Urgent Question: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department to make a statement on the Government’s policy on the rendition of UK citizens who may be subject to capital punishment.
The Government take their responsibility to protect the public seriously. We have been consistently clear, where there is evidence that crimes have been committed, that foreign fighters, for example, should be brought to justice in accordance with due legal process regardless of their nationality. The specific process followed will always be dependent on the individual circumstances of the case.
The case of Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh is ongoing and obviously sensitive. In handling this case, the Government and Ministers have complied with the European convention on human rights and with due process, and we must be mindful to protect the integrity of the criminal investigation. In this instance, and after carefully considered advice, the Government took the rare decision not to require assurances in this case. It would be inappropriate to comment further on that specific case. Foreign fighters detained in Syria could be released from detention without facing justice. We have been working closely with international partners to ensure that they face justice for any crimes they have committed.
I can provide little further detail to the House beyond what the Government have already outlined in previous statements, but I can reassure the House that our long-standing position on the use of the death penalty has not changed. The UK has a long-standing policy of opposing the death penalty as a matter of principle regardless of nationality and we act compatibly with the European convention on human rights. In accordance with the Government’s overseas, security and justice assistance guidance, we have taken into account human rights considerations. The OSJA provides that where there are strong reasons not to seek death penalty assurances,
“Ministers should be consulted to determine whether, given the specific circumstances of the case, we should nevertheless provide assistance.”
On Guantanamo Bay, again our position has not changed. The UK Government’s long-standing position is that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should close. Where we share evidence with the US, it must be for the express purpose of progressing a criminal prosecution, and we have made that clear to the United States. We have planned and prepared for the risk posed by British nationals returning to the UK as Daesh is defeated in Iraq and Syria, and we are using a range of tools to disrupt and diminish that threat in order to keep the public safe. Each case is considered individually to determine which action or power is most appropriate.
I cannot say more about individual cases in this circumstance, but the Government have set out the extent to which these tools have been used in our annual transparency report. We will also be introducing new offences in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which is being debated by parliamentary colleagues and which will strengthen our terrorism legislation to increase our ability to prosecute returning foreign fighters.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.
The whole House is united in condemning terrorism and the work of ISIS, and anyone found guilty of terrorism should face the full force of the law, but in an increasingly dangerous and unstable world, one of our strengths as a country is our willingness to stand up unflinchingly for human rights. It is a key aspect of our soft power. The Minister will therefore understand the widespread concern that the Government seem willing to abandon their long-standing, principled opposition to the death penalty in this case.
Ministers claim that the decision in this case does not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally or the UK Government’s stance on the global abolition of the death penalty, but I put it to Ministers that they cannot be a little bit in favour of the death penalty. Either we offer consistent opposition, or we do not. So let me remind the Minister: capital punishment is not the law of this country; we do not extradite people to countries where it is potentially a sentence for the crime; the death penalty is outlawed under the Human Rights Act 1998; and it is in breach of the European convention on human rights.
Successive Governments have always sought assurances that those who face justice in other countries will not face the death penalty. Extradition is expressly prohibited where the subject could face the death penalty under the Extradition Act 2003. The UK is a signatory to the United Nations convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and extraordinary rendition is unlawful under this convention, but in his letter to the US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, of 22 June, the Home Secretary reportedly wrote:
“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought.”
Can the Minister explain why the Home Secretary did not come to Parliament to disclose this change of policy, what his strong reasons are, what advice he has taken, whether the Law Officers have been consulted, what assessment has been made of the impact of extradition arrangements with third countries where capital punishment is outlawed and what steps he has taken to ensure there has been no torture in this case, unlike in the more than 200 cases of abuse of detainees identified by the Intelligence and Security Committee in its report of 28 June?
The Minister will be aware that the mother of one of the cell’s victims has said that she is “very against” the use of the death penalty. Diane Foley said:
“I think that you just make them martyrs in their twisted ideology…I would like them held accountable by being sent to prison for the rest of their lives. That would be my preference.”
This decision to abandon our principled opposition to the death penalty is abhorrent and shameful, and I call on Ministers, even at this late stage, to reverse the decision.
I have listened carefully to the right hon. Lady’s statement, and I agree with much of what she said. It is not a matter of extradition, as she will know if she has read the news reports; it is a matter of whether we were going to accept a request by the United States to share evidence on individuals not within the United Kingdom, not within the European Union, but abroad. No one is extraditing anyone in this country, and we are not talking about UK citizens, so the premise of her question in the first place is, I am afraid, skewed.
