HL Deb 23 January 1991 vol 525 cc264-6

5.36 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in answer to a Private Notice Question. The Statement is as follows: Last night once again Tel Aviv came under missile attack from Iraq. Latest statements by the Israeli Government indicate that because of this attack three people are dead and 98 are injured. This House will endorse last night's statement by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. He said that he was appalled by this further savage attack on civilians. He expressed this country's deepest sympathy to the bereaved, to those hurt and to their families. This House agrees. The Prime Minister repeated our hope that, even now, the Government of Israel would show that forbearance that they have so far demonstrated and not give Saddam Hussein the satisfaction of drawing Israel into the conflict. This message was passed to the Government of Israel last night. Israel is of course entitled to defend herself: that is not at issue. The question is whether it is in her interest to retaliate. We believe it is not. To do so would be to play Saddam Hussein's game without in our view adding to Israel's security. I therefore hope that Israel, her government and her people, will continue to show the same patience and courageous restraint that she has already displayed in the face of outrageous provocation". My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.38 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl for repeating the Answer to the Private Notice Question in another place. In our debate on Monday noble Lords deplored the Scud missile attacks on Israel and expressed their abhorrence at what can only be described as a crime against international law.

This further attack causing the death of three people and extensive damage is a wicked attempt to bring Israel into the war in the hope of breaking the coalition and undermining the United Nations itself. It will stand out in history as an example of inexcusable aggression against a civilian population.

The great majority of countries in the world have paid their tribute to Israel for its forbearance under pressure and provocation and hope that this will continue, although everyone appreciates Israel's difficult position. What Saddam Hussein is waging is not a war in the conventional sense but a campaign of terrorism against innocent and helpless people. This must not be forgotten when the conflict comes to an end.

No civilised person and no one with a sense of justice or compassion can find any justification for so cruel a campaign. This is yet one more reason why the United Nations should be fully supported and the conflict brought to a decisive conclusion in the interests of all the people in the Middle East.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Earl for repeating the Answer to the Private Notice Question given in another place. I wish to associate myself and my colleagues on these Benches with the words of the Prime Minister and those of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.

We have witnessed a mixture of indiscriminate terrorism and provocation. We can only admire the forbearance which the Israeli Government and the people of Israel have shown in response to this provocation. We cannot deny them the right of self-defence and we can only hope, for the reasons which have already been given, that they will continue to show that forbearance which we believe is both in their best interests and in the best interests of a successful outcome of the conflict in which we are now engaged.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am most grateful for the firm statements of support that we have received from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. Both noble Lords picked up two points: first, the immense provocation to which Israel has been subjected and, secondly, that this is a campaign of terrorism against innocent civilians. We deplore this quite outrageous action by Iraq and we commend the forbearance of Israel.