HC Deb 08 November 1990 vol 180 cc150-223 4.39 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

I hope that the House will forgive me if I leave the Chamber before the end of this debate, as I have an engagement that I cannot escape. Perhaps the House will also forgive me if I do not follow tradition and wander around the world touring the horizon. This debate is starting rather late and I believe that it would be sensible if I concentrated on two main themes—coming events in Europe, and something which is a great source of anxiety to us all, the sombre situation in the Gulf.

Since the House last debated foreign affairs in the debate on the Loyal Address a year ago, we have been through nine months of good news and three months of anxiety. The good news has been the ending of the cold war, the freeing of eastern Europe, German unification in peace and German membership of NATO. All that is familiar to us now, but remarkable and very welcome.

That good news has meant a lot of hard work and it has meant that we all need to take a fresh look at our institutions in Europe to see what changes are needed to suit them for the new world which is now coming into being. In that regard, I want to refer to three institutions that are principally concerned with foreign policy and security in Europe—NATO, the CSCE—the conference on security and co-operation in Europe—and the Community.

It is now clear that NATO will remain and will change. After the successful summit in London in July, the alliance is busily adapting to change in the east, in Germany and in the area of arms control. NATO's openness to change remains one of the secrets of its continued vigour and relevance. NATO's contacts with the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, such as the visit of the Secretary-General Dr. Woerner to Moscow and that being made by the supreme commander next week, are breaking down the old distrust. NATO must adapt its doctrine and force structures to a different strategic environment in which, as the Gulf has shown, the threats that NATO could face are less predictable.

However, a cohesive and collective defence through NATO is essential for Britain and for Europe even though in future a lighter more mobile, more multinational force structure of the kind which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has already described in this House will make sense. We believe that the vital role of nuclear weapons in ensuring peace will remain, but through the NATO review and future negotiations with the Soviet Union, further major reductions, especially in short-range systems, should be possible.

American conventional and nuclear weapons based in Europe will continue to be indispensable. However, the alliance of the 1990s will need a stronger European pillar to enable Europe to carry out its responsibilities in NATO in defence of common interests. I see the strengthening of the European pillar in NATO as a major priority for 1991. Various options have been sketched by different countries and different organisations, and I do not pretend that any of us has complete answers. I just mentioned that because I am sure that the answer must be found within the framework of the Atlantic alliance. That is something to which we will all have to pay increasing attention—and that includes interested right hon. and hon. Members—during the months ahead.

I want to flag another achievement which, just because it is an achievement and no longer a matter of great controversy, may be forgotten. The conventional forces treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe will be signed in Paris by 22 Heads of Government on 19 November. That is a major breakthrough in east-west arms control. It secures the removal from the European theatre of about 100,000 Soviet heavy weapons and allows us in future to monitor the behaviour of all parties through the exchange of information and by inspections.

In about 10 days' time, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I will go to the CSCE summit in Paris, which will give us an opportunity to consolidate past achievements and re-launch the process which began with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. We want that summit in Paris to strengthen the basic principles of the Helsinki Final Act and therefore of the CSCE process democracy and the rule of law through a charter of rights—a magna carta through Europe; prosperity by giving a commitment to the free market and the way in which it is now established that prosperity can best be achieved in Europe and stability through the signing of the CFE agreement to which I have already referred and through setting up a conflict prevention centre and, I hope, by endorsing the British proposal for a voluntary conciliation mechanism in Europe.

The summit will set a new pattern for political consultation among the 34 states taking part. It will establish a timetable for meetings at different levels and it will give the CSCE for the first time a permanent secretariat, although I believe that that should be small. I doubt whether the meeting will be particularly dramatic, because the ground has been well prepared. A great deal of work has been done and we already know the outline of the meeting. However, it is important for the Soviet Union and for eastern Europe.

The former members of the Warsaw pact now accept that NATO will remain, and that that is our wish as NATO members, even though the Warsaw pact may fade away, except perhaps for an occasional grin. Despite that, the Warsaw pact members want to be part of an over-arching organisation in which the United States, the Soviet Union and Canada will take part. They want to build on the foundations of the Helsinki Final Act. That is now agreed and it will take a little time.

It will not all be accomplished in Paris later this month. However, I hope that we will set in hand the building of a new storey and a new dimension in the process which has proved its worth not just in rhetoric—some of us were worried about that at the time—but in practical achievements, not least with regard to human rights.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

The Foreign Secretary is aware that the Baltic states have applied for observer status at the CSCE summit, and he also knows that historically they are in a quite different situation from the other Soviet republics. Has the Secretary of State considered how he will respond to that?

Mr. Hurd

I am not sure whether that particular proposal will work, because attendance and status at the CSCE summit will be by consensus. Everyone must agree. However, I met the Foreign Minister of Estonia earlier this week and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will meet Mr. Landsbergis before long. I am anxious that we should show the representatives of the Baltic states and the Government of the Soviet Union that we believe that their rights must be discussed and negotiated between the Soviet Union and the Baltic states, and that we take a lively interest in that process. We can all help in building up the contacts that are beginning to form quite successfully between Britain and the peoples of those three states.

I notice that there has been some interest in our policy on the European Community in recent weeks. I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on his notable part in the outcome of the seventh meeting of Agriculture Ministers on the GATT round. That agreement was satisfactory for British interests. In business questions, I noticed the concern expressed on behalf of agriculture and textile interests. The agriculture agreement in the Community was satisfactory from our point of view. It was reached because the Commission, this Government and some of the smaller members of the Community held together and managed at the end of the day to outlast the protectionist pressures bearing heavily upon the French and German Governments.

Of course, that is only an offer. It is not the end of negotiation. It enables the European Community to take part in a negotiation which is now reaching a critical phase. Now, when we have an offer, we can point out that the Community is not alone in supporting and protecting its agriculture. The OECD figures show the percentage of farmers' earnings which come from subsidies from the Government to consumers in different parts of the world. In Japan the figure is 72 per cent. That is to say, 72 per cent. of farmers' earnings in Japan come from subsidies from the Government and consumers. In the Community, the figure is 38 per cent. and in the United States it is 27 per cent.

As the world's largest trading entity, the Community has a greater interest than anyone else in a liberal outcome. We simply cannot afford to be protectionist in this or in other matters. The Community exports the equivalent of 23.5 per cent. of our GDP and imports the equivalent of 24 per cent.—much higher figures than in the United States, where the figures are 7 per cent. for exports and 9.5 per cent. for imports. Japan's position is comparable. The European Community has escaped at the last minute from what would have been a very damaging and ludicrous situation. It would have been——

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

It is not finished yet.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

It is only the beginning.

