Sanctions (Libya)

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 20th February 1997

To ask the Prime Minister if he will discuss with President Clinton the consequences for (a) the imposition of sanctions on Libya and (b) the case against Libyan nationals of the dismissal of James Thurman from the service of the United States Government. [15310]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I have no plans to do so. The case against the two accused Libyans does not depend on any evidence that Mr. Thurman might give.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Has Thurman been reassigned to other duties for fabricating forensic evidence?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am certainly not aware that that is the case. If the hon. Gentleman has any information that it is, or any information that he thinks bears on this matter—

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I am not an avid and daily reader of the New York Times. If he has any information that is pertinent to this case, and would care to provide me with it, I will certainly undertake to have it carefully examined.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

As senior Scottish advocates have said that it would be impossible for the two accused to have a fair trial in Scotland because of press publicity, and as the Libyan Government have now stated that they will hand over the two accused to the Arab League for committal to trial in The Hague or anywhere else, would it not help those who lost their relatives and friends at Lockerbie to have the issue resolved? My right hon. Friend is, as we all know, basically a straight, decent person, so will he endeavour to solve the problem and stop simply engaging in the throwing of insults? Could we not solve it in the interests of those who lost their relatives and friends at Lockerbie?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I certainly want a solution to this problem. We would like a solution as much as the relatives, but we need a proper criminal trial and there are genuine and practical difficulties in trying to establish such a trial in a third country. I think that many hon. Members, including—if my hon. Friend will permit me to say so—me, would, on grounds of principle, find a trial in a third country very difficult to accept. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I shall tell hon. Members why. It could suggest that a trial in Scotland or the United States would not be fair.

I am not prepared to accept that premise in terms of a trial in Scotland. Nor do I think that it would be remotely attractive for us to allow alleged terrorists to dictate where they may or may not be tried. That would be a bad principle. The Security Council resolutions say that they should be tried in Scotland or the United States—two countries with a particular interest in the matter.

I have to add that I am very doubtful that the Libyans would deliver the accused for such a trial, even if one were to be set up, but, for the reasons that I have set out, the trial should be either in Scotland, which would be the preference, or in the United States.