Peers voted to block the extradition of Britons to the United States last night as ministers faced increasing pressure to halt tomorrow’s extradition of the former bankers known as the NatWest Three.
MPs will challenge the Government over the case in the Commons today after the Speaker of the Commons took the highly unusual step of scrapping normal business to grant Liberal Democrat demands for an emergency debate on extradition.
The three former bankers are expected to complete their fast-track extradition to the United States tomorrow to face charges relating to an £11m fraud involving the collapsed US giant Enron. The three deny any criminal conduct, and insist that if there was a case against them it should be tried in England.
Yesterday the House of Lords symbolically defied the Government and voted by 218 to 116 to remove the United States from the list of countries to which Britons can be extradited without a case against them being made.
The vote, on amendments to the Police and Justice Bill, will not affect the cases of David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby.
Peers lined up to condemn the current arrangement, which grants the right to demand the extradition of citizens from each country without presenting prima facie evidence, but has not been ratified by the US Senate – meaning there is no equivalent arrangement for the extradition of Americans to Britain.
Lord Goodhart, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher, called on ministers to halt the extradition of NatWest Three until MPs can debate the change in the autumn.