Mr. Hurd

I am talking about the ability of the Community now at least to table an offer. The hon. Gentlemen are quite right: that is not the end of the negotiation; it is the beginning of a critical final stage of the negotiation. It would have been ludicrous if the Community had found itself able to agree almost with nods around a table to far-reaching decisions about the future economic and monetary union and what is called political union, while being unable to agree what was urgent and immediate—the tabling of an offer in the negotiations.

The future of the Community's institutions rests on the successful completion of the single market. That is common ground in the House. Hon. Members stress the importance of that, and that is quite right, not least because it is overwhelmingly in Britain's interests that the Community should do away with internal barriers to trade. The future of the Community's institutions rests also on the two intergovernmental conferences that will start in December.

The first one, in which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take the lead, was dealt with yesterday and on numerous previous occasions, and I do not intend to refer to it again today, largely out of mercy to the Opposition. One thing that emerged clearly from our exchanges yesterday was that there was a great deal more light and sweetness on this side of the House than there was on the other side. Our view has been expressed with admirable clarity and coherence.

However, I should like to say something about the second intergovernmental conference, which goes under the imposing but somewhat misleading title of political union. I imagine that that will be the one in which Foreign Ministers will take the lead. In practical terms, it is clear now that the second IGC will consider institutional reforms and how existing institutions of the Community can work more effectively. As with economic and monetary union, at the intergovernmental conference we will have ideas of our own to put forward. I should like to spend a few minutes on that subject.

Our ideas will be based on a number of key principles. We want the present institutional balance in the Community to be maintained. We want to strengthen foreign policy co-ordination among the Twelve. We want the Community to be more efficient and to give better value for money. It spends about £35 billion sterling a year, so that is reason enough to try our best to make sure that it is well spent. We want to make the Community more democratically accountable and accessible to ordinary citizens. We want to make sure that, as the changes occur, they do not make it more difficult for other countries to join which might be qualified to do so in future.

On the matter of balance within the Community, we have to decide what needs to be done at the Community level and ask whether it could be done better at the national level. We do not want the position of member states to be weakened by giving substantial new legislative powers to the European Parliament or, in my view, significantly extending qualified majority voting.

On foreign policy, we have put forward a series of practical ideas for co-operating more closely abroad—that is to say, in our missions abroad—and for improving the co-ordinating machinery in Brussels. I do not see the European Community taking on a defence role, although that is one of the suggestions that has been made. Other ideas in respect of the defence of Europe will be more fruitful. But, as I have already said, I strongly favour ways of strengthening the European defence pillar and making the European defence effort more coherent within the Atlantic alliance.

On the efficiency of Community spending and of Community policies, enforcement is crucial—enforcement of decisions already made. That is of direct interest to a business community, especially in a country such as Britain, where the mechanism for enforcement is relatively strict and effective. Implementation—that is to say the ability and readiness of member states to implement through their national legislatures what is agreed at Community level—is relatively easy to establish. Hon. Members have only to look at the statute book. As the House knows, the Danes and ourselves are well ahead. Enforcement cannot be monitored so accurately without the help of hon. Members, business men and committees drawing any infringements to our attention.

On accountability, we would like to see a more prominent role for the European Parliament, not by giving it more legislative powers but in monitoring Community expenditure. We believe that there is scope for an activity which, in the history of all Parliaments, has proved to be very significant—indeed, key—but which the European Parliament has not yet fully exploited. We would like to see energies and enthusiasms directed towards that matter rather than at always pressing for new legislative powers of which there is an adequate supply at this time.

We also want—this is a matter in which the House rather than the Government should be taking the lead—national Parliaments of the Community working more closely together to monitor and influence the Council of Ministers. I am very glad that representatives of all 12 national Parliaments and of the European Parliament will meet in Rome from 27 to 30 November for the parliamentary conference of the European Community, widely known as the assizes. The British delegation will be led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. The assizes—national parliamentarians from all over Europe together with Members of the European Parliament—could be the origin of an important move forward.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

How are those representatives of the House chosen—by the Whips or by Back-Bench Members?

Mr. Hurd

I do not know. Those who might be intimately concerned with those arcane matters are here, and if they are not, I will make sure that my hon. Friend's pertinent question is referred to them.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

Will my right hon. Friend give an authoritative comment on the suggestion that has emerged from a small number of our hon. Friends that perhaps Britain's future lies not in the European Community but in joining some extraordinary outer grouping of European countries? Would my right hon. Friend like to speculate on what that would do to Britain's prestige, influence and general standing in the world?

Mr. Hurd

I am not familiar with that suggestion in any modern form. It used to run about 15 or 20 years ago. Everything that we have said over many years shows our conviction that the Community is the right framework and the right place for Britain to devote its energies. We believe in a European Community which is not stick-in-the-mud or stay-still but which evolves in the light of need towards a liberal and open Europe.

I wish to refer to the point that is often discussed in that context, and that is the enlargement of the Community.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

The Foreign Secretary may recall that yesterday I asked the Prime Minister to respond to a question which I put in the form of applauding the right hon. Gentleman for his statement on Monday at the conference of the Confederation of British Industry, and his view of the possibilities of submerging Parliament, "ogres" and so on, which I thought were entirely supportable. Last week I heard the Prime Minister say that she thought that the European Commission was striving to extinguish democracy. Does that bear any relationship to the right hon. Gentleman's views of the European Commission?

Mr. Hurd

The right hon. Gentleman laid a little trap yesterday into which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not fall. He must think me very gullible if he thinks that I am going to fall into it. The right hon. Gentleman was kind about my remarks in Glasgow, and that caused me some momentary discomfort until I realised that he was not going to get it right. I am saying that it is a mistake to be frightened by an argument. We do not have a conspiracy—we have an argument. It is perfectly possible to argue, including against the ideas of the President of the Commission, without being defeatist. We have a very good case and it is a fact that the treaty cannot be amended without our consent. Let us therefore get on with the argument and treat it in the vein that my right hon. Friend and I have been trying to do.

Mr. Campbell-Savours


Mr. Hurd

May I turn to the enlargement of the Community——

Mr. Campbell-Savours


Mr. Hurd

No, I shall not give way. I want to get on.

