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Sasha Wass Inquiry

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 25 June 2015

It is normal practice, when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability in excess of £300,000 for which there is not statutory authority, for the Minister concerned to present a departmental minute to Parliament giving particulars of the liability created and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from incurring the liability until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the statement, except in cases of special emergency. I have today laid a departmental minute proposing to provide an indemnity that is necessary in respect of a Foreign Office-established independent inquiry into alleged child abuse and associated cover-up on the British overseas territory of St Helena. The Government take any such allegations extremely seriously, and the inquiry reflects their commitment to a full and independent investigation into any wrongdoing. Last year (2014), the Foreign Secretary announced the establishment of the inquiry (Hansard, column 13-14WS, on 20 November 2014) to be led by Sasha Wass QC. This indemnity will cover the entire duration of the inquiry’s work, from November 2014 until when the inquiry submits its report in the autumn of 2015. The indemnity will cover Sasha Wass QC, the inquiry panel, the inquiry solicitor and one staff member against any liability for any act done or omission made honestly and in good faith in the execution of his or her duty as such, or in the purported execution of his or her duty as such. The indemnity only applies to acts done or omissions made during the course of the inquiry. If the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure. The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before Parliament, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or by otherwise raising the matter in Parliament, final approval to proceed with incurring the liability will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.