HL Deb 13 April 1994 vol 553 cc1596-612

7.2 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what criteria the Home Secretary applies when exercising his discretion over extradition cases.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in putting my Question to the Government and opening this short debate on what I believe to be a very important subject, I should first offer a form of apology to the House in regard to my Question of 31st March (which was the last Question before the Easter Recess) on the subject of Sue Hagan and Sally Croft and the recommendation of the court that they should be extradited to America to face certain charges.

A number of noble Lords assumed that I was trying to affect or alter a decision that had been made by the court. That was not my intention. Nor did I at any time indicate that I wanted that to happen. I asked whether the Government would delay the extradition of those two ladies until your Lordships had had a chance to debate the substance of the matter. I did not ask for a debate on the court's decision because I am fully aware that we cannot interfere with a decision of a court nor indeed would I want to do so. However, my intentions were not taken on board. Strangely enough, the information that the Minister could have given me on that day was given by the judge who heard the plea for judicial review to be granted, which delayed—as it will delay for some period and may delay for all time—the extradition of those two ladies to America.

Before going further, I want to make the point that I am aware that the case is in substance now sub judice. I should like to put right any misconception. I have never accepted, as have some noble and learned Lords in this House, that the law is always right and that court decisions are always correct. I do not believe that Timothy Evans or Derek Bentley would have subscribed to that point of view. I do not accept that a court must be right in every instance. Courts can make mistakes.

Having said that, I now ask Her Majesty's Government what criteria the Home Secretary applies when assessing or adjudicating on recommendations from the court. We must be clear that it is not the courts which extradite. Finally, it is the responsibility of the Home Secretary.

In my Question a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had had some correspondence on this case with one of the most esteemed noble and learned Lords in this House; namely, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. The issues caused him some very worrying thoughts. He considered that we might be making a serious mistake. I spent some considerable time this afternoon with the noble and learned Lord discussing extradition. He made clear that in his view, relevant to the Answer I received a fortnight ago, the appeal allowed for judicial review had been based on the possibility that the Secretary of State for Home Affairs had not followed through the issue with all the diligence that he might have brought to it. If he does his job, he should go through with a fine-tooth comb any court case that recommends the deportation from this country of two women who are subject to Her Majesty the Queen to make sure that he agrees with the decision. All that the court will do is examine a prima facie case.

The Minister who first brought up the idea that the two ladies would be extradited was the right honourable Kenneth Clarke, when he was Home Secretary. There is some doubt as to whether Mr. Clarke went through the case before he made his recommendation. I have heard it said that he rubber-stamped the decision. That is not the function of a Home Secretary in a case of such importance. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for the time he spent with me and the advice he gave. I repeat that he is extremely worried about what is taking place.

I asked whether the Home Secretary examines such cases personally. It is to be hoped that he does. Examples could be taken of cases in which he has formulated his criteria, comparing them, now that we are full members of the European Union, with what other countries do. Attempts were made to extradite from Germany people involved in the same case—the same charges; the same period of time; everything the same. But the German Minister who dealt with the matter did not think that the case warranted it.

To begin with, does the Home Secretary take into account the length of time which has elapsed between the alleged indiscretion or crime and the moment when the charge is made? In a particular case—I am not allowed to mention it by name—five years elapsed before the Americans even wanted to take two of our citizens into custody. It is now nearly nine years since that took place. Does he also consider when extraditing people the consequences of their crime? This case was supposed to be conspiracy to murder. But nobody was hurt and nothing was damaged. In my opinion, the Home Secretary should apply different criteria. If he applies the existing criteria to authorise something which only he can do, in my opinion he is taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Another point I want to raise is whether or not our Home Secretary will take into consideration what happened to the people who have already been dealt with in relation to this conspiracy and on the same charge. Other people in America were dealt with, though nobody was taken into custody. They plea-bargained their way out of a gaol sentence. Hypothetically, we may be sending back two people to carry the can when the main perpetrators in America have bargained their way out of any responsibility. If the Home Secretary follows that criteria he will be adopting a very dangerous course.

I have spoken to former Home Secretaries—not about this specific case because they do not have the detail. What comes across clearly is that it was only when this case—the one about which I am discussing the criteria to be applied—was brought to your Lordships' House that it hit the headlines. Two weeks ago I said that I was worried and that many other people in a widening circle were concerned about what was happening. If I had not intervened in your Lordships' House two weeks ago those two ladies would now be in an American gaol. I say "in gaol" because no bail would be allowed. People who know me are aware that I will always try to prevent injustice if I believe an injustice is taking place. I had not met anyone involved in this case until the day before I tabled the Question.

