confirm that we have no objection in principle to an amendment which is designed to provide the clarification which the noble Lord and others consider to be necessary. However, we shall need time to prepare an appropriate amendment. If, therefore, the noble Lord will agree to withdraw the present amendment, we shall do our best to introduce a mutually acceptable one in another place.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister having spoken, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 2: Page 3, line 6, at end insert— (" ( ) In the case of the Secretary of State refusing to agree under section l(l)(b) above to the proposed transfer of a prisoner into the United Kingdom such refusal shall be in writing accompanied (unless the Secretary of State shall consider that it would be contrary to public policy to do so) by a statement of reasons and shall be notified to the prisoner in his own language.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, another matter which concerned your Lordships very deeply was that any question of a refusal when the Secretary of State had exercised his judgment upon the matter of repatri-ation should first be in writing and should secondly be communicated to the prisoner, and, thirdly, that the grounds of the refusal should be given. In the latter connection, I endeavoured to give examples to your Lordships upon which I had been briefed by a very worthy society which looks after prisoners abroad and tries to protect their interests, mistakes having occurred because of the authorities thinking that a prisoner abroad had been convicted of an offence, whereas in fact he was not responsible for any such conviction. The only opportunity for a prisoner languishing abroad, who is a British subject, to deal with the reasons for refusal would be if they were given to him. He would then have a proper opportunity to deal with them.

If I may paraphrase what he said, the noble Lord the Minister said that he had no objection to the reasons being given in writing. Indeed, he thought that that would be the obvious course for the refusal to take. There is no difference between us, therefore, on that point. However, there was a difference between us on the other two aspects; namely, the communication to the prisoner and the giving of the reasons. In regard to the communication to the prisoner, the noble Lord the Minister said that this is very much a matter of international convention and agreement and that very likely refusal under the terms of the convention would go to the authorities in a foreign country and not necessarily to the prisoner; that it would be for the authorities in that foreign country to make the communication to the prisoner.

I endeavoured to say, as did others who participated in that discussion, that that arrangement really was not good enough. We live in a peculiar world and we must have conventions and agreements with nations who do not order their affairs in the same way that we pride ourselves we do in connection with the regularity of the governmental machine and its orderliness and reliability. Also, it might be for other reasons that a communication might not reach the prisoner. There is not the slightest difficulty in our consul or other diplomatic representative seeing to it that notice of a refusal reaches our British subject or someone so connected with this country that he comes under the provisions of this Bill. So I was unhappy with the Minister's reply on that aspect.

When it came to the question of giving reasons, the noble Lord the Minister said something which I believe all of us felt was extremely sound. He said that there could be aspects of public policy which, under this Bill, would make it wrong for the Secretary of State to have to give reasons. The Minister said that there could be questions of security. That certainly affected the judgment of those who were concerned with our previous amendment at Report stage.

An amendment has now been put down which makes it perfectly clear, as your Lordships will see, that there is no need for the Secretary of State to communicate the reasons for his refusal if he considers that it would be contrary to public policy so to do. I believe that I am right in saying to your Lordships that if you use the word "consider" and it is a matter for the opinion of the Secretary of State, then it is not a matter that can be challenged—certainly not successfully—by any judicial review.

I thought that with that amendment I had sealed the gap which the Minister wanted to close. But again, in a not-so-helpful part of his otherwise very helpful letter, the Minister informed me (and I will paraphrase what he said, but he will correct me if my paraphrasing is not just) that he is still unhappy. First, he is unhappy about the question of communication—and, as I have said, I do not believe that he should be. Secondly, he is not happy that I have filled the whole of the gap in regard to the Secretary of State having to communicate his reasons if I merely limit the exception to "public policy".

The noble Lord the Minister instances in his letter the fact that there might be other criminal investigations pending which would make it not very sensible for the Secretary of State to make the communication; or there might be matters of security being investigated. One has to make a judgment on balance in this matter. Your Lordships may agree that in 99 per cent. of cases it must be right and just that a prisoner languishing in some foreign gaol, having had his repatriation refused, should know the reason for that refusal so that he might achieve justice by being able, possibly, to answer those reasons very effectively—as against the 1 per cent. (and I imagine it must be less than 1 per cent.) of cases where the Secretary of State is not even protected by public policy. There are some weird and wonderful things that might just come outside the realm of public policy.

