Suppression of Terrorism (India)

Croydon Tramlink Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 10:12 pm on 21st July 1993.

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Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office) 10:12 pm, 21st July 1993

I beg to move, That the draft Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978 (Application of Provisions) (India) Order 1993, which was laid before this House on 9th July, be approved. Extradition is the cornerstone of the international effort to ensure that criminals cannot escape justice by crossing frontiers. It is increasingly recognised by Governments that this effort needs to be reinforced. The order will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the extradition treaty that we concluded with India in 1992.

Extradition arrangements with India go back for over a century. This new treaty strengthens them, and sends an important message to terrorists that their activities will not be tolerated. To a very large extent, the treaty replicates the existing arrangements—the Commonwealth scheme —under which we and India are already able to extradite suspected or convicted offenders between ourselves, and indeed almost all other Commonwealth countries. Some hon. Members have asked why we need to have a treaty at all. As I will demonstrate, the treaty is an important joint statement of our mutual determination to defeat terrorism, for there are two new features which the order will enable us to introduce for the first time into our arrangements with India.

First, we and the Indian Government have agreed that, for the purposes of extradition between us, a fugitive will no longer be able to resist his extradition on the grounds that any of the offences listed in the treaty was of a "political" character, and therefore outside the scope of extradition. That will bring our arrangements with India into line with those with almost all western European states, and with the United States of America.

The listed offences, which find their equivalent in schedule 1 to the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978, are serious, and they are those most likely to be terrorist related. Among other things, they relate to the hijacking of aircraft, hostage taking, murder, manslaughter and serious physical assaults, causing explosions, and some firearms offences. I am sure that no Member of the House would wish those accused of such crimes to be able to escape extradition solely on the ground that they are politically motivated. Indeed, I do not believe that our courts would accept that incidents of terrorist violence should be regarded as political. So this element of the treaty is not so much a curtailment to one of the traditional safeguards that all extradition arrangements have contained as a tightening of the law.

Let me assure the House that the treaty does not affect any other safeguard for the fugitive. Every case will continue to be considered on its merits and in strict accordance with our law. Offences under military law will continue to, be outside the scope of extradition, unless they are also offences under the general criminal law of both countries.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Will the Minister tell the House how many applications for extradition India has made in the past 10 years, and how many complaints it has made about the current provisions of the Commonwealth scheme?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I am not aware of any severe complaints about the Commonwealth scheme, but since the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 came into force on 1 September 1967 the Indian Government have extradited one person to the United Kingdom in 1978, and that person was later convicted here of perjury and various forgery charges. I understand that three applications are currently outstanding, two from 1985 for conspiracy and deception suspects and one from 1987 for a conspiracy and fraud suspect. I hope that that is a full answer to the hon. Gentleman.

The important point is that the country to which a fugitive is returned will continue to be unable to add on any new charges for offences that were not disclosed by the same set of facts as the extradition offence, unless the returning country has consented. All requests to this country will continue to be scrutinised twice by Ministers, and at least once by the courts.

Photo of Mr Terry Dicks Mr Terry Dicks , Hayes and Harlington

My hon. Friend's statement so far assumes that the Indian Government act as a democratic organisation, but they do not. Some of my hon. Friends and I believe that if people are deported, their human rights will not be recognised, as is often the case in India now.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I shall come to India's human rights record in a moment, and to the firm assurances that the Indian Government have given the British Government. I know that there are deeply held views on both sides of the Chamber and on both, or all, sides of the argument. However, I must be concerned not with political matters but with ensuring that any application that comes before the British Government and the British courts is treated fairly and objectively in terms of British law. I assure my hon. Friend and all hon. Members that, whatever their individual opinions may be about the political situation in other countries, including India, that is not a consideration for the British courts.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

When such cases come before Ministers and before the British courts, the facts will be studied. A prima facie case, which would satisfy our courts that there is a case to answer, will have to be produced. I do not think that my hon. Friends would want the British courts to start involving themselves in extraneous political considerations.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

My hon. Friend will know about the present problems relating to the availability of legal aid. Will he assure the House that any individual subjected to such pressure will be properly represented in court? Surely we should guarantee that as a basic right of any individual in such a position.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I do not think that my hon. Friend is suggesting that we should make special or additional changes to the legal aid scheme. He knows how it operates and all those who are eligible for it. I would merely stress that any applications coming before the British Government will be scrutinised twice by Ministers and at least once by the British courts. We will be scrutinising them on the basis of the facts and whether there is a prima facie case to answer.

Photo of John Heppell John Heppell , Nottingham East

With how many states outside western Europe have the Government separate extradition treaties?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

We have an extradition treaty with most countries in western Europe and with the United States of America. We have now concluded an extradition treaty with India. Whether we have further extradition treaties with other countries is a matter for negotiation and consideration. The countries that would want to seek reciprocal arrangements with us are inevitably those that have an interest in terrorist matters. Those countries that have no terrorist problems are unlikely to want to conclude a treaty with us, although we have deep concerns about terrorism.

Extradition will remain the ultimate discretion of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and his decisions will continue to be the subject of scrutiny by the courts. He must refuse if there is reason to believe the request is not bona fide or if the person's trial or treatment on return would be prejudiced by his or her race, religion, nationality or political opinions. We take that duty and obligation very seriously.

Photo of Mr Dudley Smith Mr Dudley Smith , Warwick and Leamington

I appreciate what my hon. Friend is trying to achieve and I am not against the general principle. However, is he aware that a large number of Sikhs who are British citizens are very much opposed to many of the efforts of the Indian Government, particularly on matters of human rights? They must be at least uneasy about some of the provisions.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I note and respect the point that my hon. Friend has made. Of course, I am aware of those concerns, which will be felt in many quarters, and I shall talk about human rights in a moment.

I repeat the sentence that I have just uttered about the duty on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and myself in considering the cases. We will operate as we are required to do by law. We must refuse if there is reason to believe that the request is not bona fide or if we suspect or have reason to believe that the person's trial or treatment on return would be prejudiced by reason of race, religion or nationality. I can give my hon. Friend that firm assurance.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting

The hon. Gentleman rightly talks about the role of the courts here. However, is he equally aware that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber are concerned about the role of the courts in India? What assurance do we have from the Indian Government that anyone who is extradited from this country to India will soon be brought before the courts, will have adequate legal representation in the courts and will not be subject to pressures—whatever pressures they may be, and there will most certainly be physical pressures —once they are returned to India?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

We would not have concluded the treaty or be bringing the order before the House if we had good reason to believe that those suggestions would turn out to be the reality.

Of course, we shall monitor carefully any requests for extradition. If one were received and granted, we would monitor carefully what happened if and when a person was returned.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I have given way a great deal already and many hon. Members want to speak. I wish to conclude my remarks and hon. Gentlemen may make their own speeches.

