HL Deb 03 May 1983 vol 442 cc1-2
Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether in the interests of the suppression of international crime they will consider the consolidation of the extradition statutes, and the conclusion of treaties to establish or re-establish effective extradition relations where they have lapsed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, the law and practice of extradition were reviewed by an Inter-Departmental Working Party, whose report was published in May 1982. The report was sent for comment to individuals and organisations known to have an interest in the subject, and we are considering their responses before deciding what action to take on the recommendations of the working party. It has not been the practice to negotiate or re-negotiate our extradition treaties while decisions on the review of the Extradition Act are pending.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, while I thank my noble friend the Minister for that most helpful reply, may I ask him whether there is not a case for a reform and consolidation of our own statutes prior to accession to the European Extradition Convention such as is recommended in the Inter-departmental Committee's report; whether accession to the convention, as recommended, without having first taken these steps would not add a layer of undue complexity; and whether in any event the conclusion of new treaties to establish effective extradition arrangements, which take some time, is not a matter of concern?

Lord Elton

My Lords, my noble friend is right. We have to get these things in the right order. Accession to the convention would require more than consolidation of the existing statutes. If the number of designations were to be small enough to make it worth our while to sign, we should at least have to remove the requirement for proof of a prima facie case before extradition can be granted. This is a point which was covered in the report and attracted during the period for consultation many comments which are now being considered. The coming into force of new legislation substantively different from the present would mean the renegotiation of all our existing treaties, and that would take a very long time.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, until we have signed the European Extradition Convention and negotiated the bilateral agreements that would be necessary, our law will remain out of date and out of step with those of other friendly countries? Will the Government, therefore, do their best to make really good progress in this matter?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I think this really is a matter for making haste slowly. It is a complicated field. We are not under grave pressure from the discontinuity, to which my noble friend refers, between our law and that of other countries. To bring the whole into harmony would take a very long time indeed.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, it is the case, is it not, that this country has a notable record of achievement in the extradition field, first having pioneered its introduction in a great many ways? Have we not a lot to teach other countries in this field?

Lord Elton

Yes, my Lords, including thoroughness and patience.

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