HL Deb 07 December 1981 vol 425 cc1240-51

5.39 p.m.

Lord Paget of Northampton rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the allegations that the Government of Libya is promoting assassinations outside Libya contained in the "Panorama" programme "Trading in Terror", broadcast on BBC on 23rd November.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the debate on the Queen's Speech I drew attention to the role of assassination in Moslem ideology and to the various sects throughout the whole history of the Moslem religion which had arisen as assassin sects—their rise, their influence and their eventual destruction. On 23rd November last, "Panorama" put on a programme in which they described in very great detail specific instances where Colonel Gaddafi was engaging and employing murder tutors to operate in camps which he provided to train assassins whom he was sending or who belonged to other terrorist organisations that he was supporting. I was not particularly interested in where those murder tutors came from. I think that with the security organisations of many great states on both sides, any state that went in for assassination would have little difficulty in recruiting tutors in the art of murder. I do not think it matters very much where they come from. What does matter is that here is a state officially instructing and officially using assassins for its purpose.

Libya claims to be a democracy. Like my friend Mr. Wedgwood Benn, Colonel Gaddafi claims to implement democracy in the most absolute way—through direct people's democracy. But at that point he goes further than my friend, because he draws the conclusion that this entitles him, as of right, to liquidate all Libyans who disagree with him. There have been leaders other than Gaddafi who have taken this view. But where he is exceptional is that he claims, as of right, to do his murdering in other people's countries without regard to their sovereign rights. That, I think, puts him in a very different class.

Since March 1980—that is, in the last 18 months, is it? —he has successfully murdered 12 people in Europe: in Italy, in Germany, in Greece and two in Britain. He has attempted to murder a number of others. He has murdered a large number in the Middle East, and those murdered in the Middle East have not by any means all been Libyans. Now he is said to have sent an assassination gang to America to murder President Reagan. I have no idea at all whether or not that is true. All one can say is that on his record it is not in the least improbable.

Apart from sending his assassins, he claims the right to support, train and arm terrorists of any terrorist organisation. Oddly enough, he does not seem to be in the least interested in the ideology of the terrorist organisations that he supports. For instance, in Italy he has trained and armed people of both the Red Brigade on the extreme Left and the neo-fascists on the extreme Right. There are Italians from both those wings under training to murder in his camps. In these camps you will find Japanese from the Red Army; you will find Germans from the BaaderMeinhof organisation; you will find IRA members from Ireland. Among his graduates are the murderers of Lord Mountbatten.

What are we to do about a state that behaves in this way? What are the powers to do? Our contribution so far seems to me to be quite extraordinary. Apparently, it is to set up another assassin state. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has announced his approval of the setting up of a PLO state. Let there be no doubt at all about this. The PLO is a classical assassination society. It accepts assassination as a means and a duty and its members take on and accept that duty. It has formed a territorial base in the Lebanon and it maintains autonomous armed camps from which it sends its assassin groups. It has permitted many, many more murders than Libya. Apart from 750 murdered in Israel and 3,500 maimed, in Europe over the last 12 years it has murdered 281 people, 85 per cent. of whom have been gentiles.

It is also running and maintaining in the Lebanon assassination training camps. Unlike Gaddafi, apparently it is interested in ideology, because it is training the extreme Rightists, neo-Nazis and Turks, and among their graduates is the man who attempted to assassinate the Pope. These are very dangerous people and they are the people with whom the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is proposing to negotiate. I find his reason interesting. He is doing it in search of peace. He says that he will go to Arafat and negotiate with him the pursuit of peace. What a weasel word is this "peace". Peace—it was the slogan of all the appeasers; Laval, Chamberlain, Petain—they all spelt "appeasement" with a "c"; they were all for peace. So did the American police chief the other day who was found to have negotiated with the gang leader a peace upon the basis that the gang leader agreed to confine his depredations to his neighbour's patch. He said that he did it for peace and quiet.