Four European states are applicants for Community membership and there will no doubt be others. They come in all shapes, and we cannot do other than welcome that diversity. We should not now have new binding commitments that make it impossible for countries to join when they are otherwise qualified politically and ready economically for membership. The door should remain open. The qualifications are quite severe, because they require not only a democratic political system, but also the readiness to accept the Community's requirements about abolition of state aid, and environmental standards. It is therefore not a low threshold—it is a high threshold. It is not possible for the Community to take the line that, because we are so busy among ourselves, it will be impossible as the decade goes on to hold the door shut against qualified applicants for full membership.

Meanwhile, we must help the newly democratic countries of eastern Europe. We are seeking to negotiate association agreements with them. I hope that they will be negotiated in the course of next year. One of Britain's contributions to the development of those democracies is the know-how funds for eastern Europe. They have been a substantial success. There are now 133 know-how fund projects covering Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. We also briefly covered East Germany—until unification—providing 50 scholarships for East Germans to study in this country.

The know-how funds concentrate on four main areas banking and financial services; privatisation; and advice on employment services, including the development of small businesses, and management training. We are at the forefront of help in the financial sector which, to some extent, those countries—especially Poland—are creating for the first time. The first four companies to be privatised in Poland had the help of know-how fund consultants working on the sale. In Hungary, two Britons are in key positions at the state property agency, and in Czechoslovakia a team of British consultants, financed by the know-how fund, are advising the privatisation agency. In Hungary, a joint British-Hungarian programme is training small business counsellors. In time, the Hungarians will take over the whole project, which will become self-sustaining.

We also provide advice on employment services. Training facilities in Wales are being visited by 10 officials from the federal Czech and Slovak Ministeries of Labour.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that one anxiety of the developing countries is the high proportion of their—and our—money that is spent on finding accommodation for their people when they come over here. Is my right hon. Friend's Department in touch with the east European communities in this country, which I am sure would be only too glad to provide accommodation and hospitality which would greatly reduce that expense?

Mr. Hurd

That is a practical and helpful suggestion. We shall look into it to see how we can take it up.

The concept of know-how funds has proved itself. It is welcome to our friends in the newly democratic countries. It is highly practical because it gives them quick help in the areas where they most need it when they are creating political and economic democracies. Despite the rigour of the public expenditure round, in the next financial year we shall double our know-how fund assistance to eastern Europe from £15 million to £30 million.

My second main theme is the Gulf. I believe that opinion in this country on the subject is pretty solid and that that owes a good deal to the contributions from the Opposition Front Bench. I am old-fashioned enough to welcome as much national unity as we can achieve at a time of national anxiety.

The international coalition on this subject continues to build peaceful pressures. However, before turning to that, I shall deal first with what is going on in Iraq and Kuwait and express the anxiety of us all not only about our own people there, but about all those, especially Kuwaitis, who are suffering under the aggression. I shall deal first with our own people.

According to our best estimates, 300 British citizens are in Iraqi installations in Iraq, and there are 500 others also in Iraq. We have just over 500 people in hiding in Kuwait and about 60 more Britons are at strategic sites there. I should like the House to consider for a moment those people who have been living in hiding in Kuwait since early August in great and mounting danger and anxiety, who have been helped by Kuwaitis, who are in even greater danger and who have been arrested, tortured and shot. I am not sure that that predicament has properly come through to us all.

It is because of that predicament that we are keeping our ambassador, Michael Weston, and his assistant, Mr. Banks, in the embassy compound in Kuwait for as long as they can reasonably be expected to be there—and they are keen to remain—because they can provide some form of communication and can give some support indirectly—although not as much as they would wish—to the people to whom I have referred.

It is important that the world should understand what is happening in Kuwait. I hope that Amnesty International's report has been read widely both in and outside the House. It gave accounts of the widespread summary executions of men, women and children, carried out in front of their families, and referred to the routine torture of detainees—often of boys as young as 15—rapes, electric shock, and the breaking of limbs. Other eye-witness accounts that have been smuggled out, often at great risk, confirm that behaviour.

In one case, the Kuwaitis sheltering one British citizen were held at gunpoint for 20 minutes while the Iraqis searched their apartment, and looted video and other electronic equipment. In another case, on 15 October, an 18-year-old boy was shot three times, including once in the head, in front of his grandmother and one other family member. The family were forbidden to touch the body until the Iraqi police gave permission five hours later. An ambulance that was called by the Kuwaiti family was turned away by the Iraqis, who insisted that the family should sign a document stating that the boy had been killed by an unknown person. Similar authentic stories from eye witnesses are coming out of Kuwait all the time.

Hon. Members may have seen a letter in The Independent yesterday, which was written by a man who signed himself "John Smith". He is one of the Britons in hiding and he confirms that there have been cases of "electrocution, burnings, beatings". He wrote that the people being killed are not criminals. By profession they are doctors, scientists, students, teachers, businessmen". That letter was very firm in spirit. Anyone who read it will have appreciated that.

Against that background, we must consider visits by successive people with the best of intentions to Baghdad to bargain for the release of several dozen hostages here and several dozen there. No one can pretend that it is an easy matter. I imagine that all hon. Members have mixed feelings about it. We can understand the intense relief and happiness of those who are released and their families and the intense disappointment of the greater number who have been left behind. But it is a cruel game of Saddam Hussein. It is repulsive and wrong.

We examined the question of hostages at the Rome summit 10 days ago. We had a discussion first among Foreign Ministers and then among Heads of Government. They were good discussions. Everyone brought to them some experience. We brought to them the experiences of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who has explained to me that he cannot be here for the debate, but who was good enough to brief me after his mission to Iraq.

After that discussion at the European Council, it was decided by all of us that, in future, Governments would not negotiate the release of hostages and would discourage individuals from negotiating. That conclusion was reaffirmed at the meeting which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), attended earlier this week. It is clear in my mind that it would be better if that conclusion were fully respected by everyone.

I have read the speech yesterday of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). I gave him notice—although not long ago—that I would mention him today. He has been in touch with my office this morning. He informed us of his intention to accept an invitation to go to Baghdad for a similar purpose. I ask him to think again. If he goes, he will join in a game in which the aggressor dictates the rules and selected human beings are the pawns.