However, I will try to answer the questions the right hon. Lady has put to the House. First, she asked why the Home Secretary did not come to the House to announce a change in policy. That is because he has not changed the policy of the United Kingdom Government. The overseas security and justice assistance guidance clearly states
“that there will be cases where, as an exception to the general policy and taking into account the specific circumstances, Ministers can lawfully decide that assistance should be provided in the absence of adequate assurances”.
That has been the policy for many, many years. All Ministers have done is consider, in response to a request from one of our allies to seek evidence on individuals detained elsewhere, whether we should share that evidence and whether we should seek assurances in doing so.
I notice that the right hon. Lady mentioned Mrs Foley. I heard that interview this morning, too, and Mrs Foley also said that she thought it was right that these people face justice in US courts. Who are we to deny that to those victims in the United States, if the United Kingdom holds some of the evidence that may make it possible? The United States has the rule of law and due process, as do we in this country. In our many mutual legal assistance requests—there are more than 8,000 a year among countries and police forces around the world—we do it on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the law. Throughout the process, other Ministers and I consulted lawyers. We constantly checked with existing guidance and the policy.
We should not forget that the crimes we are talking about involve the beheading, and videoing of the beheading of dozens of innocent people by one of the most abhorrent organisations walking this earth. It would be bizarre to say that if we were unable to prosecute them in this country, we should simply let them be free to roam around the United Kingdom so as not to upset the right hon. Lady. Not to share our evidence with the United States would be simply bizarre and would not be justice for the victims.
Daesh/ISIL is a proscribed organisation still committed to waging acts of terrorism against this country. On the wider point, if it is still too difficult to prosecute here at home those who have gone to work for or to assist Daesh/ISIL abroad, and if that is because of some obligation under the European convention on human rights, is it not time to take back control?
I hear my right hon. Friend. I do not believe it is necessary or right to withdraw from the European convention on human rights. I believe it is incredibly important that we all follow the rule of law—both our obligations under the ECHR and United Kingdom law—and that is what we have done in this case. Where we have gaps in our statute book, we are seeking to fill them. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is passing through this House to make it easier to prosecute and to ensure we are able to do so, and it includes changes to extraterritorial legislation so that our offences reach such places. In this case, however, it was decided—because of the horrendous crimes being alleged, with victims on both sides of the Atlantic—that it was important to seek the most appropriate jurisdiction. When the request came in for sharing the evidence, this Government took the decision, rare as it is, to share that evidence without seeking assurances.
It goes without saying that we all condemn terrorism and that we all believe terrorists should be brought to justice, and it really is not good enough for the Minister to imply that any of us in the House is against terrorists being brought to justice. The issue is why and in what circumstances the UK Government are departing from their long-standing policy of opposing the death penalty “in all circumstances”. In using those words, I am reading from the UK Government’s death penalty strategy. Curiously, it was not of course renewed when it was due for renewal in 2016, so will the Minister tell us when it will be renewed?
Not only Members of Parliament but the public are getting increasingly frustrated by the failure of Ministers in this Government to answer questions at the Dispatch Box. I will give him another chance: what are the strong reasons that the Home Secretary says exist for departing from the policy? I have another question for him: what requests were made by the Trump Administration with regard to the waiver of our long-standing policy? Was the decision to waive our long-standing policy on the death penalty signed off by the Prime Minister, and will the Minister tell us whether the waiver will happen only in relation to the United States, or will it happen in relation to other countries and allies, such as Saudi Arabia?
The hon. and learned Lady is a wise and knowledgeable barrister in her own right, and she will know that coming to this House to discuss individual cases that are subject to ongoing investigations does two things: it puts the investigation and the potential to bring charges at risk; and it could undermine the likelihood of those individuals getting a fair trial if we comment on it. I am sure that she, as a student of justice, would not wish that to happen. I will therefore not comment further on the cases involving these individuals. As we have said, it is incredibly rare in the first place that such issues are brought to the House or discussed in it.
There was no request from the US Administration for us to vary our assurances. That decision was taken within the United Kingdom by Ministers, and the Prime Minister was aware of that decision.
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend, who is a distinguished former soldier, would have shot these two people had he engaged them on the battlefield, but these are not comparable circumstances and there are important and long-standing conventions in play. Will he bear in mind that, on human rights, we cannot distinguish between good and bad people? Human rights are indivisible and belong to everybody.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In fact, I would not just have shot such people on the battlefield; I would have acted within the law and with the powers I was granted by Parliament and by the Government of the day, as he and I did under emergency deployment. We acted within the law, and just being a soldier on the battlefield did not exempt us from the law or human rights obligations.
