HL Deb 21 February 1978 vol 389 cc11-68
The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Restrictions on return of criminal under Extradition Act 1870, or to Republic of Ireland, in certain cases]:

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 3, line 23, at end insert— ("( ) In relation to any requisition for the surrender of a fugitive criminal by a Convention country, the Secretary of State may refuse the request where, in all the circumstances, there are substantial grounds for doubting the bona fides of the requesting State.").

The noble Baroness said: I should like to preface my remarks on this Amendment and future Amendments by stating that I do not hold to the exact wording of the Amendment; nor, may I say—and I say this straightaway—do we intend to press any of the Amendments which are down in the names of my noble friend Lord Belstead and myself. But the Bill and the determination of the United Kingdom, including the Opposition, to fight terrorism in every way is of such importance that I think certain aspects of the Bill should be raised at this stage. I also believe that this is probably as good a stage as any for these matters to be raised.

The Amendment I have put down under Clause 2 is based on the tacit understanding of the operation of this Bill that all ratified States are democratic; or, at any rate, have a fair judicial process and are not oppressive. The Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House has held that the courts cannot refuse extradition on the grounds that surrender would be oppressive. So it is within this context that I should like to speak to this Amendment. The purpose is to draw attention to the particular aspect of asylum and restriction on extradition of a fugitive offender which has so far not been touched upon.

The basis of the Bill is that only Member States of the Council of Europe will be parties to the Convention and therefore—and it is this "therefore" that must be queried—it has been assumed that all States' parties will be "civilised" States and will institute the necessary proceedings and inflict punishment in the tradition of Western States. It is also assumed that the restrictions on extradition introduced in Clause 2(1) and (2) will therefore probably not be used at all, or very seldom indeed.

There are two reasons for suggesting that, regardless of the quality of the offence or indeed of the offender as now inserted under Clause 2(1) and (2), the Government themselves may be of such an oppressive nature that it will be inconceivable in the eyes of a democratic country to return an offender to the State of that Government. This would of course be true of any totalitarian régime, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a Member State of the Council of Europe may be suspended, as indeed has already happened. In fact, this was a technical matter, but they were no longer regarded as an active member of the Council of Europe. It may be that a Member State no longer conforms to the principles of democracy enshrined and envisaged by the Statute of the Council of Europe. However, regardless of being suspended from the Council of Europe, such a State would still be a Convention country under this Bill, should it have ratified. In any case, even if by some means it was possible to bring to an end its ratification—which I do not think is possible—there would certainly be a time lag.

It is not only the question of the Council of Europe Member States, but by extension under Clause 5 the same considerations may arise in other countries and, in particular, Commonwealth countries. There may be a rapid change in Government—indeed, overnight; and a fugitive offender from such a country could be extremely badly treated, tortured and so on, as we have seen from certain countries. This must at least give one grounds for doubting whether the kind of restriction in Clause 2 as it stands is adequate protection for any individual. Such an individual's race, creed or political opinion would be totally irrelevant in such a situation. As I read the Bill, the Secretary of State would have no recourse but to make an order for extradition, assuming of course that all the other necessary conditions were fulfilled.

The intensification of the fight against terrorism and the terrorist would not be diminished because of the extension of jurisdiction to the United Kingdom to prosecute in this country for a crime which, under the Bill, would otherwise be extraditable. This is not a granting of freedom to a terrorist, because he or she would be held and punished in this country. Some consideration must be given by the Government to the threat of the existence of a totalitarian or oppressive régime with the rapidity with which such régimes can be installed, bearing in mind the long time it would take to amend this Bill, if it were considered necessary. I beg to move.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said in moving this Amendment and in giving me an opportunity to talk for a few moments about the safeguards provided in this Bill. This also gives me the opportunity, a little belatedly, of joining in the interesting discussion and exchange of views which have taken place in the columns of The Times, in which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has taken a part.

The Committee may recall that I stated during the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill at column 931 of Hansard of 7th February that it: … in no way derogates from our right to grant political asylum". The Committee may recall that this statement was challenged by the author of the leading article in The Times to which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, responded. The author of that editorial will find that closer examination of extradition law and the principles of political asylum lead to the conclusion that the genuine political refugee has nothing whatever to fear from this Bill.

The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a political refugee as one who has a: well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and is therefore unwilling to return to his country of origin. Article 5 of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism precisely reflects the principle that such persons should not be returned to their country of origin by providing that a request for extradition may be refused if the requested State: has substantial grounds for believing that the request for extradition … has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion, or that that person's position may be prejudiced for any of these reasons". It follows that the Bill, which incorporates the safeguard in Article 5, confers no obligation on the United Kingdom to surrender a political refugee to his country of origin by way of extradition. That also deals with a point which was raised perfectly properly by the noble Baroness, because an adequate safeguard is provided against the very disagreeable situation that she outlined, that one of the signatories would become a totalitarian régime. The safeguard provided in the Bill meets the point which caused the noble Baroness such concern.

If I may deal with the slightly wider question, rather outside the terms of what the noble Baroness has said, should like to refer to the editorial in The Times. The editorial writer raised the question of the offender from a third State who commits in a contracting State an offence directed at his country of origin (for example the assassination of its ambassador or visiting Head of State) and pointed out that he would not, under the Bill, be able to avoid extradition to that contracting State because he could not plead that he would be prosecuted or punished there on account of his political opinions. I must say at the outset that I am not sure whether in these circumstances such a plea would succeed even under existing law because in the case of Cheng in 1973 it was held that an offence committed in one State, but aimed at the Government of another State, was not an offence of a political character.

However, leaving that aside for a moment, the implication seems to be that the contracting State, although a fellow member of the Council of Europe, might punish such an offender more severely than we would. That possibility, of course, exists, but I do not see that it is a threat to the genuine political refugee—the person about whom we are all concerned—as distinct from the terrorist; and, given that we have sufficient confidence in the standards of justice in the countries concerned to have extradition arrangements with them, I do not see it as a legitimate ground for withholding extradition. We have suffered just such an incident when last year a former Minister of the Yemen Arab Republic and his wife were assassinated here in London. So this is by no means a farfetched eventuality.

I do not think that anybody would wish to see the perpetrators of such acts avoid the proper processes of law simply because they might be punished more severely in the United Kingdom than in some other country. For these reasons, I believe that the Bill, as at present drafted, provides adequate safeguards. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Baroness will decide not to press the Amendment.

Baroness ELLES

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. It will be helpful to those who were concerned about the status of the political refugee, and the possibilities of asylum in this country. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Extraditable offences]:

3.10 p.m.

Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 3, line 27, leave out paragraph (a) and insert— (a) an offence under section 2 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 ( ) an offence under section 3 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883".

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2 and would ask the leave of the Committee to speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6. Clause 1 provides that, for the purposes of the United Kingdom's extradition arrangements, the offences listed in Schedule 1 are no longer to carry with them the defence against extradition as being offences of a political character. The United Kingdom's extradition arrangements listed in Clause 1(3) are the Extradition Acts 1870 and 1873, the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967, and the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965. The offences which are listed in Schedule 1 are the equivalents in United Kingdom law to the offences which are to be found in Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention.

In Schedule 1, offences against the person, offences involving explosives and offences using firearms are covered by paragraphs 8, 10, 12, 13 and 14, which specify particular sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 and the Firearms Act 1968. These coincide with Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention.

I think that all that is to be expected. What, to me, is unexpected is that Clause 3—which we have now come to—deems to be included in the list of extraditable offences in the Extradition Act 1870 and the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 any offence under the Explosive Substances Act 1883 and any indictable offence under the Firearms Act 1968; and, in addition, any indictable offence under the Offences against the Person Act 1861 is also to be included in the 1967 Act.

It is in order to probe this apparent contradiction between the drafting of Schedule I and the drafting of Clause 3 that these Amendments have been put down. It was not apparent from the speech on Second Reading of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, which dealt with broader issues, as to why the scope of our two main international extradition treaties is to be widened with respect to all indictable crimes under these particular Acts in these ways in Clause 3.

Presumably, these new arrangements in Clause 3 will have to be negotiated on a bilateral basis with all the foreign States with which we are bound by the 1970 Act and with all the Commonwealth countries with which we have agreements through the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967. Neither I nor my noble friend is concerned in any way with criticising Clause 3, but may I ask whether any negotiations have been already carried out about these matters? Do we expect that other countries will be welcoming Clause 3, and are these new offences of such a nature that the Home Office has been persuaded by past experience that they should now be made extraditable? I deliberately have not mentioned the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act. That already covers all indictable offences. I beg to move.


I am grateful to the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment because this gives me the opportunity to deal with some of the wider issues involved in Clause 3. I suspect that that is his intention and I will endeavour to do so. The effect of the five Amendments which he has moved would be to make extraditable under the Extradition Act 1870 and the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 only those offences which are in Schedule 1 to the Bill and which are not already extraditable. Certainly, this is all that we are required to do under Article 4 of the Convention. We considered, however, that there were good reasons for going beyond the Convention in this particular matter and making extraditable all indictable offences under these Acts and all attempts to commit extraditable offences.

All the offences which are made extraditable in Clause 3 are serious offences. I do not think anybody would challenge that. There is the offence of carrying firearms with intent to commit an indictable offence, contrary to Section 18(1) of the Firearms Act 1968, which is punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment; there is the offence of making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances, contrary to Section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883; that is punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment. All indictable offences under the Offences against the Person Act 1861 are already extraditable under the Extradition Act 1870 so that in subsection (2) of Clause 3 we are simply bringing the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 into line with the 1870 Act.

We consider that all these are offences for which extradition should be available generally. We have in the past experienced difficulty because these offences have not been extraditable. For example, we have been unable to consider requests in recent years from Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland in respect of offences under the Firearms Act and the Explosive Substances Act, and we have been prevented from seeking the return of offenders for these offences from other countries. This Bill seemed to us a good opportunity for plugging those particular gaps in our extradition arrangements. I suspect that that view will be widely shared in the country. Once this measure is brought into force, subsection (1) of Clause 3 will have immediate effect on extradition to and from foreign States under the Extradition Act 1870 where our extradition treaties contain a "catch all" provision allowing extradition for any extraditable offence. Twenty-four of our treaties have such a provision. Other treaties will be amended in due course. Subsection (2) of Clause 3 will have immediate effect on extradition to and from Commonwealth countries under the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 where these offences are also extraditable under the laws of other Commonwealth countries.

