HC Deb 27 July 1972 vol 841 cc2038-41
14. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received with regard to the use of his powers in relation to the planned setting up in London of an office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

22 and 47. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what further representations have now been made to him concerning the use of his powers in connection with the proposed opening of an office in London by Arab terrorist organisations; and if he will make a statement;

(2) how many Metropolitan Police officers will be engaged in operations concerning the proposed opening of an office in London by Arab terrorist organisations; and if he will make a statement.

40. Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has received from hon. and right hon. Members, to the latest convenient date, objecting to visits to the United Kingdom by members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Mr. R. Carr

A number of individuals and organisations have represented that the Palestine Liberation Organisation should not be permitted to open an office in this country. In particular, representations have been received from 40 right hon. and hon. Members, and my predecessor received a deputation on 11th July from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

As the House is aware, there is no power to prevent an organisation from setting up an office and in my view there could be difficulties in enforcing any legislation which might be proposed for this purpose.

I would, however, like to assure the House that whether an office is opened or not I shall not hesitate to use to the full my powers to keep out or to expel any alien who seems likely to engage in acts of violence or to encourage or incite such acts. The courts, moreover, have ample powers to deal with any breach of the criminal law.

In the event of an office being opened it would be for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to consider what police attention may be needed. He has assured me that the situation would be carefully watched.

Mr. Kaufman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that extremely helpful reply. If such an office were opened in this country, there is grave apprehension that it could be used as a base for both hijacking and political assassination, since organisations affiliated to the Palestine Liberation Organisation have a very evil record in that regard, even in London. We recall what happened to the Jordanian Ambassador here. That being so, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that what he said about excluding people from this country will ensure that no one who has a recent record of involvement in violence or terrorist activity will have the possibility of being admitted to this country?

Mr. Carr

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. I can only repeat my assurance that I am very well aware not only of the concern but of the substantial reasons for concern. I shall certainly keep a very close watch on the matter.

Mr. Finsberg

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, which will give a great deal of comfort to my many non-Jewish constituents who have written to me. May I also express satisfaction that the Home Department is not trying to hide behind the fact that the PLO is nominally respectable because it happens to be affiliated to the Arab League?

Mr. Carr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I should like to take up just one point. Of course, I know that the concern is by no means limited to Jewish members of our community.

Mr. Davis

I join other hon. Members in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the line he has taken. Is he aware that I, like the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg), have received a large number of protests from constituents who have been deeply disturbed? To some extent, perhaps their fears may now be put at rest. Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate, following his discussions with the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, the likely amount of money that will have to be expended on carrying out an accurate and extensive surveillance of the premises when they are opened?

Mr. Carr

I will talk to the Commissioner, but I cannot off-hand give any indication of the amount.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

May I, too, thank my right hon. Friend for the action he proposes to take? Does he agree that there must be rather more surveillance of this organisation than of normal organisations because it must not have a safe base from which it can be allowed to commit any organised crimes outside this country? I know that the Government cannot get the Official Solicitor to do anything—[Laughter.]—and I know that the Press are not publishing, but could the House request the Official Solicitor to bring the necessary injunctions to keep these so-and-sos out?

Mr. Carr

I do not think it would be in the national interest for me to try to enlarge on the care with which we watch the aliens who seek to come here. I can only repeat that I do realise that this would be a particularly high risk activity.

Mr. Fidlergg

As President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, may I express deep appreciation to my right hon. Friend for the courtesy extended to the deputation which saw his predecessor recently? While recognising that there is no legal power to prevent this organisation from establishing an office here, may I ask whether his attention has been drawn to a letter in the Daily Telegraph of 19th July over the signature of Said Hammami signing himself as Representative of the PLO Arab Information Centre in London in which he refers to the British Governments "consent" to the opening of an office by the PLO in London? Will he make it clear that consent could not be given and never has been?

Mr. Carr

I would be glad to give that confirmation. No consent was needed and certainly no consent has ever been given.