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Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con):
Is not the real problem that we have now in this country two competing jurisdictions-the Scottish Executive and the UK Government-both pursuing aspects of foreign
policy and with overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities? What is the Foreign Secretary doing to sort out this muddle and confusion and to prevent it from happening again, so that we can bring some coherence to our relations with other Governments?
David Miliband: There are no competing jurisdictions when it comes either to foreign or criminal justice policy. The right hon. Gentleman will know that there has long been a different system of criminal law in Scotland, which was previously administered by Ministers of the Crown here in London. However, now that his right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has arrived, I should say that his party now supports the devolution settlement in Scotland and I suggest that he stop attacking its continued presence in the United Kingdom.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, which has allowed Members on both sides to express their concern over the decision that has been taken. He mentioned the establishment of a new unit in the Foreign Office to help the families of the victims of IRA terrorism. Will he give an undertaking to this House that it is not just the creation of the unit that matters, but full and unequivocal support from Ministers for the campaign? Will he give thought to the idea of a Minister's leading the delegation when it goes to Libya to ask for that compensation?
David Miliband: I certainly give my right hon. Friend the commitment of full ministerial engagement and support. However, I think it would be unwise to turn this into a Government-to-Government issue. It is far better that we support the families, who are campaigning for the victims, and their representatives in Parliament, because I think that a humanitarian appeal is more likely to succeed. I do not want to raise expectations of imminent success in this area, but I think that a humanitarian appeal has more likelihood of success than a Government-to-Government negotiation.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I hope that the Foreign Secretary deprecates the comments we heard from those on the Labour and Conservative Benches who seek to undermine the Scots legal system, where it is custom and legal practice to release prisoners who are terminally ill on compassionate grounds. The decision by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on al-Megrahi was based on the recommendation of the Parole Board and the prison governor, and on the medical advice of the Scottish Prison Service. Does the Secretary of State agree that it was correct to make a decision based on quasi-judicial grounds and not on political considerations?
David Miliband: The particular role of the Justice Secretary in Scotland, like that of the Justice Secretary in the UK, is circumscribed by quasi-judicial aspects. They have been followed through in this case and that is why the Prime Minister said that we respected the process by which he came to his decision.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab):
Given that this was a decision by a Scottish Minister on compassionate grounds, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has seen any assessment of the evidence that the hon. Member for
Moray (Angus Robertson) mentioned a moment ago-particularly that on the medical grounds-or whether, in a few months' time, we might discover that compassionate release is as effective a cure for cancer as it once apparently proved for Alzheimer's disease in another high-profile compassionate case?
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that there is disquiet among many people about the fact that Mr. Megrahi withdrew his appeal the day before Kenny MacAskill made his announcement, presumably because of the return of prisoners legislation? Does the Secretary of State not agree that as a consequence, people are disappointed that the opportunity perhaps to find other perpetrators of Lockerbie who have never been brought to justice has been lost? Does not that, in itself, justify an inquiry?
David Miliband: Although the Megrahi appeal was dropped, the appeal by the sentencing authority-by the Crown-was not. That is why the prisoner transfer agreement would not have been applicable in that case. Of course, it is completely within the rights of those in the Scottish system to establish any sort of inquiry that they want into the decision that was taken.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): May I tell the Secretary of State that the victims welcome the initiative of creating this special unit? Together with Northern Ireland colleagues, I have been privileged to attend weekly meetings at the Foreign Office in connection with this issue, but we want the opportunity to go to Tripoli to indicate that this can be a source of final reconciliation. We need more leverage from Ministers to get us access to Tripoli, where the victims can put their case before the Libyan regime. I urge the Secretary of State to tweak things a bit, just to put that extra energy into it.
David Miliband: I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said-he has been a doughty campaigner on behalf of the victims. In fact, I think that he was in a meeting in the Foreign Office the week before this all blew up, and he will know that there is a real commitment to that proposal. I am happy to talk to him about the sort of tweaks that he thinks necessary, but I think that the case that he made for a visit to Tripoli is overwhelming, and I look forward to its being met.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Is the Foreign Secretary aware that I represent the family of Bill Cadman, who was a constituent murdered in the Lockerbie atrocity? The family feel incredibly strongly, as do the other families. The Scottish fatal accident inquiry was too limited in scope, because it did not cover security issues. Why has there never been a proper full inquiry into this atrocity, so that the families of the victims could secure proper closure?
I did not know about the individual family concerned, but I know that there are strong feelings among the families in the UK. It is right to keep saying that the criminal justice investigation and the
final prosecution were undertaken under Scots law. It is for the Scottish Executive and the Scottish system to decide if there are any holes in that approach and, if there are, to follow that up.
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): If the decision to release al-Megrahi were made not by the Scottish Justice Secretary but by the Foreign Secretary's colleague, the Lord Chancellor, would the Foreign Secretary still feel constrained to remain silent in the face of the world's press?
David Miliband: I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that such a decision, whether in Scotland or in the UK, is for the Scottish Justice Secretary or for an English Justice Secretary to take, alone and on their own. Its quasi-judicial nature applies in both systems.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that after all the sound and fury generated by Governments, the people who are left feeling more alienated and marginalised than ever are the families of the 259 passengers and crew from Pan Am flight 103 and of the 11 Lockerbie residents? They are the ones who are left feeling, more than ever, that they are further from the truth. I have asked the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs to hold an inquiry into how the machinery of government in London and in Edinburgh has operated to produce this lamentable situation. Would the Foreign Secretary assure me that if the Committee were minded to proceed with such an inquiry he and the rest of the Government would co-operate with it fully? Does he not think that the families deserve that at the very least?
