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Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): This is the 16th Adjournment debate that I have initiated on Libyan matters since 1989. The sixth was answered by Douglas Hurd as Foreign Secretary. Incidentally, I am told by senior Clerks that it was the only occasion since the war that a senior Cabinet Minister replied to a Back Bencher's Adjournment debate. That afternoon he happened to see me chatting with my parliamentary neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), now the Foreign Secretary. My diary entry for 1 February 1995 reads:
"say they have. You must understand that the law officers really are a law unto themselves.'" My diary entry continues:
"Robin and I agreed that Douglas Hurd was not unfriendly towards us, and was probably correct in outlining the rules. Robin said that he guessed that Hurd was being honest with us and did not know the full story. I shrugged my shoulders, and told Robin he was probably right."
First, I think that I would be wrong not to mention the dignified reaction of the British relatives who still seek truth and justice and are honouring an undertaking to hold a full independent inquiry after the conclusion of all legal processes. I have permission to quote from the letter to the Foreign Secretary dated 5 February from John and Lisa Mosey of UK Families Flight 103. The Minister has a copy of that letter. It states:
"Mr. Cook, I trust that all of this is of some value to you in your very difficult and important job. Our secretary, Pam Dix will be writing to you in due time with more specific thoughts on what we would like to see explored in an independent inquiry. Thank you for your kind comments in the house about Jim, myself and the group. Be assured that we do want to seen as a determined but responsible group of people."
"Each one of the above inquiries fulfilled a particular objective. An independent judicial inquiry, however, could draw upon the findings of all these separate inquiries, pulling together the information that has been established, plus examining key areas that have not yet been addressed. This inquiry would provide the means that is needed to understand the overall picture of events leading up to and resulting from the Lockerbie bombing. It is only with this understanding that it will be possible to identify where the failures occurred and lessons can be learned. I know you will share our understanding, and that of many others, that the purpose of an independent inquiry is to establish the facts of what happened and to learn lessons for the future. In his Thames Safety Inquiry Final Report, Lord Justice Clarke makes the point that 'the public (and especially the survivors and the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives) has a legitimate interest in learning the truth of what happened without anything being swept under the carpet.' (Page 7, paragraph 5.3.) With regard to Lockerbie and the issues surrounding the disaster, we feel that there are a number of specific questions that need to be answered." She continues:
"It is clear that while the motivation for the bombing has been endlessly speculated on by the media and others, we remain in the dark as to what the motivation was. This is a matter which causes some of the relatives the greatest concern. 1. What is known about motivation and reasons behind the bombing? 2. What, if any, diplomatic lessons can be learned from what is known and can be established about the conduct of the countries involved in Lockerbie? 3. Is it appropriate that 'legitimate' businessmen can sell timers to organisations, individuals and countries, when it is suspected that the purpose of those timers is to blow up aeroplanes, and not be held to account?" I shall miss out some passages, but Pamela Dix also states:
"One form of possible inquiry is a judicial review that would come under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. Again in the words of Lord Justice Clarke, 'In some cases, public confidence may be undermined if there is not a perception that an inquiry is full, wide-ranging and independent of Government; for example, in cases where the regulatory functions of the investigatory body are called into question.' (Page 166-7.) It seems to us that such a tribunal of inquiry would meet these requirements."
"Whatever the status or position of potential witnesses during the period under investigation, the most important point is that the inquiry needs to be such that it has the power to compel witnesses to come before it to give evidence and produce documents. Where possible, witnesses should come from abroad. We would not wish to see a situation where Public Interest Immunity Certificates are issued, as happened at the Fatal Accident Inquiry. It is essential that witnesses cannot use 'parliamentary privilege', for example, to allow them to escape giving evidence."
