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Bomb-Making: Sale Of Us Manual

Volume 415: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1980

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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 their attention has been drawn to the sale at a meeting of the League of St. George in Kensington of an American field manual, classified as prohibited for sale to the public by the Pentagon, giving instructions on the making of bombs, and, if so, what action they propose to take.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to this but it is for the police, in consultation as necessary with the Director of Public Prosecutions, to decide whether any action should be taken over any particular publication.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I raised this question three years ago and that the practice is still being pursued? Is he aware that I have in my hand the document published by the Pentagon in Washington? It gives instructions on how to prepare bombs in your own home. There is even an instruction as to how to prepare envelope bombs, with illustrations. Should not the Government seize these documents, prohibit any organisation from sending them and seek at customs to stop the importation of documents which are prohibited for the public by the American army?

My Lords, we are certainly not complacent about the activities of any extremist groups, and the police have the position under close review. But I repeat that it is for the police, in consultation as necessary with the Director of Public Prosecutions, to decide whether action should be taken over any particular publication.

My Lords, in that case, how is it so easy for my noble friend to hold copies in his hand?

My Lords, because there is no power to ban publications, or to seize imported books, unless they are indecent or obscene.

My Lords, surely that prohibition ought to be extended, and then my noble friend, and others of evil intent, would no longer be able to obtain these documents?

My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that bombs are indecent, if not obscene, also?

My Lords, whether to bring a charge would be a matter for those who are responsible for prosecutions to decide and then the decision would be for the court.

My Lords, has the Minister seen a copy of this document published by the army headquarters in Washington, which is prohibited for sale outside the army ranks, giving details of how to construct bombs of all kinds in your own home? Should not Her Majesty's Government be seeking some immediate means of preventing the distribution of this dangerous document among the British public?

My Lords, will the Minister give an undertaking to inform his right honourable friend the Home Secretary about these exchanges? The attitude that has been shown on the Benches opposite about this has been somewhat complacent. Is it not an outrage that an organisation should be able to distribute communications on how to make letter bombs? If the law is inadequate to deal with that, we ought to deal with the situation forthwith.

My Lords, certainly I will draw my right honourable friend's attention to the exchanges on this Question. I am sure the noble and learned Lord, who is always very fair in this House, would wish me to remind him that I was at pains to say the precise opposite of what he just said; I was at pains to point out that we are not complacent in this matter, that the police have matters of this kind under very close review, and that this is something for the police to take action on if they think it is right to do so.

My Lords, may we have an undertaking that the Minister will report back to us about what is going on?

My Lords, I am always at the service of the House for any Questions which may be asked of me.

My Lords, before we leave this matter, may I ask the noble Lord to enlighten us as to what is the League of St. George? Is it Left wing or Right wing, and why is it interested in making bombs?

my Lords, I think that both the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and I would agree that it is just plain subversive.