§ 11.24 a.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw) rose to move, That this House takes note of the circumstances surrounding United States action in Libya.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move that this House takes note of the circumstances surrounding United States action in Libya.
§ When I repeated my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's Statement on Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, as Leader of the Opposition, proposed a debate in your Lordships' House. I readily agreed, and I am glad that it has been possible, through 882 the usual channels, to arrange this debate quickly even though this allows only a limited time on a Friday. At the end of the debate, my noble friend Lady Young will seek to reply to the various points raised. Also, if there is need, she will seek to bring your Lordships up to date with any new developments there may be during the day.
§ However, it is my sad duty at this time—and as I understand that the news is shortly to be given I think it is proper for me to give it to your Lordships' House—that two of the bodies discovered in the Lebanon are those of Mr. Padfield and Mr. Douglas. I know your Lordships will deeply regret that fact, as do the Government. I thought it only proper to give your Lordships that information at this time. I hope that no one in this House is any longer under illusions about Colonel Gaddafi's success in promoting terrorism. Since he seized power, he has used all the resources at a government's disposal to finance terrorism, to train terrorists, and to provide them with the dreadful tools of their trade. Libyan state-backed terrorism has caused great suffering throughout the world and indeed to the people of our country.
§ In our exchanges on Tuesday, several noble Lords asked for the evidence of Libyan involvement. We all remember the murder of WPC Fletcher in St. James' Square exactly two years ago. But we also know that the Libyans have supported the Provisional IRA for some considerable time with money and weapons. As long ago as 1973 the SS "Claudia" was intercepted on her way from Libya to Ireland, bearing a large cargo of arms and explosives. On 26th January of this year, rifles and ammunition from Libya were among the very large find of arms in Sligo and Roscommon in the Irish Republic—the largest ever on the island. Another recent example was the bomb attack in West Berlin, which left two people dead and 230 injured. The communications between Tripoli and the Libyan People's Bureau in East Berlin about the planning for, and outcome of, this operation are now generally known, and I believe widely accepted. We also knew of Libyan plans for many further attacks. No government could stand by while they were carried out.
§ This is the position in which the United States Government found themselves. They had to consider, of the courses open to them in self-defence, which was most likely to safeguard the lives and well-being of their citizens. It has been asked why they did not take the matter up with the Security Council of the United Nations; why united international action could not be tried against Libya; whether economic sanctions would not have been a preferable response.
§ This matter has already been before the United Nations. International declarations against terrorism have been made in many different fora: for example, in the United Nations Security Council following the "Achille Lauro" hijacking; in the United Nations General Assembly in December 1985; by the European Council in Dublin in December 1984; and by the Economic Summit in June 1984.
§ The House well knows that notwithstanding such resolutions, and condemnations of terrorism in the plainest terms, the bombings and hijackings of state-sponsored terrorism have not diminished. And can anyone suggest that they have had the slightest impact on Colonel Gaddafi, as he pursues his chosen path of unremitting, ruthless terrorism?883
§ I turn now to other forms of international action. The United States and ourselves have closed the Libyan People's Bureaux in Washington and London. In addition, we in this country have imposed strict controls on the entry of Libyans, have severely limited the availability of credit, and have banned new contracts for supplying defence equipment to Libya. Economic sanctions were proposed and are being proposed, but the history of such measures offers little hope of their effectiveness unless they are widely supported by many countries. But it has become obvious that securing such support was not a real prospect in the case of Libya.
§ In this predicament, the United States Government clearly formed the view that direct action was the only way to protect the wellbeing of United States citizens. They informed the United Kingdom Government last week that they intended to take action to deter future attacks by the Libyans on American citizens and facilities. They asked for our support. They also raised the question of using F-111 aircraft based in the United Kingdom, for which they needed our agreement.
§ My right honourable friend the Prime Minister explained in another place how this approach, made under the agreement of 1952, was considered. Among the matters we raised were the importance of the principle of self-defence recognised in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and the need to limit action to selected targets related to terrorism. But after these points had been clarified, the British Government had to make a clear decision: yes or no. That is something which faces a government and of course usually does not face their critics. They do not have to give a clear decision of that nature. Whatever our decision, there would be consequences which had to be most carefully weighed: consequences for our own citizens, for our international relations, and for the fight against state-sponsored terrorism.
§ It was concluded that we should support the United States action in self-defence and that our agreement should be given to the use of aircraft based in this country, if that was necessary, in actions clearly related to specific targets involved in terrorist activities. It was also decided that our agreement would relate only to this one operation. We were assured by the United States that if they were not able to use these aircraft, with their particular characteristics, the risk was created of increased casualties. Surely no one could neglect such considerations.
§ It has been said that by our decision we have laid ourselves open to a greater threat of Libyan terrorist attack. No one can ever be sure about the reactions of ruthless terrorists. Indeed, the recent tragic events in Lebanon, and the bomb at Heathrow, to which I have referred, make plain the dangers which such people present. I hope, however, that no one will suggest that such a risk would have justified holding back from a decision we believed necessary in the wider struggle against state-sponsored terrorism. Such an attitude does not buy off terrorism; on the contrary, all experience shows that it merely emboldens those who seek to destroy our country and our way of life. I must also reiterate that if, by supporting the United States action, we succeed in seriously weakening a fount of terrorism we shall indeed do a great deal to protect 884 British citizens as well as American citizens all over the world.
§ I now turn to the international repercussions of our decision. Certainly there are currently differences within Europe over the American action. I do not underestimate them. But I also believe that, with time, an understanding will develop of why we took the view we did. I trust that, given added impetus from recent events, we in Europe shall work harder and more effectively together to find a better way to counter state-sponsored terrorism. We as a government shall certainly strive to promote proposals to that end, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel with his outstanding experience.
§ On the other hand, it is equally important that Europe and America should work together. Who could overestimate the damage to world peace and security of their drifting apart? Let us not forget that the United States maintains 330,000 troops in Europe in the interests of the combined security of the NATO Alliance. In the relationship between Europe and America, we in Britain for many historical reasons have the key role. The Americans, faced with a real and deadly threat backed by all the resources at the disposal of another government, felt themselves forced to act in self-defence and sought our support.
§ In these circumstances, they sought our permission for use of their aircraft with their crews in order to minimise casualties in the air and civilian casualties on the ground. I beg your Lordships to consider carefully all the implications of our withholding agreement to that request.
§ Having weighed up all these factors, I submit that the Government's decision was justified in the interests of our own country, of world peace, and of the fight against Libyan state-inspired terrorism. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House take note of the circumstances surrounding United States action in Libya.—(Viscount Whitelaw.)
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for his opening speech on this most important subject and for arranging this debate. He has enlarged upon the case that he made last Tuesday and defended the Government's decision to support, by words and deeds, the American action against Libya. He will know that we have grave doubts and misgivings about the Government's attitude and about the wisdom of the American action.
It needs to be made plain at the start, as did the noble Viscount, that international terrorism, which triggered off the crisis, is a major problem of our time. Like other countries, we have suffered from it, and the tragic death of Yvonne Fletcher is still fresh in all our minds. In the main, it is the cities of the democratic West which are chosen for those cowardly acts. They are the work of groups with political or ideological objectives, and most of them are well known to us. They achieve nothing save the death and suffering of innocent people. We recognise, too, that Libya is a different case. It is not a group; it is a country. It is Gaddafi and his government who have, over the past few years, caused widespread concern and misery.
885 There are several questions which arise from this crisis, and some of them are as follows. What is the depth and range of acts of terrorism planned and directed by the Libyan Government? Even if the American Government had incontrovertible evidence of Libyan complicity and responsibility, was the military action they took the best way to handle the situation? Again on this point, was the American action defensible in international law and were the British Government right to give support as they did and thus involve this country directly in the crisis? Lastly, is the international community dealing as effectively as it can with international terrorism?
The Government have said that they have irrefutable evidence of the Libyan Government's direct involvement in promoting terrorist attacks against the United States and other Western countries, and the noble Viscount has repeated that again today. If the noble Viscount says that the evidence is irrefutable, of course I accept that without question. But let us also get the lines of our argument clearly defined.
Over the last few days Government spokesmen, including the noble Viscount, have repeatedly stressed that terrorism must be dealt with and stamped out. Some have also implied that any opposition to the American operation, any criticism of it, is in some way a condonation of terrorism. I disagree fundamentally with this argument. I oppose terrorism absolutely, but I do not believe that the American attack on Tripoli was the right course. I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government should have supported it, and I think that there were Ministers in the Government who had grave doubts about it as well. There are now clear reservations about support for any future attacks on Libya, and these were described by the Prime Minister in her speech in the House of Commons.
Of course, we can understand American frustration, anger and impatience, but it is certainly arguable—and this is my second point—that more time should have been taken to examine the evidence over a period of time and to discuss it in detail with other countries, including our own. It may be said that there has been enough discussion in the United Nations and in other meetings, some of which have been referred to by the noble Viscount. I recall the Bonn summit, the Venice summit and the London summit when resolutions were passed about terrorism.
But it does not seem to me that there was adequate discussion during the last crucial three months between the United States and all her allies on the possibility and on the full implications of military action, proper consultation within NATO, consultation with our partners in the European Community—after all, many of them are Mediterranean countries with a profound interest in what happens there—and also consultation with other countries in the United Nations.
We have been told that there was no time for such consultation. We have also been told to remember the Falklands. With great respect, there is no comparison here with the Falklands conflict. Britain was then responding to an attack and an invasion and was, in fact, supported and sustained by a resolution of the Security Council. It is a resolution of the Security 886 Council that I should have liked to see in this crisis. If the evidence is irrefutable, substantial and clear, it should be on the table of the Security Council, for if the Libyan Government are guilty, they should be charged in the Security Council as being in breach of several conventions passed by the United Nations. The case against them has not been prepared, processed and presented either to America's allies or to the United Nations.
The fact is that the United States took the law into their own hands. They did what they and we condemn when other nations take unilateral action. It may be argued that action through the United Nations is too slow and also ineffective, and that those who advocate it are "wets" and do-gooders and never get anything done. These are dangerous arguments for, if they are carried to their logical conclusion, there will be no international law and order. To bypass the United Nations when it suits us is to ask for trouble.
We may also be reminded of the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. They are, of course, not in a position to criticise the United States because of their own record. But the tragedy is that America, by this action, have gravely weakened any moral authority they had to criticise other countries for breaches of international law. This is my third point; namely, the validity of the American attack in law. Article 51 of the charter has been called in aid and we are told that the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown was sought. The Lord President said on Tuesday that they concluded that the attack could be justified as being in self-defence. There is considerable doubt about this, to say the least, and other experts have referred to the American attack as "an act of war" in international law. I will say no more on this crucial issue now, because my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones is to wind up the debate on this side and he will deal with this aspect more fully then.
My fourth point is whether or not the Government were right to give active support to the operation. I do not believe they were. The Prime Minister, in particular, has stressed the need to be loyal to the United States; indeed, that it would be "inconceivable" for us not to respond actively to the request of the United States administration. This again is a very dangerous argument. Where does that loyalty or that obligation to co-operate end?
Governments have a right and a duty to tell their friends if they disagree with them and believe that a course of action is contrary to the national interest. They have a duty to advise and to persuade if necessary. When Britain, with France, embarked on the Suez invasion 30 years ago the United States were very quick to show their displeasure, and they were right to do so. Many of us were here at that critical time. It seems to me that the Prime Minister gave her agreement with a minimum of consultation with her allies, and without the agreement of all her Cabinet colleagues; it is said that the decision was taken by her with the knowledge of two of her colleagues only, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the Defence Secretary. That is alarming and totally unacceptable.
I do not speak for myself alone or indeed for the Opposition alone, as anyone who has read the speeches of Mr. Edward Heath and Sir Ian Gilmour in 887 the House of Commons on Wednesday can confirm. Both the former Prime Ministers who spoke in that debate—Mr. Edward Heath and Mr. James Callaghan—were clear and unequivocal in their view that the operation was a mistake and that this country's involvement was wrong. Far from ending terrorism, it will place this country in a more vulnerable position than before, and the tragic events of the last 24 hours bear that out.
It will not help our relations with Arab countries who have been our friends, it will have an effect on our trade with the Middle East, and it will not help the unity of the Western alliance or the European Community. In short, the consequences of violent actions of this kind are always unpredictable. Notwithstanding what the noble Viscount has just said in his speech, against this background of violence I find it difficult to understand why the Government rejected out of hand the proposals for economic sanctions.
Libya depends on oil, and that is an uncertain commodity at this time. Surely the pressure of economic sanctions would be preferable to the bombing of open cities. To say, as the noble Viscount said, that they would not work is not enough. I think they would have been effective against Libya, and that is a view shared by many other experts outside this House. As the noble Viscount said, we do not have to make a decision; those who criticise—the Opposition and others—do not have to make a decision. That is of course true—at present; but this is the decision that we would have taken in preference to bombing the open cities of Tripoli and Benghazi—
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, surely the noble Lord would not wish to say that open cities were bombed. Mr. Heath made this same remark, and it was absolutely inaccurate. There were five pinpoint targets picked out and hit in Tripoli, and some bombers came back without releasing their bombs because they could not be sure of hitting those targets. The open city of Tripoli was not bombed.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I regret that I gave way. The evidence is clear and incontrovertible that cities were brilliantly lit, that the pinpoint bombing was not effective and that residential areas were damaged and civilians killed and injured.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, it included, as my noble and learned friend reminds me, the damage to the French Embassy in Tripoli.
I come back to my first point; namely, international terrorism. I think everyone agrees that it must be tackled more urgently. I am glad that the Foreign Ministers have met to discuss again its implications. But even more importantly, the causes of terrorism 888 must be understood and efforts made to deal with them. The Middle East, the Palestinian issue and the emergence of militant Islam are at the centre of this problem. I cannot see that the American action will help to resolve that. After all, the United States was a key element in the moves to find a settlement. A reappraisal of the situation in the light of events is now urgently required and the fences with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other friendly countries in the Middle East will need to be mended. The conflict between the Arab world and Israel still lies at the root of the matter.
Finally, I am deeply sorry that the United States have seen fit to commit this mistake. They are our essential allies in NATO and they are our friends as well. One of the disturbing elements of the past few years has been the growth of anti-Americanism not only in neutral and less friendly countries but in Western Europe as well. The world's greatest democracy and its generous people must work towards new policies and new understandings—this is the real lesson to be learnt from this recent crisis—and we must help them to do that; otherwise the threat to the peace of the world will become far greater.
§ 11.51 a.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, we on these Benches should also like to thank the noble Viscount for making it possible to have this debate so soon after we called for it last Tuesday. We thank him, too, for giving us the deeply grievous news that he gave this morning about those men who have been hanged or executed by terrorists. Sympathy must go out to them and to their relatives.
When we discussed this on Tuesday we made the position of the Alliance abundantly clear. We cannot in any way support the American attack; nor can we agree that Her Majesty's Government were right to give support to the Americans in the way that they did. I repeat that this in no way implies that we do not detest terrorism and oppose it in every way as strongly as the Government say they do, and indeed as we know that they do. It is totally abhorrent. It has to be uprooted. But our arguments are—and I shall summarise them only briefly again this morning—that this is not the way to do it, and indeed that it has made the fight against terrorism more difficult and not easier than it was before.
We do not accept that the bombing itself will halt terrorism. Why should it? Where we have people who are fanatical and determined to promote their objectives, the bombing is not likely to halt them. It is indeed likely to stimulate them to further action. We also cannot agree that it was a reasonable risk that it would be possible to hit purely military targets. It is quite plain from the evidence that targets other than purely military targets were hit—surely unintentionally, but that is not the point; people are dead and people are injured as a result of that bombing, which was not pinpointed as it was hoped it would be.
We also do not accept the argument of self-defence—the argument invoking Article 51 of the treaty. There can be, and no doubt there will be, continued legal arguments about it. But all those of us who are non-lawyers can say that there is convincing evidence from 889 experts of the highest quality that the self-defence argument is not justified.
Further, we would expand on our anxiety for the wider political consequences that this attack is bound to have and is already having. We have all too few friends in the Arab world as it is. What must this have done to those who have collaborated with the West, who have attempted to work along with America and with the other powers of the West in order to try to solve what is after all the central and the most inflammatory problem in politics today—the Arab problem? What must President Mubarak of Egypt be saying, surrounded as he is by Nasserites, by fundamentalists, fighting off challenges which come from the Arab world—challenges which are of the greatest possible danger to the world as a whole? How can he defend his collaboration, as he has to do against his critics in the Arab world, when America takes action of this kind?
Then there are our essential allies in Europe—the Community Foreign Ministers. What must their reaction be? I know—and I would go along with the criticism—that they could have done a great deal more than they have done, that they could have collaborated far more to deal with these problems. But the fact remains that our Foreign Secretary was in consultaton with the Foreign Ministers of the Community on the very day that this action took place. The Foreign Secretary said in another place that those discussions,focused almost entirely on how the 12 should respond collectively to Libyan terrorism".This is what the discussion on Monday was about. He went on in that speech in another place to say that he had,no confirmation of any decision by the President, still less of any decision to authorise raids that night".—[Official Report, Commons, 16/4/86; col. 950]That is the Foreign Secretary's testimony as to what was happening while he was in discussion the very day preceding the night when this bombing took place.
What can those Foreign Ministers think? They can think only one of two things: either that the Foreign Secretary was less than candid with them, or that his information or his authority was less than they have a right to expect from the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. But that is over. These things have been done. We cannot undo what has taken place.
What we have now to do, and what I hope will come from this debate and from the discussions that are going on up and down the country is to address ourselves to two issues. How can we overcome the damage which has been done by the actions of the past few days? But even more important, how are we going to take effective action against terrorism in the future?—because there is no question in any area in this country but that we totally abhor and are determined to fight terrorism.
My mind goes back to those years between the wars and immediately after when we were discussing again and again how the nations of the world were to deal with the appalling threats with which we were challenged in those days. It is surely true today that we have now only three possible options. The first option is that we put up with terrorism—and we are all totally agreed that we will not put up with terrorism. The 890 second is that we accept that there will be further acts such as the acts of America this week supported by ourselves. It must be plain that there is a very strong feeling throughout this country (and not only throughout this country) that that is not the answer.
