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Detainee Inquiry

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 6 July 2011

The Government and the detainee inquiry have agreed the terms of reference and protocol for the inquiry’s work, which are being published today on the inquiry’s website at, along with some frequently asked questions and answers about the inquiry and its preparatory phase to date.

As the Prime Minister said in announcing the detainee inquiry on 6 July 2010, the purpose of this inquiry is to examine whether, and if so to what extent, the UK Government and their intelligence agencies were involved in improper treatment, or rendition, of detainees held by other countries in counter-terrorism operations overseas, or were aware of improper treatment, or rendition, of detainees held by other countries in counter-terrorism operations in which the UK was involved. The primary focus is the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and particularly cases involving the detention at Guantanamo Bay of UK nationals and former lawful UK residents.

The inquiry will also consider the evolution of the Government’s response to developing knowledge of the changing practices of other countries towards detainees in counter-terrorism operations in this period. This will include how the response was implemented in Departments and the security and intelligence agencies. The Prime Minister has asked the inquiry to report to him within one year of commencing. The inquiry will identify any lessons to be learned and make recommendations for the future, to which the Government have undertaken to publish a formal response.

The Government hope that the inquiry will be able to start as soon as it is possible to do so. However, as the Prime Minister made clear in his public letter of 6 July 2010 to the right hon. Sir Peter Gibson, the inquiry chair, this depends on the end of related criminal processes, the timing of which is a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Government are grateful to the inquiry for the important preparatory work it has done to date and which it will continue to do. The inquiry is a vital part of the set of measures announced by the Prime Minister that aim to draw a firm line under the serious questions that have been raised about the United Kingdom’s actions. We want to understand properly what happened and to learn any necessary lessons. We look forward to the detainee inquiry being able to get under way formally in due course and will make a further statement to the House when in a position to do so.