Home Page

Column 657

Airport Security

3.32 pm

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper :

35. Mr. David Evans (Welwyn Hatfield) : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent steps have been taken to help improve security at Britain's airports ; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Paul Channon) : Immediately after Lockerbie increased security measures were ordered for American airlines, particularly for hold baggage. Soon afterwards I decided to bring in further measures for them in relation to cabin baggage, hold baggage and cargo. On 6 April I announced a package of measures to provide better security of restricted areas and for aircraft, passengers and baggage in those areas.

I have now set firm objectives for a further tightening of security, particularly in relation to items that might be used to conceal explosive devices ; the screening of all hold baggage ; cargo, mail and courier, consignments ; the physical separation of inbound and outbound passengers ; and the design of aircraft interiors. I intend to more than double the strength of my Department's aviation security division so that it can carry out more inspections and spot checks, as well as special surveys to determine whether new measures are needed. To emphasise its monitoring role, the team of aviation security advisers will be reconstituted as the aviation security inspectorate.

There are certain areas where my powers under the Aviation Security Act 1982 are more limited than I should like. I shall therefore seek new powers from Parliament to secure more effective implementation of security measures.

I am doubling the budget for the current financial year for research and development into equipment, to include the continuing examination of commercially available equipment and the development of new techniques for the detection of explosives.

We have now received the Federal Aviation Administration's proposal to install one of the first production thermal neutron analysis machines at Gatwick or Heathrow later this year. We have kept in touch with progress on a similar British project and we are discussing with its sponsors the possibility of funding further work.

With the United States of America we initiated an ambitious programme of work by the International Civil Aviation Organisation designed to improve security standards worldwide. I look forward to a further discussion with the United States Secretary of Transportation when he visits London later this week.

My written answer today to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) gives further details of my review of aviation security.

Mr. David Evans : I thank my right hon. Friend for those far- reaching initiatives, which I am sure the House will also welcome. Could he be more specific about what he means by his reference to tightening up the security services? In future, will airports be safer place to which to go? When will the initiatives be implemented?

Mr. Channon : The timing of the initiatives will vary. Some of those that I have announced this afternoon will


Column 658

take some time to implement, but my hon. Friend will know that I announced a package of measures on 6 April, some of which can take effect almost immediately.

The initiatives I have announced today are part of a continuing process. This is not the end and we shall continue to improve aviation security. I am now aiming for a set of internationally agreed rules on security procedures on, for example, radios and other electrical items. I am tightening up the requirements for screening hold baggage and the security requirements for cargo. I assure my hon. Friend that there is still more to be done, but I am determined to do anything within my power to improve security at airports.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : Would not this question have been better answered by way of a statement? Will the new powers that the right hon. Gentleman is seeking from Parliament be sought in this Session because of their urgency? What will be his response to American pressures to impose their standards on our airports?

Mr. Channon : My answer today represents a progress report on the continuing review of security. I made some announcements on 6 April and I am always open to the House to make a statement, if that is what it would like. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) had a question down and it seemed right that I should answer it at the end of Question Time as his question was not reached earlier.

It is not for me to say exactly when the required legislation will come forward, but it will do so at the earliest convenient date. There is, however, already a heavy programme of legislation for the present Session of Parliament.

With regard to the United States Government, I am looking forward to discussing the relevant matters with the Secretary of Transportation during the next few days. We are in total agreement about the need to improve aviation security. If there are any differences, which I doubt, I am sure that they are small ones that can be resolved quickly.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is sensible to take a question at the end of Question Time occasionally when most people who are interested in a particular subject happen to be in the House? Can my right hon. Friend be more specific about the proposals he has in mind with regard to extending the 1982 Act? I welcome the doubling in the budget that my right hon. Friend has mentioned.