What is Peace? Peace is not the empty firmament; it is not a vague, floating abstract. Peace is a relationship—a relationship between human beings. It is a difficult relationship; it is an unnatural relationship and, above all, it is an unstable relationship. It can be maintained only by a resolute police force, and that applies both in the domestic and the international fields. But there is this difference between the two. Domestic law is based on subjection. Our laws are the obedience which we owe to our sovereign. That sovereign may be a king, a president or a committee. But it is based on the obedience of a subject to the sovereign.

However, in the international sphere there is no sovereign. International law is based upon agreement, and those agreements are based upon one fundamental agreement, which is that each will respect the sovereignty of the other. Those who reject that agreement, who proceed to challenge the other state's right to protect its citizens and to operate within its own territories, become outside the law and become international outlaws. We have seen instances of this. It is the case with pirate states. States which indulge in piracy, or which give shelter in their harbours or, indeed in their airfields to pirates are outside the law of nations. An instance was the Barbary pirates; Oliver Cromwell played a very prominent part in the suppression of those pirates.

Then there are the land pirates—people who raid into their neighbours' territories or give bases or support to those who do. The Mandists of the Sudan provided an instance where this happened, and we suppressed the Mandists. Again Amin in Uganda is the latest example of what one would call a "land pirate" state, going across and invading, and sending people to invade, neighbouring territories. Well, Tanzania destroyed the regime there, and sent her troops to do so. I do not think anybody in the international field doubted her right to do so. Assassin states again fall into this category, for they fundamentally reject the sovereignty of their neighbours. Such states are outlaws. They have no rights and no protection in international law. There is no legal inhibition as to what methods the powers may adopt against Libya.

Now France, it is very broadly rumoured, has gone for assassination. It is said that France has certainly planned to send assassins to see if they can get Colonel Gaddafi. I do not know the truth of this and it is certainly something that I would strongly disapprove of, partly because I think that it is quite wrong for a great power to accept the methods of such powers as these, but secondly for the reason that I think it would be quite futile. I base this really on a passage in Froissart when he was talking about the Crusades, where the assassin states were of course this very thing. He said: Neither the assassins pay tribute to the Knights of the Temple or of the Hospital. Nor do they pay tribute to the assassins, and it is for this reason, that each of them knows that if they succeeded their enemies would immediately appoint another to the command, and that therefore assassination of the leaders of these bodies would he but a waste of assassins".

I think that is broadly true with regard to Libya. Gaddafi would immediately be replaced. He might even be replaced by another Gaddafi who is at present occupied in an executive command of the murder squads. No, the only thing that civilisation can do with this sort of state is to disarm it. And the methods necessary to disarm them must be taken. Can we do it? Libya has a population about the size of Glasgow, and a good deal more primitive. She has a lot of arms. She has collected them rather like a child collects conkers, but a lot of conkers are not very much use because you can only man about one at a time, and that is much the same kind of difficulty that Libya is in.

Libya has 435 combat planes. A lot of them are very modern indeed. That is a big air force for this part of the world. It is two-thirds that of Israel. But what about pilots? There are Russians. But Russians in our experience have very strong instructions that they are not to take part in operational flying. They are there to teach. They had a number of Pakistanis. Most of them were Pakistanis at one point, but now Libya has quarrelled with Pakistan. We just do not know who are their pilots, or whether these planes take off. Then in support of them they have 5,000 air force personnel. That is their whole air force. It works out at about 12 to a plane. Israel has 50, and they are backed by an extraordinarily well-trained reserve. We have over 100. Again, they have very little in the way of airfields suitable for any war purpose. I do not think it would take the Fifth Fleet very long or very many strikes to carry out this most proper exercise in practical disarmament. I think we should encourage them to do so, and give them all support.

Again, so far as the Libyan army is concerned there is this plethora of modern armaments. There are 2,500 tanks. They are in the desert. A lot of them have been in the desert for a long time. A lot of them have not moved for a long time. We know all this. There has been some improvement of late months because they have taken to covering some of them with tarpaulins. But people who served in the desert know what happens to tanks left in those conditions.

