Government questioned on policies relating to torture

20 May 2019

A 2018 internal Ministry of Defence document acquired via a Freedom of Information request lays out a policy for information sharing with allies when there is a risk of torture, if the possible benefits justify the exchange.

David Davis used an urgent question to call on Penny Mordaunt, the defence secretary to make a statement.

Cabinet Office guidance states that the UK will "not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for any purpose."

It has been suggested that the internal MoD policy document means this may be overridden if "ministers agree that the potential benefits justify accepting the risk and the legal consequences that may follow".

Speaking for the Government, the Defence Secretary denied that this was the intention of the document, saying;

"The UK Government stands firmly against torture […] our policy and activities in this area are in accordance with both domestic and international law. The MoD's policy is aligned with the Government's policy."

She went on to say that despite the Government's compliance, the Prime Minister had asked the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO) to review the Government guidance and make proposals for improving it within a few weeks.

Responding to the statement, David Davies asked the Government to publish the documents proving they were compliant with IPCO, and said;

"The prohibition of torture is one of our few absolute, incontrovertible rights. There can never be a reason or justification for it."

Image: MoD

Follow the @HouseofCommons on Twitter for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber. Please fill in our quick feedback survey to help us improve our news content. 

More news on: Crime, civil law, justice and rights, Defence, Defence policy, Human rights

Share this page

Related information

What are Urgent Questions?

At times MPs may want to put an urgent question to a Minister. If a matter of public importance has arisen, which an MP believes requires an immediate answer from a government minister, they may apply to the Speaker to put forward such a question.

How to watch proceedings from the public gallery

UK residents and overseas visitors can watch proceedings in the House of Commons by visiting the public gallery.

More Parliament news