HC Deb 20 December 1985 vol 89 cc681-90 10.15 am
Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)

As this is the first opportunity I have had to do so in the House, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on his appointment, which is so well deserved and long overdue. I am delighted to see my hon. Friends the Members for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) and for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) in their places, both of whose interest and experience in Afghanistan are well known. I understand that they may wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the course of the debate.

The House will know that next week marks the sixth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Despite the United Nations proximity talks, there appears to be no sign of an early withdrawal of Soviet troops. This is an especially appropriate time for the House to debate Afghanistan because, in my view, there exists a distinct danger that the euphoria following the recent summit between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev may tempt some in the west to compromise their original position over Afghanistan in pursuit of a return to detente, and possibly to encourage success at the arms control negotiations at Geneva.

It might be useful to recall the events leading up to 27 December 1979 when the West gave every sign of having been caught by surprise, which, if true, represents a major scandal. Western intelligence would, or should, have been aware of the growing Soviet influence in Afghanistan, with the application of the classic Leninist strategy of infiltration, subterfuge, sabotage and assassination during each of the successive regimes since the overthrow of King Zahir Shah in 1973, and especially since the role of the Soviet special forces, the Spetsnaz, in the murder of President Amin in 1979.

We now know from Soviet defectors since the invasion, and from Vladimir Bukovsky's book, "The Peace Movement and the Soviet Union", that the Kremlin took some sort of decision in September 1979 to invade Afghanistan, and, in anticipation of the end to detente that this would provoke, it decided also to reactivate the world peace movement at the so-called World Parliament of the Peoples for Peace conference in Sofia on 23 to 27 September.

Surely our spy satellites and intelligence sources would have picked up sufficient evidence of the movement of troops and armour during the weeks preceding the invasion itself, which would have alerted Western leaders to warn the Kremlin both in private and in public of the consequences of such unlawful aggression.

It should come as no surprise that the Foreign Office appeared to know nothing until it woke up after Boxing Day because we now know that our information gatherers were on strike at the time. In reply to a question from the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) on 30 July 1984, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said that between 20 December 1979 and 13 February 1980 there was industrial action by station radio officers at GCHQ Cheltenham in support of a pay dispute.

There had been previous action in June, July and September 1979. If we were caught napping because of such irresponsible action by those to whom we entrust the security not only of this country but of the Western Alliance, my right hon. Friend the Prime Ministr was wholly justified in seeking to end union influence at GCHQ. It is a pity that we do not remind the public more frequently of these facts.

The invasion was justified by the Soviet Union on the grounds of having been "invited" to send troops to counter foreign interference, just as it had been invited so to do by Czechoslovakia in 1968 and by Hungary in 1956. The reaction of the rest of the world was rightly condemnatory. The United Nations passed a resolution calling for withdrawal. The European Community approved the Carrington plan to negotiate for a neutral and non-aligned Afghanistan. To his credit, President Carter led the world on sanctions against the Soviet Union, including the grain embargo—this has since been lifted on the ground that it was proving ineffective and hurting American farmers more—the ending of technology transfer, soft credits and SALT II and an American boycott of the Moscow Olympics.

All too predictably, within a year, Western sanctions began to disintegrate in favour of self-interest. For example, President Carter himself quietly approved licences enabling American firms to sell billions of dollars' worth of gas pipeline-laying equipment to the Soviet Union, which, as we now know, was to employ gulag labour to construct it.

But there has been no such feebleness in Afghanistan where the people have shown that they are more prepared to be dead than Red in supporting seven different ill-equipped, ill-disciplined groups of freedom fighters, who were all too often prepared to fight one another rather than the common enemy, who then became a far more effective united force—the Mujahidin, equipped with heat-seeking missiles capable of doing impressive damage to the remaining Afghan army and the Soviet forces.

I shall not waste the time of the House speculating on the reasons for the Kremlin's decision to invade. There are many theories. The report by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs discounted the historic "warm water port" theory; but perhaps the grim Russian joke—that the best way of defending its border is to be both sides of it—comes closest to the truth.

