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Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr Richard Livsey Mr Richard Livsey , Brecon and Radnor 12:00 am, 5th February 1986

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made on an effective co-ordinated European response to international terrorism.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

We have taken, and will continue to take, whatever steps we can to achieve an effective response to international terrorism. European Community Foreign Ministers made clear their determination on 27 January to strengthen co-operation to deal with all forms of terrorism, including the establishment of a new group, within political co-operation, to ensure effective follow-up action.

Photo of Mr Richard Livsey Mr Richard Livsey , Brecon and Radnor

Will the Minister tell us whether the Government are urging the European Community to prevail upon the Americans and the Russians to co-operate with it in controlling international terrorism, particularly in view of the fact that the Americans, at the time of the interception of the Egyptian plane, acted unilaterally?

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. In fact, our response and our approach to other states are somewhat broader than he outlines. We are seeking bilaterally, and within the European Community, to persuade all other countries to co-operate with us in the fight against terrorism. We have no doubt that international co-operation is an essential means of reducing, and in the end beating, the sort of terrorism of which we see far too much at the moment.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

How can the Minister justify his statement about the initiative against terrorism when earlier this afternoon his own Secretary of State condemned the action of Israel in bringing down and searching an aircraft which it had strong grounds to believe was carrying not only terrorists but terrorist leaders from the safe haven of Colonel Gaddafi, who arms, trains and finances terrorism? How can we talk about a concerted effort against terrorism, and at the same time condemn a country that has started to do something about it?

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I have to say that I am surprised at my hon. Friend's remarks. As my right hon. and learned Friend made plain earlier, we regard the Israeli action of yesterday as an unjustified and apparently illegal interference with civil aviation. It is a dangerous precedent. If every country were to take its interpretation of international law into its own hands in that manner, we would be reaching an extremely dangerous and worrying international situation.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

While we welcome the Community initiative on international terrorism, may I ask the hon. Member to confirm that the Government continue to stick to their position that they will not take action against other sovereign nation states unless there is rigorous, objective and verifiable evidence to base it on? [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I can say to the hon. Gentleman that I do not think that either he or I caused the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) to leave the Chamber. I can say to the hon. Gentleman that our interpretation of the rigorous or clear evidence which he mentioned might be somewhat different. However, in principle I agree with his statement that action should he taken against terrorism only where there is clear evidence to sustain it. That is the most important feature that we must abide by at present.