Suspects could flee if extradition laws were not enacted before the handover, officials warned yesterday. The Government gave the warning as it announced plans to introduce the Fugitive Offenders Bill next month. It will replace existing agreements based on legislation extended from Britain, which will lapse with the handover. Officials hope the bill could be put on the priority list of the Legislative Council, where the Government wants to table 41 pieces of draft legislation this session. The bill will be gazetted on Friday and introduced into Legco on November 6. It could not be introduced earlier as it was only at last month's Joint Liaison Group meeting that the Chinese side confirmed their agreement to localise the relevant laws. The Government told Legco yesterday that the bill had to be in place before the handover. A spokesman said: 'It is important that the bill should be enacted as soon as possible so that Hong Kong can continue its excellent co-operation with other jurisdictions to ensure that criminals will not escape justice by fleeing to or from Hong Kong.' Assistant Secretary for Security, Alan Chu King-man, said: 'Without the legal backing, surrendering of fugitives to and from Hong Kong could not continue.' The bill follows existing procedures for handling requests for surrender, with the future chief executive replacing the Governor in having final say whether a person should be surrendered. The bill contains provisions to ensure that fugitive offenders are only surrendered for specified, serious offences.