HL Deb 09 December 1985 vol 469 cc4-7

2.46 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what their strategy is for dealing with international terrorism.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Stale, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the Government's strategy is to promote an acceptance among like-minded countries that we have a common interest in fighting terrorism; to create an international climate in which state-supported terrorism and the abuse of diplomatic immunity are unacceptable; to ensure that it is difficult for terrorists to operate, that no substantive concessions are made to their demands, and that they are apprehended and brought to justice; to ensure that effective measures are taken to prevent hijacking; and to promote full co-operation and exchange of information and intelligence among friendly countries.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that very informative Answer. Does my noble friend agree that, in order to combat the present problem and the threats to innocent communities, it is essential that closer links be maintained with other friendly countries?

Lord Glenarthur

Yes, my Lords, I think that my noble friend is quite right. International terrorism is terrorism which affects more than one country. Close co-operation is essential if we are to deal with it effectively.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I should further like to ask my noble friend whether there are instructions given to those of us in this country if we get into our houses people who appear to be suspicious, making long-distance international calls and apparently taking down codes.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I do not know that I can answer that specific point. However, if people are concerned about individuals actually getting into a house it is very difficult to be specific about the nature of each individual effort. I should certainly be very happy to look into the matter and let my noble friend know.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, is the noble Lord able to give an indication of the extent and the effectiveness of the co-ordination between the various international authorities—the United Nations and Europe itself—in the struggle against the wicked evil of terrorism?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, there are a number of fora. The matter is discussed at senior ministerial level and at official level at Summit Seven, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the Ten, TREVI, and in the Council of Europe. Therefore, a great deal is being done to meet this very serious problem.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister two questions. The first question is a simple one; namely, what is the reaction of Her Majesty's Government to the proposal by King Hassan of Morocco that a high-level international conference should be held to discuss measures against international terrorism? Secondly, does he not agree that a recent disgraceful programme on independent television in which a known terrorist was given 50 minutes of prime time underlines the danger of giving to terrorists the publicity which they seek? Before the noble Lord tells me, as I am sure he will, that this is a matter for the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the BBC, will he please say what the Government propose to do when it becomes clear—as it now is—that neither of those bodies has the slightest intention of exercising responsibility in this matter at all?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the first thing I have to say is that I did not see the programme myself, and so I do not think that I can comment on it, other than to say that which the noble Lord expects me to sad. Yes, it is a matter for the independent authorities, but I am sure that the weight of opinion which the noble Lord and others of your Lordships rightly draw to the attention of the authorities will be noted by them. So far as the King of Morocco's request is concerned, again I am not familiar with that, but I shall find out and, if I can, let the noble Lord know.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend say which are the countries which do not co-operate in the exchange of information to combat terrorism?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, so far as this country is concerned, those to which I have referred as the fora in which the matter is discussed are extremely helpful. There are, I suppose, one or two which spring to mind which may not be as co-operative as some, but I should not like to be held to any particular country off the top of my head.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, following the supplementary question from my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, can the Minister say what steps have been taken regarding security at international airports and with whom the discussions are taking place?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, so far as this country is concerned, the noble Lord will be aware that discussions are regularly held and that great care is taken to make sure that the highest possible standards are maintained. So far as other countries are concerned, I can tell the noble Lord that both the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Civil Aviation Council have done a great deal of work to tighten up aviation security.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, when the Minister says that he does not wish to name any particular government who encourage terrorism, is it not surprising that he did not name Libya, with whom we have no diplomatic relations, who openly support terrorism and are to be utterly condemned for so doing?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, that was an interpretation which the noble Lord put on the question which was asked from behind me. I would agree that Libya fit the particular charge that the noble Lord makes. So far as the concern expressed by my noble friend behind me is concerned, they are not helpful. There may be others as well, but I do not have the facts in front of me.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, following the question of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, is there not really a case now for an effective international inspectorate which can verify—I do not want to mention on the Floor of the House any particular airport of any particular country—internationally that there really are effective security arrangements?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, my noble friend mentions airports. I think I said in answer to the noble Lord opposite that both ICAO and the European Civil Aviation Council examine this closely and that they have done a lot of work to prevent hijacking and bombing of aircraft. An inspectorate is another matter, but I am sure that both these organisations keep that point in mind.

Lord McNair

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in the United States there is at least one commercial training establishment where, if you have enough money, you can learn all the techniques of sabotage and guerilla warfare? If he is so aware, have any representations been made to the Government of the United States?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I was not aware of that, but I shall look into it.

Lord Lovat

My Lords, may I ask the Minister to inform the House, in regard to the recent massacre on an airport in Malta, how many men, women and children were mown down quite unnecessarily by so-called Egyptian commandos?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I think that 59 people were killed.