HL Deb 14 March 1973 vol 340 cc298-300

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the cruelly planned cold blooded murders committed by the "Black September" organisation at Khartoum, Munich and elsewhere, they will cause inquiries to be made as to which organisations or groups, directly or indirectly connected with the "Black September" movement, already have branches or are contemplating opening such branches in this country; and whether they will consider favourably the proposal of President Nixon that steps should be taken internationally without delay to deal with the dangerous escalation of terrorism.


My Lords, we are not aware of any organisations or groups like "Black September" which have branches in this country or which are at present considering opening such branches. Her Majesty's Government strongly support President Nixon's call for urgent international action to deal with the growing problem of terrorism.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for the second part of her reply, may I ask whether she is aware that the powerhouse of the terrible incident which occurred at Khartoum the other day was the Al Fatah movement, which has a branch in this country; and would she keep in mind that the Palestine Liberation Organisation is also connected and was referred to in so far as the atrocity that occurred in Khartoum was concerned? Will she see that these organisations are carefully watched, because if—as I believe to be the case and as the Sunday Times made very clear—the Al Fatah organisation which has diplomatic immunity in Khartoum, used that very office for the purpose of arranging this affair, is it not possible that this kind of thing is going on behind the scenes here and in other countries?


My Lords, we have made it very clear that we condemn the senseless act of terrorism in Khartoum; but, as F said in my original reply, we have no knowledge of any branch office of Al Fatah being set up in this country. I think the noble Lord will remember from an earlier Answer to a Question that there is nothing to prevent an office from being established, but that we have the power to expel an alien whom we have reason to believe is connected with any terrorist organisation.


My Lords, with the greatest respect, I hope the noble Baroness will forgive my asking a further question. We now know it as a fact that the Al Fatah was the movement which was the powerhouse of the whole incident, and it is known that the person concerned went back to Libya. Have we not to be extremely careful that nothing is being carried on here by groups who are attached to the Al Fatah movement and to the Palestine Liberation Organisation?


Yes, my Lords, but the noble Lord will understand that his Question relates to the situation in this country and not to the situation in the Sudan. As I said earlier, we have powers to deport any person whom we have reason to believe might be connected with a terrorist movement.


My Lords, while strongly supporting and welcoming the statement of the noble Baroness of the determination to suppress terrorism, could she indicate any possibility of defining the difference between terrorism and "freedom fighters". Is it not possible that the wrong term might be applied in the absence of an assurance that both terms are regarded as equally reprehensible?


My Lords, I think my noble friend, with great ingenuity, is referring once again to the Question he raised yesterday about the difference between a liberation movement and a terrorist organisation. We have sought at the United Nations, with our European partners, to put forward a resolution which condemned international terrorism and called for an International Law Commission to draft a Convention on measures to prevent terrorism. That draft resolution unfortunately never came to the vote.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness, with reference to her answer just now to the effect that if there was any reason to believe that any of these organisations or their members were acting illegally in this country action would be taken to expel them, whether the Government take an initiative in making inquiries, or do they wait for an incident?


No, my Lords, so far as possible very careful watch is kept in this country on anyone who is suspected of any such ulterior motive.