A FATHER who lost his daughter in the Lockerbie bombing has hit out after papers showed Margaret Thatcher's cabinet appeared to rule out a public inquiry within hours of the disaster.

Conservative ministers suggested an independent investigation would “serve no useful purpose” the morning after Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing a total of 270 people.

Dr Jim Swire, who daughter Flora was one of those who died, said: “One of the things this indicates is the entrenched view among ministers that they should limit the public's access to the truth about what happened.”

He added: "I believe there should be a full, thorough inquiry into the atrocity.”

Relatives of those killed have pressed for a public inquiry into what is still the worst terrorist incident to happen over British soil.

But the idea has been rejected by successive Westminster governments.

At 9.30am on December 22, Mrs Thatcher's cabinet met in London, with the exception of Scottish Secretary who was already in Lockerbie, to discuss its response to the bombing.

Ministers noted that Labour’s transport spokesman had called for a public inquiry into the tragedy.

An investigation by the then Department of Transport was already under way and the procurator fiscal in Dumfries was also expected to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

Cabinet minutes, released under the 30-year rule, show that ministers suggested that it was "not clear whether any further public inquiry would serve a useful purpose provided that the results of the technical investigation were published".

"In general it was important to avoid a plethora of inquiries that caused distress of individuals while unearthing no new facts."

In her summing up, Mrs Thatcher said it was "essential that the cause of the disaster be identified as soon as possible".

She added that "the present investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the Department of Transport should be pressed ahead with and it was not clear that any further public inquiry would be required in addition to the local procurator fiscal’s inquiry, and no commitments about such a further inquiry should therefore be made”.

She also said that the cabinet could not agree the government's contribution to a disaster fund until the extent of the damage suffered by Lockerbie became clear.

Despite the nature and scale of the disaster, she added that "the sum would need to be settled in the light of recent relevant precedents".

She also told ministers that she intended to visit Lockerbie herself later that day.

Dr Swire, who believes that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, has argued that an independent inquiry became "increasingly important" after it emerged that statements about a break-in at Heathrow Airport before the disaster were kept by police until 1999.

Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown ruled out a public inquiry in 2009.

At the time UK ministers suggested that the Scottish Government could hold its own, limited, inquiry.

But Scottish ministers rejected that idea, saying that they did not have power to examine the international dimensions of the case.