Suppose the two ladies, in my hypothesis, lose the case and the judicial procedure and are recommended for deportation; the matter then lies completely in the hands of the Home Secretary. I suggest that in cases such as this he must be extremely careful to apply the criteria that will give a fair crack of the whip to subjects of Her Majesty the Queen as well as being fair to the country applying for extradition. Suppose, in his wisdom, the Home Secretary authorises the extradition to America of the two ladies in question: what protection will he guarantee them? After all, they are still British citizens.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Wakeham)

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. I know that he is trying extremely hard to restrain his remarks to the criteria rather than to any specific case. As he said at the beginning of his speech, he recognises that the case is sub judice and should not be discussed in this House. I hope that he will be careful to stick to the criteria.

Lord Dean of Reswiek

My Lords, I am grateful for the intervention made by the Leader of the House in his normal and courteous manner. I shall do my best to conclude my remarks in the spirit he suggests. My point is that if any citizen of this country is extradited, whether to America, Malaya or Thailand, what protection will be afforded to him or her? For instance, whatever the country to which they are sent, will they have the protection of the ambassador and his staff? Will they be provided with observers at the trial to ensure that it is a fair and just trial in accordance with our extremely high standards, offering a fair crack of the whip to the person charged? Or will they come totally within the remit of the country to which they are sent for trial and the case rest solely on its standards rather than ours?

I have regard to the fact that only last year—I agree that it was not popular with everybody—the Prime Minister went out of his way to bring back to this country two women who had been convicted of extremely serious charges of drug smuggling. I am not therefore being unreasonable when I suggest that we look very carefully before we extradite anybody.

As many noble Lords are aware, I have been in politics for a long time—from being a local councillor to being a privileged Member in another place—and I am grateful to be able to address your Lordships' House on a case like this. But I issue—not a word of warning; that is the wrong word—a caution to the Home Secretary. If, finally, he incurs public odium by authorising this extradition, in my opinion it will scar him politically for the rest of his life. People in this country are starting to wake up to what may be about to take place.

I said that such a decision would scar the Home Secretary. The Leader of the House may possibly agree with me. If this place does not refer to the matter—it obviously will later when it becomes defacto—certainly the House of Commons will not let him forget it. I have put my Question. I am grateful for the tolerance of your Lordships and the Leader of the House. On that I rest my case.

7.17 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend Lord Dean in what he said. I support his insistence that nothing that he or I, and I expect others, may say is in any way a criticism of the courts. In that sense, therefore, the question of whether the case is sub judice or not does not arise. It will be a decision of the Home Secretary—a political and moral decision. I am afraid that if he sends those ladies back it will be an extremely immoral decision. But that is his political decision and it has nothing to do with the courts whatever they decide next week.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will give way.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I do not mind giving way once, but I have only just got under way. What does the noble Lord want?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, it is because the noble Earl has just got under way that I wish to intervene. The noble Earl said that in his opinion discussion of this case was not sub judice because it meant no contradiction of the courts. But that is not the way that I understand the sub judice rule to work in your Lordships' House. Surely the sub judice rule says that any case before the courts cannot be discussed in your Lordships' House.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Lord raises a point of interest. But I am not sure whether he is in touch with the situation. Last Wednesday, about this time, I was waiting to hear from the solicitor of the two ladies as to what time to turn up at Gatwick police station where the following morning these ladies would be—

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I am extremely sorry to intervene so early in the speech of the noble Earl. However, the rules of the House are quite clear. This case is sub judice in my opinion. Leave to move for judicial review has been given by the High Court against the decision. The rules of sub judice in your Lordships' House are clearly set out in the Companion. The rules make it quite clear that this case is sub judice.