There is no doubt that the decision by the ageing moribund Brezhnev regime to invade Afghanistan has proved to be one of the Soviet Union's costliest blunders in recent years. It immediately isolated the Soviet Union from the free Muslim world at a time when the United States had lost influence through its support for the Shah and was being embarrassed by the hostages crisis in Teheran. It has been seen to be responsible for causing the single largest refugee problem in the world, with more than 4 million refugees in north-west Pakistan, and 5,000 or more coming over every month, and a further million in Iran—although that is no humanitarian gesture by the Ayatollah, who is using many of them at the front in his war with Iraq and is using the opportunity to export his own Islamic fundamentalist revolution to Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. That is why the Soviet Union has hastily replaced its central Asian troops with less impressionable Russians and Slays.

There is no doubt that the war is contributing to some unrest in the Soviet Union as more and more service men return wounded and ever more families suffer bereavement. That has led to increasing television coverage showing Soviet troops in action. The Soviet Union is never backward in making a fuss of its individual heroes who are assuming almost Rambo-like proportions.

Although this can in no way be compared to the way in which public opinion in the United States forced Lyndon Johnson not to seek re-election because of Vietnam, the higher profile of the war is beginning to take a heavy toll and to affect the country domestically. Rostislav Evdokimov, the Russian free trade union campaigner who is now in prison, told me, while I was in Leningrad to interview him for my report on the freedom of trade unions in the Soviet Union for the Council of Europe, about the growing public awareness of the direction that the war was taking as a result of the coffins coming home.

I do not wish to dwell on the detail of the war itself. Reports still appear regularly in the Western press. It appears that the action has escalated this year and, although the Soviet-backed Afghan army has recently scored some successes, the Mujahidin continue to be able to threaten the main avenues of communication out of Kabul, northward to the Soviet border and eastward to the Khyber pass, as well as to infiltrate the capital.

Disgraceful reprisals are taken against the Afghan population. The list of atrocities is horrific. With more than 180,000 dead, it amounts to genocide. Fortunately, this has not gone unnoticed by the United Nations, where a report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan was presented earlier this year which figured prominently in last month's General Assembly debate when the continued Soviet occupation was condemned by a record majority. The General Assembly adopted yet another resolution on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Afghanistan on 13 December.

For some time, efforts have been made by the United Nations Secretary-General to secure a Soviet withdrawal in accordance with the annual resolutions and his proximity talks in Geneva are still going on. While a number of points have been agreed, we have yet to see any breakthrough resulting from the October summit. We must reasonably assume that Mr. Gorbachev wants a settlement. He has said as much, but he has said also that he would, if necessary, put five times as many Soviet troops into Afghanistan.

Although we must, of course, fully support these negotiations, especially Pakistan's determination not to negotiate directly with the Karmal Government, because to do so would represent de facto recognition of another Soviet puppet regime, there are a number of concerns which are being overlooked as well as initiatives which we should be considering which I should like to draw to the attention of the House.

First, I do not believe that the West has fully woken up to the problems of the refugees. For a first-hand account, I recommend the recent booklet "Refugees from Afghanistan" by George Miller, published by the British section of the International Society on Human Rights. The plight of the refugees must be kept in the public eye. We need to draw new world attention to the plight of the Afghan refugees. We have seen the massive response to aid Ethiopia. I am sure that, if we encourage more aid to the Afghan refugees, this will help to generate contributions and aid to those bearing the burden of assistance, not least the hard-pressed Pakistan Government and the United Nations agencies. It would also put international pressure on the Soviet Union.

Last month, the standing committee of the Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted the report by my right hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) on "The Deteriorating Situation in Afghanistan", including a recommendation urging the Governments of member states to increase the contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to all paces that they wish to visit in Afghanistan. I hope that the Government will vigorously support that recommendation.

We should not ignore the destabilising effect that so many refugees are having on Pakistan, not just on the economy, especially in the Peshawar area, but on the local population which is already strained by the Pashtoon and Baluchistan separatist issues which are being increasingly exploited by the Soviet Union against President Zia.