I totally agree with human rights, and that is why Ministers have acted in line with our legal obligations and, indeed, taken advice in relation to the European convention on human rights. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) mentioned rendition, but no one is rendering. The UK Government fundamentally oppose rendition and will continue to do so.
The whole House would agree that those who commit barbaric crimes should be locked away for the rest of their lives, but what the Minister has said is a contradiction of the long-standing abolition of the death penalty strategy—No. 10 have reaffirmed these words today—which says:
“It is the longstanding policy of the UK to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.”
In this case, the Home Secretary seems to have unilaterally ripped up those principles on a Friday afternoon in the summer. What does the Minister think “principle” and “all circumstances” mean if somehow these circumstances are not “all circumstances”? Is he not actually saying that principles mean nothing to the UK Government any more?
No, I am not saying that, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not rip up anything unilaterally. My right hon. Friend followed the advice, as did other Ministers, of the OSJA—the guidance that has been in existence for very many years—which does allow Ministers to sometimes seek the ability to share evidence where there is an absence of assurances. That is what the OSJA has done, as part of the guidance for the Government, and it has been there for many years.
The UK is a proud member of the Council of Europe, which has made the abolition of capital punishment one of its main priorities. It has been fighting for 30 years to outlaw the death penalty, and it now wishes to extend that to countries with observer status at the Council of Europe, including Japan and the United States of America. Will the Minister confirm that he will support that policy of the Council of Europe and say whether he is convinced that the actions relating to these two men are compatible with our membership of the Council of Europe and the priorities we put on its activities?
In answer to my right hon. Friend, yes and yes.
The Minister just referred, in quoting the code, to the absence of assurances. What the Home Secretary wrote in the letter to the US Attorney General was that he was not even going to seek assurances. Therefore, the question that has been asked by many Members still holds: why have the Government decided to breach a long-standing policy against the death penalty in all circumstances in this case? We all want these individuals, if there is evidence, to face justice, but it is precisely because of the barbaric nature of the crimes of which they are accused that we as a country have to show that we are better than them and what they did. That is why there is so much unhappiness, I suspect in many parts of the House, about what the Home Secretary has done.
I am not going to take a lecture about being better from a right hon. Gentleman who sat in a Government when people were being rendered from Libya and across to Libya. I think that is outrageous. As I have said to other Opposition Members, I cannot go into the exact details of this case because it is currently under investigation and to do so would risk undermining the operation. The OSJA is the guidance that Ministers have followed in the past and will follow in future. That is absolutely the case.
The right hon. Gentleman asks questions about the semantics of the letter and whether we asked or did not ask. We have said in this case that it is the judgment of Ministers, based on the operation, the investigation and the evidence before us, that we will not seek assurances in this matter.
It was my understanding that it was a policy decision of the United Kingdom Government—which I do not criticise in any way—that we would not seek the return of these two individuals to the United Kingdom for public interest reasons, and indeed have deprived them of their UK nationality. However, is it not the case that to move on from there to facilitate their going to the United States to face trial for capital offences is a major departure from normal policy, if we are doing so by providing evidence under a request for mutual legal assistance? When was the last time that we departed from these principles—I am not aware of this ever having happened before—and why have we not asked for an assurance when it would be perfectly proper to do so? Those are the two key questions, and until they are answered, I have to say to my right hon. Friend that this issue will continue to haunt the Government.
My right hon. and learned Friend, having produced plenty of advices in his previous role as Attorney General to Her Majesty’s Government, will recognise the challenges that Ministers face in balancing the need for making the decision about trial—[Interruption.] Opposition Members chunter from a sedentary position. The reality, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, is that we all desire these people to face trial. If Ministers are faced with the prospect of not being able to try them in the United Kingdom but an ally seeks evidence that could lead to them being tried, Ministers have an obligation to the citizens of this country to balance that request and the likelihood of trial with the extent to which they will seek assurances, if we think that is important for keeping people safe in the United Kingdom. In this case, Ministers have made the decision that we are not going to seek assurances, because we do not think we have the evidence here to try them in the United Kingdom and we hope that a trial will be carried out in the United States. That is the balance. My right hon. and learned Friend may disagree with the balance we have chosen to take, but that is the responsibility of the Ministers holding the onerous task of trying to keep us safe, while balancing that with human rights.
