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4.25 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I was a friend from 1967 until he died in March 1981 of the late Sir Maurice Oldfield, head of MI6 from 1973 to 1978. During my national service with the Scots Greys in the Rhine Army in 1951–52, I had a good deal to do with field intelligence. As Richard Crossman's Parliamentary Private Secretary from 1964 to 1970, on account of his wartime background in intelligence dealing with the Americans on General Bedell Smith's staff in Algiers from 1943 onwards, I got to know well George Wigg, Solly Zuckerman, Harry Chapman Pincher, Hugh Carlton Green and other members of the intelligence community.

I say this simply to establish that I am neither silly about nor antagonistic to the intelligence community. Many fine people have worked for it to the advantage of us all.

I want succinctly to raise one aspect of intelligence and it refers to Lockerbie. The Lockerbie relative, Martin Cadman, who lost his son in the Pan Am disaster, tells me that relatives of air victims including Dr. and Mrs. Jim Swire, Barrie Berkley, Mrs. Elizabeth Delude-Dix and himself met the US President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism in the US embassy in London on Friday 16 February 1990 from 18.10 to 19.10. Much of that important meeting was taken up with the treatment of relatives by the US authorities after the disaster.

After the meeting was over, Mr. Cadman, who is highly credible and well known to a number of hon. Members, said that one commissioner, whose name he did not know said to him:

That statement has been published in a letter to The Guardian, in the film "The Maltese Double Cross" and in the special report from Private Eye "Lockerbie, The Flight from Justice May/June 2001". It has never been denied.

The commission was set up on 4 August 1989. It began its work in November 1989 and reported on 15 May 1990. The seven commissioners comprised two members from

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the US Senate, two from the House of Representatives, representing both parties equally, and three other members from the private sector with expertise in aviation transportation, aviation security or counter-terrorism. Their names were as follows: the chairman was Ann McLaughlin, former Secretary of Labour; Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt from Arkansas; Senator Frank Lautenburg from New Jersey; General Thomas Richards, deputy commander of US forces in western Germany; Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York; Edward Hidalgo, the former US Navy Secretary and James Oberstar, Representative from Minnesota. They were serious people.

Against this background I ask the following questions. First, do the British security and intelligence services have any knowledge of an $11 million payment having been received by the PFLP-GC, the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command, on or about 23 December 1988 evidenced by a credit to a bank in Lausanne and a credit to the Degussa bank in Frankfurt and moved from there to an account at the Banque National de Paris and thence to one at the Hungarian Development bank?

Secondly, does British intelligence have knowledge of a payment of $500,000 on or about 25 April 1989 to Mohammed Abu Talb, a convicted murderer, who was an incriminee at the Lockerbie trial, and a long-term suspect in the Pan-Am 103 bombing? Incidentally, I was at Camp Zeist when Talb was questioned.

If the security and intelligence services had any knowledge of either payments, did they communicate it—in whole or in part—to any police force in the UK, and/or to the Crown Office, Edinburgh? If such knowledge was imparted, when was it imparted?

What was the relationship between British intelligence and two officials—Mr. Dana Biehl and Mr. Brian Murtaugh—from an office that forms part of the US Department of Justice, who sat beside the prosecution in a supposedly independent Scottish court throughout the Lockerbie trial?

These questions are well known to Ministers through the work of the distinguished Austrian jurist Hans Koechler, who was asked to attend the trial at Camp Zeist by Kofi Annan.

When Mr. Alan Turnbull and Mr. Norman McFadyen went to the US embassy in The Hague on the Lord Advocate's behalf on or about 1 June 2000 to view unredacted CIA cables—recording meetings with the prosecution witness, Jiacha—was an assurance or undertaking given by them, whether written or verbal, to British intelligence or to the US authorities that they would not disclose what they had been shown? If any such assurance or undertaking was given, to whom was it given, and in what words?

It is a matter of public record that the new head of MI5, Miss Eliza Manningham-Buller, has been greatly involved in Lockerbie. I do not know Miss Manningham-Buller, but I should recall that her father—the late Lord Dilhorne, as Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller—was the first Attorney-General in this House with whom I had dealings when I was a very young MP. He was extremely kind, painstaking and nice on the one occasion that I had to speak to him in his capacity as Attorney-General, and subsequently as Lord Chancellor. I can say nothing other than that I think extremely well of him.

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Ministers should have a very frank discussion about what Miss Manningham-Buller and her colleagues know about the public record in relation to Lockerbie. We are not talking about simply a few who share my view. President Mandela has visited Abdel Bassett al Megrahi in Barlinnie prison. I spent two and a half hours visiting him, and in my view this is the most spectacular miscarriage of justice in not only Scottish, but British legal history. There ought to be a public inquiry, because in this instance, adversarial court procedures were wholly inappropriate to the objective of finding the truth. In keeping with his promise to the relatives, I hope that, before the summer recess, the Foreign Secretary will announce the setting up of a public inquiry into the international aspects of the crime that was Lockerbie.

