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10 Feb 2010 : Column 911

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Why, uniquely among the advanced economies, does the UK have an inflation rate well above target and rising very sharply, when our output is so very flat?

The Prime Minister: If we took the right hon. Gentleman's advice there would be massive cuts in public expenditure. He is the one who says that there should be even more cuts than are being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. We would lose jobs and businesses, and our economy would go deep into recession again. That is not a policy that the people of this country want. The Conservatives have dozens of policies on this, and the right hon. Gentleman's is the most extreme-but we will follow none of their advice.

Q10. [316567] Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it remains his intention, in the event that this Government are re-elected, to restore the link between old age pensions and earnings, which was abandoned in the early 1980s?

The Prime Minister: It was part of the Turner report's recommendations to reform the pension system. That was originally accepted on an all-party basis by all parties in this House, and we will wish to go ahead with our proposals.

Q11. [316568] Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): As is recorded in column 292 of last Wednesday's Hansard, the Prime Minister said that he had no knowledge of a £50,000 slush fund for his leadership campaign, and that that was why it was not registered in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. He has had a week to reflect. Has anything jogged his memory? Would he like to correct the record?

The Prime Minister: All donations to the Labour party are reported by the Labour party, not by me.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Carswell), and ahead of the European Council, will the Prime Minister confirm that any negotiations involving a bail-out for the Greek economy will be completely confined to eurozone countries, and have no impact on the UK?

The Prime Minister: I have already said that international support is available for countries, as set up by the G20 summit in London in April. That support can be drawn on at an international level. If the euro area wishes to move ahead with a proposal, that is for the euro area.

Q12. [316569] Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): Recent research has shown that more than
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70 per cent. of blind and partially sighted people are unable to access vital personal health information. Will the Prime Minister agree to meet me and a delegation from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, so that we can discuss provisions that could address that shameful inadequacy?

The Prime Minister: GPs are already required, under relevant legislation, to make reasonable adjustments to their written information for patients with a visual impairment. The Equality Bill also contains legislation that will avoid discrimination against people with lesser sight, and anybody with a visual impairment should also be aware that the General Medical Council has issued guidance that doctors must ensure that arrangements are made to meet patients' language and communication needs. We will do everything in our power to improve the services to those with visual impairments, and I would be very happy to meet any delegation that the hon. Lady brings to me.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister accept that the welcome international support for eurozone countries facing economic difficulties is undermined by the $8 billion-worth of speculative transactions that are currently taking place against the value of the euro? Does that not reinforce his case for the urgent introduction of a Tobin tax, which could bring to the international table £400 billion per year? That would be as relevant to the developing needs of the poor countries in the south as it would be to avoiding austerity measures in the north.

The Prime Minister: What we want is international agreement to restructure our banking system in the way that is necessary. It cannot be done by one country on its own; it must be done by countries working together. We have put proposals to the G20 whereby we could co-ordinate activity in terms of capital requirements for banks, liquidity ratios and the rewards that they are prepared to pay, but it is also true that the relationship between banks and society needs to change. I have proposed, with other people, that a levy be raised from banks. There is new interest in that around the world, and I believe that over the next period we will reach agreement on a global financial levy. I am sorry that many people opposed it when it was first announced, because I believe that we will be able to go ahead with it in the not too distant future.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr. Speaker: Order. There will now be a statement by the Foreign Secretary. I would be grateful if, as the Foreign Secretary makes his way to the Dispatch Box, Members who are leaving the Chamber would do so quickly and quietly.

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Binyam Mohamed

12.34 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement to the House on the case of Mr. Binyam Mohamed following the judgment handed down this morning in the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that, in the light of disclosures by a United States court in December 2009, which I shall describe below, the seven paragraphs that have been redacted from the original judgment of the divisional court in this country of 21 August 2008 should be published. The seven paragraphs contain summaries of American intelligence relating to Mr. Mohamed's case held in UK files. I accept the Court's ruling, which concludes a very complex, and in various ways apparently unique, case, and I have made the relevant paragraphs available this morning on the Foreign Office website. The judgment is significant not just in respect of the seven paragraphs but for important principles that are at the very heart of both our national security and our democracy.