So we are in the difficult position of saying that this other choice is the only one left for us to pursue. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has already referred to it. In those days, 50 years ago, we hammered out the belief, and thought that it was accepted throughout the civilised world, that the only way to deal with the threat to peace was through collective action based upon international law. Many noble Lords in your Lordships' House will remember as I do the arguments that went on in those days before the days of the League of Nations and the United Nations, and before the use of sanctions and of Article 16. We thought that battle was won. Of course we were optimistic in the extent to which we believed it would be posssible in the post war years to develop a really effective system of international law.
We have had many disappointments, but the lesson is that there is no other way. We must return with renewed energy and determination to build and abide by international law. We should have had the backing of a United Nations resolution, however ineffective an action that might have been. It would have reaffirmed our belief that the course I have described is the only one open to us.
We recognise that we also need to support that approach with action and with collaboration with regional groups within the United Nations. Surely the regional group on which we have to rely in this instance, and with which we must collaborate, is that of those countries surrounding the Mediterranean who are, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said, more at risk than any American country is ever at risk. It is true that they have been laggardly in their support, but if now, in the face of what has happened, they will really come together with economic sanctions, with quarantine on Libya, with a determination to revive our belief in international law and in its application, it will give an opportunity to rebuild.
I believe that our behaviour this week has made that more difficult than is otherwise necessary. I would say this not only to the Government but also to the Labour Front Bench. You cannot expect that type of collaboration, and you cannot expect effective collective action, if, when it suits you, you say that you do not wish to collaborate and that you will not pay the price of being an effective collective organisation. If you expect to make collective action and the rule of international law effective, you must show that you are genuine in your European collaboration. That is the way that we must go. I am convinced that it is the only answer.
There is no fourth option. I have given the three choices: which do we take?
§ 12.2 p.m.
§ The Lord Archbishop of York
My Lords, I greatly welcome what the noble Baroness has just said and I would regard my own remarks as a kind of footnote to her very fine speech. I should particularly like to underline what was said by the noble Baroness at the 891 beginning of her remarks about our sympathy and sorrow at the news that we received at the beginning of this debate. I also apologise to the House for the fact that I will have to leave this debate very early, because I must return to an important meeting in another part of London. However, I felt it was important that there should be a contribution from these Benches, not least because the Churches have been fairly vocal on the subject of the recent American action.
The British Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches of the United States have all issued statements broadly making the same two points: questioning the wisdom of the Americans' method of combating terrorism, and questioning its legality under the United Nations Charter. There has also been the rather quieter voice in this country of Mr. Terry Waite, who knows something about Libya and who has suggested that it is, in some circumstances, possible to talk even to Colonel Gaddafi.
While I share the doubts expressed by the council of churches, I do not want to be merely critical in my remarks, because it seems to me that we have got ourselves into this mess and now we must look to the future and find a constructive way forward. Of course we all recognise that terrorism is a problem that must be tackled vigorously, and of course there is some justice in saying that Europe has been weak and hesitant. One can understand the American feeling that Europe's measures would have been ineffective and that therefore the Americans were to some extent justified in going out on their own.
I believe, however, that we must return, as the noble Baroness has said, to the basic ways of tackling terrorism. Indeed, we must ask whether terrorism is one phenomenon and whether we do not oversimplify the matter by giving it a capital "T," rather than seeing a whole different set of reasons for terrorism and methods.
Of course we must reaffirm international law, and of course we must tighten our normal security measures. Beyond that, it seems to me that three things are essential. First, we must tackle the causes of terrorism, because one will never eradicate terrorism as long as there are those who believe that they have been treated with deep injustice and that they have no other way of expressing that sense of injustice.
Secondly, one must isolate terrorist groups from their potential allies. Thirdly, one must keep the moral high ground, because terrorism feeds on a distorted sense of self-righteousness. It seems to me that the action of the United States failed on all three counts. It reflected a persistent misunderstanding of the Arab world and the long-term failure to adopt an even-handed policy in the Middle East. When a few years ago I had an opportunity to meet leading politicians in six Middle East countries, the constant complaint wherever I went was the vacuum in American policy towards the Middle East. We must say again and again that Arab terrorism willl never be cured until the Palestinian problem has been resolved.
As regards isolating terrorists, we have already seen the political consequences of the action in the Arab world. However, I want to concentrate particularly, as 892 your Lordships would expect me to do, on the question of retaining the moral high ground. I ask this question: how can an action that seems so obviously morally right to United States' public opinion seem so obviously morally wrong to those who are deeply committed to friendship with America and who have no wish to undo that friendship? The answer to that question lies in some longstanding features of United States' foreign policymaking that are becoming increasingly worrying.
It seems to me that one of the problems of an open democracy such as that of America, which we can all applaud and welcome, is that effective action on the international scene requires massive popular support. That in turn requires the leaders of the administration to inflate feelings and expectations to the point at which actions begins to seem inevitable. In order to do that, the themes have to be oversimplified into terrorism with a capital "T", or the communist menace, or whatever.
The danger of that way of operating is that it leads to a progressive loss of manoeuvrability, so that when the moment of decision comes there really is no scope left for withdrawal, apart from utter humiliation. That is the trap into which the United States' administration had fallen on the eve of their raid. One can well understand the dilemma of the British Government in wondering how to respond to an America thus trapped.
That dependence upon popular feeling has also been characteristically combined, for the past 40 years almost, with adherence to the Truman doctrine that, for all it has done positively in keeping open the free world, has had the devastating effect of constantly making the United States lose its sense of proportion about the appropriate way of dealing with threats of different magnitude.
A recent historian of America referred to the effects of the Truman doctrine as leading to hysteria at home because every threat has to be seen as a potentially worldwide threat, together with over-confidence abroad. Somehow we have to help our American friends to see that some problems can be tackled and, indeed, must be tackled, in a lower key.
If you believe that the world is simply divided into terrorists and the rest, then the Libyan raid was obviously right. If you believe that the world is made up of a whole complex set of subtle interactions between different interest groups, then the Libyan raid was obviously wrong. The United States tends to go for the grand gesture. Europe tends to get lost in the subtleties. Somehow we must explore the ground between those two and gain an understanding of the different ways in which our foreign policies work.
As has been already said, the most dangerous possible consequence of this United States action in Libya is a growing gulf between Europe and America. Hence, there is the need to understand United States feelings; and that is why I have spoken as I have. We need to understand the difficulties of acting in an open democracy, and we need in our country to be as fearful of thoughtless anti-Americanism as we are fearful, or some people are fearful, of thoughtless pro-Reaganism. It seems to me that the main lesson is the need for critical solidarity—and both words are important.
893 We must not let anybody exploit anti-Americanism as a result of this action. We must not let criticism spoil our friendship, but we must not let friendship mute the criticism. Above all, I believe we need to use the credit that we in Britain have gained by one means or another with our American friends. We also need to use our long experience of Middle-Eastern affairs to help them to repair their relationships with the Arab world, to understand its hurt pride and to work towards more even-handed policies in that part of the world.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, in another place yesterday the Prime Minister emphasised that the Government faced a very difficult decision in this affair, and the noble Viscount the Leader of the House implied the same today. I have great sympathy with them in that difficulty. It is never easy in these matters to judge where the balance of our national interest lies. It often seems to be a choice between two evils.
It is the natural reaction of a military man to ask two questions. What is the aim, and is the action likely to achieve that aim? If at the time the request was made to use the F-111s based in this country the Government believed what they say they believe now, it should not have been a difficult decision. If they thought that the action which the United States Administration was planning had a good chance of succeeding in its aim—that is, of reducing international terrorism and specifically that directed against the United States and its allies; in other words, if they thought that it was politically sensible and in the interests of the West generally—why should there have been any difficulty? If it succeeded in its aim, there would be a reduction in terrorist incidents. Fears of a backlash against this country would prove unfounded. If it leads to a temporary estrangement between us and our Arab friends and European allies, that would soon be dissipated when they saw how the situation improved. Domestic critics would be shown up as wet Nellies, as they were over the Falklands.
So why was it a difficult decision? Obviously because the Government, or whoever was admitted to the conclave on the matter, had grave doubts about whether it would achieve its aim. I suspect that that would have been the advice of the professional diplomatic and military chiefs if they were consulted. I hope they were. I expect that at the back of their minds there may have lingered memories of Suez. Although the situations are different in many ways, there are some remarkable similarities. There was no reason why the military action at Suez should not have achieved its military aim; but there was never a possibility that it could have achieved a satisfactory political outcome, even if it had succeeded in its short-term aim of toppling Nasser.
I expect that the Government's professional advisers would have pointed out that it could make terrorism worse; that some of it could be directed against us and that that would pose the awkward question of whether or not the action should be repeated; that it could range Arab opinion behind Gaddafi both in his country and all over North Africa and the Middle 894 East; that it would separate us from our fellow Europeans, making it less likely that we could persuade them to take more effective anti-terrorist measures; and that in any future anti-American terrorist incidents, if they occurred, the United States would receive much less sympathy.
In the balance against that would have to be set the damage it would do both to our own interests and to the general relationship between the United States and Western Europe if we refused permission. We would be accused of ingratitude for the help given to us over the Falklands affair and it could prejudice the possibility of help on some future occasion; and it would greatly exacerbate the already delicate relationship between America and her European NATO allies.
Of course, it was a very difficult decision if the Government had grave doubts about the wisdom of the American action. If they had doubts, I ask the noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate: did they do anything to try to discourage the United States from taking the action it did? If not, why not? If, on the other hand, they had no doubts—which from their present statements now appears to be the case—did they do anything to encourage the President to go ahead? I hope not.
The argument that I have used about the wisdom of the attacks applies equally to the morality. If the Government believed that by suppressing international terrorism innocent lives would be saved in the future, the fact that some innocent lives were lost in the attacks can be justified. On the other hand, if they had grave doubts they must have guilty consciences; and I sympathise with them in the moral dilemma in which they were placed by what I can only describe as the near-blackmail of the statement that if the F-111s were not used there would be a greater risk both to civilians near the targets and to the United States aircrews.
Doubts or not, I believe it to be both hypocritical and unwise to try to justify the action on the grounds of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter: hypocritical, as the article was clearly never intended to cover anything like that; and unwise because it opens the door to its abuse. To extend it to justify armed action in retaliation for what has happened to one's citizens beyond one's own frontiers could have very undesirable repercussions. For example, it could be used by Libya to justify a reprisal for something that happened to a Libyan in this country.
Another concern is the manner in which the decision was made. Whether there were no doubts, or many, there is no doubt that the implications of the decision reached far and wide. It was surely one which should have been discussed in Cabinet. I ask the noble Baroness: was it? The Prime Minister spoke of consultation with the Ministers principally concerned. Here again, there are some shades of Suez. It is not as if an instant decision was required. The Prime Minister said that discussion with the President covered a week. Will the noble Baroness tell the House who was consulted and who agreed?
Whatever happens to Colonel Gaddafi or to Libya, international terrorism with its base in the Middle East, aimed primarily at the Americans, will continue unless far more effective international steps are taken 895 to solve the Palestinian problem and the related appalling problems of Lebanon. There is no hope of a solution being found by leaving it all to the United States. The Soviet Union must be involved and so must Western Europe. Our influence must be exerted—and I give the Government credit for having tried to exert it—through our Western European allies and fellow members of the Community.
While pursuing that aim, we must also do our best to improve the technical means of countering international terrorist activities. Those two avenues of approach are likely to yield better results than bombing buildings in Libya. The Government have said publicly that they do not believe that economic sanctions against Libya will be effective and I am inclined to agree with them. Do they now believe that bombing buildings has been or in future will be effective? If so, do they wish to see it repeated? If not, what do they propose to do?
§ 12.20 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House began his speech today by reminding us that, if there were any doubts before that the government of Libya were organising acts of terror on the international stage, those doubts must have been dispelled, first, by the hard evidence given by the Prime Minister to another place and, secondly, by the ostentatious claim of Colonel Gaddafi that he feels entitled to export revolution and in that process to kill. That is the new matter with which we have to deal. It is state terrorism and, with all due respect to the most reverend Primate, I do not see how you can spell that except with a capital "T". It is surely a very dangerous doctrine to try to suggest that political grievance can in any circumstance be justified by an act of terrorism.
The numbers of casualties attributable to the acts of terrorists were given to us the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. In 15 years there have been 5,000 dead and 10,000 wounded and crippled. That is a horrifying toll. It is war. It is so horrible that on all sides of Parliament we have statements to the effect that the situation cannot be tolerated and terrorism must be stopped. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said this morning that terrorism has to be uprooted. So far the cold fact of the matter is that no one other than the President of the United States has tried to do anything effective about it at all. At least he tried to stop it, and we know what the United States did and are debating that action.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, reminded me that it seems to have become fashionable for ex-Prime Ministers to indicate what they would have done if they had been in the Prime Minister's shoes. That is rather a creaking bandwagon on which to try to jump. Nevertheless I shall not shirk the issue.
Among all the anxieties and misgivings raised by President Reagan's intention to act and about the method which he had chosen, and in the full knowledge that a British Prime Minister can veto such action relating to a base in this country, I hope I would have remembered three things. First, I would have remembered the victims of the bomb outrage in Germany which was organised by the Libyan 896 Government and which killed Americans. Those Americans were serving as part of an allied integrated army engaged in defending Europe and Britain against violence and aggression. The Libyans made them their target. The Americans were their target that night; but the target might just as well have been any democracy which is a member of the NATO alliance. In this matter of resistance to violence we must stand together or separately we shall be picked off, one by one.
Secondly, I hope I would have remembered that the main guarantee that the democracies possess against those who deal in aggression is the readiness of the people of the United States to underwrite with their power the security of the continent of Europe and of the Atlantic Ocean. Thirdly, I hope I would have remembered that Britain, but for the co-operation of the United States Government, would not possess a nuclear deterrent at all. Therefore, in all the circumstances, on that occasion and faced with that dilemma, I believe that the Prime Minister's decision was right. Americans in Europe are part of the NATO alliance.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, spoke of international law. It seems to me that the weakness of every democratic country in this context of terrorism arises from the fact that there is no provision in international law to which a victim can appeal for protection and redress. The article concerning self-defence in which we are in hot pursuit is, so to speak, a postscript to military action which has already been taken. I shall listen carefully to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, may say on this question of international law, but until that situation is remedied or, in the shorter term, measures can be agreed by the influential nations to check these awful crimes, one nation or another will respond to terrorism with force. When the worm turns, reason goes out of the window. Who in those circumstances can lay blame?
Following my noble friend's statement the other day, I said that we had to try to find a better way. No one has yet found it, and clearly there is no blanket cover against terrorism. In this specific case of Libya—and in each case one has to take particular measures—I believe that it would be justified to blockade all exports of oil from Libya and to refuse to accept Libyan airplanes into any of our international airports. No doubt all these measures will be considered. Everybody dislikes such sanctions and so far they have not worked, but we are now dealing with organised state terrorism, which is something quite different from anything that has happened before, and we must adapt ourselves to that situation.
My feeling is that now that they can recognise the stark penalties which the policies of the Libyan Government are bringing upon them, many people in Libya will feel that they cannot suffer those penalties much longer. Still more in the Arab and Moslem world there will be those who resent the repercussions which Libyan policy is bringing upon them. I think, too, in the wider context of international law, that the Russians must be beginning to be interested in strengthening international law against the terrorist. Certainly in these matters Britain must give a lead.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I do not think anyone will disagree with the harsh criticism of the Libyan Government which has been pronounced by the noble Lord who has just spoken, and indeed by the noble Viscount who opened the debate and other noble Lords, but we have to ask ourselves the question: was the American action wise?
I do not propose to go into the question of whether that action can be defended in international law. My noble and learned friend on the Front Bench can deal with that when he winds up. I do not feel competent to give a precise answer. However, I think we can all apply commonsense and humanity to the practical question of whether this American action was wise. The noble Lord, Lord Home, remarked that terrorism is a great evil and that the only person who had done anything about it was the President of the United States. With great respect, I think that that is the fallacy of the man who says, "We must do something. This is something. So let us do this". That, I think, is what has happened.
Yesterday when we were asking questions following a Statement, I raised with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the question of whether the horrible murders in Beirut were connected with the American action and the British consent to it. At that time she did not seem to be certain whether they were. We know now that they were a result of the American action. It can be said that that is something for which we must be prepared, and if we are put off by fear of such things we can always be bullied by the terrorists.
The other consideration is this. What happened there and what nearly happened at Heathrow—and a much more terrible event could have happened—indicate that if we are not careful we shall be launched on what is in effect a war that will stretch from Beirut to Heathrow and possibly further. We cannot each time say that we shall reply to terrorist acts by bombing here or bombing there. We are not on the right road. We cannot find the answer that way.
Are there alternatives? Here again, I listened with respect and with much more agreement to what the noble Lord, Lord Home of Hirsel, said about some of the actions that could be taken making in effect a diplomatic and economic boycott. Economic sanctions have not always been successful, but it is the usual case of something not succeeding because it was not wholeheartedly tried. I think that by now there are enough European nations sufficiently aware of the dangers of terrorism to make an effort to operate economic sanctions more seriously than ever before, and certainly diplomatic sanctions. I do not see why Libyan people's bureaux should be scattered here, there and everywhere to be offices for the promotion of terrorism. We all rightly break off that kind of diplomatic relation. On those lines I think that we may have a chance of success.
It was noteworthy that the Foreign Secretary spoke to our European colleagues shortly before the American action and urged a series of diplomatic and economic actions. The aspect of that meeting that sticks most in mind was the extreme feebleness of their response. Whatever one may think about the Foreign Secretary's position, which was discussed by the noble 898 Baroness, Lady Seear, he obtained from the European countries a very feeble response indeed. It is hard for Europeans to be entirely outspoken in attacking the undoubted unwisdom of the American action without searching their consciences about their inability to build up effective alternatives.
We are in danger—and this is the most serious aspect—of seeing the NATO Alliance torn in two between American recklessness, on the one hand, and European hesitancy, on the other. It is to avoid that that our efforts must be particularly directed in the future. That means bringing together ourselves, our European partners and the United States to consider effective means to combat terrorism. Some of them are in the field of economic and diplomatic sanctions; some are still in the most obvious field of all: improving security measures.
It is alarming and significant that the reason that that great aircraft with 400 people in it was not destroyed was that Israeli security measures at the airport were more effective than anybody else's. We have a lesson to learn. It is extremely foolish to be drawn into wilder and wilder military adventures when we have at hand at least the necessary job of improving security measures. That will impose inconvenience on passengers, but it would be trivial to urge that as a reason against effective security measures.
