Kuwait

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th May 1988.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth , Cannock and Burntwood 12:00 am, 4th May 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current state of Anglo-Kuwaiti relations.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Our relations with Kuwait are long established and very good.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth , Cannock and Burntwood

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Kuwaiti Government showed commendable courage in standing up to the terrorists who hijacked their 747? Will he say what success the Kuwaitis and his Department have had in bringing those despicable terrorists to justice? Do the Government know whether Iran was involved in that outrageous attack on civil liberties?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend in commending the firm line taken by the Kuwaiti Government throughout the hijacking. The House would commend in particular the magnificently courageous conduct of the captain of the aircraft.

The House will share my concern that the hijackers appear to have been allowed to go free, which is why we are putting forward a series of proposals to tighten international co-operation against hijacking. There has been much speculation about the degree and nature of Iranian involvement. We continue to examine that evidence closely, because it gives rise to grave concern.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

I raise a question that I have repeatedly raised on the Floor of the House. Does the Secretary of State recall the undertaking given by the Kuwaiti Investment Office in London, when its holding in BP was but 14 per cent., that it would not increase it? Is it not clear that it has breached undertakings given to the Government? What do the Government intend to do? Will they ignore those breaches and allow the Kuwaiti Investment Office to secure a takeover, perhaps into hostile hands, of a major British company?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Gentleman will realise that, essentially, that is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

And the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as it affects foreign affairs.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Wait for it. My right hon. and noble Friend has decided to refer the Kuwaiti shareholding in BP to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. That was announced by the Office of Fair Trading at 9 am today.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby and Kenilworth

Notwithstanding the previous question and answer, will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that the friendly relations to which he referred between the United Kingdom and Kuwait are being undermined by the referral of the Kuwaiti stake to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission? Does he agree that the calling in of the planning application for London Bridge City, despite the fact that it had been approved by the London Docklands Development Corporation, is also to some extent undermining his efforts?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I am afraid that at such short notice I am not qualified to comment on activities affecting a planning application, even in relation to one of my favourite statutory corporations, the London Docklands Development Corporation. As to the more substantial point understandably raised by my hon. Friend, we see no reason why the decision taken by my right hon. and noble Friend should affect Anglo-Kuwaiti relations, which have always been very close. That was clearly demonstrated during the Kuwaiti hijacking, and we hope that they will remain so.