I myself would have thought that the words "public policy" are so wide that whether it is a question of thinking that somebody might be involved in a security risk or that there are other criminal investigations pending, "public policy" would cover the situation. But if the noble Lord the Minister can in his ingenuity think of words to add to "public policy" which would cover the Secretary of State in this connection, I am sure that my noble friends and I would be content. I leave my discussion of this amendment at that stage and look with hope at the noble Lord.

4.5 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, there are two questions which need to be considered. The first concerns whether or not the decision not to allow a prisoner to come home should be communicated in writing. The noble Lord the Minister has indicated in the letter to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred why there may be some difficulty here; that the matter is not entirely in the hands of the Government, and that such a decision would have to be conveyed to the prisoner in a foreign gaol by the authorities which have control over the arrangements there. This is something which the Minister or his colleagues at the Home Office could not deal with. But as I have pointed out on a previous occasion, the convention is absolutely clear. It does say that the sentenced person shall be informed in writing of any decision taken by either state on the question of his transfer. Therefore there is in the convention an obligation on the Government to try to convey such information to the prisoner, even if they are dependent upon the good offices of another state for the final delivery of that communication.

Whether or not the words in the amendment are exactly right as set out on the Marshalled List, we should make certain that the obligations undertaken in the convention are properly reflected in this Bill. This is something which I have been concerned to do all the way through our proceedings in your Lordships' House. I believe that the Minister probably agrees, in view of the fact that his objection to this part of the amendment is a purely practical one, that we should at least try to say in another place that the Government should use their best endeavours to notify the prisoner in writing of any refusal to allow his application for a transfer.

The second question concerns the explanation which the prisoner is given—or, rather, is not given, as the Bill presently stands—in certain circumstances. The very fact that we decline to give reasons to the prisoner is enough to show him that he is under suspicion of having committed a criminal offence or of having violated national security. I have thought very carefully about this matter. If it is a fact that we are declining to accept a British citizen back into one of our prisons because of some criminal activity in which he has been engaged, or because he poses some threat to national security, what are the implications? He returns here and serves the same length of sentence in a British prison as he would have served in Saudi Arabia or Thailand. If it is the intention of the authorities to have him prosecuted for some other offence, then surely they can more readily do so if he is in Parkhurst than if he is in Jeddah. I cannot fully understand why the presence of suspicion of serious criminal activities in the mind of the Government should be a barrier to his repatriation.

Similarly, if one thinks about the national security implications, again one assumes that proceedings would be taken against the individual if the Government find that there is sufficient evidence to justify doing so. If that individual remains abroad and is outside our jurisdiction, then he will escape the justice which would otherwise have been meted out to him in the English courts. Is it not better that he should be brought back onto the territory of the United Kingdom, and that refusal is not based on suspicion of the activities in which he has been engaged?

The second point that occurred to me is that if the person concerned is guilty of these criminal offences or breaches of national security he is obviously conscious of the fact. He does not need to be tipped off by the refusal of his application for a request for a transfer to know that he has done something wrong. Nor is it likely that the only indication that he has of the fact that he has come under suspicion would arise from a refusal to agree to his request for a transfer. Therefore, I think that, on reflection, I am not even sure in the long run—I put this on record simply for our friends who have to consider these matters in another place—whether the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and ourselves were right in limiting this amendment as it is so that we have the words "contrary to public policy". On reflection I am not altogether sure that I have accepted the Government's arguments on criminal activities and breaches of national security as sufficient reason for not having an obligation to give reasons, in any case whatever, to the prisoner for refusing his request for a transfer.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Avebury, surely it is not really a case of just filling the gap with something to add. The question is whether the principle is broadly correct. I am not trying to pick at the drafting—I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—but I am trying to deal with the broad question on its merits irrespective of any drafting. The problem as I see it, although I may be quite wrong, is that there are some, or may be some, cases where the Secretary of State may properly wish not to give reasons, apart from questions of public policy or security. Surely the fact that one cannot envisage that type of case, every type of case and every type of situation in advance is a reason for leaving the administrative discretion as it stands.

