HC Deb 18 February 1987 vol 110 c902
6. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the current state of the United Kingdom's relations with Italy.

Mr. Eggar

Anglo-Italian relations are excellent. The summit meeting in London on 11 February was constructive and friendly. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on that occasion that President Cossiga has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to visit this country from 17 to 20 November 1987.

Mr. Janner

On that occasion, were there discussions between Her Majesty's Government and the representatives of the Italian Government about the apparent differences in the ways in which Italy and the United Kingdom deal with terrorists? In particular, were there any discussions and, if so, what was their result, about the reported release of a terrorist called Hindawi, who is the brother of the terrorist who is in prison in this country?

Mr. Eggar

There was a re-affirmation of the commitment to the anti-terrorist measures agreed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by Signor Craxi at the summit. There is effective multilateral and bilateral co-operation with Italy on terrorism.

Turning to the hon. Gentleman's specific question about Mr. Hindawi, we understand that he was released from prison at the end of January because of a lack of evidence to substantiate the charge against him of membership of an armed band. He is currently on bail pending the consideration of evidence against him relating to lesser charges that include the possession of explosives. It is not known when or whether charges will be brought against him.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that while it is of the highest importance to be on good terms with Italy, it is also necessary to be vigilant about the unfair import penetration from that country, and necessary to stiffen the resolve of the European Commission to police it?

Mr. Eggar

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

When the Minister meets the Italian representatives he may notice their jauntiness, especially regarding the state of their economy in relation to Britain's. If he asked for a look at the books he would discover that Italy's foreign convertible currency reserves are greater than Britain's after seven years of Thatcherism, and that the lira is stronger than the pound on the forward exchange markets. Does that not say more about Britain's policy, economic and foreign, than almost anything else?

Mr. Eggar

No, it shows the hon. Gentleman's fundamental misunderstanding of economic statistics.

Mr. Skinner

It is all in the Financial Times.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The House will be interested to hear about the wide range of the hon. Gentleman's reading.