HL Deb 21 October 1981 vol 424 cc754-6

2.45 p.m.

Lord Barnby

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 press reports that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs hopes, during his term as President of the Council of EEC Ministers, to meet the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, they can state or ascertain the source of the funds used by that organisation in their operations.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Palestine Liberation Organisation obviously derive their funds from a number of sources but we have no precise information on the proportion which each contributes.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, that Answer appears inconclusive. Is it not similarly the case that SWAPO is in unchallenged receipt of Russian support in its aim to develop disruption against the Republic of South Africa? Can it really be rewarding to Britain to support the bogus statehood represented by these two Marxist-funded organisations?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, occasionally these organisations declare the source of some of their funds but it is rare that any of them will admit that they get all their funds from one particular source, less still that they would announce what that source was, and I am not certain that my noble friend does not over-simplify some of the arguments.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that the probability is that the Palestine Liberation Organisation look upon themselves as something similar, say, to the Free French or the Free Dutch in this country in the last war and that inevitably they will get some form of financial support? And is it not equally distressing that on the other side there are rumours, in the British press at. least, that the occupants of the settlements that the Palestinians say are their lands are also being helped financially? Would it not be right for this House to acknowledge that the British Foreign Secretary, in meeting the PLO and anyone else involved, is only trying to take out the bitterness and the hatred so that young children and perhaps even those as yet unborn will not grow up to hate and fight one another? Is not the Foreign Secretary, in following Winston Churchill's dictum that "Jaw jaw is better than war war", contributing to a civilised solution?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind words about my noble friend the Foreign Secretary and I would certainly agree with the last part of his supplementary.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, will the noble Lord reaffirm that the Foreign Secretary will not meet the PLO until that organisation recognises the existence of Israel with inviolable frontiers?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, certainly while the PLO retain their present position about the existence of Israel, meetings between them and British Ministers will be difficult.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that the leader of the PLO has recently, explicitly and publicly, endorsed the proposal for a peaceful settlement put forward by the Government of Saudi Arabia which involves, among other things, the right of all countries in the region, including Israel, to live in peace? Will he agree that this is an important and hopeful development and that the leader of the PLO should be encouraged in the line he is taking?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not certain that the PLO was quite as receptive to Prince Fahd's eight points as the noble Lord suggests. Certainly I have not yet heard the PLO say in public that they accept the right of Israel to exist.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the conduct of foreign policy by assassination is no new thing in the Middle East, nor is this the first time that we have been asked to enter into diplomatic communication with the assassins? Is he aware that in 1193 King Richard of England was invited by Philip of France to send a delegation to the King of the Assassins whom the crusaders knew as "the old man of the mountains" and that he refused to do so because he considered it to be contrary to the honour of a knight, and can he ask his noble friend to take a similarly scrupulous attitude, so far as we are concerned, to organised assassinations?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I cannot answer for his late Majesty King Richard I, but as for my noble friend I can say that I believe he would be willing to meet Mr. Arafat if it was clear that to do so would move forward the peace process.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, does the fact that we did not send a British delegation to the funeral of General Moshe Dayan last Sunday, but only an embassy official and not even a Minister of this Government, indicate that there is now a pro-Arab policy at Whitehall?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, indeed not. We would very much have liked to send a Minister to Mr. Dayan's funeral, but the administrative arrangements could not be made in the very short time available.

Lord Hankey

My Lords, is it not, however, in fact the case that until someone talks to the Palestinians we shall not succeed in getting a satisfactory settlement in the region of Israel and the West Bank?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I think there is a good deal in what the noble Lord says. The PLO undoubtedly represent an important sector of Palestinian opinion, and it is inconceivable, I think, that we can achieve a lasting settlement without taking their position into account.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, since it is the repeated policy of Her Majesty's Government to aim at negotiation rather than violence, and since both these organisations appear dedicated to violence rather than negotiation, is it not regrettable that they are both in receipt of support from Marxist sources?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord clearly has other sources of information than those that I have. I was not able to give a detailed account of the sources of funds of the PLO, and of course the other organisation to which my noble friend refers, SWAPO, is not part of the Question on the Order Paper. But certainly I think we need to take a broad view of these matters. If we dismiss the PLO as being of no account, no settlement will be reached.