An MP has pledged that she and her colleagues will “not be giving up” on attempts to investigate Tony Blair’s dealings with the Gaddafi regime, after the ex-Prime Minister failed to produce any written evidence when requested.
Roughly five weeks ago, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee had asked for a written response from Mr Blair over what role he had played in an attempts to gain compensation for victims of Libyan-backed violence.
The deadline was Friday. October 23.
However, on that day, a letter was received from Mr Blair’s office – with no precise date on it – asking when the deadline was.
Instead, a new deadline has now been set, this time for November 9.
Fellow Labour Party member Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, said that the case has echoes Mr Blair’s failure to respond to requests from the committee last year, when it had asked him to appear at its investigation into the on the runs latter scandal.
The move deeply displeased MPs (see below), and the decision was taken to compel him to attend instead.
She said that it is possible the committee may have to do the same a second time round.
She said: “It looks like he’s doing what he did with on the runs; trying to keep postponing and postponing, but the committee will certainly not be giving up on this.”
She added that “our committee will no doubt not allow this to fester and if he does not respond adequately, then I’m sure that we will be summonsing him or subpoenaing him to appear in person”.
She said that, given the criticism he faced last time he had to be summoned before the committee, “I didn’t think he would do it this time”.
The letter on Friday had said that Mr Blair would be “delighted” to provide written evidence to the committee.
It added this would “allow me [Mr Blair] to correct any false impressions which have gained currency”.
Libya’s former dictator, Colonel Gaddafi, had been a major supporter of the IRA, supplying weapons and explosives to the organisation.
He was overthrown in a bloody uprising in 2011, and killed.
In the years leading up to his overthrow, there had been efforts at rapprochement with Libya by Tony Blair’s government.
However, no deal was reached on compensation for UK-based victims of Libyan-supplied IRA arms (although a deal was struck for money to be paid into a US-based fund for victims of 1980s Libyan-backed terrorism).
The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed source at the weekend as saying: “There was no deliberate plan to exclude Britons from the deal but that was a consequence. It was certainly the effect... It’s regrettable that the US didn’t allow British citizens to make a claim on the fund.”
Libya (ranked 55 in the UN’s 2014 Human Development Index, just below Romania and Belarus) has been in a state of chaos following the UK-backed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime – leaving the prospect of future compensation for IRA victims unclear.
On December 11, the News Letter reported the NI Affairs Committee chairman Laurence Robertson had informed Mr Blair that MPs were “particularly disappointed” over his lack of response when they asked to see him concerning the on the runs scandal (which saw republican suspects receive special letters to reassure them that police were not seeking them).
Mr Robertson told Mr Blair at the time that “you have been in the UK regularly over the past few weeks, but you have not been able to find and hour or so to meet us...
“The committee felt that this was extremely disrespectful to the House. Accordingly, following the unanimous decision of the committee, I summon you to appear before it at 2.30pm on Wednesday 14 January 2015.” After that, Mr Blair appeared.
Mr Blair said he intended no disrespect.