§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD ISLINGTON)
My Lords, this is a Bill to extend the Fugitive Offenders Act of 1881 beyond the territories over which the Act now has authority. At present the system of extradition of fugitive offenders is applied by Order in Council to British Possessions and British Protectorates, but the power does not extend under the Act of 1881 to what are called British Protected States—States under His Majesty's protection but in which His Majesty does not exercise jurisdiction. Therefore at present a fugitive criminal cannot be taken into custody or surrendered in a Protected State or on the high seas when he leaves that State 978 unless he is a subject of, or happens to be in a ship belonging to, that State. Your Lordships will therefore realise the desirability of extending the system of extradition to these Protected States. The Bill especially applies to the Federated Malay States and those other Protected States in close proximity, such as Kelantan, Borneo, and Sarawak. The extension in this Bill will enable the Government to treat the whole of these States as one group of British Possessions. The Federated Malay States are sovereign States, and therefore we cannot pass legislation for them; but we can enable them, if they so desire, themselves to take advantage of our fugitive offenders system. This Bill will not be made effective by Order in Council in respect of any State until the ruler of it has entered into a formal agreement for the purpose of giving his consent, nor until he has made appropriate legislation according to his own local law; but in anticipation of the passing of this Bill the rulers of the four Federated Malay States have already entered into the necessary formal agreements and have ready draft enactments which they wish to pass as soon as the Imperial Bill becomes law. Similar arrangements are also forthwith to be made with the other Protected States that I have mentioned, and similar enactments will ensue. I think your Lordships will realise that at this time, when we are in a state of war, the extension of the area over which we can exercise our extradition system would be greatly to our advantage, and that it should be made as comprehensive as possible. I hope, therefore, that this Bill which carries out this purpose will meet with your acceptance.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Islington.)
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I do not desire to raise any objection to the Second Reading of this Bill, for I entirely agree with the noble Lord that in the state of war in which we are it is desirable that, as far as possible, we should extend the area of extradition. But I desire to ask a question. Clause 1 of this Bill runs—It shall be lawful for His Majesty by Order in Council to direct that the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881, shall apply as if, subject to the conditions, exceptions, anal qualifications (if any) contained in the Order —I should be glad to know from the noble Lord what those "conditions, exceptions, 979 and qualifications" are likely to be, because to pass the Bill in its present form is rather legislating in the dark. The Order in Council which would follow upon the passing of this Bill could practically modify to an unlimited extent the Act of Parliament. Perhaps the noble Lord can give us some idea as to the meaning of these words.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I speak subject to correction, because the noble Earl has raised a legal point which as a layman I am not competent to answer. But I gather that the words to which he referred are inserted so as to allow in each Order in Council the variations which are applicable to the local conditions of the country concerned. Each of these States, after it has passed its own legislation, will require its own Order in Council. I should think that is the explanation. But if I find that there is any further interpretation of the words from a legal point of view, I shall be very glad to explain it to the noble Earl when the Bill comes up in Committee.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The point which my noble friend behind me has raised is, I think, worthy of careful examination, because the words of this clause go a great deal beyond the intention which was expressed by the noble Lord a moment ago. He told us that it might be necessary to modify the Act of 1881 in order to obtain the variations necessary to meet local conditions. But that is not what the clause says. The clause runs—… subject to the conditions, exceptions, and qualifications (if any) contained in the Order …By those words an absolutely free hand is given to the framers of the Order to modify the Act of 1881 in any particulars they think fit. I hope the matter will be looked into.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I did not desire for a moment to suggest that there would be any modification of the 1881 Act. If I conveyed that idea it is erroneous. This Bill is an extension, not a modification, of the Act of 1881. It extends the purview of that Act to Protected States. I will, however, make inquiries as to the wording of the clause, and will give what information I can when we take the Committee stage.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House to-morrow.