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The right hon. Gentleman should be awareif he has followed this with due interest, rather than for the sake of party political point scoringthat these are very serious matters. As we know, the operational chain of command identified that the ICRC report was received by permanent joint headquarters
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and appropriate action was then taken once those matters were brought to the attention of the operational command in theatre. So a decision was taken to cease immediately. Three issues were raised in the ICRC reportthat is in the public domainand we were already acting on them before we received that report so many months later.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): I wonder whether the Minister can clarify a point. Yesterday, in response to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), the Prime Minister was asked whether he had seen a copy of the report. He answered that he had not needed to see a copy of it because it related to British troops and that that was being dealt with. The Minister has said that he is aware of the details of these reports, although he had not seen the report itself. Was he therefore aware of the abuses that have been alleged in American detention centres? If so, has he raised those issues with the US authorities? Will he confirm that the impact of what is happening in America has a direct bearing on the security of our forces on the ground in Iraq?
Mr. Ingram: I would have hoped for a better intervention than that, but the hon. Gentleman should read exactly what the Prime Minister said. He said that the allegations that had been made and the issues that had been raised had been dealt with. That is exactly the position. The three issues raised by the ICRC[Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman want an answer? The ICRC had reported in February about matters that already had been taken on board within theatre, and the Royal Military Police had immediately commenced an investigation into one of the issues raised.
The hon. Gentleman asks whether I should be concerned about what other coalition forces do. We are each concerned about what the other does in those circumstances, but it is not my job to answer for any other of the 30 nations that are there. I am here to answer, on behalf of Her Majesty's armed forces, about what they have done, what they have allegedly done and how we then conduct our business in those theatres of operation in which we are operating.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con):
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to taunt us with this report? If he thinks that it
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is appropriate to read the thing out, he will read it out, but it is not for him to impose on us the burden[Interruption.]
May I tell the House that these are serious matters, which should be discussed in an orderly manner, without sedentary sniping from either side? Not only does the House wish to understand fully and clearly what has happened, but there is great anxiety outside in the country.
Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): The Minister will be aware that British forces have been used to transport Iraqi detainees to American interrogators. Does he not believe, given the contents of this and other reports, that we have a duty to make sure that the facilities and treatment in those centres are reasonable? If he does, at what point did he stop the use of British personnel for transporting Iraqi detainees into the clutches of the Americans?
Mr. Ingram: The reality is that we established our own facility, which was subject to further examination by the ICRC. As we have our own facility for that purpose, the use of British personnel stopped at the time it was established. That is an important aspect of the way in which we take responsibility for detainees and the way in which we interact with the community in Iraq.
Matters have been raised outside the House by Amnesty International, which has claimed that it passed a dossier to me. All the allegations that I have seen are about that, and I repeat that I have dealt with that case. It was not a dossierit was one case and it is still under investigation.
I suggested that the central charge that we had received reports about abuse in detention and done nothing about them does not stack up. There can be no more graphic illustration of those dangers than the photographs published in the Daily Mirror on 1 May 2004 purporting, and claimed by the Daily Mirror, to show the physical abuse of an Iraqi at the hands of two British soldiers. Right hon. and hon. Members will understand that the investigation is a matter entirely for
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the Royal Military Police special investigations branch. Ministers cannot, do not, and should not interfere. As the investigation continues into the very serious allegations made, it would be inappropriate for the details of the evidence that emerges to be disclosed.
If the investigation results in criminal proceedings, the evidence will become public at that stage, just as would be the case in criminal proceedings in the ordinary UK courts. Whether any prior disclosure of evidence is made is quite properly a matter for the RMP, which acts with the benefit of legal advice. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in his statement to the House of Commons on Monday that the special investigation branch believe that there are strong indications to suggest that these photographs are not genuine. I said on 4 May that we had to treat the photographs at face value. That value has changed. Investigations are now proceeding on this basis: these pictures were categorically not taken in Iraq. Moreover, I can tell the House not only that that is the opinion of the SIB investigators but that it has been independently corroborated. The truck in which the photographs were taken was never in Iraq. I know that right hon. and hon. Members would like to hear more detail about the evidence, but I hope that they appreciate that those involved may have committed criminal offences under military law, which are the proper subject of ongoing investigations by the RMP. Accordingly, right hon. and hon. Members will understand why it would be inappropriate to say anything more about the emerging evidence.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): I have an interest in this matter, as the Cheshire Regiment is currently in Iraq and, as a result of the publication of those photographs, is at risk. Does the investigation go so far as to allow for a possible prosecution of those involved in the chain between the Army personnel alleged to be involved and the newspaper? Indeed, could it bring about the possible prosecution of the editor of the newspaper?
Mr. Ingram: That is not part of my ministerial responsibility for the armed forces. I am certain that the editor is not subject to military law[Interruption.] Some may think that he should be. Given my hon. Friend's concern about the way in which the prestigious name of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment has been dragged through the mud by the Daily Mirror, the concerns he has just expressed will be well understood in the area he represents.
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