Friday, 25 November 2011

Lockerbie raised in the House of Lords

[Two days ago I posted an item based on a news agency report about a question and answer on Lockerbie in the House of Lords.  The full Hansard report of the exchange is now available.  It reads as follows:]

Asked By Lord Selkirk of Douglas:
    To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will continue to make representations to the National Transitional Council of Libya to make available any evidence in their possession concerning the attack on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 to the Lord Advocate and the Scottish police to assist their investigation.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the Government will continue to support the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary's investigation into the Lockerbie bombing. We will approach Libya's newly formed transitional Government about getting the Dumfries and Galloway police back to Libya at the earliest opportunity to take forward their investigations. The National Transitional Council chairman, Abdul Jalil, has assured my right honourable friend the Prime Minister that the new Libyan authorities will co-operate with the UK on this and other ongoing investigations.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: While I welcome the Minister's statement, does he believe that the recent capture of Colonel Gaddafi's intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, and of the intelligence archives in Tripoli, may finally provide the vital information that would assist the Lord Advocate with his ongoing inquiries? I ask this question as one of the two former Ministers who were at the crime scene within a few hours and who met some of the relatives shortly afterwards. In order to bring closure to the families of 270 victims, is it not highly desirable that they should learn from any new evidence exactly what happened 23 years ago, and precisely what the background was to this monstrous crime?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, it is desirable and yes, indeed, it was the most monstrous crime. We are seeking confirmation from the Libyan Government regarding the reported detention of Abdullah al-Senussi. We have been clear that no effort should be spared in bringing him to justice. Al-Senussi's arrest, if confirmed, would offer an opportunity to uncover the truth behind some of the former regime's dreadful crimes. As I just said, the Government will continue to support the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary's investigation into the bombing. We would want any new evidence to be made available to it and indeed to the Lord Advocate. I am confident that the new Libyan Government will act in accordance with Chairman Jalil's commitment to co-operate with the UK on this and other investigations, and bring closure to the concerns and misery of the families of the victims.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that it would also shed light on this matter if the report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission were published in full, so far as is possible?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Of course, there has been the report of Sir Gus O'Donnell. It has been placed in the Library and it was fully discussed when it was produced some weeks ago. Further light needs to be shed on this and I am confident that, with the full assistance of the new Libyan Government, we will get the papers and the evidence to show exactly what was said and by whom.

Lord Empey: My Lords, can the Minister tell us that in addition to pursuing the issue of Lockerbie, the Government will rigorously and vigorously pursue the issue of compensation for all UK victims who were damaged by weapons supplied to the IRA by the Gaddafi regime and that the Government themselves will lead those negotiations rather than leaving them to third parties?

Lord Howell of Guildford: At present we are looking at all possible options with the Libyan Government to get a resolution on the legacy issues, including this one, which is certainly a very high priority. It is very early days for the new Libyan Government as they have only just been appointed, but we want to see a broad proposal for embracing questions of compensation, reconciliation and, indeed, investment in Northern Ireland. We are trying to develop a broad approach with, and led by, the Libyan Government.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is utterly natural and inevitable that parliaments the world over should seek to have as much light as possible cast upon the perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing? However, technically speaking, a request should be made formally by the Scottish Parliament themselves-bearing in mind, of course, the transfer of jurisdiction in relation to that. As for this Parliament, could the same principle not also apply to casting light upon those who were responsible for the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher?

Lord Howell of Guildford: On the second point about WPC Yvonne Fletcher, that is most certainly so. We are in touch with the Metropolitan Police about reopening their investigations into the perpetrators of that hideous crime. On the former question, the decision was made by the devolved Scottish Government and it is a matter for them to pursue. We have indicated that the Government in London will give full assistance to the devolved Government in pursuing their inquiries.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Lord inform us about the state of health of Mr Al Megrahi, who was released by the Scottish authorities on the grounds that he had only six months to live?

Lord Howell of Guildford: We have passed a request from the devolved Administration to the Libyan chargé d'affaires in London asking that the supervision arrangements of Al Megrahi's licence are observed. Part of the investigation by the Dumfries and Galloway police will also embrace the question of his condition, but we are awaiting the precise details of his health from the Libyan Government now.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: Does the Minister accept that the Lord Advocate has put in a formal request to the National Transitional Council and that a statement has been issued by the Crown Office to the effect that the trial court of Mr Al Megrahi accepted that he did not act alone?

Lord Howell of Guildford: I am not sure that I can comment on my noble friend's second point, but it is certainly correct that the Lord Advocate has put in a formal request, and indeed has made that absolutely clear to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. We are collaborating closely on this.

1 comment:

  1. "Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that it would also shed light on this matter if the report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission were published in full, so far as is possible?"

    And the answer was.....silence. Unbelievable!