The British citizen who wrote the letter in The Independent and signed his name "John Smith" touched on the matter when he said: Every visit by every politician, diplomat or envoy prolongs the agony of those of us under Iraqi occupation. It is not too late. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reflect and change his mind. Only one outcome can have any decency in it the release of all hostages and the ending of the policy of the human shield. The British Government are working with our allies and partners for the release of all hostages, including, of course, those in the Lebanon.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of the hostages, will he confirm that our attitude to hostages and those who seek to go and help them does not come from an uncaring approach? It is precisely because we care about the hostages, particularly those who have not been able to show themselves, and those who look after them, that we are so anxious about the appalling, tragic game that Saddam Hussein is playing with human lives.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend has it exactly right. I hope that that point came through in what I have said. I am impressed by the way in which not only Mr. John Smith but all hostages and their families have dealt in public with all the temptations that they have been given by the media to criticise and ask us to weaken our policies. On the whole, in spite of their acute anxiety—which we understand—they have resisted those temptations. That has been a great strength.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Before the Foreign Secretary leaves the question of hostages—I am as opposed as anyone to the holding of hostages—would he say what efforts are being made to give some comfort to the many Bangladeshi people living in camps in either Jordan or Turkey and, inde,:c1, people from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka who are still in Iraq or Kuwait? What is being done to help the 30,000 Iraqi Kurdish people who fled into Turkey in 1988 from Iraq and are living in the most abominable conditions in camps near the border with Iraq and Turkey? What can be done to help them in their plight?

Mr. Hurd

On the first point, we have given substantial help—my right hon. Friend the Minister of State took a lead in the matter—to airlines, including Bangladeshi airlines, to fly their people who had escaped into Jordan back to Bangladesh. It is much better to help people get home than to help to establish camps in Jordan for the winter.

The plight of the Iraqi Kurds in Turkey is a matter for the Turkish Government. The Community is giving help to Turkey because of the particular burdens which fall on it at this time. However, it is essentially a problem with which the Turks must cope.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Hurd

No, I wish to get on. I have given way several times, and I still have ground to cover.

I wish to make a few remarks about sanctions. The international embargo continues to be broadly effective. The closure of Iraq's export routes and the freezing of its financial assets abroad have drastically reduced Baghdad's access to foreign exchange. The naval, air and land embargoes have cut Iraqi imports to a fraction of their pre-crisis levels. There is no doubt that sanctions are beginning to take effect in Iraq, particularly in the manufacturing and construction centres. Food rationing has also been introduced in an attempt to extend the life of existing stocks.

Shortages are beginning to appear and to build up. They are perhaps building up in areas which are sensitive to Iraq's effort. However, on the evidence that is available now, it would be hard to argue that sanctions alone are likely to be decisive in reversing Iraqi policy in the near future.

I have read almost every week during the past two months that the unique international coalition for the liberation of Kuwait and against aggression is about to fall apart. Even in the most pessimistic and inventive media, no doubts have been expressed about the British part in the coalition. However, there have been all kinds of other ideas. One day the Syrians, and then the Saudis, were having second thoughts. The French were negotiating separately; the Russians had found some compromise formula which was sweeping the board. The President of the United States was faltering in his will. I have read all those things, but none turned out to be true.

Of course there are differences in emphasis. How could it be otherwise when countries come together with different backgrounds, old antagonisms and differences on other matters? That means that there must be continous communication and coming and going. Tomorrow we shall welcome the United States Secretary of Stale, Mr. Baker, as part of that continuing process. Of course there is an anxiety to avoid war. Everyone shares that. No country is more aware of the sufferings and penalties of war than Britain. But we must go up to the wire in search of peace. There is no dispute about that in Britain.

Some wise words of the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi were reported yesterday. He said: We would like a peaceful settlement, but that option is in the hands of the Iraqis. That is the fact of the matter, and we must not allow it to be blurred by any other activities.

We must face the possibility that the aggressor will resist all the peaceful pressures. That is why it is essential to build up the military option and show that it is not a bluff. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence speaks later this evening, he will elaborate on that point. One fact remains certain: it is not acceptable or safe for the west, the Arab world, or the United Nations to walk away from the problem leaving the aggressor in possession of any part of Kuwait or any compensation for his aggression. It is not acceptable or safe, and it will not happen.

Of course we have our eye on other problems that need to be tackled, in particular the Arab-Israel problem, where the need for peace is as clear as ever. We shall have to return to that dispute as soon as the Gulf crisis is resolved. We do not accept the linkage that Saddam Hussein seeks to draw between the two problems. Indeed, the Palestinians support for Iraq has damaged their cause internationally and especially in Israel. But the PLO continues to have wide support. That cannot be gainsaid and, therefore, the PLO cannot be ignored.

Again we return to a point which is common ground in the House. We require a freely negotiated settlement on the basis of land for peace. That is the only route that we have been able to devise to Israeli security and the satisfaction of Palestinian aspirations, and we shall continue to pursue it.

Everybody seriously interested in foreign affairs knows the dangers of optimism. False dawns are two a penny in the columns of Hansard and, though rather less numerous, they also exist in the archives of the Foreign Office. Something happened at the beginning of this year which led even hardened cynics to hope. It was not just the end of the cold war and the freeing of eastern Europe, although that was the main event. It happened in Namibia and South Africa—areas which I have not dealt with today. In Latin America, there has been a great flowering of democracy which has greater signs of permanence about it than before. There have been greater opportunities for us as a result.

In all those areas and even in Cambodia, about which the House is concerned and which we debated only recently, there have been fresh prospects and the hope that rational answers might at last be found to deep-seated, agonising problems. There was a well-founded feeling that hope had a chance. In a world of more than 150 nation states, any hope of a quieter, more solid international order must rest on the principle that aggression by one state against another must be checked and reversed. That is why that must come first in our minds and in this debate.

Whether in the middle east, Europe, South Africa or any other part of the world where Britain can have some influence and be of some help, that help must take the form of support for stability, freer trade and decent Government, because a more open and stable world order is the best defence of British interests.

5.21 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

Since our previous foreign affairs debate on the Queen's Speech, the international outlook has been transformed. Following the opening of the Berlin wall, freedom has come to almost the whole of eastern Europe. The ending of the cold war has not only created opportunities for security arrangements to cover the whole of Europe and for increased and accelerated disarmament through negotiation, but has made possible a united approach by the five permanent members of the Security Council to the past year's other notable but grim and baneful development—the invasion by Iraq of Kuwait.

From the moment of that invasion, we in the Labour party took the consistent view that the invasion was unacceptable and must be reversed unconditionally and that all hostages must be released unconditionally. The Foreign Secretary referred to Iraq's conduct within Kuwait. When I was in the Gulf recently, I heard about that from Ministers in the Kuwaiti Government in exile in Taif, members of whose families have endured and suffered greatly. When I stayed in Dhahran it was in a hotel that was otherwise completely occupied by refugees from Kuwait who had gone there after dreadful experiences. We remain completely clear, as we have from the start, that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to remain in Kuwait and that United Nations resolutions must be implemented.

