The Attorney-General for the Republic of Ireland and I had positive discussions in Dublin on 10 May. We discussed the basis upon which extradition from the Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom of suspected offenders can be undertaken in the light of changes now effected by the Republic's legislation. We have now reached a clear mutual understanding in respect of matters of concern and we confidently hope that in all proper cases extradition will now take place, in conformity with the new Irish legislation.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend say that the Irish Republic is no longer treating the United Kingdom as the least-favoured nation for this purpose? Is not one of the consequences of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that undue pressure is constantly being put upon Her Majesty's Government, without any obligation to make concessions on the other side? Is it not time that the Agreement was replaced by an equal treaty?
My hon. Friend will allow me to comment that questions as to the merits of the agreement go rather wide of the original question. The British Government resisted the proposal to pass the new legislation, but it is now in place. Accordingly, we must recognise that any request for extradition from the Republic, if it is to succeed, must conform with the requirements which the Irish law imposes upon the Irish Attorney. It is in that regard that we had the discussions to which I referred, and it is in that context that we mutually hope, with confidence, that, in proper cases, extradition will now take place.
Does not that understanding or agreement with Dublin give the lie to all those on the Government Benches who have argued that Dublin is not interested in reaching agreement on extraditing to Britain those who are suspected or accused of terrorism? Is it not a fact that there is now a serious responsibility on the Attorney-General himself, whatever views he may have of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to make sure that the agreement on extradition works?
All of us want to see that there is no hiding place for guilty offenders in either of our countries. I do not believe that it is fruitful to harp upon unhappy differences in the past, even in the recent past. We now have to see how we can best co-operate to ensure that, in conformity with our own legislation, guilty or properly suspected offenders are extradited to face justice.