§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ The Minister for Aerospace and Shipping (Mr. Michael Heseltine)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill has two principal objectives. The first is to enable the United Kingdom to give effect to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the safety of Civil Aviation, which is commonly known as the Montreal Convention. The second is to enable the Government to seek information from and to give directions to airlines and airport authorities on matters concerning aviation security.
Hijacking and sabotage of aircraft and other acts of violence affecting the safety of civil air transport present one of today's most difficult problems. It is a problem that knows no boundaries. No State and few of us can consider ourselves immune from its risks. It is a problem that brings with it actions which can have no possible justification in the threat which they present to the safety of innocent passengers and aircrew and in the intolerable pressures they place on the unfortunate victims caught up in this violence.
It is a problem that imposes the most extreme strain on pilots. It has only been the exceptional skill, discipline and control of these men, to whom I wish to pay tribute this afternoon—and I know that the House will join me—that has averted major catastrophes in a number of incidents. It is a problem which requires the constant application of the closest cooperation between States, airlines, airport authorities and all those who fly in aeroplanes. There are no easy solutions. It is against this background that I bring the Bill before the House.
Before I explain the form of the Bill, I think hon. Members would expect me to say something about the Government's policy and their general approach to combating violence against civil aviation. Our policy has three basic objectives: first, to 444 prevent violence occurring; secondly, to ensure that we are able to deal with any violence which may arise; thirdly, to provide that when hijackers and saboteurs and the like are caught they can be dealt with effectively wherever they may be throughout the world.
The first requirement in effective prevention is to be forewarned of possible violence. The gathering and dissemination of such information is primarily, though not exclusively, a matter for Governments. We keep our airlines and airport authorities closely advised of the threat to their operations and of the measures which they might take to combat this threat. This involves a clear understanding of the responsibilities of all concerned and the closest liaison between the airlines, airport authorities and the Government.
The emphasis on co-operation is vital to our whole approach to the problem. Nothing in this Bill is intended to undermine the close contacts which have been built up between all sides of the industry and the Government, or the mutual trust and understanding which I believe exists, and which, in our judgment, is so necessary to combat the evil which we face.
The Government have the overall responsibility for aviation security policy and for the provision of the advice and guidance on the threat and the counter-measures to which I have just referred. Operational responsibiliy, on the other hand, for implementing security measures rest- with the airlines in respect of their aircraft and everyone and everything which goes on board, and with the airport authority in respect of the overall security of the airport.
The provision of advice, guidance, liaison and co-operation is achieved formally through the National Aviation Security Committee, and I know from personal experience the close attention it pays to all aspects of aviation security, through the airport security committees which complement the national committee at the local airport level and through the more or less permanent contact, on a day-to-day basis, which has been established between those involved with the problems in Government and in the industry.
I should be the last to suggest that violence can be dealt with by setting up 445 committees, but I believe that the National Aviation Security Committee, which involves the Government Departments concerned—that is the Department of Trade and Industry, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence—and the police, airline operators, airport authorities, the Civil Aviation Authority and the trade unions, including the British Air Line Pilots' Association, complemented in the way I have described, fulfils an important function as a forum for consultation and for the regular review of the situation facing our civil aviation and the preventive measures which are continually being taken.
The preventive measures taken at our airports and by our airlines are related to two basic considerations—first, to prevent the hijacker joining an aircraft or the saboteur from placing his bomb on board; secondly to ensure that security measures are related to the threat and are concentrated on those operations most at risk. Some of these measures, notably the searching of passengers and their baggage, will be familiar to regular travellers and those hon. Members who recently had the opportunity to visit Heathrow who will know something of the security precautions which are applied there and which are equally applied throughout the country.
The House will understand why I do not intend to catalogue the full range of precautions which are taken or the equipment which is being used. It would be wrong if I did so. There is limited purpose in installing security measures if we immediately advertise them to those they are designed to catch. They vary with intensity as between airlines and individual flights, and it is a foolhardly person today who ignores the comprehensive security framework around our airports.
The Government's response to the security problem is not confined to the provision of advice and guidance. To ensure that measures to combat hijacking and sabotage in the United Kingdom are not frustrated by financial considerations, we are meeting the full costs, originally estimated to be about £1 million a year, of over 30 British and foreign airlines in searching their passengers and baggage at our airports. This is a major contribution to the effort to contain violence and has been recognised as such both 446 by the air transport industry in the United Kingdom and overseas.
The searching of passengers and baggage and security of the aircraft is only part of the answer. It is necessary to complement these efforts at the airports. When our airports were designed it was never imagined that we should be faced with violence in the forms which we now face. The emphasis was on the smooth and speedy flow of passengers, baggage and cargo. To apply security to existing airports presents complex problems, but we have no choice but to face them.
The Government for some time have been undertaking comprehensive security surveys of British airports. These are of major importance in reviewing existing security measures, and in considering improvements and in recommending the action which has been or might be taken to effect further such improvements. Very considerable progress has been made with the surveys and in the implementation of the necessary decisions that followed from them.
A lot of hard work and resources are being expended throughout the world on efforts to combat violence and terrorism directed at civil aviation. And the inevitable question is the effectiveness of these efforts.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
Hard work is one thing, but can the Minister assure the House on this very important issue that professional people are employed for these purposes?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The most professional people are available to us. I can readily give that assurance.
Are the efforts that we are making effective? The disappointing answer that I must give is that nobody knows how effective they are. I can point to the statistics which show that the number of hijackings has declined significantly over the past two years, and that the proportion that have been successful in the sense that the hijacker or extortionist has achieved his objectives has declined even more rapidly.
I can point also to the considerable number and wide variety of firearms, ammunition and other potential weapons which have been removed from passengers and their baggage at our airports. For example during the period October to 447 December the following were among the many items found on passengers by BOAC: 10 shotguns, 72 toy guns, revolvers and pistols, six rifles, one musket, 332 rounds of ammunition, 2,000 air gun pellets, 245 various knives, 67 swords, five crossbows, and a variety of other offensive weapons. But I cannot say how many potential hijackers and saboteurs have been deterred by the measures which we have taken.
This is at once the dilemma and frustration of those engaged in security work, that they are rarely able to assess the positive effects of their efforts. There can be no complacency. Security measures consistent with the threat are being rigorously maintained by our airlines and at our airports and they must also be kept constantly under review. But it should be a sobering thought for any would-be criminals that the success rate of criminals hijacking aircraft for financial gain is very low indeed. In America for example which has been particularly prone to this kind of violence, there were 22 hijackings involving extortion demands in 1971 and 1972. In only one case did a hijacker avoid capture and retain the ransom which he demanded. The conclusion is clear: there is no future in hijacking and bomb threats as a simple way to easy money.
Prevention is the first objective. The second objective of our policy is to deal with any violence which may occur, since no preventive measures will ever eradicate violence. I cannot go into details, but I can assure the House that contingency plans have been made to deal with any violence at our airports, that there is a clear chain of command, that the full resources of the State are involved in these plans and would be deployed as required, and that all those concerned have been briefed accordingly.
I turn now to the third objective—the punishment of offenders—which is primarily a question of international action, and specifically the development of an effective and comprehensive legal framework. There are three international conventions to which I should like to refer briefly, and work is currently proceeding on ways to make these conventions more effective.
First there is the Tokyo Convention of 1963, which deals generally with crimes 448 committed on board aircraft, which sets out the jurisdiction and duties of States and describes the powers of the aircraft commander in relation to such crimes. The enactment in 1967 of the Tokyo Convention Bill enabled the United Kingdom to be among the first to ratify the convention, which is now in force for 62 countries.
Secondly, there is the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, which is concerned with the hijacking of aircraft. It was given effect in the Hijacking Act 1971, under which anyone who commits the offence of hijacking is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life. Again, the United Kingdom was among the first ratifications of the Hague Convention, which has now been ratified by 49 States.
Thirdly, there is the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, which was concluded at a diplomatic conference in September 1971. This convention is specially aimed at sabotage and similar acts other than hijacking. Its general form is similar to that of the Hague Convention on hijacking, which it effectively complements.
The Montreal Convention was put in hand largely at the instigation of the United Kingdom at the Extraordinary Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which was convened in June 1970 especially to consider all matters affecting the security of civil aviation. It was signed on its conclusion at Montreal by 31 countries, including the United Kingdom, and since then there have been another 30 signatories, making a total of 61. It has been ratified by 23 countries and it came into force among those countries which have ratified the Convention on 26th January 1973.
§ Mr. Heseltine
One hopes that progress will be made in encouraging other countries to add their signatures.
We know from the initiatives we have taken to encourage States to adopt both the Montreal and Hague Conventions that many other countries are preparing for ratification. What the convention 449 does, in brief, is to require contracting States to make it an offence for any person to perform an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight which is likely to endanger the safety of that aircraft; to destroy or damage an aircraft or air navigation facilities or to place on board an aircraft a device or substance likely to endanger aircraft in flight; and to communicate false information thereby endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. These offences are to be punishable by severe penalties.
It includes provision for arrest, facilitates the extradition of offenders between contracting States and obliges any contracting State where the offender is found to take jurisdiction to prosecute him if it does not extradite him. We believe the convention to be an important additional instrument in dealing with violence. It has been welcomed by all sections of the air transport industry in this country.
It will be apparent from what I have said so far that Her Majesty's Government have been very active in developing and supporting these various conventions. But there is one further area which has been a matter of particular concern, and that is the steps which might be taken, including sanctions, to deal with those States which do not act in accordance with the conventions. At the meeting of the Legal Committee of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal in January, it was decided that four proposals should be submitted for consideration at an extraordinary session of ICAO and at a diplomatic conference to be held concurrently in Rome in August.
The first proposal was a joint United Kingdom-Swiss proposal to amend the Chicago Convention to provide for the use of the sanctions in that convention, including the stoppage of air services and the suspension of voting rights in ICAO against offending States. The second was a French proposal for incorporating the provisions of the Hague Convention against hijacking into the Chicago Convention, under which in theory a State could be expelled from ICAO if it failed to ratify the amendments. The third was a proposal by the Soviet Union for a protocol to the Hague Convention providing for the automatic extradition of 450 an offender to the State of registry of the aircraft concerned. The fourth proposal was by the Scandinavian countries for a new convention which would provide for recommendations to be made to an offending State.
We are now actively engaged in preparing for the meeting in Rome in August. We are seeking, through all the means open to us, to achieve the widest possible support for the proposals we have put forward to amend the Chicago Convention. If these efforts are successful and our proposals are adopted, we believe they will be an important addition to the measures being taken internationally to deal with violence against civil aviation.
