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United States Of America (Visit)

Volume 32: debated on Thursday 25 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the United States of America.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the United States of America.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what contacts with United States authorities he had on his recent visit to that country bearing upon allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency has been involved with supplies for terrorists operating in the United Kingdom.

I visited the United States of America from 14 to 22 November. I addressed several influential audiences, gave a number of radio, television, and press interviews, called on the deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Kenneth Darn, and undertook some industrial development business.

I sought to inform those I met about the current political situation in Northern Ireland, to promote the advantages of Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment and to re-emphasise earlier appeals for Americans not to give political, financial or moral support to organisations associated with the use of violence in Northern Ireland.

During my discussions with Mr. Dam I received the strongest possible assurances that the United States authorities would continue to pursue and prosecute those engaged in sending arms illegally to Northern Ireland.

I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf, I am sure, of the vast majority of people in Great Britain and, I hope, in Northern Ireland, for the efforts that he and his predecessors on both sides of the House have put into their jobs. There has been constant carping in the House about the efforts of successive Governments who have tried to solve that difficult problem.

Is my right hon. Friend aware, and does he believe, that the American Government are aware of the widespread disgust felt in this country at the behaviour of both the jurors and some of the acquitted in a recent New York court case? Can he, through the Foreign Office, bring to the attention of the American Government the feeling of many of my constituents, and others, that unless the American Government are more supportive of the Government we shall continue to see a growth of anti-American feeling?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said. The American Government are aware of the strong feelings that have been expressed on this side of the Atlantic. They share our disappointment at the outcome of the court case. Just as in this country the Executive and the judiciary are separate, so the American Government can do no more than make certain that the evidence produced at the courts is the best available. The FBI does all it can to prevent the supply of arms.

Did my right hon. Friend see reports when he was in the United States about the president of Noraid, Mr. Flannery, who, when asked during the court case whether it was true that he had been running guns to terrorists in Northern Ireland for the past seven years, denied that and said that he had been doing so for over 20 years? Does my right hon. Friend think that more should be done to persuade ordinary, decent Americans, of whatever national extraction, not to give money to or support Noraid?

Everything must be done to persuade the American public not to support Noraid. That was one of the purposes of my visit. I am also certain that the United States Government intend to prevent by any means they can cash reaching Noraid. They have already taken court action to force Noraid to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act and register as an agent of the Provisional IRA.

I acknowledge the steps that have been taken by the FBI to prevent arms smuggling. Will the Secretary of State admit that the recent acquittal in the New York court, which resulted from claims that the CIA was involved, confirms beliefs already held and gives moral backing to the IRA terrorists? I accept that a President can be unaware of CIA activities, but will the Secretary of State say what representations have been made to the United States authorities about such allegations?

That was obviously a matter that came up during my talks. I am satisfied that the CIA was not and is not involved in the smuggling of arms to Northern Ireland. The State Department described the allegation as ludicrous, and that remains the position.

I have seen how much good my right hon. Friend's visits to America have achieved. Will he encourage other people, not merely politicians but professional people—nurses, teachers and even police officers—to go to the United States and explain to the American public that all people of all religions wish the trade in arms to Northern Ireland to stop?

Yes, Sir. The more people who go, the better it will be, provided that when they go they do so in the right spirit and use the most suitable words to appeal to a sceptical American audience.

When the Secretary of State goes to America, or meets American industrialists will he make it clear that much more stringent criteria will be applied to ventures such as that of De Lorean, that where the taxpayer supports such a venture with a majority shareholding, the taxpayer will retain majority control, and that the Government have set their face firmly against ownership by American companies to which money can be apparently siphoned off in large quantities?

Yes, Sir. There is no doubt that whenever I can I make that point forcefully.

In spite of the difficulties about security in America—I know the difficulties of getting through to certain people, especially on the west coast of America—and the terrible economic position, can the Secretary of State say anything about any success that he had with inward investment? Are public investment and Government participation still his economic policy for Northern Ireland?

It is not the easiest time to attract American investment. There is a serious recession there at the moment and they are not thinking about a great deal of overseas investment. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said this afternoon, we believe that we have an excellent package that should attract investment. It has to be stringently controlled, as I said to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). We shall have to look at our package to see whether we can make it rather more suitable. We must continue, even during this period of recession, to keep the minds of American industrialists in touch with Northern Ireland so that when they pull out of the recession they will invest.