The facts are as follows. Mr. Mohamed, an Ethiopian national formerly resident in the UK, was detained in Pakistan in 2002. In 2004, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. In August 2007, the then Home Secretary and I wrote to the US Secretary of State to seek Mr. Mohamed's release from Guantanamo Bay and his return to the United Kingdom, along with four other UK residents. Mr. Mohamed was released from Guantanamo a year and a half later, in February last year.

In May 2008, Mr. Mohamed brought proceedings against the British Government in an effort to secure disclosure to his legal counsel of any material held by the British Government that might assist in the defence of his case before a US military commission. The question at issue in our appeal against the judgment of the divisional court was not this disclosure, which we supported and secured. It was instead whether intelligence provided, on a confidential basis, by one state to another, in absolute trust that it would be kept secure, should be disclosed into the public domain in the interests of open justice; or whether the breach of trust would be so grave as to endanger intelligence-sharing relationships and therefore affect national security. As I have said in this House on a number of occasions, in this case it was US intelligence and an English court, but it could just as easily be British intelligence in a foreign court. As I have also said to the House, often, at issue in this case was not the content of the seven paragraphs, but the principle of their disclosure by an English court against US wishes.

I am grateful for the consideration that the Court of Appeal gave to the control principle. This principle, which states that intelligence belonging to another country should not be released without its agreement, underpins the flow of intelligence between the US and UK. This unique intelligence-sharing relationship is vital to national security in both our countries. Crucially, the Court has today upheld the control principle. The judgment describes that principle as integral to intelligence sharing. It specifically vindicates the careful assessment that releasing the seven
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paragraphs without the consent of the United States would have damaged the public interest. It also specifically makes clear that

This is important for the future of intelligence-sharing with the US and others.

However, on 17 December last year, we received notice of a US court ruling in the case of another Guantanamo detainee, Farhi Saaed Bin Mohammed, which made a finding of fact in respect of Binyam Mohamed's allegations of mistreatment. That judgment does not set out the content of the seven paragraphs per se, but it does include references to the treatment of Mr. Mohamed covered in the seven paragraphs. We brought this to the attention of the Court of Appeal and Mr. Mohamed's counsel immediately. The Court of Appeal today ordered the publication of the seven paragraphs because, in its view, their contents were placed into the public domain by a United States district court. Without that disclosure, it is clear that the Court of Appeal would have upheld our appeal and overturned the fifth judgment of the divisional court. The Court of Appeal was also clear that the judiciary should overturn the view of the Executive on matters of national security only in the most exceptional circumstances. It states that

I spoke last night to Secretary Clinton about this case, which has been followed carefully at the highest levels in the US system with a great deal of concern. Recent events have shown the importance of the US-UK intelligence relationship in the fight against terrorism; equally, the determination of the US authorities to protect the confidentiality of their intelligence has been absolute throughout this case. We will work carefully with the US in the weeks ahead to discuss the judgment and its implications in the light of our shared goals and commitments.

Mistreatment of prisoners, not to say torture, violates the most basic principles of this country, never mind our national and international legal obligations. There is a fundamental commitment on the part of myself, responsible for the Secret Intelligence Service, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, responsible for the Security Service, and the heads and staff of those agencies, to uphold the highest standards of conduct not just for ourselves but with the countries with which we co-operate.

A wide range of allegations have been made during the course of this case. Today some of the facts can be publicised, in some cases for the first time. First, the paragraphs released today describe information received by our intelligence agencies concerning the conditions of Mr. Mohamed's detention by the United States in Pakistan in April 2002. They note specifically that he was subject to sleep deprivation, threats and inducements, that he was held shackled, and that the treatment, were it conducted by the United Kingdom, would be contrary to undertakings first given to this House in 1972. I repeat that it was not conducted by the UK.

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Secondly, now that they are in the public domain, it will be evident that the paragraphs do not contain information on Mr. Mohamed's most serious claims of mistreatment, notably in respect of alleged genital mutilation, during his detention until his release from Guantanamo last year. We, the United Kingdom, have no information to corroborate those allegations. Those matters have quite properly been raised by Mr. Mohamed in his civil claim for damages and will be addressed there.

