Amnesty for Certain Offenders

Part of New Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 6:57 am on 13th May 1980.

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Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 6:57 am, 13th May 1980

I crave merely 70 seconds of my hon. Friend's time at this hour in the morning, as chairman of the Anglo-Iranian group in the House, to say four things.

First, we have enabled the Government to fulfil an undertaking. The Foreign Secretary promised the other Ministers of the EEC that Britain would take a step, and the House of Commons has now enabled him to go to Naples this weekend and to deliver. That is a matter for congratulation.

Secondly, we have done well by the Americans. We were unmistakably right to stand with them on this matter. I do not disguise my serious misgivings about both the Bill and the policy, but they must be subordinated to the overriding necessity of showing our unity with the United States in its hour of need. I hope, too, that no American, after the House has taken this big step against difficulty, will fail to recognise that when they needed support we gave it and, further, that there are certain matters, such as forbearance in our problems in Northern Ireland, in which they would do well to reciprocate in the light of the action that the House has taken this day.

Thirdly, we have stood for a principle—the principle of the protection of diplomatic personnel wheresoever they be. Last week my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary stood for that principle by the use of our forces as necessary at Princes Gate. We have stood for the same principle tonight in a different way on the Bill. But we have, none the less, stood for our commitment to the integrity of diplomatic personnel.

I conclude by pointing out that it is a matter for serious consideration that an official Opposition amendment on an important aspect should have attracted only nine votes. The Opposition Front Bench should think very hard about whether it has come out of this with honour when it can muster the support of only nine hon. Members.