HL Deb 12 April 1989 vol 506 cc250-1

3.8 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the approximate cost to date of the protection provided for Mr. Salman Rushdie by the police and how much longer they envisage this protection will be continued.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, it would not be proper for me to disclose information about police protection which would indicate its scale in a particular case. It is envisaged that Mr. Rushdie will continue to receive protection while the threat to him remains at the currrent level.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. I fully appreciate that this is a delicate question. However, does my noble friend not agree that Mr. Rushdie, whom I understand to be a British citizen, has through his writings, which in my opinion are scurrilous and blasphemous, greatly offended the Arab world and caused great offence to many devout Moslems? Does my noble friend not also agree that presumably Mr. Rushdie has made a lot of money out of his writings and that this matter has impaired our relations, certainly in the Middle East, with the Arabs? May I also ask— —

Noble Lords

No, no.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, perhaps I can take the general tenor of my noble friend's questions. I point out straight away that Mr. Rushdie's private means are totally immaterial. His life has been threatened in a way which entitles him to request protection. The police have taken the action which they consider to be appropriate in the circumstances.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, is there any monetary limit which a civilised state should adopt in endeavouring to protect the life of a writer, however misguided or not he may be, who is being officially and publicly threatened merely because of what he has written?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has posed an extremely difficult question to answer. The point is that, at the end of the day, it is a matter of morals and ethics. It is an interesting question and of sufficient interest, in my humble opinion, for me to pass it on to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, does not my noble friend the Minister agree that Mr. Rushdie has written for personal gain? Therefore, does he not further agree that it might be a kind gesture for Mr. Rushdie to contribute some cash from that gain to the long-suffering British public?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I can only say that that must be the opinion of my noble friend.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is it not time to put this matter in its proper perspective? If the police were not protecting Mr. Rushdie they would still be employed doing something else.

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