The 1984 Attack on the Golden Temple at Amritsar


Golden Temple Attack

Amritsar's Golden Temple

Amritsar’s Golden Temple

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Singh has asked me to express his regrets to the Minister and to the House that he cannot be in his place, given that he has followed this issue with assiduousness and determination over a very long period, but he is at the meeting to which the Minister has just alluded.

The Minister will have seen the statement made by Bhai Amrik Singh, the chairman of the Sikh Federation, that he was “hugely disappointed” with the inquiry’s “narrow terms” and that his meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood had failed to assuage his concerns. Given that the Minister has done so much to build good relationships with the Sikh community, will she assure the House that she is willing to meet Mr Singh to discuss whether there are outstanding issues that could still be examined? Will she also comment briefly on the remarks she made about Britain’s commercial interests when she repeated the Foreign Secretary’s Statement earlier and said they had played no part at all in any of these events? Would
4 Feb 2014 : Column 103she be willing to publish a list of any arms deals that were made during the period prior to and immediately after these events in 1984?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord makes an important point. I think Amrik Singh is part of the delegation of individual organisations and individuals who are meeting with Minister Swire, but if that is not the case and he is not part of that meeting, I will certainly see whether appropriate contact could be made. As I said, I will be making contact myself with members of the Sikh community in the coming weeks and months. There is a wide range of opinion. I had the opportunity to discuss the matter at some length with the noble Lord, Lord Singh, and my honourable friend Paul Uppal, who is the only Member of Parliament of Sikh origin in the House of Commons. Quite a breadth of opinion has come back from the Sikh community about how far the British Government are expected to go to satisfy certain elements of that community. I completely take on board how raw this issue is—and how raw Operation Blue Star is—and to what extent certain elements of the community wish there to be a truth and reconciliation process. However, going back to what I said at the beginning, that is a separate issue to the one that we are dealing with, which is what the UK’s involvement was.
I assure the noble Lord that the advice that was given was not linked in any way to commercial interests or to a particular defence contract or negotiation. That is certainly what the documentation shows. I am not sure how much further it would take the matter to start publishing any discussions that were happening in relation to any sort of commercial activity with the state over whatever period of time. I know from my own dealings with countries that we are engaged with through UKTI that these matters can sometimes take months and sometimes years. How far would that net have to be cast? I would like to be assured, and to reassure the House, on whether there was, in this particular case, a commercial connection to the decision. I can assure noble Lords that there was not.

Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government who will conduct the inquiry into British involvement in the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984; when it will report; to whom it will report; and whether all the papers relating to those events have been released.[HL4709]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron)’s statement of 15 January 2014 (Official
22 Jan 2014 : Column WA130
report column: 849) confirmed that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has been asked to lead an urgent review to establish the facts and this process is under way. These findings will be made public.