Detainee Issues - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:59 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 3:59 pm, 18th July 2019

Once the Front Bench exchanges have been completed, there will be 20 minutes for Back-Bench Members to interrogate the Minister. I will be happy to address the issue raised by my noble friend at the appropriate time.

I was trying to explain the thinking behind the decision not to have a further judge-led review. It is common ground that there were shortcomings in our response to detainee issues following the atrocities of 9/11. The Government have recognised that. Since then, there have been five independent inquiries—four by the ISC and one by Sir Peter Gibson—into exactly those shortcomings.

Last year, to ensure that we learn the lessons from not just those inquiries but the investigations carried out by the police and the internal reviews carried out by the security and intelligence agencies, we invited Sir Adrian Fulford to review and update the consolidated guidance issued in 2010. He completed his report last month; it was published today along with his covering letter. We have said that we will accept all his recommendations in full. Between now and when they are implemented at the beginning of next year, there will be appropriate training and guidance for all security personnel involved. That is all underpinned by a regime made up of the Justice and Security Act and the Investigatory Powers Act, supervised by an independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner who reviews compliance with that guidance annually. In an exchange in the other place, the ISC chairman welcomed the Government’s response to Sir Adrian’s recommendations.

To come to the point made by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, against that background of very substantial progress, the Prime Minister decided that a lengthy and complicated inquiry, part of which would likely be held in private because of the security issues involved, would not yield proportionate benefits. That is the position as I see it.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for welcoming the publication of the report. He said that some of the civil society recommendations had not been adopted. The Government have been clear that Sir Adrian Fulford is independent. In his letter to the Prime Minister, he says:

“I have been keenly aware of the need to maintain my independence when seeking the views of … officials”.

In producing his report, he may not have incorporated all the recommendations from all those from whom he took evidence, but that is a matter for him. The Government are not minded to second-guess the recommendations of Sir Adrian in that respect.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, mentioned the cases mentioned by the ISC and asked how many had been investigated by the police. These cases have been thoroughly reviewed by the Government, including in the context of the ISC’s 2018 detainee reports, which were extensive and detailed. Sir Peter Gibson had access to all relevant written records for his detainee inquiry and the entire Gibson archive was handed to the ISC for its review. On us being junior partners to the United States, the decisions taken by the UK Government are taken in the interests of the UK and nothing else. In response to the noble Baroness’s final questions, Ministers must of course abide by the law. She mentioned the MoD internal guidance. That is now being revised in light of the new principles published today.

Finally, Foreign Office officials have been in contact with Hashem Abedi since his detention in May 2017 to provide consular assistance. They have been in contact on consular matters since then. As the noble Baroness knows, he landed in the UK on 17 July and has been charged. It is important to allow the judicial process to take place. We ask media colleagues and the wider public to respect this.