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On 19 December 2003, following months of secret discussions with the UK and the US, the Libyans announced that they would eliminate their weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapon programmes and restrict the range of their missiles. They also agreed to immediate international inspections and to be bound by all the relevant international agreements, which they now are.

Today, we share information and co-operate in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle terrorist groups in Europe and north Africa, in particular al-Qaeda in the Maghreb which was responsible for the kidnap and murder of Edwin Dyer in May. We also try to find common ground in the UN and elsewhere on matters of common concern.

There is also an entirely legitimate commercial dimension to our ties. With the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and extensive gas reserves, Libya is a potential major energy source for the future. We work hard to support British business in Libya, as we do worldwide.

We continue to have serious concerns about human rights in Libya, including freedom of expression, arbitrary detention, political prisoners and the mistreatment of migrants. There are a number of important outstanding issues, in particular concerning the investigation into the murder of WPC Fletcher and the campaign for compensation by victims of IRA terrorism.

In May 2007, Prime Minister Tony Blair made his second visit to Libya. His summit with Colonel Gaddafi at Sirte covered the full range of our interests with Libya. Mr Blair signed a defence accord and witnessed the public signature of a major BP exploration contract. Also agreed was a Memorandum of Understanding on negotiations for a judicial co-operation package, including a prisoner transfer agreement and agreements on mutual legal assistance, extradition, and civil and commercial law.

The UK had a model agreement, based on Council of Europe arrangements, which was the starting point for negotiation on our prisoner transfer agreements with any country, and which provided the starting point for negotiations with the Libyans. Four points are relevant. First, a PTA provides for a prisoner transfer, not prisoner release. Secondly, it provides a framework for transfer, not a right to transfer. Thirdly, it cannot be used when appeals, including by the prosecuting authority, are outstanding, as in this case. Fourthly, Ministers in the sentencing jurisdiction, in this case Scotland, have an absolute right to veto any transfer.

This standard draft has no provision for any carve-out for any named prisoner. However, the Scottish Executive made strong representations for us to seek to alter the standard PTA so as specifically to exclude Mr Megrahi. The UK negotiating team, led by the Ministry of Justice, sought in good faith to achieve this goal.

The Libyans insisted that the only PTA that they would sign was a PTA without any exclusions. So the Government had a clear choice: we could agree to a

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standard PTA with no exclusions, retaining for Scottish Ministers an absolute veto over any request for prisoner transfer in the case of Megrahi-a veto which they used in August this year-or we could have ended the negotiations to prevent an application for prisoner transfer. This would have set back our wider national and commercial interests that flowed from normalised relations, as the Justice Secretary has made clear. Since the PTA involved no prejudice to the rights of the Scottish Executive, nor pressure on the Scottish Executive, the Government decided that it was right to go ahead. The PTA took effect in April 2009.

In September 2008, a new factor came into play. Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Libyans became increasingly concerned at the prospect of Mr Megrahi dying in a Scottish prison. They communicated this to the Government and to the Scottish Executive. It was repeatedly made clear in reply, including in the Prime Minister's meeting with Colonel Gaddafi on 10 July this year, that the decision on Megrahi's fate was exclusively for Scottish Ministers and the Scottish judicial system.

Notwithstanding that any decision on release was for Scottish Ministers and the Scottish judicial system, the UK Government had a responsibility to consider the consequences of any Scottish decision. We assessed that although the decision was not one for the UK Government, British interests, including those of UK nationals, British business and possibly security co-operation would be damaged, perhaps badly, if Megrahi were to die in a Scottish prison rather than in Libya. Given the risk of Libyan adverse reaction, we made it clear to them that, as a matter of law and practice, it was not a decision for the UK Government and that as a matter of policy we were not seeking Megrahi's death in Scottish custody.

In Scotland, compassionate release generally comes into play in the last three months of a prisoner's life. Scottish Justice Secretary MacAskill has set out the process by which he arrived at his decision in August this year to refuse the PTA transfer but to grant Megrahi compassionate release. He also set out the grounds on which he did so. As the Scottish Justice Secretary repeatedly stated in his announcement, this was a decision for him to take, and him alone to take.

