§ 10.30 a.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summer-skill)
I beg to move,That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the Suppression of Terrorism Bill [Lords] ought to be read a Second time.The primary purpose of the Bill is to enable the United Kingdom to ratify without reservation the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. The convention is a Council of Europe convention and as such is restricted to member States of the Council of Europe. It represents a response by those European States which share common democratic values and a respect for human rights to the numerous and horrible acts of international terrorism which have taken place in Europe and elsewhere in the past 10 years.
The convention has its origin in a recommendation of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe which was adopted in May 1973, only a few months after the murder of Israeli athletes 1576 at the Munich Olympic Games. This country played a major part in the negotiation of the convention, and the late Mr. Crosland signed it on behalf of the United Kingdom on the day it was opened for signature, along with all the then members of the Council of Europe except Malta and the Republic of Ireland. Spain subsequently joined the Council of Europe but has not signed the convention.
The Government's intention to seek parliamentary approval to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the convention without reservation at the earliest opportunity was announced on 17th January 1977 by the present Foreign Secretary, who was then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The convention may be seen as an extension of the arrangements created for dealing with acts of terrorism which are set out in the Hague Convention on Hijacking, the Montreal convention which deals with offences against aircraft, and the Internationally Protected Persons Convention, which was signed at New York.
1577 Those conventions are aimed at acts of terrorism which are international in character, and they require contracting States either to extradite fugitives accused of these offences or to take steps to prosecute them. Contracting States to these three conventions are consequently obliged to take jurisdiction over the offences wherever and by whomsoever committed, if the offender is present in their territory and is not extradited.
The United Kingdom has ratified the Hague and Montreal conventions and a Bill to enable us to ratify the Internationally Protected Persons Convention has passed through all its stages in this House and is now in another place.
The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism substantially extends the arrangements under those conventions—the other three I have mentioned—by covering a much wider range of offences and by obliging contracting States to disregard for the purposes of extradition between them the political element in some of the offences covered by the convention.
This last obligation is the most radical aspect of the convention. It enables effect to be given to the chief aim of the convention, which is to facilitate the extradition of terrorists. Extradition of an offender to the place where he is alleged to have committed a crime is, in our view, the most effective way of bringing that offender to justice because the evidence and the witnesses will be available there.
Accordingly, Article 1 of the convention requires contracting States not to consider certain specified offences as political offences, or as offences connected with political offences or as offences inspired by political motives. The offences are those covered by the Hague and Montreal conventions on hijacking and attacks against aircraft, serious attacks on internationally protected persons, kidnapping and the taking of hostages, and offences involving the use of bombs, grenades, rockets, automatic firearms or letter or parcel bombs if this use endangers persons.
Article 2 is concerned with certain additional offences in the same way as those in Article 1. These offences are any serious crimes involving an act of violence against a person or one involving an 1578 act against property which creates a collective danger for persons, or an attempt to commit these offences or participation as an accomplice of a person who commits or attempts to commit them.
Hon. Members will appreciate the importance of those two articles. There is at present in our law only one exception to the traditional prohibition on extradition for political offences. The Genocide Act 1969 provides that the crime of genocide shall not be considered as an offence of a political character for the purposes of extradition. Hon Members will be aware of the extent to which, in recent years, this political safeguard, as it is known, has been abused by terrorists in order to prevent their extradition to the place where they are alleged to have committed terrorist offences.
The member States of the Council of Europe took the view that an obligation to remove the prohibition of extradition for offences of a political character was justified between States sharing common democratic values in order to deal effectively with the increase in acts of international terrorism.
In considering how to make the convention as effective as possible, we have decided that we should exercise the discretion provided in Article 2 and treat the offences in Article 2 in the same way as those in Article 1. Schedule 1 to the Bill sets out the United Kingdom equivalents to the offences in Articles 1 and 2, and Clause 1 removes those offences from the ambit of the political offence safeguard in extradition.
Clause 1 also gives effect to Article 8 of the convention by providing that the traditional bar to the taking of evidence in the United Kingdom for use in criminal proceedings abroad which are of a political character is removed for proceedings in respect of offences covered in Articles 1 and 2 of the convention.
The convention is aimed at terrorists and it has been carefully and deliberately drafted to ensure that the removal of the prohibition of extradition for political offences does not endanger genuine political refugees. I know that there has been apprehension in some quarters about the effect of the convention and the Bill from this standpoint. It may be helpful to put on record a full explanation of the safeguards which the convention and the Bill 1579 provide for political refugees and out reasons for believing that this Bill presents no danger to them.
I should point out that the convention is restricted to member States of the Council of Europe. As I have said before, those States share the same concern for human rights and the fundamental freedoms. This concern is, in fact, a condition of membership of the Council of Europe, and any member State whose Government departs from these high standards is disqualified from membership.
Hon. Members may recall that Greece was expelled from the Council of Europe after the colonels' regime took over. Any contracting State to the convention whose Government was overthrown in a coup d'etat and which then became authoritarian would be excluded from the Council of Europe and thus from the convention. It is, therefore, extremely unlikely that a fugitive from a contracting State who was accused of an offence covered by the convention would be a political refugee.
Nevertheless, in addition to that basic safeguard the convention itself provides a specific safeguard aimed at protecting the genuine political refugee. The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which we have ratified, defines a political refugee as one who has awell founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinionand is therefore unwilling to return to his country of origin.
Article 5 of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism provides that a request for extradition in respect of an offence covered by the convention may be refused if the requested Statehas substantial grounds for believing that request for extradition … has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion, or that that person's position may be prejudiced for any of these reasons".Thus, Article 5 clearly reflects the principle that persons who come within the definition of political refugee contained in the United Nations convention should not be returned to their country of origin. As far as the political refugee is concerned, it is his political opinions which are, relevant and the motive for which his 1580 extradition is requested. The safeguard in Article 5 covers both aspects. It has already been incorporated in our extradition arrangements with Commonwealth countries under the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967, and Clause 2 of the Bill makes provision for its incorporation in the Extradition Act 1870.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook
The hon. Lady refers to the provisions of the United Nations convention and, indeed, to the provisions of the convention we are discussing today, neither of which is law in the United Kingdom. The hon. Lady then says that the definition of a political refugee has already been incorporated in the Fugitive Offenders Act, which is part of our law. But the Fugitive Offenders Act retains the protection for offences of a political character.
In those circumstances, how can the hon. Lady justify the fact that we are taking out of our present law what has traditionally been regarded as protection for political refugees in extradition matters in order to insert something which, basically, has never been part of our law?
§ Dr. Summerskill
Although the hon. Gentleman says that the matter I have been speaking of is a United Nations matter, we have ratified the convention that I mentioned relating to the status of refugees. Therefore, although it may not be strictly a law, we have ratified it, and I think that ratification of a United Nations convention has great importance and significance within our law.
I could give the hon. Gentleman later a list of the countries in the Council of Europe which also have ratified that United Nations convention, if he would like me to. Obviously, I cannot read the list out now.
Let me now give an example to show how matters may proceed. If the Government of the requesting State suddenly changed for the worse while an extradition case was proceeding, and before there was time for that State to be excluded from the convention, the fugitive whose return was requested could, under the 1870 Act as the Bill would amend it, claim the protection of this safeguard not only in the courts, but also—I come to the further safeguard—in an appeal at the end of the day to the Home Secretary himself, who could, if he thought 1581 fit, reverse a decision of the courts to commit the fugitive for surrender.