We have also seen Libyan troops on their borders with Egypt, in Chad, in Uganda. They have been singularly unimpressive. Again we can see very little sign of the sort of infrastructure built up by a military country. This I think is particularly significant because Russia has obviously had no objection to supplying weapons for hard currency, but if she were in the least interested in Libya as a possible field where Russian troops might possibly be deployed she would have seen to it that there was an infrastructure to receive them. She has not. So therefore any idea of a Russian intervention in Libya I think is quite an imaginary bogy.

I believe that if, the air force having been dealt with, Egypt were prepared to accept the job of taking and administering these provinces, she would have minimum difficulty in moving in and assuming control. I believe that she is the most stable nation in the Middle East, but it would greatly add to the stability of that area if Libya, which is really an invented country dug up from the war—it never really existed as a country—were added to Egypt, carrying with it a good place for Egypt on the councils of OPEC. That makes a much better looking Middle East.

So far as the PLO is concerned, I believe that they must be disarmed. That is the only answer. At present they are being fed by UNWRA in their camps. International force, whether it be Western or general, must take over those camps, administer them, control them and keep them out of mischief. Then one could organise resettlement in countries where they are acceptable as citizens and where they would accept citizenship. Part of Israel may apply in that.

So far as Israel is concerned, she cannot leave the Jordan line. She could not be a stable state if she did. She could not be a defensible state if she did. The Jordan line is essential to Israel's security and stability, and you cannot have a stable Middle East without a secure and stable Israel.

Intervention. Against these assassins I think intervention is necessary, and one must face up to it. Of course it would be called imperalist and colonialist. I do not think we should worry unduly about that. More conservative elements in the Middle East are very scared at what they have seen happening all around them. The Middle East respects strength. Frankly, that is why they always got on so well with the Germans. The stability that would come from a resolute West that made it clear that it would take no nonsense would, I believe, after a very short time, be not unwelcome in the Middle East, which would be thankful for a stable situation which they have for so long lacked.

6.1 p.m.

The Marquess of Salisbury

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Paget, on that distinguished speech which was delivered with his customary skill. I agreed very much with the general tenor of his remarks. It has been a well worthwhile exercise on his part to raise this subject after the Panorama programme, which received such wide publicity, had raised the points with which he dealt. This subject has been raised many times before. There have been hints in various aspects of the media about it, but there had been no definite contribution to prove what had been going on until the Panorama programme was produced.

It appears, as the noble Lord pointed out, that there is a network of terrorism operating throughout the world. It seems to be a fairly loose network, because while there are interrelated factors and connected ones, there does not seem to be a centrally controlled operation, for not only are the terrorists' activities separate and operated in different directions and for different reasons, but there appears to be no link to tie them together. Notwithstanding that, there seems to be a thread running through the operations with a central organisation for training terrorists, recruiting operators and distributing arms and equipment and so on.

It appears—this was confirmed by Panorama—that the Libyans are centrally effective and may even be the kernel of the operation. What is not clear to the ordinary person like myself, who is dependent for the most part on what he reads in the newspapers, is who is involved and what exactly is going on. I propose therefore to put my remarks very much in the form of questions, in the hope that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will be able in some degree to provide answers.

For instance, how much inter-relationship is there between the IRA and the Libyans? The noble Lord, Lord Paget, drew attention to this aspect, but how far does it go? Is it the provision of arms, training and equipment, or is there even greater co-operation? Do they work together, for instance, in attacks on and murders of British diplomats abroad, attacks on our embassies and on our politicians at home? What relationship has there been with the Welsh Nationalists? I understand that before the referendum on possible independence there was some contact between the Welsh Nationalists and the Libyan authorities. I wonder whether that came to anything or indeed whether that relationship still continues.

