HL Deb 31 March 2003 vol 646 cc92-3WA
Lord Tomlinson

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to update the United Kingdom's bilaterial extradition treaty with the United States of America. [HL2338]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

The Home Secretary is today, together with US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, signing a new bilaterial extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The current UK-USA extradition treaty was agreed in 1972 and ratified in 1976, with supplementary provisions from 1986. It is outdated and can be significantly improved.

The new treaty reflects best modern practice in extradition. In particular, it provides that any crime attracting a maximum sentence of 12 months' imprisonment or more in both the requesting and the requested state is extraditable rather than containing a list of offences which are extraditable, as the present treaty does. The advantage of that is that it encompasses offences such as computer related crime which did not exist when the 1972 treaty was drawn up.

The new treaty brings the evidential rules for requests from the United States into line with those for European countries and simplifies the procedure for the authentication of documents.

As with the existing treaty, the new treaty provides that in death penalty cases, extradition may be refused unless an assurance has been received that no death sentence will be carried out.

The new treaty also maintains the present position that political motivation cannot be used to block extradition in the case of terrorist or other violent crimes.

The treaty stipulates that neither nationality nor statutes of limitations will be a bar to extradition. The treaty also provides the standard speciality protection against onward extradition or surrender, and we have confirmed our understanding that this covers surrender to the International Criminal Court.

Before the treaty can come into force it needs to be ratified by the United States Senate. It will be brought into force in the United Kingdom by Order in Council. Such an order will be made under the existing Extradition Act 1989 and will carry over when the Extradition Bill, which is curently before Parliament, comes into force. At that point the United States, like all of our extradition partners, will benefit from the new streamlined extradition procedures which the Bill seeks to put in place.

The United States is one of our key extradition partners and there is a significant volume of extradition business between the two countries. It is therefore important that our bilaterial extradition treaty should be as effective as possible. I am pleased that it has been possible to reach agreement on the new treaty and that the Government have the opportunity to affirm their commitment to the closest possible cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime.