§ 2.55 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken, in conjunction with other Governments, to deal with the prevention of hijacking of aircraft.]
My Lords, a Diplomatic Conference at The Hague, at which the United Kingdom is represented, is at this very moment working on a draft Convention on Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. if all goes well, the Convention should be concluded within the next fortnight and thereafter be open for signature. This will be a great step forward in the fight against hijacking. We also played our part in the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly last week of a resolution strongly condemning hijacking and supporting the draft Convention now being considered at The Hague.
My Lords, can the noble Earl give some indication of the main provisions of the Convention under consideration at present; and would he be good enough to tell the House whether we are in fact pressing that once the Convention is signed there should not be the kind of unconscionable delay that has prevailed hitherto in getting Conventions ratified? Perhaps between the agreement of the Convention and the ratification some precautions should be taken, particularly in view of two very serious pronouncements which have been made recently, one by the murderer guerrillas who say that they are plan ping more hijacking, and the other which has just come from Rome to the effect that a plot of that description has just been discovered?
My Lords, the Convention is a complicated matter, but if I may try to sum up in capsule form its main content, it is this. Each party will undertake to make hijacking an offence subject to severe penalties and to establish jurisdiction in cases where it is committed in an aircraft on its register or where an aircraft lands in its territory with the alleged offender still on board. That is the main "guts" of the Convention, if I may so term it. So far as bringing it into force is concerned, Her Majesty's Government cannot of course speak for other Governments, but so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned I can assure the noble Lord that we will introduce any necessary legislation to give effect to the final text of the Convention as soon as possible after it has been concluded.
My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for the statement he has made—because it has been a very serious position hitherto: ratification of conventions, by our own Government as well as by others has taken a very considerable time—would he say whether steps are being taken to ensure that in future extradition agreements the offences committed in respect of hijacking will be among those included for the purposes of extradition?
My Lords, I fully recognise the difficulty over the delays which take place in the ratification of conventions. I think we are all familiar with this in less serious matters than this, where there has been inordinate delay. But certainly it will be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do all within their power—though our power is of course limited—to see that this Convention is brought into effect as soon as possible. I am afraid that I should need notice of the other supplementary question which the noble Lord put.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether the Russian Government is represented at The Hague?
My Lords, my noble friend may ask me that question: the trouble is that I do not know the answer. But I will find out and let him know.