There have been attacks on Arabs and dissident Libyans in this country without significant results in arresting them. Was the murder of the Bulgarian journalist by means of an umbrella part of one of these operations? I believe he was not the only person in that department of the BBC to meet a premature end. Are such activities controlled or assisted by Libyans operating here or further afield? These are questions which we should be asking ourselves in view of the information that has been afforded to us recently.

What contact is there, or known to exist, between Libya and Russia'? Perhaps it is of a limited kind with, say, the KGB or some other agency. There seems to be some relationship and, as the noble Lord pointed out, the Russians have provided a considerable amount of equipment to the Libyans. Does it go much further than that? We know that part of the overall strategy of the Russians is to cause the utmost disruption in the West, and terrorism is obviously an important arm in that sort of operation.

The noble Lord, Lord Paget, dealt with the Middle East, and he did so in a debate on foreign affairs on 10th November. From all he said, it would appear that there is a pattern to the policy of assassination. How much of it is by direct contact and how much by imitation, as a result of it being seen to succeed, I do not know, but in the uncertain state of the world, assassination is becoming a regular feature. It is worth noting that in the recent decade the West has thrown up three prominent and outstanding leaders—the Pope, President Reagan and President Sadat—and in each case an attempt, one successful, has been made to eliminate them. That must be to the advantage of the Eastern bloc, although on the face of it there is no direct relationship between the assassination and the Eastern bloc. It seems almost too much of a coincidence that these three great leaders should have been attacked. And it does not apply only to the leaders; as has been pointed out, a great many others, further down the scale, have suffered the same fate.

Have Her Majesty's Government any knowledge of these events, of whether there is co-ordination and whether it comes from Libya? If it does, surely some action is required to be taken to deal with it before the situation gets completely out of hand. We are, naturally, particularly interested in what happens in this country, and I would ask whether the Government have any information to substantiate the claim in the Panorama programme that the Libyan Embassy is used as the centre for these undercover operations, what I understand is known as a people's bureau. There have been suggestions that it is used as a staging post for terrorists, that it is a centre for monitoring or controlling the operations in this country. If so, we should take steps to ensure that it does not continue.

To conclude on a general note, until recently it was very rare indeed for criminals in this country to carry guns. Nowdays it is all too common. Not only guns, but explosives and other weapons, too. Our subject tonight covers only one facet of this law-lessness, but it is nevertheless an important one and in the ever-increasing state of law-lessness which exists in this country, it is one which threatens every law-abiding citizen, who is in danger either of attack or of being fortuitously involved in one of these terrorist operations. I suggest that this situation is totally unacceptable, and if it is true that any foreign embassy is acting as a centre for such operations, immediate steps should be taken to bring that situation to an end and, if necessary, it should be closed. I hope that we shall be able to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, when he replies, not only that the Government are fully alive to the situation, but that they intend to take the necessary steps to ensure that it does not continue.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, my name is not on the list of speakers, but I thought I ought to say a few words before the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, rises and I have given her notice that I intend to do so. I speak for the reason that I now feel that the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, is an extremely grave one, and one which we simply cannot push under the carpet. It must be considered at some stage, and therefore I feel that some words from these Benches would not come altogether amiss. I propose in any case to speak only for a minute or two.

I did not see the "Panorama" programme, but read the transcript of it in The Listener over the week-end. The evidence there of the installation by Colonel Gaddafi of a large centre for encouraging assassination all over the world is possibly acceptable, but depends, I think, on deserters from the CIA, and we ought to be very careful before we take it as being absolutely literally true, because such characters might be guilty of a certain exaggeration. However, whatever view we come to on the centre, there is no doubt that Colonel Gaddafi has been encouraging assassinations—the ones referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Paget—over the last 18 months, of Libyans to whom he objects in other countries. This is of course possible, and I do not know what, if anything, we can do about it.

If there is any truth in the idea that he has sent an assassination squad to America to murder the President, that is something so outrageous that one can hardly bear to think about it. He has, I believe, repudiated this allegation, and that is all to the good. But if an attempt were made on the life of the President, nobody knows what would happen. The situation, now grave, would become even graver.