Why did Ministers not seek death penalty assurances?
Because we are interested in seeking criminal justice in line with international law and our law. Where we feel the assurance might get in the way of being able to do that—[Interruption.] No, no; if the right hon. Gentleman faced the choice of either having to see these people go free and potentially wander around his constituency or go to trial, he might take a different view. In this case, Ministers looked at the request before them and, acting lawfully and in line with the OSJA, chose to take that decision.
My right hon. Friend, at the beginning, stated Government policy. I agree with the Government policy, and I am glad that the Government do as well. Will the Minister confirm that people accused of murdering British nationals can be tried in this country if there is evidence, even if they are not UK nationals?
Yes. Citizenship is not a factor. If we have the evidence and we can try them, we will. However, the point was made earlier about rendition and so on. It is one thing to share evidence with an ally or international partner, but the question arises about how you bring them back. The individuals we are talking about, and foreign fighters in general, are currently being held by non-state actors in Syria. How those people are brought back is a big challenge for all European states—and indeed the United States.
The Government have quite rightly tried over the past year to persuade China, Russia and Pakistan to suspend the death penalty. Is that not going to look like arrant hypocrisy if we adopt a different standard when it applies to the United States of America’s request? Will the Minister now please answer—if he does not have the detail now, will he write to all of us?—the question that the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) asked: when did the Government last choose not to seek such assurances?
In my time as Security Minister, they have not. I will write to hon. Members and let them know on how many occasions we have done that. It will be for their summer reading.
Amid this whole debate, is it not absolutely essential that the perpetrators of these crimes should be brought to justice and punishment? That is the most important issue in all of this. Does the Minister not agree with that?
My hon. Friend is right. There are countries around the world that we recognise have due process, the rule of law, separation of powers and values we agree with. That is why we share intelligence with some of those powers and why, in the 8,000 mutual legal assistance requests a year, we often share evidence that leads to prosecutions in court. We will always do that where we think it is about seeking justice and the best place for that justice to be delivered. In this case, we felt the best place was the United States of America.
Everybody in this House agrees that the crimes being talked about are abhorrent and that there is a desperate need for justice, but no straw man should conceal the fact that that should never come at the loss of our principled opposition to the death penalty. If the Minister is so confident that this is the correct decision, will he publish the legal advice that he and other Ministers have had that confirms they do not even need to ask the question for this country? On that point, he says that the Prime Minister is aware of this decision. Does she agree?
On the first point, the hon. Lady will know that it has been the policy of numerous successive Governments not to publish legal advice. On the second point, the Prime Minister was aware of the decision. The decision was made between the Home Office and the Foreign Office, and she agrees.
I remind my right hon. Friend that the United States shares English law with us. A particularly ridiculous point was made by the SNP spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), when she mentioned Saudi Arabia, which patently does not. I also tell the House that there are widespread reports in the press that these people were responsible for beheading 27 western hostages with a serrated knife. If the evidence is not available in the United Kingdom but is available in the United States, I tell my right hon. Friend that it is absolutely right that they be tried there, because the last thing we want is these people being tried here, and then, through a lack of evidence, being found innocent and allowed to roam free in this country.
My hon. Friend makes a really important point. At the end of the day, this is about the security of our country and about justice being delivered where that can be done. For all the stories about the United States of America, it has a robust judicial system, a lot of which is based on English law, and for that reason we should not fear that sharing evidence with the United States is somehow comparable with sharing it with some other states that have been mentioned, or indeed that justice will not be done and that these people will not be given a fair trial if a trial is to happen. That is why I have said repeatedly from the Dispatch Box that I cannot comment in too much detail about these individuals.
The point about a principled opposition to capital punishment is that it exists in all circumstances—not just in areas where there might be a miscarriage of justice, but in the most hideous, heinous crimes of the kind we are describing, where very clear evidence is available. Will the Government tell the House whether, when they spoke to the American authorities, the American authorities told them that no such assurances would be given if the Government sought them?
In this particular case, much of the potential for a trial was based on a comparison of the United States’ statute book and ours, and whether the US had the suite of offences that would achieve a conviction and we did not. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon), that is why we are bringing in some new offences in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which is currently going through the House.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the great shames in this is that we have not brought a charge of betrayal against these people? Fundamentally, what they have done is not just to bring violence against people in Syria but to undermine community cohesion in this country. That betrayal against our own state—that sense of wrong done to the citizens of this country—is a crime in itself and should be tried as one.