The question of sanctions is of special concern to the pilots and to other employees in air transport. I keep closely in touch with them about this and I fully understand their position and the depth of their feeling. But we all recognise that, to achieve their result, any sanctions which might be imposed must be significant in their effect and widely applied. Unilateral action is likely to have negligible effect—indeed, it is more likely to damage the State imposing the sanctions than the State at which they are directed.
I do not propose to go through the Bill clause by clause, since the purpose of each clause is, I think, clearly stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, but there are a number of points to which I should like to draw attention.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
Would my hon. Friend list, either now or later in the debate, the nationalities of the passport holders he mentioned as having been caught at Heathrow in possession of offensive weapons?
§ Mr. Heseltine
I think my hon. Friend will understand that the provision of that information would require a lot of detailed analysis, and I doubt whether I have it available today. I will see whether it could profitably be made available.
The purpose of Part I of the Bill is to enable us to ratify the Montreal Convention, and the main provisions relating to this are contained in Clauses 1 and 2, which define the offences of destroying, damaging or otherwise endangering the 451 safety of aircraft in flight and destroying, damaging or interfering with air navigation facilities or communicating false information likely to endanger aircraft in flight; in Clause 4, which provides that those committing these offences shall be liable to imprisonment for life; and in Clause 5 which is concerned with the extradition of offenders.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, but can he explain whether Clause 1(3) indicates that damage or destruction to a civil aircraft is an offence under the Bill even if the offence is committed outside the United Kingdom and by a non-British person? Would the provision thereby cover such incidents as the destruction of the Libyan civilian airliner on 21st February?
§ Mr. Heseltine
Perhaps I can answer the hon. Gentleman's question in general terms. The object of the clause is to give effect to the agreed provisions in the Montreal Convention. One of the purposes of the convention was to have a global international situation which is exactly as the hon. Gentleman has suggested it. It was agreed that countries would take the sort of powers implied in the Bill, although outside their own territorial boundaries, and they rely on the convention to give them effective support to be able to do so.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the provision would cover specific incidents such as that to which he referred. I first point out that there is no such law in this country until the Bill is passed, and therefore that incident could not have been affected, I imagine, by a law which has not been passed. However, I will refer to this matter later. Meanwhile, I will check up on whether the opinion I have given is correct.
In relation to Part II of the Bill I have already emphasised that the process of continuing consultation and voluntary co-operation between the Government and industry is working extremely well. It is our wish that it should continue, and we believe that it will. But recent acts of terrorism have taken forms which can barely have been visualised. For example, there was the massacre of innocent passengers at Lod Airport in May 1972, the sabotage 452 in June of a Cathay Pacific aircraft over Vietnam, the hijacking in November in America which lasted over 29 hours and involved the shooting of the co-pilot and a threat to crash the aircraft on an atomic weapons centre. There was also the hijacking of an Ethiopian airliner in December 1972 when a grenade exploded in the aircraft and a major catastrophe was narrowly averted. These incidents are of an order of magnitude and threat which could never have been envisaged in the early days of aviation.
In the light of these developments, the Government consider that it would be imprudent to expect that in every circumstance, no matter how willing the cooperation, owners and operators of aircraft or the managers of aerodromes could be expected to take the necessary steps without formal statutory backing. For example, violence might take such a form that the Government considered that more rigorous searching should be introduced. While we would expect the airlines to appreciate the need for this, since they would be advised of it, the searching might involve long delays to flights and some risk to the goodwill of the airlines. In these circumstances, the airline operator might well find it an advantage to receive a formal direction so that he could make it clear that he was required to take such action because the Government had ordered him to do so.
This was the first reason which influenced the Government in seeking these powers. The second main reason was that while it was impossible to forecast what form future violence might take, we believe that the public would expect the Government to have the powers to deal with any eventuality. That is why the powers are so all-embracing and in certain respects unprecedented. It gives the Government no pleasure to have to ask for these powers but we believe that the situation makes them necessary to support our efforts to protect innocent passengers and aircrews against the menace of terrorism.
The Government are very conscious of the implications of these powers for the liberty of the subject. I wish to emphasise most strongly that the powers apply only to the purposes to which Part II of the Bill applies. These purposes, which are the protection of aircraft and aerodromes and persons or property on 453 aircraft or at aerodromes, are contained in Clause 7. I wish also to assure the House that the powers will be used sparingly, reasonably and with all due care, with a proper regard for the rights of the individual and after appropriate consultation.
The powers for the Secretary of State to request information about security measures and to give directions are contained in Clauses 8 to 11. In relation to this, and following discussion in another place, the Government will be introducing amendments intended to extend the coverage of the Bill to air navigation facilities. The House will wish to note particularly Clause 11 which provides a general power to give directions; Clause 15 which enables a direction to override any contract, Act or rule of law to the contrary; and Clause 18 which provides powers of search. These clauses are all qualified in certain respects but I believe they raise particular points to which the House will wish to apply itself carefully.
No nation is more rightly proud of the fundamental rights of its citizens than we in Britain. No Parliament is more jealous of the protection traditionally afforded to individuals to pursue their lives, fully protected from the arbitrary use of power by civil or military authority. No Minister will come lightly to this House and ask for powers of arrest unprecedented in peace time.
But I must tell the House that I believe that no Government can fail to recognise the realities of piracy and terrorism in the air today. Having recognised them no Government can fail to equip themselves to act against politically or criminally motivated people with the speed and decisiveness appropriate to the nature of modern hijacking.
The risk to the average passenger—we have 40 million passing through our airports every year—is of tiny proportions, for in reality the number of incidents is very small. But for the few who innocently become involved, pursuing their commercial duties or travelling on holiday, the risks are total.
I ask the House in giving this Bill a Second Reading to demonstrate its determination to give every support to those whose job it is to protect us at the point of confrontation with desperate, ruthless and often fanatical men and women.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
The Minister has briefly given us an account of how the International Civil Aviation Organisation has been doing its job. The member States of the Organisation have been building up international legislation over the past 10 years with a view to stamping out aircraft hijacking and sabotage and with a view to obtaining international recognition of penalties which will deter such piratical acts. This Bill, which has the blessing of the Opposition, goes some way towards meeting ICAO's goal.
We have had the Tokyo Convention of 1963 which dealt with crimes committed on board aircraft and particularly described the role and responsibilities of the aircraft commander. The United Kingdom was among the first to ratify that convention. In June 1970 at another ICAO meeting the United Kingdom gave a further lead in outlining the next steps in international legislation to curb acts of unlawful interference with civil aviation. At The Hague meeting in December 1970 a new convention was produced suggesting measures for the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft which required all the contracting States to make hijacking of aircraft an offence punishable by severe penalties, including provision for the arrest and extradition of offenders between contracting States, or prosecution if extradition did not take place. The Hijacking Act of 1971 ratified that convention. Again I am pleased to say that we were among the first to do so.
We have this Bill as a result of the Montreal Convention concluded in September 1971. Having framed legislation against hijacking, ICAO was quickly forced to consider legislation to protect aerodromes, aircraft and passengers because of a series of attacks against aircraft on the ground and the sabotage of aircraft in flight. The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation is the proposed legislation on which this Bill is based. We recognise that the Bill is much more comprehensive than ICAO recommended.
During the Second Reading of the Hijacking Bill in 1971 we recognised that 455 it was a useful measure but did not provide powers enabling effective action to be taken against those who wished to use aircraft hijacking as a means of obtaining recognition for revolutionary minority forces or against fanatical nationalists, saboteurs and other such criminals.
Since the hijacking legislation was passed there have been 109 acts of aerial piracy. From July 1971, when we debated that measure, until the end of 1971 there were 34. During 1972 there were 72. This year there have so far been three. Contrary to what the Minister says, 1972 was a particularly bad year, involving 72 aircraft, 4,000 passengers, 14 of whom were injured and 11 of whom were killed. That includes the nine Israeli hostages at Munich.
According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, 22 of the hijackers were killed in 1972. What was most disturbing—and here I disagree with the Minister—was that the hijacking success rate increased during 1972. In 1968, according to my figures, 85 per cent. of attempted hijackings were successful. In 1970 that figure was down to 60 per cent. and in 1971 it was 44 per cent. However, according to the figures supplied by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations the success rate in 1972 rose to 50 per cent. The criterion used is that an aircraft did not reach the planned original destination.
We must recognise that hijacking and aerial piracy is still a major threat to airline travel and to all civil aviation airlines. It is still a threat, too, to the small and younger democracies. Here an aircraft and hundreds of innocent passengers can be used as pawns in inter-State conflicts. In particular, it can be used as a tool to prise out of Governments response to demands by rebels and fanatical political minorities that otherwise would never be heeded.
As the Minister suggested, we have to bear in mind that air travel has always been and probably always will be vulnerable in the face of a determined lunatic or paranoiac. But these are rare compared with the series of hijackings which we have recently witnessed, which were premeditated and callously planned to hold airlines, passengers and nations to ransom.
456 To date we have already established the law that hijacking is an offence, whether the hijacker seizes or exercises control of an aircraft. Punishment may be equivalent to imprisonment for life, and there is extradition of the hijacker between member States. We have also erected a screen of precautions, which vary between States and airlines but include air marshals, frisking at airports, the separation of luggage from passengers and security patrols. I believe that this collection of security measures is absolutely necessary and must be maintained. The cost is infinitesimal compared with the loss of a life.
However, I must warn the House that loopholes still exist and that this Bill will not block them, although I hope that, as the Minister suggested, the next ICAO conference will deal—indeed it will have to deal—with the ultimate problem, which is the problem of sanctions. One major worry to all concerned with civil aviation is that the Arab nations, although members of ICAO and most of them members of the International Air Transport Association, are not co-operating with the same will as most of the members of the two international organisations. If co-operation is not forthcoming and any act of aerial piracy or sabotage emanates from these countries, then the ultimate sanction must be used. They must be frozen out of the use and services of international airlines and air traffic control aids. If any nation harbours or provides refuge for one of these air pirates, steps must be taken to freeze the offending State internationally from all civil airline ports.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
Would the right hon. Gentleman inform the House why he has singled out certain nations in this regard so soon after the shooting down of an airliner, which occurred very recently and is a very tragic memory for us all?
§ Mr. Mason
I have not singled out individual nations but a bloc, because, if the hon. Gentleman peruses all the conventions that were discussed at Tokyo, The Hague and Montreal and ratified in later years, he will discover that the Arab bloc generally has not ratified. If any of them did ratify, they were late in doing so. I am saying that we are not seeing the same co-operation, the same 457 will, from that group of nations as from the other major civil airline operators.
§ Mr. Mayhew
My right hon. Friend also blamed the Arab States for not cooperating with ICAO. Is he not aware that at the recent conference of ICAO it was the Israeli Government which alone voted against the resolution, which was carried by 105 votes to 1, which demanded an independent international inquiry into the incident to which the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) referred? Can we avoid double standards from the Front Bench? Will he put the blame where it belongs?
