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David Davis: I thank the Minister for his earlier comments about my non-partisan approach to dealing with terrorism—it is the standard. I cannot give him the evidence behind these cases, for the reasons that I gave earlier; I can simply say to him that I am confident of
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the facts. He does not wish to comment on the detail, but may I bring him back to a general point? One of the things that the Prime Minister has said is that he will put in the public domain the new guidelines on torture. Will the Minister undertake, tonight, to put in the public domain the current guidelines?

Mr. Lewis: I am not able to do that in this debate. What the Prime Minister committed to do, in terms of this House, was the following. The authentic and genuine concerns raised by the right hon. Gentleman and others have, in a sense, shone a light on an area of public policy—Government action in the name of the United Kingdom—where, in a modern world, it is entirely appropriate that there should be proper scrutiny and accountability. In those circumstances, the Prime Minister has gone a step further than any previous Prime Minister; he has said that there is a need for such guidance to be produced and that it should then be made available, so that the standards of behaviour expected of anybody acting in the name of the British Government, or indeed the British people, in fulfilling incredibly difficult security duties are clearly in the public domain.

There was a time—who knows whether this is the case now—when it was perfectly feasible that the right hon. Gentleman could have become, at some point in the distant future, the Home Secretary of this country. If he had fulfilled those responsibilities, he would have faced every day some incredibly difficult judgment calls on how to protect the national security of our country—and balance it with individual human rights and civil liberties. Every day of every week, the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have to deal with those difficult dilemmas.

If the right hon. Gentleman accepts in good faith that this country, and anyone acting in the name of this country, has now—as far as we are aware—engaged directly in torture, a secondary question arises. If, as Home Secretary, he received information that came as a consequence of collaboration and co-operation between the United Kingdom and others who may not play by our rules, abide by our standards or respect human rights in the same way as we do, what would he do about accusations against such individuals—I wish to make it clear that I am not referring to any individual mentioned in this debate—who were clearly engaged in terrorist activities that represented a threat to the people of this country? What would he have said if he were sat in the Home Secretary’s chair? Would he have said, “It is not appropriate under any circumstances for me to accept that information or evidence and to act on it, because I believe that there is a real danger that the dreadful security services in country x may have engaged in activities that are totally unacceptable under the standards of the UK”?

I do not know the right hon. Gentleman, but having listened to his appearance on “Desert Island Discs” I regard him as an authentic, genuine and straight Member of this House. I put it to him that had he become Home Secretary, those are the kinds of judgments that he would have had to make on a daily basis. That is why he more than anyone should not repeat accusations with no substantive evidence to support them. We have a series of allegations, some of which have been made by people who have been convicted, and others made by people who, as far as I know, have not been convicted in
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any court. We have no substantive, clear, unequivocal evidence to support the right hon. Gentleman’s contention that the British Government or agents acting on their behalf have colluded with acts of torture.

The right hon. Gentleman must demonstrate how he can be so sure that the evidence is so overwhelming and so beyond all reasonable doubt that he—as a highly respected and responsible parliamentarian—can come repeatedly to this House and use privilege to repeat those accusations.

David Davis: I do not wish to interrupt the Minister’s peroration, but I put the question in three parts, one of which was whether he would undertake to look in the
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places that I indicated—in the agencies and the in- camera proceedings that are all available to him—and confirm things for himself. What he says are unfounded allegations, I believe to be facts.

Mr. Lewis: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am bound by matters to do with sub judice and the legal framework. Within those constraints, of course I will take responsibility for asking the fundamental questions that need to be asked before a judgment can be made. Of course it is the responsibility of a Minister to ask reasonable, responsible questions to get to the facts—

10.34 pm

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).

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