The Government were clear that any attempt by us to pressure the Scottish Executive would have been wrong. At the press conference announcing his decision the Scottish Justice Secretary confirmed that there was 'no pressure from Westminster'.

It is also important to address the unfounded allegation that we ended our search for progress in dealing with the legacy of Libya's past support for terrorism. Admission of responsibility for WPC Fletcher's murder and the payment of compensation were necessary for the restoration of diplomatic relations in 1999. Four years later, we secured Libyan agreement to a joint investigation into the murder. It was clear, including to the family, that anyone prosecuted for the murder would have to be tried in Libya. Since 2007, the Libyans have refused to allow the Metropolitan Police to return to complete its work. We share the determination of the Fletcher family to find answers, and continue to work on this case.

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In 1995, Libya provided critical information on its past links with the IRA. At that time, the then UK Government wrote to the United Nations declaring that they were,

in accounting for the extent of its support for the Provisional IRA. Libya has since then considered the issue closed as a bilateral matter. Nevertheless, in respect of the campaign involving honourable and right honourable Members to secure compensation from Libya in respect of its past support for the Provisional IRA, we have created a dedicated unit in the FCO to facilitate the families' renewed campaign. The unit is currently working with honourable and right honourable Members to secure a visit to Libya soon.

Twenty-one years on, the ongoing pain of the Lockerbie atrocity remains a testament to Libya's past association with international terrorism. Her re-entry into the community of nations does not and cannot absolve her of this responsibility. It does, however, represent a major step forward. The Government make no apology for their part in securing this progress and we reject the charges repeatedly made but not justified. The PTA was not an agreement for Megrahi's release. The Scottish Justice Minister said he was not pressurised to release him. We did not forget the victims of IRA terrorism or WPC Fletcher. On that basis, I commend this Statement to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.18 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford:My Lords, I am sure that we are all very grateful to the Minister for repeating this important Statement about matters which have given rise to a very great concern. I completely share, as I am sure we all do, her sentiments of disgust and horror about the appalling Lockerbie slaughter, which was one of the worst mass murders in recent times, almost in history; about the cold-blooded murder of Yvonne Fletcher in St James's Square, which is still, as the Minister made clear, not yet resolved; and about the supply of Libyan arms to the Provisional IRA with the horrible consequences of which I had direct and grim experience in the Northern Ireland Administration in the early and very bloody days of the 1970s. I understand that on this side of the Atlantic the matter is being left to families to pursue with support from the Government, rather than through direct government lobbying, as in the United States.

The Statement raises but seems to edge around a number of crucial questions. I will confine myself to asking just some of them as I am sure that noble Lords will have many others. First, it says that no pressure was put on Scottish Ministers. It was repeated and we must accept that. However, what advice, if not pressure, did Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials give to Scottish Ministers? What contact did they have and were the international implications of any course of action, which would obviously be for London to handle, raised with Scottish Ministers? Was there an awareness that this was the situation or that things of this kind were going to develop? Indeed, there appears

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to have been no awareness that when Megrahi went back to Tripoli he would be greeted by a cheering crowd; it seemed to come as a surprise.

Secondly, did the FCO tell Scotland about our Secretary of State's view that the Government did not want Megrahi to die in prison? Was that our Minister's view, or was it the view of Mr Ed Balls that "none of us" wanted to see Megrahi released? Which was right and which view was conveyed to Scotland?

We come then to the prisoner transfer agreement. The Statement confirms that this included Megrahi, and did so after a change of heart and some pressure from the Libyans, who said that they would not sign anything else. It obviously included consideration of trade and business reasons, what the Statement calls wider commercial interests, and there is nothing wrong in that. While they may not have affected the final decision to release Megrahi, does the Minister agree that there was an obvious connection? There must have been one between our handling of the prisoner transfer agreement and the final decision taken in Scotland, despite Ministers' indignant assurances that there was none. Was that change of policy on the prisoner transfer agreement made fully known to Edinburgh? I note also that one Foreign Office Minister wrote about Libya's role in,

That seems to put it a bit high. Can the noble Baroness elaborate on that? Is there a major bilateral LNG deal coming up to fill the dangerous hole that has been allowed to develop in the UK's energy supply strategy? If so, could we know a little about it?

