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Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South): Will my right hon. Friend pass on from everyone in the House our congratulations not only to the police of many countries for this incredible investigation, but to those hundreds--probably thousands--of others outside the police forces who were engaged in the investigation and prosecution?
The disaster led to many changes in airline and airport security, but one suspects that after so many years, some of the memories may have been lost and some of the improvements unmade. Will my right hon. Friend give assurances to the House that he will again contact those of his colleagues, nationally and internationally, inside and outside Foreign Ministries, to evaluate whether further improvements need to be made in airport, airline and transport security? Disasters such as that at Lockerbie could well be replicated, and we do not wish to come to the House five, 10 or 20 years from now to announce the successful outcome of an investigation into another catastrophe such as the one we witnessed at Lockerbie.
Mr. Cook: I absolutely take the opportunity offered by my right hon. Friend's question to express congratulations to all those who have assisted in any way in this outcome. Many hundreds of members of the public did assist. A key part of the jigsaw was provided by a couple walking the dog on the Northumberland moors, who discovered a fragment of the bomb and who had the wisdom to retrieve it and take it to a police station, without which effort we might not be where we are today. All those who have assisted in any way are entirely entitled to their credit for their part in having secured this conviction.
On safety, we should be clear that it is of course 12 years since the Lockerbie bombing, and enormous changes have taken place in airport and airline security during that period. I am sure that my colleagues at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will carefully consider the verdict, the trial and the evidence to find out whether any further lesson can be learned, but I assure the House and the public that the state of airport security is not as it was 12 years ago when the bombing took place.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): Three of my constituents and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Cadman were killed in the Lockerbie crash. I know from subsequent talks over many years with the Cadmans about the terrible emotional pressures that came from not knowing how the crash could have happened. The court judgment at least begins to piece together how the terrorist
Mr. Cook: I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to maintain that pressure, through dialogue in Libya and international forums, until we ensure that we have secured an appropriate response to the terrible tragedy and the appalling mass murder that took place that night. I also have met Mr. and Mrs. Cadman and know exactly from my meeting them and other relatives the intense emotional distress that the tragedy has caused them. I think that, in many ways, not knowing what happened is much more distressing than knowing the worst. I hope that now that some of the information about what happened is available to the relatives, it may in some way help them to come to terms with the appalling loss that they experienced.
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): The Foreign Secretary mentioned the possibility of an appeal. I do not seek to trespass into that field, but can he tell me who will hear the appeal and where it will be heard, bearing in mind the fact that the trial was heard in the Netherlands? Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will take this brilliant example of Scottish justice operating abroad as a method of persuading his opposite number in the Bush Administration that the creation of an international criminal court is a necessity and that the American objections to such a court should now cease?
Mr. Cook: First, the appeal will be held in Camp Zeist and Mr. Al Megrahi will remain in detention there pending that appeal, which will be heard by judges of the Scottish Appeal Court. It will not be a formal sitting of the Scottish Appeal Court, which of course cannot sit outside Scotland, but it will be drawn from judges of that court.
Of course I anticipate that, when I see Mr. Colin Powell next week, we will discuss the international criminal court as part of our agenda. We are strongly committed to it and colleagues in the House have drawn attention to the importance of the proceedings for an international system of justice. In fairness, I should record that the statute of the international criminal court does not include acts of terrorism, on the grounds that there is already adequate international law on that point, and already adequate international remedy.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): In recognition of the Foreign Secretary's already great involvement in securing a trial, which many people did not think possible, may I say that it brings tremendous relief to the families involved in the mass murder? I also met Dr. Jim Swire, when I was a junior Transport Minister. Will the Foreign Secretary think carefully about what the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) said about re-alerting airports and ports to
Mr. Cook: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I can say, now that the trial is over, that there were moments when I wondered whether it would be possible to secure it; but, by perseverance, we got there, and today we can see why all the efforts of so many different people were worth while.
I absolutely endorse the hon. Gentleman's remarks. We have made improvements and changes but, unfortunately, those who seek to threaten the safety of passengers also look for ways in which they can change the threat and examine how they can harness evolving technology. For that reason, we can never afford to be complacent.
Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun): I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to the steadfastness of Dr. Jim Swire and the victims' families. The fact that the trial, which took place in difficult circumstances, is seen to have been manifestly fair is a significant tribute to Scots law, to the authorities who investigated the case and to the lawyers and judges who took part in the case. I refer to the prosecuting team and, most important, to the defence team, who played their part in ensuring that the trial was seen to be fair and that the evidence was properly examined.
I remind my right hon. Friend that it was an expensive investigation and an expensive trial. The universal view is that it was worth every single penny. That has been demonstrated today. Will my right hon. Friend remember that point when this House debates the international criminal court, because those who argue that we should resist its establishment because the expense would be too great are marshalling their forces? Some of them are doing that in the other place at this very moment.
Mr. Cook: I endorse my hon. Friend's comments on the strength of Scots law, which were in no way undermined by the fact that he is a Scots lawyer. One of the exports that we identify for Scotland in the future is the Scots legal system and legal process.
I would share my hon. Friend's impatience if anybody were to criticise on the ground of cost what has been an historic legal innovation and a remarkable achievement 12 years after such a brutal mass murder. If anyone was now to say that we should not have done what we did because of the cost, the whole House would blow them out of the water. Nobody could possibly contemplate such criticism. Justice cannot necessarily be bought at a price that we can measure only in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
The same arguments could apply to the international criminal court, but I assure the House that the Government will take a very hard-headed approach to how the burden is shared. That is one reason why we will be anxious to ratify the treaty in the near future. If we are one of the first 60 countries to bring the court into being, we will have a very substantial say in its administration and the method of payment.