European Council and North Africa — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:12 pm on 7 February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Bew Lord Bew Crossbench 8:12, 7 February 2011

I thank the Minister for reading out the Statement. On the Libyan aspect of the Statement, I declare an interest as having been a member of the parliamentary delegation for Libyan and Northern Ireland reconciliation, led by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, who is in his place. One thing that emerges very clearly from the Cabinet Office report today is that the Libyan Ministers to whom we spoke knew more about recent UK policy on this matter than those of us who were on that delegation. As long as the noble Lord is a Minister in the Foreign Office, will he ensure that those who go as part of future parliamentary delegations to Libya know the full background of recent UK policy to the country that we are dealing with? Otherwise, one is at a disadvantage.

One interesting thing raised by the Cabinet Secretary at the beginning of the document is the issue about anticipating American reaction. This is quite a remarkable thing; after all, it was not hard to calculate that the United States' reaction to the release of Mr Megrahi would be hostile. There is an argument, as the Prime Minister explicitly stated, that the last Government got it wrong, but at the heart of the report we read that our embassy in Washington said that there would be a hostile US reaction. In the same part of the report, there is also a suggestion that perhaps the State Department was not making its position fully clear. Can the Minister throw some light on an absolutely remarkable piece of British history-a failure to calculate something that was so predictable, which was the United States' reaction to this release? The evidence in the report seems conflicted to some degree. It is such a striking thing that I wonder whether the Minister has any comment on it.