There is now widespread evidence that the Afghan security forces, the KHAD, are attempting to exploit Pakistani resentment of the refugee presence and have been able to penetrate the resistance movement to the extent of causing the deaths of a number of Mujahidin leaders within the past year.

Secondly, the West has yet to face up to the problem of the 200 or so Soviet soldiers who are now prisoners of the Mujahidin, many of whom wanted to come to the West. For example, Vladimir Naumov has been in rebel hands since November 1983. His health is deteriorating. He wishes to come to this country but I understand that the Home Office has, on three separate occasions, refused to consider his case. I appeal to my hon. Friend to see that we agree a humane policy with our allies towards those Soviet prisoners who wish to come to the West.

Thirdly, the West, including all members of the European Community, must continue to insist on A Soviet withdrawal before it is prepared to return to any new detente which Mr. Gorbachev seeks. Afghanistan must become a free and independent state again—neutral and non-aligned if that is the express wish of its people. There must be no compromise on that, and every opportunity must be used to get that message across to the Kremlin. I hope that President Reagan did just that at Geneva.

There should be no normalisation of relations between the Community and Comecon. Talks on that matter were broken off in 1980 because of the invasion of Afghanistan. Earlier this year, Comecon asked for a resumption of talks, but it took several months for the Commission to decide against such talks being resumed. Why did it take so long? The answer should have been immediate and emphatic. A Soviet withdrawal must come first.

I question whether the West's current attitude will be sufficient to convince the Kremlin seriously to consider withdrawal. If half the pressure that the world is putting on South Africa at present to end apartheid were applied to the Soviet Union to get out of Afghanistan, I believe that it would be only a matter of time before it did so. For France and other European countries to grovel to Third-world, black, corrupt, debt-ridden dictatorships to pile on the agony for South Africa and at the same time actively to pursue increased trade with the Soviet Union whilst it remains in Afghanistan, and to accept Siberian gas, is sheer hypocrisy and double standards.

At this time, when the Mujahidin is showing, with great courage and self sacrifice, that it remains determined to resist Soviet occupation and is committed to producing the same results as the Vietcong did for the United States in Vietnam, we in the West are honour bound to ensure that they want for nothing by way of arms and equipment. I believe that then we might see, for the first time, a Soviet retreat which will in turn contribute greatly to the promotion of peace and prosperity in our world today.

10.33 am
Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

The House owes a debt of immense gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) for the initiative that he has taken today. His timing, as so often, has been impeccable. He has raised the matter at a perfect moment in our parliamentary calendar because we are so close to the anniversary of the Soviet forces' invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

My hon. Friend was exceedingly eloquent, as we have come to expect of him. He has also been generous in allowing me a small slice of the limited time available to him. I should explain that my gratitude is all the greater because I have an interest to declare, not just as chairman of the Afghanistan support committee but as chairman of its associated charitable organisation, Afghanaid, which is dedicated to sending help inside Afghanistan rather than to the refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. I am sure that my hon. Friends will understand that that task is difficult, complicated and dangerous.

My hon. Friend has covered a large and complex subject thoroughly. I should like to emphasise a couple of the points that he made. The first relates to the scale of the disaster inside Afghanistan. Let there be no mistake, that is where the humanitarian need is. The refugees need help but, by and large, they are adequately looked after. The real need is inside the country where, of course, politically and physically it is most difficult to deliver it. I am grateful to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the help that they have given my organisation. I wish to express appreciation for the way that they have co-operated.

There has been an appalling disaster which is—dare I say it—greater in humanitarian terms than the disaster in Ethiopia. The difficulty is that we do not know about it. It is extraordinary that the report presented to the United Nations General Assembly on 5 November 1985 attracted far less attention than it deserved. My hon. Friend was correct to draw the attention of the House to it today. The problem is that there are siren voices that say that it is a matter of super-power aggression, and wonder how a bunch of rag-headed tribesmen can manage to fight a super-power. They say, "Would it not be better to let them die slowly and not to irritate the Soviet Union when the world is so anxious to pursue the quest for peace?"