Lord Elton

My Lords, on Report I undertook to consider whether an amendment on the lines proposed would be acceptable to the Government. This we have duly done and I wrote, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was kind enough to acknowledge, to the noble Lord on 5th April setting out our views. We see no difficulty about the Secretary of State's decision to refuse to agree to a transfer being given in writing and in the prisoner's own language. As I have previously made clear to your Lordships it will clearly be necessary for the Secretary of State's decision about a request for transfer to be given in writing anyway so that it can be communicated to the other state.

With regard to the language in which the Secretary of State's decision is to be notified to the prisoner, we see no difficulty about ensuring that this is the prisoner's own language, either. Given that we are here concerned with requests for transfer to the United Kingdom, the language required would normally be English. If there was difficulty in ensuring that a written communication reached a prisoner, our consular staff would in any case normally at least ensure that the decision was notified orally in the prisoner's own language.

However, we do see a possible problem about ensuring that a written decision, in whatever form, actually reaches the prisoner—which is the intention of the noble Lord's amendment. Under Article 4 of the Council of Europe Convention, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has helpfully pointed out, there will be an obligation on both states concerned to ensure that prisoners are informed in writing of any decision by either state on a request for transfer. Even under that agreement, however, the Secretary of State could not be held responsible for the action—or, indeed, the inaction—of the authorities of the other state. It is, therefore, not appropriate for the Bill to make the Secretary of State responsible by placing on him the duty of ensuring that a prisoner in a foreign prison receives his decision in writing. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has placed on record a request that we should consider placing on the Secretary of State an obligation that he should do the best he can. Obviously that is something to be considered later. However, I think that the proper way to do this is to seek to ensure that bilateral and multilateral international arrange-ments other than those in the convention contain a provision similar to that in Article 4 of the Council of Europe Convention. We shall certainly have this very much in mind in our negotiations with other states.

That said, let me emphasise that, where it was in doubt as to whether the prisoner was going to be properly informed by the authorities in the country in which he was being held, our diplomatic representatives would be aware of the circumstances and would be expected to seek to convey the message themselves. Whether they succeeded, of course, would depend on the authorities and not on the Government. Once again, therefore, I do not think that we should legislate but that we should put it in the arrangements.

Turning now to the main purpose of the noble Lord's amendment, this is to require the Secretary of Stale, where he refuses to agree to a transfer, to give the reasons for his refusal unless he considers it would be contrary to public policy to do so. I am grateful to my noble friend for his help in this. I am afraid that we do not consider it advisable to impose this duty upon the Secretary of State even with this qualification. As I mentioned to your Lordships on Report, the danger in a qualified obligation to give reasons is that a refusal to give reasons could in itself be sufficient to give away, for example, the fact that investigations were in hand concerning criminal activities or matters of national security involving, may I emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, people other than the prisoner and possibly powers other than Great Britain.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, may well think that such an occasion will be rare. I agree, it would be very rare indeed. It might be as little as the 1 per cent. that he thought it could perhaps reach. However, the point is that the rarer the occurrence the more noteworthy it will be and the clearer the signal to an interested and perhaps clandestine and hostile observer that something is up, that a case is under investigation and that his cover is about to be blown or his sources exposed.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I must say something that is almost equally important to this argument. If the circumstances in which a request for repatriation is refused are rare the very fact that the prisoner is refused will indicate to him that he is under suspicion. If he is part of some foreign international spy network and his application to the Secretary of State is refused, he is tipped off and so are those hypothetical friends with whom he is in league.

Lord Elton

My Lords, it depends how alert they are and how complicated is the case. I am always afraid of going too far down hypothetical lanes into constitutional mazes. I take the noble Lord's point, but I would not wish to be a Home Secretary obliged to blow the gaff on an undercover operation in order to let someone know that he was not being repatriated because of his involvement in something about which I hoped those concerned did not know I was interested at all.

