This is my 17th and probably last Adjournment debate on Lockerbie. On the sixth occasion, 10 long years ago on
"All significant information relevant to Lockerbie obtained by the intelligence agencies—or anyone else, to my knowledge—is invariably and as a matter of course provided to those who are responsible for the investigation."—[Hansard, 1 February 1995; Vol. 253, c. 1058–9.]
I am sure that Douglas Hurd spoke in good faith, but I just ask to wonder.
In 1998, Lady Symons told a group of Lockerbie relatives that Her Majesty's Government had a duty to find out why British nationals were killed at Lockerbie. Who was responsible, and how could it have happened? I wonder, as do Pamela Dix and Dr. Jim Swire of the Lockerbie families group, who are here today, whether Her Majesty's Government are fulfilling that duty.
In the Prime Minister's letter of
"I entirely share your concern that we learn from Lockerbie and do all we can to prevent such a tragedy happening again."
How can we do that if we do not know the whole truth?
The aim of my next question is to try to establish some part of this very complex truth. Did British intelligence know, or was it informed, that a fifth improvised explosive device, allegedly not recovered but once in the possession of a terrorist cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine general command in Germany in late October 1988, was larger than the Toshiba Bombeat single-speaker radio cassette recorder adapted to become an improvised explosive device and found in the possession of the same PFLP-GC terrorist cell, and that the twin-speaker device, which was used in the Lockerbie murders, was larger than the Toshiba Bombeat single-speaker version?
If the UK intelligence services did know or were informed that the so-called fifth device was larger than the Toshiba Bombeat single-speaker radio cassette recorder, adapted to become an improvised explosive device, and that the twin-speaker Toshiba radio cassette recorder was larger than the single-speaker version, was that information given to any police force in the UK? If so, to whom was it given and when?
What were the total costs, incurred directly or indirectly, in connection with the visits made by the prosecution witness, Anthony Gauci, and members of his family, to the UK and Holland between
The Crown Office issued a press release on
I am sorry for asking the Father of the House to give way just as he is ending his speech. However, is he aware of my constituents, Martin and Rita Cadman, who are the parents of one of the victims on the aircraft? Above all else, they want closure. They want the truth; for them that is very important. They want to get on with their lives. Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that most of the relatives feel that the Libyan leader was forced into making his offer to them, for purely political reasons? They are not impressed by it; they want the truth more than anything else.
I simply respond that Martin Cadman is an extremely serious and well informed member of the Lockerbie group of relatives. He and his wife had a most terrible loss, as did the other relatives.
I say to hard-working Ministers and Foreign Office officials that, at one level, I am sorry to bother them about events that began 16 long years ago and that perhaps could only have been fully explained by the late Abu Nidal—who was murdered in Baghdad, probably by associates of Saddam Hussein—or by people, either dead or long since retired, in Washington. However, on another level, I do not apologise. Those relatives passionately believe that they are entitled to the truth. In Barlinnie prison there is a man—Abdelbaset al-Megrahi—who I believe was a sanctions buster for Libyan Arab Airlines and the Libyan oil industry, and not a mass murderer.
I take the opportunity to congratulate the Father of the House, my hon. Friend Mr. Dalyell, on securing this debate to discuss matters relating to Lockerbie and talk about the recent developments in the UK-Libyan relationship, which are also relevant. I pay tribute to his persistence and sustained interest in his inquiries as to what happened with regard to Lockerbie. He referred to the fact that that horrific and tragic event took place 16 years ago and said that this was his 17th Adjournment debate on the subject. He has persistently pursued the matter in a way that is remarkable and to his credit.
I also pay tribute to the Lockerbie families. Their courage and determination throughout the years and in the face of such a tragedy are impressive and humbling. Nothing can ever bring back their family members, but Libya's formal acceptance of responsibility for Lockerbie, and the payment of compensation to the victims' families, are important and have been recognised as such by the families.
Before I turn to the foreign policy aspects of Lockerbie, I wish to underscore this Government's satisfaction with Libya's reintegration with the international community in the past 12 months. As the Prime Minister rightly said when he visited Libya in March 2004, we are aware of Libya's past record but we should acknowledge and support change where we judge that it is real; otherwise, we never make progress in international relations. It is right that we should seek to consolidate and build on that improvement in relations.
Libya's dismantling of its weapons of mass destruction programmes and the formal acceptance by its Government of responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing are particularly welcome and important developments. It is worth noting that there have been other signs of progress, including rapprochement between Libya and the EU, payment of compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims and settlements in the French and German claims for compensation.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and for what he has said so far. Would he not agree that the families have said that the compensation is a step forward, but is pretty meaningless in the absence of getting the truth out? The total amount of compensation that Gaddafi is offering is minute compared with Libya's oil revenues. The families really want some progress on the truth.
