Lockerbie Bombing

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:11 pm on 31st January 2001.

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Photo of Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Government Whip 4:11 pm, 31st January 2001

My Lords, I start by thanking both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their words of praise for everyone who brought about the trial. I join them in again expressing my enormous sympathy for those who were bereaved as a result of this dreadful mass murder. We are, indeed, grateful for the support of many people in bringing the trial to a proper conclusion.

I shall now try to deal with as many of the points raised as I can. If I miss any, I undertake to write to noble Lords and to place a copy of my letters in the Library. I am not absolutely certain about the point that the only basis for an appeal is a miscarriage of justice. I shall require advice from Scottish legal experts and shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about that matter. If an appeal goes forward, it will be heard by five Scottish judges in Camp Zeist. As I said, I shall write to noble Lords regarding the details of what may or may not be the basis of such an appeal. At present, no one knows what grounds of appeal the lawyers for the convicted person will choose to follow.

With regard to the question of sanctions, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, it appears that the United States bilateral sanctions will remain in place. The UK has no bilateral sanctions against Libya. The European Union arms embargo stays in place because that is connected with missile technology and is therefore a completely different issue. UN sanctions against Libya were suspended in 1999 when the two accused were handed over for trial. Those sanctions were only suspended and will not be lifted until the UN is satisfied that the results of the US and UK discussions with Libya about fulfilling the requirements of the UN resolutions have progressed. Therefore, a decision will be taken in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, also asked whether the Libyans would wish to return to their previous embassy premises in St James's Square. Obviously, if Libya were to open an embassy in this country, it would be a matter for that country to consider where that should be. However, I am sure that Libya would want to consider sensitivities in the United Kingdom in relation to their returning to an embassy in the square in which WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot and killed. I believe that Libya should take that into account.

I believe that we should await the outcome of the appeal before considering the question of a public inquiry. Over the years, many things have been said and written about this affair, and many theories have been voiced and put forward in the press. So far as concerns the evidence in the case, it is a matter for the Lord Advocate, not the Government, to decide whether any further prosecution or action should be pursued. However, we shall wait until the appeal process has been completed before considering the question of a public inquiry.

I believe that at present that is as much as I am able to provide in the way of detailed answers. I shall write to noble Lords if I have missed any of the points raised.