I believe that if the whole matter has not been discussed in the European Economic Community it should be so discussed in that body and subsequently no doubt in NATO. I do not know whether any action is possible, but, if it were to be taken, obviously it would have to be taken multilaterally by a number of states acting together. The noble Lord, Lord Paget, referred to the suppression of the Barbary Coast pirates in the 17th century. That was perfectly true, and, so far as I remember, Admiral Blake, acting on the instructions of Cromwell, went and suppressed a nest of these pirates, with a good result for a period of years. But, my Lords, we are not living in the 17th century, and I doubt whether we now have that independence in our foreign policy from which we were able to benefit some 300 years ago.

I repeat: I am sure that the Government are taking this matter extremely seriously and I hope that they will give us some assurance that not only Colonel Gaddafi but also terrorism generally, which has been referred to by the noble Marquess and by the noble Lord, Lord Paget—indeed the whole question of how to cope with terrorism all over the world—will soon be the subject of intensive discussion in the European Community, and, I suggest, NATO, too.

6.14 p.m.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, I wonder whether I may intervene for just one minute, and I shall restrict myself to what I actually saw, or thought I saw, in the programme. It caused considerable disquiet, but to my mind, at any rate, the disquiet was not limited to the allegations about Libya itself. The position of some members of the CIA was ambiguous, to put it mildly. No doubt these matters will he ventilated in the law suits which I understand are now proceeding in the United States of America.

I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply a question. There was a suggestion of some connivance or co-operation in related activities in the United Kingdom between CIA members—some retired and some conceivably not retired—and official British agents. That is the impression that was given in the programme, and I give the noble Lord who is to reply the opportunity of saying that there is absolutely no foundation in that suggestion.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Paget of Northampton, of whom, if I may say so, the House is very fond—and I hope he will not think me presumptuous—is highly intelligent, and, I am sure, a man of temperate habits, but he does, occasionally, use very intemperate language. My noble friend tonight referred to what he had said in the debate on the Queen's Speech, and I think that I must say at once that no one on this side of the House could possibly agree with my noble friend's recommendation that the only way to deal with people like Colonel Gaddafi is, as he suggested, "to exterminate them". We cannot agree with that kind of thinking or argument.

My noble friend has made a very powerful and indeed far-ranging speech, but his Question is to ask for a statement from the Government about the "Panorama" programme "Trading in Terror". Those of us who saw the programme, or who have read the transcript, found every aspect of it profoundly alarming and indeed revolting, and we very much look forward to hearing how the noble Lord the Minister will reply.

I do not myself propose to make a speech about the Middle East. Despite what some noble Lords have said, I think that it is improper to do so under the terms of this Unstarred Question. But the supreme irony of the situation, as we see it, is that Colonel Gaddafi, an extreme Islamic leader, has been able to purchase vast quantities of Soviet arms, as my noble friend has said—and very sophisticated arms at that—mainly through the sale of oil to the West. So some of those arms, which the whole House was horrified to hear might be used against President Reagan, might well have been paid for by the West.

In this connection, I know that many noble friends on this side of the House are disturbed by the action of the Midland Bank in giving a loan of £2,300,000 to Colonel Gaddafi, without apparently any stipulation as to its use, at such a disturbed and disturbing time. And for the bank's spokesman to say, Politics have nothing to do with it—it was a purely commercial decision", seems at best naive. It is not only the Americans and the West generally who are alarmed. As the London Times said last month, many African States are also alarmed by the 5,000-strong so-called "Pan African Legion" composed of political exiles from black African countries currently being trained in terrorism in the Libyan camps.