The Secretary of State must also refuse if it would be unjust or oppressive to return the person either because the offence was trivial or committed a long time ago or where there is reason to believe that the accusation was not made in good faith or in the interests of justice.

Genuine political refugees have nothing to fear from the treaty or from the order. Our law will continue to preclude extradition where we believe that the request has been politically motivated, and the treaty contemplates nothing less. [Interruption.] I must make progress. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also wishes to speak in this debate.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. Hon. Members know that, if the Minister does not give way, they must resume their seats.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Many of us know that we will not be called in this debate. If we have reasonable points to put briefly to the Minister, as a courtesy to the House he should at least let us put them to him.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

That is not for the Chair to decide.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I deliberately kept my speech short to allow as many hon. Members as possible to intervene. I have already given way a number of times in this short debate—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. Hon. Members must contain themselves.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I will not give way.

I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will agree that suspected terrorists should not be able to exploit a defence that was certainly not intended to shield them from the justice of our democratic partners. We cannot allow the United Kingdom to be seen as a safe haven for such people. The effect of the order is to say to fugitives that they cannot escape justice for serious crimes simply by claiming that they were politically motivated. If we are satisfied that they will receive fair treatment, they can expect to be returned.

It is obvious that some hon. Members will remain concerned at the prospect of returning terrorists or, indeed, anyone else to India because of anxiety about human rights in that country.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Minister spoke of "returning terrorists" to India in advance of a trial. Surely, he should not say that. He should say people who are accused, suspected or indicted on charges—he should not say that they are terrorists.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

That is a point for debate; it is not a point of order for the Chair.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I am sorry that the debate has come down to such semantics. If it makes hon. Members happy, of course I mean suspected terrorists.

We recognise the genuine concerns of hon. Members about the human rights situation. We have spoken frankly to the Indian Government about the importance that we attach to human rights. We have been encouraged by the decision of the Indian Government to legislate for an independent Indian human rights commission. The Indian Prime Minister has assured us that violations of human rights are and will be fully investigated and wrong-doers punished. He is determined to ensure that his country deserves international respect, of which this treaty is an expression.

I explained earlier that the treaty and the order contain two differences from our previous extradition arrangements with India under the Commonwealth scheme. I have spoken briefly about the first difference and, undoubtedly, many hon. Members will have points to make about that. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is here to take on board those points and respond to them, if he has an opportunity to do so.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I hope that it is a proper point of order.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It is a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the second time in 24 hours that a Home Office Minister has come to the Dispatch Box and read out a speech prepared by the Home Office without giving way to hon. Members on either side of the House. This order is as important as any other business before the House. It concerns the ratification of a treaty that has been signed by a Minister.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

It is not a matter of order for the Chair. As I said before, and as the hon. Gentleman knows full well, it is a matter for whoever has the floor of to decide whether to give way. As a matter of fact, the Minister has given way.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

For the record, I have given way five times in a one-and-a-half-hour debate.

The second new feature is the extension of United Kingdom jurisdiction over certain of the more serious offences listed in schedule 1 to the 1978 Act when they have been committed or attempted in India.

Extra-territorial jurisdiction can be a valuable tool in our efforts to bring criminals to justice. It is an alternative to extradition, rather than a replacement for it. For example, under the order, a person could be prosecuted in the United Kingdom for causing an explosion in India with intent to endanger life if, for some reason, extradition were not possible and all the evidential requirements of our system could be met. The same would apply in a case of murder, kidnapping, hijacking, and other serious terrorist offences. This new jurisdiction in the case of India will also enable us, in due course, to ensure that our courts arc able to enforce the orders of Indian courts confiscating terrorists' funds. That will be the subject of an Order in Council under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.

Because certain serious crimes of violence committed in India will, as I have explained, become offences in the United Kingdom, it will as a consequence become an offence in the United Kingdom to conspire to incite in the United Kingdom people to commit such serious crimes of violence in India. Once again, this will bring our arrangements with India into line with those with most western European countries and the United States of America. Just as it is unacceptable that those who commit in India serious crimes of this nature should abuse the extradition procedures of this country—

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I shall conclude this section and then give way briefly.

Those who organise crimess from this country cannot be allowed to escape the consequences, simply because their intention was to see a very serious crime committed in another country. Needless to say, any such charge would have to be accompanied by sufficient evidence to persuade our courts that it was substantiated.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald , Hertfordshire North

Many of my constituents who are Sikhs and Kashmiris are concerned that, whereas in Europe we are reasonably satisfied that the judicial arrangements for the people who are extradited are acceptable, in India the judicial system is not as effective and has a political background to it, so there is a risk of not getting a fair trial. Would my hon. Friend wish to comment on that?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

We take the view that, if we can conclude an extradition treaty with another democratic Government, it is because we have been satisfied that the judicial system is such that trials will be fair. I repeat: before anyone is extradited, he or she will have to satisfy British legal procedures and British Ministers that there is a prima facie case to answer. The burden of proof will he the same burden as we have in British courts in the present committal proceedings.

Obviously, genuinely held doubts and concerns will remain in some quarters of the House. Let me re-emphasise that, to a very large degree, the treaty represents nothing more than an endorsement of the current state of affairs. But it also shows, importantly, that we intend to fight terrorism in co-operation with the Indian Government.

The Indian Parliament is already part-way through the process of making the necessary legislative arrangements to enable ratification of the treaty. The order will come into force only when the Indian procedures have been completed, and on the day when we exchange instruments of ratification.

The bulk of the treaty requires no legislation in order to give effect to it in this country, but its two special features, which are the subject of the order and which I have endeavoured to explain simply, mark it out. They send a firm message to terrorists that neither we nor the Indians will tolerate their activities within our borders and that we will ensure that they face justice in one or other of our countries if they do not take heed.

I commend the order to the House.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs) 10:32 pm, 21st July 1993

Last night the Government introduced a series of petty, grudging and introverted measures to handicap our immigration and asylum appeals system. Only one day later, they bring to the House another measure which may be the subject of widely differing interpretations. The Labour party and. I hope, every hon. Member fully supports initiatives intended to combat terrorism and human rights abuses. The danger is that the Government may be seen to be dealing with one of those problems, through this extradition treaty, at the expense of the other.

The treaty was widely criticised for the context in which it was signed. We certainly want to increase trade with a close friend and ally, as India is, but is this order the political price being extracted for a number of trade deals? When the Prime Minister visited India—indeed, when he addressed the British-Indian parliamentary group earlier this week—were human rights as high as trade issues on his agenda? I hope that the Minister will answer that question.

The Labour party welcomes in principle terrorism extradition provisions, wherever they apply. Terrorism is not merely a blight on the democracies of the west but, sadly, must be faced by all democracies. We must be constantly vigilant against it and the Labour party has always supported all reasonable international attempts to bring terrorists to trial.

