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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 16th April 1986.

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Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth 7:14 pm, 16th April 1986

That allows me to say that hon. Members on both sides of the House should, and I believe do, deplore terrorism. We have seen thrown away this week an opportunity which would have allowed our Foreign Secretary to continue his efforts on Monday as an honest broker to secure the united European response that is called for.

If the right hon. Lady is serious and genuine in her claim about the evidence that has become available from the security services, and if that evidence could be made available, no civilised European state could deny the need to agree to the powerful diplomatic and economic action that is necessary. The right hon. Lady should come clean and publish transcripts of the information. We are not asking her to reveal sources which should remain secret, but intercepted radio communications could be published without causing embarrassment or danger to the security forces. We are entitled, on behalf of civilised Europe, to ask for that information to be provided.

Another matter must be considered. The right hon. Lady has cast an astonishing reflection on the quality and capacity of the combat aircraft and weapons systems available to the Mediterranean fleet. Surely the right hon. Lady was not seriously telling the House and the world that the sixth fleet, that mighty American naval presence, does not have the capacity to fulfil the role that 18 F111 aircraft managed to fulfil on Monday night. Are the Americans saying to their Italian allies, their Greek allies, their Turkish allies, the Maltese, the Spaniards and the rest of the world that their Mediterranean fleet could not carry out such a simple job?

The right hon. Lady and her accomplices in the Government must offer an explanation, because the integrity and coherence of the Western Alliance are called into question if they are telling us that the American presence in the southern flank of NATO cannot fulfil the task that the F111s fulfilled. Are they telling us that the Tom Cat missiles on the American carriers could not have done this job? If they are, they are certainly making an appalling mockery of the integrity of Western defence. We will be made to look ridiculous in Europe. The American President and his accomplice here have done more damage to the integrity of NATO and the Western Alliance than anyone could have thought possible before last week.

It is time that we demonstrated that we are not prepared to agree to every act of an impatient old man. We must start working with Europe to defeat terrorism, and unfortunately the events of this week are likely to enhance terrorism rather than to get rid of the evil that it projects. We will not defeat it unless we try to tackle it at its roots. Actions of the kind that we saw on Monday only ensure that the roots are fed, and it is time that there was more sagacity in London and in Washington than has been displayed of late.