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UK Politics

Government scraps inquiry into prisoners' torture

The inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torturing prisoners will be scrapped due to the launch of a fresh police investigation that will involve interviewing former cabinet ministers, the Justice Secretary says.

The Scotland Yard investigation was likely to take so long it would be unfair to make the members of the Gibson inquiry wait for it to finish, Kenneth Clarke told the Commons yesterday.

The inquiry chaired by the retired judge Sir Peter Gibson was already facing boycotts amid claims it lacked transparency.

The decision to scrap it was welcomed by human rights campaigners, who said it would be better to start fresh. Mr Clarke said: "There now appears no prospect of the Gibson inquiry being able to start in the foreseeable future."

The Government intends to hold "an independent, judge-led inquiry" once all police investigations have concluded. Any future inquiry "may require a fresh group of people to carry it out", Mr Clarke said.

Continuing the inquiry was seen as impractical once Scotland Yard announced last week that it was investigating allegations that intelligence agencies played a role in the 2004 rendition of two Libyans – Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi – to their homeland. It could take years to complete and Jack Straw will be questioned because he would have had to "sign off" MI6 operations at the time.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said: "We welcome the sensible decision."