The Government cannot, however, hide behind our loathing of terrorism. A number of questions about the order must be answered and I hope that the Minister or his colleague will answer our five basic questions—the Minister has already tackled one or two of them in his speech—when he winds up the debate.

First, why do the Indian Government require additional powers? Has a case been made for saying that the Commonwealth extradition agreement is not adequate to tackle the problems of the issue facing India and the United Kingdom?

Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) asked, how many complaints have been received about the inadequacy of the Commowealth extradition agreement? At face value, only one request in 10 years from the entire area hardly shows a massive demand for change.

Thirdly, what new powers will be exercised under the new treaty? Is it window dressing or a diplomatic symbol agreed because of the Prime Minister's visit to India?

Fourthly, if India can get a separate treaty, are the Government negotiating a further treaty with any other country with terrorism problems?

Fifthly, on a more technical issue, do the provisions of the extradition treaty apply to people with dual nationality as well as to Indian nationals?

Our welcome for the order is tempered by a grave disquiet about continuing reports of breaches of human rights in India, many of which are alleged to he perpetrated or implicitly condoned by those in positions of power in both the military and the Government there. I will elaborate on that issue shortly.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

My hon. Friend mentioned violations of human rights. He will therefore recognise the problem of Kashmir. Is it not strange that, although the Government said that the relevant United Nations resolution should be applied to Kashmir, they now seem prepared to waive that? How will they regard a political offence in relation to Kashmir when for many years they have clearly refused to carry out the United Nations resolution?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

My hon. Friend makes a telling point.

Photo of Mr David Young Mr David Young , Bolton South East

Will my hon. Friend take on board the concern felt by many hon. Members who represent Kashmiri communities about the Indian Government's failure to allow Amnesty International, the press and Members of Parliament from this country to visit India to investigate the position there? The way in which the measure is being railroaded through makes the British legal system look like an instrument for Indian oppression. Is there not a deep and abiding concern that the term "terrorist" may be being used instead of the term "freedom fighter"? We are against genuine terrorists, but the United Kingdom cannot act as an instrument of oppression of another state.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

My hon. Friend will know that Labour Members—not least my hon. and right hon. Friends from the shadow Foreign Office team—have raised those matters continually and will continue to do so. However, I am pleased to welcome the fact that the Indian Government are prepared to allow international human rights organisations to enter areas of concern. I understand that for some years Amnesty International was not allowed to visit parts of Kashmir. I shall seek further reassurances on the subject, but I am pleased to hear what I understand to be an agreement to the effect that Amnesty International will be allowed to go in and investigate matters where it feels it appropriate to do so.

On the issue of human rights abuses, Amnesty International's 1992 report states: 25,000 political prisoners, including some prisoners of conscience, were held without charge or trial under special or preventative detention laws. Torture and ill-treatment continued to be widespread and systematic, resulting in scores of deaths in custody. Hundreds of people 'disappeared' or were extra-judicially executed in 'encounters' staged by the police or security forces. The security forces deliberately killed unarmed civilians suspected of supporting insurgents. At least six people were judicially executed. I think that the House will agree that if that report is correct it is profoundly disturbing for a country which holds a special and honoured place in the fellowship of modern democratic nations.

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

The hon. Gentleman said that the fact that the Indian Government were expressing a willingness to open up to Amnesty International and take action on human rights was to be welcomed. Does he agree that it would have been better if the British Government had waited until the measures were in place so that the Indian Government could point to an improved human rights record before the order was brought before the House tonight?

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

The response from both sides of the House to the hon. Gentleman's intervention shows hon. Members' feelings on the subject.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

While an examination by Amnesty International or other human rights organisations of the conditions in which prisoners are held is important and necessary, and should have been available for 20 years, does not a fundamental problem remain? The police in India have taken upon themselves—with Government support—the power to arrest and detain without charge or trial for unlimited periods, in secret prisons and without the opportunity for the due process of law. It is on that basis that torture follows.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

The Acts passed in India which legitimise many of the practices to which Amnesty International and I have referred lie at the centre of the problem. The state appears to feel that it is under threat and therefore passes Acts which legitimise actions that would be deplored by all hon. Members. That is one of the reasons why we are less than enthusiastic about supporting the extension of extradition rights, which were previously limited to our European Community partners and the United States.

Such issues have led my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, West, for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), for Tooting (Mr. Cox) and for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Godsiff) and many other colleagues from both sides of the House to attend the debate. I pay tribute to them for doing so. It should be placed on record that many hon. Members from all parties are present. To my knowledge, there is no three-line Whip for the debate. The fact that both sides of the House are crowded at this time of night and on such a day shows the seriousness with which hon. Members view the subject.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, and what he has just said about the presence of hon. Members from both sides of the House who are extremely concerned about the human rights aspects of the matter. Without wishing to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, as the official Labour spokesman on the subject, will he join in the Lobby a number of us who feel that we must vote against the extradition treaty?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

I hope that it will become clear as I continue my speech that the Opposition feel that the extradition provisions on terrorism are obviously necessary in some parts of the globe. I do not believe that anyone would wish to be associated with any weakening of the fight against terrorism. But equally, I hope that the reservations that I have outlined so far will make it clear to hon. Members on both sides of the House that we have some profound difficulties with the way in which the Government have drawn up the agreement and the way in which they are proceeding tonight.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

No, I wish to make some progress. I have been relatively generous in giving way. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later.

It would be unfair and unbalanced exclusively to blame the Indian authorities for abuses of rights in India. There is no question but that militant groups have also been responsible for breaches of human rights. For example, in their report on human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights identified executions, rape, torture and indiscriminate attacks by militant groups in Kashmir. Those abuses can never be ignored or condoned, regardless of any personal views about the status of Kashmir.

If the Government had accompanied signing the treaty or publication of the order with a condemnation of rights abuses of all natures by all parties in India, and made positive proposals to help to reduce them, perhaps their stance would be more acceptable. No one underestimates the massive and intractable difficulties facing India and its political society. Once again, however, I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity, either in his reply or in an intervention, to reassure the House that the Government will make every effort to promote the cause of human rights in India.

We unequivocally welcome the apparent change in the Indian Government's policy on allowing Amnesty into areas to which it was previously denied access. If the provisions are not to lead to miscarriages of justice, abuse of rights—as I have said, hon. Members are right to have expressed anxiety at the extent of abuse in India—it is vital that the British Government effectively enforce articles 9 and 16 of the treaty. Article 9 allows refusals of extradition on the grounds of political opinion, and article 16 allows refusals on the grounds that the death penalty may be incurred.