We have a chance now. Neither Europe nor the United States can look back happily on what has happened. The American people, infuriated almost beyond measure by what has been done to their fellow subjects by terrorists, will naturally back the President at the present time, but if such action were to be repeated I think that a change would come over American opinion. In Europe there may be some who will begin to doubt whether they have been resolute enough in the past. Neither side is in a position to recriminate against the other. Both are under an obligation to seek common counsel in the fields where the right answer may be found.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I start by taking up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, and that is what nearly happened at Heathrow yesterday. I very much hope that the noble Baroness will specifically deal with the matter when she comes to reply. Only because an El Al plane was involved did we prevent 350 people being blown to pieces over the centre of London, and that despite constant reassurances from Ministers that every possible step has been taken at Heathrow and other British airports to deal with the terrorist threat.
The woman passenger passed through the only form of check that takes place for other airlines and was detected only at the second stage because she was to fly with El Al. I ask the noble Baroness when she comes to reply to the many other questions that will be put in the debate to tell the House what additional steps the Government propose to take forthwith as a result of what nearly happened at Heathrow yesterday. Passengers travelling abroad deserve an early answer to that question.
I come now to the central issue before us: the decision to authorise the use of British airfields for the 899 attack on Libya. The Government's decision deserves to be judged by two criteria: first, will it deter Gaddafi and other terrorists? Secondly, what will be the effect on the unity of the Western Alliance, which is of the highest importance to this country and to all our allies in Western Europe?
Gaddafi is a terrorist; but on what possible basis does anyone believe that as a result of what has happened this week the world is a safer place? I have heard no serious attempt made in this House or in another place to explain why as a result of the air attack on Tripoli and Benghazi we are less likely to have terrorist attacks upon us. Within 48 hours two British citizens have been murdered and 350 people were nearly blown up over London. At first glance the evidence does not appear to justify a great deal of belief in that argument.
It was a difficult decision. No one should underestimate the difficulty of the decision that the Prime Minister and her colleagues took this week. But as a result of what happened it is more likely that we shall have more rather than fewer, terrorist acts. Anyone who saw the pictures on television of small children grievously injured as a result of the air attack on Monday cannot fail, first, to be moved by their condition and, secondly, to recognise that that was probably the greatest public relations triumph that Gaddafi has had since he initiated the campaign of terrorism. What happens when the next major terrorist attack takes place? The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, asked that question. I quote the Prime Minister on this point in the House of Commons on Tuesday, at col. 726 of Hansard:It was inconceivable to me that we should refuse United States aircraft and pilots the opportunity to defend their people".That is clear; it is unambiguous; it is unequivocal. So does that mean that if a further request comes from the United States following another terrorist attack from Gaddafi, the British Government intend to authorise that attack as well? And what happens if the terrorist country involved is Syria rather than Libya? Where does one stop in this particular process?
The whole history of the Middle East in the past 40 years surely demonstrates one thing beyond question. In this tit for tat approach—the bombing by one side, the air strikes from the other, coming through at regular intervals—has anyone really suggested that one of those attacks by itself was ever likely to end the whole problem of terrorist violence? Of course not. All the evidence points in precisely the opposite direction. What is needed is not simply unilateral military action of this kind, formed on an extremely inadequate (to put it as mildly as possible) legal base, but a common approach by the democratic West.
Of course, that is difficult. As the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, the response of many European countries this week was very disappointing. I believe that to be so, just as our own response to Libyan terrorist violence was very disappointing before the outrageous incidents in St. James's Square that led to the death of Woman Police Constable Fletcher. There was not much enthusiasm by the Government then for the type of statements that have been made in the past few days. What is surely 900 required is some degree of common approach from the United States and from our allies in Western Europe so that we can work through some way of responding to the threat of terrorist violence emanating from Libya, Syria, or any other source.
I recognise at once the immense difficulty of achieving that objective. I say, at the same time, that what we have seen over the past few days surely demonstrates the very questionable success that attends the type of approach to which the Government have now set their hand.
I come, lastly, to the point that I made when the noble Viscount the Leader of the House made the Statement. I believe that what we have seen this week has been a dangerous blow to the unity of the Western alliance. I believe that the tensions created in this country alone have been extremely serious. Grave questions have been raised, and it will be a long time before they are wholly dispelled. The only people who have been gratified by some of the developments this week are some of the most dedicated opponents of the United States and the Western alliance. That is a tragedy.
Over the past 40 years, as a result of the existence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, we have managed to preserve the peace of Western Europe. A great deal of that peace is dependent on the presence in this country of United States air force bases. The fact that the dispute that we have seen this week relates so directly to the presence of those bases in this country is very damaging indeed to the interests of this country and to the whole of the Western alliance.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, recent events have been argued and rehearsed fully, both in another place and in your Lordships' House today. I should like to concentrate on two lessons for the future that emerge, I believe, from these events. If I may be allowed to begin on a personal note, I have spent the greater part of my adult life in terrorism or, perhaps, to save misunderstanding, I should say counter-terrorism, of one kind or another. In my service in the army, I fought in three counter-terrorist campaigns. Since then, I have been involved for nearly 15 years in studying terrorism with colleagues in the United States and elsewhere. It may interest your Lordships to know that we are in the process of setting up in London an international institute for the study of terrorism and methods by which we might effectively combat it. It has, however, seemed to me for some time—this was underlined today by the speech of the most reverend Primate—that perhaps the true nature and scale of terrorism is still not fully understood. People pay lip-service to it. They say that terrorism is a great problem and that we must deal with it. And then they go on to more important matters.
I should like to add some figures to those rehearsed already today by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel. In the period since 1968, when figures for international terrorism began to be collated, there have been many thousands of deaths and mutilations from international terrorism. But it is also worth pointing out the pattern of that terrorism. In that period, 60 embassies or consulates have been attacked by international terrorists, all of them the embassies or 901 consulates of free Western democracies. Of the 8,000 or more separate incidents of terrorism that have taken place in that period, only 100—a very small percentage—have taken place in the USSR, the countries of Eastern Europe or other communist countries. Sixty per cent. of the victims of terrorism in that period have been citizens of the United States and Western Europe. One draws from this—at least, I draw from it—the lesson that this is not a series of sporadic, unconnected incidents, all arising from different political and ideological social reasons, as has been suggested. It is a systematic, low-cost and low-intensity war against the West. Until we start to realise that, we shall not learn how to deal with it.
The question of state sponsorship is now established beyond all doubt. The main sponsors of international terrorism are the Soviet Union, Iran, Syria and Libya. It would be superfluous to give any more instances or to advance any more proof of the connection between Colonel Gaddafi and international terrorism. Anyone who is still in doubt about that must be living in some kind of dreamworld. Of course, the most effective way to deal with state terrorism and those who sponsor it is to isolate them by economic means, by diplomatic means through the machinery of international aviation, or the interruption of international aviation on a selective basis. These people, these states and their leaders, carry a deadly disease around the world. What we should do is to quarantine them and to isolate them from the civilised community.
It is true, as many noble Lords have said, that the application of military force is not the ideal way to deal with this problem. As already stated, one of the lessons of Suez, if we had not learnt it before, is that while armed force may have dramatic short-term effects it does not solve long-term problems. President Reagan and his advisers are not stupid, as some people seem to assume. They know this, too. If it is known in your Lordships' House, there is a fair chance that it is known on Capitol Hill and in the White House. What we must ask ourselves is: why did President Reagan feel constrained to take this action? The answer for me is that, for the United States acting alone, there must have seemed to the President at the time no other option. The reason can, I believe, be found in one of the important lessons of this crisis—that there is a real crisis of leadership and vision in Western Europe.
I would go further than the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and other noble Lords have done, in describing the action of our European allies in this case. Disappointing, someone called it. But I would go further than that. What happened was that, in the face of a problem that threatens us all, the rest of our European allies, with the honourable exception of the British Government, slunk away from the problem in the most shameful way.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, they have done so consistently when faced with international terrorism, for reasons of economic self-interest, commercial greed and short-sighted nationalism. It seems to me therefore that two grave and urgent problems now face us. One is certainly the defeat of international 902 terrorism. Our action against that must be firm, collective and determined.
The noble Lords, Lord Stewart and Lord Harris of Greenwich, have both mentioned the need for really effective security at our airports. That must be the first priority. I hope that when the noble Baroness replies she will assure us that she will take strong action to enforce security at our airports. It is strange that everyone speaks with such admiration of the security precautions taken by El Al. Those are the precautions that we should all be taking. We should not simply leave it to one airline.
Finally—and I shall try to get this in before the figure eight comes up on the clock—it is the disarray in the Western alliance to which we must address our full attention. It seems to me that this is not the first case of Europe, when faced with a crisis, running off in all directions, each country pursuing its narrow national interests and failing to understand that, for a threat against us collectively, collective action alone is the answer.
I would go further than other noble Lords have done. They have rightly said that the United States is the leader of the Western alliance, a great friend and our most powerful ally. I would leave this as perhaps one of the lessons of this recent crisis. Faced with all the threats that confront Western democracy at the moment, it is just possible that the United States of America could survive without Western Europe. But Western Europe cannot survive without the United States.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I should first of all like to ask this question of the noble Baroness who is to reply at the end of the debate. What is now the position of the Libyan pilots who were, until recently, under training at the air training school at Oxford airport? I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to tell the House that they have been sent home, because there is an obvious danger in having young men who may be of fanatical views close to, and possibly in charge of, aircraft at a place not very far from London Airport.
Secondly—and I am sorry to see that the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of York has departed—I should like to follow up what my noble friend Lord Home said about the most reverend Primate's quite extraordinary observation as to the necessity of accepting that there should be terrorism when there were people who had grievances which were not remedied. My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel dealt with that on the general merits. However, I should like to put forward this further point. How does that argument apply where the terrorism is being conducted not by individuals—who may well think, rightly or wrongly, that they have serious grievances—but by a government, a sovereign state? I should have liked, had he not gone, to press the most reverend Primate as to whether he was saying that, where there were any grievances in the world, that entitled a sovereign government, in diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, to organise terrorism in those countries. If your Lordships will allow me to say so, this is the kind of sloppy thought which is so intensely dangerous in this situation.
903 The issue before your Lordships at the moment is the decision of the British Government as to whether or not to permit the Americans to use their aircraft operating from British bases. I shall not say anything about the wisdom of the American decision. In the first place that is not a matter for us. Secondly, there is not time under our rules. The decision about which we are concerned was the very difficult one which presented itself to the British Government as to whether or not these American aircraft with these American pilots based in Britain could or could not be used to carry out the policy of their government by way of the attack on Libya.
No one pretends that it was an easy decision. No one pretends that to have said "No" would not, in the short term, probably have been—as is all appeasement—the easier course, the less likely to expose our citizens in Beirut and elsewhere to reprisals. That does not determine whether it was the right one. We are concerned not with this immediate crisis alone. We are concerned with something which I suggest to your Lordships is infinitely more important: the long-term relationship between this country and the United States. If we were to say to the United States, "Yes, we know that if you use these aircraft you will have less casualties yourself and your bombing will be more accurate but nonetheless we are not going to let you use them here,"—and we should have been perfectly within our rights legally in saying just that—I wonder whether your Lordships can reflect on the impact that that would have had not only on the American Government but on thinking opinion throughout the United States. Those men, those aircraft, are here primarily because this is the right place for them to operate in the defence of Europe against the Soviet threat. They have been sent here for that purpose. To say to the Americans, "You having done this for this purpose which we so immensely welcome, we shall inhibit you using them for your own purposes," would have been a desperately serious thing to do.
Twice in my lifetime we have gone into great wars which have largely started because the aggressor did not realise that ultimately the United States would be involved. Ultimately the United States was involved and ultimately with her aid we won. But surely the most important thing of all in our present situation is to maintain with the United States the posture of a firm and reliable ally so that they also may feel bound not to withdraw once again from Europe, with the tragic consequences that would follow.
In a debate on the Address about 18 months ago I inflicted upon your Lordships a report of the meeting which Winston Churchill held with some of his Ministers on the last day of his Premiership. We assembled that afternoon in the Cabinet Room in the light of a rather stormy sunset while he spoke to us about his long-term thoughts. He stressed—and this bit itself on to my memory—that the one thing that was really going to matter from the point of view of preserving both the freedom of our country and the freedom of the world was the preservation of close and friendly relations with the United States. I hope and believe that when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and her colleagues considered this 904 difficult matter, and the balance of advantage, the dominant consideration with them must have been that long after Colonel Gaddafi has gone to wherever providence will consign him, and when all that is over, the continued alliance and co-operation of the United States with ourselves, and through ourselves with Europe, is the factor upon which European civilisation and the peace of the world will depend.
Therefore, it seems to me that our Government took what was possibly in the short term a disadvantageous decision but that in the long term it was the right thing to do. I am proud and glad that as a result we as a country can impress ourselves upon the United States as a loyal ally who helps them not only in easy times but also when they are in difficulty and in danger.
§ 1 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the first responsibility of any government is to protect the lives and the safety of their citizens. Her Majesty's Government have signally, failed in that primary duty this week, and they have done so on two counts. First, they have endangered British lives by their collusion with the United States, and tragically we have already seen the consequences of that. We in this country have a long experience of dealing with terrorism. Terrorism goes back centuries into history. However, in my political life—and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Home, is leaving the Chamber because he has had the same experience—one has only to refer to India, Malaysia, Kenya, Cyprus (and there are many other examples which one could quote) to recognise that governments of this country have a long experience of dealing with terrorism. However, one thing which all British governments have discovered is that the policy of retaliation, the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, has never worked and that in every case the only effective solution has been a political solution.
There has been a great deal of hypocrisy in this House and in other places this week over the phrase, "state supported terrorism". Is the United States not supporting terrorism in Nicaragua? Is the United States Government not supporting terrorism in Angola? If there were time, I could give many other instances of precisely the same accusation. Of course the Russians do it too; it is not just one-sided. However, it is hypocrisy to talk about state supported terrorism as though it were the province of only the Libyans.
How many British citizens feel any safer at the end of this week as a result of the killing and maiming of Libyan children? We all send our deepest sympathy to the families of those British citizens who have lost their lives in such horrible circumstances this week. I hope that we would equally send our sympathy to the families of the Libyan children and the Libyan civilians who have lost their lives this week, because Libyan blood is equally as important to us as British blood. Every British citizen at the end of this week—
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I wonder whether the noble Lord would also extend our sympathy to the families of the Americans who lost their lives, including the family of the American baby blown out of the plane. Would the noble Lord also extend his sympathy to them?
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, of course I would; it goes without saying. However, nobody has yet mentioned the Libyans who have been deprived of their children and families this week. At the end of this week every British citizen is in greater jeopardy than was the case at the beginning of the week.
My second ground is that the action of the British Government in collusion with the United States has been to undermine international law and negotiations which is the only hope of security within our global society. Unfortunately over the past few years we have already seen both the Americans and the British Government undermining United Nations organisations. The noble Viscount spoke about the right of self-defence under the United Nations Charter. I would just ask this question. Why was it that when the Israelis bombed Tunisia the British Government condemned that action? What is the difference in quality between the two actions?
The noble Viscount spoke about frustration at the United Nations. There are opportunities at the United Nations, in the Security Council, for action as well as the passing of resolutions. We would have been much stronger had we been supported by a United Nations resolution, had the evidence been before the Security Council, and had we tried to persuade the Security Council to mount a campaign of sanctions. I suggest that the reason for the lack of a campaign of sanctions and the apparent absence of any intention by the United States to bomb the real heart of the Libyan economy, which is the oil fields, is that those oil fields are owned by American companies.
I want to ask the noble Baroness who is to reply two straight questions. First, who took the decision to grant the right for the Americans to use British bases to bomb Libya, and when was the decision taken? Was the decision taken by the Cabinet, or was the decision taken by the Prime Minister? I ask that question because as late as Monday afternoon the Secretary of State for Defence was publicly expressing doubts about the use of military force; whereas the Foreign Secretary did not reveal to his colleagues in Europe that that permission had been given. On Tuesday the Prime Minister spoke of it being "inconceivable" that that permission should be refused—a very dangerous word, particularly in view of the possibility of a further request for the use of those bases. It was known, and has been publicly stated in the United States, that the decision to bomb Tripoli was taken in the United States last week. Did or did not the British Government know? If they did know, they were deceiving their allies in Europe; if they did not know, they were being deceived by the United States.
Secondly, did her Majesty's Government try to persuade the United States to go to the United Nations or to NATO, bearing in mind that these are NATO bases? Did the British Government try to persuade the United States to work within the international framework? Was any persuasion used by Her Majesty's Government to get the United States to go to the United Nations or to NATO, or to both? Unless the British Government throw all their influence behind international law and international organisations, they will be jeopardising the lives and the safety of all British citizens, especially our children and grandchildren.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, contrary to the opinion of some of my compatriots, I do not regard the recent bombardment as a crime. It was undertaken because a large majority of the American people sincerely believed that Colonel Gaddafi was the enemy of all civilized society and that peaceful efforts to restrain his activities having demonstrably failed, military means had become absolutely necessary. However, it was the wise Talleyrand who observed that a certain decision of Napoleon was,worse than a crime; it was a blunder".Although we must all hope that our fears will not be justified, it seems clear that in the present case Talleyrand's dictum will be justified.
The fairly predictable consequences of the United States action have already been mentioned by many speakers and editorialists. It is chiefly the reaction in the Middle East, notably in Egypt and the Sudan, that is disturbing. Just as serious, the Shi'ite revolutionary groups currently operating under the general patronage of Damascus and Tehran, to say nothing of the more terroristic sections of the PLO, are likely to exert even more influence over the Moslem masses, no doubt by further acts of terrorism represented, of course, as heroism. If so, who knows what may happen to the essentially pro-Western Arab governments in the Persian Gulf? All this is bad enough, but we must also consider the undoubted damage that has been inflicted on Western Europe political unity, even on NATO itself, and the likely setback to some kind of East-West understanding on which so much store has been placed if we are ever to make real progress to the avoidance of a third world war.