Mr. Channon : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. We worked off the questions today and, as my right hon. Friend has said, this is a time when most people interested in transport are likely to be here. I shall try to ensure that the aviation security inspectorate, which I have announced, will have adequate powers to ensure that aviation security requirements are properly implemented. I also want to consider whether there should be sanctions for lax security or powers over persons other than airports or airlines. At the moment the powers are limited to airports and airlines.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : When the Secretary of State meets Secretary Skinner for discussions, will he ask him about recent reports that show that just a few hours before the Lockerbie disaster the United States issued further warnings of immediate priority about possible hijacks or explosions on aircraft, which,


Column 659

admittedly, Secretary Skinner's Department did not pass on to the British Government? Will he take up that matter with the United States Secretary of Transportation?

Mr. Channon : I shall examine what the hon. Gentleman has said. As to the general question of Lockerbie, the House will know that I made a full reply to a question put by the Leader of the Opposition on 21 March. At this stage I have nothing else to add.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley) : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this package. Is he now satisfied with the arrangements for liasion between the British Airports Authority and his Department on security matters? Has he given any consideration to the establishment of a land border guard similar to that in Germany and other countries with specific control of airport security alone?

Mr. Channon : No, so far we have not considered that matter. Obviously we shall keep airport security under continuous review, and what my hon. Friend has suggested is an important subject which needs further study. At the moment however, I do not believe that it would be an appropriate procedure for the United Kingdom.

I am satisfied about liaison with BAA. Between us we must work to try to ensure improved airport security. The House must be under no illusions, however, of the great difficulties that always exist in this regard. At Heathrow, 50,000 people are employed and 100,000 people are employed at the four largest airports of the United Kingdom. I shall do my best, and so will my officers and all those concerned, to improve security at airports, but the House will be aware from the figures I have given what an enormous task it is.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the problems is the number of subcontractors, who have a rapid turnover of staff? As it is known that it takes at least three months to get a security clearance, is it not obvious that the rules applying to subcontractors working at major airports must be not only clearly laid out but rigidly enforced?

Mr. Channon : It could well be that the powers I seek to take in due course will cover the specific point which the hon. Lady has raised and about which she is quite correct. She has put her finger on an important problem.

Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar) : I revert to the matter of the discussions that my right hon. Friend is to have with the United States Secretary of Transportation. Has my right hon. Friend seen reports that the American authorities intend to seek to impose their standards of security on what, to them, are foreign airlines and foreign airports? As, by implication, that would mean an attempt by the United States to impose its rules on British airways at Heathrow and Gatwick, will the Secretary of State, in discussions with Secretary Skinner, make clear to him that such a proposal would not be acceptable and that the rules relating to British airports and airlines must remain firmly with the Department of Transport and other agencies in this country?

Mr. Channon : My hon. Friend is entirely right about that point. I shall want to discuss this matter with Mr. Skinner, bearing in mind that the United Kingdom


Column 660

Government are responsible for aviation security in this country. I am sure that the object of the American initiative is to achieve better security in other countries, where, perhaps, Governments do not take their responsibility in this area as seriously as we do. I am sure that we will have no problem about this matter and that we will amicably conclude our discussions, because both Governments share a belief in the overriding need to improve security. We have worked extremely well together in Montreal at the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and I am sure that we will do so again on this occasion.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : How much new money will be spent on this package of proposals? Will it be greater or less than the £500 million doled out by the Prime Minister to save a dozen Tory-held Kent constituencies? Is this Government more concerned about looking after their interests in constituencies they hold than in saving lives?

Mr. Channon : The serious answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that, if there are security requirements that should be enforced on their merits, lack of finance will in no way be allowed to stand in the way.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : I appreciate the importance of the figures to which the Secretary of State referred a few moments ago of the huge number of employees involved at airports, and I also recognise that the West German authorities and PanAm, to name just two groups involved, are trying to put the blame for what has happened on this country. However, will my right hon. Friend confirm that, when it comes to the security of aircraft and to the checking of baggage and tickets, the airlines are responsible and must be forced to carry out their duties properly?

Mr. Channon : It is extremely important that airlines carry out their duties properly. Being well aware of the fact, the airlines are energetically following this course. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that point. We are continually emphasising to airlines the great importance of the security measures they should undertake.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : Can my righ hon. Friend assure us that the checks at airports to detect persons carrying explosives are as scrupulous as the checks made of persons entering the Palace of Westminster?