We need reassurances from the Minister not only that adequate safeguards exist but that the political will exists to enforce them. Assurances must be given that the treaty would be suspended if the death sentence would he imposed on anyone extradited from Britain under the treaty. I urge the Minister not to hesitate to refuse extradition if a real risk exists of the accused receiving an unfair trial.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

The hon. Gentleman has rightly identified some reservations that are held by hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, but four times I have counted the hon. Gentleman saying that his party has supported the general fight against terrorism. Why, then, has his party consistently opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Act?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving way to the hon. Gentleman. He becomes a bigger joke every time he opens his mouth.

The Minister might also take the chance later to comment on the worries that many hon. Members have about the long delays in bringing cases to trial in India. Commenting on other nations taking a long time to bring cases to trial may wear a little thin when we look at the record of the judiciary and legal system in Britain. None the less, the delays are a serious matter and I hope that the Minister will take them into consideration.

The Government must also be sensitive to the signals that the order may give to the settled communities in the United Kingdom. Fears have rightly been expressed about the implications for legitimate fund-raising activities in the communities in the United Kingdom. That fear is that they might eventually be drawn into the extradition net as well. I understand that further proposals to limit fund raising are possibly in the pipeline. I hope that the Minister will reassure the wider communities who do a great deal of perfectly legitimate fund raising that there is no possibility of those who raise such funds being caught by any provision which might result in their extradition.

Photo of Mr Terry Dicks Mr Terry Dicks , Hayes and Harlington

Would the hon. Gentleman care to comment on the activities of the Indian security services among the Sikh and Muslim communities in this country?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence of such activity, we shall all be interested to hear about it. I have none.

This order is a small piece of a larger puzzle. That puzzle is not a matter for us; it is a picture that the Indian Government and people will have to piece together. It will involve establishing a safe and democratic role for India in the international community. India will have to resolve its relationship with its neighbours, especially Pakistan. It will also have to work out solutions to the ethnic and religious troubles from which its communities suffer. These problems are the province of the people of India and only they can resolve them. As a long-standing friend of India, the British Government have a crucial role to play. We shall be respected as India's friend only by being—and being seen to be—even-handed.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Keighley 10:50 pm, 21st July 1993

It might be said that nothing could be more reasonable or right than an extradition treaty directed against terrorism. Treaties of this kind, however, should only be concluded between countries whose legal processes and methods of upholding justice and order show a close correspondence. It is to my great regret that that cannot be said of our country and India, despite the fact that it is a great country with which we wish to enjoy the warmest relations.

There must be serious doubts about the wisdom of concluding an extradition treaty with a country whose recent human rights record reads as badly as India's. For many years, I have been a member of Amnesty International. It has a first-class record of investigating allegations of human rights abuse and of recording their outcome without fear or favour. Any country whose record is under scrutiny is unwise to seek to undermine Amnesty's reputation.

Recognising pressure from this and other directions, India has often, and for many years, promised to open up the country to visits from human rights organisations, but invariably applications for such visits have ended up with refusals or obstruction. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) should pay close attention to that fact.

Recently, assurances have been given that such visits would be acceptable in principle, provided that state and central Governments were both in agreement. But only a matter of a few days ago, Amnesty's visit to Bombay—I remind the House that there is no insurgency there—was refused. It is therefore hardly surprising that some scepticism about such announcements has developed.

Interestingly enough, three days ago, on 17 July, the Indian High Commissioner in London, Dr. Singhvi, stated on a BBC World Service broadcast that international human rights organisations would now be allowed to enter Kashmir "under certain conditions". He repeated the offer on Monday in the presence of many of the hon. Members who are present for this debate. Although the commitment is welcome in principle, it would be helpful to know what those conditions are.

Will Amnesty officials be allowed to talk not only to security officers and Government officials but to representatives of opposition groups and nongovernmental organisations? Will they be able to travel freely without military or Government escort? We need answers to these key questions. As Her Majesty's Government have in the past urged India to admit human rights organisations, I hope that they will press for this agreement in principle to be put speedily into effect, with none of the restrictions that would throw doubt on the ability of human rights organisations to investigate fully and freely.

Concern has been expressed about how the treaty will relate to the disputed areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Many would argue that, since those areas are still subject to dispute, special provisions should apply to that treaty.

One cannot overlook the reports of apparently deliberate killings of unarmed civilians by members of the security forces. One cannot ignore the widespread claims of torture, rape and the arbitrary arrests of suspected separatists. An increasing number of them are alleged to have disapeared or died while in custody. Since 1985, nearly 500 cases of deaths in custody have been recorded in India. Very few have been investigated properly. Amnesty and other organisations have recorded hundreds of such cases, and I wish there was time in this short debate to refer to them. I shall, however, refer to one.

In December 1990, a doctor in Srinagar made a statement about a patient that he had treated in hospital. It is important to note that, in late 1989, extra powers had been granted to the security forces in response to mounting violence on the part of armed opposition groups in the state. The doctor reported: I yesterday discharged a patient aged between 18 and 20, who had been in this hospital for three months. Twenty per cent. or more of his body had suffered deep burns from a hot clothes iron. These burns were … so serious that I and other doctors had only just succeeded in saving his life. He had also been shot by a bullet in the armpit. His torturing with the clothes iron had all been done during interrogation by the regular army at Sopore. It is because of that case, and so many others, that great concern has been expressed, here and in the Indian subcontinent, about the way in which those who are extradited and the many others held in Jannu, Kashmir and other disputed parts of India will be treated in custody.

I remind the House that special laws are in force in Jammu and Kashmir that curb legal safeguards and encourage human rights violations, for example, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. That legislation tends to give the security forces carte blanche for their actions.

Allegations about human rights abuses have also been made in Assam and Punjab. Earlier in the year, numerous allegations were made even in Delhi about human rights abuses and deaths in custody following torture by the police.

The Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Rao, has issued a clear condemnation of such behaviour. On 17 February, he addressed the Indian police and acknowledged the threat to the reputation of India on the world stage. He urged the police to ensure that excesses are not committed, especially in custody. Human rights are of paramount importance in a democracy like ours. Recognition at the highest level of a serious problem of custodial violence, which demands to be addressed, has not been matched by an ability or determination to carry into practice the commitment, given in the name of India, to protect human rights. Last year, the Government said that they would strengthen legal safeguards for detainees in custody, but they have obviously failed to take the necessary action.

Such injustices can be remedied, even in part, only by ensuring that, in all cases of torture and death in custody, a speedy independent inquiry is held, and those responsible are brought to justice. I believe that the extradition treaty should not have been concluded until such a commitment had been given.

It is true that murders and atrocities have been committed by armed opponents of the Indian Government, many of them separatists. Surely it is worth bearing in mind the fact that nothing feeds militancy more assiduously than oppression and unpunished atrocities committed by those who are supposed to be responsible for upholding law and order. It is hardly surprising that the number of people seeking separation from India has swelled since India moved 500,000 security forces into Jammu and Kashmir and gave them such wide discretion to act. It should be noted that India has as many troops occupied with those people it regards as its own, as it has dedicated to external defence.

