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Written questions were asked about the status of the Libyan Peoples Bureau in the run-up to the killing, and such was the confusion of the status of the people in the bureau that we managed to ascertain only on 8 April 1984, just a few days before the killing, who the ambassador was. The confusion was such that we should have had a public inquiry, and I call on the Minister now, as I shall call on a Conservative Government if we have one after the next election, to hold a public inquiry if PC Yvonne Fletchers killer is not found within the next few years. The matter cannot drag on any longer. Twenty-five years have passed, and PC Yvonne Fletchers mother,
sister and other relatives are waiting. If my daughter had been killed, I would certainly not tolerate waiting 25 years to find out who her killer was. On this 25th anniversary of PC Yvonne Fletchers death, I extend my condolences to her family.
Hon. Members have mentioned terrorist acts and the one at Lockerbie was a heinous crime. The man who was convicted of the bombing is in a Scottish prison, and is dying of cancer, as the Minister knows. An appeal has been started because The Independent claimed a few days ago that a witness has come forward to prove that Mr. al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted and should be let out on appeal. I am not suggesting this to the Minister, but PC Yvonne Fletchers mother has stated publicly that she would like Mr. al-Megrahi to be sent back to Libya to eke out his dying days with his family, if that would help to secure her daughters killer.
I have spoken extensively with Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the Lockerbie tragedy. He is the spokesman for the families of those who lost their loved ones there. He has met Colonel Gaddafi three times and has some interesting stories about his discussions, which he promises to tell me for my book. I asked hima man whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie tragedywhat he would say to the Minister if he were here today. If it had been my daughter, I would still be sour, furious, bitter and twisted, but some people are more forgiving and understanding and want to move on. I pay tribute to Dr. Swires extraordinary attitude and the positive way in which he deals with the matter. He saidthis is touchingthat we must engage with the Libyans and bring them in from the cold, because only by doing that can we prevent countries such as Libya from falling into the trap of becoming pariah and terrorist states.
Dr. Swire applauded the Governments initiatives. He did not necessarily say anything good about the Labour Government, but he said that he was encouraged by their interaction with the Libyan authorities in trying to resolve some of the outstanding matters. He said that Libya has extraordinary oil wealth and many reserves, and Scotland, where he comes from, has wealth in engineering and the talent of its young people, and that there is a tremendous opportunity for a marriage between those aspects to strengthen the future relationship.
I will now do something that I have never done as an MP, which is pay tribute to Mr. Tony Blair, our former Prime Minister. He made many visits to Tripoli, and Mr. Jelban informed me that he is likely to visit Libya again shortly. He persevered in his discussions with Colonel Gaddafi and played an important role in convincing the Libyan regime not to pursue the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. People in Tripoli speak highly of Mr. Blair, and his engagement and perseverance in trying to tackle some of those issues have been fruitful. However, there are outstanding matters, including illegal immigration.
The Minister will know that Libyas 2,000 km coastline is extremely porous. Many illegal immigrants from Africa come to Libya and board boats to Lampedusa or Malta. We have seen on BBC the tragic cases of people dying in those boats before they reach the safety of Europe. I hope that the Minister will consider ways of helping the Italians and other EU countries that are trying to help the Libyan authorities with patrol vessels and investment in its ports, so that there is less illegal immigration from Libyan shores to Europe.
Finally, because I am so passionate about trade and investment, the Libyan ambassador informed me yesterday that his country will start up an investment authority in the United Kingdom. It has done that in many other European countries and has invested hundreds of millions of pounds in various projects throughout Europe, particularly in Italy. Mr. Raja Blayesh will set up that authority, and I hope that at the earliest opportunity the Minister will invite him to meet her to find out how she can help British companies to engage with Libya and to obtain some of that vital investment.
