HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc216-20 3.49 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement.

I regret to have to inform the House that two bombs have exploded in London today. At 10.43 this morning in Hyde Park a bomb concealed in a car exploded as a mounted squadron of The Queen's Household Cavalry were passing on their way to guard duty. The latest information I have is that three soldiers were killed and a further number were injured, two of them very seriously. The explosion was large and created damage over a significant area. In all 22 people, including soldiers, were taken in ambulances to three hospitals. I understand that some more people were injured but not seriously enough to require hospital treatment. Several horses were killed directly or have had to be destroyed.

Just before 1 pm a further bomb exploded under the bandstand south of the zoo in Regent's Park. The band of the Royal Green Jackets was playing at the time. The latest information I have is that six people were killed and 25 injured.

I understand that the Provisional IRA has, in a telephone call to the BBC in Belfast, admitted responsibility for the explosion in Hyde Park.

I know that I can speak for the whole House in expressing the deepest sympathy for the relatives of the victims of these despicable attacks.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

May I first express, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, our abomination of what has occurred, our sympathy with the injured and our condolences to the relatives of the dead.

Secondly, will the Home Secretary do all that is in his power to ensure the greatest possible vigilance throughout the summer? Bombs planted in a public street and under a holiday bandstand are indiscriminate and loathsome outrages, and I fear that the nation must prepare itself for further such enormities.

Finally, may I say on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends that we are absolutely determined that such murderous mayhem shall not succeed. Our hope is that the perpetrators of these acts will be speedily brought to justice. It is our strong belief that they will be rightly condemned by all the people of this country.

Mr. Whitelaw

I strongly endorse everything that the right hon. Gentleman said, and I am extremely grateful to him for saying that on behalf of the Opposition.

I am grateful also to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for what he said at the beginning of Prime Minister's questions. There can be no doubt about the utter determination of the House to stand against attacks of this sort. To show evidence to those who perpetrate them that that is what we are doing is one of the most important actions that we in this House can take.

On the second point made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), vigilance is absolutely crucial. The police will do everything that they can to encourage that vigilance and to bring the perpetrators of those acts to justice at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

Will the Government give particular attention to the double pattern of these almost simultaneous outrages? They recall, for example, the almost simultaneous murder of Lord Mountbatten and the murder of 18 soldiers at Warrenpoint. There was also the simultaneous murder of Robert Bradford and the attempt on the life of the Attorney-General. Will the Government recognise that this is evidence not merely of deliberate and expert preparation but also of a calculated political intention?

Mr. Whitelaw

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He will be the first to appreciate that I support his sentiments from my own personal experience. I hope everyone will note his words and note what we all must do in response to those actions.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Spelthorne)

Will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts—and get his Cabinet colleagues to redouble their efforts, too—to get across to the IRA that, however horrified and shocked we and the country are by the events just reported to the House, the only outcome of these events will be to reinforce the determination of people in all parts of the United Kingdom that the political aims of the IRA will never be achieved by murder and mutilation? Will he also ask the Foreign Secretary to remind the Republic of Ireland Government that the publicly declared aims of the IRA are to destroy by force the Republic of Ireland Government as well as the Northern Ireland Government?

Mr. Whitelaw

I shall certainly make sure that my right hon. Friend's remarks are passed to those of my colleagues who are particularly concerned, and to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who is sitting beside me now. He will certainly take note of what my right hon. Friend said.

Perhaps I should say, as I have never had the opportunity of doing so previously, that what my right hon. Friend said comes very well from him as someone who stood up with marked success in Northern Ireland against many pressures. I do not believe that he has received the encouragement and support that he deserves for what he did then.

Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)

May I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the expressions of sympathy to the victims and their families. I share the repugnance at these dreadful outrages expressed by other right hon. Members.

May I also, having been close to similar instances as the right hon. Gentleman is now, endorse his determination that we should never give way to these murderous threats. I am confident in his ability, in very difficult circumstances, to provide us with the best possible protection.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. His remarks, coming from one of my predecessors in what is at times a somewhat difficult office, are very encouraging, and I thank him.

Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

Did the security services receive any warning that the IRA was again about to start a campaign this side of the water? Will my right hon. Friend agree that his remarks earlier this year on the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 were entirely justified?

Mr. Whitelaw

On the latter point, I am wholly convinced that the remarks I made about the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act were entirely supported and entirely correct. I am grateful for the widespread support that I have received from both sides of the House for the proposals. It would be unwise for me to comment further on my hon. Friend's first point.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been standing up.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

I was in close proximity to the explosion in Hyde Park this morning. I pay tribute to the police, fire brigade and ambulance services who were at the scene at an early stage. Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that although the House may be divided on many issues, it condemns these vicious political crimes that do no good, even to those who might have a cause and might feel an injustice. In fact, they are counter-productive.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's final comments and fully endorse them. As regards his first point, I am indeed thankful that he has paid that tribute, from what he saw on the spot, to those services—the police, fire and ambulance services. Theirs has been a particularly difficult time. It has been a difficult task for them to assemble all the information that I have been able to give to the House. I hope that it is as accurate as it could possibly be at this time.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I echo the sentiments expressed to the injured and the relatives. May I remind my right hon. Friend that it is ironic that the Blues and Royals returned last week from the Falkland Islands after fighting a series of brilliant actions without one casualty only to find that their comrades, riding on ceremonial duty in London suffered appalling casualties from a terrorist. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that every effort is made to ensure that the terrorism does not continue?

Mr. Whitelaw

Loss of life is a tragedy wherever it occurs. I am sure the whole House will agree with that. Everything possible has been done to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Do not these atrocities bring us closer to our fellow subjects in Northern Ireland who suffer such outrages day by day? Will they not serve to strengthen the determination of Government and nation not to be deterred or deflected from the maintenance of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom against all its enemies, within and without?

Mr. Whitelaw

It would be a good thing if that message could be brought home to all those concerned in the way that my hon. Friend has delivered it. I entirely endorse all that he said.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that these foul and cowardly murders should be well publicised in the United States so that Irish Americans in particular can understand and appreciate that such atrocities have nothing in common with trying to unite Ireland by persuasion and consent?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those remarks. We do not always agree, but on this occasion we certainly do. I hope that many hon. Members, as well as many people in the country, will seek to get that message across. It is one of the most difficult of all messages to get across to the people concerned who sometimes appear to be wholly deaf to the obvious facts.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that during the dreadful bomb outrages in Birmingham, when 23 people were killed, I saw the carnage within a few hours of it happening? Does he also recall that the people responsible were caught because the Irish population, which lived in our midst and had our protection, played its proper part and laid evidence against those dreadful people? As a result, they were caught and properly sentenced. Should we not appeal to those people who have our protection and who enjoy our way of life to play their part and to ensure that this tyranny is not allowed to prosper?

Mr. Whitelaw

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the Birmingham incident, about which the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) is well aware. What my hon. Friend said was true then, and I hope that it will be equally true on this occasion.

Mr. William Pitt (Croydon, North-West)

I associate myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Liberal Bench with the expressions of sympathy to the relatives of the victims of this cowardly barbarism. I assure the Home Secretary of our support in all his efforts to bring these cowardly, barbarous terrorists to justice and, eventually, to remove the scourge of the IRA from the United Kingdom.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

If there is any evidence that the IRA are seeking to take advantage of other security difficulties and the problems of the police service in London at present, will my right hon. Friend give an absolute assurance that it cannot and will not succeed? Will he also redouble the Government's efforts to improve co-operation with the Irish Republic in their effort to combat the IRA, and will he state clearly to the country that those hon. Members who either voted against or refused to support the Prevention of Terrorism Act have given aid and comfort to the enemies of this nation?

Hon. Members


Mr. Whitelaw

I shall most certainly do what my hon. Friend has suggested in his main points. As to his last point, I do not wish to see any division in the House at this difficult time. I understand that some hon. Members decided with the best of intentions to vote against the Prevention of Terrorism Act. At the time I made it clear that I thought they were gravely mistaken. I said then that I thought we would encounter the kind of troubles that we are now facing. Nevertheless, those hon. Members have their rights and must examine whether they were right on that occasion. It is not for me to pronounce on their actions.

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