HC Deb 20 March 1989 vol 149 cc716-8
4. Mr. Alan W. Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received seeking the launch of a campaign regarding arson against second homes and English-owned property in Wales.

Mr. Peter Walker

Over the past year I have received eight letters from the public and outside organisations.

Mr. Williams

Did the Secretary of State notice that during January and February there were no arson attacks even though those are normally the peak months for the arson campaign? There were no attacks until after the Pontypridd by-election, but the arson campaign was resumed within hours of the declaration of the result. Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that Meibion Glyndwr has an acute sensitivity to the political diary of the Welsh nationalist party? I remind him that at the outset of the winter, in September 1988, 40 estate agents' properties were daubed with slogans and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) backed those incidents. Will the Secretary of State therefore treat any requests from the nationalist party for talks about the arsonists' campaign with extreme scepticism in view of the nationalists' duplicitous behaviour?

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. An allegation has been made against a colleague of mine. Those were totally scurrilous comments. Will you ask the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) to withdraw them?

Mr. Speaker

No. Every hon. Member must take responsibility for what he says in this Chamber.

Mr. Walker

In so far as such arson campaigns exist, I would not want to accuse any person or organisation of being involved unless I had evidence of that. I welcome the proclamation from all party leaders in Wales condemning such acts of violence.

I hope that we shall all place what is happening in perspective. The incidents over the weekend received a great deal of publicity in certain newspapers. Six devices were involved, none of which caused any serious damage, but they resulted in serious publicity. A person or persons telephoned the media to say that devices would be placed in certain estate agents. Such calls focus media attention on the acts and the people involved have gained considerable media coverage. All of that is against the wishes of the people of Wales. It is a great disadvantage being an English Secretary of State for Wales when it was rumoured in a newspaper today that the person who called the media had an English voice. Only someone hostile to Wales would do such a thing.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the bomb squad officers who successfully defused a bomb in my constituency on Saturday, which had been placed in the main high street where it could have killed and maimed people? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the vicious and nasty terrorist campaign is damaging the image of Wales in the United Kingdom and throughout the world? Does he also agree that we must do all that we can to catch the perpetrators as soon as possible'?

Mr. Walker

Yes, but the incidents must be put into perspective. The devices used at the weekend basically comprised a quartz battery operating ignition by a flash bulb connected to a bottle of petrol. The main motive of the person or persons responsible is publicity. I hope that those responsible will be quickly apprehended by the police.

Mr. Wigley

Will the House accept that, as a Member representing a constituency in which a napalm bomb was placed only a couple of weeks ago, in the village of Llanberis, I repudiate the small-minded remarks of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) and his poisoned chalice? I re-emphasise that all parties in Wales condemn without reservation the arson campaign which took place before, during and after the Pontypridd by-election, and which is worsening now. Will the Secretary of State confirm his support for all-party unity on an issue which should not be used for party political purposes? Will he also clarify his remarks in Llandudno on 7 March, when he suggested that only two people might be active in the campaign and that they might not even live in Wales?

Mr. Walker

Obviously, as the persons concerned have not been apprehended, I do not know the number involved or their identity. However, I know that the devices are similar, as are the voices of those concerned, and that the main motive is always publicity. The hon. Member speaks of napalm bombs and a worsening situation, but I do not agree that the planting of five devices of the kind that I have described in order to secure a great deal of publicity should be interpreted as a great national campaign. That is the reality of the scene.

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