HL Deb 07 December 1976 vol 378 cc546-9

4 p.m.

Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS rose to move, That the draft Fugitive Offenders (United Kingdom Dependencies) (Amendment) Order 1976, laid before the House on 4th November, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order is made under the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 and will make four amendments to the Fugitive Offenders (United Kingdom Dependencies) Order 1968.

The Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 regulates the return from the United Kingdom to other Commonwealth countries and United Kingdom dependencies of persons accused or convicted of offences in those countries and dependencies. Provision was made in Section 2(2)(c) of the Act allowing countries outside Her Majesty's dominions in which Her Majesty exercised jurisdiction or over which She extended protection to be brought by Order in Council within the definition of United Kingdom dependency for the purposes of the Act.

The Fugitive Offenders (United Kingdom Dependencies) Order 1968 specified the Solomon Islands, Brunei, the New Hebrides and Tonga as so coming within the Act. This meant that these four countries could apply under the Fugitive Offenders Act to have a person returned there from the United Kingdom if he was accused, or had been convicted, in one of those countries of certain offences against their law. The 1968 order also provided for some modifications to the terms of the Act to meet the special circumstances of the countries specified.

In 1970 Tonga was removed from the 1968 order on becoming independent. Recent developments in the other three territories have presented the need to amend the order further. This is the object of the draft order presently before the House. The amendment to be made by Article 3 of the draft order results from the replacement in July this year of the superior court for the British jurisdiction in the New Hebrides. Previously this was the High Court of the Western Pacific, a regional court for several Pacific territories. This has now been replaced in the New Hebrides by a new High Court, the High Court of the New Hebrides. The 1968 order particularly required that, before a person could be returned to the New Hebrides, he must be liable to be tried, or he must have been convicted, by the High Court of the Western Pacific or by the Joint Court of the Condominium. Clearly it is necessary to alter that special provision to add an express reference to the new High Court of the New Hebrides.

The need for the amendment envisaged in Article 4 of the draft order arises simply out of the change of name of the territory now known as the Solomon Islands. This territory used to be known as the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, and accordingly it was called by that name in the 1968 order. The name was changed by Order in Council made in May 1975. The opportunity is therefore being taken to replace the old name with the new where the territory is mentioned in the 1968 order.

The third amendment made by the draft order, that dealt with in Article 5, is a consequence of the change in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Brunei which was made by the Agreement between Her Majesty and the Sultan of Brunei dated 23rd November, 1971. Since that Agreement, Brunei is no longer a country over which Her Majesty extends protection. It follows that it is inappropriate to designate it as a United Kingdom dependency for the purposes of the Fugitive Offenders Act, and accordingly it is necessary to delete the references to Brunei in the order of 1968.

The fourth and last amendment will be made by Article 6 of the draft order. Its object is to bring the 1968 order into line with the present system of administration of the dependent territories in the Pacific by omitting the reference to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific in relation to the New Hebrides. Under the 1968 order the High Commissioner could request the Secretary of State to surrender a person accused or convicted in the New Hebrides, and he had certain other powers under the Fugitive Offenders Act. The various functions formerly exercised by the High Commissioner, who used to administer several territories in the region, have in recent years been dispersed as a result of the separate development of the territories concerned under their own separate administrations. The effect of this amendment will be to transfer the High Commissioner's functions under the 1968 order to the Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides, and will thus continue the process of giving the High Commissioner's functions to other appropriate offices in the region, so that in due course his office can be wound up. I beg to move.

Moved, that the draft Fugitive Offenders (United Kingdom Dependencies) (Amendment) Order 1976, laid before the House on 4th November, be approved.—(Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for his usual clear and lucid explanation of detailed amendments to the orders under the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967. As the noble Lord has explained, this Act is something akin to a Commonwealth extradition convention. Naturally, the orders under that Act have to be amended to take into account any change in name, status or development of the legal institutions within the member countries of the Commonwealth. As I understand it, and according to the explanation of the noble Lord, this draft order does precisely that, and Amendments are merely reflecting the present realities within the countries mentioned by the noble Lord which are contained in the draft order. Therefore, we certainly recommend the approval of this order to your Lordships.


My Lords, may I express my gratitude to the noble Baroness for the way in which she has received this order, which makes amendments of a minor but nevertheless necessary character. May I congratulate her on being so succinct in two sentences, whereas it took me two pages to be less succinct.

On Question, Motion agreed to.