Clause 3, as it stands, will facilitate extradition generally. It will also avoid doubt and confusion about which offences are, in fact, extraditable. Such doubt might arise if only a selection of offences under an Act or one offence under one subsection of an Act, are made extraditable. Having given that explanation, I hope that it will be satisfactory to the noble Lord. If there are any other points that he wishes to raise, I will do my best to deal with them.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for the reply that he has given. It is the fact that the noble Lord has given me, certainly, some information about Clause 3 which is useful and which I did not know before. I am bound to agree with the noble Lord that the offences which, under this provision in Clause 3 are now to be made extraditable, are very serious offences. The noble Lord in his reply mentioned two groups of offences. I also noted, when glancing at the Firearms Act 1968, the illegal possession and the illegal selling and that most cruel of offences, the conversion of firearms, are now to be brought within the list of extraditable offences by virtue of Clause 3. I therefore go along with the spirit of the reply which the noble Lord has given.

I imagine that I am right in assuming from my reading of the Bill that these offences will still retain the protection of the political character defence because they do not come into Schedule 1. None the less, as the noble Lord has made clear, when one has had in recent years requests from such countries as Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland for extradition under the offences which will now be brought within Clause 3, it is obviously valuable that the Government are taking the opportunity of drafting Clause 3 as they have done.

Therefore, in just a moment I shall be withdrawing my Amendment. However, before doing so I should like to ask one question. The noble Lord made it clear that the drafting of Clause 3 goes even wider than one might think, because it affects the "catch all" offences which can be written into other treaties. Looking ahead in the Bill, we see in Clause 9(3) the following words: This Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint, and different days may be so appointed for different purposes". I wonder whether the noble Lord would like, either now or later, to give an indication as to what intention the Government have with regard to bringing the Bill into effect.


Given the fact that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner always takes a keen interest in these matters, I am sure he will be grateful to the noble Lord for having asked this particular question. I can certainly assure him that we wish this to be brought into effect as quickly as possible and certainly well within a period of 12 months.

The Earl of SELKIRK

We are passing domestic law in order to ratify these provisions. That means that all the other 16 or 17 members will have to do the same, and I take it that by ratifying they will have indicated that their domestic laws are in line with Article 1 of the Convention. Is that correct?


I understand that is the situation, broadly speaking. We are moving into a position where a number of our colleagues in the Council of Europe are making progress, as we are, in this matter. Unfortunately I cannot give an indication of the number of countries which have reached the present situation. At the moment we are certainly in the vanguard and, given our experience in these matters, I think that is desirable.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 6 not moved].

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Jurisdiction in respect of offences committed outside United Kingdom]:

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 7: Page 4, line 32, leave out ("subsection (1), (2) or (3) above") and insert ("this section").

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment, I suggest that we should take Amendment No. 10 at the same time. These are drafting Amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.23 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 34, leave out ("Attorney-General for Northern Ireland") and insert ("Secretary of State").

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is in line with extradition proceedings which are governed by the Extradition Act, 1970. It is the Secretary of State who is responsible for the proceedings relating to extradition of a fugitive offender, and it is for the Secretary of State to decide whether the extradition order should be enforced once the court proceedings relating to extradition are completed. In normal extradition proceedings where such extradition is not granted, the fugitive, as I understand it, will be released. But the provisions of this Bill create a different situation and I think that that fact should be taken on board.

The amendment to the Extradition Act of 1870, Section 3, which is made by Clause 2(1) affects the powers of the Secretary of State. It is for him to decide whether the fugitive terrorist is to be extradited. If he should decide, because of the provisions of Clause 2, that the fugitive should not be extradited, the immediate consequence must surely be that prosecution should be initiated in the United Kingdom.

The decision under Clause 4 presupposes that action under Clause 4 will in fact be initiated: that is surely one of the main intentions of the Convention. Therefore, it is my view that because of the powers residing in the Secretary of State relating to Clause 2, it must be his responsibility, and not that of another member of the Executive, to order a prosecution under Clause 4. To my mind—and I think it is clear from the Convention—the two decisions should be made simultaneously. There should not be delay and there should not therefore be a shifting of responsibility from one part of the Executive to another—which would entail, needless to say, a vast amount of documentation. I should like to hear from the Minister the Government's reasoning as to why such powers should be removed from the Secretary of State and given to the Attorney-General when it comes to prosecuting under this part of the Bill. I beg to move.


I am obliged to the noble Baroness for having explained the intention behind this Amendment. I think it might be helpful to the Committee if I show how a prosecution under Clause 4(4) might arise. Although Clause 4 confers jurisdiction on United Kingdom courts in respect of offences in Article 1 committed outside the United Kingdom, there is no obligation on the United Kingdom under the Convention to consider prosecuting anyone for those offences unless a request for the person's extradition has been refused in the circumstances set out in Article 6. The obligation arises on whatever ground a refusal to extradite is based. In practice, criminal proceedings are likely to be instituted here only after consultation with the Government of the contracting State primarily concerned—that is, the State where the offence was committed or whose national has committed it. We could expect the fullest co-operation from that State, because Article 8 of the Convention obliges contracting States to, afford one another the widest measure of mutual assistance in criminal matters in connection with proceedings brought in respect of the offences mentioned in Article 1 or 2". The decision whether to institute proceedings in a particular case would have to be taken in the light of all the circumstances, including the evidence available to a United Kingdom court. The Secretary of State is not the appropriate person to take such a decision. It is true that there are some Statutes which provide that prosecutions may be brought only by or with the consent of the Secretary of State, but these consent provisions apply only to specialist offences of a regulatory nature. Where more serious offences are concerned, it is accepted that control should rest in the hands of the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions. Furthermore, where important political or international considerations may be involved, the Attorney-General, who is directly answerable to Parliament for his decisions and is in a position to consult Ministerial colleagues direct if need be, is regarded as the proper person to carry the responsibility. There are likely to be both political and international considerations involved in prosecutions under Clause 4 of the Bill, and, in our view, it is right that responsibility should rest with the Attorney-General. I hope that that explanation will satisfy the noble Baroness.


I do not think that one can easily accept the distinction just drawn by the noble Lord between the types of offences. I should have thought that on purely practical grounds my noble friend's Amendment ought to be accepted. On these grounds, if the ultimate decision is left entirely with the Attorney-General, we know from practical experience that this officer is a purist in terms of adhering closely to the strict legal situation. The Attorney-General makes decisions with no consideration in mind other than the strict interpretation of the law.

If the power provided by this section is left with the Secretary of State, as it is in other parts of the Bill, the Secretary of State always has the advantage of being able to call on the Law Officer: he can always call on the Attorney-General for any legal interpretations or any detailed explanations that may be required. But that does not apply the other way round. It is not likely that the Attorney-General would call upon the Secretary of State in order to take into account the general knowledge which would be known to the Department of the Secretary of State but would not be known to the Attorney-General. Therefore, I should have thought that, on purely practical grounds, one would have the benefit of the Attorney-General's legal position. If you left to the Secretary of State the decision as to what should be done, this Amendment would seem to have the best of all worlds. You have the legal advice which the Secretary of State can call upon from the Law Officer, coupled with the special knowledge that is known to the Secretary of State and would not be known to the Law Officer. I should have thought if we want to implement in the spirit the words that are here, it could well be that that is more likely to be done if the ultimate decision is left to the Secretary of State with the Attorney-General behind him rather than to the Attorney-General standing alone.

3.30 p.m.


May I respond very briefly. I was interested to hear the noble Lord put that particular point, but I am bound to say that the more he went on the more concerned I became about what he was suggesting. He said that the Attorney-General would take his decision on grounds whereby he would adhere to the strict legal situation. I very much hope he will. I find it very difficult to believe that anybody, be he the Secretary of State or the Attorney-General, would base his judgment in a matter of this sort on anything other than strictly defined legal criteria. This is an interesting matter which has been raised by the noble Baroness, but I must point out that in matters of this sort it is normal for the Attorney-General to make decisions of this sort and not the Secretary of State. I know of very few precedents, except of the kind I mentioned earlier, where the Secretary of State has a power in cases involving certain regulatory questions. Other than that, it is a matter for the Attorney-General, and I think it should remain so.


If I may come back on this point, I think that this House and also the other place must take into account recent happenings. We have had a very recent happening where the Attorney-General, who had power similar to this, gave a decision concerning the Grunwick stand-out; and when he gave his decision he virtually had to say that on strict legal grounds he ought not to have taken the step he did: "But", he said, "I thought it right to take into account the general circumstances surrounding it". I felt that that was a weakening, where the Attorney-General had to move out of the strict legal interpretation, and I should like to protect the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland from having to face that same dilemma. I believe that the Secretary of State can take into account the general circumstances surrounding a case while also adhering, so far as he can, to the strict legal situation. There have been happenings so recent in our minds, where the impartiality and objectivity of the Attorney-General in the United Kingdom was called into question because he went beyond the strict legal interpretation. I should like to try to avoid that in this instance, particularly when so many unusual things are happening. I believe that conflict of view may well come again. It would be overcome if the final decision was left to the Secretary of State, backed by the Attorney, and not left to the Attorney alone.


I do not wish to detain the Committee further, but before the noble Baroness replies perhaps I could deal with that point. As I understood the noble Lord when speaking on the first occasion, he was concerned that the Attorney-General—and I am freewheeling a little but trying to explain the position as clearly as I can—might be involved in rather an arid exercise involving the legal technicalities of the situation. He now seems to be suggesting exactly the reverse—that the Attorney-General would not in fact worry about the law but would make a decision on other grounds. I very much enjoy debating with the noble Lord, but I think he must make up his mind which of the two arguments he wishes to adopt; he cannot adopt both at the same time.

The second point I should like to make is this: Decisions of this sort will always be difficult, but it seems to me that one does not get over this difficulty by saying that it should be the Secretary of State. It will still be a politician who is going to make the decision; the question is which particular Minister should do it. In the light of precedent, it seems to me sensible to have the Attorney-General.

Baroness ELLES

First, I should like to thank my noble friend for his nimbleness of mind in taking part in discussing this Amendment, and to apologise to the Minister, who understood that I was moving Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 together and that it was a matter for general discussion. The noble Lord the Minister mentioned two points which would confirm me in my contention that it should be the Secretary of State rather than the Attorney-General. If I understood him correctly when he explained the procedure, if a refusal for a request came from the Secretary of State there would be long discussions with the requesting State. In those discussions there must, presumably, at some stage be an undertaking that proceedings will be taken in this country if they are not going to be taken abroad. I maintain that this is the purpose of the Bill.

I accept that in hijacking and certain other acts these considerations do not arise. The terms of the Convention are that if you are not going to release somebody or surrender a terrorist to a requesting country you undertake at the same time to prosecute them in your own country. Therefore it would seem very much more logical—though perhaps that is not necessarily something that everybody would follow—that the person dealing with the request, the decision under Clause 2, is the person who should say, "Very well, we cannot release X but we will undertake to prosecute", and therefore the political decision must lie in the hands of the Secretary of State.

