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10.30 am

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:

I put all that on the record because I am aware that the most sensitive questions should be addressed to the Crown Office and to Lady Thatcher and her innermost advisers at the time, rather than the Foreign Office and the ministerial successors of Douglas Hurd. I am also conscious of the sub judice ruling set out in yesterday's Official Report at column 35.

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:

Indeed, Pam Dix wrote on 8 February to the Foreign Secretary:

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In a subsequent more detailed letter, a copy of which has been sent to the Minister, Pam Dix says:

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I do not expect the Minister to respond to these complex issues off the top of his head today, but having received the letter I hope that he will reflect seriously upon the matter.

I refer, too, to the sterner letter to the Prime Minister from Martin Cadman and his wife Rita, who lost their son, Bill, who was 32, which states:

The letter continued:

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I again ask the Foreign Office to approach the Swedish Government for the facts about the significant quantity of clothing that could have been bought in Malta, Cyprus or 101 other places in the Mediterranean in the flat of Abu Talb in Sweden. I sat in the court at Camp Zeist and heard Abu Talb being questioned by Bill Taylor, QC and Richard Keen, QC. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said:

Will the Government ask the Libyan Government for a candid account of how members of the strategic centres in the 1980s used agents with coded passports and other complex documents to obtain spare parts for Libyan Arab Airlines, which bought planes that had been manufactured in the US or UK and had been subject to sanctions?

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:

I would also like to ask the Foreign Office about a matter that has never been raised. Will it ask the US Government in what circumstances Richard Stirwell in 1991 was sent to Togoland to examine and acquire timing devices made by Ulrich Lumpart and why the CIA and Mr. James Thurman thought it necessary to replicate such timing devices for American use? We are entitled to wonder whether the timer at the centre of the whole argument was ever on "The Maid of the Seas" and whether it was replicated by someone in the United States for his own purposes.

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

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and motivation, yet were prepared to pass him to the FBI and the Department of Justice without apparently passing on their serious doubts and questions?

I also ask the Foreign Office to contact the Government of Jordan for a CV of Marwan Khreesat, including the years when he was not in the service of those favourable to the west.

Will the Government ask the retired bomb expert Peter Gurney, George medal and bar, for his opinion of the skills of Marwan Khreesat?

I refer to the Foreign Secretary's statement:

Will Her Majesty's Government seek a meeting with the Government of Malta about the security set-up at Luqa airport and in particular ask officials with knowledge of baggage reconciliation systems to discuss procedures with Mr. Immanuel Darmanin, the head loader in charge of operators? As he was not called by Crown or defence, I am entitled to ask that question, which was never asked at the trial. Many people find it concerning and confusing that, some years ago, following the transmission of a documentary made by Granada Television wherein it was alleged that an unaccompanied bag had travelled on Air Malta flight KM180, Granada Television was successfully sued by lawyers representing Air Malta, and an out-of-court settlement was reached.

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. Joe Benton (in the Chair) : Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I would feel much happier if he kept away from constant references to the

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evidence given at the trial. I remind him of yesterday's ruling by Mr. Speaker. The case is sub judice. It is difficult to interpret what might be in transgression of a sub judice ruling, but I must err on the side of caution. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to refrain in the remainder of his remarks from any reference to the trial or to where the appellant might have been at any time. I hope that I have made myself clear.

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

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asked. If one had the assurance that nothing would be done by Britain or the United States in terms of sanctions, let alone military action before the appeal procedure is exhausted, I should be happy. There are various accounts of the meeting on 8 February between Colin Powell and some of the American relatives. Some of those American relatives, if the serious American press is to be believed, told Colin Powell that he should bomb Tripoli. There was also a call from people whose names I know, but will not reveal here, for nuclear weapons to be dropped on Tripoli. That has been reported in the American press. I hope that there will be none of that ever, but certainly not before the legal processes are exhausted.

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.

10.58 am

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.

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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.

Mr. Dalyell : I endorse that tribute to Queenie Fletcher who, like the Lockerbie relatives, behaved with great dignity.

Mr. Wilson : I thank my hon. Friend for that comment.

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.

As Mr. al-Megrahi has appealed, hon. Members will understand if I do not comment on the substance of the legal arguments. It might be worth mentioning, and I

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am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome the fact, that if Mr. al-Megrahi's appeal is not upheld, we have given an undertaking to Libya that it will be allowed consular access to Mr. al-Megrahi in Scotland.

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.

Mr. Wilson : I welcome that constructive response from my hon. Friend. It is clearly right to engage in the discussions that begin today.

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:

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To lift sanctions before all the requirements have been met would be premature and it would send a worrying message to countries that are subject to sanctions about the Security Council's determination to ensure that necessary conditions are met before sanctions are lifted.

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.

Mr. Dalyell : I am very glad to hear that the Government are in touch with ex-President Mandela.

Mr. Wilson : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.

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.

Mr. Dalyell : Hindsight is a marvellous thing, but it is a pity that Mr. al-Megrahi was never put in the dock by the defence.

Mr. Joe Benton (in the Chair) : Order. Any reference to Mr. al-Megrahi and to the previous court sitting is out of order. I have already explained the position.

Mr. Wilson : My hon. Friend asked for an assurance that the views of the relatives would be the subject of serious reflection. I give him that assurance.

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,

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without due regard for the past. That is misplaced. The restoration of diplomatic relations does not mean that we give up on the difficult issues. On the contrary, on a wide range of issues of concern--UN sanctions, Libya's human rights record and its attempts to acquire enhanced missile technology--we can engage with Libya with greater frequency and to greater effect as a result of the dialogue that those exchanges have promoted. We are convinced that we cannot expect to influence Libya's behaviour without such engagement. That is the context in which it should be understood.

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.

11.13 am

Sitting suspended.

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