HL Deb 03 June 1981 vol 420 cc1221-2

2.47 p.m.

Lord Milverton

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 they will consider giving help to Lebanese Christians and give any assurances about their safety.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, her Majesty's Government regret the continuing violence in Lebanon and the tragic loss of life that has gone with it. We believe the British Government's role and that of other Governments should be to support the legitimate Government of Lebanon and not individual groups within the country. The Lebanese Government has been working for a reconciliation between the parties. This provides the best assurance for the security of the people of Lebanon, Christian and Moslem alike.

Lord Milverton

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his Answer, which perhaps affords some glimmer of hope. Will he agree that the Lebanese Christians will not become, as I believe they could become, the forgotten people or people whose existence could be overrun by we know who?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Government are anxious to adopt an even-handed attitude in this matter, and I can assure my noble friend that we are actively concerned to ensure that a solution is found.

Baroness Gaitskell

My Lords, would it not be true to say that the only people who have supported the Christians in Lebanon are the Jews in Israel?—and precious little sympathy they have had from us or from any of the other European countries.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, with respect to the noble Baroness, the situation is not as black and white as she suggests. Partisan observations do not help the situation.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Foreign Secretary has expressed his desire to effect a settlement in the Middle East? Can the noble Lord say whether the Foreign Secretary has made any effort to assist the Christians in the Middle East against sporadic attacks by Syrians and others? What is the Foreign Secretary doing about it? Is he just talking about it but not doing anything else?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend's concern to secure a settlement to the wider Middle East issue is of course well-known, but it will not be lost on your Lordships, I think, that the solution to the wider problems in the Middle East does not lie in the hands of my noble friend alone.

Lord Pargiter

My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether or not it would be desirable for the Syrian army to be withdrawn and a less partisan body put in charge of the peace negotiations and keeping the peace in that country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Syrian forces in the Lebanon are there under a mandate, I think, from the Arab League, and that would be a matter for them.