Amnesty for Certain Offenders

Part of New Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 6:43 am on 13th May 1980.

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Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central 6:43 am, 13th May 1980

The whole of the evening and night has been spent in examining and probing the Government's policies and attitudes in the sad affair of the Iranian hostages. Although a great deal of scepticism has been applied from the Opposition Benches towards the method that the Government are taking to try to secure the release of the hostages, it should not be thought that because we oppose the Bill there is any division in the desire to obtain the release of the unfortunate American citizens. We have been debating the wisdom of the Government's policy. We have tried to examine the way in which the Government are pursuing that policy and to indicate some of the dangers and pitfalls.

In the end, it is a matter of judgment whether this policy will succeed or whether our policy, adumbrated by the Opposition Front Bench, is sounder. Perhaps our method is more likely to achieve the release of the hostages in the long run. The Government have won the day because they have greater numbers. I am not certain that they have won the argument.

By allying ourselves to the Americans, we shall not strengthen the case for releasing the hostages. Indeed, I believe that case will be weakened. The policy may prove inimical to the ideas and aspirations of the free world. We shall lose the sympathy of the developing and uncommitted nations which supported us when Afghanistan was invaded. If we fail to take notice of the change of attitude that has taken place in the Islamic world following the abortive American attempt to release the hostages, we shall find ourselves following a course that is fraught with many dangers. There are dangers to our economy and to the safety of the world.

It would be wrong if those of us who oppose this policy did not tell the House that we are sympathetic to the hostages and wish that they had never been taken. It is horrible for anyone to be taken hostage. It is a breach of every tenet of international law and of the treatment of diplomats. The Government's course is foolish. In those circumstances, it would be wrong not to oppose the Bill as much as possible.