We advocated a series of measures aimed at forcing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, including economic sanctions, a naval blockade and then an air blockade to enforce those sanctions, and the payment of reparations by Iraq to those who had suffered damage or loss from the invasion. All those steps have become United Nations policy embodied in a series of Security Council resolutions. We support those resolutions and will continue to support United Nations action.

We hope for a peaceful resolution of the crisis through sanctions and believe that those sanctions should be given time to work. I see that Marjatta Rasi, the head of the United Nations committee monitoring sanctions, yesterday said that the embargo was effective and should soon begin to hurt Iraq. At the same time, we have always accepted that the international community might find it necessary to use force to dislodge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Throughout we have argued that if force is to be used, it should have the widest possible international support. Therefore, we welcome the report that Mr. James Baker is seeking support in Moscow and elsewhere for a Security Council resolution sanctioning the use of force. We do so not because we are eager for force, but because we believe that if it is to be used, it should have the clearest possible international backing.

In the same way, I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said in his interview on Monday in The Independent. The article, which quoted him, stated: There is much to be said for 'keeping the maximum support of the international coalition'. So as long as there is confidence that a further resolution will not be put 'at the mercy of a minority who have the capacity to delay', there is an argument for seeking one to reinforce that solidarity. Those were wise words, which help the House to continue in unity on this matter.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

The right hon. Gentleman said that any military action should have the widest possible support. Can he remind me whether that was the form of words that he used in the two-day debate, or did he say that it should have the support of the United Nations? I cannot remember.

Mr. Kaufman

They are the same. We do not need to start picking and choosing over one word and another. We want to maintain a united attitude in this House and I have used the words that I have used. We are extremely keen that United Nations authority should be available for any action that is taken, if action by force should be taken. During the past three months, we have proceeded parallel to the Government and we hope that that will continue.

As I said willingly, the words of the Foreign Secretary earlier this week were wise and today he has said nothing to diminish that view. In so far as any sense is talked about foreign affairs, it tends to come from him. On domestic policy, he is as bad as the rest of them, but that is a different matter.

Despite the somewhat disorderly events that took place during the Foreign Secretary's visit to Israel, he has put forward sound arguments about the need for a settlement between Israel and her neighbours and for self-determination for the Palestinians, although he could, with advantage, be clearer and more forthright on that aspect. Slowly but perceptibly the right hon. Gentleman is jettisoning his predecessor's shoddy record on Cambodia and moving towards a more acceptable policy on that tormented country. Again, we should like quicker progress and a clearer objective. We should like the Government to combine direct Government-to-Government aid with a total rejection of the Khmer Rouge and its allies.

One issue on which I regret to say that the right hon. Gentleman has made no progress, if he has even tried, is South Africa. This year has been notable for another great event—the release of Nelson Mandela—yet next to no progress has been made with the dismantling of apartheid. The right hon. Gentleman will have heard Nelson Mandela insisting that international economic sanctions against South Africa shall be maintained, yet the right hon. Gentleman has been a party to their being diluted unilaterally by the Government at the personal instigation of the Prime Minister. No Conservative Member seeking to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister even in her absence need quote Mr. Mandela's generous reference to the Prime Minister when he met her recently. As anyone who has met Nelson Mandela knows, he is extraordinarily courteous. When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I had lunch with him in Stockholm earlier this year, he spoke in an equally kindly way not only of Mike Gatting but of Arthur Scargill. The Prime Minister is just one of a number to bask in his benevolence.

The Prime Minister's policy on South Africa is in clear violation of both Commonwealth and United Nations policy. She is alone in other international forums as well. I listened with nostalgia to the Foreign Secretary's reference to the Prime Minister's plan for a new Magna Carta. It seems much longer than three months since she launched it with such fanfares in Colorado. It was almost forgotten until yesterday when the press provided us with a report about the latest attitudes towards it. The report said: Mrs. Thatcher's plan for a new Magna Carta for Europe received no support at the two-day conference of the 24-member Council of Europe, which ended in Rome yesterday. Other European ministers believed the plan could undermine the work of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It was nice of the Foreign Secretary to make a token reference to that notion of the Prime Minister's. However, he has more to do with her day by day than most of the rest of us and will know that she has a tendency to launch an idea, play with it a little and then throw it into the corner of the nursery while waiting to find something else to pick up.

The Prime Minister's isolation in other international gatherings is as nothing compared with her antics at NATO and European Community summits. It was interesting to hear the Foreign Secretary's sensible, measured and sober approach to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. At the summits the Prime Minister had done her damnedest to prevent progress that has been advocated by our partners.

We all recollect the forlorn parade at the Conservative party conference last month of a bevy of right-wing leaders from eastern Europe. They were decent and brave people, too innocent in the ways of democracy to understand how they were being manipulated. One such leader who understood what the Government were up to was Mr. Vaclav Havel, the President of Czechoslovakia. I hear that he wisely resisted the blandishments of the chairman of the Conservative party that he should turn up at Bournemouth. The Conservative party leadership felt that that event was so valuable to them that they repeated it in a live action replay in a recent party political broadcast on television. There they all were, Dr. Antall of Hungary, Mr. Carnogursky of Czechoslovakia, Professor Zawislak of Poland, the Rev. Negrut of Romania and Frau Pohl of East Germany, whom I hasten to reassure the House is not related to the president of the Bundesbank. If the Prime Minister had her way, every one of those people would be targeted with short-range nuclear weapons for which she has such an appetite.

Fortunately, NATO has steadily rejected the Prime Minister's cold war notions and I am glad that the Foreign Secretary reported approvingly on negotiations that will shortly begin to reduce those weapons. However, we remember that when the Prime Minister reported from NATO last year she adamantly said that she was against such negotiations and that nuclear disarmament in Europe had gone far enough. We are glad that progress has been made and that the Foreign Secretary can report it to the House.