On one level I accept the thrust of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. We left the negotiation on the compensation to the lawyers, because that was the correct course to take to get the best deal and justice for the families of the Lockerbie victims. I will deal later with the issue of wanting truth and closure.
It is clear that a policy of engagement with Libya has the potential to bring this country and its people further benefits—political, strategic and commercial—in the future. A Libya that has renounced terrorism and abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programmes is a safer neighbour for the EU and the UK. I should like to say a final word on this subject: the case of Libya demonstrates that international relationships can be transformed. Difficult problems, such as the proliferation of WMD, can be resolved through discussion and engagement if political will and commitment is present on both sides. What has happened with Libya is a model that I hope North Korea will follow, recognising that it is possible to make progress on such issues by genuinely engaging with the international community.
I have set out the Government's approach to UK-Libya relations. Let me turn now to the points that my hon. Friend raised in his speech. I am grateful for the fact that he gave advance notice to my office of his line of questioning, but he has asked many detailed questions and if there are gaps between what I am able to say and the fullness of my answers, I shall write to him. Some of my hon. Friend's points are the responsibility of the devolved Administration in Scotland, and I will ensure that those issues are passed on to the authorities there, but I shall certainly try to deal with his main points.
As to the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, that is a very grey area, because many of my questions referred to the knowledge of the Government in London before the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999.
Certainly, I will do my best on the points that relate to the responsibilities of the UK Government, either today or subsequently in writing. However, there are elements that relate to devolved responsibilities and functions that have been transferred to the Scottish Parliament and Executive. It is appropriate for me to ensure that they are aware of the issues that my hon. Friend has raised, and I will do my level best to ensure that they respond to him.
Let me now deal with what, in many senses, is the central thrust of the argument of my hon. Friend and Mr. Bellingham: the case for an independent inquiry into Lockerbie. I know that my hon. Friend has long taken the view that there should be an independent inquiry into Lockerbie. Some 270 people died, and in such circumstances, as Ministers have said before, there is both a moral and a practical imperative for Government to seek answers to the key and fundamental questions.
The search for answers about Lockerbie involved unprecedented police, diplomatic and legal efforts. The unique format of a Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands led to the trial and conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. His conviction, as my hon. Friend will know, has since been upheld on appeal. The trial and Mr. al-Megrahi's conviction answer many of the key questions about what happened at Lockerbie. The court heard evidence about how the bomb was loaded on to Pan Am 103. It established that the attack was carried out
"in furtherance of the purposes of the Libyan intelligence services"
and that Mr. al-Megrahi, an agent of the Libyan intelligence services, had been involved in the conspiracy to bomb the plane.
I appreciate that there are other questions that some feel were not addressed in full by the trial. I fully understand that this is undoubtedly a particularly sensitive issue for the victims' families, many of whom have pressed for an independent inquiry into the tragic events at Lockerbie. Let me assure hon. Members that we take the families' concerns extremely seriously. Ministers and officials have had regular contact with the families over the years and have listened very carefully to them. The Prime Minister met representatives of the families in spring 2004 when he returned from Tripoli. The Foreign Secretary has also met the families, rightly, on a number of occasions.
The Government have given proposals for a further inquiry into Lockerbie careful consideration on a number of occasions; I know that to be the case. In regard to the case that my hon. Friend made for an independent inquiry, I have to say that such an inquiry would be a further inquiry because, of course, a number of inquiries have already taken place. Those include the Camp Zeist trial and the fatal accident inquiry, a published report following the expert investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, and Mr. al-Megrahi's appeal against his conviction. Much information came to light, perhaps inevitably, in the course of those inquiries and trials.
I do respect the view that the issue should be reconsidered in light of improvements in the bilateral relationship established between the UK and Libya. The improvement is welcome and we remain determined to continue the process of bringing Libya back into the international community, but that does not alter the fundamentals that led us, after long and careful consideration, to reject the idea of a further inquiry.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has told the families and Parliament, given the absence of any significant new information, the fact that the key issues have already been extensively explored, and action taken, including substantial changes to airport procedures, it is most unlikely that any further form of inquiry would unearth further lessons to be learned—some16 years after the event, as my hon. Friend said—that had not been identified during earlier investigations.
There undoubtedly remain a host of theories and issues on this subject that have developed over time. It is not the place of the Government to assess those theories. That was, and must remain, a matter for the prosecuting authorities. It is clear that such theories can be based only on an incomplete knowledge and understanding of the mass of evidence that was available to the prosecuting authorities, through which these matters were investigated in extraordinary detail.
It also remains a matter for the Scottish prosecution authorities to decide whether further inquiries into the criminal case are appropriate. As the independent head of the prosecution authorities, the Lord Advocate addressed the Scottish Parliament following Mr al-Megrahi's conviction for murder in 2001. On that occasion, he made it clear that the criminal investigation remains open as regards the involvement of others with al-Megrahi in the bombing, but that there was insufficient evidence to justify bringing criminal proceedings against any individual. That remains the case, as I understand it.
