HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc272-4
7. Mr. Adley

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the situation in the Lebanon in particular and the Middle East in general relating to a solution to the problems of the Palestinians.

11. Mr. Marlow

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the Middle East with particular regard to the current military activity in the Lebanon.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The Government have been watching the continuing crisis in Lebanon with great concern. Unless the crisis is resolved peacefully, tension between Syria and Israel could have grave and damaging repercussions in the Middle East as a whole and even more widely. We remain in touch with the Government of Lebanon and others involved and urge all to be guided in their future actions by the fullest respect for Lebanon's integrity, sovereignty and independence.

A Middle East peace settlement ensuring a secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis would not only be a major contribution to regional stability but would also create one of the conditions for a return to normality in Lebanon.

Mr. Adley

Is it not a fact that the temperature seems to be being raised deliberately in the area at the moment by the Prime Minister of Israel, whose record of terrorism since the war is perhaps second to none? Will my right hon. Friend condemn this policy of Lebensraum in Lebanon and Jordan, and will he do everything he can to intensify the search for a solution to the Palestinian problem, without which there will never be peace in the Middle East?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not think that condemnations at this time would be helpful. We urge restraint on all sides and we deplore statements or actions that tend to raise the temperature. But, as my hon. Friend knows and as I have said already, we believe that the only way to get peace in this area is by a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian problem.

Mr. Marlow

Although I agree with my right hon. Friend's point of view in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), since over the last few years Lebanon has been subject to constant attack by land, sea and air from Israel and from Major Haddad, Israel's ally, since hundreds, if not thousands, of women and children, Lebanese and Palestinian, have been killed, and since also the Israelis have laid claim almost to the "Sudetenland" of southern Lebanon, south of the Litani, as being part of Eretz—"Greater Israel"—when does my right hon. Friend expect the Israelis to embark on the final solution of the Palestinian problem?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I agree that the position in South Lebanon has been serious for a number of years. A great many casualties have been caused by both sides. Obviously, any further interference in Lebanon, any further infringement of Lebanese sovereignty, is thoroughly undesirable and will only exacerbate an already very serious position.

Mr. Roy Hughes

With regard to the territories occupied by Israel, has the Minister's attention been drawn to the report issued yesterday by the International Labour Organisation, pointing out that many of these territories and their indigenous economic potential are being squeezed dry, and that the Israelis are doing nothing to enrol the Palestinian Arabs into their trade unions or to encourage them to form trade unions of their own? Does the Minister agree that this behaviour on the part of Israel hardly merits its title of the only democracy in the Middle East?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I am afraid that I have not seen the ILO report, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the attitude of the Government and of both sides of the House to the settlement policy of Israel, which is obviously very prejudicial to those living in the area and a distinct obstacle to peace. We have made our views on that matter very plain.

Mr. Russell Johnston

The Lord Privy Seal said that he had been having discussions with the Government of Lebanon. Have the Lebanese Government asked us specifically to do anything and, if so, what?

With regard to southern Lebanon, does the Lord Privy Seal think that strengthening the mandate of UNIFIL would be a positive measure?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I agree that everything should be done to strengthen UNIFIL. It is part of our policy and we have asked both sides to facilitate its operation. That is something that we could all wish. Our discussions with the Lebanese Government have been confidential, but I do not think that I would be letting anything out if I said that they have not asked us to do anything specific in the sense that the hon. Gentleman has asked.

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