I shall set aside the temptation to discuss appeasement. Those people who put forward that argument do not know the type of people that the Afghan Mujahidin are. They will fight whether we help them or not. It would be an excellent thing, would it not, if we were to ensure, in so far as we could, that their sacrifice was not in vain.

In that context, I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to assure us of three things when he replies. First, that he will continue to give inside Afghanistan the humanitarian aid that is so badly needed. Secondly, that he will ensure that as much publicity as possible is given to what is happening inside Afghanistan. The Central Office of Information does a fine job already, but we need to do more. Will he encourage the newspapers and propaganda organisations to act accordingly? Thirdly, will he ensure that political pressure is applied? Is my hon. Friend the Minister prepared to undertake that Her Majesty's Government will press for observer status at the United Nations for the alliance of seven Mujahidin organisations?

10.38 am
Mr. Colin Moynihan (Lewisham, East)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) for raising this important and timely debate today. As hon. Members will be aware, I leave this evening for the north-west frontier of Pakistan to highlight the problems associated with refugees. I hope, during a two-week visit, to assess in detail some of the critical issues that he mentioned, and upon which I believe the House must concentrate in 1986.

We must consider the critical issue of the degree to which the Government should give humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan as well as in the refugee camps. I fully appreciate and share the view of my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East and for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) that this is a difficult issue which needs careful handling.

Bilateral assistance is provided by humanitarian charities. The Save the Children Fund does humanitarian work in the camps and Afghanaid does outstanding work in Afghanistan. They should have the Government's full support.

I place on record the unremitting and outstanding work of one of the world's recognised experts Rome Fullerton. He has done so much important work in the Afghanistan support committee and, although I have no eyes to see or ears to hear, I understand that he is with us today in the House.

I regret that, while I shall be on one side of the border, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown), who as a Member of Parliament should support the democratic values of representative Government, should accept a Soviet invitation to visit Afghanistan as a guest of the Soviet-backed regime. If I see him across the border, I cannot say that I shall readily acknowledge him.

I wish to place on record that I believe that the West has not yet accurately assessed the best and most coordinated way of assisting the Mujahadin and ensuring that the Soviet troops get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. There are many strands that are yet to be drawn together into a positive and effective method of action by the West. I regret that we do not have that, and I hope that during the two weeks that I shall be in the north-west frontier I shall be able to address those matters in particular. It has been useful to hear the debate before I go, and I look forward to the contribution from the Minister who, I think rightly, has won the respect of the House as a passionate, thoughtful and highly competent Minister.

10.41 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) for giving me the opportunity to reply to the debate, and to my hon. Friends for joining in. I express some regret that no Opposition Member felt able to attend and listen to the debate or take part in it.

I said that I was grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter. That is because we are nearing the sixth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That anniversary falls on 27 December. However, it is also a repugnant task to reply to the debate because what is happening in Afghanistan is truly repugnant, sobering and chastening. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East has already spoken of the historical background to the position in Afghanistan, and I do not wish to expand on that because it is well known, except to point out that the war in Afghanistan has now been going on for six years. That is longer than the second world war.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South has said, it is an unsung, faraway and neglected war. Access is difficult. It is hard for the media to secure the facts and films which our communication systems crave. However, the truth can never be completely suppressed and I want to draw the attention of the House to the problems of human rights in Afghanistan. I do not want to be emotional, tendentious or propagandist; I simply want to tell the House the facts, because they speak for themselves. I do not want to produce Foreign Office facts. I shall refer to the report of the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to the General Assembly of the United Nations. That report is in the Library of the House. It if is true that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) will be spending Christmas in Kabul at the invitation of the Soviet puppet regime, I make an offer to him. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will gladly make available as many as 100 copies of that report of the UN Commission on Human Rights. I look forward to meeting with him when he returns from Kabul so that he can tell me how far he got in his efforts to distribute those copies and the reaction to them of the regime and the people in Kabul. On the off-chance that he will not feel able to take up my offer, I shall tell the House something of what the report says. That document cannot be described as anything more than a sober and realistic analysis of the position in Afghanistan. It refers to the gross and systematic abuse of human rights in that country.