David Miliband: I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government will follow all the appropriate procedures and precedents when it comes to the establishment of inquiries by this or any other House.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): May I, too, emphasise the strength of feeling among many friends and family of the Lockerbie victims about the fact that there should be a full inquiry, especially as they believe that the dropping by Megrahi of an appeal may deprive them of any opportunity of really finding the truth and achieving the closure that they want?
David Miliband: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's words have been heard in Scotland as well as here, because it is for them to decide whether or not there is the basis or evidence for a new inquiry of any kind.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that there is evidence that the Libyan Government supported terrorist groupings, including the Provisional IRA, even in the early 1970s, and that the papers that were recently released prove that the then Labour Government offered inducements to the Libyan Government, seeking the withdrawal of their support from the murderous Provisional IRA? Will the Government therefore actively engage with those innocent people who have suffered because of the IRA-Libyan connection, and lead the delegation to Libya?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. He dramatises the shift that has occurred in Libya's position in the international community over the past 15 years. It is certainly our determination to work closely with him and with his right hon. and hon. Friends. I repeat to him what I have said in response to other questions in the House: it is the leadership of the group on humanitarian grounds, rather than on bilateral Government-to-Government grounds, that holds the best chance of success, and on that basis, we are absolutely committed to supporting him in any way that we can.
Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): On 16 December 2003 a meeting took place between officials from the British Foreign Office and Downing street and Libyan intelligence officials. Just three days later the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced the WMD deal. At the negotiations in the Travellers club, the subject of Mr. Megrahi was raised. Could the Foreign Secretary tell us in what context it was raised, and can he assure the House that there was absolutely no link between the status of Mr. Megrahi and the WMD deal?
David Miliband: In my statement and in my answers to questions I have given a full explanation of the situation. I have also explained the circumstances leading to the abandonment by the Libyans of their WMD programme. As the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who speaks for the Conservative party on these issues, has made clear, there is cross-party consensus about the process and the outcome in respect of Libya's weapons of mass destruction programme and its nuclear programme. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be better off resting on that basis.
I am grateful to the Committee on Standards and Privileges for its consideration of the detailed report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following his seven-month investigation. I want to apologise unreservedly to the House, as I have to my constituents, for wrongly claiming for the cost of films alongside my broadband and cable connection. This claim should never have been made and, as the Committee notes, I paid back the claim in full as soon as it was brought to my attention.
On the issue of second home allowances, the commissioner and the Committee recognise that my London home is indeed a home. They dismiss the most usually repeated newspaper descriptions of my living arrangements, and I welcome this judgment. As the report makes clear, I sought and received written advice from the parliamentary authorities that supported my main home designation and, indeed, I spent more nights in London than in Redditch for three of the four years in question. I have never flipped my designation and I own only one home.
The Committee recognises that there is no evidence that the taxpayer would be any worse or any better off as a result of my having made a different decision. However, in retrospect the commissioner concludes that I should have used my discretion to change my main home designation. I accept the Committee's conclusions and I therefore apologise to the House. I want to say sorry, too, to my constituents. They are my No. 1 priority, and for too long this investigation has overshadowed the work that I do for them.
[Relevant Documents: The Eleventh Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Legislative Scrutiny: Health Bill; Marine and Coastal Access Bill, HC 396, and the Fourteenth Report from the Committee, Legislative Scrutiny: Welfare Reform Bill; Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Lea rning Bill; Health Bill, HC 414.]
(a) at least one of the trusts on whose application the NHS foundation trust was established was an NHS foundation trust within subsection (1)(a), or was an NHS trust all or most of whose hospitals, establishments and facilities were in England, or
(b) the NHS foundation trust is the result of a succession of mergers under section 56, any of which involved an NHS foundation trust within subsection (1)(a) or an NHS trust all or most of whose hospitals, establishments and facilities were in England.
(a) an NHS foundation trust to which this section applies is contravening or failing to comply with, or has contravened or failed to comply with, any term of its authorisation or any requirement imposed on it under any enactment, and
(b) the seriousness of the contravention or failure, or, if there has been more than one, of any of them taken together, is such that it would justify the Secretary of State making an order under section 52D.
(1) In determining under section 52B(1)(b) whether the making of an order would be justified, and in determining whether to give a notice under that section, the regulator must consider these matters (among others)-
(4) The order must specify, in relation to the trust, the matters mentioned in paragraph 5(1)(a) to (c) of Schedule 4 and, where the trust has a significant teaching commitment, the matters mentioned in paragraph 5(1)(d).
(7) If it appears to the Secretary of State to be necessary in order to comply with provision made under subsection (4), or made by regulations under paragraph 4 of Schedule 4, the Secretary of State may by order-
(9) In this section "working day" means any day which is not Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday or a day which is a bank holiday in England and Wales under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.
(1) If it appears to the Secretary of State that there are grounds for the regulator to be satisfied as mentioned in section 52B(1), the Secretary of State may request the regulator in writing to consider exercising its power to give a notice under that section.
(4) If within the required period the regulator does not give a notice under section 52B in response to a request under this section, it must, within that period, publish its reasons for not doing so with a statement as to how it has complied with section 52C(1).
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