The noble Earl's noble friend tried extremely hard not to refer to the case and referred only to the criteria. But I must say to the noble Earl, who is held in the highest possible regard by all sides of the House and is a distinguished former Leader of the House, that he would expect me to point out to him that the rules of the House are quite clear. The noble Earl therefore ought not to refer to the case before the courts.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I do not quite understand what the Leader of the House is telling us. He says that this case is sub judice, but I understand that the case mentioned has already been in front of the court. What is being questioned is the judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision. I should rot have thought that that was sub judice. The case is settled as far as the English court is concerned. The rules about sub judice are based on the premise that no one in Parliament or elsewhere shall do anything to influence a court of law. That is not the situation we are in. The situation we are in is that an inquiry is to be made as to whether or not the action of the Home Office is subject to review.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, the noble Lord tries hard to draw a distinction but I do not think it is a valid distinction. The case is before the courts. It is not for us to discuss the details of the case, but the case involves the matters which his noble friend was seeking to raise. The sub judice rule was designed to protect the people whose case is before the courts and to make sure that there is not unfair and prejudicial discussion before Parliament. My duty is to seek to advise the House. It is for the House to decide these matters but it is my understanding of the rules that this is clearly a sub judice matter and therefore should not be discussed in your Lordships' House on this occasion.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, Leaders of the House come and go and they do not always agree with each other. I am afraid that I do not accept in any way the views of the present Leader of the House, although I know that he is a man of the highest integrity—like these women are. Everyone who knows them regards their integrity as total, yet last Wednesday I was about to set off for Gatwick police station where these ladies were going to be manacled, taken to America, put in prison for a year—possibly in leg irons. That was the situation last Wednesday.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, perhaps I may—

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am not going to keep on giving way. I give way to the Leader of the House at the moment. I am giving way at the moment only to the Leader of the House, which will keep me busy, I think, for the next few minutes.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am afraid that—

The Earl of Longford

No, I am sorry, I am not giving way.

Noble Lords

Order, order!

Lord Skelmersdale

In that case, my Lords, I have no alternative but to move that—

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am not giving way and I must ask the Leader of the House to protect me from this.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I have no alternative but to move that the noble Earl be no longer heard.

Moved, That the noble Earl be no longer heard.—(Lord Skelmersdale.)

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I wonder whether I may intervene briefly as I understand that a debate now takes place on this issue. Without wishing in any way to make the life of my noble friend the Leader of the House more difficult, I was listening rather carefully to what the noble Earl was saying and, in my ignorance, no doubt, I was not aware that he was discussing the case. Can my noble friend the Leader of the House say where this bar on our proceedings falls? I understand that we may not discuss the case, but was the noble Earl, Lord Longford, discussing the case when he was telling us of his visit to a police station? I am not entirely clear on that.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, perhaps I may seek to help my noble friend. The position is quite clear. The Companion states on page 52 that the rules of the House are that a case is deemed to be sub judice from the moment a petition for leave to appeal is presented to the House of Lords. The rules are quite clear that a matter is before the court and as such there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the case.

While I am on my feet perhaps I may say to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who is enormously respected, that I understand the strength of feeling which brings him to this situation. But I ask him whether he feels he has to persist when my noble friend makes the point that in his view this is such a flagrant breach of the rules of the House that he has moved his Motion. I would very much like to try to persuade my noble friend to withdraw his Motion but I would feel it was right to do so only if the noble Earl, Lord Longford, would indicate to us that he would not persist in discussing the case which is sub judice and which I do not believe should be discussed in this House.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Earl is discussing the case. He had only just reached the point where he was telling us about an event that occurred last Wednesday. Until then it had nothing to do with this case. The point I made before is that the case has already been settled by the courts. I have read the Companion. In fact, when the noble Lord, Lord Dean, tabled a Question on the subject, I read it myself. My understanding of the Companion is what I described before. The rule of sub judice is that nothing should be said that would influence a court. I am not just dealing with our Companion; I am dealing with the common law. No one anywhere has the right to influence a court of law when it is deciding an issue. But no one is doing that, because the case has been heard. All that is coming up is the question of a review of the decision of the Home Office and the Home Secretary in regard to a certain affair. I have suffered on a previous occasion from the Motion that has just been moved that the Member be no longer heard. But, if ever there was a denial of British justice, it is this. We have not even heard the noble Earl, so I am opposed to the Motion that he should be no longer heard.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I wonder if I may seek to help the noble Lord by reading a further extract from the Companion which I think is highly relevant to the position we find ourselves in. It states: Matters awaiting or under adjudication in a civil court should not be referred to in any Motion or debate on a Motion or in any Question, including any supplementary Question, from the time that the case has been set down for trial or otherwise brought before the court". That is quite clear. The noble Lord is entitled to his view as to whether it is a sensible Motion but it is certainly the way this House operates. It operates in that way because the House has thought for a very long time that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of a case. It is the courts that we are seeking to protect so that there is a fair trial and those whose affairs are being considered have them considered properly and fairly without comment in Parliament when they are before the court. That is the issue, and that is why my noble friend has moved his Motion. I should like to ask him to withdraw it but I cannot ask him to withdraw it unless the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is prepared to give us an undertaking that he will not refer to this case.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for his courtesy. I have no intention of refusing to talk about the grave and terrible injustice that may be done to these two women. Perhaps I may put a point that has not been expressed clearly because I was stopped so early in the day by the noble Lord. Lord Skelmersdale. It is easy to ask, "Why don't we wait until this review has taken place?" There is a very good answer. Within a few hours of that review, if it went against them, they would be in handcuffs. I want noble Lords to realise that. It is not a question of getting the decision and then being able to have a debate about it later. They would be in handcuffs. They were about to go off to America in handcuffs on Thursday of last week.

