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Clause 98

Volume 113: debated on Tuesday 31 March 1987

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Proceedings For Committal

I beg to move amendment No. 69, in page 62, line 12, leave out 'the foreign state' and insert

'(a) the United States of America or (b) any state which is a party to the European Convention on Extradition'.
The effect of this amendment is to restrict the abolition of the prima facie rule for extradition to requests from western Europe and the United States. I have been concerned about the abolition of the prima facie rule under this piece of legislation. It is a large step to take and it could have a great impact on human rights. I am not sure that it is entirely justified.

The prima facie rule consists of two parts. One is the rule which is the evidence of the crime, and the second is the rule by which the evidence is introduced, and I am not convinced that the evidence rule, which we are abolishing, is to blame for the present state of affairs; I think it is more to do with the rules of evidence.

It is a grave step to grant a request for extradition on a lower standard of proof than that required for committal in this country. So it is vital for us to have confidence in the country that is requesting extradition.

I recognise the Home Secretary's enthusiasm to try to combat international terrorism and I appreciate that we must improve the extradition climate. The Minister knows my views about this. We have discussed the matter in the past and in a letter he wrote to me on 1 August 1986 he intimated that, in effect, this legislation would not be used in countries other than those in western Europe and the United States.

The only purpose of this amendment is formally to put this on the record rather than to leave it lying around in correspondence with Back Benchers.

My hon. Friend has perfectly properly raised this matter and it is certainly our intention to enter into arrangements whereby only the prima facie requirement would be dispensed with in respect of countries which share our standards of justice. In the main that would be Western European countries and the United States. We do not, on the face of the statute, rule out there being other countries outside that grouping with which we might wish to enter into those arrangements. It is quite right, though, that there needs to be a safeguard. The safeguard, I hope my hon. Friend might agree, is provided by Government amendment No. 115, which will he approved this evening, which gives the House the power to veto a non-prima facie treaty by means of annulment of the Order in Council embodying its terms. That would be the basis that any objections could be raised and aired publicly in the House if it were left that we were overstepping the mark in designating a country which was not appropriate for the abolition of the rule.

I hope that on that basis my hon. Friend might withdraw his amendment.

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that reply. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.