It is strange that the Gracious Speech declares that the Government will give full support to NATO and will play a full part in adapting NATO strategy". NATO has indeed adapted its strategy. In London in July the NATO leaders issued a declaration adopting what they call A new NATO strategy making nuclear forces truly weapons of last resort. The Prime Minister was one of the leaders there and duly signed that declaration, but seven weeks later in Helsinki she said: Our first task is to preserve the essentials of the present order. That means … continuing to station nuclear weapons in Europe, without putting new constraints on them such as … weapons of last resort. Far from playing her full part in adapting NATO strategy, the Prime Minister has repudiated the new strategy to which she had so recently personally committed herself. The NATO allies must be perplexed if not outraged at the Prime Minister's repudiation of commitments to which they believed that she had in honour signed up. Of course, they do not have the experience of members of the Cabinet. The right hon. Members for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) and the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) as well as Sir Leon Brittan could explain that such things are a regular experience in the Cabinet and are one of the reasons why they have been unable to continue to serve in it under the Prime Minister.

Two years ago from the Dispatch Box I warned the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East that the Prime Minister was determined to have him out of the Cabinet. I remember that he sat scoffing and chortling with the Minister for Overseas Development. Within a year he had been kicked out of the Foreign Office and now he is out of the Government altogether and on the Back Benches. The Foreign Secretary is rightly basking in the golden words which he is garnering and which he has thoroughly earned by the way in which he is conducting himself, but not for a moment should he think that he is any more secure than were all the others who are now on the Back Benches. The Prime Minister disposes of senior Cabinet Ministers as if they were worn-out garments and she never seems to understand why some Ministers resign.

After the resignation of the right hon. Member for Blaby, Mr. Brian Walden asked the Prime Minister why he had gone. She explained: I don't know. I don't know … I … that is not … I don't know … I have nothing further, I don't know … of course I don't know. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) asked why the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East had resigned. The Prime Minister explained: That question should be addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend."—[Official Report, 7 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 32.] Do not blame her, she is only the Prime Minister of a Cabinet whose members gradually seep to the Back Benches.

The Foreign Secretary has nothing to lose by starting a trend in the Cabinet and standing up to the Prime Minister. Despite his attempts to paper over the cracks during the past few days, I recommend that he sort out the Government's European policy because no one else seems capable of doing so. On that issue, as on NATO, the Prime Minister has retreated into a private world of her own, rather like Alice who, told by the March Hare that she should say what she means, replied: I do: at least—at least I mean what I say—that's the same thing you know. It is not the same thing for the Prime Minister.

The Foreign Secretary spoke about the enlargement of the European Community. Eight months ago when speaking about possible East German membership of the European Community in an interview for The Sunday Times the Prime Minister said: For the Germans to expect East Germany automatically to join the EC would be like taking in Belgium, Denmark and Ireland combined. 'Much worse than that,' the Prime Minister added, 'This would mean taking a state that has been either communist or Nazi since the 1930s.' That was her view at the end of February about East Germany joining the Community as part of a united Germany. Six months later in Helsinki the Prime Minister stood that statement on its head. She said: The most effective way to overcome divisions between east and west in Europe is to give the east European countries the clear prospect of Community membership. How can we possibly take her seriously on such issues when within months she totally reverses her position? That is why our partners in the Community now refrain from bothering to argue with her at Community summits. They know that her most adamantly stated positions will shortly be abandoned and will probably be reversed.

Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)

While the right hon. Gentleman is on the subject of reversing positions, would he like to educate the House on some of his party's reversals? For example, this morning in a radio interview the deputy Leader of the Opposition was taking pride in swift reversal. Does the right hon. Gentleman take the same pride?

Mr. Kaufman

The deputy Leader——

Mr. Kinnock

At least we still have one.

Mr. Kaufman

As my right hon. Friend says, we still have a deputy Leader of the Opposition. The great difference between the Opposition and the Government is that we progress, while they regress. They are falling behind on things that they have promised to do, as I shall point out in some considerable detail before I have done.

The positions that the Prime Minister is most likely to reverse are those that she most vehemently adopts. She often contradicts herself, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor, or all three. So, no one knows what she stands for. Such confusion makes it difficult for anyone to negotiate meaningfully on behalf of Britain. Having examined what the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister say, I have some questions to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I shall be glad to give way as and when he feels able to answer any of them.

First, could he kindly explain the Government's view on environmental policy in the Community? In the Queen's Speech we read that the Government will promote further international co-operation on environmental issues. At the second world climate conference in Geneva on Tuesday, the Prime Minister appeared to endorse that when she said: There should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action … we must not waste time. She was referring to dealing with environmental issues. She made specific reference to European Community policy, saying: The European Community has also reached a very good agreement to stabilise emissions". carbon dioxide emissions— I hope that Europe's example will help the task of securing world-wide agreement. One would never guess from those words that the European Community agreement to which she refers was reached last week only by allowing a specific exception for the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom will be allowed to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions five years after the rest of Europe—that totally belies the Prime Minister's urgings in Geneva that we should not waste time and her condemnation of delay. The United Kingdom is to be allowed to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions in 2005 compared with 2000 for the Community as a whole.

The Financial Times says that electricity privatisation is one reason why the United Kingdom is lagging behind its partners. I ask the Foreign Secretary to tell us how many more agreements he will be a party to that can be reached only if the United Kingdom is "isolated", to use the Financial Times' word, and ignored. Does he support what the Prime Minister says or what she does, because he cannot support both? Her words and her actions are so self-contradictory.

What is the Foreign Secretary's attitude towards majority voting in the ministerial Council? Last week, the Prime Minister said: we should be very slow to add any majority competence on the part of the Community. The Foreign Secretary told the Confederation of British Industry on Tuesday that he merely opposed significantly extending qualified majority voting". He used those words again in his speech this afternoon, so he does not oppose all extensions of majority voting. We should like to know what majority voting he would extend. I think that the House has a right——

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman

I am asking questions of the Foreign Secretary. At the present rate of change it may well be that the hon. Gentleman will get there soon but at present I am questioning the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd).

What is the Foreign Secretary's attitude to Mr. Delors? The Prime Minister has no time for him at all. At the Conservative party conference last month she spoke of socialism through the back Delors". That was a characteristic example of her wit—fortunately inimitable. On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman recently described Mr. Delors as "a very able Commissioner". Is he a very able Commissioner despite his wish to foist socialism on this country or because of it? Quoting Shakespeare, I pause for a reply".

Mr. Hurd

That is easy. I have to admit that there are some able socialists—misguided, wrong in every respect, intellectually in the dark, but one or two of them have a trace of ability.

