HL Deb 26 July 1984 vol 455 cc394-6

3.4 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

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 they expect to conclude an extradition treaty with Spain before their entry into the European Economic Community.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, we recognise that there is a compelling need to re-establish extradition arrangements with Spain. To this end we are actively pursuing our discussions with the Spanish Government to find an acceptable basis for a new extradition treaty. I am unable to say at the present time whether it is likely that a treaty will be concluded before Spain's accession to the European Economic Community.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. May I ask her whether she is aware of the serious anxiety there is on this matter, in that people who are wanted by the police are apparently able to sun themselves in Spain with impunity? That being so, is she also aware that many of us who look forward to full Spanish membership of the European Community hope that this urgent matter will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I note what the noble Lord said in the first part of his supplementary. It is true that because there is no extradition treaty in force with Spain it is not possible for any fugitive criminal to be extradited from Spain to the United Kingdom at the present time. But we accept that this is an urgent matter, and as my original Answer made clear we are addressing ourselves to it.

Lord Elystan-Morgan

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness the Minister can say whether or not there is any comprehensive review of the rights and obligations of the United Kingdom under the Extradition Act 1870 and our rights and obligations in respect of Commonwealth countries under the Fugitive Offenders Acts. I am sure that many Members of this House will feel that the arrangements, looked at globally, are incomplete and form an inconsistent picture.

Baroness Young

My Lords, our own Extradition Act is over a century old, as the noble Lord made clear, and in need of revision. The extent to which it should be revised is likely to prove controversial. However, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has stated his intention to issue a consultative Green Paper later this year to see whether some consensus can be achieved. We shall then consider what changes in the law should be made.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, in a world in which we hope that passports will become less and less necessary, and in a particular area where we hope that some day it is conceivable that passports will be totally abolished, is it not necessary that we should take even more active steps to find some method by which, if the law requires it, we should be able to get these people back?

Baroness Young

My Lords, as I hope I indicated in my original Answer, we are addressing ourselves to this problem.

Lord Hughes

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a Council of Europe convention on extradition, and that when the Assembly of the Council of Europe was addressed last year by the Spanish Prime Minister he had a question from a British delegate who asked about the treaty with Spain? He replied that Spain had ratified the convention but that Britain had not ratified it. Would Britain's adherence to this convention be of any help in the matter?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right: the United Kingdom is not a party to this convention. We do, however, have bilateral arrangements with all states which are parties to the convention except Lichtenstein, Turkey and Spain. Adherence to the convention would override those other arrangements. Were we to ratify on the basis of the Extradition Act 1870, the one currently in force, we would have to make a number of reservations, including one in respect of our prima facie requirement.