Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15 January 1996.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00, 15 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he is taking to resolve matters relating to his Department concerning the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. [7442]

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

My Department has thoroughly reviewed the UK national aviation security programme in the light of Lockerbie. Many improvements have resulted. Work continues to develop the security regime further.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

May I ask the Secretary of State a question of which I have given him notice? Seven long years after Lockerbie, has not the time at last arrived for the Government to publish the circumstances in which the then Secretary of State for Transport, Cecil Parkinson, offered in good faith a public inquiry—not, as the Prime Minister would have it, a confidential inquiry—and why Mrs. Thatcher, as she then was, vetoed such an inquiry? Should not the Government also publish details of why the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon)—in equally good faith—told journalists in the Garrick club that the perpetrators of the dreadful crime would be found within weeks? If senior civil servants and current Ministers do not publish something on those events, they might be seen to be part of a wicked cover-up.

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

With regard to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) explained the circumstances to the House on 21 March 1989, and I have nothing to add to that.

On the question of which the hon. Gentleman was good enough to give my office notice, when my noble Friend Lord Parkinson indicated to the British relatives in 1989 that he was prepared to consider a confidential inquiry, the question of how best to proceed had not been decided by Ministers. In making their collective decision not to hold such an inquiry, Ministers had to take into account the likelihood that a fatal accident inquiry would be held, and that a criminal investigation was in hand which might ultimately result in court proceedings.

In the event, a fatal accident inquiry was held, as well as three other inquiries. The fatal accident inquiry examined in detail the actions taken by my Department in response to intelligence received before the incident and concluded that they were not unreasonable.

Finally, the criminal investigation was successful in producing sufficient evidence to issue warrants. That evidence clearly represents additional information available to the Government which is not yet in the public domain. It is vital, however, that none of the evidence is revealed before the trial of the two accused, lest that prejudices the outcome.