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Volume 301: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1997

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What response he has received from the organisation of African states and the Arab League about his invitation to them to inspect the Scottish justice system in relation to Lockerbie. [16005]

The initial response of the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity has been disappointing. The United Nations Secretary-General has accepted our invitation. We continue to press the Arab League and the OAU to send observers to join the visit of UN officials that we hope will take place before the end of the year.

After nine long years of non-communication, is it unreasonable to ask that an incoming Labour Government should at least talk to the Libyans and hear what they have to say, not least in the light of a written answer from the Home Secretary yesterday following my interview in July with Commander David Veness of Scotland Yard concerning the circumstances of the murder of Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher, casting doubts—we shall put it no higher—on whether the Libyans were responsible? Before making a final decision not to talk to the Libyans, will my right hon. Friend at least have the Foreign Office lawyers consult Scotland Yard?

I have just completed an exchange of correspondence with the Foreign Minister of Libya, in which I made it robustly clear that Britain expects Libya to adhere to the United Nations Security Council resolutions that require it to provide for trial the two men who have been indicted for the mass murder of those travelling on the Pan Am jet and those who were in the village of Lockerbie where it crashed. That remains the Government's position. I am more than happy to have dialogue with all those other countries in the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity, to remove their doubts, and I am absolutely confident that we can convince them that Scottish justice is fair.

The other matter that my hon. Friend raised is not currently a matter for dispute over the sanctions in relation to Lockerbie. It would help the dialogue between our countries immensely if Libya were to recognise that it has an obligation to provide the two men for trial in order that justice can be done.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that it would set a dangerous precedent in international law if the trial were to take place in a jurisdiction other than Scotland?

There are several problems with having a trial in another country. The most immediate is that there is no legal basis for a Scottish court to sit outside the Scottish jurisdiction. The hon. Lady is right that if I were to ask the House for such legal provision, there is a danger that it would create a precedent whereby terrorists could object to trial in our jurisdiction. That is a heavy consideration which we shall weigh carefully.

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given the nature of my right hon. Friend's answer, I will attempt to get a 14th Adjournment debate on this matter.