Let me put the matter as plainly as possible. If this matter cannot be discussed until the court has made its decision, that means that it cannot be discussed at all until the two women have gone to America. It is a question of now or never. Therefore, I am asking the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, to exercise all his well-known qualities of statesmanship. When the Companion was drawn up this situation was not contemplated. It is an exceptional and unique situation. If the matter is left until after the court's decision, that will prevent any political discussion at all. I believe that that is plain enough. I have no intention of failing to go on with the case.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, the noble Earl raises the point again. I understand and am grateful to him for his courtesy. There is no flexibility given to me and the rules are quite clear. It is my task to invite the House to seek to carry out the rules as they are set down. I wish that there was a solution more acceptable to the noble Earl, but I do not believe that there is one available to us.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, from the position where I stand, I believe that no one is going to quibble with the words, or the interpretation which has been put on them, which are contained in the Companion. But I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, acted very quickly, if not precipitately, as soon as there was the slightest possibility that my noble friend was going to transgress. My noble friend is well aware of both the intention and the advice which is generally freely available to the House at this time.

It is against this background that my noble friend is seeking to do what everyone in the House understands has been his conviction; namely, that a wrong has been done and that he intends to raise the matter. My noble friend has to demonstrate beyond doubt that he is transgressing. Advice will be given to the Leader of the House by the Clerk that that has taken place. The noble Lord has moved a debatable Motion which means that we can debate it for as long as we wish. There is no intention of doing that.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, ought to wait a little longer before he presses his case. In my view nothing has been said which is of such great moment to justify taking the action which is contemplated. Until now there has been good order, humour and passion on the issue, but no one has said anything to which anyone could take grave exception. My noble friend has been in this House for many years and has long experience. He spoke in an earlier debate and we know of his antecedents in this matter. He knows fully what he is entitled to say and what the consequences will be if he transgresses. I suggest that he be allowed a little time to make his case. If, in the light of that, the House feels differently, then it must act accordingly.

Lord Morris

My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I strongly believe that my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale is using a pile-driver to crack a nut. I believe that is quite wrong and that we should get on with the debate. If he can withdraw his Motion with as much grace as he can muster, I feel sure that that will represent the feeling of the House.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I would like to find a happy outcome for this matter. I am quite clear that we cannot allow the rules of the House to be transgressed. I indicated to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that if he was able to make his remarks which he feels passionately about and without transgressing the rules of the House, I will be delighted. If he were to give some indication that he will try to do that I shall be the first to indicate to my noble friend that he should withdraw his Motion. I would very much like to hear what the noble Earl has to say and I am sure that applies to many other noble Lords. As Leader of the House, I do not believe that I can allow the rules of the House to be transgressed. If the noble Earl can indicate that he will at least try to make his remarks within the rules of the House then I shall be highly delighted.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, we are in some considerable difficulty here because the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has indicated that what he wishes to bring before the House is precisely this case. He has a difficulty. I have great admiration for his desire to bring this case into the daylight and to try to do something for these two people. It is very difficult for him to do so without going beyond the sub judice limits. If he can find a way then I would support the withdrawal of the Motion. If it is not possible for the noble Earl to make his points without trespassing beyond the rules of sub judice then I would have to support the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, this is obviously a very serious step for any Back-Bencher to take in moving the Motion as I have done. I did, it with a very heavy heart. I have listened to observations on this matter from all round the Chamber. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that I was on the Woolsack the last time this matter was raised so I do have a little knowledge of the history of the case which we are trying to avoid discussing. At that time there was no question of it being sub judice because the judicial process had come to a grinding halt.

