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Monday, April 23, 2012

Taxpayer picks up the bill

Hot on the heels of news that the prosecution of Peter Hain could cost the taxpayer £300,000, the Independent tells us today that the former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, will have his legal bills paid by the taxpayer in any court case over the "rendition" of terror suspects.

The paper reminds us that a Libyan military commander wants to sue Mr Straw over suspected British involvement in the chain of events that led to him being tortured by Muammar Gaddafi's regime:

Abdelhakim Belhaj's lawyers claim Mr Straw signed papers that facilitated his rendition, at the same time that the government was officially denying it deported suspects to countries where they faced possible torture.

The legal action is against Mr Straw personally, but senior civil servants have indicated privately that if he needs legal representation to answer the charge, the taxpayer will pay.

Personally, I have no problem with the government meeting expenses incurred by Ministers when legal action is taken against them on matters relating to their duties in government.

However, if any Minister is found to have acted unlawfully then that is a different matter. We will need to see whether this court case happens and if so what conclusions are drawn.
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