Theresa May voices opposition to torture ahead of Donald Trump meeting

Updated: 
Prime Minister's Questions

On the eve of her visit to the US to meet President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May has restated Britain's position that it will not condone or get involved in torture.

But aides declined to say whether Mrs May would take the opportunity of her visit to the White House on Friday to raise the issue with the President.

Mr Trump is reported to be preparing to issue orders to preserve the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba and possibly reopen CIA-run "black sites" to hold terror suspects outside the US.

The PM's official spokeswoman said that establishing a close relationship with Mr Trump would allow Mrs May to raise issues like torture "frankly and directly".

"I think there are going to be issues where we differ in approach and view with President Trump," the spokeswoman told reporters at a regular Westminster briefing. "The benefits of a very close, effective relationship will be that we will be able to raise these frankly and directly with the President."

But asked whether the issue would be on the agenda on Friday, she replied: "I'm not going to get into a long list of what the PM will or won't raise at her first bilateral meeting with the President.

"As she said in the House today, this is an opportunity to look at how we advance the trade and prosperity relationship, create growth in jobs and work together on a range of security and defence issues - the most pressing challenges we face.

"What is important is that the UK is very clear on the approach that we take to torture and there is no shift in our position."

Mrs May was challenged on the issue at Prime Minister's Questions by senior Conservative Andrew Tyrie, who said the President had made clear on the campaign trail that he was ready to use torture "as an instrument of policy" and urged her to tell him that "in no circumstances will she permit Britain to be dragged into facilitating that torture, as we were after September 11".

The PM replied: "I can assure you that we have a very clear position on torture. We do not sanction torture, we do not get involved with that and that will continue to be our position."

The exchange came shortly before reports emerged from the US that Mr Trump was considering a major review of America's methods for interrogating terror suspects and the possible reopening of "black site" prisons.

A draft executive order, obtained by the Associated Press news agency, would also reverse America's commitment to closing Guantanamo Bay and instruct the Pentagon to send newly captured "enemy combatants" to the site.

Asked whether Mrs May would challenge Mr Trump over the possible return of black sites, the Prime Minister's official spokeswoman told reporters: "The Prime Minister set out very clearly at PMQs that we don't condone torture, inhumane or cruel treatment in any form.

"There was consolidated, updated guidance published in 2010 on this. That's very clearly the UK's position."