Secondly, if I understood the noble Lord aright—and I will of course read very carefully his reply—mentioned that there were international and political decisions to be taken. The last person to take these decisions must be the Attorney-General because his decisions must be strictly in accordance with the law. He should not be guided by whether there is any international concern or whether there is some political element in his decision. It is surely for the Secretary of State to make those decisions. It was with this worry in mind that I introduced this Amendment. I shall read very carefully the reply which the Minister has been good enough to give your Lordships and, if necessary, ask leave of the House to raise the matter again at the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

3.38 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 10: Page 4, line 44, leave out ("subsection (1), (2) or (3) above") and insert ("this section").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment. I referred to this matter when moving Amendment No. 7.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment Nos. 11 and 12:

Page 5, line 13, leave out ("and") line 15, at end insert ("and does not fall within the preceding paragraph").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos 11 and 12 together. They are drafting Amendments.

Baroness ELLES

I should like to make one suggestion, which of course may not be accepted by the Minister, in regard to line 10. Instead of the words— a person who at the time of the act is a representative … it seems to me that it should read "being a representative". Perhaps the noble Lord would like to look at that and possibly accept it.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?

3.39 p.m.


May I ask the noble Lord a point about Clause 4? As I understand it, unlike Clause 4(1) and (2) jurisdiction is not to be extended in subsection (3) over attempts to commit the offences mentioned in subsection (3). I understand that the reason for that is because such attempts taking place outside the United Kingdom are not thought to be offences under United Kingdom law. It would appear that the defect in subsection (3) is not consistent with Article 6 which lays a duty on a contracting State, To take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over an offence mentioned in Article 1 in the case where the suspected offender is present in its territory and it does not extradite him". As Article 1(f) includes an attempt to commit any of the Article 1 offences, it seems to me that Clause 4(3) is not taking the measures necessary to establish extra-territorial jurisdiction over Article 1 offences.

I ask this because Clause 3 is altering our law by including all indictable offences under the Explosive Substances Act, the Firearms Act and the Offences against the Person Act. We discussed this on a previous Amendment when the noble Lord gave his reply, which was certainly acceptable to us on these Benches. But I am prompted to ask: Why is it not possible also to include in this Bill a provision to bring within our law attempts to commit murder or manslaughter, or to contravene Sections 2 or 3 of the Explosive Substances Act, when committed outside the United Kingdom, so that such attempts could then be brought within the scope of subsection (3) of Clause 4? I should be grateful for some guidance from the noble Lord on this point.


On consideration of whether the clause shall stand part, perhaps the noble Lord would also say a word about subsection (7). It appears to be a very sensible and practical provision which, as I read it, means that if an attempted hijacking takes place on board a British registered aircraft anywhere in the world, whether over Libya, the South Yemen Republic or any other salubrious district of that kind, it shall be treated as having been committed in this country. The question which I should like to ask the noble Lord is this. There is no limitation in the subsection in respect of an aircraft which might be on the ground somewhere, or, for that matter, a ship which might be in port. Is it the intended effect of the subsection that if a hijacking attempt is made on a British aircraft at some foreign airport, perhaps in a non-Convention country, the offence shall none the less be treated as if it were in this country?

As the noble Lord will be aware, the point is far from academic. If, indeed, the aircraft involved at Larnaca a couple of days ago had been a British registered aircraft, and not an aircraft belonging to an associated company of British Airways, the point would have been wholly relevant. I should not necessarily object if this is the effect of the clause, but it is a somewhat striking one, that, if someone engages himself in a shooting match on an airport in the middle of some wholly foreign non-Convention country, our courts should be able to try him for it. It would be an interesting development, and I should like very much to hear the noble Lord's explanation.


Two points have been raised and, if I may, before the next stage of the Bill I will look into the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and will communicate with him. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, raised a question about subsection (7), and I entirely agree with him that this is very far from being an academic question. Subsection (7), in fact, provides that acts done on board ships, aircraft or hovercraft of a Convention country, as defined in Clause 8(1), shall be treated as if they were done in the territory of that country. The subsection applies to offences over which jurisdiction is taken in subsections (1), (2) and (3) of the clause, and the effect of the subsection is to treat ships, aircraft and hovercraft registered in a Convention country as comprising part of the territory of that country. This reflects the jurisdiction which United Kingdom courts have over offences committed in United Kingdom registered ships, aircraft and hovercraft, and accords with international law under which such craft registered in a country are treated as part of the territory of that country.


I am most indebted to the noble Lord for that answer, but I wonder whether he would carry it a little further. How important is the expression "on board"? Taking the Larnaca incident, I understand that, had that been a British registered aircraft which of course it was not, any act committed by someone in the cabin or on the flight deck would have been within the purview of the British courts. What about someone who, from the tarmac outside, fires on the aircraft or hurls a grenade at it? If the aircraft is British territory, is it not arguable, whether or not the criminal act is committed on board, that if it is committed against the body of the aircraft, or the body of those on board, it should be similarly dealt with? It is important that we should be clear as to the position. Does it all depend on whether one attacks a British aircraft from inside or outside?


Being, I hope, a man of some wisdom, I propose to look into the point which has just been raised and I will communicate with the noble Lord.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Power to apply provisions of Act to non-convention countries]:

3.45 p.m.

Lord AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 13: Page 5, line 30, after ("which") insert ("having adhered to the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights and having submitted a statement as provided by Article 40 of that Convention and without having been the subject of any adverse report by the Human Rights Committee, but").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is concerned with the countries to which the Bill applies, apart from the Convention countries which the noble Lord has explained are defined in Clause 8(1). At this stage, may I just say, apart from the anxieties which some of us may have about the mechanism of extending the provisions of the Bill to non-Convention countries, that there is also a point which I see no other opportunity of raising during the Committee stage. What happens if one of the Convention countries ceases to be democratic? This, also, is not an academic question, because, in the case of Greece, there was the takeover by the colonels. So one hopes that there is scope somewhere in the Bill for deleting from the list of Convention countries to which the provisions apply, any nations which cease to be democratic. Obviously, the same point was in my mind when I put down this Amendment with regard to the possible extension of the Bill beyond the Convention countries to, first, designated Commonwealth countries, which are mentioned in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1), and foreign States with which we have arrangements under Section 2 of the Extradition Act 1870, which are mentioned in paragraph (b).

During the Second Reading, some very alarming remarks were made by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, about the question of human rights in some Latin American countries. He suggested that people who were raising human rights questions in relation to those countries were feebleminded, and he said that it was not sensible to grumble because human rights in countries like Brazil and Uruguay are being destroyed and offended against. I do not think that many of your Lordships would sympathise with him in that point of view. But as a result of his remarks having been reported on, I think, BBC Radio, a number of people concerned with the rights of Latin American refugees expressed grave anxieties to me about the position of those people when this Bill comes into force. Indeed, it was the subject of an article in The Times, and I hope that my noble friend Lord Wigoder may have reassured some readers by his letter which subsequently appeared in that newspaper.

My noble friend said that it is the intention to apply this Bill only to countries which are democracies, signatories of the Convention and Commonwealth countries. Although he did not go on to say this, the implication is that we would not extend it to Commonwealth countries or foreign States which are not themselves fully subscribing to the principles that should have respect as regards human rights. I do not know what are the designated Commonwealth countries under the Fugitive Offenders Act, or what are the foreign States to which paragraph (b) applies, and I should be grateful if the Minister could enlighten us on this.

First, are they, in fact, all democratic? Secondly, what would be the mechanism for extending the Bill? I know that there is provision for any new countries, which are to be added, to be brought forward under the Affirmative Resolution procedure, and the Minister will probably say that that gives both Houses of Parliament every opportunity for arguing against the inclusion of States which we do not think ought properly to be included. But why do we not strengthen the safeguards against some future Minister, who has less liberal inclinations than the noble Lord, Lord Harris, or the present Secretary of State, trying to include States which not everybody would agree should be allowed to take extradition proceedings in our courts? So, I thought, why not, at least, provide that the States to which this clause applies should be signatories of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and that they should have submitted the statement which is required of them under Article 40 of that Convention, which asks the States parties to explain what they are doing to fulfil the other terms of the Convention. The statements go to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, and there they may be the subject of observations of one kind and another.

I am suggesting in my Amendment that, if they have been the subject of any adverse objections by the United Nations Committee, the Government should not have the power to bring forward an order such as is described in the clause. This may not be an altogether cast iron safeguard, for when one looks at the States which have signed the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights, not all of them are entirely admirable. Indeed, many of the States which have submitted the statements required under Article 40 would not meet the kind of criteria that we ourselves would think suitable. Also we know that the United Nations Committee may be reluctant to make the kind of adverse comments on breaches of human rights which they detect, despite the submission of these statements which would more properly come from the non-Governmental organisations that are concerned with these matters.

I believe that somehow we need to strengthen this part of the Bill. Having drafted the Amendment, I thought it might have been better to suggest that only States that had signed the optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention should be included. That provides for some rights of direct access of individuals in the States concerned to an international tribunal which can have jurisdiction on human rights restrictions, just as we already have that right in the European Convention on Human Rights. This is why we ourselves did not adhere to the optional Protocol. Already we have a perfectly satisfactory international machinery for somebody to appeal through the Commission to the European Court.

I hope that the Minister will have something to tell us which will reassure not only your Lordships but also those who have expressed perhaps not justifiable but nevertheless some real anxieties as a result of the proceedings on the Second Reading of the Bill and the article which appeared in The Times. I beg to move.

3.53 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, began by raising a question regarding what would happen if overnight a member of the Council of Europe became totalitarian. This was a point which we discussed on the first Amendment. I do not think that at that stage the noble Lord was in the Committee, so I hope he will look at Hansard and at what I said and that it will meet the point which he raised.

As I understand the noble Lord's view, it is that although the United Nations Covenant rather than Convention has a number of problems associated with it, it would be an improvement to the Bill if this addition were made. Before dealing with it, perhaps I should make one point in answer to a question which was raised on an earlier Amendment. At the moment the Government have no plans for entering in the near future into arrangements with non-Convention countries; that is, countries which are not a party to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. Such arrangements would have to be mutually agreed. We have made no approaches, and none have been made to us. I do not think that we shall rush into such arrangements, but in my view it is right that they should be there so that if the United Kingdom Government come to the conclusion that it is desirable to have something negotiated along these lines there is statutory cover for it.

In extending the Convention's arrangements to a non-Convention country, I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we should ensure that that country is one in whose political and judicial system we have confidence. However, it does not necessarily follow that we should restrict ourselves in the way that this Amendment proposes. If this Amendment were made to the Bill, there are a number of friendly States which would be quite unnecessarily excluded. We should have a fairly unusual situation in which we should be unable to include the United States of America or Australia. People would find that mildly surprising, given the fact that among the countries which have signed the United Nations Covenant are the Soviet Union and Mongolia.