Given all this, all I now say is that it seems quite clear—perhaps the noble Baroness will contradict me—that until some time last week, when the Prime Minister had a telephone call from her friend President Reagan, the whole Government were unanimous against direct military action. It was only a day or two later that they, or rather the Prime Minister (because the Foreign Secretary was kept in the dark until the bombers were almost in the air) were put on the spot by the arrival of the President's special envoy, who obviously made it clear that the bombardment was imminent and that if Her Majesty's Government did not agree to the clearly long-planned participation in it of the UK-based F-111s the whole attitude of the United States towards NATO was likely to be changed for the worse. Faced by what I believe was a virtual ultimatum, the Prime Minister, as we believe on these Benches, mistakenly, seems to have had no option but to agree. What she is now trying to do, admittedly with some effect, is to make the best of a bad job, notably by playing up the dangers of terrorism (now alas much increased) and by seeking to justify the bombardment on legal grounds connected with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Some lawyers apparently support this contention; others do not. I am not a lawyer, but I was concerned, at the conference of San Francisco, with the formulation and eventual adoption of Article 51. As a layman, I can only say that the drafters of the charter did not for a moment imagine that this article might be interpreted as covering individual acts of terrorism. To 907 their mind, armed attack implied actual aggression of a military nature by one state against another. After all, if, under the latest interpretation, direct military action against a state accused of abetting terrorism is legal, then all states whose nationals are the victims in any country of terrorist activity and violence will be justified in bombing the capital of the state in which such an incident may have occurred or which may have been held to have instigated it. That might well be the signal for complete international anarchy.
Now what is to be done? There must be some concerted action now against terrorism; that is universally admitted. What might it be? This problem, as the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, said, is one of the most difficult and urgent that confronts us at the present time. No doubt the best way to check terrorism, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has repeatedly said, would be for the Americans to change their clearly disastrous Middle Eastern policy. Failing, or alongside, that, economic pressure would seem to be the most hopeful line, as has already been pointed out. The last effort of the EC Ministers in this direction was a dismal failure and to that extent the EC must bear some responsibility for the present sad situation. But now that the crisis is upon us perhaps the Foreign Secretary will be able to exercise a rather impaired authority to bring his colleagues into line. We, too, must surely abandon our opposition to what, in effect, might be some kind of economic sanction.
What has happened, has happened. The Americans have had their way. Perhaps Sir Geoffrey's best ploy might be to hint to his European friends that his Government had no choice but to act as they did, enlarging no doubt on the theme that, however misguided the action of its leader, the Atlantic alliance is still the structure on the maintenance of which our independence and our security necessarily depend. The decision of the Prime Minister, though comprehensible, was nevertheless, as we on these Benches see it, an error. What we must now consider, however, is how best to get out of the ensuing mess.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Lord Saint Brides
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I shall start by taking issue with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, as to whether the American raids on Libya are likely to have proved counterproductive or otherwise. Colonel Gaddafi spoke some defiant words at his press conference yesterday. But to put the matter at its starkest, for him to have made an enemy of the most powerful nation in the world, the United States—an enemy that has now twice shown that it is prepared to use military force to hit Libyan targets—must in the colonel's cooler moments daunt even him. It must certainly have brought misgiving to his more sober fellow-countrymen who have Libya's long-term interests at heart. To this extent it can surely be claimed that America's long-delayed act of retribution has probably succeeded for the first time in creating a substantial deterrent to future acts of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism.
It goes without saying that two single night bombing raids carried out with conventional weapons are not in themselves enough to destroy the Libyan people's 908 allegiance to their government, or their will to resist future such attacks. History shows that to achieve such objectives as these usually takes a long and costly war. Bombing is an unsatisfactory way of dealing with such matters, both because even with up-to-date state-of-the-art conventional weapons it is not selective enough and some collateral damage is inevitable, and also because its effects are not lasting.
The fact is that there seem to be narrow limits to what even a super power can do to impose its will on another country unless it is prepared to go to war, as in Vietnam and as in Afghanistan today. Even then success may well elude it. America's action against Libya may bring various unlooked-for results besides failing to achieve the intended ones. But to achieve the intended results even partially will be a plus, and not all the unlooked-for results may be bad and unfavourable. For instance, I shall be surprised if, despite their present fierce public criticism of the United States, Libya's friends, other Arab countries and the Soviet Union, do not now step up their private pressure on Colonel Gaddafi to avoid giving Washington further excuses to intervene.
On another point with which several speakers have dealt both here and in another place, the Prime Minister has told us that President Reagan informed her about his proposed military action. She did not say that she had been consulted by him about it, but I do not doubt that in response she pointed out to him inter alia the risks and possible disadvantages of his scheme; in other words, acted as a candid friend should. But her ability to dissuade him must have been greatly reduced by her inability to suggest any credible alternative stategy in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, has rightly described as the feebleness of our European partners, and given, alas, the great unlikelihood that, whatever their attraction in theory, effective economic sanctions, including the sanction of not purchasing Libyan oil, could ever be organised.
I had some experience of trying to make a programme of sanctions work when, as a senior official in the Commonwealth Office, I tried to cope with the problems of sanctions against the Smith régime in Rhodesia—sanctions which were mandatory under United Nations resolutions and which were adopted by an overwhelming number of countries in the world, including the whole third world. Those sanctions had a partial effect, but certainly not a decisive one. They and other uses of sanctions, including the sanctions against Poland, for example, in the wake of the Polish Government's declaration of martial law, were certainly not decisive, hence it would be rash to pin hopes on that course.
Thus given the unwillingness of Western countries, other than ourselves and the United States, to take useful collective action of this kind, the situation could not just be left to drift and slide. Some resort to punitive action—by force since peaceful steps were not available—must have seemed inevitable. Peaceful means of pressure would only have worked, in fact, if applied zealously and wholeheartedly by the whole West. Since, in the circumstances peaceful means were not available, President Reagan decided and the right honourable lady the Prime Minister agreed in the light 909 of the case put to her, that action by force was necessary and inevitable. I cannot bring myself to believe that she was wrong.
My Lords, for the last eight years now I have spent some part of each year in the United States. I have a great regard for the Americans, as I am sure do the overwhelming number of your Lordships. They are decent, forward-looking, vigorous and enterprising people. They have been a major force for good in the world during the last 40 years. But like everyone else they are human; this is to say, they have their faults. Their faults are perhaps just the defects of their qualities. They include a tendency sometimes to oversimplify problems and not to think them through, or to look far enough ahead.
I should say, I am afraid, that, in matters concerning the Middle East, such is the devotion that America shows for Israel that I sometimes wonder to what extent any American Administration is a wholly free agent. Their attitude to their allies can be insensitive, and it can be demanding. Not unnaturally they believe in the primacy of American interests and are not always sufficiently attentive to ours. (I may say that this has been a feature of alliances throughout history in which one partner is disproportionately richer and more powerful than the others).
Of course it is an overriding interest of Britain's, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, so brilliantly pointed out, to preserve the Atlantic alliance. But we should do so (how shall I say?) vigilantly. We should offer America our friendship, understanding and general support but we should not offer them a blank cheque, and it is clear from what the right honourable lady the Prime Minister has told us that she has no intention of doing so.
§ 1.25 p.m.
The Earl of Bessborough
My Lords, like other noble Lords, throughout this crisis I have not been able to stop my mind harking back to Suez in 1956, nearly 30 years ago, when I made my second speech in your Lordships' House. I said then that as an active supporter of the Atlantic alliance I considered it to be, with at that time the British Commonwealth, the main bulwark of defence of the free world. The separate action of the British and French Governments over Suez certainly came as a shock to all those who ardently wished to maintain the integrity of NATO.
Naturally, in the case of this Libyan crisis nearly 30 years later, I have had much the same feelings, but none the less recognise, after deep thought in both cases how and why these separate military actions have had to be undertaken. I regret that it has not been possible for NATO to take up a position in support of the Americans, nor even for the EC through its mechanism of political co-operation, which has hitherto been working quite effectively, to have come to an agreed position. As a result of yesterday's meeting, on which I think we should congratulate my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, I hope that this may now come about.
My right honourable friend's admirable letter to some of us on these Benches I should have liked to read out in full had not my noble friend the Leader already made some of his points, which I am sure will 910 be reinforced by my noble friend Lady Young when she comes to wind up.
I agreed with all that my noble friends Lord Home and Lord Boyd-Carpenter said in powerful speeches, and I shall not repeat them. Like others, I do not think that our colleagues in the European Community were at the outset exactly robust in their attitude towards the admitted terrorism of Gaddafi, who, incidentally, is not a unanimously popular figure even among other, Arabs.
It is certainly to be hoped that he will be overthrown, preferably from within. He may have some support in Syria and Algeria, but I cannot believe that my friends in Saudi-Arabia—which I have visited—are really serious in their anti-Americanism or indeed anti-British attitude in this matter.
I think it is true that at the time of Suez some British and indeed French had almost as great, although certainly not quite as great, an antipathy for Colonel Nasser as the American people, and I believe many in this country, have for Colonel Gaddafi. In the case of Suez we did not go through with the action. Although some of us may have had doubts about it at the outset, I none the less felt—as well I think as several Members of your Lordships' House—that having started the action we should have gone through with it. I think we should do so now in this case. We know that economic sanctions can be quite ineffective.
I cannot help feeling that the United States' Government, and indeed Her Majesty's Government, must have had these considerations in mind during the intense consultations which must have led up to the American attack on certain Libyan targets last Tuesday morning. The question now remains as to whether this American action should not be followed up by another to help bring about the final downfall of this particular colonel, as I wish had been done in ensuring the removal of Colonel Nasser.
Whatever else one might say about this quasi-historical analogy, I must admit that I support what the United States Government have done and I am particularly glad to note that Canada also supports it: that fact has not been mentioned. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Shaughnessy, is to speak later in the debate. I think we were justified in agreeing to American F-111s taking off from bases in this country. In any case, could we have stopped them? It must have been an appallingly difficult decision for the Prime Minister and the Government to have to take and, having served in the Foreign Service myself, I have always hesitated to take up a position in these matters without having seen or heard all the thousands of relevant telegrams, intelligence reports, official discussions and telephone conversations that must have passed between the various governments, and particularly of course our own, on this subject in recent weeks.
I was myself in the Pentagon last month and although my discussions there concerned mainly Soviet missile capability and Soviet strategic defence, it seemed to me very clear (and I thought they made a good case for it) that the United States Government were determined to take some action of the kind which they have taken over Libya. Whether this was excessive or not, so far it has certainly been more limited in scope than, say, the continuing Soviet 911 military activity in Afghanistan and the waging of continuous warfare against those inhabitants who oppose Soviet occupation and domination of their country. I was particularly impressed by the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, last Tuesday, which were reiterated by my noble friend Lord Home.
I believe we must do everything possible to deter Colonel Gaddafi from encouraging and supporting further terrorist activities. As to referring the matter to the United Nations, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, will have something to say to us on that; but I have never thought it possible to obtain a unanimous view from such an amorphous body, in which every kind of state is also represented. What can the United Nations do in these circumstances?
I hope that Her Majesty's Government, through my right honourable friend Sir Geoffrey Howe, and perhaps also through my noble friend Lord Carrington, can somehow convince our NATO allies to support us. Despite further possible reprisals, I believe we must now resolutely back up the United States Government and win this war against terrorism. We must not give any impression that we might partially surrender to Gaddafi.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Lord Caradon
My Lords, as we look at the situation as we now see it and consider its consequences, I think we must conclude that we have been misled by the United States in this matter. It is not an isolated occasion. We have on most of the main issues in international affairs been misled—have we not?—on the question of Central America, on South Africa and on the Middle East. We have also been misled on questions like the law of the sea and questions like UNESCO. What has happened, particularly in the past few years, has been that the United States has taken a position and that our Government have said, "Me too." That is not the way, it seems to me, in which we should make our contribution to international affairs in this country. We should have a positive policy to pursue and the strength to take it to the United States and others and to seek their agreement, rather than constantly giving way to policies with which we do not agree.
In dealing with the present situation, I think that it is a mistake to go back over what has happened in the past week or two. We can disagree, we can argue and we can bitterly oppose one another. Do not let us do that: we have to consider the future. We must consider what we should do now. We must not continue in the old habit of accepting dictation from Washington. It is for us to put forward our proposals.
When we talk about the failure of the United Nations to put forward practical proposals, we do not put any proposals to the United States and we do not put any proposals to the United Nations. We merely accept what the United States says, even though we disagree with it. So let us give our minds now not to the past but to the future. Let us take hold of the problems that are of the most immediate concern and decide what we want, what is right and fair, and then press for it. Let us put forward proposals. I have not seen any British proposals before the Security Council of the 912 United Nations for a very long time. We do not approach the United Nations in that way. There was a time when we did so and many of our British proposals, with American support, were effective. But not now.
Let us now look at the problems, particularly those of the Middle East—and there are many, of course. Let us consider what we think should be done from the experience and knowledge that we have and let us put forward our practical proposals, rather than just arguing whether or not we must always accept the American lead.
We need to take a positive position in international affairs, which we are not doing. We are not doing it in Southern Africa or in the Middle East. It is essential that we should stop now, after the events of this past week, and look at the various problems, particularly those of the Middle East. Let us look at the problems which affect the people of Libya and Palestine. Yes, they must be looked at again and we must have the courage and the sense to bring forward practical proposals for dealing with these problems, which have partly led to the present miserable and contemptible situation.
I believe we should resolve that we do not argue any more about what was done and we do not seek to defend everything the Americans do. We should have British policies which we put forward with confidence. We should say to ourselves, "Now is the time when we must formulate policies and then press them on our friends and on everyone else". Then we can make the Security Council of the United Nations an alternative to bloody conflict.
We have only a few minutes for each speech, but I thought I might be bold enough to say a personal word. I have been involved all my working life with the problems which have now erupted. When I was 21 years of age I went to Jerusalem and I was in Palestine in the old days. I saw the scattered suffering of the Palestinians, not only in the occupied territories, but in Syria, the Lebanon and Jordan. My Lords, I ask you to appreciate what people have suffered so long and so badly and with such neglect by our own Government, by the Americans and by the West. Yes, we have a great deal to be ashamed of. Now surely we must give our minds to the underlying problems of the disorders that we now see and have the courage and good sense to tackle them positively and constructively. I have seen the problems of the Middle East over many years in Palestine, Jordan, Syria and the Lebanon, and then for a decade or so at the United Nations. The problems have been neglected and have contributed to the miserable situation that we now see.
I should like to feel that from this House and this debate there will come a new resolve to take a positive and constructive lead in the matters which have led to the miserable position in Libya. I sometimes feel that I should go back. I know most of the people involved. I should like to see them and discuss the matter with them and what can be done to deal with the outstanding problems. All of us should feel that what is taking place is not to the credit of anyone and cannot be blamed on anyone alone. We should resolve to forget the past and take an honourable course to deal with the outstanding problems of the Middle East.
§ 1.41 p.m.
My Lords, it is always a great pleasure and honour to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, whose knowledge of the Middle East is probably unsurpassed in your Lordships' House. I speak as one who served in Libya for five years, from 1958 to 1963, with Her Majesty's Embassy. During that time I was able to travel extensively in the country and to get to know it and its people fairly well. Although Libyans have been criticised as being somewhat dour and xenophobe, when one gets to know them in many cases they are charming and helpful people. I later spent two years in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office dealing with Libyan affairs. I think, therefore, that I can say with deep humility that I know something about the background to the problem.
When I was in Libya I had several meetings with King Idris. What a charming man he was! There could be no greater contrast than that between him and Colonel Gaddafi. The king was kind, gentle and courteous. He was a deeply religious man, but he was out of touch with the country. He did not realise the extent of the appalling corruption in high places. He had no knowledge—or if he had he refused to accept it—of the appalling rural and urban poverty.
It was that situation which drove Colonel Gaddafi, then aged 26, to stage his bloodless coup on 1st September 1969. He was, and is now, basically a revolutionary; but—and this is an important point to make—it is not realised in Britain that he was not initially a terrorist. He was not all that aggressive. He devoted the early years of his presidency to improving his peoples' living standards. He did that to great effect, thanks to the extensive oil revenues that he was getting. He opened schools, clinics, dispensaries and so on. Libyans all agree that he was their saviour. He transformed the country from a poor little-known country into one that had presence.
But, gradually President Gaddafi became obsessed with the idea of supporting revolutionary movements in Africa and elsewhere. At one stage the CIA said that he was supporting no fewer than 40 revolutionary movements in different parts of the world which were designed to overthrow governments. He became a megalomaniac. And one must remember Acton's famous dictum:Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.As Colonel Gaddafi embarked on those wild ventures and extended the tentacles of terrorism further and further from the shores of Libya, as he stepped up his ghastly and gruesome attacks against his own subjects all over the world, so, of course, his popularity declined, and that was hastened by the worsening economic situation in Libya which largely stemmed from the fall in oil prices.
It is of crucial importance to try to assess what support Colonel Gaddafi has. I am in no way omniscient. I cannot make an accurate assessment, but I believe that it is true to say that he still has the support of most of the young people in the country. He came to power with the support of the youth, and one must remember that no fewer than 46 per cent. of the population is aged under 20. Colonel Gaddafi is also supported by certain tribal elements. There have been 914 at least two attempts on his life. One was in 1975 and another, less well documented, in 1985.
Like all your Lordships who have spoken, I condemn, in the most absolute terms, any form of terrorism, but I do not feel that that attack was justified. While it may be justifiable to attack a hijacked aeroplane or the Iranian Embassy, I do not feel that air strikes are in any way justified. I believe that the repercussions will be terrible. I would go almost as far as to say that it was the greatest blunder that we have made since Suez.
I feel rather like someone who has gradually built a house of cards, trying to promote good relations with Arab leaders. One builds with great effort and care and then, suddenly, there is a puff of wind which blows it all down. I believe strongly that those air attacks are not effective. That surely was demonstrated most forcefully in June 1982 when the Israelis launched that monstrous attack, as indeed it was, on Southern Lebanon which caused the death of 1,400 innocent Lebanese.
The same thing happened, although with less effect, in September last year when the Israelis attacked the PLO headquarters in Tunis. They failed on both occasions. Their object was to try to eliminate the PLO, to extinguish terrorism. They did not do so. They forget that the PLO is a many-headed hydra, and, as your Lordships will know, if one head of the hydra is cut off others spring up.
It is important briefly to examine Arab reaction. I have been in touch with a number of Arab sources. It seems now, as other noble Lords have mentioned, that the Arab world has reacted strongly. In some quarters it has been said that our friends in the Arab world will continue to support us. I can see no evidence of that. The Saudis and the Kuwaitis have reacted with great severity. The United Arab Emirates, which are after all some of our closest friends, have decided not to send a mission to London in the near future. The Egyptians' reaction is interesting. Shaikh al Azhar, who is perhaps the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that it is the Arabs themselves who are to be blamed because they failed to get their act together.