§ Mr. Mason
It is not a question of double standards and I am not talking about one nation or one bloc. I am speaking as forcibly as possible about the major issue of civil airline sabotage and aerial piracy. My hon. Friend will also know that many times previously at almost any one of those conferences the Israelis, as distinct from other civil airline operators and nations, could also have asked for emergency resolutions against the Arab bloc as a whole.
I stand by what I say—that this major loophole exists. Therefore, if we are to freeze offending States out, first of all we should deny their airlines the use of other nations' air space and air traffic control facilities and, secondly, we should place an embargo on their airports. An effective blacking of this nature is the ultimate sanction and ICAO, backed by the major aviation nations, must now be prepared to consider it. All these conventions so far are necessarily limited in solving that major problem while some countries still continue to grant asylum to hijackers. It is possible, however, as the Minister suggested, that the next ICAO conference will deal seriously with this matter.
The United States and Canada have already proposed agreement to impose sanctions on States which shelter hijackers or detain aircraft, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government, if they feel that the proposal of the United States and Canada is stronger than the joint United Kingdom-Swiss proposal, will back the former all the way.
It is also pleasing to note that Cuba is making hijackers increasingly unwelcome and has begun discussions with the 458 United States about further deterrent measures.
I should like at this stage to pay a tribute first of all to the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations but in particular to our own British Airline Pilots' Association. Although they have been under great stress and pressure from their members, they have continued flying, apart from a 24-hour token stoppage, throughout the most dangerous and troublesome period of civil aviation history. They feel that it is the Government's job to develop procedures and sanctions to make their job safe and and that it is not for them to suspend all air services in the world in anger and frustration over aerial piracy. They feel that this Bill will give them some support and they back completely the provisions contained in it.
This Bill, as I suggested initially, goes well beyond what the Montreal Convention suggested owing in the main to the expertise and authoritative pressure of noble Lords who so pressured Lord Drumalbyn—and to some watching the debates he seemed constantly to get his wig in a raffle—that he had to consider so many points that eventually, after the Second Reading and the Committee stage he had to take the Bill back and produce a more formidable Bill, which we are now having presented to the House.
Part I of the Bill seeks ratification of the Montreal Convention. It lists the offences against aircraft or air traffic control facilities both on land and at sea. It deals with the issuing of false communications or inducements within the United Kingdom or outside to act against aircraft or aids which might endanger an aircraft. The maximum penalty contained in the Bill is imprisonment for life, and there are important provisions for quick arrest and for remanding in custody. All this is necessary. We have a build-up of severe penalties and a listing of the offences which may jeopardise an aircraft or any of its aids, plus the extra powers for aerodrome constables of arrest and detention.
Part II of the Bill seems to be a protective part of the Bill. It spells out the protection for aircraft, aerodromes, persons and property from acts of violence. It decrees further offences regarding the carrying or use of dangerous 459 articles, firearms and explosives, including duds or imitations. It also increases the powers of inspection and detention of aircraft.
Two major matters in this part of the Bill are worthy of note and necessitate some further explanation from the Minister. The first is the extraordinary power granted to the Secretary of State in the Bill—power through directives. I have never in my life seen so much directive power vested in a Minister in a Bill. By directive he can ground all aircraft, detain all passengers, search everyone on the aerodrome and establish guards at every aircraft door.
While recognising the need for all this in order effectively to guard against hijacking and aerial sabotage, we shall have to question this massive directive power of one Minister. Perhaps he will be able to elaborate a bit more on this when he winds up the debate, but the Committee stage will be the opportunity to take the matter further.
Secondly—and this spills over into Part III—there are to be directives to persons employed for specific duties, and that will involve constables. They are not constables, in fact. They are airport security guards. There are to be directives regarding searches and other measures, including authorisation to carry firearms. We shall perhaps want to know a little more about that. There are to be directives about qualifications which involve specialist training and experience. "Constables" is obviously the wrong description. First, these people are on a specific job which necessitates specialist training. Secondly, the Home Secretary is not the governor of these people. The Secretary of State, with his directive powers, has responsibility.
The Bill further states that the Secretary of State shall be able to direct the manager of the aerodrome as to the steps he shall take to guard an aircraft in his aerodrome against acts of violence, specifying what measures shall be taken by his constables, whether they shall be armed, whether they shall make searches without warrants, whether they shall have extra powers for quick arrest and detention without charge. I should like the Minister's thoughts on this development, especially the establishment and build-up 460 of a special airport security force, the cost of which according to the Bill will be £600,000 in 1973–74, although the Minister says that security is costing the Government about £1 million a year.
It is a tragic reflection on the state of international society that such measures should be necessary, but necessary they are. These sums are small but, as the Bill makes obvious, the cost is bound to increase. I hope that the Minister, without breaching security, will tell us how he visualises the development of these airport security forces.
Constables' powers are greatly reinforced by the Bill. Constables will probably have a stronger legislative backing for search, arrest and detention than has any other peace-time corps. The cost of guarding aircraft on the ground is £50,000, which is by no means sufficient. I wonder what the survey of security at the 25 airports which handle our international traffic revealed.
Before security was stepped up, there were cases in which people who were not intent upon harm easily boarded aircraft. When one thinks of the average weekly wage and the number of international aircraft at Heathrow and Gatwick alone —even from the troubled areas of the Middle East—it is obvious that there are insufficient guards.
I should like the Minister to tell us more about the growth of the security forces. They need not be called constables. We can afford to say that we have a specialised security force operating at the airports. The £50,000 is a paltry sum to ensure that the job is done effectively and well.
The Bill could be committing the Government to large sums of money by way of compensation, but I agree that payment of compensation is absolutely right. One way of controlling the Secretary of State's powers of direction is by ensuring that full compensation is paid if, as a result of his directives, damage is caused to buildings or land or loss is suffered by persons.
The Bill and its proposed measures, when ratified by all the ICAO members, will step up security and surveillance at all the major international airports. It will, therefore, deal more effectively at its source with the danger of hijacking. But, useful as the Bill will be, we must 461 be prepared to legislate quickly against the political hijackers, those determined, fanatical, intelligent, well-trained groups which use hijacking and aerial sabotage for the purpose of securing political objectives. They are the biggest problem and the most difficult to defeat.
I look forward to hearing soon from the Government that, having taken a lead in framing the Montreal Convention on which the Bill is based, they will be in the vanguard in the next ICAO session, speaking out and being prepared to act against any nation that harbours air pirates and mass murderers. That must be our goal, and the quicker it is achieved the sooner shall we stamp out this civil aviation menace.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the steps that the Government have already taken to counteract hijacking and air terrorism generally, and I welcome the Bill. The problems of hijacking are extremely difficult to solve and I am not sure that the apparently easy solution of sanctions to beat the political hijacker is as simple as it sounds, but I will return to that.
Only this morning I arrived back from New York on a transatlantic airliner after the British Caledonian inaugural flight. As I sat in the aircraft over the Atlantic, my thoughts turned to the problem of hijacking. I thought what a terrifying situation it must be when a hijacker makes his presence known in the fuselage of an aircraft. Suddenly the problem is there, on the plate of the air hostess and then of the pilot.
Of course one hears of marshals being carried on board some aircraft who are said to be such accurate marksmen that they can shoot down a hijacker as he stands in an aircraft even though it is 30,000 ft. over the sea. But that is a solution to hijacking which I would not wish to see adopted on any aircraft, for it contains the dangerous presupposition that the hijacker who has made himself known to the crew is the only one on the aircraft. There have been occasions when there have been other hijackers who have remained in their seats until they were ready to spring into action. One can imagine a marshal shooting down the one who stands up, but what 462 about the others? I do not want to live through a gun fight in mid-air.
I want now to deal with the extradition clauses in Part I of the Bill. Essentially there are three types of hijacker. There are those who are motivated by political objectives, those who seek to hold aircraft to ransom for financial reward, and the small and dangerous crank minority who are prepared to blow up an aircraft and themselves for the life insurance that their family will inherit. The later probably come within the category of the mentally unbalanced and are therefore so dangerous that one cannot think of measures adequate to catch them. Since there is a life insurance policy built into every air ticket, it should not be possible for a person to insure his life for a vast sum of money, buy an air ticket and then blow up an airliner. But I think that the compensation built into the air ticket under the Warsaw Convention of, I think, 75,000 dollars, should be looked at again to see whether it is adequate without being so excessive as to encourage anyone to take this kind of action.
The hijacker who holds an aircraft to ransom is a straightforward criminal, a highwayman, and the measures that we have discussed will catch, or at least deter, him.
With the political hijacker we are in a different world altogether. We can all think of so-called terrorist groups who have hijacked airliners to bring publicity to their cause and who have used the airliner and its passengers as a means of bartering the release of their imprisoned fellow nationals. It is surely reprehensible to hold in ransom innocent lives in that way. But it is sometimes a little more difficult to condemn all acts of political hijacking. I wonder what the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) feels about the political refugee who, for the sake of argument, is fleeing from an Eastern European country. Are we to hand him back when he has hijacked an aircraft simply as a means of transport from the country which is oppressing him to the country in which he seeks asylum? He is not a terrorist. He is not a criminal, although of course he is a hijacker. [An HON. MEMBER: "He could be a murderer."] He could be a murderer, but if he is the kind of person I believe 463 he is, then I do not think he is any of those things. He is simply somebody escaping to freedom. Obviously, if we are to be tough about the question of sanctions we must send him back, but we have to be extremely sure that he is the person we have singled out for the treatment we imagine that we can take with sanctions.
I am very unhappy about the whole concept of sanctions. Too often in this House, over quite a period of time, we have talked of imposing sanctions in various parts of the world, but very seldom have those sanctions proved to be as effective as we imagined they would be when we passed the legislation or ratified the treaty.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
My hon. Friend must not confuse the matter of sanctions which, as we all know, seldom work, with the matter of the return of the hijacker to the country from whence he has come, or his trial in the country in which he arrives. Quite clearly, if a man hijacks for political reasons, whether his political reasons are that he is a Palestinian who feels that the Palestinians have been wronged, or is a Jew in Russia who feels that this is the only way he can escape—whatever the motives—the crime is the same and must be dealt with in the same manner.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
My hon. Friend's intervention is very interesting, but the point I am making is that the crime is not the same, which is why I raise the whole question of imposing blanket sanctions.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
If my hon. Friend does not accept that, is he drawing a distinction between the refugee who is seeking to escape and the terrorist who is seeking to terrorise and intimidate? If so, how does he treat these separate categories?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
That is the exact difference I am trying to draw. We have to recognise that there are two very different approaches, one where there is a definite intent to destroy life, the other where somebody is running for his life and where there is no intent to hurt anyone at all. I believe that that is a consideration. Perhaps I should say no more than that when talking of sanctions.