Mr. Channon : That is certainly what I intend should occur, and I hope that it will. It must be the rule that, if security staff are in any doubt about a radio, a cassette recorder or other item being carried, they should forbid its carriage.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East) : I must protest that the Secretary of State has just given what was really a statement. In fact, he spends most of his time either avoiding making statements to the House or using Question Time to make points. As all hon. Members know, under the procedure for statements in this place, an hon. Member can obtain a copy of the statement and make a judgment about it.

The Secretary of State knows that, if what he said today in his statement improves security at airports, we will welcome it, because mistakes and confusion which affect airport security alarm American and other authorities.


Column 661

Will the Secretary of State confirm that most of the recommendations that he has just made were made by the Select Committee in 1986 but were then totally rejected by the Department? The right hon. Gentleman confirmed that rejection a few weeks ago in correspondence to me. What made him change his mind? I am pleased that he has changed his mind, because checks on luggage into Heathrow will improve security, but how much will it cost, and will that cost be borne by the passenger or the taxpayer, or financed by a levy fund system as recommended by the Select Committee? The last method is the one overall way to deal with the financing of airport security. What about the other recommendation of the Select Committee that there should be someone in overall control of security and directly responsible when a mistake such as those that we have seen in the past few months is made?

As the Secretary of State referred to the view of the Americans--there is a report about it in The Independent today--can he tell us whether he agrees that the American authorities feel that our security is so bad that they will impose their higher conditions of security on their aeroplanes? That is a comment on our level of security. Does the Secretary of State accept that, as he so often avoided his responsibilities by saying that the breach of airport security on the PanAm flight was the responsibility of PanAm, the operator, rather than his responsibility, that is why the Americans take the view that there is inadequate security and control, particularly by the Secretary of State, of airport security in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Channon : That was a typical question from the hon. Gentleman. If he thinks that I spend my time trying to avoid making statements to the House, I may say that I have not been particularly successful over the past few months.

To answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), I have announced a progress report on what is a continuing review.

To answer the hon. Gentleman, the cost will be borne by the passenger ; extra costs on airlines and airports will inevitably be passed on. I am not persuaded by the case for a levy, which would raise no new money. It is merely a way of transferring money from one pocket to another and will not raise a single extra halfpenny. The person in overall control is the airport manager, and the new inspectorate will have an important role in inspecting airports even more energetically than at present. I reject completely the hon. Gentleman's view of the United States' opinion of our aviation security. There is not the faintest evidence to back up his unfounded and irresponsible claim. I shall be discussing this matter with Mr. Skinner, and I shall be amazed if he takes the Prescott line.


Column 662

Arms Trafficking (Paris Arrests)

3.47 pm

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) (by private notice) : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Government policy following the arrest in Paris of three members of the Ulster Defence Association in the company of a South African diplomat on a charge of illegally possessing weapons.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : We have been informed by the French authorities of the arrest in Paris of three United Kingdom citizens and one American on 21 April on charges of arms trafficking, receipt of stolen goods, and criminal conspiracy of a terrorist nature. Consular access is being sought to the three United Kingdom citizens.

The Government are seriously concerned at the implications of the charges brought by the French authorities. The matter is sub judice and it is extremely important not to prejudice the French legal proceedings in any way. The South African ambassador in London was today summoned to the Foreign Office to be told of the grave view taken by the British Government of the implications of the charges and of the alleged involvement of a member of the South African embassy in Paris. The House will wish to be assured that since the initial reports of thefts in Northern Ireland became known my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been subjecting security arrangements at Shorts and other establishments in Northern Ireland to a most thorough review.

Mr. Kaufman : I congratulate all involved in the successful operation in Paris.

