To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether British detectives will travel to Malta to assist with the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia; and if so, whether they will also investigate the reason for her murder.
My Lords, the UK is looking to identify how best we can support Malta at this time. We have not received any requests for UK officers to support the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Should a request be received, the Government would of course consider it.
My Lords, the United Kingdom has a very historic relationship with Malta, which is of course a member of the Commonwealth and the EU. After her murder, Ms Galizia’s son said the state in Malta had become “indistinguishable from organised crime”. She was investigating corruption at the highest level, probably involving the Mafia, who may have been the people who killed her. Therefore, could Her Majesty’s Government encourage the involvement of Europol, as it is important for all of Europe that the rule of law is observed, and seen to be observed, throughout the continent?
My noble friend is absolutely right that we have a long-standing and close relationship with Malta. We have offered some initial advice to the Maltese and are considering with them how we can support the investigation in the long term.
My Lords, Malta is one of four countries, including the UK, whose system is based on the common law. It is also party to the European Convention on Human Rights. This extraordinary, courageous and investigative journalist wrote articles accusing the Maltese Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition of abuses of power. In those circumstances, will the Government please remind Malta of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to hold a truly independent and truly effective investigation?
My Lords, I hope an effective investigation takes place—we will encourage that to happen. The noble Lord’s point about journalists being free to express their views on what they perceive as wrongdoing in the country should absolutely be preserved. The state may not like it, but we welcome the preservation of free speech.
My Lords, Malta is not only the current chair of the Commonwealth—it has held the presidency of the Council of the European Union. It also has a very close relationship with us and we need to take this matter very carefully and seriously, and give every possible support to the Government and leadership of Malta in clearing away all these accusations and rumours that have circulated and been much exaggerated in the press. They need to be cleared up that by clear, individual and strong evidence and examination. It is important to us as a nation to see that Malta is given fair understanding and support in this very difficult matter.
I totally agree with my noble friend. Malta has great standing in the Commonwealth as its chair. We stand ready to support Malta should it request it, but also to encourage it, as the previous speaker suggested.
My Lords, I pay tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia for her courage as a journalist. I had the privilege until recently of having her son Paul working with me at the Legatum Institute.
Only one in seven people in this world lives in a nation with freedom of the press. What steps is this country, where we do enjoy freedom of the press, taking to preserve our own freedoms and to see them extended worldwide?
My Lords, my noble friend makes a very important point. The UK supports freedom of expression as both a fundamental right in itself and as an essential element of a full range of human rights. The freedom of expression is required to allow innovation to thrive and ideas to develop. People must be allowed to discuss and debate issues freely without fear of repression or discrimination.
I refer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, about British detectives travelling to Malta—we certainly welcome his enthusiasm for Europol. I ask this as a serious question: unless there is some evidence that the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia—shocking though it is—was also connected either directly or indirectly to corruption or other criminal activity in this country, do we any longer have detectives available to go to Malta following cuts in police numbers? We have now seen here a dramatic increase in hate crime and violent crime. The director-general of MI5 has said that the terrorist threat is operating,
“at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before”,
and police forces here are now no longer in a position even to start investigating some reported crimes. Do we really have detectives available to go elsewhere?
My Lords, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Home Office authorised the deployment of 63 police officers to support local police forces in the British Overseas Territories of the BVI and Anguilla, so we certainly have the capacity should it be requested. As for police funding and police numbers, police funding has been flat since 2015 and the police carry reserves of over £1 billion to be deployed as they see fit. There is also the point made by HMIC that there is scope for further efficiencies within the police, so that should be borne in mind.