§ Mr. Mason
We are getting into a rather sophisticated argument, but if a person is using an aircraft and determining the passage of that aircraft and its flight path, even though that person may be a refugee escaping from one country to another, in so doing he is endangering the life of all on board, especially when the flight path and fuel of that aircraft have been computed. Therefore, that act alone is a crime.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
It is simple enough to state it as the right hon. Gentleman expresses it but I will just leave that thought in the mind of the House. I believe that there is a distinction to be drawn and I am sure that there ought not to be the same punishment for these two different categories. The concept of extradition, therefore, is that much weaker than sanctions. If it works it can be effective, but obviously it will work only with the co-operation of those countries which do not at present seem anxious to put their signatures, shall we say, to such legislation as controls the movement of air traffic.
Having said that, I turn to the second part of the Bill, which raises the question of the powers of the Secretary of State to control airlines and airport authorities. I imagine that it is to be superimposed on the responsibilities which already lie in the hands of the British Airports Authority—to name but one organisation —to take certain measures against hijacking.
Having seen the British Airports Authority at London Airport, I am well aware that it is itself apprised of the problem and has introduced all kinds of security measures. One thing that struck me most was that the authority draws a distinction between what is described as the "land" side and the "air" side of the airport. When I went there within the last six months, the authority seemed to consider that security measures necessary for the land side of the airport—that is to say, that part of the airport before passengers go through the barrier—did not require the same surveillance as was required once passengers had passed through the barrier into the take-off lounge.
I find this a curious distinction, because it seems to me that the whole area of the airport must be seen to be 465 at risk and therefore the land side and the air side should merge together in security measures. No doubt that is one of the considerations that the Secretary of State has in mind in taking these new powers to give direction to airport authorities. Yet if one thinks about trying to maintain a security ring round an airport and one thinks of the enormous size of an airport, one realises what a superhuman task this is. I believe I am right in saying that Gatwick, at least, does not have a perimeter fence, so that it is quite possible to get on to the airport without much trouble.
When, as one does from time to time, one reads stories in the newspapers about a reporter who has managed to get into an airport workshop or a hangar in which there are airliners, it shows no credit on the newspaper's ingenuity. It is all far too simple, because the area is itself so widespread. Yet clearly the perimeter ring must be made as secure as possible.
By the same token, therefore, one appreciates the need to give power to the various authorities, or at least to their so-called "constables", to be able to enforce that security. I certainly join with the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) in questioning this statement about constables. I believe he is right in saying that the word is given a very wide definition and could include security guards from private firms—very often Securicor. It is a dangerous development if we allow those people to carry arms. It is a departure from what has gone before in this country. It may be a necessary departure, but it is one which causes me some unease.
I would far rather there was a special group of airport police on all these airports who alone were entitled to carry firearms, rather than have the feeling that a security officer from a private firm, who—and I speak with some diffidence— is not always quite as much a fully trained professional as one might suppose from seeing him in uniform, is authorised to carry any kind of firearm or shotgun and might have the ability, although not the desire, to kill somebody. This is a side of this whole issue that badly needs considering in the Bill. Some limitation should be drawn on just how much power 466 we feel these newly-named constables should have.
Another point on which I wish to touch is that of the time which, it seems, is to be allowed to pass between the Secretary of State's requiring information—this is in Clause 8—and the time when the airline or airport authority must return that information to the Secretary of State. I would have thought that in the situation which might exist after a red alert in a hijacking situation, information would have to pass very quickly, and action be taken equally quickly. Therefore, I wonder whether four weeks can be allowed to elapse before authorities need to provide such information as might be needed at such short notice.
My last point relates simply to a method which I understand the American airlines have found singularly successful in defeating the criminal hijacker—that is, deciding the psychological profile of a hijacker and, working on that basis, training staff to recognise and pick out such a person. Eastern Airlines claim that they have a remarkable record of picking out, by this method, people who were intent on doing foul play on an aircraft.
Although it may sound far-fetched it is not very far removed from a situation which I recall when talking to a lady store detective. She told me that without knowing quite how she did it she was nearly always able to pick out a shoplifter before he or she had got very far. She had a sixth sense.
Perhaps this point is already in the Minister's mind and perhaps the British Airports Authority has already drawn up a list of people who have sensitive antennae for detecting hijackers. This may sound far fetched, but there may be something in it. After all, we must remember that we are talking about a criminal hijacker who is after loot—and, just like a shoplifter, intends to get something out of his actions and betrays that fact by his mental approach.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I warmly welcome the Bill. In my view we should take the strongest possible action against all those who attempt to damage or destroy aircraft as defined in the Bill. Some hijackers—I 467 have in mind particularly the Palestinian Arabs—in my view have strong reasons for feeling a deep sense of bitterness and despair, but nothing can excuse endangering or killing innocent civilians. I have said this before and I say it again.
I also welcome the Bill because it avoids double standards. It is extremely important in this House that we should avoid double standards when talking about the morality of acts of violence and terrorism. Whether or not we agree with their politics, we should condemn whoever commits them. I think that is what the Bill does, as I read it. I asked the Minister to explain it and I think that his explanation was acceptable to me, though I am glad that he will refer to the matter again when he comes to reply to the debate.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I have had an opportunity to consider the matter further, and can tell the hon. Gentleman that the explanation I gave was correct.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am grateful to the Minister. It is a further reason for welcoming the Bill. It brings into account the destruction of an aircraft such as the destruction of the Libyan airliner on 21st February this year. Perhaps to keep temperatures down—and perhaps this will anticipate what the Minister will say— I should add that I am not stating that the Bill necessarily will cover that situation because there has been no inquiry into that particular case. However, I am certain in my own mind that the Bill would cover the Libyan airliner incident, but it would be a matter for the courts to decide when the legislation became law. I cannot prejudge the decision of the court, but it seems plain to me that Clause 1(3) would lead to criminal prosecution against the Israelis responsible for the destruction of that airliner.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Is the hon. Gentleman reading into the Bill that it will cover events which occurred between nations at war? At least some of the parties in the Middle East maintain that they are at war, even though other parties do not so maintain.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Yes, and one of the parties which does not maintain that it is at war is the Israeli Government, for 468 various good reasons, including some insurance claims involving hijacked aircraft. The Israeli Government strongly denies that a state of war exists.
To keep the temperature down, let us take an imaginary circumstance involving a BEA aircraft flying, let us say, over the Libyan frontier, turning round and then being shot down by a Libyan pilot on its way back. In that case quite plainly action would be needed, and if the Libyan Government refused to set up an inquiry, as the Israeli Government are refusing an inquiry, and if the Libyan Government refused to accept blame, as the Israeli Government are refusing to accept blame, I do not believe any British Government would fail to invoke the Montreal Convention and the provisions of this legislation to do their utmost to bring that Libyan pilot to justice.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) talked about an imaginary example. But he knows that a specific incident of this kind took place and involved a British aircraft which flew over Libya and was ordered down by the Libyan warplane. The pilot had the good sense to obey instructions, he landed and as a result there was no loss of life. I am not implying anything other than culpability for Israel through the shooting down of the Libyan airliner, but the circumstances of the other incident should be made clear.
§ Mr. Mayhew
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) and I for once agree. We both agree that the Bill should apply to the actions such as those he mentioned and also to actions such as that which occurred on 21st February—that is all I am saying, and that is why I particularly welcome the Bill.
I welcome the Bill because in the case of the Libyan airliner the reaction in Israel has been surprising, and indeed callous, on this tragedy. They have refused an inquiry. I was surprised that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) talked about non-co-operation with ICAO and then spoke of Arab non-co-operation with that organisation. I was surprised that my right hon. Friend said that when one 469 bears in mind the Libyan air disaster. The Minister within the scope of the Bill did not even mention, as I said in my intervention, that at the last ICAO conference a recommendation for an independent international inquiry into the Libyan air disaster was passed by 105 votes to one—the Israeli vote—with two abstentions. That is non-co-operation. As my right hon. Friend said, Governments which do not co-operate should be punished. I agree with my right hon. Friend that we should even invoke sanctions against them, whether they be an Arab Government or the Israeli Government.
§ Mr. Mason indicated assent.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend agrees. I believe that this argument particularly applies to a Government which harbours a person who damages or destroys an aircraft, as the Israeli Government is harbouring the pilot who destroyed the aircraft with great loss of life. Therefore, since the Bill covers that essential point, I warmly welcome it.
I believe that the Bill must operate strictly. The hon. Member for Waltham-stow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) instanced the example of a political refugee who hijacked an aircraft to come from, let us say, Eastern Europe to Western Europe. What would we do in a case of that kind? I feel for that man and I am sure that such a case would present the utmost difficulty, but I am sure that the man should be sent back. We must be absolutely rigorous against all hijacking, all acts of violence, all destruction of aircraft, no matter who commits the crime.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that he is drawing an unfair distinction? If the man uses a car or any other vehicle, he would not be handed over. Therefore, why must an aircraft be treated as something so special in those circumstances?
§ Mr. Mayhew
Because such an act endangers, and sometimes kills, innocent civilians. Lives have been lost and people must be protected.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
Perhaps I should explain that there is not an automatic assumption that if a man is found 470 guilty, he is extradited. The definition means that he is equally likely to be prosecuted in the courts of this country. Therefore, the option exists for the court to decide whether to extradite or to punish with a penalty up to a maximum of life imprisonment. This is the way to achieve the sort of flexibility which some hon. Members have mentioned.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
In face of the general welcome which has been given to this Bill, my remarks will be brief. I wish to begin by saying how much I prefer the Government's second thoughts on this Bill to their first thoughts, and how much I personally welcome—as I believe do many other hon. Members and certainly many people outside the House—the fact that the Bill has been very much strengthened during its passage through the other place.
Having given the Bill that general welcome, I wish to express a few doubts about the measure in so far as its powers go beyond those needed to ratify the Montreal Convention. None of us will quarrel with the need for the Secretary of State to be granted extraordinary powers. But there must be an element of unease about the fact that those powers are limited in time. I think that we ought to consider seriously whether there should not be really extraordinary powers for a limited time, or whether the powers should not be trimmed and made permanent. My own preference would be to grant the Minister extraordinary powers for a limited time. I have no doubt that this matter will be raised again in Committee, as will the question of whether there should be a right of appeal against the use of some of these powers where time is not of the essence and where there is not a great deal of urgency. I am not quite sure to what extent this right of appeal already exists.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
An amendment was accepted in another place providing for just such an opportunity for further consideration by the Secretary of State on appeal where there is no urgency.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He adds not only to right hon. and hon. Members' observation of the 471 fact that I had missed that point but also to my own gratitude to their Lordships in another place for their work to improve the Bill.