4.34 pm

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire): I echo the remarks of the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin) by congratulating the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee on the way in which she has taken on her role. She has had the difficult task of keeping us effective and focused, and she has carried it off with style.

I should begin by declaring an interest. I am an underwriting member of Lloyd's, and as such I, along with other members, suffered in a financial way on 11 September. However, I should count my blessings. Many people lost much more than their money—they lost their lives or members of their family. On 11 September, the world came to recognise that not everyone shares the same values, and that if we want liberal democracies to continue to exist, we will have to fight for them. Indeed, that is what our intelligence and security services do, day in, day out. Although the Committee's report has criticised certain aspects of what they do, those criticisms must be seen in the light of the fact that this country is extremely well served by those services.

Take, for example, our criticism of the accounts of GCHQ, which was mentioned by the Committee's Chairman. It is a matter of serious concern to the Committee that GCHQ has yet to get to grips with the consequences of resource accounting. For GCHQ to have its accounts qualified two years running is not at all impressive, and the Committee is concerned that that might happen for a third year running. GCHQ really must begin to take this issue seriously. It says that it is doing so, and I hope that we shall discover next year that it has.

On the other hand, GCHQ's communications work is extraordinarily impressive, and after all, that is what it is there for. It makes an internationally and rightly acclaimed major contribution to the fight against terrorism, drugs and serious crime. So when we criticise the bean counting, let that not overshadow our views on the war fighting.

The same goes for the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service. They work energetically and effectively, and sometimes in circumstances of considerable danger, in defence of this country. I shall not discuss our report in detail because the House has read it and would rapidly lose patience, but in general, the intelligence machinery in this country works as well as we allow it to. It is clear that we put checks on the activities of the intelligence and security services, and for good reason—we were all brought up on the book

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"Nineteen Eighty-Four." However, in the Committee's opinion there is one respect in which the system simply does not work. Ministerial meetings to discuss the policy and direction of the intelligence and security services are, in the Committee's opinion, essential to scrutiny of the services, and to giving them genuine and informed political direction. Provision is made for such meetings, but for reasons which are not sinister, they simply have not happened.

As a result, although there is political direction from relevant individual Ministers—including the Prime Minister—no opportunity exists for Ministers to spark off each other, to cross-fertilise ideas, to fire the imagination of other Ministers, and to create a view that is perhaps anarchic but none the worse for that. Because of 11 September, the need now exists in this field for a sparky imagination—a point to which I shall return.

Inevitably, the Joint Intelligence Committee comes up with a pooled assessment of intelligence—that is what it is there for. In that respect, it avoids the communication problems—sometimes experienced in the United States—to which the existence of numerous different organisations leads. That is the advantage of our system, but the pooling process inevitably knocks some raw edges off the intelligence that passes through it. It may be unfair to call the product bland, but it would be fair to call it homogenised. In those circumstances, it is not at all a good thing that the ministerial committee for overseeing the intelligence machinery has not met, other than in the extraordinary circumstances of the War Cabinet. I do not believe that there is anything sinister about that, but only one person can put it right—the Prime Minister. It is possible that he may feel that the system works well enough. He sees the papers, receives the advice and gives the political direction, and he may feel that further ministerial involvement would be more of a nuisance and a waste of time than a benefit. If he does feel that, he is wrong. Collective discussion by Ministers about the general direction of the intelligence and security services might throw up ideas that people were not expecting, and the fact that Ministers might have an overwhelming number of issues to discuss should not be reason for failing to discuss any of them. The Prime Minister should perhaps remember that he leads the Government rather than is the Government.

I said that I would return to the issue of imagination, and I shall do so in the context of 11 September. How easy it is to say, with the torchlight of hindsight shining full on those dreadful events, that there was a failure of intelligence. In various respects, that can be said, but the agencies both here and in the United States received masses of bits of information—sometimes hundreds of different strands a week, some of it conflicting and almost all of it inaccurate. For us, with the benefit of hindsight, to expect them to know which bits were true and which were not, and to be able to add all those together in the right order and with the right emphasis and then to deduce some method of stopping what was about to happen, would not—on the basis of what I currently know—be either fair or realistic.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) said that there was an intelligence failure, and he was right in some respects. However, for the intelligence services to know what was

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going to happen would have depended on a security lapse in the al-Qaeda organisation. That security lapse did not happen in a way that meant that the security services could take advantage of it.

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