HC Deb 13 June 1980 vol 986 cc1026-30
The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gil-mour)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about Anglo-Libyan relations. Hon. Members will have seen, in today's press a report of remarks by the head of the Libyan mission in London, Mr. Musa Kusa.

I called Mr. Kusa to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier today to tell him that in view of his remarks, his presence in this country is no longer in the interests of Anglo-Libyan relations, and I asked him to leave. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."]

In the statement that my hon. Friend made to the House on 12 May he emphasised our wish to maintain good relations with Libya. That remains our position, but we are making it clear that the Libyan authorities must understand what can and cannot be done under the law of the United Kingdom, and that criminal actions in the United Kingdom must cease.

Mr. Shore

I am sure that the Lord Privy Seal will know that his statement is wholeheartedly endorsed by the Opposition. It is probably right for me to recall precisely what Mr. Musa Kusa said, in order to reinforce the action that the right hon. Gentleman has announced. He is reported in The Times as saying that : The revolutionary committees have decided last night to kill two more people in the United Kingdom. I approve of this. Well, we do not approve of Mr. Musa Kusa. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has taken the action that he has announced.

I turn to the slightly longer-term problem in this regard. When the Minister made his statement in May—at the time of the withdrawal of the four members of the Libyan execution squad from Britain—I said that the apparent policy of the Libyan Government, threatening execution of their nationals in the territory of foreign countries, should be abandoned. In the confusion of statements that have emerged from Tripoli, I should like to know what the precise or declared policy of the Libyan Government now is.

Britain and many other countries have a serious and joint interest in preventing this kind of international lawlessness. In May, I said that this seemed to be a matter that ought to be taken up and that condemnation of the Libyan action in the United Nations and elsewhere should be sought. As I know that the Lord Privy Seal is still anxious for some kind of Euro-initiative in the Middle East I express the hope that the nine Government's meeting together at the highest level in Venice will have something jointly to say about how they wish to react to this Libyan lawlessness, which affects them all.

Sir. I. Gilmour

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks. As my hon. Friend said in the previous statement, we are in touch with our partners about this serious matter. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that there has been a confusion of statements. I cannot reliably tell him what the Libyan policy is. However, as he knows, we have made our views very clear.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call those hon. Members who have risen, but I remind them that we are taking time from the ordinary business.

Mr. Kershaw

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the exact diplomatic status of the Libyan mission? I understand that in some way the Libyans have refused to appoint people with diplomatic status. If they do not wish to have diplomatic status, why should they be granted the privileges that exist under that status? In particular, why should not we look into their luggage to see what is inside?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that we do not wish to exacerbate what is obviously a difficult situation. We granted the people's bureau diplomatic status, but I would not wish to comment any further than that today.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether there has been a single word of apology or regret from the Libyan Government following the action that Her Majesty's Government, in my view rightly, took against them previously for seeking to import on to the streets of this country their own form of shabby warfare, which hazards the lives of our own people? Will he also respond more positively to the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), that having regard to what has happened today the meeting in Venice should most certainly include this matter in its agenda? It is of direct consequence to our people.

Sir I. Gilmour

So far as I know, the answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is "No ". As to his second question, as he knows, the Venice meeting is in progress. There have been discussions, but I do not think it appropriate for me to send it orders or requests. We shall just have to see what happens.

Mr. Lawrence

Further to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), in the light of the action that my right hon. Friend has taken and bearing in mind that yesterday a consignment of cannabis was found to have been illegally imported, has not the time come to reconsider the traditional immunity that is granted to the diplomatic bag? Has not the time come when positive action must be taken by the Government in regard to searching these imports in order to protect not only British citizens but other citizens and nationals in this country who expect our protection?

Sir I. Gilmour

As to the seizure of cannabis, the Moroccan embassy has been in touch with us, but I am afraid that I cannot comment further at present. On my hon. Friend's more general point, he must realise that these matters are governed by international convention, and the important thing is to ensure that that convention is observed.

Mr. Palmer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the people of this country are amazed and shocked to know that it can be used as a place for cold-blooded murders at the instigation of a foreign Government? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that his reaction to these events is surprisingly mild?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am well aware of the reaction of the people of this country. It is the same as the reaction of this House and the Government. It is because we take the same view of the events that we have treated the matter in the way that we have.

Mr. Maclennan

While recognising the difficulty of obtaining any clear and categorical statement from the Government of Libya about their position, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman accepts that if our Government are not given a categorical assurance that the Libyans are prepared to uphold the provisions of the Vienna Convention the issue of their representation in this country at all must be called into question?

Sir I. Gilmour

I have made it clear that the declaring of Mr. Musa Kusa persona non grata is not a breaking of diplomatic relations. I certainly would not wish to lok forward to such an eventuality. As I said, this is a serious matter, but I do not want to exacerbate it in any way.

Mr. Speaker

We must now return to the debate.

Question again proposed. That his House do now adjourn.