HC Deb 21 June 1984 vol 62 cc467-8
8. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Council of Europe Ministers of Justice in their study of international terrorism plan to seek to consult other involved countries, including the United States of America.

Mr. Brittan

The conduct of the study will be a matter for the Council of Europe, but I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will remind our colleagues in that organisation of our related initiatives, including the declaration at the London economic summit, to which the United States of America subscribed.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take note of the fact that international agreements, because of reciprocity problems, are becoming more and more difficult to achieve, not least in the reform of the Vienna convention? Will he accept that this is not the best news that I can give him, but these problems are coming more and more on to his desk? Will he comment on whether concerted national action that is internationally concerted with his colleagues in various countries is perhaps the best way of achieving progress, bearing in mind that action is expected?

Mr. Brittan

I agree that the process of agreeing changes in the Vienna convention is likely to be a difficult one. Progress might be made more effectively and rapidly by agreeing internationally on the application of unilateral national measures which are not inconsistent with the convention; for example, what is to be done if it is found that a diplomat has plainly acted in support of terrorism.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledge that there is little attraction for the United States of America in signing such an agreement when at least one of the countries in the EEC—the Republic of Ireland—has not yet ratified the convention on terrorism?

Mr. Brittan

I note what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Stanbrook

Has not my right hon. and learned Friend's belief in the sanctity of diplomatic immunity, expressed at the time of the siege of the Libyan embassy, been dented by the Foreign Office admission that it had, after all, the power to search Libyan diplomatic baggage?

Mr. Brittan

Not in the slightest. It is true that the Libyan Government entered a reservation with their signature to the convention in 1977 which would allow them, in certain circumstances, to have a bag opened, but they never operated that reservation. Such reservations are intensely undesirable, and that is why it has always been our practice to respect the inviolability of diplomatic bags in order to protect our own diplomatic bags.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Home Secretary expect European countries to take seriously our protestations of concern about international terrorism when for three years the Libyan Government proclaimed that they were using their premises in St. James' square as a base for terrorism and the British Government did nothing about it?

Mr. Brittan

The action of the British Government compared very favourably with that taken by other countries that I could name, where there were incidents of great gravity involving the grave abuse of diplomatic immunity by countries other than Libya. The hon. Gentleman has only to travel across Europe to find how wide and recognised a response there has been to the lead that this country is taking in securing international cooperation on terrorism.

Forward to