Guantanamo Civil Litigation Settlement

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): I thank the Justice Secretary for advance sight of his statement and for our meeting earlier today. I welcome his decision this morning to make this an oral statement to the House, rather than the written statement originally planned. I would also like to put it on the record at the outset that up until November 2004, I was a senior partner at a law firm that acted for a number of the Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Does the Secretary of State agree that statements as significant as this should be made first to the House before they appear in the media? Will he therefore join me in raising concern that this extremely important announcement was leaked to ITN's "News at Ten" programme last night?

On the substance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement, the House is united in its complete rejection of torture and mistreatment. That goes for the practice of and collusion or complicity in torture. It is

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illegal, it is internationally banned, and no Government should have anything to do with it. The Labour party has been, and will remain, completely opposed to Guantanamo Bay. We took action in government to remove all the British citizens and all but one resident from Guantanamo Bay, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (David Miliband) ensured that Britain's Government were the first to get all their citizens out of there. What steps are this Government taking to secure the release of the one remaining resident still in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer? I note that the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), who represents his family, is in her place.

Britain's security services, under all Governments, are required to live up to the highest standards, while protecting our national security. They do an incredible job. Their work is rarely ever recognised, for obvious reasons of secrecy, but they save lives, and we should always remind ourselves of that. We should also place firmly on the record the human rights policy of our security services, and be proud of their stance. As John Sawers, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, said last month:

"If we know or believe action by us will lead to torture taking place, we're required by UK and international law to avoid that action. It makes us strive all the harder to find different ways, consistent with human rights, to get the outcome we want."

To sustain the excellent work of the intelligence agencies, and to ensure that these standards are met in practice, it is vital that whenever allegations are made they are fully investigated.

You will know, Mr Speaker, that the previous Government began the process of publishing the consolidated guidance given to our intelligence officers, which was a process finished by the current Government earlier this year. It was and remains our view that all measures possible should be taken to satisfy ourselves, the public and our allies that if any wrongdoing is alleged it is fully investigated, that any evidence is gathered and passed on, and that it is dealt with to conclusion. That is why the previous Attorney-General referred two cases where concerns had been raised to the police for investigation, and that is why we look forward to the judge-led inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture now that the civil cases are settled.

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the police will be able to conclude their investigations before the judge-led inquiry begins? Obviously, the House has not been privy to the detail of the settlements and the negotiations, but he will know that there are legitimate questions about the settlements that the Government have come to that mean that these 16 cases will no longer be resolved individually in the courts. We understand that the Government have had to consider this in the light of the ruling by the Court of Appeal in May. Can he confirm to the House that the settlements reached will not pre-judge the inquiry or pass judgement on the actions of our security services in advance of a full investigation?

Will the confidentiality agreement prevent the Secretary of State from telling the House and the public the sums of money involved in these settlements? If so, will he reconsider and agree with us that there is a public interest in knowing the total sum involved in this settlement? Will he commit to scrutiny of the settlements by both the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Public

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Accounts Committee? He said that the claimants would be able to give evidence to the Gibson inquiry. Can he tell the House what investigations within the scope of the inquiry will take place into the allegations in those specific cases? Will the inquiry pass judgment on each individual case? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the scope of that inquiry has changed since the Prime Minister's statement to the House in July?

Finally, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman also tell the House whether any other cases remain unsettled, and if so what decision has been taken on their effect on the inquiry? It is important that the inquiry can be thorough and that its access to documents held by the Government should be as full as that enjoyed by the courts. Can he therefore confirm that the Gibson inquiry will have access to all the same information that has been or would be available to the courts? Everyone will appreciate the need to ensure that Britain's security is not compromised, and that must be reflected in the way that the inquiry operates. However, as the allegations are comprehensively addressed, it is important that the public should have confidence in the process and its outcome. We say again: there is no place for the torture or mistreatment of detainees.

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