HC Deb 05 February 1986 vol 91 cc268-70
3. Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate discussions with European colleagues to counteract the threat made by Colonel Gaddafi on 16 January to train, arm and finance terrorists.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We have always played a leading part in discussions with European colleagues about terrorist activities and threats from Libya and elsewhere, and we shall continue to do so. On 27 January European Community Foreign Ministers made clear their determination to strengthen co-operation to deal with all forms of terrorism and established a new group, within political co-operation, to ensure effective follow-up action.

Mr. Haynes

When will Her Majesty's Government take action against those countries which harbour and train people for terrorism? Why does the Secretary of State not call in the ambassadors of those countries and let them know, in no uncertain terms, how Britain feels about countries training terrorists to carry out acts in other countries?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I assure the hon. Gentleman that wherever there is evidence of support for terrorism by foreign Governments we do not hesitate to make clear our condemnation and to take the necessary steps to deter and, if possible, to stop such support. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is unacceptable for other countries to export violence to the United Kingdom or elsewhere.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that although Libya has a gangster regime, that does not justify yesterday's air piracy by Israel? Does he also agree that fighting terror with terror will only escalate lawlessness and encourage the extremists on both sides?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have issued a statement today condemning that action. There was no evidence of terrorists on board the aircraft or of any threat to Israel's security. In our view, the interception was without justification. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is a dangerous precedent, which appears to have been in contravention of international law. Such acts can only endanger the lives of innocent people.

Mr. Ron Brown

As the Government have condemned that act of piracy, will the Secretary of State also condemn America's war fleet manoeuvres along the Libyan coast?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That has nothing to do with terrorism.

Viscount Cranborne

Will my right hon. and learned Friend acknowledge that a Libyan freighter, which has been on fire, is in Portland harbour in my constituency? With their usual hospitality, the people of Weymouth have been harbouring the crew of that freighter. Will he point out to Colonel Gaddafi and his representatives that they would do well to acknowledge that hospitable treatment, and that the Libyan Government would do well to act in concert with the hospitality that has been received?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I readily agree with my hon. Friend that the people of Libya, and of many other countries, would do well to follow the example of his constituents in respect of hospitality and courtesy, and no doubt in many other respects.

Dr. Owen

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that his comments about the forcing down of a Libyan aircraft by Israeli planes are in strong contrast with the support of Her Majesty's Government for the American action over the Egyptian airliner? Does he agree that if international law and the freedom of the airways are to be upheld, it is not for member states to determine whether aircraft have terrorists on board, and that there must be no intervention? The Foreign Secretary would do well to apply even-handedly his view on upholding international law.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I always appreciate advice from the right hon. Gentleman, but I must tell him that there is a distinction between the two cases to which he referred. In relation to the action against the Egyptian jet, it was relevant to take account of the international conventions on hijacking and hostage-taking, which make it clear that people of the sort involved should be brought to face justice by trial, prosecution or extradition. There is a difference.

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