The reason that it is now sub judice is because the matter is back before the High Court in terms of a judicial review of the Home Secretary's actions, as the noble Lord rightly said, in that particular case. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, was sailing pretty close to the wind at one stage, as clearly did my noble friend the Leader of the House. The noble Lord accepted that and steered his course very carefully away. That is what most of us would do in the particular predicament in which the noble Lord, Lord Dean, found himself. Alas, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, clearly feels so passionately about this case that he is unable to give the response for which my noble friend the Leader of the House asks.

This is such a serious matter that the right thing for me to do, and because of the wise advice which noble Lords have given me from all sides of the Chamber, is to withdraw the Motion at this moment, but to reserve the right to put it again within the same debate, if necessary.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am sorry that I have come into this debate a little late and therefore I am picking it up secondhand, so to speak. I wonder whether the House would adjourn for five minutes so that some of us may have the opportunity of making representations to those who are more intimately concerned with this matter. Then we could no doubt resume where we left off, if needs be.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is perfectly satisfactory to me. My noble friend must first withdraw his Motion, because the Question has to be put. The procedures have to be followed. When his Motion has been withdrawn, the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, can be heard.

Lord Richard

My Lords, as I understand it, the noble Lord has given notice of his intention to withdraw his Motion but it has not yet been formally withdrawn. If it is, then perhaps we can adjourn for five minutes.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, is a most admirable one. It reinforces my wish to withdraw my Motion at this moment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, with the leave of the House, here I stand. I was in the middle of a speech—

Lord Richard

My Lords, I think that it is now technically for me to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until, say, 7.45 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.39 to 7.46 p.m.]

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, many moons ago I was making a speech. Since then there have been many interventions— all of them valuable. I shall try to continue where I left off. I do not want to provoke anybody unnecessarily. I am committed totally to the case of these women and to the injustice that will be done to them if they are sent back to America. However, I am not the boss of affairs and what matters in the end is what the Government do. So I want to know whether the Leader of the House can give us any help here. I hope that he can. Can the noble Lord say whether, if I or any other noble Lord, such as my noble friend Lord Dean, wait until after the decision of the court, there will be an opportunity to discuss the matter in the House before the women are sent back?

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I am not really in a position to give any undertakings which are rightly matters for decision by the Home Secretary. I am sure that the noble Earl would not expect me to do that. However, I recognise the strength of feeling and, if there is an appropriate and proper opportunity for debate within the rules of the House, I shall certainly seek to find an opportunity to allow such a debate. I shall rearrange the business if necessary. I cannot reasonably do anything other than refer to the Home Secretary the great concern of the noble Earl and, I suspect, of other Members of the House, who want an opportunity to discuss the matter as soon as they can. I want to make it quite clear that my position is that I shall do whatever I can. I shall certainly inform the Home Secretary of the strength of feeling, but I cannot give any undertakings that would pre-empt his prerogatives and responsibili-ties in this matter.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I understand the position that the noble Lord the Leader of the House has just set out. Perhaps I may ask him to do one other thing which I do not think goes any further than he is prepared to go. I am not asking the Leader of the House to pre-empt the Home Secretary's decision, but merely to represent to him that, if the judgment of the court went against those two ladies and they were immediately sent back before there was an opportunity for the House to consider the matter, that would be something about which we on this side of the House would feel strongly. Frankly, we would regard that as something which the Government should not properly do.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I certainly give the undertaking to make clear to the Home Secretary the strength of feeling of the Leader of the Opposition. The processes of the courts are not for us to discuss now, but I certainly give the undertaking to ensure that the Home Secretary recognises the strength of feeling.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps I may reinforce that, because the noble Lord the Leader of the House will remember an earlier case where a Home Secretary was greatly chastised because his department had acted too swiftly in removing someone from the jurisdiction of this country when other matters were in train. That example is something which causes the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to worry. I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House to pray that in aid, as it were, with his right honourable friend the Home Secretary in ensuring that, whatever happens, these people are not whisked out of the country before anyone has a chance to offer an opinion.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I can only repeat that I have listened with concerned interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has said. I am in no position to pre-empt the decisions of the Home Secretary, who must carry out his responsibilities as he sees right, and answer for the consequences of them. That is his duty, which he accepts fully. But I understand what the noble Lord has said. I shall ensure that those points are put to the Home Secretary in good time.