Mr. Kaufman

That measured diplomatic response will certainly compensate for a few more insults from the Prime Minister. We must stay with the Commission for a moment because what about the Commission itself? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition intervened in the Foreign Secretary's speech, mentioning that the Prime Minister told the House last week that the Commission is "striving to extinguish democracy". The Foreign Secretary told the CBI in Glasgow the day before yesterday that We have a natural alliance with the Commission". Is that an alliance to extinguish democracy? Can the Foreign Secretary please explain? He dodged my right hon. Friend's question about whether he agrees with the Prime Minister that the Commission is "striving to extinguish democracy". If he dodges my question, his silence will be taken as dissociation from the Prime Minister.

Mr. Hurd

This is the last of the right hon. Gentleman's rhetorical questions that I propose to answer. Once again, it is an easy one. He is at his old business—I have had to rebuke him about it recently—of selective quotations. The passage that he quoted referred to the single market and there is, and has been for a long time, a convergence of interest between the British and the Commission. On many occasions, we are both allied against the protectionist nature of some other member states.

Mr. Kaufman

I have more questions for the right hon. Gentleman, I can assure him.

The Prime Minister said the Commission is striving to extinguish democracy and to put more and more power in its own hands".—[Official Report, 30 October 1990; Vol. 178, c.876.] The Foreign Secretary said that the Government had a natural alliance with the Commission". Is that an alliance to strive "to extinguish democracy" and put more power into its own hands?

Let us move on. There are more matters that the Foreign Secretary can explain—usefully, I hope. Yesterday, the Prime Minister praised the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—the right hon. Gentleman echoed that praise today—for his role in the solution to the row over farming subsidies. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that the solution was proposed not by the Minister but by the Commission. It was put forward by the same accursed Commission that was denounced by the Prime Minister. This afternoon, the Foreign Secretary said: The European Commission and this Government held together. Is that the same Commission that is striving to extinguish democracy? That is all that I want to know.

The Foreign Secretary today wisely sidestepped the issue of economic and monetary union. Let us ask him about the role of the CBI, as he was at its conference on Tuesday. Yesterday, the Prime Minister quoted the CBI with great approval. She called it the people who know how to run industry."—[Official Report, 7 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 23.] On the very day that the Foreign Secretary addressed the CBI in Glasgow, the director-general, Mr. Banham, condemned the Government's European policy saying that ERM entry was too late and at an uncomfortably high level. Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the CBI, which the Prime Minister praises so highly?

Another matter that the Foreign Secretary has dealt with recently is Switzerland and European economic policy. The Prime Minister last week praised Switzerland for its marvellous record on currency and she applauded it for staying outside EMU. However, the Foreign Secretary must be aware that the Swiss franc shadows the deutschmark, so it is effectively part of the exchange rate mechanism. He pointed out on Sunday that Switzerland is now becoming very interested in joining the Community. How does a communautaire Switzerland fit in with the Prime Minister's statement that Switzerland prospers by being completely independent of the Community?

What about the ecu? The Prime Minister told the House last week that the hard ecu would not become widely used throughout the Community and that possibly it would be most widely used for commercial transactions. Does the Foreign Secretary recall that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer launched the hard ecu in June he envisaged that ecu bank notes could provide a natural currency for tourists and business travellers. The idea could catch the popular imagination; and as notes came to be used more frequently it could help the development of large-scale markets in ecu deposits. Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the Prime Minister that the hard ecu will not become widely used or with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the hard ecu will catch the popular imagination?

One reason for the Prime Minister's opposition to the single currency is, she said yesterday, that it would be administered by an unelected body. However, an integral part of the Government's hard ecu policy that the Foreign Secretary has consistently praised is that the hard ecu would be administered by the European monetary fund. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer launched the hard ecu he said that the European monetary fund would issue ecu deposits or notes in exchange for national currencies and would set interest rates on the hard ecu. He said: Let me explain why I have no qualms about such an institutional development. We are not opposed to new institutions where there are new jobs that genuinely need to be done. That is certainly the case here. Not only would we be looking at the job of managing the ecu; there are other important roles that such an institution might usefully take on. They might include the tasks involved in managing the exchange rate mechanism and its financing facilities, including the functions of the central bank governors committee and the existing European monetary co-operation fund in that area. That would be a powerful body. Would it be an elected, democratically accountable body, or would it be appointed and, as the Prime Minister puts it, undemocratic? If the latter is the case, why are the Government proposing the setting up of such a monstrously undemocratic organisation with such wide powers over the monetary and economic policies of domestic Governments, especially as the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and even the Prime Minister, on her good days, see the hard ecu evolving into a single currency?

On the question of the single currency, the Prime Minister scoffed yesterday at my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. She alleged that his view was that the issue can be solved by having the Queen's head on an ecu whose value is determined elsewhere."—[Official Report, 7 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 30.] The hard ecu, which may evolve into a single currency, would certainly have its value determined elsewhere, not here. Would it have the Queen's head on it, or would it not? Could the Foreign Secretary enlighten us? Will he also say what he thinks of the remarks at the weekend of Sir Leon Brittan who, of the single currency, said this: it is possible to have a single currency … but to have the pounds and the coins with the Queen's head on one side and their value denominated in pounds—but with the ecu equivalent on the other side. … It has been agreed that this would be possible. I should be interested to know whether the Foreign Secretary endorses Sir Leon Brittan's statement.

Mrs. Currie

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman

No. The hon. Lady has left the Government. She may return at some stage, but it is the Foreign Secretary to whom I am putting the question.

Mrs. Currie


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)


Mr. Kaufman

Above all, can the Foreign Secretary say what he thinks of economic and monetary union? The Prime Minister said last week that: What is being proposed now—economic and monetary union—is the back door to a federal Europe".—[Official Report, 30 October 1990; Vol. 178, c. 877.] The Foreign Secretary was present at the Dublin meeting in June. He will remember the Council's conclusions at the Dublin summit. It said: The European Council decided that the Intergovernmental conference will open on December 13th 1990 with a view to establishing the final stages of Economic and Monetary union in the perspective of the completion of the Internal Market and in the context of economic and social cohesion. The Conference should conclude its work rapidly with the objective of ratification of the results by Member States before the end of 1992. Ratification is to be not in 1994 or 2000 but before the end of 1992.

If economic and monetary union is the back door, as the Prime Minister says, to a federal Europe, why did not the Prime Minister repudiate those conclusions when she made her statement to the House on 28 June, only four months ago? The Foreign Secretary referred to taking remarks out of context. He can study the context of everything that the Prime Minister said that day, from one end to the other, and he will see that far from repudiating the Dublin Council conclusions, the Prime Minister said that the United Kingdom had signed up to economic and monetary union when we entered the Community in 1973.