Many noble Lords have said that we must consider the causes of terrorism. It is a deep and difficult problem with all sorts of political, religious and historical overtones. We must try and analyse what it is that turns a man into a monster, a boy into a beast. I conclude with a quotation from Nietzsche.He who fights with monsters, might take care lest he thereby become a monster".
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, my reason for finding no difficulty in supporting the recent decisions of Her Majesty's Government are those which have been stated so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and with great depth, if I may say so, because he was clearly not committed in the same kind of way, in a party political way, by the noble Lord, Lord Saint Brides. I therefore do not propose to cover the same ground, but propose rather to take up a point made by both the two most recent speakers in your Lordships' debate and before that by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in which it was suggested that the terrorism 915 for which Libya has now become the principal patron is to some extent the outcome of justifiable grievances on the part of the Palestinians, and that therefore the way to tackle terrorism is indirectly by the removal of those grievances.
If that were the case, things would be simpler than they are. It is on the face of it improbable, because although it is true that Palestinians in large numbers, and their descendants, have suffered from the deprivation of uprooting from their homes, this has also been the fate in our beastly world of a great many other peoples. There are more Vietnamese and Kampucheans and, indeed, Germans who have been uprooted from their homes and who have not for the most part—indeed, in some cases hardly at all—resorted to terrorism. They have tried to find and to build new lives in the lands where they have found themselves.
Why has this not been true of the Palestinians? I would put the argument the reverse way round to that in which it was put by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the other speakers. It is not that terrorism is the result of the dispersal of the Palestinians. The failure to solve the Palestinian problem is the result of terrorism, because if one looks at the history of the Middle East since the end of the first world war, it is clear that, over and over again, the possibilities of a political and territorial settlement, which would give a home and a status to the Palestinians, were frustrated by terrorism, by the assassination of leader after leader among both Palestinian Arabs and Arab leaders outside; for example, King Abdullah of Jordan. Every time there is a possibility of peace this happens, and it has been going on over and over again. The number of people in the Arab world who have lost their lives by trying to find a peaceful settlement must be taken into account when we look at the record of terrorism.
Therefore, though, of course, there are very good arguments—and on other occasions I have put them both here and to my Israeli friends—for going on trying to seek a solution to this problem, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that by doing so we will suddenly cut the ground from under terrorism. We must find out a little more about why it is that certain individuals or groups indulge in these activities and others do not.
I think we know very little about the human background of terrorism. Let us take the incident which did not happen, but which the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, reminded us might easily have happened, yesterday when there was an attempt to blow up an airliner which would have resulted in a massive explosion over our very heads. How was this done? A Jordanian seduced an Irish kitchen maid and persuaded her of the improbable thing that they could be married in Israel, provided she would go ahead—two different religions in a country which has no civil marriage; but we must take it that she was not a very intelligent woman—and then calmly placed in her luggage a bomb timed to explode when the aircraft carrying her, not him, had taken off.
We have somehow to penetrate into the minds of people who behave in this kind of way. I find it very difficult to believe that ancestral dislike or hatred of Israel and its allies in the West is a sufficient cause, 916 because we are dealing here with a man who is too young to have experienced the kind of events to which the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, referred. Therefore we have to say that we must find other ways.
The Americans have understandably had criticism. Who likes seeing bombs fall on cities? They have also had a lot of clearly unjustified criticism which comes from the current wave of anti-Americanism in Western Europe, which is by far the most dangerous aspect of this matter as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, pointed out. It is perhaps understandable. Psychologists tell us that there are two kinds of people whom one learns to hate—those who have done one wrong and those who have been one's benefactors. Western Europe owes its recovery after the war, owes its prosperity, owes the maintenance of its democratic institutions to the United States, and for some people in Europe, alas, and for some young people in this country who should know better, that is not a reason for giving them support but a reason for criticising their every move.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, as this stage of the debate I shall avoid with great care rehearsing issues which have already been ventilated with considerable enthusiasm, and the general opposition from this side of the House to the action of the American President I cordially support. What I shall do, if it is not a presumption, is to select three areas which belong to the circumstances surrounding—as, invariably, circumstances do—the action of the American President as they have come to me in contact with the man in the street with whom I am not unacquainted, and the first is this.
Though I suppose that a majority of those people to whom I had the oportunity of speaking do not regularly go to church and would not profess the Christian faith, they expect the Christian church to give a lead in matters with which it should primarily be concerned, and this issue is ultimately a moral issue. I find the disagreeable and somewhat disheartening result of trying to say something about the ultimate concept of violence, in relationship to the teaching and spirit of the Christian faith, a very considerable handicap to the prosecution not only of Christianity but, indeed, of the kind of society in which I should like my grandchildren to have the opportunity of living.
I believe it is impossible to justify terrorism by any Christian standard whatsoever and I do not need the argument of the pacifist, though I am one. I believe it could be read off from the doctrine of the just war, that though certain kinds of violence, and mass violence, are supportable, terrorism as indiscriminate, impersonal violence can never be baptised. I think it would be an excellent addition to the ultimate welfare of the Christian church if we were able to say that concordantly, enthusiastically and humbly, and I believe that such an attitude would clear the ground for a great deal that now is occupied by sheer cynicism and nothing but cynicism. I therefore believe, though I cannot claim to represent the Church, that terrorism, whether practised by the state of Libya or practised by the state of the United States of America, is equally under the total condemnation of the spirit and 917 teaching of the Christian faith. But, were I to stop there, it would be an evasion of two other issues which immediately follow upon such a declaration; for the majority of those to whom I speak and to whom I listen as well are not Christians by profession but are, I suppose, committed to the proposition that ultimately in this wicked world the end justifies the means. It seems to me that that is totally fallacious unless you believe you can prescribe an end which will be inviolate whatever may be the means and that, if you discover appropriate means, that end will stand and will be subserved by such a process.
I totally reject the idea. I should have thought that the events of the past two or three days have demonstrated to what an extent the use of armed violence by the Americans has produced results which previously were only available in the projects, shall we say? of certain people. Indeed, many of the results have been the very opposite of what would have been argued as a justification of those means—solidifying very largely the Arab communities and producing all kinds of new elements, because Gaddafi, whatever his other delinquencies—and I am no supporter of Gaddafi—is a professing Moslem. I should not be a bit surprised if the death of his little daughter was not regarded by him as an occasion at least to go into purdah for three days and to consider those spiritual ideas and beliefs which belong to that kind of family relationship.
I am not defending Gaddafi for many of the things he does—I think he is a rogue and a rascal—but I am not prepared to say that you can calculate what will be the effects of violence used even with the best of intentions and for the noblest of motives. Means do not conduce to ends—they determine ends—and the method you use is the answer to the question: what are you likely to do by that method in changing the situation?
The other and obsessive question is: what do we do? This itch for action, the sense that, whatever else happens, you must do something, even if it is the worst, rather than lie idle, also contains a profound fallacy. I want a period of such tranquility or semi-tranquility as can give the opportunity for new forces to emerge and for new processes to come to fruition. I believe that those processes are already available if we stop doing the wrong thing and entirely repudiate the idea that if what we do is wrong it is better to do those wrong things rather than to do nothing. In one sense you can in my judgment evaluate and produce new opportunities for good only if you stop doing that which creates an enveloping mist and very largely an inevitable cloud of unknowing and undoing.
My friends in the open air are deeply puzzled. They are inclined to be very cynical. They are also very frightened. The only contribution I think I can profitably make to this occasion is to say that I happen to believe that obedience to what I conceive to be the will of God is the best entrance gate to a programme by which we can solve these immensely difficult and terribly dangerous situations in the Middle East and indeed elsewhere.
§ 2.4 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, in the sad and disturbing hours since the American strike one of the 918 things that struck me and I dare say some of your Lordships when they saw him on television was the sad face of Mr. Terry Waite. That seemed to me somehow to express the dismay which a great many people in our country must feel today and the mixed feelings with which they are struggling. Mr. Waite represents a lot of the best of British people. He is a man of courage and integrity. He has come from comparative obscurity and has come to understand a very difficult part of the world and has the courage and perseverance to try and contribute to peace in that area. I have great sympathy for him.
Having paid that tribute one needs now to move on to the subject of "terrorism", a word which really does not serve us well. It is an over-used word which has come to escalate in importance with the horror of violence used for political ends. Violence was used during the American revolution. Many of those men in the colonies who were at the foundations of the United States that we know and we love so much today would have been described in those days, had they used the word, as "terrorists". Terrorism today has all the panoplies of power. It is now adopted by states. It has been adopted by President Gaddafi and there is no arguing against that. It has all the weapons of destruction. If one takes that to its logical conclusion the consequences are very grave indeed for humanity.
I believe that it serves us ill in this country—it certainly has not happened in your Lordships' House—to quibble about the role of Libya over the past years so far as terrorism is concerned. I have witnessed it at first hand in Uganda, an area which has not been mentioned by your Lordships. Uganda and the horrifying regime of President Amin was largely supported in its later days by President Gaddafi and the Libyans. Many of the horrors and excesses of that regime must indeed be laid at his doorstep. President Gaddafi, on the other hand, is a man whose revolutionary passion is fuelled by happenings in the world which we cannot just discard or not regard seriously. What creates his passions? They are often created by real injustice and real despair. Here we come directly to something which has affected the strike of the United States and our involvement a few days ago.
We have failed, the Americans have failed, and Europe has failed—everybody has failed—to make any progress in the problems of the Palestinians in the Middle East. The Americans have failed, we have failed and the Europeans have failed generally to make any significant headway in the relationship between the Arab world and Israel. In fact, since the time of Dr. Kissinger the situation has deteriorated.
It seems to me, and I do not know whether any of your Lordships would agree because I have not sensed it in the debate so far, that American foreign policy on the Middle East has become swamped with disenchantment. It seems that the Americans have almost given up attempting to solve the almost insoluble problem, as it appears to them, of the Middle East, The turning point was when they lent their full support to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Since those days—and this is reflected in the reaction of Americans on television, who have shown such 919 dismay and surprise at the opposition to the American action—they appear in the United States to have forgotten the root causes of the terrorism and of the hatred that Colonel Gaddafi has for the United States.
Those causes are uniquely related to the Palestinian problem and the problem of the Arab world and its relationship with Israel. The United States has now gone to a more simplistic foreign policy that relegates that problem to second or third place. What has been put there instead is a pursuance of American interests in the larger, broader area of its influence directly related to that of the USSR. That has been damaging and harmful, and it has created more terrorism in the Middle East.
It was because of that isolation and disenchantment on the part of the Americans that they involved us in their action. I myself do not believe and cannot believe that the reason for using aircraft from our bases was purely related to the employment of specialist aircraft for accurate, pinpoint bombing. The results disprove that. I believe that aircraft could perfectly well have been used from the Mediterranean, if the Americans had wished to do that, without involving us. It was a political action to involve us, and the result of that action has completely changed our relationship and has forced upon us a completely different policy. It does not matter whether we deny that, because so far as the rest of the world is concerned our policy towards the Middle East has changed and we identify with the United States. We will pay the price for that in escalated terrorism and horrors of the kind that we are beginning to see in the very few hours since the attack.
What can we do now? In this country, public opinion must be awakened, as must public opinion in Europe, to the root causes of terrorism. We must take away the weapons that people such as Colonel Gaddafi have, which fuel their fanaticism. Wherever such grievances are left to lie and remain unsolved, people such as Colonel Gaddafi will find reasons to use excessive force and the cruelty that we identify with his regime.
In conclusion, I believe that we in public life must do our best to stress upon the young that force against terrorism really does not pay. We must do so particularly in the case of those who do not have the advantage of the information that we have. We in your Lordships' House and in Parliament are well informed. We must impress upon the young that force against terrorism cannot be the answer. The underlying causes of terrorism must be faced realistically, and they must be faced by us in unison with our European partners. Failure to do so will mean that the issues will be fudged and there will be more cause for more violent terrorist action from others. Gaddafi may be replaced by others if he is removed. He will not disappear, as President Reagan seems to think he will—that we can, at one go, get rid of him. If Gaddafi goes, somebody else will appear in his place. Unless we deal with the basic causes of terrorism, and unless our policy is directed towards that end, dire consequences could result for mankind.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Lord Broxbourne
My Lords, I propose to address myself as briefly as the complexity of the subject 920 allows to the question of the legality of the United States action and of the meaning and effect of Article 51. That may seem a somewhat arid approach to a matter of great human and political interest, but I need not remind your Lordships that, although the technicalities of the law may be arid, the principle behind it is far from arid. It is the principle of the rule of law, the cement of a civilised society and the only sure foundation for international harmony.
I come to the basic question. Was the action of the United States justified in the letter and the spirit of the law? So far as the spirit is concerned, I have no doubt at all as to the good faith of the United States or of their desire to conform thereto. The question of the letter of the law necessarily raises rather more difficult questions. The interpretation of Article 51 is notoriously difficult, and diverse opinions are held by learned men in many lands, as a glance at the bibliography in Dr. Bowett's excellent work Self-Defence Under the United Nations Charter will readily show. As I reminded your Lordships recently in a different context, law is not an exact science and international law perhaps even less so since the uncertainties there are compounded by the imprecisions of the drafting of the charter, inevitable in a product of multi-national and compromise drafting.
Within the parameters of the inevitable uncertainties I submit these propositions for the acceptance of your Lordships. The right of self-defence is deeply entrenched in international law, long preceding the charter. That right is not removed or eroded by the concept of collective security enshrined in the charter; nor, in particular, by Article 2(4) thereof. It is, indeed, expressly preserved by the opening declaratory words of Article 51. Article 51 is intended to safeguard the right of national self-defence, not to restrict it—an interpretation supported by the travaux preparatoires of the charter. The exact circumstances which permit and circumscribe action under Article 51 are not clearly defined, but the purpose and provenance of the article suggest a wide and liberal interpretation.
Nevertheless, action taken under Article 51 is provisional in the sense that ultimate legality depends on compliance with the provisions of the charter, which govern collective security and the jurisdiction of the Security Council. Against that background it is difficult to say with absolute certainty that the right of self-defence extends to reciprocal action against attacks on nationals abroad. That, of course, is the basis and justification of the American intervention. There are no words in Article 51 expressly dealing with this point, and I know of no deciding case in the International Court of Justice on it.
Nevertheless, since in principle a wide interpretation is appropriate it seems reasonable to conclude that the provisions of Article 51 would cover cases such as the intervention in Libya. Indeed, the then Lord Chancellor urged a similar interpretation in 1956 and the travaux preparatoires of that charter show that in 1948 both the Jewish and the Arab representatives invoked the principle of the protection of their own people to justify the use of armed force outside their own territory—a rare example of congruity between those people. This interpretation would, I think, appear also 921 to accord with the broad approach expressed by Goodrich and Hambro in their learned work, Charter of the United Nations.
Finally, I come to the provisional nature of unilateral national action. It is provisional in that the question of ultimate legality depends on the Security Council, as the concluding words of Article 51 make clear. A broader view is required than that of the nation instituting the action; indeed, quite apart from the charter, it is required in conformity with the principle nemo judex in causa sua. The Security Council could invite an advisory opinion from the International Court under Article 96, but that would probably be a slow business and what is required is immediate action for the suppression of terrorism.
We can, I think, confidentally assume that the United States, as a nation devoted to the rule of law and its observance, will comply with its obligations to refer to the Security Council. If the Security Council then takes the necessary measures, unilateral action as a matter of law is superseded. It is in this sense that, though lawful, it is transitional and provisional. But an obligation lies also on the Security Council. If, for political reasons, any of its members were to block or obstruct the necessary measures, then the condition is not satisfied and the right of unilateral action by way of self-defence under Article 51 remains. It is a highly unsatisfactory situation indeed, since it raises the spectre of a possible second intervention.
In summary, therefore, I believe that a triple obligation arises: on the United States to report to the United Nations and seek action by them; on thy, Security Council to devise and enforce effective measures against terrorism; and on Her Majesty's Government and the government of the EC to use their best endeavours to help bring about these results.
Against that background, let us not plough the sands of the past. Let us look to the future and seek to do what lies in us to ensure the discharge of these obligations and thereby to secure the prevention of terrorism, the rule of law and the promotion of international harmony—those great objectives which lie so near to the hearts of us all.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, it is understandable, as the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne has so ably demonstrated, that this debate in Parliament should confine itself very largely to the immediate questions: Was the American raid justified? Was it justified in law? Was it justifiable homicide or a murderous crime? These are the issues to which this Chamber and the other House have addressed themselves.
Again, was it a sensible way of tackling terrorism, or, as has now become obvious to many people who did not immediately foresee it, will it step up terrorism and make it the regular and normal way in which a small power fights America and its friends? Will terrorism have the effect (as many hope) of confining Americans to their own continent? Never before have so many people in all parts of the world hoped against hope perhaps that isolationism is not dead. I fear it is. Not only the American Government, but the American people, irrespective of party, now see the 922 world as a place where the United States citizen has a right to travel wherever he or she pleases, to praise or present bouquets to foreign countries, to impose American ideas, to support satraps, such as Mrs. Thatcher, and to root out and destroy anyone who acts against American world domination.
That is what we used to call imperialism. The American world empire is a fact, even though most American citizens refuse to give it that name. I speak as one who has seen himself as a friend and admirer of many aspects of American life.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I can give chapter and verse if there is any doubt about it, my Lords. I have experienced the generosity of American friends and I have travelled widely in that great country. It has been a fascinating experience. But I use the past tense because, like 70 per cent. of our people, I now fear America and the Americans. I fear them because of their great power and because of their invincible stupidity. I fear them because I think their rulers are guided by their emotions rather than by their intellect. I fear them because they have been corrupted to the point at which Americans as a whole must be seen as responsible for the actions of their government.
The polls say that the Americans support the mad dog of the world, "Rambo" Reagan, by an overwhelming majority, almost as large as the one by which the people of this country reject the craven complicity of Mrs. Thatcher—a fact which, though obvious to many of us, they do not even begin to understand. Dallas may hold an "I love England" week, but they will find their affection unwelcome and unreciprocated by many people here. Mrs. Thatcher may fancy herself as a gladiator crying "Ave Caesar morituri te salutant" to the American emperor—
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
But, my Lords, the people of this country have no taste for the role which I have just mentioned.
The people of Libya are held responsible for Colonel Gaddafi, in spite of the fact, as has been pointed out this afternoon, that they never elected him; and their children are killed by the Americans to emphasise the point of the responsibility of any Libyan for what Colonel Gaddafi does. What are we to say to the Americans who elected "Rambo" and what are we to say to those Democrats whose motto seems to have become, "My country, right or wrong"?