Does not that operation reveal an alarming state of affairs--a conspiracy whereby South Africa has supplied so-called Loyalists with lethal weapons for use in terrorist actions in Ulster in quest of access to information, replicas and models of British missiles? In view of a succession of successful burglaries at Shorts, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman guarantee the security of the Starstreak missile in particular, as well as Javelin and Blowpipe? Is it not a fact that weapons supplied by South Africa as part of this bloodstained deal have already been responsible for the deaths of innocent people in Northern Ireland and that grenades supplied by South Africa have been thrown at the police in Northern Ireland? In the knowledge of the fact that South Africans have supplied arms for murder in Northern Ireland, did the Forein Secretary raise this act of aggression when he met the South African Foreign Minister last month? Did the Prime Minister do so when she met that same Minister this month? How can the Prime Minister have told a South African newspaper :

"I consistently have made clear the total opposition and abhorrence of the British Government for terrorist actions"

when she must have known that the South Africans have been responsible for making possible terrorist action inside the United Kingdom?

Today, all hon. Members have received a letter from the Foreign Secretary declaring :

"our message is getting through where it matters most--inside South Africa".


Column 663

Is this conspiracy the response to that message? Is this conspiracy the response to the tact and persuasion that the Prime Minister says she uses with South Africa?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consult other European Community Foreign Ministers urgently to obtain united action, involving the expulsion of all South African intelligence agents and arms purchasers posing as diplomats? Will he call back the South African ambassador in London and tell him to withdraw all members of his staff with duties comparable to those of Mr. Storm?

Will the Government now cut off to South Africa all supplies of equipment, spare parts and vehicles which can be used for military purposes? Is it not time that Britain acted in line with world opinion and imposed sanctions on South Africa's incorrigible regime?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I can begin by thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his congratulations to those concerned with bringing this matter to the state it has so far reached. I find it difficult to agree with several of the other points that he raised. The right hon. Gentleman will surely acknowledge that the success of this operation thus far underlines the extent to which the Government have been, are and remain totally committed to enforcement of the United Nations arms embargo to South Africa. That is why I said that we take an extremely serious view of the facts so far disclosed in this matter. I emphasise "the facts so far disclosed" because it is by a long way too early to come to any conclusions about the implications of this matter, let alone some of the earlier ones to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to emphasise the need for the closest possible attention to security in relation to manufacturing processes in Northern Ireland. I have said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is closely concerned with that.

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that we are well aware of the nature of some of the agencies and authorities that are involved in a matter of this kind. That is all the more reason for working in a manner which is most effective to secure the removal of apartheid from South Africa. It is our continuing and firm belief that the present policy of the Government is best calculated to achieve that end.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant) : Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that I regret every bit as much as he does the rather deplorable events which have occurred in Paris during the past 48 hours? If, as has been suggested in the House today, South African weapons have given rise to terrorist action in Ulster, that is a profoundly regrettable consequence. However, before my right hon. and learned Friend reaches a final conclusion, will he bear in mind the fact that many of us, including many of my constituents, take just as grave a view of the way in which SWAPO and the ANC obtain SAM-7 and Stinger-type missiles so that the South Africans are compelled by the international arms embargo to resort to deplorable methods to obtain arms themselves?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I do not think that I should join my hon. Friend in discussing SWAPO's access to weapons in different circumstances, save to underline the extent to


Column 664

which we deplore the use of violence as a means of promoting political objectives in southern Africa as in our own country. However, I am glad to have his endorsement of the view that I have expressed that the implications of the facts so far disclosed could be extremely serious, and the fact that he has endorsed that is significant.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East) : Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the military importance of the incident we are discussing is demonstrated by the fact that the South African Government were apparently willing to pay £1 million for the model of the missile which was sought to be obtained in Paris? He has also told the House that a review of the security has been taking place. If that is the case, why did the Minister of State for the Armed Forces say in response to a written question from me :

"Security of all Ministry of Defence establishments and bases is kept under constant review as a matter of course. I have no plans at present to commission a specific investigation into security at territorial army bases in Northern Ireland."--[ Official Report, 20 April 1989 ; Vol 151, c. 278. ]