Fourthly, what assurances were given to the USA about Megrahi that either he would not be transferred or that he would not be released? There seems to be considerable ambiguity. Speaking earlier in another place, the Foreign Secretary seemed to be under the impression that relations with the USA were carrying on as normal and had not been too affected by the obvious feelings expressed in Washington about this whole affair. In reality, this is one more incident that reflects a very different but not necessarily unhealthy pattern emerging between us and the Americans under their new President, who is clearly taking his country in new policy directions which are bound to affect our relationship in ways both good and not so good. We really need our Ministers to keep up with what is happening on the geopolitical scene and not to assume that everything is going on as before.

As I have said, there are a great many unanswered questions, and these are just a few. What is left behind by this saga is, ironically, a considerable souring of our relations with Libya, which the whole business was meant to help. These relations will now have to be repaired, as they should be, and a full inquiry into what went wrong, and why, would be a good starting point.

5.24 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, in August 2007 the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, wrote to Mr MacAskill, who took the decision in this case, saying:

"As you know, the Government has on a number of occasions made it clear to the Libyan authorities that any PTA between the UK and Libya would not cover al Megrahi. This was done

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because the Government recognised the sensitivities surrounding this case. It also reflected the position set out in the letter from the UK and US Governments to the United Nations Secretary General (dated 24 August 1998), which made it clear that in the event of a conviction, al Megrahi would serve his sentence in the United Kingdom".

So a joint letter appears to have been drawn up for the UN Secretary-General. Why was it that in his statement Mr MacAskill found that that was not at all clear? He told the Scottish Parliament that both the United States Attorney-General, Mr Holder, and the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, were under the impression that an assurance had been given that Megrahi would serve his sentence in this country. That is obviously consistent with the letter I have read out.

Mr MacAskill said to the Scottish Parliament:

"I sought the views of the United Kingdom Government, and I offered the right to make representations or to provide information. It declined to do so. It simply informed me that it saw no legal barrier to transfer, and that it had given no assurances to the US Government at the time. It declined to offer a full explanation. As I said last Thursday, I found that highly regrettable".

Can the Minister clear up this complete ambiguity which has done so much damage to our relationship with the United States, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said a moment ago?

Another matter I should like to ask the Minister about is in relation to a public interest immunity certificate. On 21 July 2008, the United Nations observer at the Lockerbie trial, Dr Hans Köchler, wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Mr David Miliband, saying:

"As international observer, appointed by the United Nations, at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands I am also concerned about the Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate which has been issued by you in connection with the new Appeal of the convicted Libyan national. Withholding of evidence from the Defence was one of the reasons why the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred Mr. Al-Megrahi's case back to the High Court of Justiciary".

Why did the Foreign Secretary issue a public interest immunity certificate and in what area did that certificate deal?

Does this not underline the point I made at Question Time today that the results of the four-year inquiry of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission-all 800 pages of it-should be revealed so that we can see why it came to the conclusion that leave should be granted to Mr Megrahi to appeal against the conviction for a second time, a highly unusual step? All the circumstances involved in his conviction are not now in the public domain, and without some form of public inquiry we shall never know whether his conviction was safe, or as a result of evidence withheld, or anything of that nature. The suspicion will remain that he has been released and his appeal withdrawn-which was not necessary for compassionate release-in order to cover up the documents that the Government are withholding. I should like an answer to those questions.

5.28 pm

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their comprehensive and detailed questions, which indicate the expertise that your Lordships have on these matters.