In that situation, we would legally be in a position to negotiate some kind of arrangement with them, but I shall probably carry the Committee with me when I say that I do not believe that any of us would regard this as particularly desirable. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, would not urge it upon us. As the noble Lord has said, there are many countries which have become parties to the United Nations Covenant. I have mentioned two—the Soviet Union and Mongolia. There are also Bulgaria, Chile, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic and so on, but not, I repeat, Australia and the United States of America. On that ground alone it seems to me that we should not add this Amendment to the Bill.

Furthermore, I believe that the safeguards incorporated in the Bill are wide enough to meet the points which the noble Lord made in his speech. We have already extensively discussed the safeguards provided in the Bill, and rightly so, for political refugees. We have an honourable tradition and I do not think that any of us would wish to undermine it. May I remind the Committee that this safeguard is already incorporated in our extradition arrangements with Commonwealth countries under the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967, and any arrangements made under Clause 5 of this Bill with a Commonwealth country will automatically include that safeguard. The safeguard has already been incorporated in some of our more recent extradition treaties under the Extradition Act 1870. If an arrangement under Clause 5 with a foreign State is contemplated but the extradition treaty with that State does not contain this political asylum safeguard, the Bill provides a way for it to be included. The order made under subsection (1) of Clause 5 would direct that subsection (1) of Clause 2, which sets out the safeguard, would apply in relation to that State.

That covers very substantially the grounds which the noble Lord has raised in moving this Amendment, but perhaps I should make one final point. May I draw the Committee's attention to subsection (5) of Clause 8. This subsection provides that any order made under Clause 5—that includes an order made under subsection (1) of Clause 5, and this is the point precisely raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—requires Affirmative Resolutions of both Houses of Parliament. I believe that this will enable the content of each proposed arrangement with a non-Convention country to be subject to full Parliamentary debate. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, anticipated that I would make this point. Nevertheless it is a very real safeguard. There is no question of using the Negative Resolution procedure. Full public debate would be required on Affirmative Resolutions of both Houses.

It is almost inconceivable that in a matter of sensitivity of this kind any British Government would behave in an irresponsible fashion. Therefore the safeguards which I have outlined are, I believe, adequate. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.


As the Minister appreciated, I did not think that the Amendment was perfectly worded. If I were to start all over again I should suggest as an alternative that only nations that had signed the optional Protocol should be eligible for the extension provided under Clause 5. However, the noble Lord has reassured me to a very great extent by saying that it is not contemplated for the time being that there should be any extension of the provisions in the Bill to non-Convention countries.

I very much hope that those who expressed anxieties, and who quite genuinely feel them, will have the opportunity to study the remarks made by the noble Lord and that they will appreciate that there is no question whatsoever of applying this Bill to dictatorships such as Argentina or Uruguay, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, at Second Reading.

I agree that the Affirmative Resolution procedures provide as good a safeguard as we are likely to get. I hope that no future Parliament will extend such provisions as are contained in this Bill to a country which does not enjoy the same standards of human rights and democracy as we in this country enjoy. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 5, line 33, after "(1967)" insert— ("( ) a United Kingdom dependency within the meaning of section 2(2) of the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967.")

The noble Baroness said: Assuming that the purpose of the Bill is to extend its effects as widely as possible throughout the world, and believing, as we all do, that international terrrorism can be combated only by international consensus, I put this Amendment forward. I may be technically out of order, and I would be grateful for a comment by the Minister on that in his reply. In Clause 5 (1)(a) reference is made to "designated Commonwealth country", but in the Fugitive Offenders Act that does not actually cover a United Kingdom dependency. There would therefore be dependencies which would not be covered by this Bill, so far as I can see, unless another clause were inserted. I recognise, of course, that in the drafting I should have put the word "or" somewhere else, but that is a technicality which I know the Minister will overlook when replying.

So far as I know, the Fugitive Offenders Act now includes all the Commonwealth countries, including the Seychelles and Papua New Guinea, but the Fugitive Offenders Act, Section 2, which deals with the United Kingdom dependencies, I believe covers only certain of the dependencies. As I understand it, it only applies at the moment to the British Solomon Islands, Protected Brunei and the New Hebrides. Therefore, a considerable number of dependencies are left out. I think it would be tragic if, when this Bill is extended to other parts of the world, some of the dependencies should become havens of refuge for terrorists because they are the only part of the Commonwealth left which are not covered by the provisions of this Bill. I should be grateful for comments from the Minister on this particular paragraph, which I beg to move.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the terms of this particular Amendment. It has drawn our attention to a difficulty which could arise if arrangements between the United Kingdom and the dependencies under the Bill were not adequately spelled out. Under subsection (3) of Clause 7 the provisions of the Bill may be extended by Order in Council to a dependency, subject to any modifications and adaptations which may be necessary. Once they are so extended the dependency will be able to surrender fugitives to Convention countries and to the United Kingdom, and to prosecute where they do not extradite, on the basis which is provided for in the Convention. On the face of it, therefore, a separate provision under Clause 5 should not be necessary.

But such an Order in Council would not confer jurisdiction on the United Kingdom courts over offences committed in a dependency; nor could a dependency be designated as a Convention country under subsection (1) of Clause 8. It is unlikely in practice that a fugitive would not be returned from the United Kingdom to a dependency, because the arrangements for extradition between the United Kingdom and its dependencies which are set out in the Fugitive Offenders Act are a simplified version of the arrangement we have with Commonwealth countries. There is, for example, no prohibition on the surrender of a fugitive for a political offence, although the Home Secretary has a discretion to refuse to return an offender to a dependency for such an offence.

It is, however, possible that a request from a dependency may be refused on some other ground. It we did decide to refuse to extradite a fugitive to a dependency to which the Bill had been extended, we should not be able to prosecute him. It would clearly be undesirable to leave such a gap, but I think there is probably more than one way of closing it. Therefore, if the noble Baroness will withdraw this Amendment, we will consider the matter further and decide what is the best way of remedying this difficult situation to which she has drawn our attention.

Baroness ELLES

I am very grateful to the Minister for his reply and for his assurance. In this context—and, of course, I do not expect a reply immediately—obviously the position of Rhodesia should be considered in relation to how the Bill will apply. I should be very grateful if the Minister could perhaps give me some indication of his thinking on this matter before the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 15: Line 45, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 15. At the present time, the Republic of Ireland and Malta are alone among the Council of Europe States in refusing to sign the Convention; this despite the pressing need to take concerted measures against international terrorism, which is the whole reason why we are debating this Bill in Committee today.

This Amendment does not provide the opportunity for me to speculate as to why the Republic is unwilling to sign or ratify the Convention. We know that the Republic has always set its face against extradition for crimes of violence committed in Northern Ireland and Great Britain in the belief that such crimes are bound to have a political motive. However, in this Bill, Clause 2, which gives effect to Article V, provides the safeguard of protecting the fugitive offender if he can prove that he would suffer, if returned, on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions. But this safeguard against extradition, which we have already discussed, is linked with Clause 4, which gives effect to Article VI, providing for extra-territorial jurisdiction by the United Kingdom for offences committed abroad, offences which I understand are already triable if committed within the United Kingdom.

I do think that Clause 4 marks a significant step forward in combating international terrorism. Whereas I have resisted the temptation to question at any length why the Republic is unwilling to sign and ratify the Convention, this Amendment would lay a duty upon the United Kingdom to apply Clause 4, and Clause 4 alone, to the Republic, in the hope that an order under this subsection would be reciprocated by the Irish Government. I should like to examine that for a moment or two. Clause 4 does not involve extradition. That is the whole point of putting down this Amendment. To that extent, I hope that it would be acceptable to the policy of an Trish Government. If Clause 4 is not to be put into effect among all the States of the Council of Europe, the inevitable consequence will be that terrorists will continue to be able to commit crimes in any country of their choosing and then claim political protection for their crimes in other countries, including Council of Europe States. It is for that reason that we have Clause 4 in the Bill, and we would hope that the other Council of Europe States would be doing the same thing.

I should like to examine what the effect would be if the Secretary of State were to make an order under Clause 5 (2). I hope that the noble Lord will correct me if I have got it wrong, but it seems to me that it would apply Clause 4 (1) to the Republic; thus it would mean that, if a citizen—of the United Kingdom or not—were to commit within the Republic of Ireland any of the offences mentioned which coincide with Article I(d), (e) and (f), and include murder, kidnapping and various explosives offences, and if that offender were to seek refuge in the United Kingdom, he could then be tried here for any of those offences: that would be one effect of this Amendment.

The Amendment would also apply Clause 4(2) to the Republic of Ireland: that would mean that a citizen—of the United Kingdom or not—could be tried, if he were to seek refuge here, if he had committed in the Republic an offence against a protected person. Thirdly, the Amendment would apply Clause 4(3), and that would mean that if, outside the Republic or the United Kingdom, an Irishman were to commit the extraditable offences of murder or manslaughter, and offences connected with explosives, and were to seek refuge here, again he could be brought to trial here.

If those examples are correct, it seems highly important that the Republic should be brought within the scope of Clause 4, and that is the effect of the Amendment. In that event, of course, I should hope—and this was inherent in some words spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, as regards a previous Amendment—that the Republic would feel able to reciprocate on a bilateral basis. I beg to move.


I should like to support my noble friend Lord Belstead who has so eloquently proposed the Amendment. By leave of the Committee, I should like to extend my remarks to Clause 6, because I should have thought that the Government, through this Bill, which extends the suppression of terrorism, would have taken every opportunity to strengthen the suppression of terrorism within the British Isles, recognising as we must that regrettably, at present, extradition is not possible within the Irish Constitution, although many of us feel that that is not necessarily the case.

On 29th November 1974 Mr. Cooney said: If it helps in the fight against terrorism we will be only too glad to extend the bill "— he was referring to the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill. I wonder what efforts the Government have made to ensure that the Irish Republican Government would, in fact, accept the implementation of the Amendment of my noble friend? If we could count the number of criminals that we cannot deal with, we would realise the importance of making sure that everything possible is done under this legislation to combat terrorism. I support the Amendment of my noble friend.


I believe that this Amendment could be accepted. Under the present drafting, The Secretary of State may, at any time when the Republic of Ireland is not a Convention country, by order direct". That means that a discretion is left to the Secretary of State. We know that discretion in this sort of area is not a very pleasant thing to have. There are all sorts of extraneous circumstances and side shoots which make it an extremely difficult decision to make, because other matters have to be taken into account if one has a discretion.

I believe that Parliament should take full responsibility. Parliament ought to say that, The Secretary of State shall, at any time". That would mean that the full responsibility and all that flows from it is taken on board by Parliament itself, and in that way we remove the discretion, which is dangerous and in many instances unsatisfactory, from the Home Secretary, whoever he may be. In view of all the other responsibilities in this area and the risks that the Secretary of State has to run, the least Parliament can do—if it wants to do anything at all—is to accept the full responsibility which will flow from its Statutes; and to say "shall" rather than "may" in this instance would do just that.