I agree with many of those who feel that the final defence against the hijacker, which is what this Bill is primarily about, is that his crime should not pay. To do that we have to ensure first that the hijacker never achieves his objective. That means that we must be clear in our minds and that the potential hijacker must be clear in his mind that blackmail will not succeed and that, at whatever risk to whatever hostage, the British Government will not submit to the demands of hijackers. That has to be firmly established in the mind of everyone before we find ourselves in a situation where there has been a hijacking and where the will and resolution of Her Majesty's Government are being called into question.
We must also be clear that the life of the hijacker ought to be at stake, and not merely at risk from the guns of guards, constables or whatever we choose to call them. At the end of the road, through the due process of the law and the courts, he should be called upon to pay the supreme capital penalty, just as in law that is still the potential penalty for an offence of piracy with violence at sea.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) is right to say that sanctuary must be denied the hijacker. However, the right hon. Gentleman must be enough of a political realist to know that political expediency can easily override high-minded principles. After all, the right hon. Gentleman has survived on the Opposition Front Bench. He must be enough of a political realist to understand these matters. He must know, as my hon. Friends must, that countries which have an interest in sanctions busting will bust sanctions, whether they are black African, East European or white Western Powers busting Rhodesian sanctions or whether they are Arab Powers or those who have an interest in trading with Arab Powers busting sanctions against Arab States. We must be realistic. We have an interest in trading with the Arab bloc, as do many other advanced Western countries. We know 472 in our hearts that sanctions are very unlikely to stick in the present climate of world opinion.
I want finally to be clear in my mind that I understand the situation which was raised by my hon. Friend and political neighbour the hon. Member for Waltham-stow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson). As I understand it, the person who hijacks an aircraft to escape from a State as a refugee and arrives in this country will either be extradited back to the country from whence he came or be tried in this country. If he is tried in this country, found guilty of the offence of hijacking and serves his sentence for that crime, he will then still be eligible to be considered as a political refugee and admitted as such as an act of political asylum if it is thought that his life will be in danger if he is returned to his country of origin. That must be right. He should not be returned at the risk of his life. But he should be made to pay, somewhere in this country or in another, for the crime which he has committed.
In general, I welcome the Bill. I am sure that we shall have minor differences about it in Committee. But I wish it a speedy passage into law.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I wish to make a brief contribution in order primarily to associate myself with the basic principles of the Bill. I say immediately that I have no intention of allowing references to the unfortunate Arab-Israeli conflict or to the issue of capital punishment to sneak into my remarks. Unlike some hon. Members, I intend to deal explicitly with the issue before the House.
In the violent age in which we live, I believe that the hijacking of an aircraft is one of the most calculated forms of physical and mental torture which can be inflicted upon innocent people. Like other hon. Members, I am expected frequently to travely abroad. I hope to have that privilege again in the years to come. But I undertake it as a duty, unlike many other people who do it for social reasons. It is a shame that they should have their lives menaced by this horrible fear, for such it is. For that reason, I have no sympathy with the hijacker, and I register that as my first point.
473 At the same time, while I associate myself with the Bill as far as I can possibly do so, I wish to make certain criticisms which I hope will be the means of strengthening it. It may be that at the end of the debate the Minister will be able to give us his opinions of them.
Earlier we listened to an exchange between the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), who said that the amount of money now being spent to provide at our airports the kind of safety to which the travelling public are entitled, which is apparently about £50,000, seemed to him to be a pitifully small sum. I believe that my right hon. Friend has a valid point.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
This is a specific sum of money, a specific allocation, dealing with certain aircraft. It does not cover the totality of guarding aircraft. It is a specific area where we have additional precautions under way.
§ Mr. Jones
I accept that. Perhaps we can have the total figure when the Minister winds up. My point is that if the Government will employ professional people —I had an assurance that such would be the case—I should like to know how they will be used. It is possible and certainly desirable that travelling lists should be scrutinised by these professional people before passengers are allowed to get anywhere near embarkation point. If the right kind of professional people are employed in this capacity it is possible that a number of potential hijackers will not even reach the gangway. I believe that matter should be considered sympathetically.
I now turn to what I call the mental torture of the process. Let us imagine the captain of a plane with a gun in his back and ground control to his front and a conflict between the two. It is easy to imagine a man in those circumstances having a heart attack. It is a wonder that something of that unfortunate nature has not already occurred. I do not know whether the Minister or his advisers have tried to project themselves into that kind of position. On a number of occasions the instructions of the man with the gun in his back and the instructions of ground control have been in total conflict. It is difficult to imagine the utter wretchedness of that man's unfortunate situation.
474 I believe that the British public and other responsible elements throughout the world must sometimes wonder why, this hijacking scourge having been imposed upon human society for 40 years, we have not got universal laws to check it. The travelling public, who make airlines possible because they make them profitable, must wonder why successive Governments—not only British Governments, but Governments throughout the world —seem to have failed in providing effective universal sanctions against these murderous people.
In that connection I turn to Clause 5, which could be the most important clause in the Bill. It deals with extradition. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum states:Clause 5 amends the Extradition Act 1870 and the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 so as to provide that the offences created by Part I of the Bill are extraditable offences under the 1870 Act and relevant offences under the 1967 Act. It also provides that where there is no extradition arrangement with a State which is party to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, an Order in Council may be made under section 2 of the 1870 Act as though the Convention constituted the extradition arrangement with that State.I should like to know how an Order in Council could possibly achieve that objective with a foreign Government. I offer an illustration. Let us assume that a British plane with British crew and passengers has been hijacked to a Middle East State. How could the terms of Clause 5—an Order in Council—control that eventuality? In reply the Minister might be well advised to direct his explanatory detail to that clause.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
It is not in the event of a hijacking that a provision of this kind would come into force. It is simply that where this or any other Government do not want to go through the negotiation procedure of establishing extradition arrangements with another country, they can deal with the matter specifically in connection with hijacking threats by resting on the authority of the Montreal Convention. There would then be a limited form of extradition arrangement reached without duress under a hijacking threat.
§ Mr. Jones
I still do not understand how extradition can be applied. I need 475 hardly remind the Minister that the Montreal Convention has been totally ignored by certain countries. I do not want to get involved in the Middle East Arab dispute, but some Middle East countries are in that position.
The Minister has advised the House that an international conference will be taking place in August this year to discuss certain legal points. That conference could have a tremendous significance concerning the principle of extradition. I hope that the Minister will agree that this could be the most effective international means of controlling this scourge. Is it possible, in advance of that particularly important conference, for our embassies in the Middle East to make diplomatic approaches to the Governments in that part the world and at least ask them to send representatives to hear the arguments advanced by the legal people who will be involved? It is obvious to me that if they do not send representatives they will appear to have no intention of following any international pattern regarding the problem that we are properly discussing.
The Government must realise that however much support they will get from the Opposition—I am sure they will get full-hearted support—they must not regard time as being on their side.
I believe that two agencies are probably watching developments in this House today and are taking serious note of what is being said, particularly by the Government. I refer to the International Transport Workers' Federation and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations. These people will not necessarily sit on the sidelines much longer. They could, and probably will, take action unless there is action, or at least signs that the Government are taking imaginative steps to bring about universal action to deal with this issue. These people could disrupt the airlines of the world, with all the effects that would have upon the economies of the national airlines. Unless the Government take immediate steps to reach agreement with the people who are not at the moment prepared to come into line, they must accept full responsibility for any action that might be taken by the people to whom I have referred. In so 476 many instances it is not merely a question of economics. The lives of international airline pilots are, and have been, at stake. In consequence, they have a right to expect responsible Governments to measure up to the challenge.
In the interests of civilised behaviour, I hope that we shall pursue whatever methods are available to get other countries, particularly the Middle East and some South American countries which have not yet come into line, to bring about a situation where this cruel scourge, this cancer on human society, can be properly and effectively eliminated.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has left the Chamber. I am tempted—but I will not succumb to the temptation— to be led along the path of irrelevance by some of his comments. I welcome his recent conversion away from double standards to the circle of those who have one standard only. Would that his clarion call had been heard in what happened at the Munich Olympics, at Lod Airport and in the outrage at Dawson's Field.
But then the hon. Member's obsession with the Libyan air tragedy was brought into the debate. Of course I and every other hon. Member regret the loss of innocent life, but if one is viewing that incident in the context of the Bill and of what we are trying to do, one sees that the arrival of a civilian plane on the lines drawn—the plane having been cleared over Egyptian armed fortifications without any challenge and proceeding over Sinai in the direction of what seemed to be Tel Aviv, after there had been threats to drop bombs from such planes on Tel Aviv—placed the Israeli defence forces in an awful dilemma when that plane did not respond to challenge. One can imagine our reaction in the last war if a German airliner had been seen flying over the cliffs of Dover and had failed to respond to challenge. But I will leave that path of seduction and turn to what the Minister said.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the facilities that he afforded to hon. Members on both sides to visit Heathrow and to see for ourselves the steps which have been taken to institute security 477 measures. It would be improper for me to deal with them now, but I am greatly encouraged, as all of us were, by the thoroughness with which the steps already put in train are being implemented.
I extend a warm and general welcome to the Bill and congratulate the Minister and the Government on implementing this vital item, which was included in the Gracious Speech last year. Significantly, it was the first legislative proposal mentioned in that Speech.
Reference has been made to the necessity for the Bill because, in recent years, there has been such a violent escalation towards violent terrorism and hijacking. However, I fear that the penalty, if it is to be effective, must be an effective deterrent. In this respect, Clause 4 is deficient. The Minister said that there should be in the minds of hijackers the sobering thought of the penalties that they will face. Clause 4 provides life imprisonment as the ultimate penalty. That is insufficient. The ultimate deterrent must be the dealth penalty. That is the only effective penalty.
After all, do we not authorise summary execution on the spot during the hijacking incident or the attack itself? If we condone summary execution on the spot for the defence of the property and the lives concerned, why do we fall short in defining the deterrent we require by not introducing the death penalty for those responsible for hijacking?
What is the position on piracy at sea? The Piracy Act of 1837, which is still operative, contains the deterrent of the death sentence. No attempt has been made, to the best of my knowledge, by this Government or their predecessors to repeal the powers in that Act. Hijacking is simply piracy in the air, and the same punishment should apply in both cases.
If the punishment is only life imprisonment, do we not encourage further hijacking with the object of releasing those hijackers who have been apprehended under the Bill's proposals? If we introduced the death penalty, the period of risk of such a further hijacking to free those imprisoned would simply extend from the time of apprehension to the time of execution—a matter of weeks or months. But with the ultimate deterrent being life imprisonment, the period of 478 risk of further hijacking and blackmail will extend from the time of apprehension to the end of the life sentence, which would obviously spread over many years.