After extensive consultation, we are in no doubt, therefore, that the convention does not in any way affect the Home Secretary's right to grant political asylum and that the genuine political refugee has nothing to fear from this Bill, bearing in mind those three safeguards.
I turn now from extradition to prosecution. Clause 4 gives effect to the back-up prosecution provisions of the convention, which are set out in Articles 6 and 7. These articles together require a contracting State to put the case to its prosecution authorities where the fugitive is present in its territory and is not extradited. The obligation is, however, qualified in some important ways, although, as I shall later explain, we have not thought it appropriate to translate all these qualifications into the Bill.
First, it is necessary that a request for the extradition of the fugitive from another contracting State should have been received and refused. Second, that request must be in respect of an offence covered by Article 1 of the convention. Third, the requesting State's jurisdiction over the offence for which extradition is requested must, in the words of Article 6,… be based on a rule of jurisdiction existing equally in the law of the requested State".This means that the law of the requested State would have similar jurisdiction over the offence if it had been committed in corresponding circumstances. For example, if a request for extradition was received from Germany in respect of an offence for kidnapping committed in Germany and that request was refused, the United Kingdom would be obliged to consider prosecuting the fugitive because the United Kingdom had jurisdiction over the offence of kidnapping when committed in the United Kingdom.
With regard to an offence committed outside the territory of the requesting State, we should be obliged to consider prosecuting the fugitive only where the United Kingdom court exercised jurisdiction over the offence when committed outside the United Kingdom in corresponding circumstances. An example would be murder committed abroad by a national of the requesting State outside that State, since in such a case we 1582 would have had jurisdiction had the offender been a citizen of the United Kingdom.
Clause 5 is additional to the convention. We believe it sensible to provide for the possibility of arrangements based on the convention with States which are not parties to it. I should point out that under subsection (5) of Clause 8 an order may not be made under Clause 5 without affirmative resolutions of both Houses. This will ensure that Parliament will have a full opportunity to examine any arrangements proposed and, of course, prevent them from coming into being if it so decides.
We have no immediate plans for bilateral arrangements under Clause 5 at present, but if discussions which are under way in the Nine on a terrorism convention are successful, it may be that orders under Clause 5 will be needed to enable us to give effect to that convention.
I believe that the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism will be a powerful weapon in the fight against terrorism. Austria and Sweden have already ratified it, and a number of other States are expected to do the same during the course of the year. The Government are anxious that the United Kingdom should be among the States that have lost little time in assuming the obligations of this convention. I hope that hon. Members will agree that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.
§ 10.48 a.m.
§ Sir Michael Havers
We are grateful to the hon. Lady for the way in which she has explained the purposes of the Bill, which started in another place and was to some extent improved there.
The basic operation by which terrorism so often acts is that the terrorists commit the crime in a country other than their own and then take refuge in a third country. That is the problem which has been facing the world—and certainly Europe—over the past few years. As the hon. Lady told us, the background starts in 1970 with the Hague convention, which was followed by the Montreal convention and the New York convention. Those all related to aircraft and internationally protected persons. Terrorist attacks have much wider targets, and it has been much too easy 1583 to say that the crime was politically motivated even though it was a crime of murder or extreme violence.
The principle of allowing in such cases the country in which the terrorists have sought refuge to prosecute them for the offences, even though not committed within the territory, is an important step forward.
I have always found it very difficult to accept that a violent attack which led to the death or maiming of the victim or victims could successfully evade criminal prosecution on the plea of political motivation. Safeguards must, of course, be brought in. I am satisfied that the Bill covers the exceptional case, and particularly the genuine case of political asylum.
I am slightly concerned about the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and the hon. Lady's answer about ratification. We shall have to look at that again. I have no doubt that her Department will consider it before we reach the Committee stage. We might have to clarify the matter in Committee in order to resolve any ambiguity or risk of loss of protection in the genuine case of political asylum.
Inevitably, any convention, and thus any Bill based on such a convention, can be wholly effective only when all countries concerned are prepared to be involved and to play their part in enforcing the rules and obligations. We shall have reluctantly to accept that there will be some countries which will continue to shelter hijackers and other terrorists.
The Bill puts into effect the Council of Europe convention, and we must recognise that some countries will continue to defy the standards that we now accept. But experience is proving that those countries are decreasing in number and that our European policy is being more widely recognised and accepted than was the case a few years ago.
For myself, I would argue that countries which offer haven to terrorists could eventually be persuaded to be realistic and accept that international terrorism must be stamped out. One way of doing that would be to convince them that in the end it can only be in their interest—in the interest of all States—to recognise that terrorism of this kind 1584 must ultimately put at risk democracy as we, and those States, know it.
What sort of terrorism are we dealing with? It is designed to force a sovereign State to act by fear or threat against its own public interest. Put another way, it is the use of terror to force a Government to accede against their will to a course of conduct which they would not ordinarily follow. Once that happens—by bombing or the taking or even killing of hostages—and the resolution of that State has been weakened, the will to resist in the future diminishes so that ultimately the terrorists, and not the State itself, rule.
It follows, therefore, that terrorists must not be allowed to commit their acts of terrorism and then go free. Ideally, they should be returned to the country in which they committed their crimes. If that is not acceptable or possible, at least the country where they have sought refuge should have the opportunity of trying them for the crimes they have committed.
We must not be misled by the nineteenth-century view which properly gave political asylum to those who held intellectual or political views that disagreed with their country's ideologies. We must not confuse that liberal approach with those who seek, by murder and atrocity, to force a Government to act against their will.
For those reasons, the Opposition support the Bill.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke
It is always wrong to quote one's own speeches, but I think that in this case I should be allowed to do so. On 13th November last year, I had the honour to be the Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and I introduced a motion on this subject to the European Parliament which was accepted without any dissent.
The motion urged all the members of the European Parliament to do what we are doing today, namely, to ratify most of these conventions but particularly the Convention of the Council of Europe. It was clear when I introduced that motion that it was necessary to allay the fears which the hon. Lady mentioned, namely, the apprehensions that this in some way will detract from the traditional rights of asylum.
1585 I sought to allay those fears by pointing out that, whereas in the nineteenth century the person who sought asylum was a refugee from tyranny, today the seeker of asylum is a refugee from democracy in the sense that the object of terrorism today, certainly in Germany and in Italy, is so to conduct, or rather to disrupt, public affairs that what are at present democracies are obliged to turn themselves into tyrannies. It is exactly the obverse of what occurred in the nineteenth century.
In my speech in the European Parliament at Strasbourg I said:Apart from the extreme effectiveness of modern weapons, the feature of terrorism which distinguishes it, I suggest, from those more traditional forms of dissent is that the purpose of the terrorist is not to make a tyranny or dictatorship tolerant and more democratic, but to make a democratic society more tyrannical and more dictatorial. Insofar as it is possible to distinguish the motives of the recent terrorists in Europe, they are to force upon a democratic country measures in protection of its citizens, most of whom are totally innocent, measures of protection which will inevitably interfere with their liberty, with the rule of law, with the normal proceedings of the courts and with fundamental human rights. The terrorist seeks to drive the democratic State into the position of an authoritarian and totalitarian tyranny, and that is what distinguishes the modern terrorist from the more traditional forms of dissent.That is exactly the opposite, in fact, of what happened in the nineteenth century. For that reason we have to take exactly the opposite countermeasures, and this Bill is one of them. It therefore deserves the support of all of us.