India is, of course, under pressure and I believe that that pressure should continue. Last month, the United States Congress passed an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill cutting $4·1 million from US overseas aid to India. It is worth remembering that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said shortly after taking office that the British Government's policy in future would be to link foreign aid to a country's human rights record, and that India is this country's leading recipient in terms of foreign aid.

In relation to the need for an extradition treaty, my hon. Friend the Minister said that passing this measure tonight will send a signal. I suggest that, to a considerable extent, it will signal to India that Britain is willing to tolerate abuses of the kind to which I have referred. I am sure that we would not be willing to tolerate that, but that is the signal which, regrettably, many people will understand. In this country, the treaty will be seen as a threat hanging over those who wish to express their views in our free society in the United Kingdom.

We should be concerned, not just about the Government's intentions in bringing the treaty before us tonight, but about the perception in Britain and in the Indian subcontinent. Considering that perception, I must say that there is no way in which I can possibly support the treaty. Indeed, I must oppose it.

Photo of Roger Godsiff Roger Godsiff , Birmingham Small Heath 11:01 pm, 21st July 1993

Like the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), I regret that I also cannot support the treaty—not because I am not as committed as any hon. Member to combating international terrorism, but because I do not believe that the order contributes to achieving that. I also believe—this legitimate fear is shared by many hon. Members—that the treaty will be used by the Indian Government to persecute still further Kashmiris who are seeking to do nothing more than to assert their legitimate right to determine their own future.

The treaty will include all Indian citizens. Many people in Jammu and Kashmir do not consider themselves Indian citizens; they consider themselves Kashmiris. However, the treaty presupposes that they are Indian citizens and that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir belong to India, and it includes all the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir in its provisions.

The Minister told us that the order will simply extend the provisions of the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978 to enble international terrorism to be combated in a better way. We have already heard the number of cases where India has asked for extradition and the number of cases where the United Kingdom Government have asked the Indian Government for extradition. That clearly shows that the current arrangements are working perfectly well. There is no need for this measure.

We are told that India's democratic institutions and judicial arrangements mirror our own, and that it is therefore quite appropriate for us to have an extradition treaty with India. That might operate in theory, but it most certainly does not operate in practice in the Kashmir valley.

The Kashmir Bar Association recently provided figures that show that 15,000 bail applications are pending in Indian-held Kashmir. Some 5,000 bail applications were granted, but the authorities refused to implement them, and 500 cases of habeas corpus are outstanding.

Indian-held Kashmir is not run by a judicial authority; it is run by the Indian military. To do that, vast numbers of troops have been deployed throughout Indian-held Kashmir. Indeed, the latest figures suggest that, for every 10 Kashmiris, there is now one Indian troop in Indian-held Kashmir. As the hon. Member for Keighley pointed out, Amnesty International has documented many hundreds of cases of human rights abuse, but, against that background of abuse, the Government are seeking to pursue an extradition treaty which will put relations with India on a par with arrangements with other western countries.

Our own suppression of terrorism legislation grew out of the accord of the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. All signatories to that convention are European countries. They were signatories to the European convention on human rights; India was not. They were all signatories to the Helsinki agreement; India was not. As a matter of interest, they were all signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; India was not.

We are being asked to give India special provisions that only one non-European country has been accorded, and that is the United States of America. Whatever our feelings about the United States of America, I am not aware of any part of the USA being under martial law or of the human rights abuses that have been catalogued in Jammu and Kashmir occurring in the USA.

How can the Government argue that there are sufficient safeguards to ensure that, under the treaty, the person being extradited would not be prejudiced … or be punished, detained or restricted on grounds of political opinion when the Indian army is daily carrying out a war against the people of Indian-held Kashmir and when, under the Indian constitution, it is an act of treason for any Indian national to advocate secession by part of the union from the state of India?

That means that, if any Kashmiri were to argue the cause of self-determination for the people of Kashmir and secession from the Indian union, in the eyes of the Indian Government, he would be guilty of treason. In that case, would the Indian Government have the right to ask for him to be extradited back to India to stand trial for treason?

I cannot but believe that the British Government have put human rights at the forefront of their consideration of the issue. I cannot help but feel that what is really driving the treaty is our desire to increase commerce with India and, above all, to increase the arms trade to India. One third of our current exports to India relate to the arms trade. A junior Defence Minister is actively involved in promoting the arms trade with India.

Senior executives of Marconi have a long list of examples of export licences being conveniently rearranged to ensure that words such as "atomic" and "nuclear" are left out of those licences. We are well aware from available evidence that India is acquiring a massive nuclear arsenal, and the British Government are only too happy to assist with that.

The treaty is unnecessary. If the Indian Government were to implement the United Nations resolutions of 1947, 1948 and 1960 and give the people of Jammu and Kashmir the right to determine their own future, and if those people then determined their own future, perhaps the Indian Government would have a just case for bringing such a treaty to the British Government and asking the House to approve it. Until the Indian Government do that, and until they clean up their human rights record, I am not prepared to support the treaty.

Photo of Mr Terry Dicks Mr Terry Dicks , Hayes and Harlington 11:08 pm, 21st July 1993

I endorse everything that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Godsiff) said about Kashmir and the Punjab. The treaty is not needed, because an acceptable one is already in place, linking this country with the other Commonwealth countries. The Government have been conned by the Indian Government, who see British recognition of the treaty as a way of saying to the rest of the world, "Britain recognises our problems and supports us." My hon. Friend the Minister gave the game away when he referred to terrorists being sent back to India. He slipped, so he then said that he meant potential terrorists. He made the slip and it is on the record. He can wriggle and twist, but it is there for all to see.

India is referred to as the largest democracy in the world. I call it the biggest hypocrisy in the world. It talks about democracy while it practises state terrorism. It is amazing that, when President Clinton recently launched a missile attack against Iraq, our Prime Minister rightly said that Britain was opposed to state terrorism and supported Clinton. Why on earth is my right hon. Friend, through this treaty and by meeting India's representatives, supporting India's state terrorism, which is even worse than that in Iraq?

Because Kate Adie does not go to the Punjab, there are no headlines telling us about India's state terrorism. She goes to Bosnia, so Bosnia becomes a major international issue. Nothing is heard about the Punjab and the suppression of human rights in India, because the media do not want to go there. Like colleagues on both sides of the House, I have tried to get the media to raise the issue, but they do not want to know, because it is not a major issue. Of course it is not a major issue, because the media do not want to make it one and because of the so-called wonderful, friendly relationship between our Government and the Indian Government.

