HL Deb 11 July 1974 vol 353 cc725-8

3.27 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 how many civilians—men, women and children—have been killed in the Lebanon by Israeli air action since the end of the last Arab-Israeli war.


My Lords, no official statistics are available, but according to Press reports approximately 150 civilians have died as a result of Israeli air action over Lebanon since the October war.


My Lords. is not this figure vastly in excess of the number of Israeli civilians who have been killed by Palestine action? Secondly, would I be right in thinking that if the South African Government were to take similar action against their guerrillas on camps and trans-border areas, Her Majesty's Government would be furious and would protest? Thirdly, if we were to do the same thing against the I.R.A. terrorists in Donegal, we would expect the wrath of the world to descend upon our heads. Consequently, how is it that the Israeli Government manage to "get away with it" while nobody else can?


My Lords, the last two sections of the noble Earl's question are so hypothetical that I will not attempt to deal with them. As to the first part of his question, any casualties so caused are in excess of what anybody would hope to have. In any case, we would do best to concentrate on present hopeful efforts to achieve a settlement in this area, and not to attempt an apportionment of blame.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that no nation would allow its school children to be slaughtered deliberately by brutal assassins without taking steps to prevent it? In view of the fact that Lebanon is harbouring these sub-humans and allowing them to be trained how to kill children, and incidentally using civilians as a screen, is it not time that we brought to the notice of Lebanon that she should stop allowing this harbouring, in the same way as we proposed at various international conferences that people who are terrorists should not be harboured by any nation in the world?


My Lords, we have made it repetitiously clear how strongly we deplore retaliation and what is deemed to have provoked retaliation, and to do so promptly, strongly and even-handedly. As to the allegations which the noble Lord has seen fit to make, I am sure that everybody will deplore very strongly these dreadful happenings; but once again it is necessary to try to avoid apportioning blame in a situation like this and to concentrate upon present efforts to achieve peace in this area.


My Lords, while we deplore greatly what has taken place, could the noble Lord say whether we have made any representations to the Lebanon with a view to trying to control the guerrillas who are there and who are committing these murderous assaults which lead to the loss of innocent lives on both sides of the border?


My Lords, our views are well known and, as I have said, they are made repetitiously clear to all those who are engaged in this kind of action. We shall continue to make our views known bilaterally and in the United Nations.


My Lords, are these questions from both sides of the House helpful in any way?


My Lords, everything which is said in your Lordships' House is helpful in some way or other! I would only suggest that, engaged as we all are in full support of the American Secretary of State's so far remarkably successful efforts to improve the situation in this very difficult area, it might be even more helpful to avoid apportioning blame.


My Lords, while deploring these dreadful things which take place on both sides, may I ask the Minister whether he could indicate to us what Her Majesty's Government are doing to support the efforts of the United States of America to bring about a conference which might lead to a solution to these problems?


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for what he has said; it is indeed helpful. As my noble friend knows, we are in a leading position to support the initiatives which are being taken now through the Geneva Conference. In fact, the Geneva Conference has deputed the American Secretary of State to seek an agreement. In due course the sum of those negotiations and their success will be brought back to the Conference, and I am quite sure that this country will make at least as great a contribution to their final promulgation as it has done in the past. As the noble Lord knows, we are active also in the United Nations, through the appropriate committees and agencies, in promoting a settlement. I hope that no noble Lord will place the entire onus of settling this very difficult problem upon this country.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether what he refers to as "the present efforts" include any assistance to the Government of the Lebanon to get rid of these formidable and unpleasant "no-go" areas which stretch right into the centre of Beirut where the Lebanese police writ does not run and where a great deal of this trouble, which we all deplore, is hatched?


My Lords, I am sure that we should be prepared to help any country in any way to contribute to a relaxation of tension. I am not aware that the Lebanon has made quite that proposal to us.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that Dr. Henry Kissinger is reputed to have said that the Israeli Government is more difficult to deal with and negotiate with than the North Vietnamese Government?


My Lords, I am not aware of anything of the kind. What I am aware of is that he has found a response from both the Israelis and the Arab States.