HC Deb 03 July 1986 vol 100 cc1156-8
6. Mr Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his Department's most recent discussions in the United States of America on the position concerning the extradition of Irish Republican Army terrorists from the United States of America.

Mr. Tom King

As I told the House on 5 June, this was one of a number of topics which I discussed in the United States in May with leading Americans who take a close interest in Northern Ireland affairs.

I am sure that the House will join me in welcoming the approval of the supplementary extradition treaty by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 12 June. If, as we expect, the treaty receives the necessary majority on the Floor of the Senate, those accused or convicted of a wide range of offences will no longer be able to avoid extradition by claiming that their crimes were politically motivated.

Mr. Adley

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. While having just minor reservations about the tendency towards ethnic politics in the way in which the matter has been handled, may I nevertheless offer my right hon. Friend congratulations on the skilful way in which he has handled a difficult situation?

Will my right hon. Friend continue to press upon the American public, through their representatives, the fact that citizens in the north and the south of Ireland have full access to democratic rights, and that Americans should be persuaded in every way possible to desist from contributing to NORAID?

Mr. King

I am grateful for those remarks. It was not possible for me to say very much after my return from Washington. I felt that there was a real commitment in America to get the treaty established on a sensible basis. This is an encouraging start and yet another demonstration of the United States' willingness now to stand against terrorism. In the context of Northern Ireland, the United States is an important ally.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will it be necessary for the original agreement between the British and American Governments to be altered?

Mr. King

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Stanbrook

Is not a great weakness of the revised draft extradition treaty the fact that it no longer includes the offence of conspiracy to commit murder and other violent crimes? As the people we are after are often the godfathers of crime in Northern Ireland, should not that weakness be remedied?

Mr. King

I think that people who look fairly at this matter recognise that it is a great improvement on the previous arrangements. People who have committed crimes will now find, as I said in my original answer, that they no longer have the political defence open to them. One problem is that crimes in this country, such as crimes of intent — carrying a weapon with intent or or possession with intent, but where a crime is not actually commited—are not crimes in the United States. It is therefore difficult to have such aspects incorporated in the treaty. I am concerned that people who commit murder or other crimes should find that they cannot use the political defence. That is what we sought to achieve and what has been achieved.

Mr. Skinner

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that another point of view prevails, which suggests that the only reason why the treaty was accepted was that many Senators and others were able to put an altogether different construction on it? As far as they were concerned, the small print of this new so-called extradition policy is about as worthless as a Slater Walker unit trust policy of the early 1970s.

Mr. King

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is thrilled with the cleverness of that supplementary question. Recent Sinn Fein literature makes it clear that Sinn Fein regards it as a major setback.

Mr. Proctor

What progress is my right hon. Friend making with the extradition of IRA terrorists from countries other than the United States of America, for example, the Netherlands?

Mr. King

My hon. Friend will have seen the recent judgments on this matter, which may have to go through one further stage. I should like to put on record our gratitude to the Netherlands authorities for the thorough way in which these matters have been investigated. Obviously they are matters for the courts, but we have sought to give all possible evidence to the Dutch authorities. We are grateful for their approach in this matter.

Mr. Archer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one factor in the debate has been the fairness of the legal system in Northern Ireland? Has he grasped that it would greatly help those in the United States who argue for effective extradition if the Government were at least seen to be implementing the Baker recommendations with enthusiasm and if the supergrass trials were discontinued?

Mr. King

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that there has been one hearing in connection with extradition, in which, under the previous rules, the Government were not successful. The fairness of the courts in Northern Ireland came under judicial review. The right hon and learned gentleman may be aware that Judge Sprizzo made it absolutely clear in his finding that, in his judgment and to the satisfaction of the court, there was no question but that if the gentleman concerned had been extradited he would have received a fair trial in Northern Ireland.

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