7.50 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, it is a great pity that that small debate has interfered with the debate on the Motion. I want to refer to the Motion: To ask Her Majesty's Government what criteria the Home Secretary applies when exercising his discretion over extradition cases". What is going wrong now?

Lord Wakeharn

My Lords, I just want to help the noble Lord. When we started the exchange we have just had, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was addressing the House. He may have finished, but he may not have finished. We should ascertain that before the noble Lord speaks.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I have begun my speech several times, and no one will let me get very far with it. I cannot speak for my noble friend Lord Dean, others of my noble friends, or my Front Bench, but I am ready to say no more tonight and to see what happens.

7.52 p.m.

Lord Morris

My Lords, I have given an indication to all sides of the House that I intended to speak in the gap. I must apologise to noble Lords for so doing. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is shaking his head. I notified both sides of the House that I inadvertently missed by a matter of minutes the statutorily barred period for giving notice to speak in a debate. That was entirely my own clumsiness, for which I apologise. As this is the gap, I am now speaking in it.

I intend to stick strictly to the terms of the Unstarred Question, which are right and proper. The Question is a broad question, but I shall keep to one narrow point. One of the criteria that any Home Secretary must bring to bear when exercising his discretion over extradition cases is where United Kingdom citizens' liberties are threatened because they have to stand trial in the country which is seeking the extradition of those citizens. The matter he must consider is whether citizens of the United Kingdom will receive a fair trial. The standard of fairness is not the standard of a fair trial in the country which is seeking the extradition but the standard of fairness of this country.

Even where the country seeking extradition is a common law country, there are differences in procedures which can prejudice the fairness of the trial. Perhaps I may give an example. In criminal proceedings in this country, as your Lordships know, a learned judge tries the case before a jury. He will assist the jury by guiding it before it comes to a decision on the facts. In some common law countries, that is riot the case. My anxiety is that, without that guidance, juries can be misled. I shall mention just two reasons for that. One is the passage of time that has passed between the incident and the trial and the other is that, in countries that have a different ethos and different mores from this country, different standards may be brought to bear in the minds and hearts of the juries. It is right and proper that any Home Secretary should consider that matter generally.

The only other point I wish to make is that it has been suggested—this is outrageous—of this Administration, in particular, that the Home Secretary might bring to bear matters of high political import in coming to his conclusion; namely, if we do not grant the request of the country seeking extradition then, on other occasions and in other directions—if we wanted that country to extradite persons who had committed crimes against this country—that country would not play ball. In other words the liberties of individuals could be threatened for what are fundamentally diplomatic or political reasons. That is what I am worried about. I am certain that the present Home Secretary would never let that thought cross his mind.

I want again to apologise for speaking, during the gap, but, above all, I, and I am sure the House, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, for making this important point; namely, that any Home Secretary must exercise his discretion over extradition cases with immense care.

7.57 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick has given us the opportunity this evening to discuss the criteria relating to the decision of the Home Secretary to grant requests for extradition by countries with whom we have a relevant treaty. In the event, we have not discussed the criteria at any great length or in any depth, and we have discussed a number of other things. In the circumstances, and in the light of all that has gone on. I think, although I have most carefully prepared:, with great effort, a splendid speech on the criteria with which lf think the Home Secretary should conceim himself, it is in the interests of all of us in the House that I should not: proceed to go any further with it tonight, and I hope that: the Minister might feel able, perhaps, to follow my example so that we could discuss this matter more coolly and more rationally at a later time.

Lord Sefton of Garston:

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I could ask a question. Does: my noble friend agree with me that one of the criteria that the Home Secretary should use in deciding the case. is whether—it is no use my noble friend the Chief Whip looking puzzled, I am perfectly in order—as hinted by the previous speaker, the law in practice in the land concerned complies with our traditions and our ideas of justice? If any person is being extradited to a land where plea bargaining is allowed, will those criteria include refusing extradition if the evidence of someone else given during plea bargaining was a factor in determining the guilt or otherwise of the person accused?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down—

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, the immediate answer to my noble friend is, yes. I think that the Home Secretary would be wise to take such matters into consideration.