There are matters which we must consider in greater detail in Committee, but by and large it will serve no purpose to go on emphasising one's support, save to say that every Member who spoke in that debate in the European Parliament supported the motion for a resolution urging all member States to ratify the convention and all except one have done so or will do so.
If the hon. Lady is to reply to the debate, will she say whether we are, either alone or with our colleagues, urging that one State—namely, the Republic of Ireland—to do her duty in this matter?
§ 10.57 a.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle
I wish briefly to add my welcome and support to the Bill, which I consider to be an important step 1586 forward in the suppression of international terrorism.
It is, perhaps, a sad commentary on our situation today that such a Bill is necessary. But that it is necessary I have no doubt. I consider that international terrorism or urban terrorism of any kind, whether it consists of the hijacking of aeroplanes or the appalling tragedy of the kidnapping of Signor Moro, is one of the major scourges of the present generation. It seems that all acts of this nature have one thing in common—the very indiscriminate effect of the actions which are taken. They appear to require and include the wanton killing of innocent people for political ends in which those people themselves have possibly no interest and over which they certainly have no control.
The passengers in an aircraft hijacked on an international flight have no power in themselves to release the prisoners whose release is demanded in exchange for their lives. On many occasions the State against which the claim is made is itself not able to meet it. What is clear is that it never can be in a position when it could, or should, meet it, because there is no doubt but that terrorist activity breeds purely on the success of previous terrorist activity. Tragic as it may be for the innocent people involved, no progress will be made unless all countries are prepared to stand together and refuse to give in to the demands of the terrorist. Every time one country gives in, that will create the precedent for further and more outrageous terrorist action.
I saw a certain amount of this, while at the Home Office, in relation to the actions of the IRA in this country. The IRA's activities resulted in the innocent killing and maiming by bombs of people who themselves had no control over the political future of Ireland. The casualties resulted from the activities of fanatics trying to make a point. That led me to believe that the only satisfactory way to approach conduct of this kind is by looking upon it as analagous to warfare upon society and conduct which merits exceptional steps to deal with it.
Clearly, this Bill is exceptional, to an extent, in that it will change the law on extradition, but I believe that the exceptional times we live in require exceptional measures of this nature. I suppose 1587 the only thing one can say is that a whole generation has now grown up which has known no major international war but which still has had to face the problems of urban guerilla activity and international terrorism.
I welcome the fact that the Bill allows us to bring into our domestic law the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which we have already ratified. I am glad, too, that the whole of that convention works on the basis of extraditing to the country in which the offence was committed as a first step rather than the alternative of trying the person who has escaped to a third country in the third country.
That is important for two reason. First, it is always easier to provide the evidence on which the trial can take place in the country in which the offence has been committed. I can see grave difficulties in trying people in this country for terrorist offences committed abroad when the whole of our system of trial requires the presence of witnesses to give evidence in person. Secondly, surely, the whole problem of the punishment of those people should rightly be an issue and a problem for the country in which the terrorist activity takes place, rather than be thrown upon the shoulders of the country to which that terrorist chooses to escape.
Serious problems arise over the form of penalty which it is appropriate to impose for terrorist activity. The country which should have to take those decisions and exercise its form of penalty is the country in which the terrorist activity took place, rather than the jurisdiction of the courts into which the person happens to flee.
I welcome the fact that the Bill will allow us to go wider than merely those other countries that have ratified the European convention. It is right that other countries whose judicial process we accept should have a similar provision, as we have under the Bill with our neighbours in the Council of Europe. I can see absolutely no reason, for example, why the Bill should not be extended to other Commonwealth countries, and I am glad that the power is given in the Bill to do just that, Indeed, if I may add say something slightly outside the terms of the Bill, I 1588 believe that our extradition laws generally are somewhat restrictive and need to be looked at again.
In 1972, we had certain arguments with the Australian Government over issues of extradition. For a person to be extradited to another civilised country in whose judicial procedure we have faith, it should be adequate for that country to show prima facie that the person at present in this country has committed an offence in that country. I do not believe that it is necesary to go further, as we do at present, and, for example, require that, once returned, such a person cannot be tried on any offence other than the one on which he is extradited.
If we have faith in the fairness and impartiality of the judicial procedures of other countries, I think that there is a case for relaxing some of the strict technical rules surrounding our extradition policy. As regards these types of activity, we are right to remove the defence that the offence was of a political nature.
I want to ask the hon. Lady two final points. First, to support what my hon, and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said, is it not a tragedy that the Republic of Eire has not ratified this convention? Surely, it has a fundamental and equally important reason for wishing to see the end of terrorist activity. Yet as long as the Republic refuses to ratify the convention it is bound to give the impression that it is prepared to harbour a certain type of terrorist activity. Surely, in the long run it must be realised that the activities of, for example, the IRA are just as great a danger to its Government as they are to Northern Ireland. What, if any, action are we attempting to take to persuade the Republic to sign the convention?
Secondly, can the hon. Lady say exactly what Clause 2 means? Saying that someone shall not be extradited where he may be prejudiced in his trial by reason of his political opinions is going very near to saying that the defence of its being an offence of a political nature still applies. I should have thought that a member of, for example, the IRA being tried in Northern Ireland could argue that, as his political opinions as a member of the IRA were well known, that could prejudice him at his trial. I should be glad to have the hon. Lady's 1589 assurance that the wording of Clause 2, which seems very wide, in no way detracts from the effectiveness of Clause 1.
Anything that removes the barriers to the return of terrorists to the country in which they have committed their activities, so that they can stand their proper trial, is welcome. I believe that the Bill is a move in that direction.
§ 11.9 a.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner
This Bill is necessary, and in Committee, no doubt, such imperfections as it now has can be remedied. But the Bill is very limited by its nature and, indeed, by the European convention on which it is based. Neither the Bill nor the convention will stop international terrorism any more than the three previous conventions which preceded the European convention have been able to stop terrorism, whether by hijacking or by any other of the horrendous methods, of which the kidnapping of Signor Moro is perhaps the worst and certainly the latest example.
One comment to be made about the Bill, and the convention—when one talks about the Bill one is really either applauding or criticising the convention—is that a little progress is better than no progress at all. But if we are being realistic—it is to be hoped that we are—and we are aiming ultimately at making terrorism a crime which people will less frequently commit because of the danger of subsequent apprehension and punishment, we have to recognise that, in the case of aircraft hijacking, for example, the countries which are likely to provide a haven for the hijackers are countries not in Europe but well outside Europe which have nothing to do with and no interest in conventions of this kind. It must be well understood that such countries have political sympathy in many cases with the purposes of the hijacking.