Some 115,000 Soviet troops are helping the regime in Kabul. The report found that "benevolent" administration guilty of torture, conscription of children aged 15, displacement of persons from their homes making them refugees in their own country as well as refugees in neighbouring countries, infringement of the right to self-determination, acts of brutality by the armed forces, bombardment and massacres of villages following reprisals, use of anti-personnel mines and, even more horrifying, the use of booby-trapped toys.

I shall briefly discuss each of the areas that were highlighted by the United Nations' document. There is no doubt that torture is currently commonplace and, to quote the report, torture has almost assumed the character of an administrative practice. I do not need to detain the House on the horror of conscription of children.

The report refers to the creation of refugees—— some regions are devastated, the population has had to flee and cannot return, the agriculture is completely destroyed. In the course of operations against the opposition movements it appears that all kinds of sophisticated weapons, in particular those that have a heavy destructive and psychological effect, are being used. The target is primarily the civilian population, the villages and the agricultural structure. The report goes on: whole groups of persons and tribes are endangered in their existence and in their lives because their living conditions are fundamentally affected by the kind of warfare being waged. If that is not enough, the report writes of the merciless character of the warfare in that country. Perhaps we should not be surprised at the report's observation that in the treatment of prisoners the existence of the Geneva convention is simply not heard of.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East. The Government would like to see the International Committee of the Red Cross allowed freely to visit Soviet prisoners of war, the many Afghans taken in the fighting and the political prisoners—there are many of them—held by the Soviet occupying forces arid the Soviet puppet regime.

However appalling the treatment of the prisoners of war is, it is a lesser tragedy than the calculated acts of brutality by the armed forces against the civilian population. The report says that the objective of the regime seemed to be to destroy the means of survival of the population assisting the resistance movement. I shall spare the House the full horror described in the report and take a typical example—a series of reprisal operations against 12 villages in one week in March of this year when 1,000 civilians were allegedly killed. These are not the Foreign Office's words. The report states: In the course of these operations, livestock was decimated, houses plundered and set on fire, women raped and some of them summarily executed, and several children locked up in a house were burnt to death. What sort of regime is it that will consciously burn children to death? If we add atrocity to atrocity, the simple, chilling arithmetic says that, according to certain estimates, the series of incidents catalogued in the report has resulted in the killing of approximately 500,000 Afghans since 1979, most of them civilians. In only nine months of this year almost 33,000 civilians were reported to have been killed, almost 2,000 houses destroyed together with 74 villages, and well over 3,000 animals. With that goes the devastation and destruction of fields and livestock and, as the report says, the destruction of irrigation systems in provinces as a result of aerial bombardments which have prevented any repairs from being made and have completely obliterated agriculture in several regions". I do not have to tell the House that if the people cannot farm, they starve.

Yet that is not the worst, regrettably. I referred to the use of booby-trapped toys. Let me tell the House what those devices are. Generally they are dropped by helicopter in zones that are presumed to be controlled by the resistance. They resemble pens, harmonicas, radios or matchboxes, or are shaped like little birds, but those so-called toys explode when they are picked up or stepped upon. The majority of the victims are children aged between 8 and 15 whose hands or legs are blown off. Many witnesses have testified that the use of those horrible devices now form, according to the report, part of a strategy aimed specifically at the civilian population of villages where a large military operation appeared to be under way. At this Christmas season we should note the chilling words of the report: The situation of children in Afghanistan has been particularly affected, whether they live in Kabul or in the main cities or whether they cross the border as refugees. The majority of children who do not leave the country and who are not in the cities are helpless against the effects of high altitude bombing and shelling, starvation and disease, the disruption of families and the destruction of family life and the collapse of the traditional structure. There is apparently no health cure for the majority of the population. As a consequence, the infant mortality rate has reached 300 and 400 per 1,000". That is one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

