HC Deb 17 November 1977 vol 939 cc750-2
14. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with his Department's contingency plans and measures for dealing with terrorist activity.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

These are kept under continuous review in the light of intelligence and other information regarding terrorist activities and incidents.

Mr. Aitken

Will the Home Secretary consider having talks with representatives of the media to seek to establish a voluntary code of conduct about the way in which terrorist episodes are sometimes publicised? Is he aware that the whole of the recent German commando rescue operation at Mogadishu could have been put seriously at risk by the deplorable decision by two British newspapers to publish advance information about the commando unit's movements, in defiance of a request by the German Government? Can steps be taken to ensure that that does not happen here?

Mr. Rees

There is no doubt that when such an incident occurs problems arise from the media in general. However, all I should say on this matter is, yes. I cannot say that I will consider doing what the hon. Gentleman suggests, because the matter is already in hand.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us something about his recent meetings with the other Ministers of the Interior of the European Economic Community? Is it correct that these Ministers meet regularly, and is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the degree of harmonisation of administrative measures, as well as that of the signature and ratification of the conventions, to deal with this urgent problem?

Mr. Rees

There are various methods of co-operation between countries, particularly those within the EEC. I chaired a meeting earlier in the year when we talked about what should be done. A variety of panels—not Ministers—are discussing various aspects of this problem, and all the matters quite properly mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman are considered.

While this is basically necessary, any schemes that one has prepared must be sufficiently flexible to deal with those incidents which might not arise in the way that the exercises that we hold anticipate.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that he has the gratitude of most people in this country for making sure that members of the biggest terrorist organisation that the world has known for many years have been deported from the country?

Mr. Rees

One problem that arose is that two of the now three people arrived in this country before I knew of the publication of the book and that aspect of their visit.

From the information I now have, I believe that two arrived before I made the orders. One person has gone back, and another is shortly to go. The third who appeared is shortly to be on his way too.

Mr. Brittan

Does not the Home Secretary agree that there is likely to be continued anxiety over the case of Zohair Akache, who was deported from this country, then allowed to re-enter the country, was suspected of committing in broad daylight the murder of three prominent North Yemenis, was then able to leave the country again and is now suspected of being responsible for the hijacking which ended in Mogadishu?

Does not the Home Secretary agree that it is extraordinary that, after all this time has passed, it is still not possible for him to confirm or deny that this man Akache, who entered and left the country in those circumstances, is in fact none other than the Captain Mahmoud responsible for the Lufthansa hijacking?

Mr. Rees

If I were basing my information on the newspapers, and only on them, I would be able to confirm that. But it is not my business to confirm a story when the police do not have the basic information on which I can be absolutely sure.

On the other issue, what the hon. Gentleman says is right. I see in the newspapers from time to time that I am accused of being devious about it, but there is no clever stuff behind the events. The man came into the country and went out again. He was using a false passport and so on, and I have the details. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to say it, a mistake was made, but it certainly was not by design. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to run around all the time saying that an error was made—well, I have said it now, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied.