HC Deb 30 June 1988 vol 136 cc515-7
5. Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with the Government of the Irish Republic concerning British-Irish extradition arrangements.

Mr. Tom King

At the Intergovernmental Conference on 17 June we discussed the serious difficulties which had arisen in recent extradition cases and we reaffirmed our joint determination to ensure effective extradition arrangements.

Mr. Alton

Although in theory the district courts in this country and in Ireland should dispense justice without fear or favour, is it not inevitable that in the district courts magistrates will be in the greatest fear of the consequences of taking extradition action against members of the IRA? Does the Minister not welcome the Dail's decision on Tuesday that all such cases should in future be dealt with in the High Court? Will he also say whether he has raised with the Irish Government why it was that McVeigh was not kept in custody once it was discovered that the necessary identification was not to hand to allow his commitment for extradition to this country?

Mr. King

As I made clear in my original answer, we had a full discussion with Irish Ministers on this matter, and it is clear that the Irish Government are very concerned about the events that occurred. The hon. Gentleman himself referred to the debate in the Dail. The Irish Minister of Justice made a statement in the Dail making it clear that the Irish Government will appeal against the decision of the district judge. I understand that the Irish Government are also sympathetic to the idea of making changes of the kind that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Mr. Duffy

Given that Mr. Justice Ruane acted perfectly correctly and within the law, given that in recent years Law Officers from both Britain and Ireland have failed to make sensitive extradition warrants impermeable to challenge, and given the common practice of an officer from the jurisdiction seeking extradition to provide identification in court, why were not those steps and every other step taken in the McVeigh case?

Mr. King

That is primarily a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. However, the hon. Gentleman will know that in the McVeigh case the procedure which did not lead to a successful completion of the extradition application arose under the 1965 legislation, and that the court's interpretation and approach had not been expected. The greatest efforts had been made by my right hon. and learned Friend and by the British authorities to comply with all the Irish authorities' requirements. The Irish authorities themselves recognised that and shared to the full our concern about the outcome of that case.

Mr. William Ross

Will the Secretary of State confirm that whenever there is a request from the Dublin authorities for the extradition of persons from Northern Ireland it is honoured, regardless of the nature of the crime involved? Likewise, when there are extraditions to Northern Ireland, to Great Britain, of persons who are living in the Irish Republic, for what is usually called ordinary crime, there is also no problem. Problems with extradition cases arise only when those to be extradited are accused of terrorist crime. Will the Secretary of State comment on that point?

Mr. King

My concern—and it is not necessarily implicit in the way in which the hon. Member puts his question—is to make extradition work. In the fight against terrorism it is vital to both countries that there is effective extradition, whatever the type of crime. It is unacceptable for that not to be the case, and we are determined to make it work.