Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 16:04 UK

MPs to grill Straw over Megrahi

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi with Col Gadaffi's son, Saif al-Islam
British politicians were horrified by the welcome Megrahi received in Libya

MPs are to question Justice Secretary Jack Straw about the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber.

The Commons Justice Committee said Mr Straw had "questions to answer" over discussions between the UK and Libya over the case of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

The decision to release Megrahi was taken by the Scottish government and No 10 insists it did not intervene at all.

But opposition parties have called for an inquiry to determine whether the UK had any influence on the decision.

'Changed mind'

When Mr Straw appears before the Committee next month, MPs are likely to focus on why the justice secretary changed his mind over whether Megrahi should be included in a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya.

Correspondence released by the UK and Scottish governments earlier this month showed Mr Straw originally opposed Megrahi's inclusion in such an agreement.

However, three months later he changed his mind, saying it was in the "wider" interests of the UK that the agreement take a "standard form" with no exceptions.

We need to get the truth from all the Labour figures who have been drawn into Gadaffi's big tent
Ed Davey, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman

The Scottish government rejected calls for Megrahi's return to Libya under the terms of the agreement but agreed to free him on compassionate grounds as he is suffering from terminal cancer.

The decision was criticised by opposition parties in both Edinburgh and London and was also attacked by the US government.

"Although final decisions on applications for prisoner transfer and for compassionate release of Megrahi were made by the Scottish government, it is clear from the published correspondence that there are questions for Jack Straw to answer," Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith, who chairs the Justice Committee, said.

Gordon Brown insists there was no "cover-up or conspiracy" over Megrahi's release and commercial links between UK and Libya, which have burgeoned since 2004, did not affect the decision.

But Mr Brown has refused to be drawn on whether he supported the Scottish government's decision in the face of opposition criticism that he should make his position clear.

The Tories have called for a public inquiry to examine minutes of all high-level meetings between UK and Libyan ministers since 2004 at which Megrahi's case was discussed.

The Lib Dems welcomed the committee's investigation but said a more comprehensive inquiry was needed to "get to the bottom" of all that preceded the Megrahi decision.

"Parliament must set up a far-reaching investigation into recent UK-Libya relations which will call all those ministers involved to account," said its foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey.

"We need to get the truth from all the Labour figures who have been drawn into Gadaffi's big tent."



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