HC Deb 19 July 2004 vol 424 cc14-6
9. Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr) (PC)

For what reason no reference was made to the prohibition of hooding of detainees in Iraq in guidance issued to service personnel until 30 September 2003. [184476]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

Ministry of Defence training makes it clear that the use of hoods during interrogation and tactical questioning is not permitted. However, hooding as a means of blindfolding where this is militarily justified—for example to prevent prisoners from viewing sensitive areas—has been routine practice in successive conflicts and is considered to be compliant with the relevant international conventions.

Adam Price

I thank the Minister for his reply. He will know that the policy on hooding was changed in September as a result of the death of Baha Mousa, in which that practice was deemed to be a contributory factor. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the International Committee of the Red Cross had previously expressed concerns on the practice of hooding to the British Army? Having failed to act on that advice until it was too late, must not the Government accept their share of responsibility for Mr. Mousa's death?

Mr. Ingram

I am conscious that, every time I answer a question from the hon. Gentleman on this matter, a misinterpretation of what I have said appears in either The Independent or The Independent on Sunday. Either he does not understand my answers or there is a deliberate practice of trying to read too much into them. I do not accept the premise in the opening part of his question, and I must point out that these matters are under investigation, although I understand that he might want to judge people guilty before due process has taken place. He also asked me to confirm that discussions had taken place with the ICRC. Again, I do not think that he has been listening to the answers that have been given in the House. The International Committee of the Red Cross makes it very clear that its dealings with and reports to Governments are confidential, so we cannot discuss the matter and I cannot comment on the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. If he has been told something different by the ICRC, I hope that he will write to me and we can take the matter up with that body.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)

Was hooding used following the operation by British troops in Majar al-Kabir in May? Have any complaints been received about that operation and, if so, what has been their nature? Will the Minister say what the proper procedure is following such military action? Is it to remove bodies? Is it to take prisoners if at all possible, and to keep them alive? How are the relatives of the deceased notified—

Mr. Speaker

Order. One supplementary question will suffice.

Mr. Ingram

One of the issues that we have been dealing with is a report from another body, Amnesty International. I replied in detail on 1 July to submissions made by Amnesty across a range of issues, and all that material has been placed in the Library of the House of Commons. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman refers to those detailed responses, and if he wants to write to me further on the back of the detailed examination that is taking place in respect of each of the known complaints and the way in which they are being conducted, perhaps we can get to an established answer that will satisfy him.