HL Deb 03 March 1983 vol 439 cc1216-7

3.32 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

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 the interests of discouraging terrorism, they will decline to accept any person with a terrorist record as an ambassador of a foreign country.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office: (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, our policy is, and will continue to be, that each case is considered on its merits.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Government deserve congratulations on their robust handling of the affair of Mr. Lankin? Will he confirm that no one with a terrorist record, no matter what his nationality, should ever be accepted as ambassador, to this country.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord refers to the affair of Mr. Lankin. I must make it clear that the Israeli Government have not yet proposed to us the name of the new ambassador. A number of names have been mentioned in the press and I do not intend to speculate on any of them.

Baroness Gaitskell

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether would it not be true to say that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, need not worry about the man who is coming over here? We have terrorists now in this country who have mortally wounded the present Israeli ambassador, and that is what we should be dealing with.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, of course the attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador is something that is deeply deplored by Her Majesty's Government.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, may I ask two questions on this? First, ought not the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, be extended to this: Will the Government say that they will not admit to this country as ambassador, or in any other capacity, known terrorists and members of known terrorist organisations? Secondly, is it true, as reported in the Daily Telegraph today and, I think, in other papers, that Mrs. Thatcher, the Prime Minister, has intervened personally to prevent an ambassadorial appointment? If that is true, is the Minister aware that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, when he looked round his Cabinet and saw that there was obviously nobody who was fit to assume the duties of a Foreign Secretary, took the job himself? Since the lady has obviously come to the same conclusion about her colleagues, should she not follow his example?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, as regards the first question—that is, the noble Lord's idea that the original Question should be extended-I think I have already answered that in saying that our policy is, and will continue to be, that each case is considered on its merits. So far as the noble Lord's second question is concerned, I have also already answered that. The Israeli Government have not yet proposed to us the name of a new ambassador.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, does the Minister agree that successive Governments have also taken this lesson of history: that the enemies of one era can become the friends of a later period?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I take on board what the noble Lord has just said.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the Minister also appreciate that it is extraordinarily difficult for mothers and fathers alive today, whose sons were mutilated and slain, to accept that dictum very easily?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, we are getting a little wide of the original Question.