We are supposed to believe that there have been new moves to allow human rights organisations to operate in India. I have tried six times to get a visa to go to India and the Punjab. The Indian high commissioner does not even have the decency to reply. He answers my letters on any other matters, but will he let me go to India? No. I offered him a deal, both on the radio and in writing. I said, "Let me go. If my Sikhs are telling me lies about the suppression, murder and rape of people in the Punjab, I will come back and call them liars. But if they are telling the truth and the Indian Government are lying, I will come back and say that." "Oh no," they said, "we can't do a deal like that." Of course not—the deal was too fair.

The Indian Government know that they are liars and that they are misleading people. They know that my Sikhs and the Sikhs and Kashmiris throughout this country are telling the truth about what has happened to their relatives. The Indian Government do not want to know. I say to them, "If you have nothing to hide, why are you hiding something?" Their abuse of human rights makes the abuse in Iraq pale into insignificance, and it has been going on for a damned sight longer—since 1984.

Other hon. Members have said that Kashmir has a right to self-determination; so does the Punjab. There is nothing wrong with fighting for that cause, provided that it is done in a reasonable way. I accept that a handful of terrorists are making it bad for the genuine people who want self-determination, but we must put that aside and ask whether there is a cause and a justification. The answer is yes, there is a justification—and I am sick and tired of telling my Government that there is. This is my fourth speech on the issue in three or four years. My Government do not want to know because of their damned cosy relationship with the Indian Government.

Some hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), belong to the curry club. They pop off to India every other week, have a dose of curry and chips and come back saying that India is a wonderful place. I just know that my hon. Friend will say that when he speaks in a minute or two.

The Government should now take three steps. The first is not to sign the treaty until there is clear, practical evidence from the Indian Government that they are beginning to listen to us. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is a wonderful friend of the Indian Government. They can do nothing wrong. He said to me, "Terry, those people are all terrorists, you know." He virtually implied that anyone who wears a turban is a terrorist.

That is the view of the Foreign Office, which never does anything in the British interest unless it coincides with the Foreign Office interest. If it does not, the Foreign Office interest comes first. I say to my hon. Friends—if I can call them that tonight—on the Front Bench that the treaty must not be signed until we get guarantees and evidence of good will by the Indian Government.

Secondly, if we do not get those guarantees, we should cut off overseas aid to India—£104 million of taxpayers' money goes to that dreadful regime so that it can suppress decent people going about their business in the Punjab and Kashmir.

Finally, if the Indian Government do not learn from that lesson, we should cut off diplomatic relations and say that state terrorism, like individual terrorism, is not acceptable to the British Government. I say to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, "Stand up and be counted. Stop bending over backwards for the Indian Government. Stand by decency, by human rights and by the things that the British people and the British Government have always believed in."

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale 11:13 pm, 21st July 1993

I agree wholeheartedly with all hon. Members who have expressed their opposition to the order, for which there is no necessity because extradition provisions are already in place. The Government are introducing this measure only to give a pat on the back to the Indian Government—to give them a seal of approval.

I have no idea how the Government can do that, when human rights abuses—especially in Indian-held Kashmir —are continuing on a daily basis. The Indian forces allegedly moved into one village and raped every woman there—from young girls to old women—and murdered the young men. To give such a regime a pat on the back is absolutely horrendous.

Human rights abuses are being committed thoughout Indian-held Kashmir. The Indian Government are totally opposed to the international covenant on civil and political rights, which they signed and to which they committed themselves—but to which they do not adhere.

Article 3 of the Geneva convention says that the wounded and sick should be collected and cared for, but Asia Watch has already reported a number of cases in which sick people—even those on life support machines —have been arrested and taken into custody.

The Indian Government do not allow the International Red Cross to give aid, and so much for their assurance that Amnesty International will be allowed to enter the area. Unless Amnesty International is able to monitor the situation and to move freely around the entire country, I for one shall not believe the Indian Government's reassurances. According to official estimates alone, 7,000 people have died, but I believe that the true figure is nearer 22,000.

Time and time again, the all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir has been refused permission to enter Indian-held Kashmir. The Indian Government should now bow to pressure from right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House, but our Government are giving the Indian Government a pat on the back because they want more trade contracts with India. We should say no to any new extradition treaty.

At a meeting with the former Home Secretary, I asked the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) whether there had ever been an occasion in the past few years when, under the existing treaty, the Indian Government could not have extradited someone from this country. He said that no such case came to mind. If that is so, why is a new extradition treaty needed? The order merely gives a seal of approval to the Indian Government, and we should reject it.

Photo of Mr Toby Jessel Mr Toby Jessel , Twickenham 11:17 pm, 21st July 1993

I declare an interest in that for the past 22 years I have served as an officer of the all-party Indo-British parliamentary group—first as secretary, then as vice-chairman and chairman. I may tell my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) that I have never been served with curry and chips. I do not know whether that is what they eat in Hayes and Harlington.

It is the purpose of the Indo-British parliamentary group to uphold good relations with India—that is, with the whole of India and with all the peoples of every province throughout that republic.

The heading to this business in the Order Paper is: Prevention and supression of terrorism". The House should never sanction or condone terrorism or terrorists from any country or in any part of the world. The terrorist is the most vicious type of criminal. He cares nothing for the sanctity of human life, the victim or the victim's family, however innocent they may be. He tries by bomb or bullet to achieve political objectives that he cannot achieve through the ballot box.

The terrorist is therefore the enemy of free democracy, which is a cherished ideal both in India and Britain. He is the enemy of human rights, because the most important human right is the right to stay alive. There has been little mention so far in this debate of the human rights of the terroist's victims.

We should never give any quarter or safe haven to any terrorist, wherever he may come from.

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that people who have committed terrorist crimes could not be extradited under the existing arrangements? How can that be squared with the former Home Secretary's comment that he could not recall any case in which extradition was sought but could not be obtained under the existing arrangements?

Photo of Mr Toby Jessel Mr Toby Jessel , Twickenham

That is the whole point. Extradition exists for other types of crime, but does not work in respect of terrorism. If a terrorist says that he has a political motive, he is not extradited. The purpose of this measure is to catch suspected terrorists, bring them to justice and put them out of harm's way. If that is right within any free democracy, it must be right between free democracies—and that means extradition.

I asked the Library which crimes that would apply to, and the Library provided me with a much longer list than that read out by my hon. Friend the Minister. According to that information,

For the purposes of this Treaty the following offences shall not be regarded as offences of a political character. It goes on to mention the unlawful seizure of aircraft, acts against the safety of civil aviation, taking of hostages, offences against diplomatic agents, murder, manslaughter, culpable homicide, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the causing of an explosion likely to endanger life, the making or possession of an explosive substance by a person who intends to endanger life or cause serious damage to property, the possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person who intends either himself or through another person to endanger life, the use of firearms, damaging property with intent to endanger life, kidnapping, abduction, false imprisonment or unlawful detention and incitement to murder.

