Ministry of Defence building

Defence Secretary: UK Government 'Stands Firmly Against Torture'

The MOD has rejected claims it has developed a secret policy on torture in breach of Government rules on intelligence-sharing on detainees.

Ministry of Defence building

The Ministry of Defence has denied it breached Government rules (Picture: PA).

The Defence Secretary has announced a review of Government protocol after reports of a secret policy that allows ministers to approve actions that could lead to torture.

Penny Mordaunt said the Government "stands firmly against torture" and is not involved in torture.

She was responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, after the Ministry of Defence rejected claims it has developed a secret policy on torture in breach of Government rules on intelligence-sharing on detainees.

The Times newspaper reported that MOD documents, released through the Freedom of Information Act, had created a provision for ministers to approve the passing of information to allies even if there was a risk of torture, as long as the benefits justified the means.

Echoing the Cabinet Office's consolidated guidance on passing intelligence relating to detainees, Ms Mordaunt told the Commons: "The UK Government stands firmly against torture and does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for any purpose.

"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 on sharing and receiving intelligence."

She went on to say the Prime Minister has asked the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to review the Government's consolidated guidance on the matter and submit proposals for how it could be improved.

Ministry Of Defence
The Defence Secretary said the Ministry of Defence will review its internal guidance on intelligence sharing, following a review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner (Picture: MOD).

It is believed that the pre-approval system, reported by the Times, has not been used, and would only be used in exceptional circumstances.

The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, the security watchdog, was not aware of the document until it was passed on by human rights organisation, Reprieve, last month.

In a statement, an MOD spokesman said its policies were fully compliant with the provisions of the consolidated guidance.

"The Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office has confirmed they are entirely satisfied with the MOD's activities and standards in this area," the spokesman said.

"All our policy and activities in this area comply with the Cabinet Office's consolidated guidance."