By Ray Fleming

SHORTLY after the Lib-Con coalition was formed, the new Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said that he thought there should be a “judge-led” inquiry into the alleged use of torture by Britain's security services or with their knowledge. Such allegations arose especially over the British citizen Binjam Mohamed who claims that he was tortured with British knowledge in Afghanistan and Morocco; I have written on a number of occasions about this case. There was some surprise that Mr Hague seemed ready to act so quickly and, in fact, nothing more has been heard about an inquiry until this week when there have been reports that an announcement is likely soon.

The Director General of MI5 has consistently said that none of his officials has been engaged in the mistreatment of detainees, “nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.” As Foreign Secretary, David Miliband used similar language in the House of Commons more than once.

Nonetheless, many well-informed sources believe there is a case to answer. The delay has probably been due to representations by the security services that an inquiry would only make their difficult job even more difficult, especially if it were held in public. However, the pressure is growing. Reprieve, the legal charity for prisoners' rights, has advised Mr Hague to act quickly “for moral reasons but also because delay will result in the Coalition government inheriting the stain rather than eliminating it.”