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Hijacking And Terrorist Organisations

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 9 November 1977

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2.40 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have knowledge of any organisations which are participating in training hijackers of aircraft and have branches or acknowledged representatives in Great Britain and, if so, what steps are being taken to deal with this situation.

My Lords, if we had information that any individual here was engaged in terrorist activity, either here or abroad, we would not hesitate to take appropriate action.

That, my Lords, is not quite the point of the Question I was raising. Are there in this country any people who are representatives of nations which are disobeying civilised rules by not taking action against hijackers and other terrorists? Are they representing organisations like the PLO, which is behind the training of many of these people, and other organisations? That is what I am driving at. Is it not time that we went into that matter, and did not give these people the opportunity of spreading their views, which obviously must mean supporting hijacking in a country like ours?

My Lords, I am sorry if my first Answer was not sufficiently clear to my noble friend. Perhaps I may put it in this way: If an individual here was known to be an active member of an organisation abroad or in this country which was committed to terrorism, that in itself would be a reason for considering appropriate action.

My Lords, is it not quite important to look at the root cause of some of the hijacking that goes on? For instance, the PLO has been mentioned. Would not the PLO cease to exist if Israel withdrew from the occupied Arab territories, the territories occupied after the 1967 War?

My Lords, I am almost inclined to quote Abraham Lincoln and say,

"One war at a time".
This is a political question which must be considered somewhat apart, I suggest, from the Question we are considering now. There are varying views relating to the theme which my noble friend has just raised.

My Lords, I would normally agree with everything that my noble friend says, but would not the noble Lord opposite agree, first, that one of the root causes of hijacking is the belief, which is apparently increasingly widespread, that the end justifies the means? Further, would he agree that political action to achieve political ends ought to stop short of inhumanity to man?

My Lords, it is impossible not to agree in a forthright and unreserved fashion with what the noble and learned Lord has just said.

My Lords, does my noble friend understand from the two supplementary questions that have just been asked that, because the State of Israel is seeking its right to security, that is a justification for hijacking? Is that what they are suggesting?

My Lords, I am in no position to interpret the innermost thoughts of noble Lords who have raised this matter in relation to my noble friend's Question, and I suggest that my noble friend Lord Shinwell seeks bilateral relations with them.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that that was not a reasonable interpretation, at any rate, to put on my question?

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when I seek relations I like to choose my company?