Gordon Brown's Government did “all it could” to help Libya secure the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, a report by Britain's top civil servant concluded yesterday.
Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, said that ministers developed a policy designed to |“facilitate” the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
The Scottish government claimed the Brown administration altered its position because of “commercial considerations” including lobbying by BP, which was preparing to develop oil fields off the Libyan coast.
However, Sir Gus's report dismissed conspiracy theories over the release, judging that the decision was taken by the devolved Edinburgh government alone. He concluded that he had found no evidence that London, or BP, put pressure on the Scottish |authorities to free Megrahi, who was released in 2009 to the fury of the US government.
As opposition leader, David Cameron condemned the release and after the election instructed Sir Gus to trawl through the |previous administration's confidential papers to get to the bottom of private negotiations between London, Edinburgh and Libya.
The publication of 140 pages of confidential Whitehall documents triggered angry scenes in the House of Commons, with each side claiming Sir Gus's report had vindicated their stance. Prime Minister Cameron accused former ministers of lacking candour in their public pronouncements over the Lockerbie bomber, who killed 270 people, and of badly underestimating the public reaction to his release.
Mr Brown and other ex-ministers retorted that the report cleared them of lobbying for Megrahi's release.
Mr Brown said in a statement: “I took the view — as the report confirms — that the British Government should not pressure or attempt to use influence on this quasi-judicial decision of the |Scottish minister.”
Mr al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 but was sent home to Libya in August 2009 following medical advice that he would die within three months from |cancer. He is still alive.