The only way that we shall ultimately make any serious and effective impact on this problem is by making as sure as we can, by using all the resources and influence we can bring to bear upon them, that countries which give a haven to hijackers know full well that they will suffer for what they are doing. Is it not time that this Government tried to use their influence—indeed, I hope that they are already 1590 —in the Council of Europe, in the European Parliament and elsewhere to see whether there can now be agreed a collective policy among the European Governments, focusing our attention on this limited scale for the moment, which eventually can be extended to other civilised Governments who can take joint and effective action against those countries which are prepared to take in and protect the people responsible for terrorism?
What we are trying to do in the Bill is to consent, and rightly so, to a diminution of the right of someone who commits a crime abroad, or some act which a Government abroad may regard as a crime, then to rely on the Government here to give him asylum because of the political character of the motive behind the act committed abroad.
Before the grant of political asylum can be exercised, one looks at the purpose or motive of the person who has committed the act or crime. One looks also at the purpose and motive of the State which is requesting his extradition. We have a duty also to have regard to the prospective treatment which that person will receive if he is sent back to the country which is asking for his extradition.
The Minister has rightly pointed out that Article 5 of the convention expressly deals with the right of a contracting State to refuse to extradite a person if there are substantial grounds for believing that the request for the extradition has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on the ground of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion.
But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) pointed out in his intervention, although the Minister has rightly said that the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 reflects the provisions of Article 5, the fact is that the Fugitive Offenders Act will now, surely, have to be amended either by the addition of provisions or by some other alteration in order to conform exactly with the provisions of Article 5.
No matter what the spirit of the Fugitive Offenders Act may be, the law as set out in that statute appears to be different from the provisions as expressed in the convention. No doubt, as my right hon, and learned Friend the Member for 1591 Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) said, this is a matter which we can and ought to look at in Committee.
§ 11.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook
I am sorry that I cannot join in the general support for the Bill which has so far been expressed. I am sorry that the Bill was not taken on the Floor of the House. In my opinion, it should have been because it deals with the principle of political liberty, a principle which we should not curtail except after the most thorough public discussion of the justification for so doing.
I believe that, by the Bill being removed to a Second Reading Committee, whatever the merits of the procedure, and whatever the distinction of the members of the Committee and of those taking part in the debate, inadequate consideration will be given to a most important matter. It has already received attention from the national Press, and great anxiety has been expressed as to what we are doing in enacting the Bill.
Because I appear to be the only one who is not in favour of the Bill, I hope that I shall have the indulgence of the Committee if I take a little time to explain why that is so.
The Bill had, I think, inadequate examination in the other place. I mean no disrespect to the noble Lords who took part in the debate. One of them was a lawyer, but none of the Law Lords took part, which was a great pity because some of them are experts in extradition law and have comparatively recently delivered opinions on offences of a political character which, had they repeated them in that debate, would have been of great assistance to us in considering the advisability of giving the Bill a Second Reading.
The danger we face is the curtailing of political liberty at a time when we are particularly incensed by recent events of terrorism. But, of course, it is just when we feel such abhorrence that we must be most careful lest our natural reaction should restrict an important principle.
We are dealing with a complicated subject. The Bill is complicated enough, but we are putting it in an extremely complicated context. Our extradition law is complicated, and, no doubt, by the time 1592 I have finished my speech—if anyone accepts the way I put it—there will be agreement about that. The law should be rationalised. Some of my hon, and learned Friends have already referred to the difficulties of the present extradition law. But instead of rationalising it, we are today building a hornet's net around it, making the whole subject of extradition that much more difficult to understand and to apply in our courts.
I shall look, first, at the present position and then at how the Bill proposes to change it. The Bill, as the hon. Lady has told us, proposes, first, to change the application of the old traditional concept of exemption from extradition crimes or offences of a political character; second, to add to the list of extradition crimes relevant offences which may be covered by extradition; and, thirdly, to give extra-territorial jurisdiction to our courts in respect of certain offences.
Those three propositions would be difficult enough for us to understand, but piled on top is the consideration that they apply only in respect of certain offences, those which are named in the schedule. When the Bill is passed, and before any Orders in Council are made, they apply only in convention countries, which means parties which ratified the European convention, and only to those already in extradition treaty relationship with us.
The convention can apply to the Republic of Ireland. It can apply if it is a country which ratifies the convention. It can be applied to Ireland unilaterally by this country anyway under the provisions of the Bill so that we can operate it with regard to Ireland but not have the benefit of Ireland operating it towards us. It can apply also to any State in the world which the Secretary of State cares to nominate by Order in Council.
I know that the hon. Lady said that we have the safeguard that before the convention arrangements are applied to a dictatorship we shall be able to discuss the question in the House, but she knows as well as I do that that is not an adequate safeguard for dealing with such a fundamentally important political principle.
The Bill deals with certain minor matters with some of which I shall deal if I am lucky enough to be appointed to the Standing Committee, and I come now to my major argument.
1593 First, on "political character", my contention is that the convention and the trend as it has been expressed in international law, giving rise to the convention, to deal with political character as being a matter of the motives of the requesting country is wrong, because there are two sides to matters of political character—the motives of the offender and the motives of the requesting country.
Throughout our legal history, we have been just as much concerned about the motives of the offender in relation to political character as we have been about the motives of the requesting country. The earliest definition of the concept of exemption on the ground of political character, which has been authoritatively accepted, was given by Stephen in his History of the Criminal Law:Foreign criminals are not to be surrendered for extradition crimes if those crimes were incidental to and formed a part of political disturbances.That definition says nothing about the motives of the requesting country.
As time passed, we had the concept, as expressed in the case of Castioni, developing to take account of parties within a State. The definition adopted in Castioni's case—Mr. Justice Stephen was a member of the Divisional Court which adjudicated on that matter—was that an act of a political character was done—I am paraphrasing somewhat—if donewith the intention of assisting … a politial rising, or a Beat dispute between two parties in the State as to which is to have the government in its hands.Again, one may think that there is no great emphasis there on the motives of requesting countries.
Cases were heard and definitions of that kind were adopted until we came to the Kolczynski case. Some members of the Committee may remember that that was the case of the Polish seamen on a Polish ship just after the war who mutinied and put into a British port seeking political asylum When they claimed political asylum, it was pointed out in response to a demand from Poland for their extradition, that when a one-party State is involved it is hard to put the case in the context of previous definitions of "political character".
1594 That matter was summarised by Mr. Justice Chapman in a later case in these terms:… even if one is not a member of a political party and even if one is not seeking to oust the governing body or to take over the government of the country, it may still be an offence of a political character if violent measures are taken to get away from a political ordering of society which is regarded as intolerable.The leading case on this subject is that of Schtraks, the Israeli citizen whose extradition was sought by Israel on the charge of kidnapping a child in Israel. In that case the Law Lords set down what was perhaps the most authoritative modern ruling on the subject. Perhaps I may paraphrase that in these terms. The political character of an offence concerned a person who was at odds with the requesting country on some issue connected with the political control or government of the country, and the requesting State was after him for reasons other than enforcement of its ordinary criminal law.
There we have the insertion of the idea that the motive of the requesting country is important, though not the sole consideration to be applied, of course—not by any means.