Sir Geoffrey Howe : On the hon. and learned Gentleman's last point, I cannot comment on the precise formulation of the matter to which he has referred, but I can assure him that since the initial reports of security risks and thefts came to light, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has set in hand a very close review of security at such premises. I cannot confirm or deny the specific figure that the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned, but it goes without saying that the South African authorities are prepared to go to considerable lengths to outwit the United Nations arms embargo. That is why we apply ourselves so energetically to upholding its enforcement.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : Is there any evidence that South African weapons have been used in terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) claimed?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot offer the House any concluded judgment on that today, but obviously if it were firmly established it would add to the gravity of a serious situation.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : Will the Secretary of State shed further light on the incident, as we have only press speculation? I do not want to speculate as to whether any court proceedings are developing but is there any truth in the suggestion by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that the UDA was involved? Furthermore, on a day when the people of south Belfast have suffered another terrorist attack on a police station and after a weekend when women have been murdered, is it not rather hypocritical to spend time attacking South Africa when the ANC and the IRA have been collaborating in the attack on British people in Northern Ireland?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : On the hon. Gentleman's first point, it is not possible to be more specific about a number of matters that have been raised for discussion by the facts so far reported, not only because we do not wish to say or do anything that may interfere with the conduct of proceedings in France--which is important--but in addition, one has to take care about the revelation of


Column 665

sensitive material in answer to any further questions. The inescapable fact is that any involvement on either side of the tragic conflict in Northern Ireland involving the supply of weapons that may add to the hazard to life and limb there is to be deplored, and any fresh aspect of it raises serious questions.

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham) : My right hon. and learned Friend will have the support of the whole House in deprecating the stealing of weapons. Bearing in mind that the Government wisely operate an arms embargo policy against South Africa, has my right hon. and learned Friend or any of his ministerial colleagues received any evidence from the Opposition about the illegal supply of arms as was suggested by the shadow Foreign Secretary? I have heard of no such evidence being put forward, yet the fact that we have an official arms embargo is rarely recognised by Opposition Members.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I can assure my hon. Friend that any suggestion of the supply of weapons in breach of the arms embargo is always investigated with the utmost thoroughness. I hope that he will accept, as does the rest of the House, that the facts I have so far disclosed today suggest that that thoroughness is not in vain.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South) : The supply of arms to Northern Ireland is one of the major reasons why the tragic events of the past 20 years have lasted so long. In a country in which relatively few people are involved in violence, the arrival of those weapons, whether from Colonel Gaddafi or money given to the United States, and whether they go to Republican or Loyalist organisations, does not matter much. What matters is that the arms are getting through.

Will the Foreign Secretary ensure that we receive accurate information as to whether it is true, as is reported in the newspapers, that the UDA--a working class group--has received arms from South Africa and that now the new organisation, which I understand is a middle class group that has arisen in the past year or two, also has arms contacts in South Africa? One way of stopping the supply of arms is to know more about the people involved. I had never heard of the movement until a few weeks ago. It is an insidious development, and I hope that we can have more information.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The right hon. Gentleman is correct to remind us of the central fact, which is that the availability of any weapons on either side of the troubled Province of Northern Ireland is a matter that we must do everything possible to prevent. One cannot be sure where they will end up or what will happen to them. That is why we are making such an enormous effort to try to achieve that. The facts and evidence underlying the matters I have announced today have not yet been fully explored, but it is entirely right that at the right time and in the right way every possible use should be made of them to identify those responsible for the acquisition, financing and importation of those weapons. Every action should be taken thereafter to demonstrate how seriously we view the matter and how determined we are to stamp it out.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that most impartial people would regard these events, if they are proved to be true, as