People all over the world are angry and alarmed at the crisis that is upon us, but the sad affair may serve its purpose if it gives us such a shock that we reorganise our foreign and defence policies so as to prevent the worst from happening. That worst is that one day the Americans may unleash nuclear war from our soil. To achieve that it will not be enough, as the most reverend 923 Primate the Archbishop of York suggested, to work on American hearts and minds; it will be necessary to roll back the military domination of the United States in Europe.
Hitherto I have held the official Labour Party position which sees this country playing a non-nuclear role in NATO. I now see the strength of the obvious, however: it is the sun and not the satellite that controls the course of events. I therefore now suggest that so far as NATO is concerned we should examine the possibility of following the lead of France and withdraw, with the exception of some military co-operation. Internally that means the departure of the American forces from this country and the end of their bases and communications network.
That is necessary because in crisis it has now been brought home to us that there is no political control. The only thing that counts is operational control. It has been said that the Prime Minister had no option but to agree to the American request. That is probably true. Perhaps it was not even formulated as a request. The Prime Minister has no operational control and no dual key even over American nuclear missiles. If they ever decide to use them, they have no need to consult anyone; and under these circumstances there would be no need to consider our reactions after the event because no coherent government would be left over the mouldering corpses which would litter this once sceptered isle, this demi-paradise.
It is that fear that has turned the people of this country against the Government. They have seen that we are in peril and that only firm action, which on another occasion when there is more time I hope further to elaborate to your Lordships, will save us and in the end the Americans, too.
§ 2.28 p.m.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, I have always tried to be just in judgment of people who have yielded to temptations that I have never known or who have had to cope with situations that I have never faced. For most of us in this House, with four exceptions, terrorism and assassination are matters that we read about in the papers or see on the "box". For a United States President they are an occupational hazard. By a miracle, our Prime Minister escaped from the bomb that was placed to kill her, only to endure the sorrow of knowing that it killed, maimed for life or otherwise grievously injured close friends and colleagues. There are four Members of your Lordships' House who share the experience of bereavement through assassination. Let them sit in judgment on the Prime Minister and Mr. Reagan if they consider their reaction to terrorism too sharp. For the rest of your Lordships I beg you,Judge not, that ye be not judged".So far as law is concerned, I am told by my legal friends that there is a thing called international law but that no one knows exactly what it contains. Others say that there is no such thing. It appears to be somewhat akin to our customary law based on precedent, so that, in unprecedented situations, new legal precedents have to be made. We are now in an unprecedented situation and lack a judge. I shall leave armchair lawyers to argue out to the end of time whether the recommendation of the Law Officers of the Crown to the 924 Government was that the Americans were not engaged on a lawful operation. Supposing that it was, how could we have stopped the Americans simply taking off and conducting that operation? Were we to shoot them down over our own airspace, as the French threatened to do if they violated French airspace? Do you really think, my Lords, that that was an open option available to Her Majesty's Government? That, for me, would be quite unthinkable.
I come now to my own word of criticism. I believe that bombs were the wrong choice of weapon to use in this case. I say that, not for any moral considerations, but because, in looking back on the history of bombing, I have come to the conclusion that it is an ineffective weapon. I start with Guernica in the Spanish civil war. Said the fascists, "We bombed it, and bombed it, and bombed it, and why not?" Did it make any difference at all to the determination of Spanish democrats to resist a fascist régime? Not a bit, my Lords. The sole result of Guernica was a picture by Picasso. During the last war, the Germans bombed us and bombed us and bombed us. Did it make the slightest difference to our determination to carry on with the war? No. And, in return, we bombed them and bombed then and bombed them. Did it make any difference? No.
Outside the battlefield, the bombs were ineffective. The Americans tried it against the Japanese. They bombed them and bombed them and bombed them, and the Japanese did not stop fighting. They tried it again in Vietnam. They bombed them and bombed them and bombed them, and the fighting did not stop. I am not, of course, talking of nuclear bombs. That is something else.
So, my Lords, if bombing is ineffective, why employ it? I turn therefore to the effectiveness of terrorism. There is nothing new about the nationalist terrorism. The Irish started it with the Fenians in the last century; and they keep going with the IRA today. If your Lordships look at the tonnage of explosive that the IRA has launched at this country and compare it with the tonnage of explosive that landed on this country during major bombing raids by the Germans, it is ineffective. It is pathetic. It has achieved absolutely nothing. Has Basque terrorism achieved anything? Did Israeli terrorism achieve anything in the days when there was no Israel but simply Jewish settlers in Palestine under a British mandate. They blew up the King David Hotel; they assassinated our envoys; and so on. We merely got fed up and handed the whole thing over to the United Nations to deal with. That is about the only thing that terrorism has ever achieved.
Arab terrorism against Israel has been totally ineffective. We have therefore totally ineffective terrorism on the one hand and totally ineffective bombing as a counter-measure. What, then, do I have to propose as an effective remedy? The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said yesterday that we are at war and that we are in the front line. I believe that the Government should consider carefully making that official and declaring war, together with America, on Libya, for the sake of elucidating where law stands in the matter, because law relating to war is fairly definite. A blockade is lawful if effective. To blockade the coast of Libya, with no imports in and no oil out, is a very much more effective way of applying 925 economic sanctions to Libya than trying to get the United Nations, which is a thieves' kitchen in any case, to agree to do anything of the kind. That blockade could be effective. What is inexcusable is to be ineffective.
I think hack to Suez. I remember the euphoria of dictator bashing that affected everybody at the time, including myself. I also remember the verdict of history in regard to how many respects we were mistaken. We overestimated our ability to resist: not shooting it out but shouting it out. We were made thoroughly unhappy by being bawled out at the United Nations. The military operations, as my noble friend Lord Carver said, could have been carried through to a successful conclusion, but they were scuppered politically. There was a run on the pound. America would not support us. Finally, we had to call the whole operation off, for political reasons not military ones. We underestimated the ability of the Egyptians to pilot ships through the Suez Canal. We overestimated the value of the canal as the lifeline of the British Empire. It was not. It was by that time a Commonwealth. Big ships were already going round the Cape.
On this occasion we might remind the Americans that we learned from our mistakes at Suez and that they have something to learn from what I believe was their mistake, of the wrong choice of weapon upon this occasion. We have forgiven them for being fair-weather friends at the time of the Suez crisis and we can assure them that we are not fair-weather friends at the present; but what we have sanctioned once perhaps we shall not sanction again in that form.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down will he accept from me that he does not know the number of Members of this House who have suffered personally from terrorism?
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I was tempted to muse the other day that if my father's tank squadron had not been first into Tripoli it might still be being ruled by General Graziani. That might be a good thing. It would almost certainly be better if the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was still dispensing justice, as he did in the town hall in Tripoli in the 1940s.
As has already been stated, there are three questions that have to be asked: first, had the United States the right to do what it wanted; secondly, will it work; and thirdly, were we right to accept its request to use its bases? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, has summed up the legal question infinitely better than I would dare to attempt, and so on that question I have torn up my notes.
Will it work, or was it wise, are questions that we have all asked ourselves. I do not think it is deniable that the problem of the destabilisation of the Middle East is the Palestine diaspora. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said that the Palestinians have killed themselves and murdered their own moderates who 926 suggested that they should go elsewhere. He failed to mention that it was the Israelis who requested them to go elsewhere and backed it up by physical violence as in Deir Yassin and several other terrorist attacks.
That was brought home to me only last week over Easter when we were in Jordan. Our Arab guide, a man of enormous charm and learning, had come from a salt merchant's family in Nazareth, where he was forced to leave in 1948. He became a schoolteacher in Jerusalem, where he was forced to leave in 1967. That man, in a minor and unknown way, shows the root cause of the problem in the Middle East. It must be made very clear that all Arabs deeply feel this, from Mogador to Mosul, from Assuit to Alleppo.
The United States of America does not understand that. That is very sad. There was a congressman on the television last night who said, "Wasn't it good. Israel agreed with our attack on Libya". Anything that showed less understanding of the Middle East than that, I find hard to conceive. I think that our Government do understand the situation. In my view, Sir Geoffrey Howe certainly understands it. After all, we have an extremely good relationship with King Hussein. I am pretty certain that Mrs. Thatcher understands it, especially after her visit to the Palestinian refugee camp which she went to see in Jordan when visiting that country. That brings me to my third question.
I shall now give your Lordships a reason why I think it was right that Her Majesty's Government gave the Americans their consent to attack Libya from Upper Heyford, and so on. The only country in Europe which has allowed the Americans facilities is our own. Therefore, we are now ultra in the American good books. We have shown that when the going gets rough we shall support them. I suggest to my noble friend that that gives us an unparalleled opportunity to bend the ear of the American Government and to try to persuade them of the problem of the Palestinian people.
They will not listen to it from the Greeks; they will not listen to it from the French who, incidentally, were quite happily bombing Libya the other day because of some meandering in Lake Chad, but they seemed to get away with it without anybody complaining in the slightest; and they will not listen to it from the Spaniards or from anybody else. However, I suggest that if my noble friend and Her Majesty's present advisers take this course, the terrorism of Libya will being to recede. If the terrorism of Libya recedes, the terrorism of Syria and Iran and, above all, the stews of the Lebanon will be pushed back.
In the year 637, Jerusalem fell to the caliph Omar, after whom Gaddafi is so inappropriately named. The patriarch was walking round Jerusalem with him muttering about the desolation of holy places and quoting the Book of Daniel. As the hour of prayer approached, he suggested to the caliph Omar the Tolerant as they stood outside the Church of Constantine that he should say his prayers in that church. Omar replied, "Had I yielded to your request the Moslems of a future age would have infringed the treaty under the colour of imitating my example". It is that type of compassion, that type of subtlety, and that type of intelligence which is required in the Middle East today.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I rise as the 24th speaker in this debate, and I imagine that most people believe that there can be very little new to say. However, I have listened to more than 20 speakers all of whom have made a valuable contribution to what is undoubtedly one of the most crucial debates in the House for many a long day.
I am not a performer in the field of discussions on foreign affairs. I have no deep philosophical or historical knowledge of the region about which we are talking. However, as a parliamentarian and as someone who listens to the views of others and deeply respects the views which we have heard today, I think it right that I should be afforded the opportunity of giving what I consider to be the gut reactions to the past seven days.
I remind the House that we are debating not merely, as the Motion says, the circumstances surrounding the actions of the United States in Libya, but we are also looking at the relationships with the United States, the still unclear chain of events over the past seven days, and the prospects for peace in this region and indeed in the world from now on.
I have been struck by the number of speakers who in one way or another have mostly said that there are three questions which need to be asked and answered. Undoubtedly the noble Baroness will have a major task in attempting to satisfy most of the people who have been asking the questions.
I believe that the three speeches we heard at the beginning of the debate from the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, my noble friend Lord Cledwyn and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, were impressive by any measuring rod in parliamentary terms and in terms of serving the purposes of this debate. I want to pick up points that have been made by many, including myself, of those who criticise the decision of the Prime Minister (endorsed by the Government and by the House of Commons on Wednesday) that the actions of the Government were right and justified by saying that I fully support and stand by the Alliance and the special relationships that this nation has had with the United States. I fully support and stand by our relationships within NATO. I am not anti-American. I am not anti-defence. I am certainly not pro-Gaddafi and I am certainly not an appeaser.
We are seeking to evaluate whether what the United States, aided by this country, did last Tuesday, was justified and what are the consequences. From the vibes that I pick up from reading newspapers, listening to television and speaking to parliamentarians and others in the area where I live, one of the consequences is an increase in tension and an increase in fear. There is a fear of the consequences because we are considering the justification of what happened. I picked up a newspaper this morning in the tea room. The headline read "The vengeance has started". The vengeance quoted was the murder of three innocent Britons in the Lebanon.
Where does the vengeance begin and end? There are many including myself who believe that one of the strands that triggered off the action last Tuesday was vengeance and retaliation for a previous action. Already we have not only innocent Libyan men, 928 women and children being killed, but innocent British men being killed. There is the horrifying prospect that if the attempt yesterday had been successful we would have had a demonstration of the power of vengeance from the Arab world, from state-organised terrorism in Libya, by the blowing up of the aircraft over our heads.
The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, speaks with authority and clarity. He justified the action of the Americans because, as he said, no one but President Reagan has done anything about it; that is, what is to be done is what the President did. No one has done anything about it. Not only is that a castigation of the ineffectiveness of the policies of the present Government, if he is the only one to have done anything about it, but we are saying that there is only one thing that can be done and that is the kind of action that took place. I believe that is a terrible view.
I believe that in the past seven days we are moving on the margin, closer to anarchy and away from the use of the framework of international relationships and the resolution that has been built up. I believe that the solutions carried out by America and aided by this Government may satisfy the immediate cry for vengeance. But lasting peace can never be built upon such a destructive premise. Reckless, not unprovoked, actions such as the bombing in Libya, cannot be held to be diplomatic, statesmanlike or right. That is why I am saddened beyond belief that our Government, under the guise of both the special relationship and an obligation to return favours by the United States in the Falklands war, has aided and abetted this dreadful act, and the undoubted escalation in world tension. It was a squalid act which I believe this Government and the British people will live to regret and pay for.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, pointed the way: use our alliances within the EC; within NATO; within the United Nations. Stand up to the intolerable and unacceptable hysteria from the United States administration. Diplomatic and economic sanctions must be given a chance. Standing together against the terrorism of Gaddafi means to stand with all our allies; to stand in isolation with America is to stand alone.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, one or two noble Lords—and notably the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—have spoken as though to examine and try to remove the causes of terrorism was to exonerate terrorism. Of course that is not so. I want, if I may, to ask how did this cycle of terrorism start, and what keeps it going.
The day before yesterday in another place the Prime Minister said:It has not been so much a cycle of violence as a one-sided campaign of killing and maiming by ruthless terrorists".—[Official Report. Commons, 16/4/86; col. 880.]I am not sure that that is accurate. There is an obvious cycle of violence. The appalling murders of British citizens in Lebanon seem unquestionably to have been provoked by the Tripoli raid; the Tripoli raid to have been provoked by the monstrous murders in Berlin and Vienna and on the "Achille Lauro", which were themselves provoked by the Israeli raid on Tunis when 60 civilians were killed, which was in turn provoked by 929 the Larnaca murders. So it goes on, and has gone on back and back.
If you take one of the earliest and worst acts of terrorism by the Palestinians, at Maalot in Israel, those who participated in it, as they were fighting, were shouting, "Deir Yassin". They thought they were avenging what was the worst of all terrorist massacres in the Middle East—the massacre of 259 Arab civilians, men, women and children by Begin. There is a cycle of violence.
I also disagree with the Prime Minister when she suggests that the killing and maiming is one-sided. I was fascinated by the figures that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, produced. I cannot pretend to have made a careful mathematical study; no doubt his institute of terrorism will do so. But as a rough estimate I would judge that there are far more Arab victims of Israeli terrorism than the other way round. Indeed, if you include—and why not?—the massacres in Chatila and Sabra and the bombing of Beirut, the number of Arab victims of Israeli terrorism is one hundred or two hundred times more than the number of Israeli or Western victims of Arab terrorism. Therefore, I disagree with the Prime Minister on that too.
Some noble Lords implied too that the Arabs started the cycle of violence and are keeping it going. Well, they did not start it. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, referred to the Stern gang and Irgun. They started it. I disagree with the noble Lord. I think they were very successful.
This was not retaliation. This was terrorism directed to driving out the British, for example, by the attempt on the King David Hotel, and by sending letter bombs to the United Kingdom; and, above all, it was directed to driving out the Arabs. I would say that that terrorism was extremely successful. But perhaps the noble Lord would come back and say, "But it provoked Arab retaliation", because of course it did. The Arabs retaliated, and the cycle of violence began.
I recently turned up a report I made on a visit to an Arab refugee camp in 1953. I think this throws some light on why the Arabs retaliated. Perhaps I may quote part of what I said:They said: what were we British doing apart from talking? Did I not realise that it was we who were responsible for the Jews taking their land? What crime had they and their children committed that they should be driven from their homes and robbed of all their possessions?My report goes on:I saw proud innocent people subjected to intolerable humiliation and misery. I saw the refugee camps, not merely as relics of a past war but as seedbeds of future vengeance.That is the heart of the problem. That is why yesterday a young man tried to massacre 300 or 400 people at Heathrow. I said at the time, and I have said ever since, that there will be no peace in the Middle East until justice is done to the Palestinian people. Of course that is so.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, are the Arabs keeping the cycle of violence going? It must be said that Israel certainly wishes to end the cycle of violence. Israel wants peace, certainly. The trouble is that Israel also 930 wants the West Bank and Gaza, which belong to the Palestinians; they want Golan, which belongs to Syria; they want the control of South Lebanon, which by rights belongs to the Lebanese people. They want control of the whole of Jerusalem, which by rights should belong to three religions and should be shared between the Israelis and the Palestinians. No country which occupies large areas of its neighbour's territory and oppresses and discriminates against the local inhabitants, can expect to live in peace—or deserves to do so.
The Prime Minister said not long ago that she reckoned the Afghan people had the right of armed resistance to the occupying power; and that is right. But what about the Palestinians in the West Bank? I should like to ask the noble Baroness: does the same principle apply to the Palestinians in the West Bank?
All these things were well known to the British Government including the need for a solution to the Palestine problem. That was when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was Foreign Secretary. At that time the noble Lord understood that to stop terrorism there must be a settlement, and that settlement must include self-determination for the Palestinian people and it must include the participation of the PLO in the peace process. I only wish that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, were Foreign Secretary again today. We might have a better assertion of British interests and we might have a more sane and civilised voice on Middle Eastern affairs.
§ 2.58 p.m.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, I am independent, and I do not have a party standing behind me. That has its disadvantages at times, but it also has the advantage that sometimes one manages to have friends on both sides of the House. It is the smallest of political change to get up and say, "Look, I was right at the time", but there are moments when one should. I got up at the time President Reagan liberated Grenada, and my opinions then were looked on as unpopular, but I was supported from my left hand (that is, my Right hand politically) by the noble Lord, Lord Home. Perhaps nobody in this House knows more about foreign politics than he does. From my right hand, and thus the political Left, I had support from the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, who, since he and his family happened to live in the island of Grenada, did know something about the subject.