I know that aircraft hijacking was dealt with in the Hijacking Act of 1971, Section 1(4) of which dealt with the liability on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life. This Bill deals with violence against civilian aircraft, other than hijacking. As the Minister said, the Montreal Convention should be implemented. This Bill seems to me merely to provide that we punish hijackers whose crime is committed in the United Kingdom only or by its subjects. I hope that my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong.
Surely the real problem of piracy and hijacking is that which takes place on a trip to one of the countries customarily providing sanctuary for the terrorists— for example, Algeria, Libya or Egypt— as has been our international experience. Effective international measures require that the principal aviation and trading countries should impose an aviation boycott on countries which otherwise give sanctuary to the terrorists or hijackers. That is where the shoe pinches.
Ideally, a United Nations resolution committing all countries to do this would solve the problem, but our experience is that the United Nations and the third world, unhappily, are hopeless in this respect. Nevertheless, 10 or 15 countries, led by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, the Soviet Union, Brazil, the Argentine, Mexico and Japan, to name but eight, could achieve this desirable result. It is up to us to give the lead.
I welcome President Nixon's recent announcement that, recognising that the deterrent for hijacking must be effective, he proposes to introduce to the United States Senate and Congress legislation to deal with hijacking and terrorism, providing the death penalty as the ultimate deterrent, certainly imposing far more rigorous standards. I am asking my hon. Friend to give a lead from this country.
Certain it is that the United States and Canada are willing to go further. They are prepared to impose a secondary boy-cot on countries which fail to observe the preliminary boycott of the terrorist- and hijacker-harbouring countries. The International Air Line Pilots' Association 479 militantly supports this USA-Canadian initiative. In fact, it has even threatened a world-wide strike if an effective convention is not agreed soon.
What is the position of our own BALPA? I have here a letter from the Chairman of the British Air Line Pilots' Association, dated in March, only a week or two ago, in which he says:The Protection of Aircraft Bill at present going through Parliament is, we feel, a step forward in so far as security in the United Kingdom is concerned in that the recent amendments lay the foundations for building a firmer and stronger basis for legislation. We have, as you know, been pressing the Government for legislation requiring both Airport Operators and Aircraft Operators to achieve, and maintain, a basic standard of security. These requirements should, we feel, form part of the Airport Operators' Certificate and the Aircraft Operators' Certificate, in the same way that they have to meet certain requirements before the issue of an operations certificate. For instance, the Airport Operators must satisfy the installation and maintenance of fire equipment, navigational equipment, runways, etc. The Aircraft Operator must have aircraft maintenance schedules for the aircraft and so on. All these requirements are monitored and in the same way we see Security as being another schedule to the Certificate.I commend that to my hon. Friend, especially since the letter goes on:Such legislation should allow for escalation of the security measures to meet specific threats as and when they arise.Why does Clause 13 specify constables as the only people who are permitted to carry firearms? Why does not the provision extend to all those who are specially trained as security officers, in the employ of the Airports Authority, Her Majesty's Government or the airlines themselves? If we are to have an effective deterrent, surely it would be logical that permission to carry firearms should be given to those who are specially trained for the job.
I urge the Minister to consider adopting in Committee the amendments to which I have referred, if he cannot give a complete answer tonight. He will then strengthen an already very useful measure.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) asked a question which has not been completely answered. That question was: what is the difference between using a motor car 480 and hijacking an aircraft? That question needs an answer.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson rose—
§ Mr. Mendelson
Let me answer that question before the hon. Gentleman asks a further question.
The answer lies in technology. In the olden days, if someone stowed away in a ship and just stayed there, starving in a corner somewhere, before arriving at his destination, and escaped, that was one thing. But if a man now goes aboard an aircraft—a highly sensitive instrument of transport—threatens the pilot, and by an unguarded or a deliberate movement, brings about the death of that pilot or endangers the life of the pilot, there is a difference. That is a crime in itself. It is a crime, or a potential crime, against the pilot, regardless of the motivation of the man who is hijacking the aircraft.
Therefore, it is inescapable that we must all unite in demanding that such a man be punished and be treated as a man who has committed a crime. That is the first straightforward proposition which we owe to those whom we ask to carry us about in aeroplanes. If we do not admit that proposition universally and unanimously we have no right to call upon anyone to enter into a career as an aircraft pilot.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman returned to the point that I made. The only reason I wanted to intervene was to point out that it is a question not just of hijacking but of the political refugee escaping. The hon. Gentleman has referred to punishment. I accept that. But I was concerned that a man escaping for his life might be extradited to the country of origin, there to lose his life. That seems to me rather too severe a punishment for someone who, fundamentally, does not want to hurt anyone, and is merely trying to escape from a regime which is intolerable to him.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I shall return to that point shortly. I was confining myself to the hon. Gentleman's rhetorical question concerning the difference between a man using a motor car and a man hijacking an aircraft. That is the first thing to establish. We have no right to ask people to enter into this profession or craft if we do not ensure this minimum 481 degree of security in protecting their lives.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East referred to extradition. I join with those who say that every Government, as a sovereign Power, must have flexibility. Every Government must, ultimately, be in a position to say that the man will be brought to trial in the particular country, and then leave it to the normal established quasi-judicial authority to determine whether anyone is forcibly deported from its shores. That is the second proposition on which we can agree.
My third point is political and not judicial, and is one on which we ought to hear more from the Government. Over a number of years, with others, I have urged succeeding Governments—both Labour and Conservative—to enter into a political arrangement with 10 other Powers, which is what is ultimately required if these crimes are to be ended. I call it political because it includes enforcement and because these crimes are committed in many different countries and different areas. It cannot be within the judicial authority of any one Power to deal with them effectively in all cases. As has been said, there are obvious limitations to the authority of Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, this matter now enters the political sphere.
Here I part company with the hon. Member for Bury and RadclifEe (Mr. Fidler), who has tried to introduce into this debate his campaign for the return of capital punishment. This has nothing to do with it. There will be a debate on that subject next week, when hon. Members will be able to determine their position and make up their minds. We had better leave that matter alone in this debate.
I urge that the laws that obtain in this country should be exercised in these cases as in all other cases. One cannot introduce a different reform of the law for a particular case.
§ Mr. Fidler
I was merely attempting to indicate that the Bill contains a clause which lays down a form of punishment, and was suggesting a different form of punishment. It is perfectly proper so to do.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman has also become involved, this week, in a 482 famous correspondence considering the other matter. I am not sufficiently naïve to accept that it is only by accident that this argument has crept into the debate. It should not have done so.
The normal laws and punishments which apply in all cases in Britain must be applied in this matter as well as in others.
§ Mr. Kaufman
In my hon. Friend's incisive reply to the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe he inadvertently omitted to take up an extraordinary anomaly in what the hon. Gentleman was proposing. He was proposing the death penalty for hijackers who might not commit murder—that is, he was extending his wish for capital punishment for murderers other than hijackers to capital punishment for non-murderers if they hijacked.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I was rather wise in attempting to keep the argument about capital punishment outside the confines of the debate, as it should be. I shall not be sidetracked by any further interventions, even from my hon. Friends, however close they may be.
The laws which normally obtain must obviously apply. We cannot call upon the Government to introduce special penalties in this way. We must realise clearly that the political dimension enters into this matter very forcefully. If enforcement is to be possible, political considerations will intervene. There is nothing wrong in that. One cannot expect a Government to abandon all future political considerations when a particular case arises. After all, the present Government have acted quite successfully on a number of occasions, and have produced the minimum loss of life. A Government must have that kind of flexibility in order to act. But they must also be further armed with what they do not have at present. Therefore, I urge the Government to enter into an agreement between the 11 major aircraft Powers. There are only 11. Happily, this is one of those occasions where one does not need the agreement of 121 nations. All that is required is that the major carriers should enter into an agreement.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine indicated dissent.483
§ Mr. Mendelson
I shall listen with great interest to the Minister's reply on this point.
The 10 other Governments would be in a particularly strong position, in that they would have the full support of the people employed in the industry. When a Government introduce a certain policy they hope that it will have the support, by and large, of the people who work in the industry. Here there is no need to urge those who work in the industry towards their view. They will be an enforcement agency which is only too willing to enforce the agreement between the Powers.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Will the hon. Gentleman list these 11 Powers? Do they include, for example, the Soviet Union and China? A hijacking could even happen to them, and they are major aviation Powers.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I would include those two Powers. I accept that it could happen to them. My information is that both those Powers are sufficiently conservative to enter into such an agreement with the others.
Reaching agreement will take some time, but the Government must work on the idea. These Powers must be determined and it must be made known to all concerned—because the deterrent effect is important—that wherever such an incident occurs the 11 Powers will take joint action and will impose such disadvantages upon the harbouring State as will be an effective deterrent to all such States. That is the crux of the matter.
This has never happened in the tragic story of this matter. No effective action has ever been taken against any one country, to whichever bloc it belongs, or even if it belongs to no bloc.
Where the criminals have quite freely been able to prepare the crime for months we must not accept the myth that the people involved are generally poor and ill-educated—that they do not know what they are doing, and are living on the starvation line. Most of them live in luxurious flats in Paris and Rome and enjoy a much higher standard of living than the average citizen, let alone the average refugee. They are financed very powerfully with large sums of money and are not negligible enemies of the community of mankind. They are backed 484 by powerful forces, who regard this as an easy way to salve their consciences instead of doing what, in their hearts, they think they should be doing for some of their fellow countrymen. They have spent millions of pounds in financing these crimes and they are a formidable enemy of the community of nations and must be treated as such. I urge the Government to get into consultation with the other Powers, some of whom are already willing to co-operate and some of whom are ahead of us. We must reach a firm agreement, so that joint action can be devised and taken, with a Minister or official designated by each of these Governments to enter into an agreement. They would be called together immediately so that action would be taken quickly against the country where the crime was planned and where all the facilities were made available.
There is a corollary to this. The country where a crime is planned is often the country to which the criminal wants to return, and where he will return as a hero and not a criminal. This increases the desire of people to play at this kind of tragic mock heroics, thereby endangering the lives of the pilot, the other airline staff, and the passengers.
I make a distinction here, because the passengers want to get from A to B while the pilot has to do his daily work like a motor mechanic or insurance agent. He therefore deserves special protection. But passengers also deserve all possible protection. When action such as I have suggested is taken, the harbouring country would know, for instance, that other countries would not allow their planes to fly over the territory of the 11 countries. Any airline not allowed to fly over the territory of those 11 countries might as well shut up shop.
