Ministers rushed through Lockerbie treaty, say MPs

MPs and peers claim that treaty with Libya was not allowed proper scrutiny, to protect business inte

Ministers have been accused of rushing through a treaty with Libya that could allow the Lockerbie bomber to be repatriated, as part of an attempt to protest British oil interests.

Senior MPs and peers said that ministers had overlooked human rights in their haste to ratify the agreement. There are signs that a decision on the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could be made in the next few days.

Megrahi, 57, is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years after being convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which killed 270 people.

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary, is to decide whether Megrahi should be allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds as he is suffering from terminal prostrate cancer.

Yesterday, Megrahi dropped his second appeal against his conviction, fuelling speculation that he has brokered a deal with the Scottish authorities that will allow his return home.

A spokeswoman for MacAskill said that he had not yet made a decision, and that Meghrahi could still be kept in Greenock prison.

MPs and peers on the joint human rights committee have said that they were denied the chance to scrutinise the Prisoner Transfer Agreement properly as it was rushed through by ministers to protect business interests in Libya. It was signed by Britain and Libya last November and ratified on 29 April this year.

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, told the committee in a letter on 12 March: "A delay beyond April is likely to lead to serious questions on the part of Libya in regards to our willingness to conclude these agreements."

Members of the committee have been critical of the way the treaty was handled.

The Earl of Onslow, a Conservative member of the committee, told the Guardian: "This is not a good way to deal with matters of justice. One shouldn't allow whether one has a right to drill for oil in the Gulf of Sidra to have any influence on what is essentially a criminal matter."

Britain has built extensive business interests in Libya after Tony Blair visited Colonel Gadaffi in March 2004, officially ending his pariah status.