HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc39-40WS
Lord Bach

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Geoffrey Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Since May 2004 Ministers have made Statements in both Houses of Parliament and in Written Answers to the effect that the use of hooding in Iraq by the British Armed Forces ceased at the end of September 2003. These Answers referred to conventional forces and remain true with respect to them. It has been drawn to Ministers' attention, however, that UK Special Forces from time to time used hooding as a temporary measure for the safe arrest and transit of detained persons until May 2004. For the sake of completeness the parliamentary record should be corrected to reflect this.

Most of the criticism about the use of hooding has related to the obscuring of vision during interrogation. This practice is contrary to the instructions given by the then Prime Minister in 1972 and was ceased by UK military interrogators thereafter. UK military interrogators are made fully aware of this as part of their training and there have been no reported incidents where UK military interrogators have interrogated individuals while they have been hooded.

Our legal advice remains that the practice of temporarily obscuring the vision of a detained person, for the purposes of initial detention and transit, by the use of a hood is not contrary to the law. In Iraq, the initial circumstances on the ground were such that it was judged by certain military commanders that its use was appropriate given the numbers of detainees and in some cases the need to obscure the identities of particular detainees for their own protection.

I can, however, confirm that no UK forces are currently authorised to use hooding in any circumstances.