It seems to us on these Benches that, with all the potential dangers rife in the Middle East and their serious implications for world peace, everyone concerned should try to treat this situation with wisdom and restraint. The indignation, and indeed fury. of the United States' reaction to potential threats against their President and their Administration are wholly understandable. But we on this side would deprecate the two suggestions which we read in the Daily Telegraph this morning of how to react—they were quoted from an American paper. Talk of a blockade of Libyan food imports or, worse still, a United States air strike against the Libyan camps is not helpful. Despite what my noble friend has said, and here I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, the only way to cope with terrorism is by international consultation and, if possible, action.

I do not want to say more. The problems of many Middle Eastern countries are economic, rather than military. The world should concentrate on getting adequate aid to countries such as Egypt and Sudan, rather than supplying them with vast packages of arms—and there I agree with my noble friend. We hope that the Government will urge on the United Nations and the United States, and will indeed follow the advice themselves, that the IMF and other world agencies should be geared in this direction. At present the IMF mainly offers loans under conditions of such draconian austerity that they contribute to the poverty and inevitable unrest in the poorer countries in this volatile and dangerous area of the world. It is that situation which exacerbates violence and breeds support which, notwithstanding the incredibly complex political problems, could otherwise be turned into peaceful directions.

6.21 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is, unhappily, the case that relations between the United Kingdom and Libya have not always been smooth. As recently as May and June of last year Her Majesty's Government were obliged to take certain steps with regard to a number of Libyan diplomats in London. This was made necessary because the activities of the gentlemen concerned were incompatible with their status as diplo mats. Indeed, I repeated two Statements in your Lordships' House at the time which related to these events. I will not recount the details of what occurred, but your Lordships will recall that we successfully sought the withdrawal of four Libyan officials early in May, and we expelled the then head of their mission in London in the following month.

I cannot say that since then our relations have become entirely normal. However, it is possible to point to a constructive dialogue with the Libyan Government which I believe bodes well for the future. The present Libyan mission in London is called a People's Bureau, and we accord to the head of it the status of Chargé d' Affaires. We understand that this meets the wishes of the Libyan authorities. Our own mission in Tripoli is of course an embassy in the normal sense, and is staffed to an appropriate level. Our ambassador, Mr. Edes, is accredited in the normal way.

I think your Lordships may find it useful if I now outline the present policies of Her Majesty's Government towards Libya. I have just referred to the problems we encountered after the events of last year, when two Libyans were killed in London. We made it clear to the Libyan authorities at the time that we wished to maintain good relations with Libya but that our relations could not improve unless the campaign of harassment ended immediately. We have since sought, and received, assurances at a high level that there will be no repetition of the events of last year.

We have long been a major trading partner of Libya. We take little Libyan oil, and the trade balance is therefore well in our favour. The Libyan market holds out major opportunities, and we know that the Libyans are keen that more British firms should tender for work in Libya. We have in the past few weeks received as an official guest in Britain the Libyan Secretary for Heavy Industry, Mr. Omar Muntasir, who held talks with British Ministers and officials and visited a number of British firms. We hope that our relations will develop in such a way as to make further such exchanges possible.

I turn now to the "Parorama" programme which the noble Lord has referred to in his Question and, indeed, in his speech tonight; and his concern has been echoed by other noble Lords and the noble Baroness. Her Majesty's Government are not, of course, responsible for the programme, nor its content. Allegations concerning contraventions of United States law are for the authorities of that country, and not for me. However, I should like to make it clear that I know of no evidence that British law has been broken as described. If BBC officials and others concerned with that programme have such evidence, doubtless they will bring it to the attention of the police. Suggestions that the British authorities were turning a blind eye to illegal activities are, of course, without foundation.

Equally, I reject the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that there is some sort of collusion between the British security services and Messrs. Wilson and Terpil (I think their names are) who were referred to in the programme.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, will the noble Lord make it clear that the suggestion was not mine? It was in the programme to which I referred.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I accept that that was a possible interpretation of some of the items in the programme, and, of course, I equally reject it on that basis. I want to turn now to some of the other points made during the course of discussions this evening. First, my noble friend Lord Salisbury asked in particular about the crimes that took place in this country in the early part of 1980. I earlier reminded your Lordships of the Statements I made in May and June 1980 about the action that the Government took at that time, but your Lordships may recall that since then three people have been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for these crimes.

