HC Deb 07 May 1986 vol 97 cc139-42
7. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will list those countries in respect of which Her Majesty's Government have evidence that they harbour or give assistance to terrorists or terrorist organisations.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It would be both misleading and unwise to publish a list as requested by the hon. and learned Member. Evidence frequently does not constitute proof, and much of it is, of course, of a very sensitive nature. The continuing campaign against terrorism requires careful evaluation of evidence of this kind.

Mr. Janner

As the Foreign Secretary has frequently said that there is both evidence and proof that Libya trains, recruits, harbours and assists terrorists, is it correct that Libyan planes are still permitted to land in this country, and if so, why?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Because there are still continuing air services between Libya and most other countries of western Europe. There is still a substantial British community in Libya, which is dependent to some extent on those services, including those coming from this country. Taking account of all the circumstances, we have not concluded that the point has yet been reached when that situation should be changed.

Mr. Michael Morris

While it may not be appropriate to publish a list, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is growing concern about the situation in Tamil Nadu, in particular over the succouring and training of terrorists in that state within the sovereign state of India? The result has been that three British nationals died last weekend in the bombing of Colombo airport, and we hear today that there are further terrorist activities in Colombo. Is it not time that we made strong representations to the Indian Government to stop that training in Tamil Nadu?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I do not know that one should necessarily reach the conclusion from which my hon. Friend starts his question, but clearly we are concerned with the continuing violence resulting from terrorist incidents within Sir Lanka and have discussed the matter with the Indian Government.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Are not those Governments who refuse to act by banning kidnap insurance assisting terrorism? Will the Foreign Secretary meet the Irish Foreign Minister to find out what happened over the incident of the Bell shipping lines executive who was stopped at Dublin airport with £300,000 in his suitcase and who was found to be working in conjunction with Control Risks Group Ltd., a London company? Will he find out what happened during that incident and why that money was being taken to the Republic of Ireland?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

If the facts as retailed to the House by the hon. Gentleman are correct, clearly they deserve interested attention, whether by the prosecuting authorities, by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, or by me. I shall draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friends.

Mr. David Atkinson

When my right hon. and learned Friend meets his Irish counterpart, will he ask him when he proposes to put to an end his country's counter-trade with Libya of food for arms for the IRA?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the Government of the Republic of Ireland are concerned with the supply of arms to the IRA.

Mr. John David Taylor

Is the Foreign Secretary satisfied with the progress towards the extradition of wanted Irish Republican terrorists from the United States of America?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That question has already been raised with my hon. Friend the Minister of State. It is an important question. I repeat that we have impressed upon the American Administration the importance attached by Her Majesty's Government to ratification of the treaty that is now before Congress and, with their help, are doing everything possible to impress that point upon Members of Congress.

Mr. Wilkinson

As state-sponsored terrorism is a belligerent act which affects the security of all democracies, not least those in western Europe, why have my right hon. and learned Friend and Her Majesty's Government, under the Brussels treaty, not responded, through the Western European Union, in a concerted way to this threat? Why have they responded so negatively to the proposal for a counter-terrorist task force, as proposed by the President of the Assembly of the WEU, Mr. Caro?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We discussed this matter with the President of the WEU Assembly at the WEU meeting in Venice last week and made plain to him the view of the WEU council that there is no need to establish a fresh international body such as the task force recommended by the Assembly, because there are more than enough agencies already at work that are involved in co-operation. However, at the WEU council meeting we underlined very strongly indeed the need for effective and early action by members of the WEU and the European Community along the lines already undertaken.

Dr. Godman

Surely there should be no partiality in the condemnation of the sponsorship of terrorism? Has the Foreign Secretary in recent times brought to the attention of Mr. Shultz the deep disquiet felt by many people in this country over American-sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That point has already been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in answer to a number of questions, but I make the distinction yet again that there is a total difference between those terrorist organisations that are dedicated to the infliction of indiscriminate damage on innocent people in third countries and the context in which Nicaraguan subjects are engaged within the frontiers of Nicaragua.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I accept my right hon. and learned Friend's view that there should not be a list, for the reasons that he has given to the House, but will he accept that his Department might do more to advise people in this country who are going to countries such as Sri Lanka of the dangers that they might encounter, bearing in mind the sad experience in Colombo at the end of last week? I point out to my right hon. and learned Friend that two of my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. James French, were in the plane that blew up, but, fortunately, they escaped serious injury.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. We extend advice about the dangers of travel to different parts of the world. In many cases, however, we cannot give specific advice about a specific hazard that is likely to arise. In addition, we underline the need for people who are about to travel to study closely the conditions in the countries to which they are going.

Mr. Healey

Which view does the Foreign Secretary share — that expressed yesterday by both President Reagan and Vice-President Bush, that Syria would be a suitable candidate for possible unilateral American military action, perhaps involving the use of sea-launched cruise missiles, that of Prime Minister Craxi, that further unilateral military action against a supposedly terrorist state would be in clear breach of the understanding reached in Tokyo, or that of Prime Minister Nakasone, that every country that was represented in Tokyo has the right to interpret the new communiqué as it wishes? What is left of the Prime Minister's great achievement in Tokyo after that?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

After that confusing question, it would be extremely interesting to know just which of the alternative propositions put by the right hon. Member is the one to which he attaches himself. Does he wish to see effective action against terrorism? The commitment entered into by the seven communiqué countries was a commitment on effective, collective international action, and not related to the prospect of military onslaught on any given country.

Mr. Sayeed

As Sinn Fein is the political wing of a proscribed terrorist organisation, why do we not put our own house in order and proscribe it as the Southern Irish do?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That question raises different considerations, although I understand the importance of them. One important point to be taken into account in this context is that conflicts that arise in Ireland and Northern Ireland take place in the context of a society with a fully representative democratic system.

Mr. Beith

Will the Foreign Secretary now answer the question about Syria? Does he recognise that it provides a haven for particularly ruthless terrorists, and if he does, does he advocate bombing or some other realistic and more promising means to deal with the terrorist threat from there?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The measures that we advocate, and to which the summit countries and Community countries are committed, are collective, effective international actions similar to those set out in detail in the communiqué from Tokyo and from the European Community. Whether those measures should be taken against any given state will depend upon whether there is plain proof of state involvement in terrorism, suitable to deserve the response suggested.

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