I dealt with the general situation of the Republic of Ireland during the Second Reading of the Bill, and the Committee may recall that I did so on that occasion because the issue was very properly raised, as it has been today. Indeed, it is most understandable that points have been raised in the way that they have.

I should like to say something about the effect of this Amendment which goes rather further than the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, seems to imagine. The effect would be to confer jurisdiction on United Kingdom courts over the offences mentioned in Clause 4(1) and (2) when committed in the Republic of Ireland—that is, the offence being committed in the Republic of Ireland—and over the offences mentioned in Clause 4(3) when committed by a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, regardless of the fact that the Republic would not have entered into any arrangement to do likewise. That is the point which is now before the Committee. It goes rather beyond the point of whether the word "may" or "shall" should appear on the face of the Bill as, I am sure, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, will recognise.

The situation is that Clause 5(2) empowers the Secretary of State to order that Clause 4 of the Bill applies in relation to the Republic of Ireland as a non-Convention country. Similarly, Clause 1(4) empowers the Secretary of State to order that the relevant parts of Clause 1 (and, by extension, Clause 2 as well) apply in relation to the Republic of Ireland. Those two powers are together equivalent, for the Republic of Ireland, to the power in Clause 5(1) which enables the Secretary of State to apply all or any of the provisions of the Bill to a State with which the United Kingdom has an extradition arrangement, but which is not a Convention country.

I should like to follow this particular point through, because it is important to have the facts clearly before us. The purpose of these order-making powers is to enable the United Kingdom to enter into an arrangement with a State which is not a Convention country, and such an arrangement will be based on the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. These arrangements would not be unilateral, and would have to be mutually agreed. It would be wholly contrary to international law unilaterally to take jurisdiction over offences committed abroad by a citizen of another State. Yet this Amendment would require us to do just that in relation to the Republic of Ireland, without its agreement and without any corresponding commitment on its part.

We certainly hope, as I indicated when I spoke on Second Reading, that the Republic of Ireland will become a party to the Convention. Even if it does not—this was a point made, I think, by the noble Baroness during the discussions we had on Second Reading—become a party to the Convention, we hope that some other arrangements can be made with the Republic, possibly within the framework of the European Community. But, it would be wrong in our judgment to pre-empt any such agreement, and I very much hope, therefore, that this Amendment is not pressed because—I want to emphasise this once again—it would be wholly contrary to international law.

Certainly there is no disposition on our part to underestimate the importance of getting satisfactory arrangements with the Republic of Ireland. As I have indicated today and on the previous occasion, it is possible that this will be able to be done within the framework of the European Community. If that were possible it would be widely welcomed, and certainly we should very much welcome it.

Baroness ELLES

Before the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, sits down, I intervene solely to ask him to look very carefully at what he said earlier because when he referred to subsection (2) he said that it shall apply in relation to the Republic as if it were, and then I think he said "a non-Convention country". I know that slips of the tongue occur, but as this is of legal significance perhaps he would look back and make sure that what he said was not in the text and rectify it with Hansard, because the matter is of importance.


Yes, I shall do so.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for his reply, in the sense that once again he has given us information, about some of which I was not aware, and he has underlined a point of which I was aware and to which he has given expression before. Indeed, he was quite right to repeat it in relation to the moving of this Amendment which would, after all, lay a duty, because by changing "may" to "shall" Clause 4 shall be applied to the Republic. The noble Lord made the point that it would be questionable, to say the very least, and, if I understood him aright, probably contrary to international law, to do such a thing unilaterally, and it would need to be done on a bilateral basis.

I should like to raise just one other matter, because I believe that it is possible that the Home Office may write to noble Lords who have spoken during this Committee stage, and Government Departments are habitually helpful and very often include some extra information for our benefit. I should like to make the point—and I should like to be told whether the noble Lord thinks that I am wrong—that I do not think it would be contrary to the signatory, the Government of Ireland, of the 1957 European Convention on Extradition if a bilateral agreement were to be concluded in line with Clause 4 of the Bill. I particularly go out of my way to probe whether or not the Home Office thinks that that is a correct view.

I base this not on my view, because I have no legal training whatsoever, but on a dissenting opinion in the report of the Law Enforcement Commission which, in fact, preceded the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 which relates to Northern Ireland and to the Republic. Certain members of the Law Enforcement Commission held the view that Article 28(3) of the 1957 Convention permits two or more contracting parties to that Convention to regulate their mutual arrangements for extradition exclusively in accordance with a system of uniform law, notwithstanding the Convention. Of course, as regards extradition we have a uniform system of law with the Republic of Ireland, based on reciprocal backing of warrants procedure.

I go out of my way to say that because I should like to know, either now or in the future, whether or not the Home Office thinks that that view is wrong. I shall certainly withdraw the Amendment. However, before doing so, I should like to make two remarks.


Before my noble friend withdraws the Amendment, perhaps I could submit to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that if the words, "The Secretary of State shall" are in conflict with international law, then the words, "The Secretary of State may" must also as regards intention, be in conflict with international law. If the Bill is to read that the Secretary of State "may", one presumes that in certain circumstances he "will", otherwise why give him the power involved in "may"? I submit that if the word "shall" will be in conflict with international law, certainly in the spirit of international law it is very wrong to include this sentence at all. If it is to be included, let us have something which has some weight behind it rather than something which is a contradiction within itself in terms of being legal or illegal.


I am grateful to my noble friend for speaking on this Amendment because I believe that it helps to probe the Government's view on this matter. In conclusion, I should like to make two points. First, with respect to my noble friend, unlike him, I should prefer to see the Bill remain at least as it is drafted because it leaves the door open, and I believe that that is right. Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said that it may be possible, in the context of the EEC, for some understanding to be reached with the Irish Government. It seems to me that that offers very much narrower scope than what is offered by the signatories to, and the potential ratifiers of, the Convention.

In withdrawing the Amendment I express the hope that it may still be possible to pursue negotiations with the Irish Government—I am sure Her Majesty's Government will do so if at all possible—to see whether, at least on a bilateral basis, the terms of Clause 4 can possibly be agreed with the Irish Government. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Amendment of Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975, Sch. 3. 1975 c. 59.]:

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.25 p.m.


This clause is a substitution of Schedule 3 to the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975, and weakens that Act. The particular subsection which is involved states: If the accused is serving a sentence imposed by any other offence, … The new subsection which we seek to substitute involves not only serving a sentence but all the paraphenalia of the courts before that. It seems to me that when we were passing the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill, which is now the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, we recognised the fact that the Irish Republic could not have extradition and, sadly, that we were trying to substitute something else. I have always maintained that it is a very poor substitute, but it was a substitute and a little progress was made.

However, I had understood, almost as a principle of that Act, that in point of fact we were saying that should someone commit a crime within the British Isles outside that jurisdiction and then become a fugitive into one of the other jurisdictions, that accused would be treated totally as though the crime had been committed within the jurisdiction. If that is so, the normal conventions of civilisation should apply; that is, the most serious crime should take precedence over a less serious crime. Under this new subsection which we seek to insert in the Bill, we shall enable a fugitive, if he believes that he is liable to be picked up under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, to commit some minor crime and thereby delay his trial on the major crime until he has not only been convicted but carried out his sentence.

It is peculiar that we have to modify the Criminal Jurisdiction Act with a Bill to suppress terrorists and strengthen the action against terrorists. When the Irish Government passed their Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act I was told many times by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that we could not modify it because it was a treaty Act and had to be agreed by both parties. But the moment the Irish Republic modified it and weakened it, then we, in this country, had two options. We had either to acquiesce to the Irish Government, which is what we have done, or else we should have made the Irish Republic change their Act. I feel that it is a weakening of the case and at a time like this, especially after last weekend, any weakening of any Act between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic should be avoided. I should like to know what the noble Lord thinks the effect of this Amendment will be.


Indeed, if there were any weakening of the Statute in this particular respect, of course the noble Viscount would be absolutely right. But I do not accept for a moment that what he has said is, in fact, in accordance with the true facts of the situation. I should like to say a few words on Clause 6 of the Bill. Clause 6 amends the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 so as to extend the circumstances in which the operation of an order for the return to the Republic of Ireland for trial of a person accused of an extra-territorial offences is postponed. This brings the relevant provision exactly into line with the Republic of Ireland's Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act 1976. This Amendment arises out of the difference between the relevant provision of the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 and the corresponding position in the legislation of the Republic of Ireland.

The effect of paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 to the 1975 Act appears to be that if a person is charged in Northern Ireland with an extra-territorial offence—that is, one committed in the Republic—and also with an offence committed in Northern Ireland and he has not yet pleaded to the arraignment for the latter offence, the Northern Ireland court would be obliged, at the request of the accused, to hand him over to the Irish police for trial in the Republic without first trying him for the offence committed in Northern Ireland. This could be done provided that a warrant for his arrest for the extra-territorial offence has been issued in the Republic.

The purpose of this particular amendment contained in this particular clause, Clause 6, is to ensure that the accused's right to opt for trial in the Republic of Ireland is suspended if he has been charged with an offence other than the extraterritorial offence. I hope, in the light of what I have said, that the noble Viscount will recognise that there is no weakening of the Statute so far as this particular amendment is concerned.


Does not this lead to a delay in bringing proceedings for an extra-territorial offence?


No, I do not think that delay is involved. I think it brings our legislation into line with the legislation of the Republic of Ireland and that of Northern Ireland, It will lead to an improvement in the situation rather than any deterioration in the situation. I do not think that any substantial delay is involved. There could be, in some cases, delay, but it seems to me to be in the public interest that we effect an amendment of this sort. It seems to me to improve the situation rather than lead to any deterioration.


I have not, in fact found Clause 6 as easy to follow as I thought when I first read it. When the noble Lord says that it leads to an improvement rather than to a deterioration, just to get it absolutely clear may I ask what the noble Lord is referring to? An improvement in what way?


What I was responding to was the suggestion of the noble Viscount that we are weakening the law in this particular matter. What I am saying is that there is no weakening of the law at all.

Clause 6 agreed to.

4.32 p.m.

The Earl of SELKIRK moved Amendment No. 16. After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:

Right to suspend air services

(" . Nothing in this Act shall in any way derogate from the right of Her Majesty's Government to suspend all direct and indirect air services between the United Kingdom and any country which gives asylum to hi-jackers, and to deny landing-rights in the United Kingdom to the aircraft of any such country".).