I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that throughout the whole process of this and many other cases that we have to make decisions on, we try to keep in balance the security of the nation from people who pose such a threat, whether they betray our values or betray their nation. We do that all the time and work incredibly hard to try to make sure that where we achieve justice, we do not do it by cutting corners and breaking international law, which we have seen happen in this House previously. The consequences that flowed from that are significant, which is why I can say, and said earlier, that the Government’s position on Guantanamo Bay is not as was reported in the media this morning. We absolutely oppose its existence. We wish it to be closed down and we would not, and will not, share information with the United States if individuals were going to end up in Guantanamo Bay.
I am baffled as to which of the many questions running through my head to ask. I could ask why the Minister had no answer for the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), because surely precedent is extremely important in this case. The Minister does not even seem to know when the country last made such a serious decision not to seek reassurances. May I press him to commit himself to finding out those reasons, and to expressing at least some understanding of why it baffles so many of us, on both sides of the House, that he will not seek those reassurances in this case, given that he has just said that he would have done so if there had been the possibility of a prisoner’s going to Guantanamo? It makes no sense.
First, I have given that commitment. I will find out how many times this has been used in the past, and, as I have said, I will write to Members. As for the seriousness, the reason the Government oppose Guantanamo Bay—as, indeed, do the Opposition Front Benchers—is that it is not an institution that follows due process. It is set outside the bounds of international law. It is not in compliance with nearly everything that this country stands for. That is very different from the justice system of the United States.
Like, I suspect, the majority of my constituents and those in the country as a whole, I am perfectly comfortable with the position of the Home Secretary. These people are not United Kingdom citizens, and they are owed nothing by this Government. May I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that the unrepresentative grandstanding that we have seen from some today will not knock the Government off its course of assisting the United States in the prosecution of these murderous terrorist scum?
My hon. Friend is right to point out that it is our constituents who face the consequences of not getting this right. The last thing on my mind at night and the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning is the balancing of risk—the balance between people who we know pose a risk, trying to plot to bomb us and kill us every single day, and the needs of my constituents and the constituents of the United Kingdom. The duty of Ministers is to balance that risk, and to try to get that balance right.
Like other Members in all parts of the House, I am proud of the role that successive UK Governments of all political persuasions have played in fighting against the death penalty. Is there any evidence that the Minister can give to challenge the assertion quoted in The Times this morning, from a “ministerial source”, that the Home Secretary’s decision
“is contrary to all government policy, and negates over a decade’s unequivocal FCO statements and DFID programme spending principles”?
I do not think that I need to guide the right hon. Gentleman not to quote from a ministerial source on any day of the week, and I would advise any colleagues against doing so. That ministerial source, whoever it may be, is wrong.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is a vital strategic priority of our Government to work as closely as possible with the United States on a range of national security issues, and to assist us in our fight against international terrorism and extremism to help to keep our people safe?
My hon. Friend has made an important point. Every week, the United States and our European allies share evidence and intelligence that keep us safe. They are our friends in this ever-unstable world. It is incredibly important that we stay close to all our allies and continue in partnership both to prosecute people where they pose a threat—if it is here, then here, but if it is not, elsewhere, in the countries that share our values—and to share intelligence in order to make sure that all of us keep safe.
In the case of Abu Qatada, the Prime Minister, in her former guise, secured a special guarantee that evidence gathered through torture would not be used against him. Whatever these people are accused of, will the Minister give the House an assurance that there are the same guarantees for Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh?
On the basis of all the evidence that the United Kingdom holds, we would not hold evidence that we knew resulted directly or indirectly from torture; nor would we share that evidence if we had it.
Having taken the mood of the House this afternoon, will my right hon. and gallant Friend ask our right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to reconsider the action that he has taken, given the specifics of this case?
I am glad that the Minister intends to write to the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) to answer his question, but can he confirm, as he was unable to answer today, that no precedent played any part in the decision made in this case?
The hon. Gentleman is correct. As I said in answer to a question from the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), all cases are taken on a case-by-case basis, and that will be the case in the future as well.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the key human right in this case is access to a full and fair trial, and that the UK Government must do everything they can to make sure that is possible? If UK agencies and authorities were to withhold evidence they have in their possession, it would put that fundamentally at risk?
My hon. Friend is right that it is very important that anyone detained on suspicion of being a foreign fighter faces a full and fair trial in accordance with our values and laws and international law, and that is what we are trying to achieve.
