Lockerbie Bombing

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:02 pm on 31st January 2001.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:02 pm, 31st January 2001

My Lords, we are all very grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Foreign Secretary's Statement. The Lockerbie bombing was, without doubt, a monstrous crime against humanity. We fully endorse the sympathy expressed for all the relatives, whose grief is unending. The trial and the verdict do not alter anything in that respect.

Nevertheless, it was a fair and well organised trial. It has produced a verdict, although there is an appeal. We also endorse the gratitude expressed to the organisers of a remarkable juridical event--a first in history--and to those who, over the years, helped to break the deadlock, including Nelson Mandela, among others, who enabled a reluctant Libya to yield up the two gentlemen who were charged, one of whom has been found guilty.

I have some questions about where we go from here. First, is it correct that the only basis for appeal under Scottish law, under which the trial was conducted, is a miscarriage of justice, or are there other possible grounds for appeal? Secondly, what is the Government's view about future inquiries? It is obvious that other people were involved in that horror. It could not all have been done by one guilty person. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the background to the horror and how it came about. At the time, the Americans said that it was in retaliation for the bombing of Libya, which in turn was in retaliation for the killing of US sergeants in a night club in Berlin. That is a long trail that needs further examination. The background events were not covered in the trial.

Thirdly, presumably there is no question of lifting the sanctions on Libya until there has been some further movement and changes. Does that apply to the other sanctions on Libya, which pre-date the Lockerbie horror and trial? I understand that Colin Powell wants those sanctions to stay in place. Do we agree?

Fourthly, was Al Megrahi an officially recognised member of the Libyan intelligence service? The Statement seems to accept that he was. I think that it is clear. If so, the state of Libya carries enormous responsibility and should be held to account. It should be more than just a question of compensation for victims. What other action will be considered against a state whose henchman, apparently with the authority of that state, has committed one of the most heinous crimes against humanity in modern times?

Can we assume that there is no question yet of diplomatic relations being restored with Libya? There have been suggestions in the press that that might be under consideration. Is it more than a rumour that, if diplomatic relations were restored, the Libyans would want to move back to their quarters in St James's Square, where they murdered Yvonne Fletcher some years ago--something that we are all reminded of whenever we walk past that tragic spot?

Answers to those questions would be helpful. There has been a trial and a verdict. Despite the appeal, that shows that the issue has not been forgotten. Tireless diplomacy and effort by many people have brought us to this point, but I suspect that there is some way to go.