US-UK Extradition Treaty
Opposition Day — [16th Allotted Day]
3:20 pm

Photo of John Gummer

John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal, Conservative)

I am sorry that he is not here, but I have to say that I was deeply disappointed by the new Home Secretary's performance. I had thought that he was a man whose natural common sense would have led him to come to the House with a recognition of the seriousness of the issue before us. Instead, he flatly refused to accept that the Attorney-General had given advice that was wholly contrary to what he asserted again and again. He prayed in aid the fact that he was not very bright-that, because he is not a lawyer, we ought to take his view of the law rather than that of the Law Officer herself. The Home Secretary went on to say that the Attorney-General was anyway not a Law Officer when she gave the advice, but a Home Office Minister. It is not good enough for him to come to the House and propose to begin his answer to a serious and polite debate in that way.

That is my first concern, but things got worse. Secondly, the Home Secretary went on to admit that he did not have the key figures that he was asked for in connection with the numbers of people extradited from the US to Britain, and the circumstances of each case. He had only the figures that suited his case: he had none of the other figures for which he was asked.

Thirdly, the Liberal Democrat Front-Bench spokesman asked the Home Secretary to put his advice in the Library, and he did not even have the courtesy to reply. The spokesman had to intervene again, yet he still did not get a response. Not only did the Home Secretary come to the debate unprepared; he came believing that hectoring and rudeness were suitable responses to what is a serious issue for many people around the country.

Fourthly, the Home Secretary was asked a direct question about the implications of the extra powers that the Government had assumed, and he did not know the answer. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman must be moonlighting, because he did not prepare for a debate in this House about a serious issue that many people have pressed repeatedly.

I know that the Liberal Democrats tend to tease people on matters like this, but they cannot tease me on this one. I have been concerned about it from the beginning, as a result of my experience of the US judicial system. I had a constituent who was an American citizen and who was on death row in Texas for more than 20 years. I went there to plead for his life, and I will repeat what a senior law officer of the state of Texas told me. He said, "Your ex-constituent may be innocent, but he is not a nice man and I don't want him on my streets. That's why he is going to be executed." Those were the words not of some gash prosecution lawyer, but of an official of the Texas court.

Many of us are not happy with how the system works in many American states. Of course it is true that this Government have interpreted the agreement to mean that they will not extradite people who might be subject to the death penalty, but my example illustrates that the American system of justice is not the same as the one in this country-or, dare I say it, in the rest of the EU. We are governed by the European convention on human rights, so it is reasonable to say that people have a right to be concerned when extradition to the US is raised as a possibility.

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