I regret, therefore, that on this one point I must remain resolute and resist the proposed amendment. I can, however, reaffirm that cases in which the Secretary of State withholds his consent to transfer can be expected to be extremely rare. We are, of course, considering transfers to the United Kingdom. Almost always, therefore, it will be the transfer of a British citizen; and a British citizen will have the right to enter the United Kingdom on his release from imprisonment abroad. This is a consideration which will weigh heavily in judging whether possible objections to a transfer to a British prison to complete his sentence are strong enough to justify the Secretary of State withholding his consent.

Furthermore, in view of the presumption that the Secretary of State will normally agree to a request for transfer and the rarity of cases where refusal is considered necessary, your Lordships can be confident that all aspects of such cases will be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny before the Secretary of State decides to take the exceptional step of withholding his consent. The possibility of an error in criminal records arising from mistaken identity is a factor which obviously justifies exceptional care to ensure that the Secretary of State's decision is based on correct information. I hope that your Lordships will, therefore, accept that there will be ample safeguards against any injustice occurring through mistaken identity and consideration of erroneous information.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, what I fear is this. If the Minister is adopting the argument that not to give reasons makes it apparent that there is something which is of vital importance by way of security or for other reasons, and that it would be a dangerous thing to do, I fear that the result will be that the Secretary of State will never give reasons. Once he does that, and does it by custom, if he fails to observe the custom there is the indication. Therefore, there would be no way in which a prisoner could correct an error.

We have had the debate in your Lordships' House. It was right that we should. We had it at Report stage and now here at Third Reading. The obviously sensible thing is, that debate being upon the record, another place will be considering the Bill and I hope that it will take into account those debates. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Expenses]:

4.20 p.m.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 3: Page 10, line 29, after ("regard") insert ("either to the particular circumstances of the case or").

The noble Lord said: There was a third matter to which your Lordships' attention was drawn in regard to this Bill. Indeed, again it has considerations of justice attached to it. Your Lordships were invited to consider very seriously the question of whether the transport costs of a repatriated prisoner would impede the chance of his release if the payment of those charges was made a condition of the release. Your Lordships at Report stage heard speeches that were made in that context and I believe that you were very concerned with the problem.

On an amendment which had my name attached to it and the names of the noble Lords, Lord Donaldson and Lord Avebury, and I think of my noble friend Lord Melchett, the debate then widened as sometimes happens in your Lordships' House, and we suddenly found ourselves discussing what considerations ought to be in the Secretary of State's mind in waiving the requirement of the payment of the transport fees or charges. We found ourselves wandering into an area which had nothing to do with the question of means. The power was given to the Secretary of State to waive the requirement where it was hopeless to pursue the claim because the prisoner just did not have the money and was never likely to have it.

Your Lordships were invited by my noble friend Lord Melchett, in particular, to consider the case which might be on all fours with that of the hostages who were taken in Iran and who were American subjects and the many other cases where your Lordships would not consider that a British subject had been justly convicted or any crime according to our principles had been committed by that British subject. It was thought that it would be very wrong to insist upon transport charges in a case of that kind.

Having discovered that the debate was wider than the ambit of the amendment, I ventured to say that a proper amendment should be put down at Third Reading. Now your Lordships have it before you and will see that reference is made in it to, the particular circumstances of the case", and then the word "or" precedes in the Bill the question of means; so one has covered the question of means and one has covered the particular circumstances that might arise in connection with any case which would then allow the Secretary of State to use his discretion and waive the transport charges.

I have seen a copy of a letter which the noble Lord the Minister very kindly sent to my noble friend Lord Melchett. I know that a copy was also sent to my noble friend Lord Donaldson, and I have no doubt to Lord Avebury too, who I am also honoured to call my noble friend. Lord Melchett has asked me to tell your Lordships how sorry he is that he is unable to be here this afternoon, but he did appreciate that communication. I hope that the Minister can carry what I think is a very simple amendment into the area of agreement, and not disagreement, and that we can now write these words into the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I support this amendment. It is surely somewhat repugnant to carry the concept of a means test, however fragile, into this context. I hope that my noble friend the Minister may be able to give favourable consideration to what, after all, is a fair widening of administrative discretion.