Would a UK inquiry be trusted and would it have the power to subpoena witnesses from the US Government services in particular? We doubt it. We need an international inquiry with powers to subpoena, backed by UN sanctions. It should be a UN inquiry set up by and reporting to the General Assembly and not involving the Security Council." Martin and Rita Cadman deserve an answer. They state in their letter to the Prime Minr dated 6 February that they
"cannot put the case for an inquiry better than the Daily Mirror last week: 'An incident which results in a single death is often fully probed. An atrocity that kills 270 people demands a full, open and public inquiry. There must be one and it should explore every avenue, every question, every suggestion. That may raise issues that the Government does not want aired, but that is no reason for not holding one. The quest for the truth must go on.'" That expresses the urgency with which the relatives want the matter to be pursued. I suppose that the British and United States Governments have no control over Lee Kreindler, the New York lawyer who is asking for $10 billion for the
I also asked the Foreign Office about its answer to President Mandela on sanctions. President Mandela was as responsible as anyone for getting a trial in a third country. I quote from The Independent:
Mr. Mandela told The Independent yesterday that Britain and the US had 'moved the goalposts' on the issue of lifting sanctions, after he played a vital mediation role with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, to secure the handover of two Libyan suspects wanted for the Lockerbie bombing.
One defendant, former intelligence agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was sentenced to at least 20 years jail...
Mr. Mandela said that he found Mr Blair's letter 'encouraging and very reasonable' and was responding to the Prime Minister yesterday. But he is concerned that the British may be under pressure from the US to maintain sanctions. After the verdict, Washington and London demanded that the Libyan Government pay compensation to the victims' families" --which I think was slightly premature, in view of the appeal. Is President Mandela being contacted and, if so, what is the outcome? President Mandela sent his secretary to the Cabinet, Jakes Gerwel, on a special mission that made possible the trial in a third country.
Will the Government obtain an explanation from Colin Powell of why CIA officers cultivated a Libyan traitor, Mr. Majid Jiacha, for nearly two years, reaching serious decisions in respect of his credibility, honesty
Will the Government try to confirm with the Government of Malta a story that the Maltese Government applied, before 1988, for financial assistance from the United States Federal Aviation Authority to improve the security at Luqa airport, but were turned down on the basis that Malta was not a third-world country and it was believed that security at Luqa airport was satisfactory?
Another issue about Mary's House was never raised in court and needs to be clarified. Megrahi was present in Malta on 7 December 1988 but not on 23 November 1988--the only other date on which the clothes and umbrella could have been bought. Having bought the clothes, the purchaser left the shop to engage a taxi. It was raining at that time, which is why he bought the umbrella. The meteorological evidence--
Mr. Dalyell : You have been very patient, Mr. Benton, and I, too, am extremely conscious of the appeal. Having been through the huge 81-page judgment with a fine-toothed comb, I have deliberately not asked a number of questions and have kept out of anything that was referred to in that judgment. To the best of my knowledge, the matter that I am raising was not raised in evidence to the court. It was not raised in the judgment. My question is to the Government of Malta and about geography and meteorological conditions. It was raining at the relevant time on 23 November 1988, but there was no rain on 7 December or, at most, a few drops, which would not have proved sufficient to wet the pavements.
Mr. Joe Benton (in the Chair) : Order. I honestly accept the hon. Gentleman's good will, but I must point out that, if he refers in any way, shape or form during the remainder of the debate to the trial, the appeal or anything of significance to them, I will have to rule him out of order. That will be a final ruling. I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman thinks that that places constraints on him, but we must err on the side of caution. I hope that he understands exactly what I am saying. I assure him that he will receive as much largesse as possible from the Chair, but I must be firm on the sub judice ruling.
Mr. Dalyell : I must be obedient to the Chair. I must leave out questions that I genuinely thought had not been raised. If there is any dubiety about it I am, of course, obedient to the Chair and a respecter of courts. I do not know whether it is in order to ask about American representations in the court itself. I think that I am on delicate ground in asking about Mr. Bhiel and Mr. Murtaugh. If there is any doubt about that, I had better not do so.
Mr. Joe Benton (in the Chair) : Order. The hon. Gentleman is right. I appreciate that it is a difficult situation. We are handicapped by the fact that we do not know what material might be presented in the appeal. I am afraid that once again I must stress that I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would restrain from remarking upon the trial itself and the form that an appeal might take.
Mr. Dalyell : You have been very patient, Mr. Benton. I have had my 25 minutes. I just rest the case on the difficult issues of the civil test of the balance of probabilities and finding murder beyond reasonable doubt. Those are grave issues and we must wait for the appeal.