More recently, in the case of Littlejohn, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, having reviewed all the authorities as to what constituted an offence of a political character, said:… an offence may be of a political character, either because the wrongdoer had some direct ulterior motive of a political kind when he committed the offence, or because the requesting state is anxious to obtain possession of the wrongdoer's person in order to punish him for his politics rather than for the simple criminal offence referred to in the extradition proceedings.I conclude this section of my argument with a quotation from the current edition of Halsbury—the Fourth Edition, Volume 18, at paragraph 217:There is no exhaustive definition of 'an offence of a political character'. The crime must be incidental to and form a part of a political upheaval, committed by the fugitive offender as part of an organised political party contending for power with the established government. The crime must connote opposition to the government of the requesting country on some issue connected with the political control of government of that, and no other, country.It will be seen, therefore, that the authorities certainly recognise that the 1595 motives of the requesting State are important and have a part to play in the consideration of whether an offender who claims political asylum is entitled to be exempted from extradition proceedings, but, clearly, that aspect is not decisive and the motive of the offender remains a matter which must be considered.
What we appear to be doing in this Bill is saying that it does not matter what the offender's motives are with regard to the cases to be covered by the Bill so long as he is not a political refugee according to the terms of the United Nations convention and some other international convention which is not at present a matter of domestic law in this country.
I respectfully suggest that we cannot proceed to change the concept of political character and the right of asylum in relation to extradition proceedings without much more detailed examination of the whole problem and knowledge on the part of the public generally as to what we are doing.
The origins of that concept lie in the history of the fight for political freedom not only in this country but elsewhere. The idea that persons who, having committed by the law of their own countries, a serious offence, and having escaped to this country should be returned to countries where there was oppression was so abhorrent to the British people that the concept was developed in the nineteenth century, and as a result people such as Garibaldi and Kossuth were able to enjoy its benefits in this country, notwithstanding that they had committed serious offences—and violent offences—against the law of their own countries. They were heroes to some and bloodthirsty tyrants to others.
The present situation in the Middle East is one which, in 50 years' time, we shall look back on with views rather different from those we have today. One might regard the Palestine Liberation Organisation as being very little different from the Irgun Zvei Leumi in the Middle East of 30 years ago. Indeed, in the perspective of history there is very little to choose between Mr. Begin and his opponents in the PLO. Yet, of course, one at the moment is the head of a democratic Government—the Government of a country which may be the 1596 requesting country in some future extradition case—and the leader of the other is an international outlaw by some standards yet one who may be the apparently respectable leader of a democratic country in the future.
One has to beware of labelling things too simply in discussing matters of this kind. It must be remembered that the desire to recover lost territory can be a political motive, and violent offences committed with that aim in mind might well qualify as offences of a political character under our existing law.
That brings me to consider whether the Bill achieves, or even purports to achieve, what the hon. Lady stated as its purpose and effect. She laid great emphasis upon the political refugee, a concept not known to English law as such. Certainly, there is the benefit of the immigration laws for people who find themselves in this country with nowhere else to go and not necessarily entitled to be here, but political asylum is given to them because the Home Secretary, acting within his discretion, decides on political grounds that they may be allowed to remain.
But the basic expression of the right to political asylum in this country is contained in our extradition law and in the exemption from extradition proceedings of a person who is alleged to have committed a crime which he shows to have been of a political character.
It is no use quoting the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees as authority for saying "We are embodying that in our law, and therefore political refugees need have no fear", because, although we may have ratified it, it is not per se part of our law. No United Nations convention can be enforced in this country unless there is a domestic law to enforce it. Even then, it must go via the domestic law.
How far do we accept that, merely by inserting in this Bill provisions to safeguard the traditional international concept of the political refugee we are satisfying all legitimate concern and anxiety about diminishing political liberty?
The first thing to be said is that we have had these provisions in our law since 1967 in relation to the Commonwealth. The Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 incorporates all these high-flown words, 1597 these protections, guarantees and safeguards against oppression by the requesting country. But—surprise, surprise—we have left "political character" in as well. It is not considered a substitute in the Fugitive Offenders Act. It did not drop "political character" in order to embody the definition of "political refugee" which is now being embodied by the Bill in other aspects of our extradition law.
One looks again, therefore, at just what the Bill is aiming at. As I have said, by its terms, although it gives power to the Secretary of State to extend it, it applies only to member States of the Council of Europe, of which there are 21, which have signed the treaty, of which there are 18, I think, and which have ratified it—so far, I think, only four—and which are bound to this country already by the terms of an extradition treaty, of which I think there are not more than half a dozen, except—I think that members of the Committee will agree with me that this is getting complicated—in the case of the two members States of the Council of Europe which are members of the Commonwealth, namely, Cyprus and Malta.
If one had any sort of reservations about the political inspiration of Governments of any of the States in the Commonwealth, among a short list one might include one or other of those two countries, yet those are the two countries, provided that they have ratified the treaty—I think that Cyprus certainly has—to which we shall be giving benefits by allowing them to have people who previously would have been accepted on the grounds of "political character", benefits which are not available to the rest of the Commonwealth or, indeed, to the great democracies such as the United States of America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
If one appreciates that fundamental defect in the Bill, as I believe it to be, one wonders whether we should be stampeded by the Council of Europe into making so fundamental a change in our extradition law, because of the background of political liberty which is involved.
The Council of Europe is a very august organisation, and it has produced many splendid proposals and suggestions in the 1598 past for the solution of political problems, regardless, perhaps, of the legal consequences involved. I think, for example, of the difficulty which was referred to by my hon. and learned Friends the Members for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) about Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is not co-operating with us at the moment in the matter of returning IRA members who are wanted for crimes committed in this country on the ground that they have committed political offences.
Why do we suffer so much in that respect? It is because Ireland has an extradition law which says that extradition will not be granted where the offence alleged is a political offence or an offence connected with a political offence. So the Irish go one stage further. In their Extradition Act of 1965 they exempt in relation to the United Kingdom not only political offences but offences connected with or related to political offences.
For example, George Blake, the spy, was assisted in his escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison by an Irishman who subsequently escaped to Ireland. That Irishman was sought by us, and his extradition was refused by the Irish courts on the ground that, although assisting someone to escape from a British prison was not a political offence, it was done in connection with a political offence, namely, spying and enabling a spy to escape.
Whence did the Irish get that extension to their extension to extradition?—nowhere else but the European Convention on Extradition, another proposal put up by the Council of Europe but which, happily, has not been ratified by this country so that we are not bound by the proposals in that convention. But the Irish had that wording in their 1965 Act, and they apply it, even though, strictly speaking, it is not reciprocal with our arrangements with them. So one has to be careful in that respect about political motives that change our law in fundamental respects.
Fundamentally, perhaps, my point is that, if a change is being made in that we are dropping exemption for offences of a political character and substituting exemption on the ground of race, religion, nationality or political opinions, what precisely are to be the categories of people who will not in future be able to benefit 1599 from the exemption and who will be returned? It is important that the Committee and the public should know what sort of cases are involved.
There are at present a number of people who are, or have been, sought by their home countries for alleged offences. For example, we have in this country General Gowon, whose extradition to Nigeria has been refused, so one understands, though, as far as I know, the case never came before a court. Nobody doubts that Nigeria believes itself to be fully entitled to seek his extradition. He would not be prejudiced on account of his race, religion or nationality, and I doubt that he would be proceeded against for his political opinions if he were returned to Nigeria, because, as far as I am aware, he has not expressed any, being an intelligent person. It has been held that one must have expressed political opinions before it can be said that one might be prejudiced by them when one returned—as in the Teja case.