I said at that time—and nobody then agreed with me—that this occasion of the liberation of Grenada would be welcome there very shortly; and, indeed, it is now a public holiday. The island of Grenada now celebrates the day when the Americans freed it from its Marxist, murderous government.
There is a parallel with what is happening today. President Reagan has made a powerful move. That move is being frowned upon by a great many nations. If it fails, failure is always frowned upon. If it succeeds, it is my strong belief that there will be a liberation day in Libya when the name of President Reagan will be joined by that of Margaret Thatcher. Although on the occasion of the liberation of Grenada Her Majesty's Government—indeed, the present Front Bench—stood against me, I am now glad to say that they are on my side. They may have learned a lesson. When that day comes, I suspect that a great many of the 931 nasty things that are now being said will be forgotten. Even now, I do not believe that they are truly meant.
I remember a play, and your Lordships may remember it, in which for various reasons the leading lady refused to go on stage. There were two gunmen behind her forcing her to act. The leading man wished the play to go on. She said, "Stop those gunmen", whereupon the leading man folded his arms, smiled, looked at the ceiling and said, "This is an outrage, gentlemen. "That is precisely what the Arab countries, the USSR and the rest of the world are doing now.
I do not believe that any of those countries want Colonel Gaddafi to remain in his present position. He is an utter nuisance to the Arab world. The Russians cannot trust him an inch, and we understand the feelings of Europe. I think I am right to say, as I did on an earlier occasion, that there will be an anniversary with dancing in the streets when the people celebrate the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi and join with that celebration the names of President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, the main difference of opinion in this debate and in the country is over whether the Prime Minister should have said yes or no. She said yes and the words reported at col. 879 in the House of Commons Hansard are significant:we would support action directed against specific Libyan targets demonstrably involved in the conduct and support of terrorist activities;but only on those conditions. That is why I intervened, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, was courteous and gave way, to say that bombing an open city was—
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I am sorry. That is right; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, will be replying. Perhaps when he answers he will be able to withdraw what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said. Lord Cledwyn talked about bombing an open city. It was not bombing of an open city. I do not know much about international law, but I know that an open city is one that declares itself to be open and is not armed. There are myriads of SAM 5s around Tripoli and Libya can deploy 150 Mig 23s and 25s. It was not an open city nor was it bombing. It was pinpoint bombing of specific targets. We shall only encourage anti-Americanism if we do not soon nail that misrepresentation.
Incidentally, people say that some of the bombs fell close to or damaged the French Embassy. I believe that to be true, though I have not yet seen the pictures. But most of the information indicates that what hit outside the target areas were the SAMs, which were sprayed straight up by rather inexperienced firers into the air when their radar was being jammed by F-111 s. They then came down and struck some civil targets. It has not been proved that the cause of the damage was the bombs, and it was probably SAM 5s.
It is surprising how little is known about the very high skills of the Americans. When we see the 932 photographs, we realise how amazing it is that in complete darkness those aircraft were able to fly over 2,400 miles, find their pinpoint targets and put their bombs on them. Those crews were under very strict operational instructions. They were told "If you do not pinpoint your target and are not confident that you will hit your target but might cause civilian casualties, will you please turn round and fly 2,400 miles back". Several aircraft landed back in this country with their bombs still on board, because they were strictly carrying out the instructions they were given.
When the Prime Minister was asked, "Will you allow us to use F-111s", the President had clearly made up his mind that he would take some military action, despairing that the free world would ever get its act together and put on other pressures. He could have said, as he did in the case of Benghazi, "Use the A7s"; but against the very well defended city of Tripoli he decided not to use the A7s which, although good, carrier-borne aircraft, are 20 years old and subsonic and are not equipped with the very highly sophisticated modern equipment of the F-111s.
It is surprising that someone like David Owen, who speaks on television and even writes articles, could say, "They should never have released bombs in darkness, because they could not see". He must be very out-of-date as an ex-Defence Minister. If he went to any airmen—and, by the way, they are never allowed on BBC television—they could tell him that infra-red and lasers have become so sophisticated and so intelligent that many of the pictures we see in our papers are taken in complete darkness.
When the Prime Minister was asked that question, I feel it was stressed, "If you want us to hit only pinpoint targets we cannot guarantee that with the A7s because their equipment is more crude and they are subsonic". Although they have night capability, they are not so sophisticated and they would probably have had to attack at dawn or at dusk. They would therefore be very vulnerable to the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Libyans and may well have had to meet some of the 150 interceptors which the Libyans have. I would mention one more sophisticated piece of equipment which the F-111s had, and that is the forward-looking infra-red radar, which is superb in its definition and which helped them to reach their targets and hit them.
It is so right that attention was drawn to the fact that there are four centres where the terrorists of this world are being trained—in the Soviet Union, in Iran, in Syria and in Libya. I do not want to deploy the argument about the others, but I want to draw the attention of the House to what Libya is doing in the training of terrorists. The Libyans have the chief bases for training, equipping and paying terrorists. There are 40 military camps there, divided into nationalities. The Arabs train in one camp, the African nations train in another camp, the Europeans, including the IRA, train in another camp and the Japanese train in another camp. The course lasts six months. These camps are very large, the two largest near Tobruk accommodating 7,000 terrorists under training.
I do not think that the world realises the extent of this new form of terrorism, this organised state-sponsored terrorism, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont said. Of the 8,000 incidents since 1968, 7,900 have 933 been against the United States or the free world and only 100 against the non-free world. Surely if this incident has done one thing it has alerted us here, in both Houses and throughout Western Europe, to the need to get our act together to co-operate in putting pressures first on Libya and on others as well in order to discourage terrorism.
I am sure that pressures can be brought. I would advocate oil sanctions. I know sanctions have not worked in the past, but the Libyan economy is totally dependent on oil. Oil is coming out of the ears of so many countries at the moment that there was never a better moment to turn off the taps to Libya. I ask my noble friend when she comes to answer whether she will try to tighten up on every single aspect—such as civil airlines and so on—in order to put pressure on Libya, so making another military attack unnecessary.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Lord Kagan
My Lords, before we judge America or the Prime Minister, can we imagine what the position would be if Libya had the atomic bomb? Would it not be right to assume that America is conscious of the fact that within the next 10 years more than 30 countries will be capable of making an atomic bomb, albeit a small and dirty one? From the low-key and almost ritual response of the Soviet Union, which was informed step-by-step by the United States of what it was about to do, it was quite apparent that the Soviet Union did not entirely disagree with what was happening. The whole thing was not at all about Libya. It was a warning shot to Iran, to Syria and to other potential centres of danger that the Americans and the Russians have decided not to subject the fate of the planet to the whims of one man or one sect or one fundamentalist movement. That is what it was about.
In 1917, when the revolution started, the Russians were in a very fortunate position. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain. But the USSR of 1986 is a "have" nation. It is a world power. The Russians are more concerned about not losing what they have than about world conquest. They would be quite content to settle for maintaining their position, particularly with the Chinese potentially breathing down their necks. Therefore, I think we are seeing a movement internationally towards each other from the USSR and the United States of America. There is not much trust between the two but there is a lot of self-interest, and perhaps in politics in the long run self-interest is a better guarantor than morality.
Gorbachev is a new man. He did not have a past to live down. Therefore he can do U-turns, and indeed is doing them; and that is what we are seeing. In an ideal world, I should imagine that the Russians and the Americans would like to be the sole possessors of the atomic bomb if the atomic bomb could not be un-invented. As a second best, they would accept that responsible nations, such as Britain and France and perhaps even China, should share in it. In no way are the big powers prepared to have an atom bomb in the possession of people like Gaddafi or even Khomeini. That is what I believe this whole show is about. The main actors never appeared on the stage.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Shaughnessy
My Lords, my greatest concern about the events that have occurred since last Monday night is the effect that they may have upon the future of the Anglo-American partnership and the North Atlantic Alliance. I leave it to others more qualified to judge the validity of the United States action in self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and the quality of intelligence on past and future Libyan involvement in terrorist activities.
I would only submit that it is too early to make snap judgments on whether or not the military measures taken by the United States against targets in Libya will be effective in controlling the tyranny of terror One must assume, however, that the reasons put forward by the United States for following the course of action that it did were so compelling as to persuade Her Majesty's Government to take a decision—undoubtedly with some reluctance—that was fraught with such grave political risk.
If that was the case, then it seems to me that to use such pejorative terms as "supine response" and "complicity" to describe the Government's agreement to the use of F-111s based in Britain in the operation against Tripoli and Benghazi is hypocritical, to say the least. The political risk that President Roosevelt took in 1940 and 1941 in support of Britain and the Commonwealth against the scourge of Nazi Germany was, I suggest, at least as great. Despite the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I suggest that President Reagan's exposure to political risk in backing Britain's entirely justified military action in the Falklands was equally significant if one considers the United States long-standing strategic commitment in South America.
The noble Viscount the Leader of the House has referred to the consequential dangers of the US action. They must be taken into account, but we must take into account also, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, the potential serious danger to the future of the North Atlantic Alliance had the Prime Minister said no.
I agree with other noble Lords that there will be no end to the indiscriminate spread of terrorism until a solution is found to the intractable political problems of the Middle East. I also profoundly regret that innocent lives have been lost while the situation there prevails. However, surely it is not enough to stand by idly, without taking any manner of positive action, until a solution emerges in the Middle East.
As the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has mentioned the Canadian reaction to the military strike in Libya, with which he linked my name, I have to say that the prompt decision by the Canadian Government on 15th April, taken alone as a member of the Commonwealth and also as a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, to support the US action and thereby endorse the decision of the United Kingdom Government, was in my opinion wholly commendable. Indeed, it is a reinforcement to the unity of the North Atlantic community.
The Anglo-American Alliance has endured for many years. It has been subjected to severe strain on several occasions in the past and undoubtedly will be again in the future. But it has been a prime instrument 935 in keeping the peace for at least 40 years. Whatever the specific protocols governing the military arrangements between the United States and the United Kingdom, the fundamental basis for this partnership must be one of mutual trust; not a blind trust but, I would say, a discerning trust. I, for one, think that we can ill afford to put that relationship of trust in jeopardy now.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Eden of Winton
My Lords, there is one advantage in speaking towards the end of such an important and so well-attended debate as this. At least I have the pleasure of knowing that all the points I wish to emphasise have already been so much better expressed by a great many other noble Lords.
I think it is quite probable that if other European countries had been firmer, if there had been an effective collective response to the growing threat of terrorism, some of the recent atrocities and the United States counter-measures they precipitated might not have happened. The weakness, indecisiveness and misguided self-interest that has typified the approach to terrorism of so many other European countries has much to answer for. In Britain the record is better. We seem to have understood more clearly the true nature of the threat and we have acted with greater vigour, determination and urgency.
Faced with this apparent reluctance in Europe to engage in decisive action to counter terrorism, Americans who found that they were the prime targets of the hijacker and the gunman not unnaturally put pressure on their government to make some move. That Libya has been correctly identified as the principal source of terrorism cannot possibly be in question. The evidence is as overwhelming as it is tragic in its manifestation. Colonel Gaddafi, even now, boasts of his determination to export revolution on a global basis.
The United States Administration first tried to win support for economic measures and other means to isolate the Libyan regime. Having failed to achieve that objective, they seem to have concluded that the only option left open was to strike, and strike hard, at the bases from which Libyan terrorism has been directed. Predictably, now, the United States for its action has earned its critics. Predictably, too, we now have to witness the obviously orchestrated outbursts of anti-Americanism.
But the issues raised are far too serious and too fundamental for sloganising. Instead of indulging in strident criticism against the Americans, people should ask themselves why it is that such a peace-loving and warm-hearted fellow nation should instinctively support—I believe in their clear majority—the action taken by their government. Perhaps then we shall see the wisdom of trying to bind the United States of America ever closer to us in Europe rather than, inadvertently perhaps, encouraging the forces of isolationism.
As has already been said, the cohesion and stability of the Western alliance is the very cornerstone on which our freedom rests. The ties which bind America to Europe and Europe to America are essential to our survival. Their continued strength depends upon the constant care and maintenance which can only come 936 from the recognition by both parties that we share common interests and are vulnerable to common threats. That is the context in which our support for America at this time should be judged.
State-directed terrorism amounts to a state of war. It is war against the innocent, the unsuspecting and the unprepared, as much as it is war against any of the more obvious and more substantial targets. Used on a global scale in the way in which it is now being done, state-directed terrorism is a destabilising force which poses a threat to Western democracy and civilisation.
In these circumstances we should be thankful that Her Majesty's Government have so clearly recognised this and, notwithstanding the difficulty in doing so, in this particular instance they have had the courage and the foresight to take up their stand alongside America in the cause of freedom and international order.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, while we have been debating a report has come in that the young British television journalist who was kidnapped yesterday on his way to the airport in Beirut has been murdered. Perhaps I may express the hope that the Minister will be able to give us some authoritative news about that matter when she comes to speak in a few minutes.
My noble friend Lord Mayhew gave a spirited account of the role of the Palestinian factor in the troubles in the Middle East since the war. The history of the relations between the Jews and the rest of mankind is of course a great deal longer than that. The original mistake no doubt was made by the Emperor Titus. It would have been much better if the Jews had never been expelled from Palestine in the first century A.D. The problem for anyone seeking to understand the present situation is where to begin the history. I shall attempt to begin it only quite recently, with the physical, warlike intervention of the United States.
There were two American landings in Lebanon. One was way hack in Eisenhower's day and one was under President Reagan, where we were beside them. The first landing achieved some effect. The second had no known effect and no known purpose and may therefore perhaps be written off as a well-intentioned blunder, despite the tragic loss of life caused by the bombardment from the American battleship at the end.
The present outbreak of escalating violence—and that is what it is—began in January this year with machine-gun attacks on queues of passengers waiting at two airports. Those passengers were not waiting in the queue for an American airline and those airports were not in America, but there were Americans among those massacred. It was because of that fact, not because of any territorial responsibility for either the airline or the airport, that the United States took it upon themselves to conduct the naval operation in the Gulf of Sirte two months later; that was the case which was most frequently mentioned as the reason for the American coat-trailing in the Gulf of Sirte. This operation was legal under international law. They were allowed to go there; they were in international waters.
937 It is interesting, though, to note that if the Sixth Fleet had commenced fishing or had undertaken any scientific research, it would, under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, have been fully within the rights of Libya to see them off by force. That was not the high seas in the strictest sense; it was an exclusive economic zone. Nevertheless, the US fleet did not fish or carry out scientific research. In due course, as was no doubt intended, it was fired upon: or rather aeroplanes flew towards it and there was an apparent attack. The United States fleet fired upon the aeroplanes, opened fire on the shore batteries, bombarding the territory of Libya, and then went away.
The events in Vienna and Rome airports have not been conclusively linked in the public mind with Libya. There is a distinction between those and the most recent events where Libyan responsibility has been clearly registered in the public mind. The day after the United States bombardment of the Libyan coast the famous message was sent from Tripoli to the Libyan office in East Berlin ordering the bomb outrage in West Berlin. This may be the moment for me to pause and to repeat what should be unnecessary to repeat: that neither I nor anybody else in this quarter of the House in any circumstances do anything but condemn and abhor terrorism from all sources at all times. Nor should it be necessary for me to say that to seek to understand the causes of terrorism is not to condone it.
The bomb outrage took place in Berlin. An American sergeant and a Turkish woman were killed. It was a place where American soldiers congregated and there is no mistaking that that was the purpose. It was not in the United States, and the soldiers were not on duty. Nevertheless, the United States interpreted Article 51 as giving it the right to carry out the action that it then took.
I come now to the permission given by the Government, which is the real subject of our debate, to use the F-111s in this country. It was said immediately by the Government that the permission was given because F-111s were more likely to bomb straight, kill fewer unintended people and get home without being shot down. They killed unintended people and one aeroplane was shot down. At the same moment another American attack was being conducted on Benghazi by A-6s and A-7s from the US fleet. None of those was shot down and, so far as we know, no unintended people were killed. I am afraid that one must regard with scepticism the claim that the insistence on F-111s taking off from Britain was not political, but military.
We must note also the discrepancy between the instant condemnation by the British Government of the earlier Israeli mass reprisal on Tunisia for terrorist attacks on them, and our Government's action in regard to the American request for a reprisal against Libya. The permission given by our Government (the first such permission since the Second World War) for American bombers to fly from RAF airfields, bomb the capital city of another country, and return to RAF airfields, was given under the terms of a secret agreement and on secret and eccentric legal advice.
938 It has cast a shadow over the generally accepted good faith of our Foreign Secretary in his dealings with our European allies. It has divided us from every one of our fellow members of the European Community and thus ruined for now our hopes of constructing a European foreign policy with them. It has divided us from every one of our European allies in NATO. It has united the Arab world against us. Indeed, it has united the whole world against us except for the United States, Canada—I am aware of the list; I shall give it in my own way if noble Lords will permit—Israel and Mrs. Eugenia Charles of the island state of Dominica. I believe that that is the complete list.
It has ensured the increase of Arab terrorism against us, as we are seeing all the time. It has made more remote the prospects of a summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev, and of disarmament. It has been denounced by all the opposition parties in this country. It has been repudiated by the Prime Minister's last Conservative and last Labour predecessors. And it is condemned by three-quarters of the British people.
§ Lord Kennet
And, my Lords, by the Opposition in Canada, I am prompted. That is perhaps not surprising.
But the horizon is not entirely black. I wish to look more optimistically to the future. Even in the Government there is change. On Tuesday the Prime Minister said that it was "inconceivable" that any Prime Minister should have given any other answer to the request. If it was inconceivable then, it would presumably be inconceivable in the immediate future. Yesterday, however, she was saying that if the United States wanted to do it again, it would have to be the subject of "a totally fresh application". This is radically different language.
Let us look ahead to what ought to be done. The short-term position of the Alliance has been clearly stated in this House and in the other place. I shall therefore not occupy the few minutes available to go over it again. Looking further ahead, there is a role for East-West collaboration. Instead of denouncing Mr. Gorbachev as the supposed author of a new wave of terrorism throughout the world, the West would be better advised to take up his own suggestion of talks on terrorism with the West. That is the proposal that he has made to us as well as our making it to him. We might adopt his very own suggested forum for it; that is, a special meeting of the five members of the Security Council.
This is the occasion for a reform of Western Middle East policy; an occasion out of which we may hope that the United States will once and for all make up its mind which role it wants in the Middle East—whether to be the protector of one of the protagonists in that dreadful struggle, Israel, or whether to distance itself equally from both sides and so be able to assume some kind of constructive role towards helping to find a solution. They cannot pursue both roles.