Thank you, Mr. Benton, for allowing me to introduce the debate. Most important of all, I urge the Minister to remember that many of us in the Chamber wish to do everything possible to increase trade with Libya. I ask her to help us in whatever way she can to change the system or mechanisms so that we can take businesses on our missionson visits by all-party groups, IPU visits and all the other visits arranged for us. Of course we would have to declare thatI would not dream of making any financial benefits out of it and I have no vested interests in any companies that operate in Libya. I just genuinely feel passionately about our balance of payments and I want us to export. I come from an exporting background, having spent most of my career before coming into Parliament exporting British goods around the world. I feel passionately about the need to export, which we need to do as a trading nation. That is my appeal to the Minister: please help MPs such as me to help British companies to export abroad.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Gillian Merron): I congratulate the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing the debate. I pay tribute to his very positive approach to developing relations between the UK and Libya, and thank him for the gracious manner in which he paid tribute to others, including our former Prime Minister, for the roles that they have played. I enjoyed his comments because I heard a serious promotion not only of his constituents interests, but of UK commercial interests. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing him well in his writing. We all look forward to his book and I would be very happy to receive a copy.
Let me start with a very serious matterthe investigation of the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. I understand the real concern that the hon. Gentleman has expressed to the House today, given that WPC Fletchers parents are his constituents and that it is now 25 years since her tragic murder. I place on the record once again our deepest condolencesmine and the Governmentsfor the continued loss that the Fletcher family suffer. Establishing responsibility for WPC Fletchers murder has been and remains a priority for the Government.
Let me give some background, which ties in with the hon. Gentlemans comments. The UK broke off diplomatic relations with Libya after WPC Fletcher was shot and killed in St. Jamess square. Our relationship was seriously marred still further by the seizure in 1987 of a shipment of arms and explosives from Libya destined for the IRA and by the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. Diplomatic relations were resumed only in July 1999, after Libya had finally accepted responsibility for the shooting of WPC Fletcher and promised to pay
compensation. That was paid in 1999. In addition to accepting responsibility, the Libyan Government promised to co-operate with a Metropolitan police investigation into the shooting and to abide by the findings of that investigation. Since then, as we heard from the hon. Gentleman, the UKs relations with Libya have steadily improved. Libyas decision in 2003 to give up weapons of mass destruction was a further significant step. It allowed a substantial transformation of Libyas relations with the UK and the rest of the international community.
As we have heard, Libya is well placed today to play a prominent role in the promotion of peace and greater prosperity in Africa and to ensure that Africa more widely plays a more positive role in international multilateral politics at the UN and elsewhere. As part of that, a strong relationship between the UK and Libya is important. There are three main areas in which we seek to achieve that. The first relates to our efforts to combat international terrorism. I firmly believe that Libyas actions in the past few years show states that condone or actively engage in terrorist activities that there is an alternative path that will deliver more for their state than going down the terrorist route. Where previously Libya was part of the problem, it now helps us to find solutions. Secondly, Libya is crucial to our efforts to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons. It provides the best example to the likes of North Korea and Iran that there is more to be gained from not having nuclear weapons than from having them.
Thirdly, Libya offers significant commercial opportunities for UK businesses. Trade between our two countries was worth more than £1 billion last year and there is the potential for much more. The hon. Gentleman raised the very important matter of the promotion of trade links. We would be happy to work with him however we can. I can give him an assurance that UK Trade and Investment has a very active programme in Tripoli and the UK is a significant investor. Just two weeks ago, the UK and Libya signed an investment promotion agreement, and we also signed a double taxation agreement in November 2008. There are opportunities because Libya is moving, slowly and patchily, from centralised state control to engaging with globalisation. The private sector is growing cautiously, following many years of nationalisation and state control. We welcome the Libyan investment authority to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
On migration, we have very good co-operation with Libya. We work both directly and within the EU to strengthen Libyas ability to control its borders. We have an agreed plan with the Libyans to disrupt the flow of illegal migrants to the EU. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to work closely together.
Let me return now to the investigation of WPC Fletchers murder to give reassurance not just to the hon. Gentleman, but to his constituents. Representatives of the Metropolitan Police Service first visited Libya in April 2004. They made a further visit in September 2004 and have conducted investigations in the country in both 2006 and 2007. There was some early progress, but despite that, the investigation has stalled due to a lack of co-operation from the Libyan authorities.
