Government refuses judge-led inquiry, publishes new Guidance

Following Monday's Urgent Question, the government today issued a combination of Oral and Written Statements, along with the successor to the Consolidated Guidance to intelligence and military personnel on detainee issues. 

In his Oral Statement, the Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington announced the publication of the 'Principles' document by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, to replace the Consolidated Guidance. He also announced that "the Government have decided that it is not necessary to establish a further Inquiry." The Minister justified this on the grounds that there was no policy case for doing so because of the changes made to Guidance in recent years, and no legal obligation to do so either.

APPG Members David Davis, Dominic Grieve, Stephen Timms, Andrew Mitchell and Andy Slaughter spoke in response to the Statement, challenging the government's case and pointing in particular to the constraints on the Intelligence and Security Committee's (ISC) investigation that led the Committee to conclude that it should end its inquiry without its having reached full and definitive conclusions. APPG Members Lord Tyrie, Baroness d'Souza and Baroness Ludford spoke In the House of Lords debate,

The APPG will set out its full views on the new 'Principles' document shortly. The APPG participated fully in the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's consultation, and some of the Group's proposals were accepted; Sir Adrian Fulford's accompanying letter to the Prime Minister makes specific reference to the APPG regarding whistleblowing. However, the failure to set clear prohibitions on ministerial action and decision-making is a cause for significant concern.

The Statement and debate can be found here, and the APPG's press release can be found here.   

 

Inquiry decision and Consolidated Guidance 'this week'

In response to an Urgent Question on Monday 15 July from APPG Chair Ken Clarke, the Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington committed the government to setting out its decision on a judge-led inquiry 'later this week'. Mr Lidington, relying on behalf of the Prime Minister, added that the government would, at the same time, publish its response to Sir Adrian Fulford's review of the Consolidated Guidance.

Neither the precise date nor the form of the government announcement was clear from Mr Lidington's statement. The Speaker's suggestion that it should be the subject of an Oral Statement to the House elicited a non-commit all reply from the Minister.

Ken Clarke's Urgent Question reminded the government of commitments made over a year ago that the House would be told within 60 days of its view about a judge-led inquiry. So far that commitment has not been delivered. Members of the APPG pressed the Minister further, but we now await the announcement within the coming days.

Ken Clarke's Urgent Question, and the resulting debate, can be found here

APPG holds EGM, elects Stephen Timms MP as Vice-Chair

The APPG held an Extraordianry General Meeting (EGM) on Tuesday 9 July, at which Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP was elected as an additional Vice-Chair of the Group.

The meeting also reviewed recent and current activities of the Group, including the continuing campaign for a judge-led inquiry.

Read the minutes of the EGM here.

APPG members write to the Prime Minister

One year on from the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee's (ISC) two reports on detainee mistreatment and rendtion, the Government has failed to respond to calls for a renewed judge-led inquiry. The ISC reports demonstrated both the much greater scale of British involvement in rendtion than previously thought, and the degree to which their work had been frustrated, and ultimately halted, by denial of access to key witnesses.

At the time of publication, a Government Minister committed to reporting back to Parliament on the Government's stance towards a new inquiry. When a response to the report was finally slipped out, some 147 days after publication, it made no mention of an inquiry, and ministers have continued to refuse to be drawn on the subject since. 

APPG Chairman Ken Clarke and other members of the APPG have written to the Prime Minister on the first anniversary of the ISC reports, urging the need for Govenrment to deliver on its pledge of an inquiry, and for the Prime Minister to overhaul the 'Consolidated Guidance' to intelligence officers and service personnel and publish the outcome, following recent receipt of Sir Adrian Fulford's review of the Guidance.

The letter to the Prime Minister can be found here and the APPG's accompanying press release here.

 

 

Consolidated Guidance goes to the Prime Minister

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, confirmed on Friday that his review of the Consolidated Guidance had been submitted to the Prime Minister. Sir Adrian expressed his thanks for "the significant amount of work and enormous assistance I have received from our internal and external stakeholders in completing this task." The Prime Minister's response to the proposed revised Guidance is now awaited.

You can find the IPCO's statement here; and the APPG's response to the consultation on the Guidance here.

MoD guidelines challenged

APPG Member David Davis challenged ministers through an Urgent Question over Ministry of Defence guidelines that appear to give ministers discretion over whether to approve information sharing that could be linked to torture.

Documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Dr Sam Raphael, Co-Director of the collaborative research initiative The Rendition Project, include MoD guidelines which state that information sharing should not proceed where there is a risk of torture "unless ministers agree that the exceptional benefits justify accepting the risk and the legal consequences that may follow." David Davis argued that this paragraph "presumes that Ministers can overrule the law, even international law, including that on absolute rights such as the prohibition of torture."

In response, the Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, insisted that the Government's position was one of robust opposition to torture, and that once the review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner of the Government's Consolidated Guidance on overseas detainees was completed and published, internal MoD guidance could be reviewed aC ordinary. She added that she expected the Commissioner's review to be completed and considered by the Government shortly: "I anticipate that this will be a matter of weeks." This was a much more definite response regarding the publication of the review of the Consolidated Guidance than that given in answer to a Parliamentary Question by APPG Treasurer Lord Hodgson in April.

In the course of the debate, a number of MPs, including APPG member Andrew Mitchell, pressed the Secretary of State on the failure to pursue a judge-led inquiry into extraordinary rendition, now some 323 days (and counting) since the release of the Intelligence and Security Committee's report. On this, however, the new Secretary of State declined to be drawn.

See the Urgent Question and resulting debate here.

UN Committee adds to calls for inquiry

In a new report (the sixth periodic report on the UK, covering a wide range of issues), the UN Committee Against Torture has urged the British Government to initiate its long-promised judge-led inquiry into extraordinary rendition. Citing the further revelations in last summer's reports by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), the Committee urges the Govenrment to "establish without further delay an inquiry on alleged acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held overseas committed by, at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of British officials." It expresses concern that the inquiry has not so far been initiated, "despite previous assurances to this Committee."

Its promises of a speedy response at the time of the ISC report, and calls from bodies such as the UN Committee, the Council of Europe, the APPG and NGOS for the inquiry notwithstanding, the government says only that it "continues to give serious consideration" to the need for it. 

 

 

Foreign office criticised over scrutiny of UK spy agencies

APPG Chair, Ken Clarke, is quoted in the today's Financial Times on concerns over the lack of challenge by the Foreign Office when signing off possible unlawful action by UK spy agencies overseas.

The Financial Times article is in response to the recent annual report published by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office. Ken Clarke said: “ It is extremely important that the secretary of state takes this role seriously and scrutinises adequately and in some detail what he or she is being asked to authorise.  Over successive governments some ministers have acted conscientiously and properly but others have tended to sign off whatever is presented to them.  It must not be left to the practices of individual ministers to ensure confidence in the authorisation process.”

The article draws a link back to the UK’s role in the so-called “war on terror”, where ministers did not sufficiently question the agencies.

The full article is available here

Financial Times

 Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office.