Thirdly, during the course of these proceedings, allegations of possible criminal wrongdoing by a British official were made. The Home Secretary referred them to the Attorney-General for her consideration, and they are now the subject of a police investigation.

The most basic values of this country are at issue in the debate that will follow the Court's decision today. Our position is clear: the UK firmly opposes torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. This is not just about legal obligations, it is also about our values as a nation and what we do, not just what we say. We have taken a leading role in eradicating torture internationally, both through organisations such as the United Nations and by assisting other countries. Where possible wrongdoing is found, it is fully investigated.

I also want to place on record the fact that we are lucky to have the best intelligence agencies in the world. Their staff are second to none in their commitment and public service. They are respected across the world, and the work that they do to keep Britain safe deserves all our admiration and gratitude.

There is a fundamental myth that needs to be addressed, which is that the security services operate without independent oversight. Ministers and agency heads have the first responsibility for the conduct of their organisations. The Intelligence and Security Committee provides parliamentary scrutiny of agency activities, and independent judicial oversight is provided by the commissioners, who by law must be given access to whatever documents and information they need. Both report annually to the Prime Minister and to Parliament. Then there are the courts, whose role is to protect the rights of individuals and provide recourse to justice when they believe they have been infringed. That they have done, and continue to do, in this case.

Today's judgment is not evidence that the system is broken. Rather, it is evidence that the system is working and that the full force of the law is available when citizens believe that they have just cause. The six judgments in this case, plus a closed judgment, show a seriousness of purpose in our legal system that is a vital part of our system of accountability. We have fought this case and brought the appeal to defend a principle that we believe is fundamental to our national security-that intelligence shared with us will be protected by us. No one likes to lose a case, but the force of the judgment is that it firmly recognises that principle. In doing so, the Court is fulfilling its vital constitutional role, protecting this country and upholding the law.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): We on the Conservative Benches have always held that the intelligence co-operation between the United States and
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the United Kingdom is unique in the world and of immense value to both countries, and that its disruption would have serious consequences for our national security. I echo the Foreign Secretary's tribute to the security services.

At the same time, we have consistently argued for full investigation of all credible allegations of UK complicity in torture, and for the Government to find a way in this particular case to balance the needs of national security with the need for justice and accountability in our democratic society. We therefore welcome today's judgment, which upholds the principle of control and the need for openness in this particular case.

The alleged treatment of Binyam Mohamed described in the seven paragraphs now released by the Foreign Office is so utterly unacceptable, and the alleged treatment described in the US court judgment in December so dramatically unacceptable, that if true, they are not only morally wrong but will harm our efforts to combat terrorists, play into the hands of their propagandists and weaken, rather than strengthen, our national security.

We have always believed that the principle of control could be upheld while seeking an exception in this case from the United States. The Foreign Secretary will recall that I put to him in the House a year ago this week that the Government could have positively asked the US for permission to publish these paragraphs. If they had done so, and if the US had agreed, we would have arrived at the same outcome as today's Court judgment, without a further year of legal proceedings, more quickly and smoothly, and in a way that left the Government less open to the attack that they were withholding from the public evidence of complicity in torture. Does not the fact that the relevant information has been published anyway in the US strengthen our case that that would have been the right course of action a year ago?

In other respects, we agree with the Foreign Secretary's statement, particularly on maintaining the principle of control of intelligence, which, indeed, the Court ruling reaffirms and which we fully support. He has long argued that the intelligence-sharing relationship would be damaged by the release of these paragraphs. Is it still his view that that relationship will be damaged now that the information has been published? Can he say whether there are any other cases pending involving allegations of torture, in which he expects the principle to be challenged? In the light of the failed Detroit bomb attack and the serious threat at the moment to both the UK and the US from terrorism, can he assure the House that the sharing of information at this critical time has not been affected in any way? Have any other countries with which we share intelligence warned that they will reconsider the basis on which they share information in the light of today's developments?

My final set of questions concerns the overriding need to draw a line under this episode and restore the UK's moral authority in the matter of allegations of complicity in torture. As the Court ruling states,


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