Detainee Inquiry

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 11:55 am on 19 December 2013.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Labour, Blackburn 11:55, 19 December 2013

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for allowing me a response at greater length than is usual. May I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his statement and the care he has taken in handling this matter, which I personally appreciate, and may I say that I share many of the sentiments he has expressed?

I greatly welcome today’s announcement that the Intelligence and Security Committee will now inquire into the questions raised by Sir Peter Gibson’s interim report, and that all relevant witnesses will be able to give testimony in person? Such a further inquiry is, surely, imperative given that the 27 sets of issues Sir Peter identifies have been based entirely on the available documents, and not on any statements, or oral examinations of witnesses?

May I tell the House that, as Foreign Secretary, I acted at all times in a manner that was fully consistent with my legal duties and with national and international law, and that I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of individuals by the United States or any other state?

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware, as Sir Peter brings out in his interim report and has long been known more widely, that in early January 2002 I agreed that the UK should not stand in the way of UK nationals who were detained in Afghanistan by the United States being transferred to Guantanamo Bay, and that I did so after careful legal advice and because, at the time, it was the only practical alternative to their remaining in custody in Afghanistan? But will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also accept that we never agreed in any way to the mistreatment of those detainees or to the denial of their rights, that we made repeated objections to the United States Government about these matters, and that I was able to secure the release of all British detainees by January 2005?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that we should never forget the context: that the period covered by this report was the aftermath of the world’s most appalling terrorist atrocity ever, on 11 September 2001, and that in this period there was a continuing and profound anxiety of further terrorist outrages to come—anxieties that were all too well placed, as we all discovered on 7 July 2005?

Finally, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that throughout this difficult period it was the exemplary professionalism and bravery of our armed forces and of the staff of our intelligence and security agencies which ensured that, in so far as was humanly possible, our nation and its people were kept safe?