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First, we were very clear with the Libyans that we were not actively seeking Megrahi's death in custody but that we emphatically could not intervene in any decision that the Scottish Executive or the Scottish judiciary chose to take. We made that absolutely clear. The letters that we and the Scottish Executive published on 1 September-including letters from Ivan Lewis, to which I think a noble Lord referred-reaffirmed categorically that this decision was taken by the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish authorities.

It is important for us to follow up the issue of the United States, which I think two noble Lords raised. To suggest that the British Government were not aware of our place in this globalised world would be unfair, and I would never accuse any noble Lord of making such sweeping statements. We were clear throughout with the Americans that any decision on Megrahi was for Scottish Ministers alone, but that Megrahi's death in custody had the potential to set back the progress that we and the United States had made with Libya.

A number of noble Lords referred to the benefits and the reforms that the Libyans have introduced regarding, for example, weapons of mass destruction and their involvement in terrorism. It reflects a serious normalisation of relations with the Libyans. In bringing them back into the international community as far as we can-albeit slowly; there are still major human rights issues, as the Secretary of State mentioned clearly in his Statement today-we have to be careful about observing and supporting the efforts that are made.

On energy, we have to acknowledge that Libya, as was also stated in the Statement, has the potential to be a major supplier of oil and a provider of the energy security that we and other countries need. However, as the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, as did the Secretary of State today, there were no deals and no sell-outs. It is clear that none of that happened. The statement was made clearly by the Prime Minister that, on oil and other issues, no deals were made with the Libyans. All these matters were under the jurisdiction of the Scottish authorities.

5.31 pm

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, as I mentioned at Questions, I disclose my professional interest in having acted as co-counsel in the claim by Mr Megrahi to the European Court of Human Rights, which got nowhere. Since then I have had no professional interest in the case. However, in the work that I did on it, which lasted several weeks, I went through the whole of the transcripts and read the appellate judgment, and I have to say that I came to the conclusion, entirely objectively and working with Scottish counsel, that there had been a denial of justice and that Mr Megrahi had not been proved to be guilty. When I then read the summary of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission report, which my noble friend referred to just now, and realised that it had come to the same conclusion, I was very disturbed.

I shall deal with a couple of points in addition to those that have been made by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford. First, will the Government please

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give an assurance that they will consent to the publication of the whole report? The commission does not have the power to do so itself. If the Scottish Executive or Scottish Parliament ask them to, will the Government consent to the publication of all the report so that we can see what its grounds are for believing that there may have been a miscarriage of justice?

Secondly, I am very concerned about the circumstances in which Megrahi was persuaded to drop his appeal and to go and die in Libya. I saw him in Barlinnie myself. I would like to know, and I would like the Government to find out whether, when he was visited in prison, it was made clear to him that if he dropped his appeal he would be allowed to go and die in Libya, so that there would then be no appeal and the relatives-Dr Swire and the others-would never know the truth. That is very important to them, and they have written to me about it. I would therefore like an assurance that there was no quid pro quo and no pressure put upon him. The Government may not know the answer, but they should find out. Was any pressure put on Megrahi that he would be sent to die in Libya only if he dropped the appeal?

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: On the last point, I am not aware of what the answer might be. We will ask for some advice on whether anyone has been asking those questions and, if so, I will respond to the question that the noble Lord raises.

On the issue of an independent inquiry, I have to keep repeating that is not really for us to say whether that will happen. I am, however, aware that the Scottish Parliament will soon begin an inquiry into the decisions that were taken, and I presume that that would be the best vehicle for any reflection that the Scottish authorities may choose to make on exactly what happened. I am sorry; I have forgotten the other question.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I was asking whether the Government would consent to the publication of the whole report if the Scottish Parliament or Executive asked them to.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: Again, that is an issue for the Scottish authorities, but we can ask whether there is a likelihood that the report will be given to those parties who are interested, such as someone, like the noble Lord, who was involved in the commission. It goes back to whether it is necessary to have an independent inquiry. The details of the re-engagement with Libya are there, and we will need to see. The Justice Secretary will appear before the Justice Committee on 20 October, so I think that these issues will become clearer as time goes on.

5.36 pm

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