The noble Earl said: This new clause arises very nearly spontaneously from the discussions which were held on Second Reading. Not only noble Lords whose names appear on the Amendment but two or three others—in fact, almost all the speakers—referred to this: they included the noble Lords, Lord Gridley, Lord Hylton, and Lord Duncan-Sandys. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said in his winding-up speech on 7th February, at column 957: We recognise that, until we obtain some degree of international agreement in this important area, there will be a very substantial gap in our defences". It we want it confirmed, we have the tragic events that took place in the course of last week.

I suppose that it is possible for the Government to get some satisfaction from the difficulties that the aircraft had in finding a landing place. However, it brings out clearly the extremely dangerous spread of reactions to any form of hijacking which takes place. If we look back on what has been happening, we may say on the whole, that we have been rather lucky in these events. We have been fortunate that some much greater catastrophe has not taken place. But it has shown beyond doubt the extreme vulnerability of aircraft to certain forms of attack.

We have ourselves passed the Aircraft Protection Act. I do not know whether the noble Lord can be tempted to say anything about the great powers which have been handed to the Government in that Act. I do not expect him to say much because I know these remain secret, but I should like him to say that these powers have remained absolutely up to date, and that those carrying responsibility for them are fully alert to the problems and difficulties with which they may one day be confronted. Not only that, but we know, particularly from what the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said to us, that there are men at large at the present time who have carried out hijackings, who know the techniques, and who, for all we know, are perfectly ready to do it again. We know that they have money, and that they are probably affiliated to some kind of world organisation.

This is, in a sense, a mild clause. It does not do very much. It seeks to deny aircraft communication with any State which is prepared to give hijackers asylum. If we show that we have those powers and that we are prepared to do this. I would hope that this would eventually come in as an extension to the Convention. If all the European States were to agree that anyone giving asylum to hijackers will in fact have no air communication with Europe, that would be a formidable power.

It is not all that much, but the problem is really that we have the somewhat sacred doctrine of sovereignty, which is intended to protect citizens, but which is now being used to protect criminals, and it is very difficult to find a way round this without taking some outside action. We have had certain examples in which the sovereignty of certain countries has been infringed in the case of hijackers, and some have been very successful, but it is an extremely dangerous activity to undertake. These particular powers would not involve any infringement of sovereignty, and would be a useful and considerable danger to countries that are prepared to run that peril.

I want to say one word about the pilots. Flying one of these great aeroplanes with passengers is the acme of modern technology. It is no mean task. It demands the highest qualities of those who have to fly them. It is asking an awful lot of pilots to have to fly them under threat of assassination. The miracle is that they have behaved—and I think they deserve every possible congratulation and support—in the way that they have. It is an intolerable burden to expose them to. It is all very well for passengers. They go on aeroplanes occasionally. But flying is the profession of these people. They go daily in aeroplanes, and of course hijacking remains possible for them.

What I am asking is that we should declare quite clearly that we are willing to impose this ourselves, and that we should thereafter seek to gain the accession of other countries in the Convention. I believe that, if we do this, it will be a mild but important step, and one which will show our determination to put an end to these dastardly practices. I beg to move.


May I strongly support this Amendment, although I appreciate that it goes very much beyond the present scope of the Bill which your Lordships are considering. The Bill in its present form is concerned with the relationships between countries that are parties to this Convention. The Amendment deals with the relationships between civilised countries, if I may so describe them, and those countries which habitually offer asylum to hijackers, and it raises a series of different issues.

The extent of the problem needs no underlining. We have reached a situation in which, in any one terrorist incident, hundreds of completely innocent civilians—men, women and children—may face an agonisingly slow death, and may do so when they do not even come from a country which is a party to the political grievance which is alleged to be the subject of the terrorist attack. That is the situation as it exists at present. How it may develop, one does not know; but with technological advance it is by no means impossible that before very long there will be a major disaster, and it will then be a little late to start debating in your Lordships' House what steps might have been taken to prevent it. Already there have been at least two incidents where terrorists have been arrested in the vicinity of airports with the latest heat seeking missiles at their disposal which could, if they had been fired, have brought down the largest airliner in the middle of a crowded capital city. It is perhaps reflections of that sort that lead one to underline the urgency of the situation which is now facing the civilised world.

The figures speak for themselves. The CIA examined terrorist incidents over a period of some six years. They discovered that of those incidents in which hostages had been sought 87 per cent. had been successful. Of those 87 per cent. in which hostages had in fact been seized, in no fewer than 79 per cent. of the incidents the whole of the team of terrorists escaped. They escaped with their lives and without any punishment whatsoever. If one looks at the specific incidents of the hijacking of aeroplanes, one finds from the same source that, over those six years, there were 127 terrorist attacks on aircraft, 115 of which were successful, and that, of those 115, less than 10 ended up with any harm coming to the hijackers by way of death, bodily injury, trial or imprisonment. This is an indication of the extent of the problem.

As to what can be done about it, I suggest that there are several courses which we could pursue. First—and I believe that we are already doing this to some extent—there should be the maximum possible international co-operation in the exchange of intelligence and the exchange of technical information as to how terrorist acts can be dealt with. Secondly, there is the maintenance of the maximum security at airports. I believe that security is very good at our airports. Again, the problem can be appreciated from the figures showing that, in the United States, where security at airports is rigorous, no less than 1,054 firearms were impounded in one six-month period as a result of airport security searches, and, in a 12-month period, just under 1,500 explosive devices were discovered in the possession of people about to board aircraft.

That our airport security is rigorous is not in doubt. I believe that what may have to be considered is the question of what should be done in relation to foreign countries where airport security is manifestly inadequate; not by way of applying sanctions to such countries, but perhaps we should consider whether, in self-protection for our own citizens, we can allow aircraft to come to this country when they have been through a foreign airport whose security is known to be lax.

The third way to deal with the problem is that specifically indicated in the Amendment; that direct action by way of sanctions should be taken against countries which habitually harbour terrorists. For my part, I would not want to suggest that unilateral action by this country would in itself be very effective. What I would hope to see is that this country should take the lead in international negotiations at the European Parliament or the Council of Europe to persuade other countries of like mind—and there must be many of them—that effective sanctions of this nature could be applied against such countries. That, I believe, is the only way of protecting pilots and passengers that would be effective in the short run.

It may be that the noble Earl will feel in due course that it is not practicable to write his Amendment into the Bill. Nevertheless, this discussion would have served a useful purpose if it became clear that, in all parts of your Lordships' House, there was a recognition of the nature of the problem and if it also became clear from what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, might say in the reply that the Government would certainly support any international initiative that was taken along these lines and perhaps might even take the lead in beginning to make proposals of this nature. I therefore support the Amendment.


I, too, support what has been said on this issue. The frightening thing about the statistics which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, quoted, is the number of successful hijackings which have occurred in spite of the security measures which have been taken to protect aircraft. This really is an international problem which ought to be and must be dealt with for the protection of the international community and of an essential means of communication in the world in which we live.

I can see the difficulty about the particular suggestion in the Amendment; it raises problems such as how other States will discriminate and so on, and I can quite see that, but I hope noble Lords will not be put off by the fact that various States which habitually accept hijacked aircraft did not agree to accept the aircraft which was hijacked at Larnaca. I think the reason for that was that the hijackers were Arabs and they did not want to have them on their territory at a time when the whole of the Arab community had revolted against that disgusting crime. The fact remains that something should be done about it and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will really give thought to this matter to see how they can help to work out some system which could be applied. I hope, anyway, that the suggestion made in the Amendment will give a lead for thought on this subject in a very practical manner.

Baroness ELLES

From these Benches I wish to support the principle and thinking behind the Amendment which was moved by my noble friend and supported by noble Lords in all parts of the House. Obviously, the intention of the Amendment is that there should be no haven for hijackers, a principle which we would all agree is an objective we should seek to obtain. Nevertheless, we must be clear on one point and I am not sure that noble Lords have touched on this, and I mention it because it could be open to a certain misunderstanding. It does not mean that there is to be no haven for the airborne aircraft. In the recent hijacking to which many noble Lords have rightly referred, one country did not give landing rights to the plane which was in a very difficult situation with hijackers on board and with the pilot having to fly with decreasing supplies of fuel. It is an important point, when we are considering measures designed to safeguard the lives of the pilots and to enable them to fly planes without the constant threat and fear of having a hijacking attempt on board, that they should in all circumstances when demanding landing rights anywhere be given them where it is convenient for them to land. I simply wanted to make that particular point.

Obviously, a number of measures can be suggested for dealing with hijackers, apart from extradition. I believe there should be some movement towards an international consensus that wherever a hijacker is apprehended and where a country refuses to extradite such a hijacker, every civilised State or every State which wishes to be called civilised should undertake in treaty from to impose a minimum penalty below which no nation should go in giving punishment to hijackers caught on its territories.

As to the sanctions proposed in the Amendment, I think they are extremely moderate considering the acts they are seeking to remove. We must also consider that, if some serious action is not taken by this country, by the Council of Europe and, indeed, by the United Nations—we remember the threats of the International Air Line Pilots' Association last year during the course of the General Assembly—we might have the threat of strikes by airline pilots if they are not to be adequately protected. This is an action which I think would receive considerable sympathy from many people representing all shades of political opinion in this country. I therefore support the thinking behind the Amendment.

We should at the same time give serious consideration to other measures which could be taken in parallel to the effects of this Bill. Personally, I believe that we should have some kind of trained force, perhaps on a regional basis, to deal with such emergencies. After all, the Germans have a special unit and, as we know, they called on Great Britain to contribute in the Mogadishu action. I think we would all agree that it was a wise decision on the part of the Prime Ministers and it showed co-operation among nations in endeavouring to deal with an intractable and intolerable problem. A force which was already internationally trained within a regional context in Europe would, in my view, be a valid contribution in dealing with this matter. We have seen this kind of action with, for example, earthquakes, where a force has gone from one country to another to deal with a specific disaster. This is something that the Government should consider in discussion with other ratifying States. I had thought originally that it might have been possible to do it under NATO, but, of course, we have only to think of Sweden or Austria. Sweden being a ratifying State but not being a member of NATO, that may not be the right answer; but I do think some international force should be considered.

Secondly, I think this country should take very seriously the practice which has been started in the United States of having on aeroplanes guards who are trained specifically to deal with hijacking problems on aircraft. Again, it is obviously a very expensive and difficult thing to do, but I think the circumstances demand that serious and difficult action should be taken and that expense is secondary. Thirdly, I would suggest that a very serious look should be taken at the inadequacies of The Hague Convention; and I pay tribute to the article by Mr. Bin Cheng in the Aeronautical Journal of 1972, in which he analysed the effects of The Hague Convention. Whereas many people think they are now protected under this particular international Convention, there are three very serious lacunae which perhaps I may, without taking up too much of the time of the Committee, very briefly outline. One was touched on by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and it is that it applies only when the crime takes place on board the plane, and does not apply to pre-flight or post-flight situations, as my noble friend rightly said.


