Detainee Mistreatment: Judge-Led Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 3:41 pm, 15th July 2019

You have asked the most penetrating question, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister for finally producing some indication of when we might get a decision and for saying that the Government have reached conclusions. I will not repeat his precis of events, which goes back to the most firm undertakings in 2010 and 2012 that there would be a judge-led inquiry. The preliminary inquiry by Sir Peter Gibson set out the questions that the inquiry had to answer. It was postponed only because of the police inquiry into the further revelations of rendition to Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. After that, the resumption of the inquiry was postponed while the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee examined matters. When the ISC finally discovered the extent of British intelligence services’ complicity in cases of torture and their involvement in hijacking and the unlawful rendition of people for interrogation, mainly in America, the Committee was stopped from doing its investigations and made a report saying what it would have liked to examine if it had been allowed to interview witnesses.

For years and years, this has been put into the long grass in the hope that it would eventually go away, so I hope that that comes to an end this week. We need to know how there was such a terrible breakdown in responsibility and communications that produced the misdeeds that took place in the time after 9/11, so that we can avoid the culture of the intelligence services and their relationships with Ministers ever slipping back into the same thing again. I hope that we will not just be told, “It is too late. Everything is all right now; there is no need to do anything,” because if it is all right now—as I trust it is—we have to reduce the risks that in future, we as a country will ever get involved in torture and rendition again.

If this decision comes out in the last days of this Session, on the eve of the summer recess and in the middle of the appointment of a new Prime Minister in an attempt to bury it away in the pages of Hansard and to escape any further challenge until the autumn comes around, it will be the most blatant further attempt to get out of the most solemn undertakings that were given by me when I was Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor on behalf of the then Prime Minister. That Prime Minister gave these undertakings himself, in a Government in which the present Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and many of their colleagues were serving. We had cleared that line and should honour it, and the whole House should demand a proper, full statement later this week. If there is one success that the delay may have achieved, it is, I regret to say, that for serious personal reasons—not because I am going on holiday—I may miss the final denouement and the statement later this week, because I may be absent from the House. However, I hope that the House will hold the Government fully to account if they try to slip out of their commitments and obligations in the end.