Lord Elton

My Lords, there was a suggestion at the previous stage that the new subsection (3) limits the Secretary of State's discretion to the consideration of the prisoner's means and the practicability of recovery from the prisoner or from any other source, and that that was too narrow a restriction. The question therefore is whether the Secretary of State's discretion should be widened. The example of the American hostages in Iran quoted by the noble Lord was a very telling one, although the circumstances, of course, were quite different from those in which we expect prisoners to be dealt with under the provisions of this Bill. None the less it was a very good way of creating in the minds of your Lordships the image of circumstances in which it would be beneath the dignity of the Government to charge for a return passage.

The suggestion has given us pause for thought. I said in the letter that has been referred to that we could see there might be justification for widening the discretion to some extent. I said that we would certainly look at that possibility very carefully before the Bill was considered in another place. In the light of this debate and the thought that we have been able to give to the matter in the past day or two, I can now say that the Government accept in principle that the Secretary of State's discretion under Clause 7(3) should be widened. However, further thought needs to be given to the form which this should take and to the precise drafting.

I recognise the frustration that that must cause, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who has the amendment down in his name. I understand that there is a shadow of doubt about the acceptability of the terms he has chosen. There really is not time to be certain that we have it right before the Bill leaves this House. I hope that he will take that firm undertaking that the discretion should be widened as sufficient reason to withdraw his amendment, whereupon we shall work out an appropriate amendment for tabling in another place. In the process we shall take full account of what has been said most helpfully by your Lordships on this issue throughout our proceedings here.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, are there sound practical reasons for doing it this way round rather than the other way, that is to say, accepting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and, if the doubts that the Government have prove to be well founded, then to put down an amendment—which will be necessary in any case in another place to give effect to the principle—to redraft what has been done by your Lordships this afternoon?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I do not think that I have that within my discretion in the time that we have available to us. I am not sufficiently familiar with the mechanisms of arriving at conclusions in another place. It is sometimes necessary both to speak and to listen at the same time. What I heard confirms what I was saying. It is better to do it this way round. It always offends the purist to put in something which is defective in this House which has the reputation of being a careful House of revision. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will be content with the emblazoning of his name and those of his colleagues on the record against this idea and my undertaking that it will be pursued elsewhere.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I get fonder and fonder of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I am sure I would not have had the initiative to put forward that suggestion, as he did; but of course in the circumstances I am more than happy to accept the undertaking of the noble Lord the Minister. Indeed, I should like to express—and I am sure I am speaking for all those associated with this amendment—my deep gratitude to him for the way in which he has received it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An amendment (privilege) made.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (Lord Elton.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, this is always an appropriate moment at which one very shortly expresses one's contentment or despair at a Bill that goes from your Lordships. In this case, we are happy to express our contentment, I think, from all parts of the House. As has been said many times, it is a very humane and a very good measure, and one hopes that however few be the cases year by year, they nevertheless will show that your Lordships' merciful consideration of this Bill has brought some relief to some languishing prisoner somewhere who belongs to our islands. It is also usually an opportunity of paying a tribute to a Minister. Sometimes one does it with a certain amount of reluctance but obeys the traditions of your Lordships' House. However, when it happens to be the noble Lord, Lord Elton, one never does it with reluctance, one does it with wholehearted sincerity, and I do it. He has been most helpful—as indeed I am sure have those who have advised him—in considering amendments before your Lordships and, where he could, agreeing to those amendments if he thought they bettered this Bill. I think that this Bill has been bettered by the consideration of your Lordships to it.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, just to add a word of tribute, I spent a year during the war negotiating with the Russians, getting aid to Russia through Tehran. Of course we were both trying to do exactly the same thing and it worked like a dream. Since then our interests have not been identical and it has not worked so well. But this particular Bill has felt like getting aid to Russia because with the Minister we are working towards the same thing, whereas so often we find that the interest of the Government is against what we are suggesting. It has been a great pleasure to work in this way, and I hope that when the Minister replies he will refer to the last letter which he wrote to me which has a couple of very important points in it.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, may I echo what has been said by my noble friend Lord Mishcon and my noble friend Lord Donaldson, and in particular to say how extraordinarily grateful we are to the Minister for the care and attention that he has given to the amendments which have been moved by your Lordships on all sides. It really has been an example of inter-party co-operation, and of the efforts of your Lordships to put on to the statute book a Bill which probably has the approval of 99.9 per cent. of the people of this country. It is a model of the sort of legislation that Parliament ought to be enacting.