Would my noble friend allow me to interrupt her? I understood the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to say that he was not clear on the point and was going to take advice.

Baroness ELLES

I am very thankful that the noble Lord the Minister will take advice, and perhaps he will able be to prove me wrong; but according to the article by Mr. Bin Cheng in 1972 and his analysis of the Convention, this is in fact how it took effect. Secondly, it applies only where an aircraft takes off and lands in the same place. Supposing the other day the plane had not landed at Djibouti but had gone straight back, then there again that would have been outside the terms of the Convention. Thirdly, of course, there is no uniform duty on States to extradite.

I apologise to your Lordships for taking up time, but I think it is a very important point. I think these are matters which have to be discussed and aired. The Government should be given every encouragement to look at all the loopholes which exist in relation to this particular form of terrorism, and I therefore very warmly support my noble friend and thank him for having raised this matter today.


Having, until quite recently, been responsible for the regulation of civil aviation in the United Kingdom, I should like to add my support to this Amendment and, in particular, to put two points to your Lordships and to the noble Lord the Minister. The first point is that I think we ought to emphasise with all the clarity of which we are capable the fact that the offence of hijacking an aircraft full of innocent people is unpardonable in any circumstances whatsoever, and that political motives even of the highest—even by people representing terribly persecuted sections of the human race—do not justify this offence. I would hope that we will have no feeling that any political motive can conceivably justify this act; for, as the noble Earl said from his very great experience as a pilot, the strain on the pilots involved in these episodes is appalling.

It is not just a case of whether the bomb will go off or whether these criminals will deliberately destroy an aircraft. In the interests of safety all civil aviation authorities in the world lay down very strict rules as to the number of hours a pilot may fly. This is not done out of any woolly-minded social motives; it is done because expert opinion is clear in saying that it is dangerous for a man to fly an aircraft more than a certain number of hours, particularly if he is liable to have a tricky landing at the end of a long stint. Yet, in these hijacking episodes, not only do these pilots fly with a pistol at the back of their neck, as my noble friend said; they fly, very often, for intolerably long hours. Therefore, quite apart from any deliberate act of destruction by hijackers, sooner or later, if hijacking goes on, a hijacking attempt will produce, accidentally, a major catastrophe to a large airliner full of passengers. I therefore hope we are prepared as a country, and I hope the Government are prepared, to treat hijacking as a specially serious offence for which there really can be no excuse whatever.

That would be an argument for putting this new clause into the Bill, and I was rather sorry to hear the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, suggesting that perhaps these words should not go into the Bill. I think there would be advantages if this Committee were to insist on this, and I hope my noble friend will consider this. But, in any event, there is a further and related point. It may, indeed, not be necessary—and, in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, I put this point with a certain diffidence—but I believe it may be desirable from a legal point of view to insert this or some such provision. The power to prevent aircraft of a particular State from using British airports is a very important one, not least because, as noble Lords know, Heathrow has the largest number of international movements of any airport in the world, and, therefore, to be banned from Heathrow is an immensely damaging thing for the aircraft of any State. But, as I understand it, the power to inhibit foreign aircraft from coming here is exercised under the prerogative.

There is authority in the courts. Going back to my student days, I remember, as will the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, the case of Attorney-General v. The Keyser's Royal Hotel, and there is the much more recent case, which will be in the minds of some noble Lords, of Laker v. The Secretary of State for Trade, both of which seem to support the thesis that, where something which has been dealt with by the prerogative is the subject-matter of legislation, the power under the prerogative lapses and the Executive is confined to only the statutory powers. Now we are legislating in this area. We legislated in this area quite recently in the Protection of Aircraft Bill. Before the noble Lord the Minister rejects this Amendment on the grounds that I guess he is going to seek to put forward, that it is unnecessary, I wonder whether he would reflect for a moment and take advice as to whether the undoubted existing power of the Government, of the Executive—of the Crown, if you like—to exercise a ban of this kind might not be narrowed or inhibited a little once legislation of this kind is on the Statute Book.

If there be anything in this point—as I say, I put it with immense diffidence, but it may be that those interested in constitutional matters may think there is something in it—I am sure the noble Lord himself would be the last man to wish to restrict the powers of the Government. There may well come an occasion when the course of action laid down in this Amendment will be precisely what we want to do, and it would be a tragedy if we allowed our power, the power of our Government, to be restricted by accident, and so be prevented from doing it. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not brush this aside but will give some further thought to it. Whether the noble Earl will press this Amendment at this or at another stage I do not know; but I think there may be a point here—I put it no higher than this—which the Government ought seriously to consider.


Having spoken at Second Reading on behalf of and from the point of view of innocent passengers, I should very much like to support this Amendment moved by my noble friend. The text of the Amendment mentions only the giving of asylum to hijackers. I should like to suggest to your Lordships that allowing the training of terrorists in the territory of a State, the failure to enforce adequate security precautions and the paying of ransoms—all three of these things—are just as important as the giving of asylum.

In fact, in the interval between Second Reading and today I asked a Written Question of Her Majesty's Government to try to discover which foreign States, during the last few years, have harboured fugitive terrorists, have allowed other terrorists to be trained on their territory or have failed to arrange for adequate security precautions at their airports. My purpose in asking this Written Question was to try to discover—and this was incorporated in the text—which States have improved their practices, which States have ceased to be backsliders. Once one knows that, then it may be possible to pursuade those who continue to default to improve their ways.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, replying for the Government said that comprehensive and detailed information of this kind is impossible to obtain. That seemed to me to be a remarkable statement. Surely, the British Airline Pilots' Association could have been consulted and would have had most of the answers. Even a reading of the newspapers, one would have thought, would have disclosed a great deal of this information. Why do we have a Diplomatic Service and a Secret Service if we cannot have at our disposal the kind of information I was asking for? Again, surely, it must have been available during the very long negotiations which preceded the drawing up of the three international Conventions which have been mentioned—The Hague, Tokyo and Montreal.

The question of sanctions to be applied to the defaulting States has been raised already today. I hope that the Government will consider very seriously some of the suggestions that have been made by my noble friend Lady Elles and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. One would feel that a Government capable of devising sanctions for the enforcement of their non-statutory incomes policy would also be capable of thinking up some effective non-legislative sanctions against international terrorism. I think that we would all agree that the sanctions that are needed would far best be applied internationally and by agreement among a large number of nations; but, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has mentioned, Heathrow Airport has by far the largest number of aircraft movements, and one could say—


Would my noble friend allow me to intervene? Heathrow Airport has not got the largest number of aircraft movements, but the largest number of international aircraft movements. O'Hare, Chicago has more actual movements.


I am sorry. I accept what my noble friend has said. Looking at this country, slightly wider than Heathrow itself, we surely can be considered to be at the hub of international air traffic and this, to my mind, gives us a very much greater leverage than we would otherwise be able to bring to bear. If we cannot get widespread international agreement and co-operation, then surely it is up to us, given this leverage, to exercise it unilaterally if we have to.

5.4 p.m.


I think that all who have been present during this last hour or so will agree with me that this has been a particularly useful debate on an issue where there is widespread public anxiety for the reasons given by all who have spoken and, particularly, by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with his substantial experience of this particular area. He stated one or two propositions with which I think we will all agree—I would, certainly—namely, that hijacking is an unpardonable offence in any circumstances. With respect, I agree with that view. Inevitably one can think of circumstances where people are fleeing from some despotic régime where it is natural that there should be a very substantial amount of sympathy with the people concerned. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, rightly said, there is no doubt that this puts at risk the lives of a very large number of innocent people and if practices of this sort go on it is certain that many innocent people will lose their lives.

I agree with him also on the second point he made; namely, the strain on the pilots because of the fact that their lives are threatened as are the lives of passengers on the plane, and that they are having to fly for very long periods of hours, which in itself is a factor affecting the safety of the passengers on the particular aircraft.

My own experience is infinitely more limited than that of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, but I was involved to some degree in one of our own experiences of this when an aircraft was hijacked on its journey between Manchester and London. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, will probably recall that there were various episodes at London Airport and the plane eventually flew on to Stansted. I can recall the serious problems so far as the strain on the pilot on that occasion was concerned. Fortunately, the person concerned had only an imitation firearm. Nobody was to know that and there could have been catastrophic consequences for the people on the plane.

Obviously, there is no real issue between us in our attitude towards this particular problem. There have been some indications in recent months that there have been some improvements in the attitude of some Governments towards hijackers. There have been the recent events referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. I do not think he brushed aside this evidence that there had been some improvement in the attitude of some Governments. He gave particular reason why he thought that certain Governments on this occasion had behaved differently compared to other occasions; but it is fair to say that over Mogadishu as well the same situation was made clear: that many Governments who in the past had had an ambiguous attitude to this problem took a much firmer line than on any previous occasion.

Therefore, having said all this, it is obvious that we all wish to apply our minds to the question of how we can take action to eradicate this menace of hijacking. Certainly I will take note of the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on this particular Amendment because I am bound to say—and I think that he predicted fairly accurately the line one is likely to take—that there is a difficulty about including in an Act of Parliament a statement about the Government's rights. It is not appropriate to state in legislation that Her Majesty's Government specifically reserve the right to take action which, in any case, they are empowered to take. Therefore, on that point alone I should be extremely doubtful about the widsom of adding this Amendment to the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asked whether I would take advice on this question. Obviously, I will do so, but at the moment I am advised—and the noble Lord will recognise that this is a matter which falls outside the confines of the Home Office, although I will take account of the points he made—we are highly sceptical about the wisdom of adding this new clause to the Bill.

Secondly, there is no action which Her Majesty's Government would be precluded from taking in this struggle against this problem of hijacking and international terrorism generally. Our ratification of The Hague, Tokyo and Montreal Conventions is evidence of that determination. So also is the help which we gave last October in Mogadishu to the German Government—and this particular point was also made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles. This was an important occasion in collaboration between two Members of the European Community.

We certainly have consistently urged other Governments to ratify these particular international Conventions. We lent our support to the United Nations' General Assembly resolution passed unanimously on November 2nd last year, which called on all States which had not already done so to give urgent consideration to becoming parties to the Conventions. There are encouraging signs—and I think that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred to this, and I have just done so—that the number of Governments prepared to give a haven to hijackers is dwindling. There have been these two occasions. There is also some change of attitude on behalf of some of these Governments.

Let me give some indication of what we have been doing. First, on the important issue of prevention, we have been working closely with our partners in the European Community under the programme established by the Ministers of the Interior, to which I referred during the debate we had on the gracious Speech, to improve aviation security standards and facilitate co-operation during an incident. One important issue, as I indicated on the last occasion when we debated this matter, is that a number of working groups have been established from the Ministers of the Interior Conference to go into some of these matters in much more detail. That will continue.