I can only imagine the heartbreak, anger and distress that the Fletcher family must feel. To lose a daughter in such circumstances would be bad enough, but to live for
25 years without the closure that a successful investigation might bring can only add to their anguish. I therefore want to state the following points clearly.
The responsibility for the lack of progress rests squarely with the Libyan Government. The UK Government will continue to make every effort to convince the Libyan Government to do more. We have repeatedly raised the case during high-level bilateral visits and talks. Most recently, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell), who is responsible for the middle east and north Africa, raised the Libyan failure to co-operate in the investigation of WPC Fletchers murder when he visited Libya in February this year. He raised the issue again during a telephone conversation with the Libyan Minister for Europe just last month. That comes at the end of a long list of representations made, including by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, when he met Colonel Gaddafi in May 2007.
In all our conversations with the Libyan Government, we make it clear that they have a commitment to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police Services investigation. They must honour that commitment. The issue will not go away. The UK Government will continue to demand co-operation from the Libyan authorities and insist that the Metropolitan police be allowed to return to Libya to continue their investigation. We will not allow Libya to divert attention away from finding those who murdered Yvonne Fletcher, or to prevent us from continuing to try to bring them to justice.
There are implications for the further development of our bilateral relationship in Libyas continuing failure to co-operate. We understand that, but we will continue our efforts, and I believe that the hon. Gentleman believes that it is right to do so. We will continue to engage with the Libyans, not just on this issue, but on the broader issues that he rightly raises for the attention of the House. We will continue to ensure that the right thing is done.
The hon. Gentleman referred to Mr. Megrahi. A prisoner transfer agreement has been signed, but that does not provide for the transfer of any individual prisoner. Any decision to transfer Mr. Megrahi or any other prisoner within the Scottish prison estate is a matter for Scottish Ministers alone.
Sammy Wilson: Will the Minister also give an assurance that the Government will pursue equally vigorously the issue of compensation for those who were victims of terrorism funded and supplied by the Libyan Government in the 1980s and 90s?
Gillian Merron: I will certainly place it on the record that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we sympathise very deeply with the loss and suffering of the victims of IRA terrorism. I can say to him that we did seek to support the interests
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak about the need for recognition of those British citizens who became heroes of the holocaust. I want to put on the record my thanksand I am sure those of many people in the UK including right hon. and hon. Members of the House and Members of the other placefor all the excellent work done by the Holocaust Educational Trust under the leadership of its chief executive, Karen Pollock. Without its support and guidance, I might not be holding this debate today.
With colleagues permission, I want to say a little about that fine organisation before I move on to the substance of the debate. The Holocaust Educational Trust was founded in 1988 by Lord Janner of Braunstone and the late Lord Merlyn-Rees. It was developed by MPs and peers as a result of significant renewed interest and the need for knowledge about the holocaust during the parliamentary proceedings of the War Crimes Act 1991. The trust aims to raise awareness and understanding about the holocaust and its relevance today in schools and with the wider public. It is vital that the holocaust has a permanent place in our nations collective memory.
Mr. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this fantastic debate on a crucial subject. Does he share my profound concern that e-mails, which are attached to horrific PowerPoint presentations, are circulating that suggest that the Government have banned the teaching of the holocaust in schools? Will he join me in urging anyone who receives such an e-mail to bin it straight away?
One of the Holocaust Educational Trusts first achievements was to ensure that the holocaust was included in the national curriculum in 1991. It successfully campaigned to have the assets of holocaust victims and survivors released and returned to their rightful owners. Having played a crucial role in the establishment and development of Holocaust memorial day in the UK, the HET continues to play a key role in the delivery of that day.
The trust carries out significant work in schools and higher education institutions, providing teacher training workshops and lectures as well as teaching aids and resource materials. Some of its activities include the outreach programme, which is a central part of the work that allows students and teachers the opportunity to hear first-hand survivor testimony.