If one puts one's mind to it, one can think of many cases where persons in this country are sought by Governments with the purest of motives, simply on the application of their criminal law, but who, in the average man's mind, are deserving of political asylum and therefore of exemption from extradition.
There is the dangerous rival, for example, who has not committed any offence in fact but who may be so charged. One must take into account the possibility of bad faith on the part of the requesting country. He might have a charge trumped up against him, though he has done nothing. The hidden motive behind it all would be to get rid of him, or at least to render him harmless. In historical terms, one example would be a pretender to the Throne. Such a person might not have committed any offence, but the evidence of the offence may be produced or be manufactured by the requesting country. Milton Obote, for example, may well be sought by General Amin of Uganda.
To emphasise that I am not making any allegations against any past requesting country—certainly not Nigeria—or any possible future requesting country, I draw the attention of the Committee to the Eisler case just after the war. Mr. Eisler was taken off a Polish ship in British territorial waters on a claim by America 1600 that he committed perjury, which was an extradition crime. Mr. Eisler was a Communist and had testified before a United States Congressional Committee, which excited a great deal of controversy in the United States, although he had been there for some time.
The alleged crime of perjury was based upon a false statement that he had made in order to obtain his exit visa. When Mr. Eisler was arrested and charged with the offence of perjury in this country, there was a rumpus in the House of Commons when it was pointed out that this was the clearest political offence that there could be. The United States Congress and the American Government simply wanted to get their hands on this person and return him to America.
The learned magistrate at Bow Street decided that the incorrect manner in which Mr. Eisler had completed his form of application for an exit visa was not such as would justify a charge of perjury in this country, where a false statement has to be made in connection with judicial proceedings.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Whatever Eisler was, he was not a terrorist. What has this to do with terrorism?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
My hon. and learned Friend is illustrating admirably my concern that some of my colleagues, those most esteemed by me, are so obsessed with the need to put down terrorism that they are prepared to take liberties—if I may so express it—prepared to accept amendments to the laws governing political liberty in this country. Certainly Eisler was not accused of terrorism. He was accused of perjury. But perjury is an extradition crime, and terrorism, as covered by the various offences set out in the Bill, covers a wide range of offences. Indeed, Article 2 of the convention widens it even further. I shall come to that in a moment.
If we drop "political character" and go for "race, religion, nationality and political opinions", the difficulty will be that English courts are always reluctant to impute bad faith to the Government of a requesting country. They go by the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, which is trustful, and any request that may come from a country, especially one with which we have constitutional or historical bonds of friendship, will be 1601 judged strictly in the light of the wording of the Act, without regard to the principles which used to animate our grant of political asylum in extradition proceedings.
Lord Justice Shaw, for example, in the recent case involving Mr. Tarling—it was reported in The Times the next day, in February this year—said that no imputation of partiality had been made against the Singapore Government: if it had been, the court would have rejected it, and quite properly so. That means that we must take into account that our judges are not politicians but lawyers expected to apply the law, to interpret it with common sense, bearing in mind their authority and experience and the spirit of the law. But it is always assumed by the courts in this country, as Lord Reid said in the Armah case, that requesting countries will honour their obligations.
§ The Chairman
May I call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that this is a Second Reading Committee? While I am properly allowing him a very wide scope, many of the arguments he seems to be adducing are more suitable for the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
Thank you, Mr. Blenkinsop, for calling that to my attention. I shall bear it in mind. But I am sure that you will bear in mind also that "political character" is of the essence in this debate. It is not a purely Committee point to say that we should not give the Bill a Second Reading because it deletes "political character" from the whole of our extradition law.
§ The Chairman
May I also call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that we are not strictly giving the Bill its Second Reading. It is proposed that I report to the House that the Committee recommend that it ought to be read a Second time. That is a slightly different emphasis.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
Thank you, Mr. Blenkinsop; it is slightly different. What I am saying is that the main reason why you ought not so to report is that we are taking "political character" out of our extradition law by the Bill. That is an important general point of objection to the whole Bill, not against any particular clause or subsection.
1602 I appreciate, Mr. Blenkinsop, that I have taken some time to make these points, but I believe that it is justified because no opposition to the Bill has been expressed inside Parliament so far. Perhaps I may crave your indulgence if I keep to the general points, especially on "political character".
The Times, for example, said that the Bill limits the generality with which courts grant extradition for offences of a political character, for political crimes. That is a good point, and I think it absolutely justified. It is not good enough for the hon. Lady to say that the Bill in no way derogates from our right to grant political asylum. We are talking not strictly about political asylum but about exemption from extradition on the ground of the political character of the offence.
I hope that I have shown—perhaps I have been unsuccessful—that we are ignoring the fact that half of a political offence is concerned with the motives of the offender. In this case, we are dropping that half completely for the future application of the law.
It is perfectly true, as the Minister said, that in 1969, for the first time in our history, we deleted the concept of political character from extradition proceedings in connection with the offence of genocide. That is an interesting example. It is the only offence so far in English law which merits consideration as an exemption from the general rule that political offences should be exempt.
The Genocide Convention was drawn up, I believe, in 1949. It was not until 1962—and that period includes the Labour Government of 1945–51—that any British Government considered ratifying that convention. When the Government of 1962 considered it, it was rejected. If it will not unduly delay our proceedings, I can quote what the then Lord Privy Seal my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), said—
§ The Chairman
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is in danger of trying the Committee's patience a little by the detail into which he is going on the proposals regarding the Genocide Convention. We must stick fairly strictly to the broad principles. The extent to which the hon. Gentleman cites detailed examples must be limited.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I shall abbreviate it, Mr. Blenkinsop, by saying that the Genocide Act did not pass in the House until 1969, 20 years after the convention. That reflected the grave concern of authorities in this country at dropping the exemption for offences of a political character.
It is significant, too, that the United States of America has still not ratified the Genocide Convention in its law for the same reason, namely, that the Americans do not like making exemptions for any particular offence from their general principle of political asylum.
§ Sir M. Havers
Perhaps my hon. Friend will assist the Committee by dealing with Schedule 1 and say which of the offences set out there are those in respect of which he would object to an extradition order being made.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
This is an interesting point, because the spirit behind it lies at the heart of what my right hon. and learned Friend has already said about the Bill. He is animated by the seriousness of these offences. It is true that those specified in Schedule 1 are all, apparently, very serious offences. But it appears from reading the small print—if one may call it that—that we are not always dealing with offences of terrorism per se, and also I do not believe that this should be considered in the light of particular offences which have been quoted.
This convention has been signed by a number of members of the Council of Europe—18, I think—but Article 13 allows for reservations to be made on signature and on ratification. That is rather interesting, because if the main purpose of the Bill is to drop exemption from extradition for political offences, one should look for reciprocity among other members of the Council of Europe which will benefit from our doing so.
On reading the list one sees that France, for example, has reserved its position in a long memorandum on page 8, sayingIt is self-evident that efficiency in this struggle must be reconciled with respect for the fundamental principles of our criminal law and of our Constitution, whih states in its Preamble that 'Anyone persecuted on account of his action for the cause of liberty has the right to asylum on the territory of the Republic.1604 Italy has declared that the convention will not apply to political offences. Norway has declared that it will not apply, as have Portugal and Sweden. We are already finding, therefore, that what is left is very small indeed. Yet, in principle, for those of us who take all these things in good faith, it is very big indeed.
