HL Deb 24 May 1979 vol 400 cc484-6

11.15 a.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken in conjunction with other Governments to deal with terrorism.


My Lords, the Government will maintain and, indeed, strengthen the United Kingdom's support for international co-operation against terrorism, including hijacking. This cooperation, which covers both legal and practical measures, is continuing in the European Community, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and other international groupings, as well as bilaterally.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Will he be good enough to investigate once more the PLO, which has claimed responsibility, for example, for an incident in Nahariyya very recently in which a child of four was shot in the head and afterwards hit on the head, its skull being bashed in with the butt of a rifle? Will the noble Lord realise that in incidents of this kind the PLO is claiming responsibility and that it is an international gangster movement? Will he please investigate the position now and see to it that the PLO's office here is not maintained? The organisation is acting not only against Israel or any other country, but also against ourselves.


My Lords, the PLO is essentially a political organisation. Most of the terrorist acts that come to our notice are committed by organisations which are certainly affiliated to the PLO— not necessarily by the PLO itself. Of course we unreservedly condemn all terrorist acts, whether committed by the PLO, organisations affiliated to it, or anyone else. With regard to the question of the PLO office in London, I should say that any organisation is entitled to establish an office in London, provided that its subsequent activities do not conflict with British law. The PLO representative who has, I think, worked in the Arab League Office since 1971, has no diplomatic immunity or any other appropriate status, and we so far at least have no evidence of any unlawful activity by the PLO office here in London.


My Lords, has the noble Lord seen the report in this morning's Daily Mirror about the likelihood of General Amin investigating the possibility of placing atomic devices in at least six capitals in collusion with other terrorist organisations, and will the Government at some time make a Statement on this matter?


My Lords, I regret that I did not read that report in the Daily Mirror, but I shall look into the matter.


My Lords, can the Minister say whether any progress has been made in the last few months with regard to countries that harbour terrorists—I have in mind, for instance, Air Libya and other airlines or countries which are members of IATA—in such a way that IATA can say that the airlines of these countries are not allowed to land at "civilised" airports throughout the world?


My Lords, the noble Lord will probably recall that the Bonn Declaration produced a statement to that effect. As for IATA, I think that the most effective aviation forum for these matters is the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which I consider is dealing with the position rather effectively. On 4th October 1977 it passed a resolution which has yet to be ratified by all the members, but we hope that it will be in due course. With regard to the position in the United Kingdom, my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Trade and the Home Secretary have the necessary powers to take any measure which might seem appropriate under the Protection of Aircraft Act 1973 and the Policing of Airports Act 1974.


My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister would accept rather belatedly a little assistance from me in trying to explain the relationship between the terrorist group and the PLO. Would he accept that it is almost an exact replica of the relationship between the Stern Gang and the Hagarah when they blew up the King David Hotel, and when they hanged two British soldiers in an orange grove near Nathania, and then mined their bodies?


My Lords, I agree that it is sometimes rather difficult to draw distinctions, but I should say that the PLO has very often disclaimed responsibility and indeed has condemned a number of the terrorist acts which have taken place.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his answer. Are the Government aware that actions of the kind taken by my noble friend have resulted in entire misrepresentation of the situation so far as the incident at the King David Hotel is concerned, for example? I might direct my noble friend's attention to my reference to this matter the day before yesterday. Would he please understand that the PLO, with its affiliates, is a danger to the civilisation of the world; and that, in so far as our own country is concerned, the PLO office is, either itself or through affiliates, connected with those who are attacking our soldiers and forces in Ulster?

Several noble Lords

Speech, speech!


My Lords, that is rather a long supplementary question. I think I can answer it, though, in just a few words. We continue unreservedly to condemn all terrorist acts, whoever commits them, whether it be the PLO, affiliates to the PLO or some other body. The PLO office in London continues to comply with the law, and while it does so we cannot do anything about it—nor should we.