As anyone who has followed the case knows—certainly my hon. Friend the Father of House does—the possibility that an extremist group might have been responsible was thoroughly investigated on a number of occasions. No credible evidence has been found to substantiate any theory other than that which led to charges being brought against the two Libyan individuals—that was certainly the assessment of the prosecuting authorities.
The case was put together after the largest investigations to take place in respect of any crime that has been committed in the UK. The crime committed was unique in the history of crime in this country, and our concern, as always, was rightly that justice should be done. The dedication of the Dumfries and Galloway constabulary, and the efforts of the families in their pursuit of justice, was rightly admired by all. [Interruption.] As we certainly know, the Scottish judges in the Netherlands returned their verdict on
In view of the time that has elapsed during the investigation, and the fact that some of the detailed matters raised by my hon. Friend are properly for the devolved Scottish Administration, the information relating to some of his questions lies outside the grasp of the Foreign Office. I will nevertheless deal with the specific points raised, with the knowledge that has been made available to me.
I will happily address that point, but let me refer in turn to the points that my hon. Friend has raised.
My hon. Friend has raised the possible use, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine general command, of a Toshiba radio cassette as an improvised explosive device. On the face of it, it is indeed striking that the radio cassette player was of the same make as that used in the attack on Pan Am 103. As my hon. Friend points out, it was, however, a different model. More importantly, the timers were found to be of a different kind. The court looked in detail at the apparent connections between this case and Pan Am 103—they had the full information before them—and concluded that there was no connection.
My hon. Friend has also raised a number of detailed questions about the prosecution witness Mr. Gauci—with notice but, with the time it takes to pull information together, at short notice. On his request for the detail of the costs of Mr. Gauci's visits to Scotland, I have not been able to pull together the costs within the time available, but I will write to my hon. Friend. However, for the record, let me make it absolutely clear that any visits to the United Kingdom were appropriate and necessary, and were related to the proper investigation and prosecution of the case. There is no question of any inducements having been offered by the UK authorities to any individuals during the Scottish authorities' inquiries.
My hon. Friend asked about Mr. Gauci's possible relocation to Australia. I am not aware of any such arrangement. However, I will write to my hon. Friend once I have had the opportunity to look at that claim in detail. He should not assume anything from that. I am not aware of any information about that, but I will check it out further. I will do the same as regards the $4 million payment.
My hon. Friend also raised the issue of the press notice issued by the Crown Office in 1995. I am not sure he quite does justice to what was said in that statement, which quoted from a statement made in the House on 1 February 1995 by the then Foreign Secretary, who was himself quoting a United States official. The press statement said:
"As the Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons on 1 February, the acting Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration stated publicly to United States Congressional investigators in 1990 that while they did conduct controlled drug deliveries through Frankfurt in 1989 with the co-operation and supervision of the German authorities no controlled deliveries were conducted anywhere in Europe during or immediately before December 1988."
I think that that addresses my hon. Friend's concern.
There may be parts of the detail that I have not picked up from my hon. Friend but I hope that I have managed to deal with the fundamentals of the Government's approach to the case. I shall certainly look carefully at the record of my hon. Friend's remarks to see whether I can usefully write to him on any other matters. If this does prove to be my hon. Friend's last Adjournment debate on the subject, I want to take the opportunity to recognise the diligence with which he has pursued these issues and the spirit in which he has raised them. He has done an enormous service to the families of Lockerbie, and it is right that that is recognised.
In conclusion, my thoughts and concerns remain with the families whose lives were fundamentally devastated by the Lockerbie bombing. It is one of the most appalling terrorist attacks ever to beset this country. The investigations and compensation are progress, but nothing will ultimately ever reverse the appalling events that took place back in 1988. Nevertheless, I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate and giving it a further air.
I should like to take the opportunity to thank the Minister and his officials. There are terrible problems for things that happened, not in the time of his father, grandfather, great-grandfather or great-great grandfather in Foreign Office terms, but long ago. I can imagine that it is difficult to go through archives. However, there is also a general problem with the responsibilities of the House of Commons and of the Scottish Parliament. You would have ruled out of order some of the questions that one would have liked to ask, Mr. Taylor, because they concern the Crown Office. The Crown Office has a moral obligation to be forthcoming in all that it knows—
Briefly, in response to that point, there is a proper division of responsibilities between the UK central Government and the Scottish Parliament. Nevertheless, I will ensure that the points that my hon. Friend has raised will go to the Scottish Parliament, Executive and relevant authorities, and I will ensure that he gets an answer.
Sitting suspended until Two o'clock.