I should like to illustrate by a further quotation that the regime attacks its own citizens not only physically but in their very spiritual beliefs, in a country where perhaps 99 per cent. are Moslems. The report states: The Special Rapporteur also wishes to emphasise two new factors which illustrate the range of the actions taken in the country: on the one hand, a policy described as one of humiliation and religious intolerance, and, on the other hand, bombings of civilians during funerals. Indeed, according to a number of witnesses, mosques have been desecrated, religious books have been destroyed and in some cases even used as toilet paper, while members of the Islamic faith have been obliged to eat pork and to drink alcohol. A number of witnesses stated that funeral processions accompanying the bodies of victims had also been bombed. Faced with that litany of systmatic abuses of human rights, we should not be surprised by what the report calls one of the biggest movements of refugees history has ever known". It is estimated to be continuing at some 6,000 to 8,000 people a month. Again, I quote: it may be appreciated that the sheer volume of the refugees is per se a human rights problem. Small wonder that between 1.5 million and 2 million people are now displaced from their homes in Afghanistan, refugees inside their own country, with a further 3 million refugees in Pakistan and another million in Iran.

My hon. Friends have referred to the importance of aid to assist those refugees. Last year we were able to give some £4 million to help refugees in Pakistan. I hope that we shall be able to give similar amounts next year. I paid particular attention to the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South. We very much appreciate the work that is done by Afghanaid and we hope that next year we shall be able to be of assistance again.

Despite increasingly aggressive and more sophisticated tactics, and much heavier firepower on the part of the Soviet regime's forces, the resistance remains strong and resilient. I assure the House that we take every opportunity to encourage the resistance, to draw attention to its gallant struggles, and to give it what support we can in its efforts to liberate its country from the Soviet occupation and puppet regime of Babrak Karmal.

The tragedy is that none of that should be necessary. The presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan has been consistently condemned by the international community, most recently on 13 November this year at the United Nations, when a record 122 voted for the motion calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops, with only 19 countries against. There can be no doubt that both the Kabul regime and the Soviet Union are, in Afghanistan, in breach of the Geneva convention and of the International covenants on Human Rights, of which both are signatories.

This week the Pakistan Government and representatives of the Kabul regime have been in Geneva for proximity talks under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative. Those talks have already reached agreement on the outlines of a solution, which would provide for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, full respect for Afghanistan's independent sovereign non-aligned status, non-intervention and non-interference from outside, leaving the country free to determine its own future, and the right of refugees to return to their homes in safety and honour.

There appear to be some signs of Soviet flexibility, but we need to have more than just the appearance. We need to have evidence of their willingness to come to terms and to withdraw from the country. Whatever the Soviet Union says, it is its willingness to negotiate a firm, fixed timetable for troop withdrawal which is the real test of its commitment to a settlement. Whatever may have been said at Geneva, we need to see concrete progress from the Soviet Union.

I confess that I find it difficult to understand why the Soviet Union has not learnt from the history of the region, from the proud tradition of the peoples of Afghanistan. There can be no victory against them, no militarily imposed solution. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East said, the key to peace remains the withdrawal of Soviet troops as part of a negotiated package. Nothing else can end the tragedy of Afghanistan and the suffering of its people, of whom, as we have heard today, fully one third are refugees either outside their country, in Pakistan or Iran, or within it. The Government are determined to do everything that they can do to assist those refugees and to ensure that the brave fight of the people of Afghanistan can continue to an ultimately successful conclusion.

I am sure that the whole House joins me and my hon. Friend in condemning unreservedly the activities of the Karmal regime and the Soviet Union. Over Christmas everyone in the House and the country will think of the brave Afghan people entering the seventh year of a war against a foreign aggressor. In particular, as our children and grandchildren open their toys, we may spare a thought for the children of Afghanistan who, when they pick up the toys that they see lying in the countryside, find, instead, a booby trap or a bomb, and lose limbs as a result of playing with those particularly fiendish devices left by the Soviet Union.

It being Eleven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 5 (Friday sittings)

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