Last week the Foreign Office confirmed the Government’s position that the death penalty undermines human dignity and that opposing it was in all circumstances a matter of principle. So that confirms what I think the Minister has said, which is that this is an individual decision by this Home Secretary. But the only reason the Minister seems to have given for why the assurance was not sought is that that would not facilitate trial in the United States, so has the US imposed a condition that that assurance is not sought in this case?
No, I did not say that. This is a Foreign Office-Home Office-led decision of the two Ministers, so quoting from the Foreign Office I would say that the true guidance for the policy is in line with the OSJA guidance.
One of the biggest challenges we face today as a society is countering violent extremism. What is my right hon. Friend’s Department doing to strengthen the sentencing framework for terrorism-related offences?
The new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill going through the House increases some of the maximum sentences available. On the wider area of my hon. Friend’s point about prevention, that is why we embrace and promote the Prevent policy in Contest.
These terrorists sneaked out of the UK to join a bunch of murderers who were at war with this country, and they then publicly boasted about beheading and torturing innocent hostages. Does the Minister not agree that it would be a betrayal of their victims and of this country if he did not supply information to the United States which would enable these people to be brought to justice and held to account, and that our only concern should be that that is what happens and that the US courts hand out whatever sentence they believe these people deserve?
It is of course a general policy and principle that we will do what we can to help acquire or share evidence with our allies to bring to justice people who have perpetrated violence through terrorism or any other offence against citizens, whether our citizens or those of other countries. I will not talk about this individual case and the United States, but the reality is that we should, of course, work to make sure that people face justice, but that justice must be in line with international law and our values, and with the due process that should be awarded to people who are innocent until proven guilty.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that any trial under any circumstance should always be fair and transparent because the relatives and friends of the victims deserve the best?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Often in all of this—and, indeed, often in the media reporting—people forget that there are victims. The right place for the victims to see what is going on and understand the full picture is at a trial. That is why sometimes leaks in the media do not help anyone. Victims can certainly be upset when all these details come out in trials, and that is what we are trying to help by the sharing of evidence with the United States.
A number of us mourned the death this month of Cardinal Tauran, who told us that the conflict with radical Islam would be an intergenerational struggle that would require education, dialogue and, yes, force. Does the Minister not agree that facilitating vengeance in the judicial system via the use of the death penalty will make our world a much less safe place?
I do not believe that the death penalty is something that this country should have. I do not think it is what the public, or indeed this House, would support. However, I also respect the will of a number of countries around the world, including the United States, that have decided to have the death penalty in certain circumstances. As an ex-soldier, I am also aware that all states, including those that oppose the death penalty, use lethal force when they have to do so to keep themselves secure. We risk being seen as hypocrites if we say that we will never make an exception for assurances, while being prepared to use lethal force on the battlefield to kill people without due process. That is the balance that we always have to strike. It is not easy, but we do it to try to keep people safe.
While I understand the concern of those who oppose the death penalty, I also understand the concern of my constituents that if this country has information or evidence that is not passed on to our closest ally, the United States, that will send out a very wrong signal indeed when this House calls for more action in countries where there is a war that directly impacts my constituents. Will the Minister confirm, in order to reassure us all, that if advice has been taken and if decisions have been overreached in terms of ministerial responsibility, they will of course be subject to the courts?
Yes, my hon. Friend is correct. All Ministers took these decisions in line with the law. They were acting lawfully, within international law and within our domestic obligations.
Sending people to face the death penalty is unacceptable, and to be party to doing that undermines our own credentials. The Minister did not answer the question put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). When will the Government renew their own policy on the death penalty? When will that be brought before this House?
The hon. Lady makes one fundamental mistake. The two individuals in question are not under our control. They are not in our jurisdiction. We have no contact with them whatsoever. The reality is that this is based on a request from the United States Government to share evidence so that those individuals can potentially face trial in the United States.
I thank the Minister for his comments so far. Those two men are not UK citizens. If the evidential base is as strong as the media suggest, they will be charged and tested in the US courts for the murder of two Americans. Is it not right that it should be the US courts that deliberate on those horrific murders?
There are American victims of this crime, and whoever the right people to face the consequences of that are, they should of course face justice where those victims are, as should be the case in relation to British victims here. It would have been good if we could have done that, but in this case, the decision was reached that the United States was the best place for those individuals to face justice, in the United States criminal system.