I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to debate an important matter that requires specific and urgent consideration, namely,
the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister’s defence of this lop-sided treaty in the House last week posed more questions than it answered. The British people simply do not understand why we are stringently enforcing a treaty that has still not been ratified in Washington, why three British citizens will be extradited on Thursday when our own judicial authorities saw no reason to prosecute them here in Britain, and why there appears to be such an imbalance between the minimal information required to extradite a UK citizen to the US and the more substantive justification required to extradite US citizens to the UK.
This is an issue of overwhelming public interest, yet it has been a real struggle to get the Government to acknowledge its significance. A letter placed in the Library of the House last month reveals that the extradition treaty was not even raised during the last visit of the US Secretary of State to the UK at the end of March, despite the then Foreign Secretary’s assurances on 21 March that he would write to her prior to her visit.
This comes at a time when extradition from the US to the UK has dropped from six cases in 2003, before the Extradition Act 2003 came into force, to two last year. Extradition from the UK to the US, however, has more than doubled to 13 cases. The treaty was negotiated in secret and was granted only cursory scrutiny in the House in December 2003, when the only Members who signalled their objections were my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) and my hon. Friends the Members for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and for Southport (Dr. Pugh). I am sure that the House will wish to applaud their foresight. There is now a strong feeling on both sides of the House that we should make up for the absence of scrutiny then with a full debate in the House today, not least in view of the controversy surrounding the fate of the three former NatWest employees.
I understand from contacts with US officials that there is some disagreement over whether the terms of the treaty are reciprocal. Even if there is a debate to be had on those legal details, it is difficult to understand why the Government should enact such important legislation without also exercising the political pressure in Washington, which is only this week belatedly being brought to bear, to encourage the US Congress to enact its side of the bargain.
In keeping with Standing Order No. 24, I hope that I have demonstrated that this is a specific and important matter that merits the full and urgent attention of the House.
The hon. Gentleman seeks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter, which he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom. I am satisfied that the matter is proper to be discussed under the Standing Order.
The leave of the House having been given, the motion stood over under Standing Order No. 24 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) until the commencement of public business tomorrow.