Lastly, and most important of all, is the role of international law. Many noble Lords who have thought 939 about it have made the point that international law, as we have it now, says virtually nothing about state terrorism. That is not surprising. State terrorism is not very old. It has now reached proportions, as many noble Lords have said, where something has to be done. The natural instinct of a law-abiding nation is to reach not for its gun but for its law book. When the law book is missing, its natural instinct should be to get it written quickly.
This is our profitable role for the future—to exploit, if possible, after the dust has settled, our position as a special friend of America and yet one of Europe, and to bring on a conference, or series of conferences, to get the international law written, just as international law has recently been rewritten for the seas of the world. That way lies our course—not in future violence, state or otherwise, and not in condoning future violence, state or otherwise, by anyone.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, this has been a distinguished and sombre debate that began with the sad announcement by the Leader of the House of the murder of our fellow countrymen in the Lebanon in the aftermath of the action taken against Libya. There has been very little sabre-rattling in the debate, I am glad to say, and very little extremity of opinion. It may, however, be helpful for me to draw the attention of the House to certain cautionary words in the International Herald Tribune that conform with what the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, was saying. The paper states:One badly needs to keep a measure of detachment, no matter how outrageous the provocations. Otherwise we are drawn by these people into their own apocalyptic vision, and their madness comes to govern us as well".That is a danger that needs to be safeguarded against.
In considering whether the action taken by our American friends, with our collaboration, was right or not, the opinion, on a count of heads, seems to be equally divided. There are men of great experience and distinction in diplomacy and in governmental affairs equally divided upon both sides of the House. I would venture to think that to embark on an operation in peacetime consisting of a bombing attack on targets, or a target, within a residential area of a big city would call for anxious study of the legality of such an operation. We have had the advantage of the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, on this matter. He came down to the view that there was legal justification. Having so many friends in America, I regret that I have come to a different opinion. I am glad to think that most legal opinion that I have read on the matter is also of the same view as myself although it is not universal.
Self-defence is strictly defined under the law as an immediate protective response directed at and on the scale of the aggression which is being challenged and met. In this case it has been said that the action was justified by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter providing for self-defence.
The constituent elements of self-defence were stated about a century ago in the Caroline case by the American Secretary of State. He said that it required instant overwhelming action by the victim leaving no 940 choice of means and no moment of deliberation. We applied those tests and standards at the Nuremberg trial when the tribunal denied the argument that Germany's invasion of Norway in 1941 was legitimate, anticipatory, self-defence.
I submit that applying those elements and bases of judgment the armed attack in Libya did not comply with the necessary constituent elements. There was opportunity for deliberation. There were alternative means about which I shall venture to say something in one moment. However, there was present in the Libyan action the serious risk of injury to innocent third parties. We know that, however skilful the devices were, men, women and children wholly innocent of terrorism were killed in the course of the operation. Sympathy has been expressed, as, of course, there has been to those who were themselves earlier victims of terrorism.
In facing terrorism, self-defence, I submit, could and should take the form of special security measures and the protection of people and places most vulnerable to attack. What I submit is now required are much more energetic measures to detect and frustrate the efforts of terrorists, with more shared intelligence and police work, stricter visa control, and tighter airport security. It is good to hear, as part of our own contribution to greater security efforts, that reinforcements are to be sent to Gibraltar, consisting of four Phantom jets and a frigate with Exocets, in case of Libyan attacks on the colony.
It is wrong to take the view that Europe has been supine and ineffective in this field. There have been successful attacks on and answers to terrorists and terrorism. For instance, in July 1976 the Israeli forces raided Entebbe Airport in Uganda, and rescued 81 Israeli passengers and the crew of an Air France airbus which had been hijacked by a German-led pro-Palestinian group. In May 1977 a special aid unit of the Dutch marines liberated hostages held for 19 days on a train and at a primary school by South Moluccan terrorists.
In October 1977 a group of West German border guards released the hostages on a Lufthansa aircraft hijacked to Mogadiscio. As the House will remember, in May 1980 an assault by a British SAS detachment on the Iranian Embassy in London, following the murder of an Iranian press attaché resulted in the release of 19 of the remaining 20 hostages and the detention and death of the Six terrorists. More recently, in October last year, American forces intercepted the aircraft carrying the "Achille Lauro" hijackers over international airspace and directed it to land in Italy.
Therefore, we are not, in the face of total ineffectiveness as regards this scene, calling for the action of sending a bombing force over civilian targets. The problem we now face is: where do we go from here? Is the same exercise to be repeated by the American air force, again with our support? The House is entitled to ask the noble Baroness to tell us the positive, firm answer to that question. Are we prepared and willing to countenance similar support for the Americans in similar circumstances?
Before I move to what has been said by the right honourable lady the Prime Minister this week, I point 941 out that the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, actually recommended some more bombing operations of a similar kind. He was a lone voice in the debate but—
The Earl of Bessborough
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt so distinguished a learned friend, but I did not advocate any further bombing. I merely said, "should we follow up the present action?"; I did not say by what means.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I apologise if I have misled your Lordships about what at least seems to be an ambiguity. However, I shall look at Hansard. I am very glad to hear that there has been no voice expressed in the House in support of a further commitment to the use of British territory for a repetition of what has occurred. However, I return to the observations of the Prime Minister. She said:in my exchanges with the President, I reserved the position of the United Kingdom on any question of further action which might be more general and less clearly directed against terrorism".—[Official Report, Commons, 16/4/86; col. 879.]However, what seemed to be implied was that if the American considerations were the same as those operating earlier this week, then support would be given to similar action, although the Prime Minister did say that further action would be the subject of a new approach. Therefore, we are faced with the sombre position that this is not the end of the bombing exercise and that we may have to face more to come.
I should have thought that the overwhelming opinion—certainly there is a considerable body of opinion to this effect in the House—has been directed against that approach and that remedy to this painful situation. I shall not repeat the catalogue of damage that it has caused to our international relations in so many ways; the confusing and weakening of the position of NATO and our relations with the majority of our friends in Europe. On that matter I should like to ask the noble Baroness what is hoped for and planned for out of the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Ministers. At the moment, on the face of it eleven of the twelve are against us. What shall we do? What assurances shall we give, and what outcome do we hope to achieve?
At the moment our support for the American action has isolated our country, in Europe to a great extent and then in the rest of the world. The non-aligned movement has condemned it; Gandhi has condemned it; Pakistan, Yugoslavia and Uganda—the whole parade of Ministers who attended the Delhi conference of the non-aligned movement were strongly in condemnation. We, with our reputation for observance of the rule of law and our support to the forces of peace and to anti-terrorist forces, have endangered ourselves very greatly by what has taken place. The fact that we have also endangered our own people is not irrelevant.
I met someone the other night who said, "I think the world is less safe than it was before the bombing in Libya". That is an interesting thought and reflection, and it bears the most anxious study. I hope, therefore, that we shall have an assurance from the noble Baroness that pressures will be exerted in various ways and, in particular, in the direction of the United 942 Nations. It is high time that the United Nations met in emergency conference to examine practically what steps can be taken to deal with terrorism. It is all very well for lawyers like myself to say that what was done may well have been wrong, but there is still a certain element of outlawry in the world in this sphere. I greatly hope that the lesson of this grim and painful experience will be a determination to strengthen the forces of the law, to strenghten the authority of the United Nations, and to take a firm stand against the continuance of terrorist horrors.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, we have had an important debate this afternoon. I should like if I may to begin my remarks by referring to two matters on which I think we are all in agreement. The first is that I should like to join those who have offered their condolences to the grieving relatives of the murdered kidnap victims. We all share their anguish. Both men, Mr. Leigh Douglas and Mr. Philip Padfield, had given many years of service to the Arab community teaching in the Lebanon. Their death is a senseless outrage for which there can be no justification of any kind. For some time we have had firm evidence of direct Libyan involvement in the kidnapping of both men and had good reason to believe that they were in Libyan hands. We have been conscious throughout of the great danger they were in, although we decided not to publicise it because of the risk to their lives. This was part of the evidence we had before us of Libyan state-directed terrorism.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked a question about the reported murder of the British journalist who was abducted yesterday. There were rumours of a fourth body found this morning. Our Embassy is investigating this urgently, but I understand that in fact no body has been found. I am sure that we should all like to express our appreciation to our Ambassador in Beirut and his staff, who are doing everything they can in a difficult and dangerous situation.
The second theme which has run right throughout our debate is the total condemnation of terrorism by every single one of your Lordships who have spoken. It was my noble friend Lord Home who talked of state terrorism, this new phenomenon. I think we were all most interested and, I dare say, horrified by the catalogue of information given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
Kidnapping and murder for political ends are not a new phenomenon in the Middle East; but only comparatively recently has the terrorist been able to look for safe haven and for moral and material support to governments which are members of the United Nations and profess their adherence to the principles of the United Nations charter. Foremost among them is Libya, which has had a long history of backing groups whose sole objective is to undermine the fabric of society.
It was the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who asked at the beginning of his speech what evidence we had of particular terrorism. Hard evidence—and in the case of Libya, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said, the evidence is conclusive—can 943 often be obtained only by covert means, and to publish such evidence would jeopardise the sources on which we continue to rely for timely and vital intelligence. Nevertheless, the record against Colonel Gaddafi and his government is clear. Much is already public knowledge.
In June 1980 the then Secretary General of the Libyan People's Bureau in London stated publicly his approval of the killing of Libyan dissidents in Britain. In November 1980 four Libyans were convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for the poisoning of two children of a Libyan dissident. In March 1984 there were a series of bomb explosions in London and Manchester. The bombings, in which over 20 British citizens were injured, were followed by the tragic and unprecedented murder of Woman Police Constable Fletcher almost exactly two years ago. Since then the Libyan campaign against dissident nationals overseas has continued, and of course its campaign against other innocent victims, and most recently the terrible outrage in West Berlin has been quoted extensively in your Lordships' House.
It is against this grim background that we decided to support the United States in its decision to carry out a carefully directed operation against military targets in Libya directly involved in the conduct and support of terrorist operations. That is why we decided also to agree that the United States should use aircraft based in Britain.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, both asked about ministerial consultation. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister confirmed in another place on 15th April, both the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary were with the Prime Minister on the evening of 8th April when President Reagan's message arrived informing us of his intention to take military action, and seeking agreement to the use of United States aircraft in this country. The Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary were fully involved in the consultations, and the Overseas and Defence Committee of the Cabinet discussed the question on 14th April.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, went on to ask whether or not there was a risk that we have now given, as it were, the Americans a blank cheque for the future, and that we risk being drawn ineluctably into a further escalation of violence. That is not true. In the first place, as the Prime Minister made clear in her statement to the House yesterday, our undertaking to support the American use of military force under extreme provocation was based clearly and explicitly on their assurance that it would be directed against specific Libyan targets demonstrably involved in the conduct and support of terrorist activity.
In the second place, our agreement to the use of United States aircraft from bases in the United Kingdom, should that be judged necessary, was clearly and explicitly based on that assurance. In the third place our position on any question of further action which might be more general, or less directly targeted against terrorism, was clearly and explicitly reserved. That was no blank cheque.
944 The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked me about the arrangements governing the use by United States forces of their bases in this country. The arrangements were first agreed by Mr. Attlee and President Truman in 1951. Those arrangements were endorsed by Mr. Churchill and President Truman in further discussions in 1952, and the understanding was summarised in a joint communique, which reads as follows:Under arrangements made for the common defence, the United States has the use of certain bases in the United Kingdom. We reaffirm the understanding that the use of these bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government in the light of the circumstances of the time.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I did not actually ask about that, but since the noble Baroness has brought it up herself can she tell the House why it is not possible now, 35 years later, to publish the agreement itself? Why should we have a secret agreement with our closest ally? Why not a public one?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I have no doubt that that is governed by a number of the rules governing the publication of documents. This understanding has applied since 1951 and it applies with equal force today and remains valid for the future. It has been reaffirmed by successive Prime Ministers and Presidents, all judging it to be satisfactory. Most recently, the arrangement was reviewed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Reagan in February 1981. The understanding applies to bases for all United States forces in this country, both conventional and nuclear.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York both questioned whether or not the United States action and our part in it flouted our international obligations and, in particular, those under the United Nations Charter. The answer is that the Government believe the Americans took reasonable steps to bring home to the Libyan Government the need to refrain from continued hostile acts, but Libya did not desist and planned new attacks. So the United States Administration acted fully in accordance with international law and with the United Nations Charter.
I am aware that the United Nations Charter enjoins member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means and to refrain from the threat or use of force; but these articles do not impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence under Article 51. There is a limit to the damage, in terms of lives and property, that a sovereign state can be expected to take from the planned terrorist attacks of another state. There comes a point when protests, talking and seeking reasoned assurances of good behaviour are no longer viable options and when defensive measures are legitimate. This was the case on 14th April. The United States strikes against defined targets in Libya were an act of self-defence. Under the rules of international law, the use of force is a legitimate measure of self-defence where there has been an initial attack or series of attacks by a state on another state or where such attacks are imminent.
945 Many of your Lordships have asked quite specifically what we as a country have done against terrorism and what other means are available to us to combat it. This Government's stand against terrorism is and must remain resolute and determined. Our message to the terrorists and the states which support them is simple and clear. We owe it to our people, whether at home or abroad, and to the civilised world as a whole not to compromise and not to give into blackmail or the threat of reprisal. The terrorists must realise that we will not bargain innocent British citizens for those imprisoned in Britain by due process of law for terrorist crimes.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in her speech advanced the cause of collective action, something to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, also spoke, as did many of your Lordships. The fact is that Libya has not been deterred by international condemnation and peaceful pressure over the years from the support of successive terrorist outrages. Both the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council have adopted declarations and resolutions condemning terrorism and calling for greater international co-operation to combat the problem. But despite all this, terrorism has continued.
For our own part, following the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher we took a number of specific measures, including the closing of the Libyan People's Bureau in London, banning defence sales and instituting a strict visa regime, which had a direct and immediate effect on Libya's ability to export terrorism.
I have been asked about further measures and, in particular, about whether there is anything we can do about applying sanctions to oil from Libya. That point was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Home and Lord Orr-Ewing. An embargo on the purchase of Libyan oil poses a number of practical difficulties. Cargoes traded at sea and refined in third countries would be hard to identify and a wide measure of international cooperation would be required. An embargo would be hard to police and enforce. United Kingdom legislation would be required. We should need the agreement of our Community partners, and the GATT implications would need careful examination.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, also asked about United Kingdom-Libya air services. I confirm that we are keeping under review our advice to British Caledonian. Its next scheduled flight to Tripoli is due to take off tomorrow, 19th April.
I was asked about security at Heathrow by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. It is possible on occasions for sophisticated devices to pass the screening machinery. That is why additional procedures are in force for random searches and why certain flights have special additional searches because of the threat to them. The precautions taken by airlines must in each case depend on the threat. We are fully alert to the need to ensure adequate security. Your Lordships will understand that I cannot give precise details of the security measures now in force. The technology for searches and security procedures in general is kept under constant review not only by the aviation industry but by the Government departments involved.
946 The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asked me about Libyan students in Britain and the pilots training at Kidlington. I cannot give the House a complete picture of all Libyan students in Britain. The possibility of limiting their numbers was carefully looked into after the murder of Woman Police Constable Fletcher in April 1984. Of the approximately 3,000 Libyan students now in the United Kingdom, some 250 are being trained at British airports. I know that that is a matter which is of great concern to your Lordships.
I am aware that a threat by a trainee pilot training at Kidlington is known to the police force involved and that the company responsible immediately took the precaution of curtailing solo flights by Libyan students. It would not be right to discuss individual cases, but my right honourable friend the Home Secretary would not hesitate to use his powers of deportation in any appropriate case.
Nearly all your Lordships have asked about the future, and in particular, about the attitude of our European partners. Many of your Lordships have recognised the importance of collective action by Western countries. Yesterday, my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary held an urgent meeting in Paris with his European colleagues. They will meet again on Monday. We should like soon to see in place a wide programme of measures designed to cut off supplies of arms to terrorists, to close their command centres and to limit their freedom of movement from one country to another. Our immediate task is to agree urgent and practical steps to make our policy effective.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made a number of suggestions. They include closing the Libyan People's Bureaux in the capitals of Community countries—time and again those bureaux have proved to be centres for the planning and execution of terrorist outrages—severely tightening the issue of visas to would-be Libyan visitors and confirming that the commitment undertaken on the 27th January not to sell arms to states that promote terrorism applies specifically to Libya.
The meeting in Paris yesterday has confirmed that there is a need for further concrete measures against Libyan terrorism and it has been agreed, among other things, that this will be considered by Foreign Ministers of the Twelve in Luxembourg on 21st April. We strongly endorse this approach. We welcome the report of the working group on co-operation to combat international terrorism, whose proposals will be on the table at Luxembourg. These include recommendations for action against offending states that embrace, among a number of options, the closing of diplomatic missions of the worst offenders such as Libya.
It is very important that we look to the future, that we Europeans should agree together such a package and discuss with other like-minded countries ways of working together to cut off the lifeline between the terrorist and the state that supports him. We should then have a greater chance of preventing circumstances from arising again in which the United 947 States was obliged to resort to defending its citizens with force. That must be our collective objective.
But, in saying that, I cannot conclude other than by stressing yet again the importance of the American alliance to us all. This has been recognised by nearly all of your Lordships who have spoken in this debate. The United States is our greatest ally. The alliance has helped to keep the peace now for over 40 years. We should never allow ourselves to forget, as Europeans, the importance of that alliance to us all for our peace and for our security.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she answer the question that I asked in my speech? She has said in her winding-up speech that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence met the representative of the American administration on 8th April and were told by him that the Americans intended to make a military strike. If that is the case, how did it come about that on 14th April—that is, the afternoon of Monday before the strike was made—the Secretary of State for Defence told Radio Clyde:My colleagues and I are very dubious as to whether a military strike is the best way of doing this. It is liable to hit the wrong people. It will create other tensions in the area".How could the Secretary of State for Defence, speaking presumably, within Cabinet collective responsibility, make that statement if he had already been told that the Americans intended to make a military strike?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I would not presume to comment on a report of a radio programme. I can only give what I know to be the fact as stated by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, that on the 948 evening of 8th April President Reagan's message arrived informing us of his intention to take military action.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.