Secondly, the necessary international co-operation, without which, technically, no plane can stay in the air, would be refused to any planes owned by any company in that country, be it the State airline or a privately-owned airline. Thirdly, and equally important, there would be no political interference with an attitude of this kind. There would be no friend or foe, and each State would be treated equally.
If the Government were to create such an alliance among the major carriers it 485 would provide an effective deterrent. Secondly, people who work in the airline industry—and we all have them as constituents—who have expressed their deep concern and have been very patient, would know that the Governments concerned meant business. These people should be reassured, because they have been bearing the brunt of the danger and terror of the situation. I urge this course upon the Government. We should have some preliminary comments on the proposal when the Minister replies.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I do not usually agree with the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) on foreign affairs matters and I have grave doubts whether the scheme that he has just outlined would be practical. However, I thoroughly support his underlying motives.
The Bill is a worthy and important attempt to stop up certain loopholes in the legislation used against air pirates. It will make it a little more difficult for certain categories of hijacker to operate in the future, but I very much doubt whether it will have a great effect on the category referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson)—the political terrorists. I do not believe that the political terrorist is any longer deterred by lengthy sentences imposed by the courts. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) said, many terrorists do not believe that they will ever serve out their sentences. At this moment there are many in Northern Ireland who have received long sentences from the courts and are convinced that they will get out in a year or two as a result of some political amnesty. A great many of the air pirates today who are caught and sentenced believe that as a result of further outrages by their accomplices they will be released from prison. The Lufthansa hijacking following the Munich massacre was, if not a death blow, at least a savage blow to the Montreal Convention.
Therefore, I do not believe that this sort of hijacking will end. The record of some countries in these matters, apart from Germany, is pretty bad, and for very understandable reasons. If a country arrests potential hijackers on its own 486 territory and brings them to trial, the aircraft of that country's national airline are put at greater risk. The other day warnings were given to the Italian police about certain terrorists who were then pushed over the border into France. They were there apprehended by the French police who immediately extradited them to Damascus. That can hardly be considered to be a major deterrent.
The difficulty with that kind of approach is that it makes international political terrorism appear to be a low-risk operation. Serious steps should be taken to prevent that happening. The reason why it is considered a low-risk operation is that certain countries offer a haven to these air pirates. What can be done about it? The hon. Member for Penistone suggested an alliance of 11 nations to say that air space would be refused by those nations to airlines whose countries gave refuge to air pirates and that the nationals of those countries should be debarred from air flights. I doubt whether that would be an effective deterrent.
For example, would it stop Libya from behaving in this manner if the Libyan airline was refused permission to land in Rome or London? I do not consider that such an action would affect Libya, Egypt or the Lebanan. If we do not allow their aircraft or their nationals to use our air space it is certain that they will prevent the airlines of the 11 major powers from using theirs. That will stop effective action on an 11-Power basis, such as the hon. Member for Penistone suggested, or even by ICAO itself.
I do not believe that multilateral sanctions will work, but we need not sit back and do nothing. We know that certain areas, certain countries, certain cities, provide a haven for air terrorists. Most of those places have good and friendly relations with us. Just the other day my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that our relations with Egypt had rarely been better. It is reliably reported that we shall soon be entering into a substantial arms contract with that country. The position of the Government in Cairo has from time to time been equivocal. At certain times they have been helpful in dealing with acts of terrorism and at others they have not. The sensible 487 approach would be to say that the completion of any arms contract with the Egyptians should depend on their taking a resolute line—more resolute than they have taken in the past—against any terrorists who seek sanctuary in their territory.
The same applies to the Lebanon. It is reported that we are about to enter into a substantial arms contract with the Lebanese Government. Many of the air terrorists' activities have been planned in or near Beirut. It would be worth while saying, "The arms we have contracted to supply you will be supplied provided you take more effective action than you have taken against those outrages that are plotted on your territory ".
In the past, the main haven for hijackers has been Algeria. Fortuitously, it is one of the very few countries in the entire Arab world from which no visa is needed to enter Britain. It is sensible to say that those who come here from Algeria should be scrutinised very thoroughly, although there have been welcome signs recently that the Algerian Government are taking a somewhat harder line on terrorists who seek sanctuary in Algeria than they did before.
But the main country in which we are threatened is Libya. Not only has it provided sanctuary for certain air pilots; it has provided our enemies in Northern Ireland with arms. That distinguished journalist and commentator, Mr. Chapman Pincher, reports in the Daily Express that we are planning to sell some small submarines to the Libyan Government. I find it very difficult to believe that that can be true, because after experience of recent years it seems to me that anyone who sold arms to Colonel Gaddafi would be about as sensible as a person who gave a tin of kerosene and a box of matches to a six-year-old child.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are also selling two submarines to the Israelis, who have been responsible for far more civilian deaths than have the Libyan Government.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I rather doubt the hon. Gentleman's last statement, but I join him in deploring the shooting down of the Libyan airliner by the Israeli Air Force. I regret that the Israeli Govern- 488 ment have not held an independent investigation into the incident. But that does not alter the fact that Colonel Gaddafi has espoused the cause of terrorism in Africa, Europe and this country. Therefore, it would be lunatic to sell arms to him until he showed signs of mending his ways.
There are ways in which the Government can put pressure directly on those who seek to breach the universal abhorrence of air piracy by offering sanctuary to those who carry out this terrible crime. Meanwhile, the Bill is an important step along the road to blotting out this form of terrorism.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)
The Bill has been given a general welcome by hon. Members on both sides. It carries forward activities in seeking precautions against terrorism and measures to deal with terrorism, a matter that has concerned my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) from the time when he had responsibility in 1964 to the present day. We can only be appalled at the slow rate of progress during that period.
We are seeking to safeguard the interests of millions of our people in all our constituencies, to give greater confidence and assurance of safety to those who travel and to those who remain at home, because people on the ground can be affected as much as those in the air.
The Bill is the result of international discussions. One of the great benefits resulting from those discussions is that all countries are aware of the possible dangers in modern travel and are co-operating to do something urgently and effectively against the common danger, regardless of which side of the ideological line they happen to stand.
As several hon. Members have said, those who are incensed by ideological and emotional considerations are not always likely to be deterred if they have the opportunity for terorism. Therefore, our legislation must seek mainly to be a deterrent, because once hijacking situations arise the task of trying to reconcile the safety of passengers and others is more difficult.
It is difficult for those who have not experienced terrorism to realise what it can mean. Those who are involved do 489 not always see, mercifully or otherwise, the end of the incident, as we do when we read of it in the Press or hear about it on the radio and television. With the travels of many hon. Members around the world, there must be few who can say that they have not been involved in an incident at some time. I have been involved twice in situations when travelling by air when things could have been much worse. One situation took place in the Middle East. There was a tip-off that the plane in which I was travelling was likely to be hijacked. As a result, there was a two or three hour search in the early morning, the temperature being 80 or 90 degrees. It was a situation that I do not want to have repeated.
We are dealing with a difficult task. Some terrorists may not be deterred but motivated to be martyred for their cause. That might be borne in mind by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler). We must also be aware that to pass this measure is not enough. Action must be taken to introduce more preventive measures which are necessary to cover other eventualities. There must be a greater incentive to seek, by policies of social justice, to eliminate and reduce some of the causes which help to stimulate terrorists to tread their ideological paths. That is an argument which may be pursued later but should not be overlooked.
Ten years have past since the Tokyo Convention of 1963. That convention was signed by 63 States. At the Hague Convention seven years later 51 countries were represented, and the convention was ratified by 42 countries. It is vital that all countries should agree to such conventions. Any countries which do not support agreed international action are a danger to all other countries.
I appeal to some of my hon. Friends who have differences on Middle East politics to recognise that ratification by all is essential. I appeal to my hon. Friends, and to all who have any sympathies in any direction, to use what influence they may have with those concerned to see that ratification takes place. I should like to see far more countries in the Middle East identifying themselves with the ratifications which have so far been made. I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) that there are about 10 Com- 490 munist countries, including the Soviet Union, which are already committed to ratification.
As we all know, these issues can be explosive to those who feel strongly about the various factors which motivate terrorists. Many steps have been taken publicly and privately to prevent terrorism. Urgent attention must be paid to the freezing out of air travel for those countries which give haven to offenders. I am glad to know that BALPA and other bodies of that sort are anxious that some attention should be given to that matter.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) asked about the position of refugees, and whether they should, after a period of imprisonment, be extradited. Again, we must recognise that all who take part in terrorist activities are equally to blame. We must hope that none who commit crime shall benefit from their crimes at the end of the day, even though they may have done a spell of imprisonment in the meantime.
I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), after having put his toe into the troublesome waters of the Middle East, managed to some extent to extricate himself rather neatly. That comment applies to the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe, who said that all those involved in these crime are equally guilty. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and others will use their considerable influence to get their hon. Friends to come into line with the treaty.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman used the word "terrorist" when talking about political refugees. I should not put into that category a young Czechoslovak who decided that he wanted to get out of that country when the Russian tanks came in. I should not blame him for taking any measures open to him. I could not find it in my heart to call such a person a terrorist.
§ Mr. Bishop
It is a matter of words as to the view we take of those who are motivated to be involved in these offences.
It will be difficult for individual countries which ratify the convention to put offenders on trial and sort out motives. 491 We may well get into difficulties in trying to sort out Middle East conflicts—for example, whether Israelis or Arabs had a right, a motive or a reason for doing what they did. It must be made clear to all those involved that they are equally to blame and that they must all suffer the consequences. The safety of people who travel, and those at airports, must be safeguarded regardless of the motives and the reasons which may prompt people to take action which may be called terrorism or a crusade. Whatever such action may be called, it is equally damaging and dangerous to those who seek to communicate with each other in world travel.
The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) made the same point about the need to take care so that those who seek asylum do not necessarily achieve their goal. The same point must prevail: those who commit crimes or offences must not benefit from them.
I hesitate to become involved in an argument about the death penalty with the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe. The hon. Gentleman said that there is an incentive when somebody is imprisoned for others to take action in order to release the prisoner. He might well ponder the argument that if someone has been subjected to the death penalty, others may be equally inclined to take action of a similar kind, with far greater demands on Governments and others, to get some recompense for the supreme penalty having been carried out. That is an argument which should not feature in the debate at this stage.
The Minister rightly said that this measure is one of great severity. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley has said, "directive" and "ministerial power" appear many times in the Bill. We believe that that is right. However, it may be necessary in Committee to find out what is meant by some of the clauses. Clause 9(6) requires an operatorto take all such steps as… are practicable and necessary …".Clause 11 provides that a direction under the section does not require the searching of passengers but allows the giving of a direction that passengers are not to be admitted to aircraft unless a search has 492 been carried out. That is a subtle change.
