HL Deb 21 January 1986 vol 470 cc109-10

2.45 p.m.

Lord Paget of Northampton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether refusal to negotiate with or offer deals to terrorists and kidnappers is still their policy.

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

My Lords, the handling of a terrorist incident will often involve a process of negotiation, usually conducted by trained police officers, in order to bring the incident to a peaceful conclusion with minimum risk to any hostages and to arrest offenders. The arrangements for handling such incidents are closely co-ordinated between police and Government, and follow the declared policy of the Government that we will not make substantive concessions to terrorist demands.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, while congratulating the Government on their own policy, particularly the handling of the recent case of the gentleman who escaped wearing a bedstead—that seems to have been admirably handled—is it not made somewhat difficult by amateur competition, particularly when it comes with the alleged endorsement of the established Church? We learn nowadays, do we not, that Mr. Waite is on his way, that he is being most graciously received, that he is negotiating with the assassins and that everyone seems to be a very good fellow indeed. In the very week that he tells us that Colonel Gaddafi is a deeply religious man, he is voted by viewers England's second most popular man. Does not this approach, totally opposed to that of the Government, make the running of the Government's policy a little difficult?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I really do not think that I can go further than what I have already said. It is the policy of the Government to seek to achieve a peaceful resolution of terrorist incidents by a process of negotiation. This might involve minor concessions such as the provision of food, but stops short of conceding substantive political demands.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is it not surely for the Government to make those concessions? The interventions of an amateur of this sort seem to some of us, at any rate, most mischievous.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I really cannot go further than what I have already said. I have given to the noble Lord the policy which the Government have followed in incidents that have occurred in this country. I do not think I can be drawn further.

Lord Alport

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that a great many people in this country admire very much the courage that Mr. Waite has shown and the efforts that he has made in order to prevent some further harm to those who are imprisoned at the present moment in the Middle East?

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I agree entirely with that remark. Yes, Mr. Waite has done a tremendous amount of service, and for that we should all be thankful.