Column 666

every bit as reprehensible as the relationship that appears to exist between the IRA and Libya? If the charges are well founded and those concerned are found guilty, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider our diplomatic relationships with South Africa in the light of the decision taken some time ago about our diplomatic relationships with Libya?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand why my hon. Friend is concerned about the possible gravity of some of the implications of the facts so far known and I appreciate that concern. However, we must acknowledge that the shape and nature of diplomatic relations must be considered in the light of many different considerations, one of which is the extent to which we are able to continue representing to the Government of another country the case we feel strongly needs to be taken into account.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : When will the Foreign Secretary recognise that South Africa is willing to do the maximum damage to Britain's interest, as is Libya, in supporting the other side of terrorism in Northern Ireland? Does he recall the case in Coventry just five years ago when the South African authorities double-crossed the British Government and the judicial authorities and the people who were bailed did not return to Britain? Is it not time we started to recognise the immense danger to this country of South Africa's terrorist activities, including acts of terrorism carried out in various parts of Europe? When he sees the ambassador, I hope that he will tell him of the strength of feeling in the House of Commons.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : It is clear from what has already been said on both sides of the House that there is grave concern at the implications of the facts so far known in this matter. I shall take care to ensure that the South African Government are in no doubt about that. The precise extent to which this or that action should be equated with the action of any other Government has to be considered in the light of all the circumstances. We should leave every Government in no doubt that the promotion of the supply of weapons for violent, terrorist purposes within this Kingdom is a matter of the utmost seriousness.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : Will the Foreign Secretary take this opportunity to refute as totally unfounded and disgraceful suggestions that the African National Congress has been collaborating with the IRA to murder British citizens? Does he recollect that the South African Government boasted that they would not send back from South Africa people charged in this country with breaching the oil embargo who had been allowed to return under the gravest assurances given by the South African embassy? Now that South Africa has become involved in affairs in Northern Ireland, would it not make more sense, rather than simply calling in the ambassador to tell him how displeased he is, if the Foreign Secretary insisted that the military attache department in Trafalgar Square was closed and the South African ambassador was sent back to South Africa as a mark of our intention to do something other than simply mouth platitudes?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman will know that all allegations of links between the ANC and the IRA and any other terrorist organisations are thoroughly investigated. It is made clear to the ANC, as to other organisations, that it is entitled to remain in this country so long as it complies with our laws.


Column 667

The hon. Gentleman will recall that the case which came before the Coventry courts was last dealt with in a statement on 23 October 1984 by my right hon. and learned Friend, now the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he was Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The hon. Gentleman will recall that in September 1985 Community countries agreed to recall military attache s accredited to South Africa and to refuse to grant accreditation to new South African military attache s. British attache s were withdrawn from South Africa in 1985, the South African armed forces attache left London in July 1987 and the air and naval attache left in December 1987.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : In the last year for which we have figures, 1986-87, this country was the world's second largest arms supplier behind the United States and ahead of the Soviet bloc. Is it not evident that our factories and manufacturing plants involved in that trade, which amounts to about £6 billion a year in exports, are bound to be prey to Governments such as the South African Government who exist only because of their use of weapons? Will the Foreign Secretary have words with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that, notwithstanding the policy to continue with a massive trade in weapons, at least the security of the factories and the people working in them is greatly enhanced?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise the importance, in any country supplying weapons on any scale, of the tightest possible control over the licensing and export of any such weapons and the places in which they are stored and manufactured. As I have already said, that is a matter of which my right hon. Friends are well aware.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is an extension of Question Time, and we must move on as we have a heavy day ahead of us.

Statutory Instruments, &c.

Mr. Speaker : With the leave of the House, I shall put together the Questions on the two motions relating to statutory instruments. Ordered,

That the Draft Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Estates of Deceased Persons and Inheritances and on Gifts) (Sweden) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. That the Beef Special Premium (Protection of Payments) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 574) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. Dorrell.]


Column 668

Points of Order

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just had a private notice question about Blowpipe missiles. At present the destination of Blowpipe missiles is--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am sorry that I was not able to call the hon. Gentleman ; he was not alone in that. A private notice question is an extension of Question Time and I allowed nearly 20 minutes on it, which is much longer than I would normally allow for a question. Mr. Cohen rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. It is selfish of the hon. Gentleman to persist. If it is a matter of order, I shall deal with it, but not if it is an extension of Question Time.

Mr. Cohen : On a point or order, Mr. Speaker. I am asking a question of you, Mr. Speaker, not of the Minister. At present questions about the supply of Blowpipe missiles to the terrorists in countries such as Nicaragua or Afghanistan are blocked by the Table Office. As we have now been able to ask questions about it on the Floor of the House, will you take steps to unblock the tabling of such questions in future?

Mr. Speaker : That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) rose--

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) rose--


Next Section

  Home Page