Anyone who commits any of those acts ought to be brought to justice, whether it is within a country or whether it entails the crossing of a boundary and thus requires extradition. It is absurd that the situation has been allowed to continue for so long without extradition. The order should be approved, and approved quickly.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West 11:21 pm, 21st July 1993

While the Minister was telling us about his confidence in the Indian judicial system, I was recalling my remarkable visit in 1990 to Amritsar high security prison in the Punjab. I was told before I entered that I would find no one there under 18; in the event, I met 500 prisoners—they were arranged in a circle under the noonday sun, which was extremely hot even in March—among whom were half a dozen young men under 18. The youngest was 12. I also found a man who had been in the prison for six years. He had been released at the end of each six months, re-arrested at the entrance to the prison and re-imprisoned. In India, it is called the "revolving door" judicial policy.

At present, 50,000 people are in Indian prisons without trial. In 1992, the Government issued an official brief which said: The violence in Punjab has had a profound and damaging effect on the lives of Sikhs and others. The Indian Government admit that human rights violations against innocent civilians, including many Sikhs have occurred. The British Government have regularly expressed concern about the situation in Punjab. On 17 July, in The Guardian, John Rettie wrote—referring to Kashmir, which I also visited in 1990 — But the rule of law does not exist—the Indian security forces simply ignore the courts—and to an outsider the valley feels like an occupied country. Delhi contends that the Kashmiri militant groups enjoy no popular support except what they enforce by 'fear of the gun'. This is inconceivable. No insurgency could last so long or be so effective without widespread popular sympathy. The sense of alienation from India among Kashmiris is overwhelming. My hon. Friends and many Conservative Members have testified to that point of view.

I believe that the treaty is wholly unnecessary. To be implemented, it will require the approval of both Houses. I have no doubt that the payroll vote will ensure that the order is approved tonight, but the other place will presumably consider whether to approve it in the autumn.

I challenge the Indian Government, between now and the autumn, to give us some confidence in their determination to combat the gross human rights violations taking place, and to allow Amnesty International, the International Red Cross and Asia Watch free access to all parts of India, especially the Punjab, Kashmir and Assam, so that they can freely investigate the catalogue of gross human rights violations reported in all those states. If the Indian Government were prepared to do that immediately, that would go a considerable way towards dispelling the concern about the situation in which the treaty is being agreed.

No doubt the Indian Government desperately desire the treaty as a political weapon. They will be able to say to Indians in India and to the international community,. "Look here, we would not have this treaty unless the British Government agreed with us that our terrorist problem is almost unique." They will even be able to go further and say that, by agreeing the extradition treaty, the British Government not only recognise their terrorist problem but endorse their anti-terrorist policy and give a seal of approval to the methods and tactics that they use to combat terrorism.

That is a dangerous signal for this country to send, at a time when our Prime Minister tells us that good government and the observance of human rights are priorities for his Administration. Like other hon. Members, I attended the Indian parliamentary group meeting on Monday, which was addressed by the Prime Minister. He spent all his time emphasising the benefits of investment, and of trade and business with India. He did not utter a single word about the gross abuse of human rights in India. That was a remarkable omission.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Did my hon. Friend get an inkling from the Prime Minister's talk that there had been any linkage between the order which we are being asked to approve and the enormous volume of arms sales now being made to India? Those arms could, of course, be used in both the Punjab and Kashmir.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

My hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear that the Prime Minister made no such reference, but clearly it is well known to all of us that a major part of the trade between Britain and India consists of armaments and that the second biggest item in the Indian budget is defence.

Many other hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, so I shall finish by saying that I believe that the treaty represents a major political blunder. We should not have agreed to it unless there had been a dramatic improvement in the human rights situation in India. I hope that the Government will insist that India take positive action. There are numerous cases, many of which I have referred—

Photo of John Heppell John Heppell , Nottingham East

Is my hon. Friend aware that we are in danger of endorsing a treaty even though democracy has effectively broken down in parts of India, such as Kashmir, where there have been no elections since 1990 and there are no plans for any elections on a local, regional or national basis? The judicial system, too, has broken down altogether. Martial law effectively exists in many parts of India.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

My hon. Friend is right.

I also hope that the Minister will give us some information about the conditions for those against whom an extradition application is made. Will the person be held in custody in the United Kingdom? Will he or she be subject to strict bail and reporting conditions?

The agreement on terrorist funding which has also been made adds to the powers which already exist. There are seven pieces of legislation which give the authorities powers to investigate financial holdings. Will the police be encouraged to undertake inquiries into the financial affairs of Gudwaras and other United Kingdom-based Indian organisations because it creates an environment of intimidation and harassment?

Photo of Mr Toby Jessel Mr Toby Jessel , Twickenham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

The hon. Gentleman has spoken already and I am about to conclude.

It is quite wrong for the treaty to be approved at this time. It is saying to many people in Britain that we are equating all turbans with terrorism. That has been the victory of Indian propaganda.

I have to say, particularly to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), whom I respect completely, that the mother and father of terrorism is state terrorism. State terrorism, suppression and repression breed militancy and terrorism. Therefore, it is in the interests of the Indian Government to ensure that human rights abuses are not perpetrated, particularly by Indian security forces.

I hope that that message will be given firmly by the British Government. We have had enough of fine words and expressions of concern. Before we give approval to such treaties, we want positive and immediate action from the Government of India to combat the gross human rights violations which are taking place in many parts of India.

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale 11:31 pm, 21st July 1993

We are debating emotive issues. I am aware, and have been for some time, of hon. Members' concerns about human rights in India. I have reflected them in my dealings as the Minister responsible for our relations with the Indian Republic and explained hon. Members' concerns to Indian Ministers and to the contacts I have. I have added that the Kashmir, Punjab and Sikh problems are legitimate subjects for debate in the United Kingdom because they affect the lives of United Kingdom citizens.

I know that it is wrong to refer by name to individuals in the Gallery, but one may do so collectively and we are all aware that this debate is being watched and listened to and will be read about by a large number of British citizens.

However, we must consider the offences that we are talking about. Members of the Jammu and Kashmir liberation front abducted and later assassinated the assistant Indian high commissioner in Birmingham in February 1984. Six extremists were later convicted and gaoled in the United Kingdom for his murder. The Sikh militant, Paramjit Singh Sidhu, was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and sentenced to 11 years after conviction on an explosives charge in 1990. Other Sikh militants were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment on conspiracy charges in July 1991. There have been several assassination attempts in Britain against prominent Sikh moderates. That is the British situation, but let us consider some of the international problems.

In 1985, Canadian-based Sikh militants caused a mid-air explosion on an Air India flight from Toronto to London; 329 people were killed. There was a related bomb at Tokyo airport which killed two airport staff. Those are some of the problems that we will be facing. Canada has concluded a similar extradition agreement with the Republic of India.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central

Have any perpretrators of those acts been brought to justice without this extradition treaty?