8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, made an admirably brief speech and invites me to do the same. In the normal course of events I should be delighted to do so. It is all very fine the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition sighing, but if a noble Lord puts down a Question he must expect an Answer, and I think it is right for me to give the noble Lord, Lord Dean, the Answer to the Question which he asked. If that is boring to your Lordships, all I can say is that it will not take as long as the discussion we have just had, all because of the transgression of our rules.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean, asked on what criteria the Home Secretary exercises his discretion in deciding extradition cases. The simple answer— but a very important one when the Question which the noble Lord asked is about generalities— is that each case is considered on its merits.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to a particular extradition request. As we all now well know, that case is sub judice and I cannot comment upon it. I can therefore reply only in general terms, but I have been asked the Question in general terms by the noble Lords, Lord Dean and Lord Sefton.

The extradition arrangements and the Extradition Act 1989 contain important safeguards which are provided in order to protect the rights of anyone who may become subject to an extradition request. The Secretary of State is involved at two stages in the extradition process. The first is when he has to consider whether to issue an order or an authority to proceed. This enables Bow Street Magistrates' Court to consider the case in committal proceedings.

The second is when the judicial process has run its course and when, if the person who is the subject of the extradition request has not been discharged by the courts, the Secretary of State has to consider whether to issue a warrant for the surrender of that person. At both those stages the Secretary of State has to consider whether the request accords with our law— which is the Extradition Act 1989— as that law applies to the requesting country.

There are some differences in the way in which the law applies to different countries, depending on whether the requesting country is a foreign state which is a co-signatory to the European Convention on Extradition, or whether it is another foreign state, or whether it is a Commonwealth country. Extradition arrangements with foreign states which are not party to the European convention but with which we have a bilateral treaty, such as the United States, are governed by Schedule 1 to the Extradition Act 1989 and this replaced the Extradition Act 1870.

The provisions of bilateral treaties give to the United Kingdom obligations under international law, but we take care when entering into treaty obligations to ensure that there are no inconsistencies with our own extradition law. All our extradition treaties, therefore, recognise, either explicitly or implicitly, that at the end of the day the Secretary of State has a discretion as to whether to order the surrender of a requested person.

At both the stages in which the Secretary of State is involved, each extradition request is carefully scrutinised so as to make sure that it is in the form which is required by our law and that it is supported by the evidence which is required by our law, and in order to ensure that none of the restrictions or prohibitions on surrender in our extradition law or in the arrangements with the country in question applies to that case.

For example, in Schedule 1 cases, such as requests from the United States of America, a person must not be surrendered if the crime of which he or she stands accused was not included in the list of extradition crimes which is annexed to the treaty or if his or her offence was of a political character. In exercising his discretion in Schedule 1 cases, the Secretary of State, as a matter of policy, also takes into account the criteria which are listed in Section 12 of the Extradition Act 1989.

To answer the specific points of the noble Lord, Lord Dean, he was concerned about the protection for the surrendered person. I can tell him that all British citizens surrendered will receive consular protection in the usual way. The consulate will assume responsibility for their welfare and will act as a channel of communication. Under the terms of the treaty, a returned person cannot be tried for any offence other than the one for which he or she is returned.

The Secretary of State will not order the surrender of a person—

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. Perhaps I may put a brief question. There may be circumstances where a person is to be extradited for trial in an area where the alleged offence had taken place and the Home Secretary is satisfied that there could be such prejudice against the person who is to be extradited that it would be almost impossible in his view to hold a fair trial in that area. Could there be a request to the Government carrying out the extradition to ensure that the trial ought to take place in another area of that country where the bias or prejudice may not be so manifest?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am coming to that point. In general, if one extradites a person to another country, that person then comes under the laws of that other country. The Secretary of State will not, however, order the surrender of a person if he believes that it would be unjust or it would be oppressive to return him or her —and this is not an exhaustive list—because, for example, he or she could not get a fair trial in the country concerned or, referring to the point made by my noble friend Lord Morris, because his or her chances of a fair trial would have been prejudiced by delay or other factors, or because the offence for which the return is sought is a trivial offence.

Representations can be made by or on behalf of a person who is awaiting the Secretary of State's decision on whether or not he or she should be surrendered. Those representations will be considered carefully by the Secretary of State. He will consider them and he must decide for himself whether to surrender the person concerned. If the Secretary of State does decide to surrender the person, his decision must be both lawful and reasonable.