Think Equal is a programme that has been devised specifically for schools in areas of racial tension. It enables the trusts educators to work with staff in schools, deliver teacher training and devise workshops for students that focus on the dangers of racism and discrimination and the contemporary lessons to be drawn from the holocaust.
Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab):
On that point, does my hon. Friend believe, as I do, that not only the victims of the holocaust but the British heroes of the holocaust and their memory are insulted every day
that the BNP raises its head in our towns, villages and communities to spread insidious lies about the effects and realities of the holocaust?
Mr. Brown: My hon. Friend raises an important point. There is no doubt that denial of what has happened is very dangerous. A number of weeks ago, the Holocaust Educational Trust held an event in this Palace to look at issues surrounding the current financial difficulties that we all face. Comparisons were made between the current time, and what happened in EuropeGermany in particularin the late 20s and early 30s. It is important to recognise that history is here, and we should learn its lessons. The point made that evening was that what happened then will not necessarily happen again, but there are lessons to be learned and we must all be careful about that.
The Think Equal programme is delivered in certain London boroughs, and it is anticipated that it will be taken into schools across the country. The Holocaust Educational Trusts Lessons from Auschwitz project for post-16 students and teachers is now in its 10th year. It has taken more than 5,000 students and teachers from across the UK to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Many MPs and other guests have also taken part in those visits, and all of us who have had the opportunity to engage in that project fully recognise its value and the contribution that it makes to the education of young people in our constituencies. In November 2005, many of us were delighted when the Treasury announced funding of £1.5 million for the Lessons from Auschwitz project.
There are recollections and eyewitness accounts from people who remember the holocaust. The Holocaust Educational Trust has produced a BAFTA award-winning DVD-ROM in conjunction with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. The groundbreaking, interactive teaching resource integrates testimony from 18 eyewitnesses of the holocaust, including Jewish, Roma, Sinti and Jehovahs Witness survivors, as well as that of political prisoners and testimony from survivors of the eugenics programme. Teacher training is delivered to trainee teachers at universities and institutions of higher education and to practising teachers as part of their continuing professional development. An annual teacher training course is also held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which is open to both trainee and practising teachers from across the country.
I will now talk about why we are here today. I applied for this debate at the beginning of last week, and yesterday the Prime Minister took the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. Indications appear to suggest that my right hon. Friend the Minister might have something positive to reveal to us today; we wait in anticipation.
We all recognise that the holocaust is one of the darkest episodes in human history, which saw the systematic persecution and murder of approximately 6 million Jews. Other victims included Roma and Sinti Gypsies, the disabled, gay people, trade unionists, the clergy and political opponents of the Nazi regime. Every year in this country we mark Holocaust memorial day, thanks in no small part to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore). At that time, we pause and remember the souls of those who lost their livesthey are remembered with dignity and with a commitment to fight prejudice wherever it is found.
Like so many of the dark times in history, there are often heroes who come to the fore. All too often, what go untold are the extraordinary acts of bravery and selflessness of those who, at great risk to themselves, saved people from certain death. They are people such as June Ravenhall and Major Frank Foley, who were both mentioned in early-day motion 1175, which now has over 130 signatories. They are Ida and Louise Cook from Wandsworth, and Sofka Skipworth who assisted in smuggling the names of Jewish prisoners in a French internment camp to the British authorities and also helped to smuggle out a newborn Jewish baby in a Red Cross box.
Colleagues may wish to refer to some of those individuals, but I want to talk about Jane Haining, who was born in 1897 in the village of Dunscore, a few miles from the town of Dumfries. Janes mother passed away when Jane was only five years old, and Jane grew up to be both determined and capable. For a number of years, she worked in a factory in Paisley. After attending a meeting in Glasgow about the Jewish Mission, she became intrigued about the work. In 1932, she got the call to work at a Church of Scotland mission to the Jews in Budapest.
Jane was very popular with the 400 or so children at the school, who came from a mix of Christian and Jewish backgrounds. Many of them were orphans from poverty-stricken or broken homes. Others attended the school because of the quality of the education. It was apparent that Jane loved both her work and the children. In one letter, Jane wrote:
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