Part of the difficulty, as I said on a point of order in the House yesterday, is that this is not an ordinary trial. Potentially appalling international consequences hang on this verdict. It must be a matter of general international concern that these questions should be
I thank you for your patience, Mr. Benton, and I look forward to the Foreign Office reflections. I would not criticise the Minister if he did not address these points today, but sooner or later they must be addressed.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Brian Wilson) : I thank my old and honourable Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for initiating the debate and for his continued interest in Libyan affairs. As he said, this is his 16th debate on the subject and I hope that it is productive for him. Apart from anything else, it has revealed that he has been keeping a diary all these years. I am sure that when the record is read, publishers will be beating a path to his door.
Just as my hon. Friend began with a little historical context to the debate, I should recall the background to the original rupture of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya. As we are all aware, for more than a decade two separate issues prevented us from maintaining normal diplomatic relations with Libya, not just Lockerbie. Diplomatic relations were broken off in 1984 over Libya's refusal to co-operate with the investigation into the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who was shot while carrying out her duties in front of the Libyan People's Bureau in St. James's Square. The second issue, which prevented normal diplomatic relations, was the Libyan refusal to hand over the two men charged with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.
United Nations sanctions were imposed on Libya in 1992 as a result of its refusal to comply with the investigations into the bombings of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 and of the French UTA airliner in 1989. As my hon. Friend is well aware, the diplomatic stalemate over the Lockerbie issue was broken by the Government's initiative in offering a trial before Scottish judges, under Scots law, in a third country. Intensive and patient diplomacy produced an agreement by Libya to hand over both suspects who subsequently stood trial at Camp Zeist, and, following the surrender of al-Megrahi and al-Fhimah in 1999, UN sanctions on Libya were suspended.
That agreement did not solve the outstanding bilateral problem relating to the killing of WPC Fletcher. In the weeks following the handover of al-Megrahi and al-Fhimah we engaged in repeated exchanges with the Libyan Government in an attempt to secure their co-operation with the police investigation and that resulted in a joint statement by the two Governments.
In that statement, Libya accepted general responsibility for the actions of those in the Libyan People's Bureau at the time of the shooting and it expressed deep regret to the family of WPC Fletcher for what occurred and offered to pay compensation to the family. The Libyan authorities agreed to co-operate fully with the continuing Metropolitan police investigation and to accept its outcome.
At this point I am sure my hon. Friend will join me in paying tribute to the Fletcher family, who have born Yvonne's loss with dignity, and those police officers who have carried out and continue to carry out this long investigation. I can assure hon. Members that the Government will continue to press the Libyan authorities for their full co-operation.
However, the immediate point in this context is the positive one that those two agreements opened the way for us to resume diplomatic relations with Libya in July 1999, and the British interest section in Tripoli was upgraded to embassy status. At the end of 1999 we appointed an ambassador and we have worked to bring the embassy up to full strength. As a result, the 4,000 or so British citizens there had full consular protection restored to them, and full diplomatic representation has the positive effect of enabling us to monitor Libyan co-operation with the police investigation into the killing of Yvonne Fletcher. As I have said, we expect Libya to honour its commitment to co-operate fully with the police investigation at all stages, and that, logically, must include the final stage if any individual is identified by the police.
I come now to the Lockerbie trial, although I am obviously mindful of what you have said, Mr. Benton, and the fact that we are all subject to the constraints that the pending appeal imposes upon us. Again, I take this opportunity to offer my sympathy to the families of the victims and pay tribute to the way in which they have dealt with this devastating tragedy. I remember being in the House of Commons on the night of the Lockerbie bombing. It is something that I will never forget, with which, in one way or another, however tangentially, we have all lived since that night. As we all know, the Scottish judges in the Netherlands--my hon. Friend has as good a reason as anyone to respect Scottish judges--returned their verdict on 31 January, and one of the two accused, al-Megrahi, was found guilty of the murder of 270 people on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. The second, al-Fhimah, was acquitted.