I think that we should take the opportunity of pointing out that the Council of Europe has done an extremely good job in producing this convention, which is the model on which the legislation is based. It is a convention which is not only to be adhered to by the nations which belong to the Council of Europe, but which also provides for us a model for bilateral arrangements for prisoner repatriation with countries as far a field as Thailand. The noble Lord will be aware, and it has been mentioned in the proceedings, that we are already embarking on negotiations with those countries which will enable our prisoners who are incarcerated in conditions which are not entirely the same as they would expect in a British prison—I have to be cautious in what I say here—even though our standards could be raised also, to be repatriated to serve their sentences in conditions which are more in accordance with their backgrounds and cultures. So I think that this is a really humanitarian measure which not only has the support of everybody in your Lordships' House but the warm approval of the British public at large.

We are most grateful to the Minister and the Home Office for their co-operative reception of our amendments. I think we ought also to say here again how grateful we have been to our advisers on the National Council for the Welfare of Prisoners abroad, not only for the assistance that they have given in drafting amendments and in providing us with background information on them, but also for the humanitarian work they do on behalf of British prisoners who are incarcerated in many countries all across the world.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, as an erstwhile repatriated prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence, may I also, with all sincerity, be allowed to join in the round of congratulations and appreciation for this humanitarian measure?

Lord Elton

My Lords, your Lordships have been extremely kind and I should like to say at once that it has been a great pleasure on this side of the House also to find myself so frequently in agreement with noble Lords opposite. In fact, the only thing that gives me cause for concern is to my mind the sinister burgeoning friendship between the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, because that implies tactical difficulties at a later stage! When at the same time Lord Avebury's closest ally describes me as being not unlike the Russians, I think that the future bodes perhaps a little ill! But I know that he meant it extremely kindly and I take it in that spirit.

May I refer to one other matter not already discussed today, which I undertook at the Report stage to consider further? During consideration of Amendment No. 27 at Report stage, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, expressed considerable concern about the provision in Clause 7 of the Bill for the possibility of recovering a prisoner's travel costs from some source other than the prisoner himself. It is not entirely clear why the noble Lord should have suspected some ulterior motive on the part of the Government; but I hope that the letter I wrote to the noble Lord following the Report stage and copied to others of your Lordships has convinced them that there is no sinister intent behind that provision. It is not a question of putting pressure on relatives to pay the costs. The provision is merely intended to enable the Secretary of State to accept payment, or an undertaking to pay. from the prisoner's relatives or friends, or from some other source such as a charitable organisation, if the prisoner arranges for this to be done or if any such person or organisation offers to pay. We are conscious that several noble Lords still have some anxiety about the provisions in Clause 7 relating to recovery of prisoners' travel costs. We accordingly intend to give further thought to the possibility of these provisions being made somewhat more explicit in the Bill. At this stage, however, I must reserve our position on the merit and feasibility of this.

I think our discussion today has served to tie up the loose ends of the Report stage. I should like to thank your Lordships for the careful consideration you have bestowed on this Bill for the benefit not only of those who are eagerly awaiting the possibility of transfer under the arrangements that the Bill will make possible; but also those who will be able to take advantage of its provisions in the years to come. I think I would be right to say that no detail has been too small for your Lordships' attention. I am grateful to your Lordships for your patient consideration of the Bill, and I know that your Lordships are grateful to those who have helped all of us in its preparation and improvement behind the scenes.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.