[On the formation of Tony Blair’s Labour government following the general election held on 1 May 1997, Andrew Hardie QC became Lord Advocate. What follows is an exchange in the House of Lords on this date in 1997 between him and the Lord Advocate who had been in office in 1991 when charges were brought against Megrahi and Fhimah:]
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their policy concerning the prosecution of those responsible for the murder of those on flight Pan Am 103 and of residents of Lockerbie in December 1988.
The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie) My Lords, the Government's policy in relation to the prosecution of any crime is that those allegedly responsible should be brought before the courts having jurisdiction for such matters in order that the accused may receive a fair trial.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has not quite answered the Question that I put to him. As the new Administration takes up office and as the noble and learned Lord as the new Lord Advocate takes over responsibility for these matters, it would be helpful if a clear signal were given not only to this country but also to the rest of the world that the policy pursued by previous Lord Advocates will be maintained. Even in the absence of a clear answer from the noble and learned Lord, I hope I may ask him two questions. First, he will appreciate that as the public prosecutor in Scotland in that respect he does not share a collective responsibility with other ministerial colleagues but has a singular and possibly rather lonely duty to determine whether or not there should be a prosecution. Will he guard against any attempt, however well intentioned, to fetter that discretion for foreign policy or trade reasons?
Secondly, if the noble and learned Lord should determine at any stage that there should not be a prosecution in this matter, will he give an assurance that he will explain that to your Lordships' House? It is not just the relatives of those 270 people who died at Lockerbie who would like to know on what evidence the original decision was taken, but those of us who were involved in the prosecution and the original investigation, who have had our integrity impugned as conspiracy theory has piled upon conspiracy theory, would like the opportunity to reflect on how we would wish to take the matter forward.
Lord Hardie My Lords, I assure the House—as I did in my maiden speech—that I intend to guard the independence of the office which I hold. I assure the noble and learned Lord that I shall not allow anyone from any side of the House to fetter my discretion in any way. As regards reaching any decision, as the noble and learned Lord will be aware, I was involved, along with him, in the public inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster. Since taking up office I have had access to much information that was not available to me at that stage and which is not in the public domain. I can assure the House that I am satisfied on the information available to me that there is no reason not to proceed with the petitions. The noble and learned Lord will be aware that the situation is still fluid in the sense that if additional information becomes available any decision would have to be reviewed. I can also assure the noble and learned Lord that should it be decided that no prosecution will take place I shall return to the House and make a Statement to that effect.
HL Deb 25 June 1997 vol 580 cc1571-3