The Sketch: Where is Sir Menzies extradition treaty report?
The Independent's parliamentary sketch writer and columnist since 2000, Simon Carr was described by Tony Blair as "the most vicious sketch writer working in Britain today". "Poison," said Charles Clarke. In the 1980s he helped launch The Independent, and was a speech writer for the prime minister of New Zealand from 1992 to 1994. His working principle is "Indignation keeps us young."
Tuesday 28 February 2012
Sir Menzies entered, came into, ingressed or otherwise effected the interiorising process vis-a-vis the committee room. He'd come to talk about his long-promised report on the extradition treaty, most particularly to answer the question, "Where the devil is it?”
It is said to be a scathing critique of the present arrangements whereby a 65-year-old businessman can be lifted out of the Orpington golf club and legally rendered to the US authorities, denied bail, have his reading material confiscated and kept in solitary confinement - all without evidence presented to him in England.
Two years ago, Sir Ming had said his report was to be ready "as soon as possible".
It is still unwritten. When exactly is "as soon as possible?" The phrase was "capable of many meanings," Sir Ming smiled.
Later he said, "I apprehend you are referring to the EU warrant but I have not been instructed, mandated or requested to deal with that."
That's where the report is. Being drafted, composed, written,
rehearsed, and redrawn. As it was now "a matter of urgency" it would be ready before the next election. Alas, it's a political report rather than a legal one.
Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General had also criticised Tony Blair's treaty in sorrowful terms when in Opposition, the chair reminded him: "The extradition laws are a mess and a Tory Government will rewrite them."
Mr Grieve is phrasing it differently now. "I certainly don't think they are in the sort of condition I would ideally like to find them," he said. It's the magic of office, isn't it? To do anything you'd have to demolish the architecture, denounce the treaty, rewrite the whole thing and get everyone's agreement all over again. He made it sound like sending a manned mission to Pluto.
It would all be the usual comedy except Mrs Tappin, wife of said businessman, had come to the committee. She read out a record of what had happened to her husband (see above). Her voice never trembled but from time to time she paused carefully. She stopped before the end, and if you couldn't see her white knuckle across her mouth you wouldn't realise what she was concealing.
I hope she won't mind my recording what a magnificent example of contained and understated courage she was. There's still something of the old country left yet.
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