What is worse is that the British Government go further than they need. The convention provides for two scales of offences to be considered—first, Article 1, under which all those ratifying must provide for dropping the exemption for political offences and, second, Article 2, which is optional. As the hon. Lady said, the British Government have taken both into the ambit of the Bill and propose therefore to extend the exemption for political offences to cover offences covered by both those articles.
Here is, I hope, a very general fundamental point. The real problem we are dealing with here is that under our present extradition law the Secretary of State has no option but to grant asylum where the offence is found by a court to be of a political character. That, perhaps, is the weakness of our present extradition law in relation to crimes committed by terrorists. It seems that this Government have been stampeded into altering a law affecting our fundamental liberties and restricting the right of asylum when the purpose could be achieved by the Secretary of State's not being obliged to grant asylum even if the court finds that the ingredients of an offence of a political character have been made up.
I suggest, therefore, that the problem should be dealt with by giving the Secretary of State a discretion and not by abandoning the concept of offences of a political character. It must be remembered that the Fugitive Offenders Act 1881, which preceded the Act of 1967, did not include within it offence of a political character.
As the hon. Lady said, there are some States with which we are on such good terms that in a proper case we would not dream of refusing to them the extradition of offenders who come to this country. The principles of the 1881 Act in relation to the Commonwealth were those of trust. The only restriction of this kind was that there should be no return 1605 where such return would be unjust or oppressive. One might say that that is covered by the present concept of political refugees which the hon. Lady quoted today. But until 1967 "political character" did not apply.
I refer members of the Committee to the case of Anthony Enahoro. It is a case that will be well known to Members of the House, because it excited a great deal of controversy when it occurred in about 1962. Anthony Enahoro was wanted by Nigeria, then a fully democratic and parliamentary country with a system of courts based on our own and staffed, to a great extent, by people trained in this country. Anthony Enahoro was charged with offences which basically involved raising and training a rebel army.
It is, perhaps, difficult to imagine a more political offence. However, he was extradited—there was nothing in the Act to prevent it. It would not have been unjust or oppressive for this country to have returned him. Indeed, it did so order that he should be returned, because it was known that he would get a fair trial in Nigeria, which he received, and he survived to be a Minister in a later administration.
That caused a trauma, not only in this place, in discussion as to whether Mr. Enahoro should go back. My hon. Friend, who is now the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) but who was then the Member for Brentford and Chiswick and Mr. Enahoro's constituency Member, worked very hard on his behalf and will be particularly aware of the case.
One might have said that the offence on which Mr. Enahoro was sent back was political. Therefore, in 1967 that case was one of the reasons why "political character" was added to the Fugitive Offenders Act. That means that the Government then acknowledged that political refuge was not sufficient in the terms of the old definition but that it was necessary to insert the new provisions.
I can see, Mr. Blenkinsop, that you are getting impatient, so I shall turn to the next aspect of what I was saying the Bill was about.
§ The Chairman
It is important to remember that the Committee will want to come to some conclusion this morning.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
That is all very well, if I may say so, Mr. Blenkinsop. But if the Committee does not come to a conclusion this morning it will not be because I have been out of order. With respect, I am discussing the Bill. It is fundamentally a most important Bill and the problems arising thereon ought to be aired. I do not think that I have yet given cause for the Committee to devote a second sitting to the matter and I hope that I shall not be responsible for that.
The second aspect that I wanted to talk about is the fact that it is adding offences to the list of extradition crimes. That is one of its other purposes besides changing the operation of exemption for offences of a political character.
That leads me to ask why some offences have been included in that part of the Bill which are eminently desirable while others have been excluded. For example, conspiracy appears in only two cases in the Extradition Acts—murder and drug offences—but everywhere in the Fugitive Offenders Act. Why was not the opportunity taken to make the list of extraditable offences the same, whether for the Extradition Acts or for the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967? In both cases there is a schedule. Surely, if we are to alter our extardition law, we should take advantage of the opportunity of a Bill coming which seeks to alter our extradition law.
I say that it is making the matter more complicated. Surely, we should take advantage of the opportunity to make it simpler and at least to standardise our approach for extradition purposes to that of foreign States as well as to that of Commonwealth States. At the moment those two lists are different: some offences are included in the one but not in the other, and vice versa.
As regards Ireland, the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965 has a different concept entirely on indictable offences. But in that measure there is a significant change in the wording. Hon. Members will see in the Bill that when we alter the Extradition Acts in relation to the convention countries, we speak of the possibility that the returned offender might be persecuted. But when we alter the Backing of Warrants Act we say that the offender would be persecuted. There is a significant difference in law 1607 between those two terms, as has been held in a number of cases before now.
The Government should give consideration to this, because if it is a benefit that we are giving to the Irish offenders then, surely, we should extend it to all other offenders. Why should there be any advantage—or, indeed, disadvantage—for one that is not available for the others?
I suggest that we should include in the Bill any offence which is extraditable by the laws of both countries. We do that at the moment in 24 out of 44 treaties which apply to us. We do not seem to do that for the rest and we do not do it for fugitive offenders under the Fugitive Offenders Act.
I turn now to a third aspect of the whole Bill in the scheme which I outlined when I rose. I welcome the extraterritorial jurisdiction provisions. They form a part of the Bill that is helpful and will enable the extradition law to be rationalised and conducted in the courts more sensibly. It will lead to some difficulties in that, by dropping the political character for some people and not for others, we may have some difficulties in our courts in matters of evidence, and so on. We say that evidence may not be taken in this country if the matter refers to an offence committed abroad which is a political offence. With regard to some countries in the future that will not apply because they will be covered by the Bill, and in others it will apply. More rationalisation is needed there.
I am glad to see also that, in spite of the wording of the convention, we can prosecute for an offence covered by the jurisdiction conferred by the Bill, whether we refuse extradition or not. So it may not always be necessary to wait for a request from another country to put it through our courts and then to refuse it on the ground, say, of political opinions. We could prosecute in this country with the offender here and with the assistance of evidence supplied from abroad.
I believe that that part of the Bill is useful. In the long run it is, perhaps, the real answer to problems of this kind. We shall always have reservations about when and to whom we should extradite persons who commit offences for politi 1608 cal motives. It is not the fault of legal drafting in the Bill because I think that the drafting is excellent. It is simply the political inspiration which is causing the trouble. We shall always have these difficulties, but if we can get round them by conferring jurisdiction on our courts I think that we shall have solved a problem which is causing concern.
Perhaps I may now summarise my attitude to the Bill. First, I believe that we should not ratify the convention until or unless we place a reservation upon our ratification so that we keep the notion of offences of a political character in addition to the safeguards which are being imported into the Bill and which are already present in the Fugitive Offenders Act. In other words, we should apply to everybody what we now apply to the Commonwealth.
Secondly, we should use the provisions for extra-territorial jurisdiction of these courts over terrorist offences to the full.
