HC Deb 09 April 1986 vol 95 cc161-3
15. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make it his policy to consult his European counterparts to consider imposing sanctions including the suspension of air services on any country that harbours terrorists; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Before dealing with this question, Mr. Speaker, may I respond to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who obliterated the conclusion of our last question? I have not answered the second part of his quesion. It is not possible to say that the proceedings of the Commonwealth group will be determined or conditioned by the needs of the House, but certainly I shall try to bear the needs of the House in mind. The Commonwealth group will operate to achieve its own objectives.

So far as this question is concerned, our experience with economic sanctions has not persuaded us that they are likely to be an effective response to states which are alleged to be harbouring or sponsoring international terrorists. We shall continue to take all possible countermeasures, both nationally and in conjunction with other like-minded countries, to do everything that we can to deter and prevent terrorism.

Mrs. Short

I had hoped that the Secretary of State would be a little more forthcoming in his reply to my question. As the international airline pilots are holding their conference in London, will he send a message to that conference to let them know that Her Majesty's Government support their call for sanctions against countries such as Libya and Syria, for example, and that we shall ban flights to and from those countries as long as they continue their terrosist activities?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am certainly very much aware of the real interest of the airline pilots in the war against terrorism, including, in particular, airborne terrorism. But the measure suggested in the hon. Lady's question, the suspension of air services, is considered only in the context of states failing to observe the relevant international conventions on hijacking. Not only do we condemn terrorism, but we have taken measures, and will urge those measures wherever necessary, including a full exchange of information and intelligence on terrorists and the effective monitoring of the movement and actions of terrorists to ensure that they are in compliance with the law, and in cases such as Libya, as the House well knows, the conclusion of diplomatic relations, the prohibition of the export of defence equipment and, perhaps most important, the imposition of severe restrictions on Libyan immigration to Britain. We are certainly ready to press for the taking of the most appropriate range of measures as effectively as possible in that kind of case.

Mr. Churchill

In view of what my right hon. and learned Friend has just said about the steps already taken by Her Majesty's Government to prevent air piracy and international terrorism, does he not think that one contribution we could make to the cause of international air safety would be to give their marching orders to those Libyans at present employed at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, with airside security passes provided to them? What advice has his Department given to the Home Department in this regard?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend recognises the importance of the steps that we have already taken to impose severe restrictions on Libyan emigration to Britain. That control is exercised by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He has made his views on international terrorism very clear. He has made it equally clear that he is willing to act against those who seek to import violence, and he has the particular measures under constant review.