The criminal investigation into the crime was the largest in British history, and the dedication of the Dumfries and Galloway constabulary and the efforts of the families in their pursuit of justice were admired by all. Without their efforts and the complex diplomatic initiatives, the Lockerbie trial would not have come about.
Following the verdict at Camp Zeist, international attention has turned to the question of whether the United Nations--I stress the United Nations--should lift sanctions in Libya. I refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by the Foreign Secretary to the House of Commons following the verdict. The initiative to hold the trial at Camp Zeist was taken by the Government and secured by agreement with the Governments of the Netherlands, the United States and Libya. However, we made those arrangements in accordance with resolution 1192 of the UN Security Council, a resolution that is binding on all member states. Libya has complied with some of the requirements of the Security Council, such as handing over the two suspects. In the light of the guilty verdict, we now expect the Libyan Government to fulfil the remaining requirements.
I can announce that the UK and the USA will begin talks today in New York with Libya. We will focus on the remaining requirements--no more, no less. Those requirements are not fulfilled simply by the trial having come to an end.
Mr. Dalyell : I welcome the fact that there will be talks and urge the Libyans to be as candid as possible on the questions that I have asked about the whole sanctions-busting efforts in relation to Libyan/Arab airlines. They must be candid.
I again set out the requirements that remain outstanding. The Security Council--I stress that it is the Security Council that imposes these requirements rather than individual countries--requires Libya to accept responsibility for the actions of its officials and to pay appropriate compensation. Libya also needs to satisfy us that it has renounced terrorism and disclosed all that it knows of the Lockerbie crime.
Hon. Members may ask how the Security Council can expect Libya to accept responsibility for the actions of its officials. If an internationally wrongful act is committed against a state or its nationals by the agents of another state acting as such, that state is responsible, in international law, for the wrongful act. The Scottish court found al-Megrahi guilty of the charge in the indictment that:
"The clear inference which we draw from this evidence is that the conception, planning, and execution of the plot which led to the planting of the explosive device was of Libyan origin" We shall be discussing with Libya how we can achieve compliance with all the requirements and I can confirm that, once satisfactory arrangements have been made,
My hon. Friend referred to the comments of Nelson Mandela and recognised that the Prime Minister had been in touch with him and reassured him that the requirements for the lifting of sanctions had not been changed and were set out in UN resolutions that represented the collective will of the international community. My hon. Friend acknowledged that the response from Nelson Mandela to that letter recognised the Prime Minister's good will.
I come now to the demand for an independent inquiry. My hon. Friend fairly referred to that at length, as well as to the views of the relatives on the type of inquiry that they want. The detail is secondary to the fundamental question of whether there should be such an inquiry. As the Foreign Secretary said in his immediate post-trial statement, it would simply be inappropriate to reach a view on an inquiry at this stage. That is because al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence official found guilty by the Scottish court, has submitted an appeal, and no inquiry can start until it is concluded. It is right that my hon. Friend has put the views of the relatives on the record, but it is equally right, as I am sure he recognises, that I cannot comment, beyond saying that it would be inappropriate to reach a view on an inquiry at this stage.
In addition to our engagement with the Libyan Government in international, multilateral forums on issues of international concern, since 1999 we have had the opportunity to conduct a full bilateral dialogue. We welcome the Libyan Government's appointment of a senior ambassador to London, which will allow our exchanges to deepen further. The best way to handle our differences is through such a dialogue--both critical and constructive.
My hon. Friend must also be aware, not least because of his remarks regarding the comments made in the United States, of the criticism of the Government for developing our relations with Libya too quickly,
Our long-term aim is to have a Libya that co-operates with the international community and that respects international law. That will not only ensure that there is no return to support for international terrorism, but encourage the emergence of a responsible partner willing to devote its many assets and energies to the positive promotion of prosperity throughout the region. We look forward to a future in which Libya plays a full part in the European-Mediterranean community and in the Barcelona process. As I am sure my hon. Friend will agree, that will be in all our interests.
I shall look carefully at the record of my hon. Friend's remarks to see if there are any matters on which I can usefully write to him. I recognise the diligence with which he has pursued these issues and the spirit in which he has raised them.