Thirdly, if, as it is apparent that most people seem to want, we want a political solution to this problem, I suggest we should not be seeking to achieve it by changing the concept of "political character". We should be taking political action against the offenders and against those who harbour offenders. That means refusing landing rights to State airlines of countries which do not observe the terms of the Hague and Montreal conventions. I believe that is the only effective sanction in future. It is a political solution to the problem and one which I believe is appropriate. But what we should not do is build up a hornet's nest around an already complicated law of extradition.
§ The Chairman
May I point out that second speeches in a Second Reading Committee can be made only with the consent of the Committee.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Dr. Summerskill
By leave of the Committee, perhaps I may reply to the debate. Other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate had the advantage, I suppose, of speaking before the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and therefore did not feel obliged either to agree or to disagree with the many points that he made.
1609 The hon. Member made a very detailed speech which I shall read and study carefully, as I am sure will all members of the Committee, whenever we actually get it in printed form. However, I should like now to take up a few of the points that have been made in the general debate and which are factual.
I welcome the general support that the measure has received. The exception is the hon. Member for Orpington, although the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) would have liked more to be done to suppress terrorism than is being done in the Bill, but this measure is worthy of the support of all of us.
I was asked why the opportunity has not been taken to list the offences under the Fugitive Offenders Act and the Extradition Act in the same way. The Bill is restricted to the terms of the convention, upon which it is based.
So we have made extraditable those offences under the convention which are not already extraditable—that is, offences under the Offences against the Person Act, the Firearms Act and the Explosive Substances Act, and attempts to commit such offences.
Within the limits of the Bill, therefore, we have taken the opportunity to make all indictable offences under those two Acts extraditable and all attempts to commit extraditable offences. Conspiracies are not covered in the convention, and therefore we could not justify including them in the Bill.
The general theme of the hon. Member for Orpington was that the Bill deletes the political character of the offence from the whole context of extradition law. To attempt to answer the hon. Gentleman's long speech in a sentence, I would say that it is true in relation to the very serious offences covered by the Bill which are of a terrorist nature—and which I sense, from the response of the rest of the Committee, that we are desperately anxious to do something to avoid—and only in respect of contracting States. It does not have such a generalised effect as the hon. Member for Orpington has alleged.
The hon. Gentleman was right in saying that some countries have reservations 1610 under the convention. We have not. We would rather that other countries did not, but we do not insist on absolute reciprocity. We will be prepared to extradite fugitives to those countries in circumstances where those countries might not be prepared to extradite fugitives to us, but we believe that extradition is the most effective way of ensuring that terrorists are brought to justice and we do not want to increase barriers to extradition even if other States do so.
The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde is not here, but perhaps he will read my reply. Other hon. Members, too, will be interested to learn, on the question of the general measures that other countries are taking, that we have consistently urged other Governments to become parties to the Tokyo, Hague and Montreal conventions because we believe that international collaboration is essential in combating hijacking and other forms of international terrorism. We strongly supported the United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted by consensus on 3rd November last which called on all States which had not already done so to become parties to those three conventions. There are encouraging signs that the number of Governments prepared now to give a haven to hijackers is dwindling. I think that the efforts of the United Nations can only be helpful in that regard.
The hon. and learned Members for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) and for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) raised the question of the Republic of Ireland, about which I know that many people are concerned. We very much hope that the Republic of Ireland will become a party to the convention, and we have made our views known to the present Government of the Republic. We have made it clear that we disagree with the view that customary international law does not allow the extradition of political offenders. We should wish to see the Republic sign and ratify the convention without reservation and implement it in the same comprehensive way as the United Kingdom. Only in this way could we ensure that fugitive terrorist suspects could no longer avoid extradition from the Republic by pleading that the offence involved was political.
We have made appropriate provision in the Bill to enable it to be applied to 1611 the Republic as soon as the Republic ratifies the convention. We have also provided for the application of some of the Bill's provisions to the Republic of Ireland even if the Republic is not a party to the convention, in case the Republic were willing to participate in an agreement outside the convention but on similar lines. Discussions are at present taking place in the EEC about the possibility of concluding such an agreement between the Republic and the rest of the Nine.
There is, of course, already available the reciprocal criminal jurisdiction legislation—embodied in the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975—which enables the courts in the Republic to try offenders for crimes committed in Northern Ireland and vice versa. This legislation applies to a wide range of offences committed by terrorists after 1st June 1976.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Am I right in thinking that that Act is limited to acts of terrorism committed within Northern Ireland? Does it cover acts of terrorism committed, for example, in this country by members of the IRA for a political purpose?
§ Dr. Summerskill
As I understand it, it enables courts in the Republic to try offenders for crimes committed in Northern Ireland, and the courts in Northern Ireland to try offenders for crimes committed in the Republic.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Therefore, I am right in saying that there is a right to try in the courts of Southern Ireland offences, for example, committed either in Birmingham or London by IRA members in this country.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I think that "No" is the answer to that question. It has serious limitations.
I should like to take up some other points made by the hon. Member for Orpington. We have extradition arrangements with all members of the Council of Europe except Turkey, either in the form of treaties with foreign States or in the form of reciprocal legislation for Commonwealth countries. The provisions
|Division No. 1]||AYES|
|Bates, Mr. Alf||Havers, Sir Michael||Parry, Mr. Robert|
|Carlisle, Mr. Mark||Orbach, Mr. Maurice||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley|
|Gardner Mr. Edward|
§ of the Bill can be applied to a non-convention country under Clause 5 only if the United Kingdom already has extradition arrangements with that country. It is not the case that the Bill can be applied to any country in the world, as I think the hon. Gentleman might inadvertently have said.
§ The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn was worried about the words of Clause 2—no doubt we could look at those in more detail in Committee—and asked whether they detract from Clause 1. The provision in Clause 2 is modelled on the provision in the Fugitive Offenders Act which is itself based on a similar provision in the European convention on extradition. The words would appear to come from there. It is relevant that the offence of a fugitive, in order to be covered by the Bill, must be an offence of violence, and basically Clause 2 ensures that the fugitive will not be sent back if there is any reason to suppose that he will not get a fair trial. Obviously, we can look at that in Committee.
§ One final point raised by the hon. Member for Orpington and the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde concerned the political safeguards that I mentioned in my speech. There are two limbs to the political safeguard. One limb relates to the character of the offence. This is the safeguard removed by the Bill in relation to the Extradition Act, the Fugitive Offenders Act and the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act. The other limb relates to the motive for the request for extradition. It is this safeguard that ensures that the fugitive is not extradited if he is likely to suffer on the grounds of his political opinions. It is this that is considered to be the greatest protection and to be most relevant to the political refugee.
§ I am sure that the Committee stage will be most interesting and, I hope, not too lengthy. I am glad that the Committee generally welcomes this essential piece of legislation.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 1.
|Stanbrook, Mr. Ivor|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the
|THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:|
|Blenkinsop, Mr. Arthur (Chairman)||Hutchison, Mr. Clark|
|Bates, Mr.||Mather, Mr.|
|Carlisle, Mr.||Orbach, Mr.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Mr.||Parry, Mr.|
|Gardner, Mr Edward||Stanbrook, Mr.|
|Havers, Sir M.||Summerskill, Dr.|
§ Committee rose at twenty-nine minutes past Twelve o'clock.