HC Deb 14 February 2000 vol 344 cc587-8
3. Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

If he will make a statement on his policy in respect of General Pinochet. [108237]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)

My policy in deciding the case of Senator Pinochet is to carry out my responsibilities under the Extradition Act 1989 in accordance with the law.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are pleased that the processes regarding Pinochet are continuing in this country and that he has not been sent back? On the more recent speculation that his health may be worsening, is my right hon. Friend also aware that human rights groups would like to see hard medical evidence about this former criminal dictator, who in my view should certainly face justice?

Mr. Straw

I am certainly aware of the concern that my hon. Friend expresses. On the question of whether the medical report should be published, the House will be aware that the matter has been before a three-judge court of the divisional court, which is due to give its judgment later this week. In those circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has said that, because the matter is clearly sub judice before the High Court. The case would have been eligible for judicial review had it not initially been a criminal matter. However, could Her Majesty's Government stop playing cat and mouse with the sitting senator who was admitted into this country as a VIP by the Foreign Office and whom the Government of Chile request be returned to the proper legal jurisdiction, which is in that very country?

Mr. Straw

As I have said throughout the many months in which there have been extradition proceedings in respect of Senator Pinochet, in making decisions on the case I have sought to follow the duties that are imposed on me by the Extradition Act 1989. I shall continue to do that.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be well aware of the article published in El Pais some time ago and of the release of correspondence between his office and that of Senator Pinochet. He will also be aware that he has since placed that correspondence in the Library of the House. Could he explain why an official in his Department wrote to a lawyer acting on behalf of General Pinochet to offer him medical confidentiality, which, in effect, has given him a power of veto over subsequent proceedings?

Mr. Straw

The House will understand that the issue that my hon. Friend raises is precisely one of the issues currently before the divisional court. For that reason, I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to comment further until we have a final judgment from the courts.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

Is it not odd that we should have contemplated the extradition of General Pinochet at the same time as we were creating the circumstances in Northern Ireland for Sinn Fein-IRA Ministers to serve in the Government there? Is not the truth something like this? When a democratic state makes a positive decision to overlook past misdeeds to create a new democratic settlement, other states should respect that decision.

Mr. Straw

I am afraid that I do not accept the parallel that the right hon. and learned Gentleman draws. We are signatories to the European convention on extradition and we are subject to the Extradition Act 1989, which was passed by an Administration of whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a member. It is my duty, as the Secretary of State, to follow the responsibilities laid down by that Act.