In the face of huge cross-party support for a change in the extradition treaty between Britain and the U.S., the Commons authorities have caved in to allow a full Parliamentary debate to take place on Monday.
It is a major breakthrough for our Affront to British Justice Campaign, which was sparked by the case of Asperger’s sufferer Mr McKinnon.
He faces being sent to the U.S. on charges of computer hacking even though experts say he could take his own life.
If MPs vote in favour of the demand for ‘urgent change’, David Cameron will find himself under huge pressure to renegotiate the lopsided extradition deal with the Americans. Tory backbencher Dominic Raab, supported by former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell and Labour home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz, have spent weeks battling to secure a full debate.
Originally, the Commons authorities said the campaigners could only have the use of a small chamber off Westminster Hall, where no vote takes place.
But, when this debate took place last week, a large number of MPs and ministers were present, outstripping even the turnout for the Westminster Hall debate on granting the vote to prisoners.
Now Commons managers have relented and granted next week’s full vote.
A draft of the motion begins: ‘This House calls upon the Government to reform the UK’s extradition arrangements as a matter of urgency to strengthen the protection of British citizens.’
Mr Raab said: ‘It is high time Parliament stood up to defend our citizens from rough justice under the European Arrest Warrant and the UK-U.S. treaty.’
Mr McKinnon’s mother Janis Sharp said the debate was a tribute to the persistence of the Mail’s campaign and her son’s many other supporters. She added: ‘We hope that Gary’s nightmare and the nightmare of others will soon be over.’
The timing of the debate is crucial, with the Government currently considering Sir Scott Baker’s review into the treaty, which was signed by Labour in 2003.
The review concluded that the Extradition Act was not lopsided in favour of the U.S., despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
The U.S. requires ‘sufficient evidence to establish probable cause’ before agreeing to extradite anyone to the UK, while Britons going in the opposite direction are not afforded the same protection.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – a supporter of Mr McKinnon – has ordered his own inquiry into the Act, in a clear sign that he does not accept Sir Scott’s findings.
Mr McKinnon has said he was searching for evidence of ‘little green men’ when he hacked into Nasa and Pentagon computers from the bedroom of his north London flat.