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Transport (Hastings and Rye)

10.13 pm

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye): I am enthusiastic in presenting this petition on behalf of the thousands of my constituents who have added their names to it. It is timely because of the Government's imminent decision on the roads review. It states:

The petition has my whole-hearted support and relates to probably the most important issue facing my constituency.

To lie upon the Table.

Easter Floods

Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South): I wish to present a petition on behalf of 2,500 residents of the Far Cotton and St. James areas of Northampton who were affected by the Easter floods earlier this year. The petition states:

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    2. are dismayed by the resultant extensive loss, damage and devaluation of property and premises and loss of income that we have suffered;

    3. are distressed by the loss of life occasioned.

    4. question the efficacy of the Inquiries so far established due to their lack of real independence or inadequate terms of reference of insufficient authority;

    5. call upon Her Majesty's Government to establish a truly Independent Public Inquiry under the stewardship of a Judge of the High Court (or other suitably qualified person) having the authority to gather evidence, order the attendance of witnesses and the examination and inspection of all the relevant material with the objective of drawing conclusions and detailing recommendations as to compensation, future protective and preventative measures, apportion blame or establish fault where appropriate (including that for negligence or criminal negligence causing death) and other matters, within a Report to be published and presented to the appropriate authorities and the Minister responsible for action.

    Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House do support such a Comprehensive Public Inquiry as the mechanism for revealing and exposing the full facts of the aforementioned Flood Disaster

    And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.

To lie upon the Table.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Dowd.]

10.17 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): This debate takes place in circumstances that are entirely different from those of the previous 14 Adjournment debates on Lockerbie. Rosemary Wolf, the representative of the American relatives, is reported on Ceefax this evening as saying that Britain and the United States may allow two Libyan suspects to be tried in Holland. She said that she had been told by Madeleine Albright in a meeting that a trial under Scottish law but not on Scottish soil was being explored. This Adjournment debate is really a plea of encouragement for such a course of action.

We believe that there is no realistic hope of the Libyan suspects coming to either Scotland or the United States.

Mr. Derek Twigg (Halton): My hon. Friend will be aware that my constituent Julia Cadman, whose brother died at Lockerbie, has approached me on several occasions and asked me to express her concern at the delay in the trial and offered her views on how that should proceed. Does my hon. Friend agree that the overriding issue is one of flexibility in how the trial should proceed? That trial should go ahead and there should be fair jurisdiction when it does.

Mr. Dalyell: Flexibility is extremely important, but the Libyans have given clear assurances that they would come. Of course, it is fair to point out that the court would operate under all normal provisions of Scots criminal law, except that it would be in a neutral country venue; that there would be no jury; that the jury should be replaced by an international panel of judges led by a Scot; and that the Scot leading the panel should be appointed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be extremely useful if we were advised of what discussions, if any, have taken place between Foreign Office and Scottish Office officials, and, indeed, the Lord Advocate, in respect of the third country option, and whether those discussions were under way on 6 July, when the Scottish Grand Committee met in Edinburgh?

Mr. Dalyell: I would have to think carefully about that proposition.

The Libyans did agree that the UN Secretary-General should be asked to decide on the other, probably four, judges. I believe that they should be given a chance, and that the bottom line is a trial in Holland or no trial at all. That is the reality.

10.20 pm

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): I am more than grateful to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for his kindness in allowing me five minutes to speak in a campaign on which he and I have engaged for many years.

Everyone would agree that there is a desperate need to ensure that we have a trial and thus clarify the facts of the appalling events that took place at Lockerbie.

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That is one thing on which everyone can agree. Sadly, over the years, the prospects of a trial taking place have faded away, first, because the Libyans, rightly or wrongly, have been unwilling to send people for a trial in which they believed the jury would have been previously influenced; and, secondly, because the United Kingdom and the United States have been unwilling to make any provision to change that. However, the Libyans have now said that they would co-operate in sending the two accused persons to a third country. Now, because their rights and their faith have been challenged, they have said that, if need be, they would hand them over to a third country--Egypt.

As we understand it, the UK and the US have obviously changed their view. There are many possible reasons for that: first, there was the European Court decision which suggested that they should decide where the trial should take place; secondly, there is the fact that many countries have been breaking the sanctions, and more have said that they will break them in September unless there is a change in policy; and, thirdly, there is the fact that the Scottish Parliament might take a special interest in the issue and table legislation that would bring it into conflict with the British Government. Whatever the reason for the Government's decision, it is a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow--I say hon. Friend even though we sit on opposite sides of the House--that there has been what we can all agree is good news.

I want to make one simple point. Having observed all that has happened, year after year, I hope that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd), who is a man of integrity, will use all his power to ensure that these developments will not be a trap. We must not have a situation whereby the United States can say, "We have offered the Libyans a trial in the Hague with an independent jury, but they have turned it down. We always knew that they were rascals, twisters, vagabonds and rogues." I am afraid that there are those in the American State Department who might engage in that activity, even though I am sure that, like civil servants everywhere, most American civil servants are nice, kindly people.

I appeal to the Government to use all their power to make sure that discussions proceed with good will and integrity. The obvious step now, if the Government can confirm the various reports that we have heard, would be for officials of both Governments to enter into private discussions, to sort everything out and to ensure that real progress can be made. On the basis of what the Libyans have said, that should take only a short time; if it took five years, we would know that the assurances that they have given are bogus and could not be trusted. Personally, I believe that, for their own good reasons, Britain, the United States and Libya are now anxious to resolve matters. My hope is that the Minister of State will make it clear that it would be the intention of the UK and US Governments to enter into discussion and consultation on the basis of good will and integrity, with the intention of producing a solution. What we want to know is who carried out this dreadful deed, and we want to make sure that the guilty parties are held responsible.

There is one more point that we should all bear in mind. We should consider our responsibility towards the relations of those who lost their lives in this terrible

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tragedy. We surely have a duty--much more important than party politics--to ensure that those whose relations lost their lives in an appalling tragedy will find out the facts, and the truth. I hope that the Government will say that they will use all their powers to endeavour to resolve the issue in private discussions and to ensure, first, that a trial takes place and, secondly, that the truth is told.

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