Examination of Witness (Questions 80-85)|
14 JULY 2009
Q80 Chairman: Briefly, although it
is difficult to be brief about it, on electoral reform, since
the Prime Minister has expressed a renewed interest in at least
some form of electoral reform, there has actually been quite an
open debate between the Home Secretary and yourself. Do you welcome
that and what else will the process involve?
Mr Straw: May a thousand flowers
bloom from this debate which is opening up. It is hardly a secret
that I see much merit in
Q81 Chairman: I do not complain about
My good friend and colleague, Alan Johnson, has a slightly different
view about this.
Q82 Chairman: Is this part of a genuine
process which, following on from the Prime Minister's statement,
is meant to lead to a consideration and then an outcome?
Mr Straw: Alan Johnson has always
had his views, I have had mine, and it has always been accepted
that we are open to express our views on these things. It is not
like a Budget secret. If you formed a view, in my case, in favour
of first-past-the-post and, still more, single member constituencies,
it is quite hard to stand on your head on this issue. It was not
that there was no organisation behind the fact that Alan produced
his views and I produced mine, it is just how the cookie crumbled.
Chairman: We did promise to release you
at 5.30 but Mr Tyrie has another question.
Q83 Mr Tyrie: As you know, I have
been campaigning to try and bring an end to the practice of extraordinary
rendition, that is the practice of kidnap and taking people to
places where they may be maltreated or tortured, by the US Government.
I made a number of allegations about possible UK complicity in
this. I wondered whether you have changed your view about this
issue at all in the light of recent revelations that most of those
allegations have turned out to be true? I would particularly like
to take you back to what you said in response to those allegations
in December 2005 to another Select Committee. You said, "Unless
we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials
are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind
of secret state which is in league with dark forces in the United
States, and also, let me say, believe that Secretary Rice is lying,
there is simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom
has been involved in rendition." As you know, since then
we have had a judge conclude, "That the UK facilitated interviews
by or on behalf of the US". We have had numerous other
Chairman: That is enough of the question,
I think. He is entitled to answer.
Mr Tyrie: numerous other substantiations
Q84 Chairman: That is enough of the
question, let us have an answer.
Mr Straw: Do I stand by what I
said about my state of knowledge and enquiry in December 2005?
Yes, I do, Mr Tyrie. I went into the situation with a huge amount
of care and examination, and a lot of detailed examination has
been made available which was not made available at the time and
has subsequently been made available to the Intelligence and Security
Committee. I am satisfied, and I was satisfied then, about the
veracity of the answer as far as my state of knowledge was concerned,
and I remain satisfied about it. If you have particular points
you want to put to me, then feel free to write to me and I will
Q85 Mr Tyrie: I do have one particular
question. I will be very brief. Given that there has been such
a transformation, or such a gap, between what was originally said
and what is now coming out bit by bit, do you not now think it
is time to consider the proposal of Lord Carlile, the Anti-Terrorism
Watchdog, that we have a judge-led inquiry into rendition, which
is now supported by the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader
of the Conservative Party?
Mr Straw: I am certainly happy
to pursue that with my colleagues, the Prime Minister and the
Foreign Secretary, but can I say, with respect, that nothing to
which you have so far alluded undermines the veracity of what
I said about rendition because I was talking specifically about
rendition, and the allegation at the time it will be recalled
was that the United Kingdom had been complicit or negligent about
the United States using UK facilities to render individuals into
unlawful custody. I have repeated enough times that I share your
abhorrence of rendition, which is kidnap, I always have done.
I am against it.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.