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

The purpose of this extradition agreement is for the House and the Government to say that, in such cases, it would be an outrage in this day and age for people to say that they acted with political intentions and therefore should avoid extradition and trial for alleged offences of that magnitude. The sort of offences about which we are talking—my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jesse]) referred to this—must be clarified. We are not talking about trivial offences—far from it. We are talking about offences involving hijacking, taking hostages, serious crimes of violence, murder, manslaughter, serious assaults, kidnapping, explosives, firearms offences and financing of terrorism.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) has strong views on this subject. We have often discussed those views privately—we often discuss things privately. Can he say that it is right that the argument that such offences were politically induced should be available in this day and age, when air travel is so easy and so available, which is what we are talking about?

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

Is my hon. Friend arguing that, in such cases, the defence of political purpose has been used successfully in a British court to resist an attempt by the Indian Government to obtain extradition? In his earlier remarks, has he not recited a number of instances of crimes committed in the United Kingdom where people have been properly convicted and punished by the courts? What is his argument for the need for this repulsive treaty?

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

Those crimes were committed in the United Kingdom. The treaty is mutual. There will be mutual recognition of rights of extradition—it works both ways.

It is right that the House should be so concerned about the protection of individuals. First, the matter must be considered by a British Home Office Minister. He must make a decision as to whether it is appropriate for the case to go to the Bow Street magistrates court. The decision of that court is appealable. The matter must then be considered by the Home Secretary, whose decision is open to judicial review. Indeed, the first decision of the Minister is open to judicial review if any applicant wishes to appeal. The Home Secretary must be satisfied that all the matters have been appropriately considered.

Photo of Mr Terry Davis Mr Terry Davis , Birmingham, Hodge Hill

How cart people of Kashmir origin in the United Kingdom have any confidence in assurances of scrutiny from a Government who deported a Kashmir leader, Mr. Amanullah Khan, after he was twice acquitted of all charges by British courts?

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

If the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with the conduct of Ministers, he should remember that the Bow Street magistrates court must consider the matter. Any decision is appealable on a writ of habeas corpus. The Minister's first and second decisions are subject to the process of judicial review. Ministerial decisions can be considered up to four times by a British court.

Hon. Members have expressed their concerns dramatically and extensively. It is fortuitous that this debate should be this week, because next Monday, the Indian Parliament is commencing its committee on legislation to set up an independent Indian human rights commission. It is good timing to have the debate today. I have no doubt that the views expressed by hon. Members will be noted by the Indian high commission in London, and that copies of the Official Report will be made available to parliamentarians in India. I defy hon. Members to assert that there are not parliamentarians in India who take human rights interests strongly to heart and express concern about them.

I wish to reply to the questions of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) about access to India for human rights organisations and the signs in recent days of the Indian Government modifying and changing their policy in that regard. It has been one of my tasks to urge the Government of India to allow access to international human rights organisations and other groups. Therefore, I am particularly pleased by their recent statement on the issue.

Photo of Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd Mr Mark Lennox-Boyd , Morecambe and Lunesdale

If I may, I shall make clear what the Indian Government said and my views on it; then, if there is time, I will give way.

It may be helpful if I read out the precise passage. In a statement, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs said: In furtherance of the earlier initiatives, Government has now decided to allow certain human rights organisations to visit India to see for themselves how human rights safeguards operate in various parts of the country. Hon Members will dispute some of the phraseology in that statement, but it clearly says "India" and does not exclude any part of India. It simply states that India will be open to human rights organisations. I hope, and I shall certainly press, that it will not be too long before Amnesty International and other human rights organisations may be able to visit Kashmir and all parts of India to carry out investigations that they may legitimately seek to follow.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business).

The House divided: Ayes 123, Noes 38.

Division No. 357][11.42 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Cran, James
Alexander, RichardCurrie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Amess, DavidDay, Stephen
Ancram, MichaelDeva, Nirj Joseph
Arbuthnot, JamesDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Dover, Den
Ashby, DavidDuncan, Alan
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Duncan-Smith, Iain
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Dykes, Hugh
Baldry, TonyEggar, Tim
Bates, MichaelElletson, Harold
Beresford, Sir PaulEvans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Blackburn, Dr John G.Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Boswell, TimFabricant, Michael
Bowis, JohnFishburn, Dudley
Brandreth, GylesForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brazier, JulianForth, Eric
Bright, GrahamFox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Browning, Mrs. AngelaGallie, Phil
Burns, SimonGillan, Cheryl
Burt, AlistairGorst, John
Butler, PeterGreenway, John (Ftyedale)
Cash, WilliamGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Clappison, JamesHague, William
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Harris, David
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHaselhurst, Alan
Coe, SebastianHeathcoat-Amory, David
Colvin, MichaelHendry, Charles
Conway, DerekHughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Jack, Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Robathan, Andrew
Jenkin, BernardRobertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Jessel, TobyRobinson, Mark (Somerton)
Kilfedder, Sir JamesRyder, Rt Hon Richard
Knapman, RogerShaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Sims, Roger
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Legg, BarrySpeed, Sir Keith
Lennox-Boyd, MarkSpink, Dr Robert
Lidington, DavidSproat, Iain
Lightbown, DavidStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Luff, PeterStephen, Michael
MacKay, AndrewSweeney, Walter
Maclean, DavidSykes, John
Maitland, Lady OlgaTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Merchant, PiersThomason, Roy
Milligan, StephenThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Nelson, AnthonyTrend, Michael
Neubert, Sir MichaelTwinn, Dr Ian
Nicholls, PatrickWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Page, RichardWells, Bowen
Paice, JamesWhittingdale, John
Patnick, IrvineWilletts, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWood, Timothy
Pickles, Eric
Porter, David (Waveney)Tellers for the Ayes:
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelSydney Chapman and Timothy Kirkhope.
Richards, Rod
Riddick, Graham
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeLoyden, Eddie
Barnes, HarryMahon, Alice
Cann, JamieMarshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Cohen, HarryPike, Peter L.
Corbyn, JeremyPowell, William (Corby)
Cousins, JimPurchase, Ken
Cox, TomRendel, David
Cryer, BobRooney, Terry
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)Skinner, Dennis
Dicks, TerrySpearing, Nigel
George, BruceSpellar, John
Gerrard, NeilTurner, Dennis
Godsiff, RogerWaller, Gary
Graham, ThomasWalley, Joan
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Watts, John
Hardy, PeterWise, Audrey
Heppell, JohnYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Tellers for the Noes:
Leighton, RonMr. Max Madden and Ms Liz Lynne.
Lewis, Terry

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978 (Application of Provisions) (India) Order 1993, which was laid before this House on 9th July, be approved.