The House may well ask the Minister to explain what safeguards are provided. The House may want to know about the powers to search for revolvers and guns, and how "reasonable" is to be defined. If "reasonable" is disputed, what redress is available? The clause mentions the role of the constables, and that is another matter which needs definition. What is to be the situation if it is thought that the constables have not acted responsibly? One wonders whether the Secretary of State, who has immense power—we do not necessarily challenge that power—shall be made liable in civil or criminal law for the actions of others when it is felt that the powers of the measure have been exceeded.
What kind of contract is there to be made for the carriage of passengers under the Bill? We all recognise that the airline business is not one of great viability margins. Airlines have to carry out their task without a great deal of financial backing. Although, of course, one recognises the contribution made by the Government, which I understand is about £1 million or more, nevertheless the Bill may make it necessary for airlines and air travel agents to incur far more expense than they are now committed to. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us his thinking about that aspect.
Another most important aspect of the larger powers that we are giving to the Government is the question of accountability to Parliament. We are willing in the House to give these increased powers, but Parliament has a right, on behalf of those for whom we exercise our own power, to know how Ministers' powers are being exercised. Should we not at least have an annual report to the House and possibly a debate on how these powers are being exercised from year to year? However, we can argue this matter out in Committee.
I hope the House will support the Bill, which is most urgent and must get through Parliament as quickly as possible. We most certainly support the precautions taken at our main airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick, but we should not overlook the need for such precautions at our regional airports, some of which are under local authority control. If we were off our guard there, there 493 might be a greater temptation to terrorists. Therefore, we must be sure that the powers and precautions authorised by the Bill are applied with equal care and attention to every part of the United Kingdom.
One is entitled to ask whether the hon. Gentleman has in mind any special financial and other help which might be made available to these regional airports so that other parts of the country may be brought up to the level of competence in this matter which now prevails in the capital.
Although we support this comprehensive, necessary and urgent measure, we are aware of and sensitive to the wide powers and severe penalties it contains. But we are anxious to ensure that air navigation and other facilities are included, and we are anxious that far more progress shall be made internationally to ensure that more countries sign the convention and that other measures supplement the Bill.
The House should express its thanks and gratitude, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley said, to all working in air travel—all those working in our airports and in our airlines, especially the pilots, air hostesses and other crew members—for the bravery and fortitude which (hey have shown in these past difficult times. Their contribution towards international security is an incentive to us to ensure that the Bill goes through as quickly as possible and that the Government are supported in any action they take to ensure that people can travel in safety in the air.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
I thank the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) for reflecting accurately the general spirit of accord which has been extended to the Bill by the House. I believe that the Bill is a matter of urgency. I accept that we are taking substantial powers. I also think that the House appreciates that, in the circumstances, we are left with no alternative, however distasteful it may be to all involved that we should have been driven to such lengths.
A number of points have been raised in the debate, many of them more appropriate to the Committee stage. However, I shall endeavour to reply to as many as possible now.
494 The hon. Gentleman referred to regional airports. I can assure him at once that surveys and security measures have been carried out at such airports as well as at the main London airports.
The hon. Gentleman also suggested the possibility of an annual report to Parliament. Parliament would be concerned about a specific incident, with which we could be confronted and, therefore, I believe that there are many and faster remedies open to hon. Members wanting to question Ministers on the use of their powers under the Bill. Inevitably, an annual report would be issued only some considerable time after the event in most cases, and could not by then add a great deal to our knowledge. In any case, it would not be possible to include in any such report details of a great deal of the work. The less one says, the more effective one's measures become. I think we should rest on the normal parliamentary protections which exist for scrutinising the work of Ministers.
Much interest has been shown in the debate in the carrying of firearms and the use of constables. Only the chief constable of the local police force may authorise the possession of firearms. Where the Bill envisages the carrying of arms, this remains the situation, subject to proper authorisation by the chief constable concerned. Only policemen, therefore, will be armed.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Will my hon. Friend make it clear whether the chief constable of the British Airports police is a chief constable in that context?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The British Airports police could be armed at the discretion of the local chief constable, as could special constables under the chief constables' jurisdiction.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I hope I do not embarrass my hon. Friend by pressing this point. Would that be the chief constable, for example, of the Surrey Police Force or of the Middlesex Police Force—if one still exists—or of the airports police?
§ Mr. Heseltine
It would be either of the first two chief constables to which my hon. Friend refers, dependent on the circumstances.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) asked about the omission 495 from the Bill of any time restriction. We are sensitive to that point. It might be argued that the Bill should lapse after a given period of time as thought appropriate, but we do not foresee a situation in which the threat of air terrorism is likely to decline. We are determined that the Bill shall do everything possible to minimise the threat but we do not see a time when it will be possible to remove its powers. We therefore decided to go in for permanency. Of course, it will be possible to review the measure in due course.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) raised an issue of principle more appropriate to another occasion. I would not want to be drawn into the merits of the argument about re-introducing the death penalty in this context. However, there are one or two special arguments which it might be appropriate for me to mention now. For example, if there were the possibility of a death sentence for hi-jacking, it is certain that the chances of a hijacker surrendering would be immediately reduced. Secondly, if there were to be any negotiations with a hijacker, it is certain that those negotiations would involve the question of whether the death sentence would be likely to be carried out. It would be impossible to avoid such discussions, whatever position the Government might wish to take up. However, it is appropriate that the general discussion about the death penalty should be dealt with by Parliament in the round and not specifically in the particular case of hijacking.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping raised the question whether someone who had been prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for an offence under the Bill in this country would then be open to the possibility of deportation. He would be able to apply for political asylum. A judgment would then have to be made in each case.
The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) asked about the use of professional people. I mentioned this in opening. There is a great degree of expertise at the disposal of those responsible for administering our airports and airlines. The greatest possible expertise available has been deployed. I do not believe there 496 is any ground for criticising the skills that have been used. There is a reservoir of international knowledge and experience. Widespread international discussions take place on the techniques being applied. It is not appropriate to reveal the measures that we have in mind.
§ Mr. Dan Jones
I had one thing in mind. Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that his Department has seen the head of the CID? These people are experts, and because I much prefer prevention to cure I believe that a visit to such a person could be highly profitable.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I can give the hon. Member an assurance which covers the general gist of his question, and that is that the security forces have been fully consulted, as one would expect.
The hon. Member mentioned the despair which he felt, and which we all share, that after 40 years of this threat, vastly greater today, we have no international laws to deal with it. This is a reasonable thing about which to despair but it applies to many things other than civil aviation. The reason why we do not have agreement is that the sovereign rights of nations are involved. Each nation believes in a particular cause or has what it considers a legitimate trade interest which makes it impossible to surrender a certain area of responsibility.
In such circumstances we have not reached agreement. This is what the convention process has been all about. The Montreal discussions and the forthcoming discussions in Rome reflect the fact that there are now such imperatives in the situation that we must be prepared to act together in the spirit of a world community. That does not mean that we shall be able to do so. Our initiatives and efforts through our posts abroad are directed at persuading other countries which have not yet ratified the various conventions to do so at an early date.
The question of whether the International Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations would take action to disrupt world airlines if progress is not made is much the same sort of question as that which asks why nations do not come together to reach agreement. The pilots have found to their regret—and to my regret—that national interests of certain countries make it impossible to reach 497 agreement. Indeed, they make it impossible for the pilots of different countries to reach agreement. Such pilots would undoubtedly be prepared to take concerted action but they know that limited action in certain countries often has no effect upon countries elsewhere and sometimes has a positive counter-effect because of the reprisals which those other countries are able to take without harming themselves. The pilots have lived with the agony of this situation, as have all of us in politics who have been connected with this subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNairWilson) asked about the period of 30 days for the receipt of further information. This is a provision in general terms because by and large there is a close relationship between those administering airports and running airlines. We know what is going on. It seemed that there should be this general ability in certain circumstances to ask for information. This is perhaps even more so in the following subsection, which says that there should be a seven-day provision dealing with changes in any arrangements. That is important in keeping us abreast of what is being proposed at any one time.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) helpfully clarified the Libyan situation for me. However, it would not be appropriate for me to become involved in a discussion of the Libyan incident because this Bill, since it is not yet law, can have no effect on that incident. It is in no way retrospective. After it comes into force, if an aircraft is destroyed while in service that would be an offence under the Act if the destruction was carried out unlawfully and intentionally. It would be up to the appropriate authorities to interpret any such incident.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East asked about our policy regarding air marshals. Our view has never been that we should take a hard and fast line about this. We believe that prevention on the ground is the best solution. There are great difficulties involved with armed marshals in aircraft.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) raised a number of issues 498 about sanctions. This is where the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendel-son) and my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) also entered the discussion. Various ideas have been put forward.
The hon. Member for Penistone had the idea of 10 countries reaching agreement. There is as yet no indication that the 10 major airline countries would reach agreement. One of the difficulties confronting all of us who will be watching with such interest the progress of the Rome talks in August is that we have to find a way of persuading a large number of countries to accept some effective common form of approach to the problem.
In the Legal Sub-Committee in Montreal last autumn the American and Canadian proposals were simply not acceptable. They have not gone forward for discussion at the Rome meetings. There are four suggestions on the table at present, and we shall use every possible method of persuasion to find a way of making progress. Indeed, people have paid tribute to the efforts of the Government in continually trying to keep up the pressure and not allowing the discussions to drift back into some ineffectual form of agreement which will not take the situation much further forward. We are determined to get the most effective arrangements we can.
Unless a large number of Powers are involved we shall not make progress. I do not believe that there is agreement between the 10 major Powers of the world or any combination of them. There are arguments, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham pointed out, for using non-aviation Powers to bring pressure to bear on those who do not come into line with anti-hijacking proposals. Just as that argument can be advanced, so the implication is that there are some sanctions outside of civil aviation. That is true, but it is equally true that there are good arguments outside civil aviation why the 10 major Powers will not sacrifice their sovereignty. There are reprisals, sanctions, which could be applied against the 10 major Powers by other countries involved and could be more harmful to those major Powers than any harm which we could inflict upon the countries causing the difficulty.
499 Whichever way we look at it we are faced with the problem of reaching agreement. That has been the only way forward in such a situation. It is an unsatisfactory method because it is slow and it is bound to be much less effective than any of us would like. I do not know of any further initiatives the Government can take. They have taken initiatives consistently with immense help and support from the pilots, who have been extremely co-operative in all the discussions I have had with them. Much of that co-operation has come about because they believe the Government have done all they can. We shall keep up the pressure because I share the anxiety of all hon. Members. We have a great responsibility to those who travel by air and to those whose professional responsibility it is to conduct people by air. It is a massive responsibility and one which we shall in no way shirk.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).