David Cameron has accused the Labour government of “insufficient consideration” over Libyan efforts to secure the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell has found that Labour did “all it could” to facilitate Libya in its appeal to the Scottish government to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
In a statement to MPs, Mr Cameron said: “Insufficient consideration was given to the most basic question of all – was it really right for the British government to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish government in the case of an individual who was convicted of murdering 270 people, including 43 British citizens and 190 Americans and 19 other nationalities?
“That for me is the biggest lesson of this entire affair. For my part I repeat, I believe it was profoundly wrong.”
The Prime Minister said Sir Gus’s review, ordered by Mr Cameron after a visit to the US, did not justify calls for a new inquiry but provided further evidence it was a “flawed decision” by the Scottish Executive.
In his report, Sir Gus said: “Policy was, therefore, progressively developed that HMG should do all it could, while respecting devolved competencies, to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish government for Mr Megrahi’s transfer under the PTA (Prisoner Transfer Agreement) or for release on compassionate grounds.”
The PM quoted from a Foreign Office paper dated January 2009: “We now need to go further and work actively but discreetly to ensure that Megrahi is transferred back to Libya under the PTA or failing that released on compassionate grounds.”
Mr Cameron told MPs: “Frankly, this tells us something that was not made clear at the time. It goes further than the account that the former Prime Minister and the former foreign secretary gave. We weren’t told about facilitating an appeal, about facilitating contact or game plans.”
Replying to the Prime Minister’s statement, Labour leader Ed Miliband said the bombing was “a terrible atrocity” but added: “The message of today’s report is that Mr Megrahi’s release was not influenced by the UK Government.”
“The report makes clear there’s no evidence ‘UK interests played a part in Mr Megrahi’s release by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds’,” he said, adding that Sir Gus found the Labour government took “great effort not to communicate to the Scottish government its view”.