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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as to the question of compensation, I should point out that we are now in a different position from the one before when an ex gratia payment to a charity was offered. The Libyans have now offered compensation to the family. That is a very important distinction. The noble Lord asked about the way in which the compensation was to be fixed and about the advice available to the family. The family of WPC Fletcher have asked that the arrangements surrounding the compensation--and in particular the amount--remain confidential. I believe that the amount is irrelevant; it is the principle involved that is important. It is the fact that the Libyans have acknowledged that this is not an ex gratia payment but compensation that is important. I would ask your Lordships to respect the wishes and confidentiality of the family. It has been a desperately painful time for them and if we can help to alleviate that by not being too intrusive, that will be to the good.
My noble friend is right to say that there is a memorial to WPC Fletcher. Quite rightly, and rather movingly, it is often adorned with flowers. Whether it is appropriate that some other memorial should be considered is a matter I am sure everyone will wish to consider. Again I would point out to your Lordships that it is not just a matter for the country, as my noble friend put it, but one where we should take into account the wishes of WPC Fletcher's family, her friends and the Metropolitan Police.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, as someone who has been involved on the extreme fringes of this matter for a number of years, I share the welcome expressed by my noble friend Lord Moynihan and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for the Statement. Perhaps I may ask one question. The Minister has said that it is intended
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is intended that we resume full diplomatic relations. Resuming full diplomatic relations implies that not only do we deploy ambassadors in each other's country but that we bring our diplomatic strength up to full volume. The timing is a matter we will have to synchronise. It is important to choose the right people to do these jobs. They will be very skilled jobs, on both sides, involving the full range of the diplomatic repertoires open to the Libyans and to ourselves.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that I have visited Libya twice in recent years. I therefore give a particular welcome to the Statement. The Minister will also be aware that one visit was in the company of Dr Jim Swire of the Lockerbie families' group. On one occasion we met with Colonel Gaddafi. The object of each visit was to try to move forward good relations between our two countries. The creation of the third country trial at The Hague provided the first step of that way forward. The announcement about compensation and the investigation into the case of WPC Fletcher is the second part of restoring good relations.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister to emphasise one point that she mentioned. It is perhaps not widely understood in this country that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 British people working in Libya--mainly in business, some in education--who are greatly relieved that diplomatic relations and transport links are to be restored. I wish the trade delegation all success. As I was to be a member of it before I took up my present responsibilities in Scotland, I hope that it will be successful, both politically and commercially.
I am aware of the visits to which the noble Lord referred and of the dedicated way in which Dr Jim Swire and others of the Lockerbie families' group have conducted themselves over recent years. I, too, have met them. I was deeply impressed by the tenacity and wisdom with which they pursued what was a painful and difficult issue for them.
The noble Lord, Lord Steel, is quite right. He reminded us of the 4,000 or so British nationals who live in Libya. I hope that they will welcome the resumption of full diplomatic relations; I hope that their lives will be greatly eased, not only by the improving trade relations but also eventually--we hope it will be sooner rather than later--by the lifting of the UN sanctions. They will be able to enjoy also the full protection of the consular activity which will be afforded to them by the restored embassy.
Can the Minister give an assurance that the investigation will be as thorough as it needs to be? She has mentioned that it will take the form of a commission rogatoire. The offence took place in 1984, some 15 years ago. It is absolutely essential after that amount of time that forensic examination of the suspects and the weapons takes place. Can the Minister assure the House that the weapons which may well have been in the embassy at that particular time have been preserved? Or will we find that the investigation will not be deep enough to provide the absolute proof of who killed Yvonne Fletcher?
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked about the IRA and the support of the previous regime prior to 1985 for IRA terrorism. Many of the weapons which we believe, with good reason, came from Libya are still in the hands of the IRA today. Can the Minister assure the House that if those weapons come to light in terrorist incidents we will have the co-operation of the Libyan authorities to forensically examine them and establish their origin?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, for his welcome for the announcement. I can assure the noble Lord, as my right honourable friend's Statement indicated, that we have maintained a very close relationship with the Metropolitan Police throughout the negotiations with the Libyan authorities.
We cannot anticipate the outcome of the investigation. I am sure that the police will be as thorough as they believe it necessary to be. The noble Lord, Lord Imbert, knows far more about these matters than I do. I am sure that the Metropolitan Police, who have a very close interest--a right and proper interest--in investigating this appalling murder, will want to pursue the matter as rigorously as possible. They will enjoy the support of Her Majesty's Government in doing so.
Lord Kennet : My Lords, as one who has fairly often criticised successive governments, including the present one, for their conduct of our relations with Arab countries, I most warmly congratulate them on the achievement of these two agreements, these two ends to the quarrels. Perhaps I may ask one question which it may or may not be possible to answer. How much did the intervention of Mr Mandela help towards this fortunate solution?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend describes himself as one who has often criticised the Government. I am delighted at the refreshing change on this occasion. I shall have to write to the noble Lord about Mr Mandela's interest in what has happened. We all know that Mr Mandela has had a close interest and has been extremely helpful in oiling the wheels of the relationships.
The two agreements that we have, over Lockerbie on the one hand, and over the murder of WPC Fletcher on the other, have been negotiated directly between the British Government and the Libyan Government. There has not been any third party involved in those negotiations. If my noble friend's question is, "What facilitated the start of those negotiations?", I am bound to say to him that there has been some desire to move this matter forward for a very long time. I certainly do not discount the effect of the kind of visit that was detailed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and the way in which the families have conducted themselves. They have been extraordinarily patient and sensible. United Nations sanctions have also played their part in what has now been facilitated. A great number of people have lent a great deal of weight in trying to get us to where we are today. We thank them all warmly for the help they have given us. But I do not think it is help from any one source in one country that has enabled us to get to this point.
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