Balls reveals govt’s Lockerbie view

By Alex Stevenson

Ed Balls has let slip the British government’s view over whether Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi should have been released.

Speaking on the Today programme, the children’s secretary revealed the Cabinet’s view when he said “none of us wanted to see the release of al-Megrahi”.

Mr Balls was rebutting a claim made by shadow foreign secretary William Hague about the ‘government’s failure’ over the case.

The slip came moments after he pressed: “The important thing is to be open and honest about the difficult foreign policy judgments which are being made here.”

Gordon Brown’s government had until now been scrupulously determined to avoid expressing a view on the issue.

Over recent days it had been forced to concede there was a link between the Megrahi case and bilateral negotiations over trade and oil. Jack Straw said deals with Libya played a “very big part” in the fate of the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

The prime minister received significant criticism for refusing to comment on whether he backed the Scottish government’s decision to free Megrahi.

Now his children’s secretary has suggested Labour ministers opposed Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision, which he based on compassionate grounds.