Secondly, British missions abroad have instructions to concert with local British airline representatives and, where this is necessary—and this is a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder—to seek specific improvements in airport security which is obviously a matter of the greatest importance. The noble Lord referred to the number of firearms which had been detected at American airports. It is only fair to say that the number of people in the United States who have a habit of carrying firearms is, I am delighted to say, rather larger than it is in this country. Nevertheless, it is perfectly true that people have been found carrying devices on to aircraft in this country, or attempting to do so, which could have been used in certain circumstances in a terrorist incident, though it is obvious in most cases that people had no ill intent whatever.

The Department of Trade are certainly willing to provide advice on airport security to foreign Governments who ask for it, given the fact that we have undoubtedly a fairly substantial amount of expertise in this particular area. Certainly here in the United Kingdom there is no ground at all for complacency. We must make sure that our own airport security measures are up-to-date and effective. All this is evidence that the Government do not in any way take this problem lightly.

So far as sanctions are concerned, if they are to be effective, it is our clear view that they must be agreed internationally. We are deeply sceptical of the wisdom of unilateral action in this particular matter. It is sad to recall that a special international civil aviation organisation conference in Rome totally failed to reach agreement on sanctions. Unfortunately, notwithstanding what I said a few moments ago about the attitude of Governments towards hijackers, there is no evidence at the moment that a similar effort now would lead to a more happy result. I wish it were otherwise. It is our view that the international community must be ready to agree to joint measures of this character. Without them, we cannot possibly ensure an adequate degree of safety to people who use the airlines. I want to assure the Committee that the Government wish to play a leading part in bringing about any such understanding when, in our view, it is a moment when such an approach is likely to lead to a satisfactory conclusion.

It is our view that the widespread denial of overflying rights, which might well follow an imperfectly concerted attempt to apply sanctions, is something which could lead to the disruption of the international aviation system. I repeat, it is our clear view that there has to be international agreement in this area if any form of sanctions is to be satisfactorily applied.

I should like to say this in conclusion to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles. The noble Baroness referred to an article, I think it was, which was casting some doubt as to the effectiveness of the Hague Convention and the Montreal Convention. It is undoubtedly the case that as hijackings are continuing it would be foolish to pretend that the Conventions had been wholly successful. They have not. Nevertheless, it is only right to recall the number of hijack incidents throughout the world which took place before these Conventions had been agreed, and the situation now. The peak figure was achieved before these particular Conventions were concluded.

In 1969 there were 87 such hijacking episodes. The year following, 1970, it was down to 82. As a result of some of the international activities that have been taking place, the figures came down to 59 in 1971 and far lower in following years. Last year the figure was 34, despite the fact that there were far more aircraft at that stage flying because of the growth of international civil aviation traffic. I repeat that I say this in no way whatever to suggest that we can afford to take this matter lightly. I have indicated that we regard it as a matter of the greatest importance. We determined with our friends and allies in the European Community to take all possible action against this menace of international terrorism, of which hijacking is an important part.

I will undertake, as I have already indicated, to look again at the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, so far as this particular Amendment is concerned; but I must say at the moment that it is our view that adding this clause to the Bill would not in fact in any way increase the powers of Her Majesty's Government to deal with this particular problem.

The Earl of SELKIRK

I had no intention to start a debate on anti-hijacking measures. I was dealing with an extremely narrow and brief point: the sanctions of aircraft flying. We have had a broad debate on it. I do not think the noble Lord used very strong words. He said that he does not take it lightly. I hope he does not, for this is an enormous field.


I hope the noble Earl, in the light of what I have said, will not take one phrase wholly out of context. That is all right for an ordinary debating practice; but it is inappropriate in a debate of this kind where I have indicated the serious measures which the Government have taken to deal with this problem.

The Earl of SELKIRK

I accept readily what the noble Lord says. He says he has the power; I am perfectly satisfied that that is so. If I may say so to the noble Baroness, there is a great difference between asylum to a hijacker and emergency landings. Those things are entirely different. I understand that the noble Lord will look at these points and I certainly will not press the Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

5.18 p.m.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 17: After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:

Information to Council of Europe

(( . The Secretary of State shall, at least once each year, inform the European Committee on Crime Problems of the Council of Europe regarding the implementation of the provisions of this Act."

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment draws attention to Article 9 of the Convention which imposes a duty on Convention countries to keep the European Committee on Crime Problems of the Council of Europe informed of the application of the Convention or, in this context, the provisions of this Bill. The reported procedures, I believe, should not be considered or dismissed merely as a formality as something which the Secretary of State will do. It is something to which we should draw attention. If this Bill is to be effective in contributing to the suppression of terrorism, it has to be seen to be effective. If action taken by the United Kingdom Government is to be seen to be effective, it must be seen to be so in relation to and in co-operation with the other Convention States.

This Article, which is very modest in its wording, should not be disregarded, because it will be able to perform the role of a forum, provide a forum, in which the success or failure of Convention countries to deal with the situation of terrorism will be measured. I realise it is probably not correct drafting to put this Amendment into the Bill, but I should like an assurance that this obligation resides in the Secretary of State and will be faithfully recognised. Also, that every effort will be made in giving this information to the European Committee and that there will be full co-operation, which we hope we will get from the other Member States who will be signing this Convention. I beg to move.


This Amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to inform the European Committee on Crime Problems about the working of the Act at least once a year. I do not think that the Amendment is necessary and I hope I shall be able to persuade the noble Baroness that that is indeed so.

First, this requirement goes beyond the obligations which are imposed by the Convention. Article 9 merely states that the European Committee on Crime Problems. shall be kept informed regarding the application of this Convention". The Explanatory Report to the Convention states that this is intended to keep the Committee informed about possible difficulties in interpreting and applying the Convention. That is sensible, and United Kingdom ratification of the Convention will oblige us to do it. The Committee is the guardian of the Convention and should know if problems arise, but this proposed new clause would oblige the Secretary of State to inform the Committee about the implementation of the provisions of the Bill, whether any problems have arisen or not. That seems to be an unnecessary burden of communication to impose on the Secretary of State. We are all looking for ways—and I know the noble Baroness is doing this with vigour—of avoiding unnecessary work in the public sector. I hope that she will find that particular part of the argument, if no other, attractive.

Secondly, some of the provisions of the Bill are not related to the Convention. For example, it would not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to inform the Committee about the workings of Clause 6, which we were discussing a few moments ago. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will agree not to press this Amendment.

Baroness ELLES

I am very grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for that explanation and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness ELLES moved Amendment No. 18: After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:

Reference of disputes to arbitration

(" . Any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the provisions of this Act shall, at the representation either of the Secretary of State or of a Convention Country, be referred to arbitration.")

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment, again, merely draws attention to the provision in Article 10 of the Convention for the setting up of a system of arbitration where there is a dispute between contracting States. I think it is again important to draw attention to this article because there may well be disputes, for example, as regards the interpretation of Clause 2(1) and Clause 2(2) of the Bill as to the way particular States will apply their particular modification of extradition provisions. I think it is important that the Committee should be aware that there is such an arbitration clause.

I rather regret that the Convention itself allows three months for a party to nominate an arbitrator, and I very much hope that, if it falls to the lot of the United Kingdom to have to do so, they will do it very much more quickly than that, because one of the best ways of dealing with terrorism is to deal with it as quickly and as effectively as possible. I beg to move.


Article 10 of the Convention provides that: Any dispute between contracting States concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention, which has not been settled in the framework of Article 9, paragraph 2, shall, at the request of any Party to the dispute, he referred to arbitration". That, of course, is the issue to which the noble Baroness is directing our attention.

The article then describes how the arbitration tribunal is to be composed and set up. The intention is that disputes will, so far as possible, be settled not by arbitration but under the procedures provided in Article 9, paragraph 2: namely, by the intervention of the European Committee on Crime Problems, which is required to do whatever is needful to facilitate a friendly settlement of any difficulty which may arise out of the execution of the Convention. It is right that the Committee, as the guardian of the Convention, should be the first body to which disputes are referred.

The proposed new clause seeks to apply to the provisions of the Bill the second half of the procedure envisaged in the Convention, presumably with the intention of adopting the method of arbitration which the Convention provides. But by no means all the difficulties that could arise for us in operating the provisions of the Convention will necessarily concern the interpretation or the application of the Act. What is at issue is essentially a matter of the relations between two contracting States; and a point of dispute could equally arise over the terms of the Convention itself, the relevant law of the other contracting State or the provision of our bilateral extradition treaty with that State. Since both parties to the dispute will have ratified the Convention, both will be bound, at international law, by the provisions of Articles 9 and 10; and since those provisions require no amendment to United Kingdom law it is not necessary to seek to give effect to them in this Bill. With that explanation, therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will agree not to press this Amendment.

Baroness ELLES

Once again I am grateful to the noble Lord for the explanation and for clarifying the position over the setting up of arbitration measures. I should like to ask one question, and I must apologise for not having given notice of it; I shall therefore not expect an immediate reply. The noble Lord referred to the relationship between Convention States. I understand that we do not in fact have an extradition treaty with Turkey, and Turkey is one of the possible Convention States. Could the noble Lord perhaps at a later date tell me how this matter will be dealt with and whether any extradition treaty is being envisaged?—because all these are on bilateral, and not multilateral, treaty arrangements. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister could let me have a reply between now and the next stage of the Bill: I should be grateful to him. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Provisions as to interpretation and orders]:

5.28 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 7, line 8, at end insert— (""enactment" includes an enactment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, a Measure of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and an Order in Council under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 or the Northern Ireland Act 1974.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move. This is a drafting Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [List of offences]:

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendments No. 20 and 21: Page 8, line 8, leave out ("or abduction") and insert (", abduction or plagium") line 10, at end insert ("or causing injury").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I might move Amendments 20 and 21 together. These are drafting Amendments, and I beg to move.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

On Question, Whether Schedule 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


Paragraph 20 says: An offence of attempting to commit any offence mentioned in the preceding paragraphs of this Schedule". Does that cover all conspiring to attempt? I am afraid I have not given the noble Lord notice of this question and he may prefer to let me have the information by letter. Article 1 says: an attempt to commit any of the foregoing offences or participation as an accomplice". If the noble Lord were to say to me that "conspiring to commit" goes further than participation "as an accomplice", then I will accept what he says. In that case the words that I am suggesting should be added are not necessary. On the other hand, I was slightly perplexed when I glanced at the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975, which relates in its substantive clauses to Northern Ireland. There I noticed that Section 6(2)(b) refers to: attempting or conspiring to commit a substantive offence". I am not aware that the law as it relates to Northern Ireland with regard to attempting to commit offences is any different from the law with regard to attempting to commit offences in England and Scotland. Therefore, I would ask, should paragraph 20 include the words: or conspiring to commit any offence"?


I shall gladly look into this point.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.