Since then we have lost no opportunity to make clear to the Libyan authorities at every level available to us that it is an absolute condition for the development of our relations that there should be no repetition of these climes. We have insisted that relations can develop only where there is mutual respect for the sovereignty and law of the other party. The Libyans have told us that they understand the damage done to their own interests by events in the past, and they have given us assurances that there will be no repetition of them in the future. Naturally, we have paid great attention to these assurances and to Libyan actions since they were given, and I am certain that the Libyans are under no misapprehension about our position.

My noble friend also referred to the possible connection between the forces in Libya and the murderers of the late Lord Mountbatten. We have no reason to believe that members of the IRA, for example, arc being trained in Libya; neither do we have any evidence to connect Libya with the murder of the late Lord Mountbatten, or with attacks on British politicians or British embassies. We know of no evidence to connect Libya with Welsh Nationalists; nor with the death in London of the Bulgarian broadcaster, to whom my noble friend also referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Paget, suggested some fairly forthright proposals in connection with the destruction of the Libyan forces. I think his proposals were really aimed at the Americans, but may I say this? Although we do not agree with Libyan policies we must accept that Libya is a sovereign state, and we respect her right to self-determination. We would naturally reject any suggestion that force might be used against Libya.

As to the connection between Libya and the USSR, it is a well-known fact, as more than one noble Lord, I think, has suggested this evening, that Libya buys most of her arms from the Soviet Union, and the relationship appears to satisfy both of them. The Libyans have access to Soviet weapons and the Russians presumably gain much needed hard currency. But there is little evidence to suggest, although foreign policy objectives of Colonel Gaddafi and Moscow may sometimes coincide, that either side is interested in a closer political relationship. Nor is there evidence of Libyan involvement in President Sadat's death. Although Libyans have always made known their opposition to Camp David and welcomed Sadat's death, nonetheless relations between Libya and Egypt, although tense after Sadat's death, appear to have improved a hit since.

I think my noble friend Lord Salisbury referred to the possibility of the People's Bureau as a centre of terrorism. I should say that we have been given assurances by the Libyans that there will be no repetition of the terrorist acts in the United Kingdom and we have accepted those assurances. We do not, of course, agree with all the policies followed by the Libyan Government. This is true of many Governments with whom we have relations. But our relations are such with Libya that we are able to speak frankly when we disagree with their policies or activities, and we shall continue to do so. As I have made clear, we made known last year our opposition to the Libyan involvement in Chad, and we have been pleased to see in recent weeks that the Libyan Government have acceded to a request by the transitional Chadian Government that their troops be withdrawn. This move has also been welcomed by the Organisation of African Unity, who are organising a peace-keeping force to replace the Libyans.

My Lords, we do not believe that the way to make our views known would be to boycott or isolate Libya. We believe it to be more effective to encourage the Libyans to adopt acceptable policies by maintaining a dialogue with the Libyan Government and trying to develop as near normal relations as possible.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

My Lords, one can understand about keeping open channels of communication; but is it necessary at this juncture for our banks to donate to Libya some £2¼ million—money which is badly needed for investment in industry here?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is a specific matter for the Midland Bank and I suggest that inquiries should be addressed to them. The Government have no particular control over the Midland Bank or any other bank.

My Lords, I cannot pretend that everything is as we would wish it in our relations with Libya. But I hope I have made it clear that while we must, and shall, ensure that foreign diplomats working here shall do so in accordance with our laws and, we hope, proper norms of civilised behaviour, we none the less seek the best relations we can having regard to all the circumstances. So far as Libya is concerned, we have noted and accepted the recent assurances to which I have referred, but we look to the authorities in that country to ensure that those assurances remain valid. Provided this is done, we may look to an improvement in Anglo-Libyan relations in the future with reasonable hope and confidence.