This country's interests are being gravely damaged by the Prime Minister's and this Government's continual isolation in international organisations. A Labour Government will play an active and constructive role in both NATO and the European Community. In NATO we shall work with our partners in furthering the conventional forces in Europe process and in arguing for the complete elimination by negotiation, by both the Warsaw pact and NATO, of all land-based short-range nuclear weapons in Europe. NATO is working towards that third zero. As the Foreign Secretary pointed out, negotiations on such weapons are shortly to begin. A Labour Government will co-operate with our NATO partners in achieving a successful outcome.

A Labour Government will seek to persuade our NATO partners to move logically from the present nuclear weapons of last resort policy towards a nuclear no first use policy. NATO has gone well on the way to that process. We believe that the process should be completed. With those two further logical extensions of current NATO policy, the flexible response policy will fall into obsolescence. NATO should play its important role as an organisation not only for security but for negotiation, implementation and verification of arms control and disarmament agreements.

In the European Community a Labour Government will seek to safeguard and extend Britain's interests, not by isolation and offensive attitudes but by constructive partnership. In the political intergovernmental conference a Labour Government would argue for the extension of qualified majority voting to those decisions where it would help to improve social policy and raise environmental standards.

We believe—we argue—that the European Parliament should be able to initiate proposals for legislation, which would be considered by the Commission and the Council of Ministers, as well as to comment on their proposals. We believe that the Parliament should have the right of second reading on the ministerial Council's social and environmental policies.

As for economic union, a Labour Government will argue for any system of a central bank to be politically and democratically accountable and that a strong regional policy, a strong environmental policy, a growth strategy and the social charter are essential if the establishment of a central bank is to be considered. The policies on political union were endorsed by overwhelming majorities at the Labour party conference last month. We shall seek allies and partners for our point of view, a point of view that is more likely to be accepted from Ministers who do not attend meetings only to disrupt them and insult fellow participants.

The future of NATO and the future of the Community are not graven in stone. They are there to be shaped for Britain's benefit. On too many issues vital to our future this Government either have nothing to say or else too much to say. They have left Britain too weak to go into European institutions and too weak to stay out. A Labour Government will work internationally for our national interests in a way that this played-out Government no longer can. The sooner the country gets the chance to make the change, the better for Britain and all our people.

5.59 pm
Mr. Richard Luce (Shoreham)

Clearly the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) enjoyed indulging in his fantasies about the Government's approach to the European Community. That is a veil to hide the total lack of a cohesive Labour party policy to the European Community and the remarkable divisions within the Labour party on that issue. That having been said, on this occasion I can forgive the right hon. Gentleman for much of his invective because on the Gulf he showed consistent support on behalf of the majority of the Labour party for our policy.

I paid a visit to the Gulf recently. I went to the Gulf states of Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. I left without any fanfare and in my usual modesty. I issued no statement to the chairman of my association and when I returned I was disappointed that there was no speculation about whether I was bidding for the leadership. If ever there was a case for keeping our nerve on this issue and remaining consistent in our policy, this is it. The threat that we faced in early August has changed in no way and, therefore, the United Nations resolutions that Iraq should withdraw from Kuwait and that the legitimate Kuwaiti Government should be restored remain as valid and important. Failure to implement those resolutions would lead only to disaster in the middle east and, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, the undermining of international order. Incidentally, I thought that my right hon. Friend's speech was outstanding in the leadership it showed and in his sense of humanity.

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, it is right that no stone should be left unturned in trying to persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw of his own accord. Like one or two of my colleagues, I have been through a similar experience—in my case the Falklands—and the signals must be clear. There must be no misunderstanding on the part of Saddam Hussein that we mean business. So often conflict arises through misunderstanding of each other's objectives and through underestimating what we mean to do. The message must be determined and united among all United Nations members. It must be clear that we seek the withdrawal of Iraq. There is a Ciceronian maxim—my Latin is rusty so I shall quote it in English—which says, "If you want peace, prepare for war". There is a great deal of truth in that. My right hon. Friend talked about the preparation by Britain, the United States and the 25 other countries to put across a clear message that if Iraq does not withdraw peacefully, other means will have to be used. If that determined message can be got across, the chance for peaceful accord will be stronger.

However much of a hornets' nest of danger the middle east may be, we have to keep our sights on that single message. As is so often the case, out of bad news must come good. If the objective is achieved—as it will be—we have an opportunity to mobilise the forces of moderation in the middle east to defeat the forces of extremism and violence. The precondition for that must be the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait.

During my visit I found that there was a positive attitude by many leaders of the Gulf states to how they might develop regional security in the area. Many of the views were positive and sensible. On military issues there was a great deal of discussion within the Gulf Co-operation Council and by other means to see stronger unity among the forces and a unified command. There was also a positive attitude towards the wider issue of the prohibition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the need for restraint on conventional weapons. Lessons can be learnt about that from our European experience. Many of the leaders in the moderate Arab world are talking about it now. There was a positive attitude to how we can mobilise the Saudi Arabians, Egyptians and Syrians as moderate forces to try to contribute to stability.

Many of the Gulf states have long been concerned about the threat to their stability from neighbouring powers, particularly Iraq. We are seeing the emergence of the new states. They are economically impressive, they have highly developed trading centres such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi and they are beginning to discuss how they can strengthen the rapport between the traditional rulers and the people. Wealth is being shared much more widely and there is a growing recognition that they need to strengthen the degree of accessibility of the traditional rulers and their accountability to their people. There is much sensible discussion about that.

Equally, we should not turn our backs on any invitations or requests that come to this country or the British Government to help those states develop their stability in the region. We have a long history of association with the Gulf states going back to the last century. There is a great deal of good will towards us and Britain still has a special role to play in that part of the world.

Provided that we remain firm—the unity of the House is essential in this process—after the withdrawal of Iraq new opportunities will exist to develop statesmanship in the middle east and Britain and my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary can play a leading part in that.

I have just returned from an Anglo-Polish round table conference. It is clear to me that if we want to learn the lessons of the 1930s and see stability in central Europe—central Europe, particularly Poland and Czechoslovakia, provided the spark for the world war in 1939—we must welcome with open arms the central European nations to the European Community. If they wish to be full members, we should welcome that prospect and make that clear to them. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about that and made the position clear.

Poland in particular is a prisoner of its history, of occupation by neighbouring powers and constant partition. Today, on one side it has a disintegrating Soviet Union and on the other a strong, united Germany. It welcomes German unity but sees its economic strength as a little worrying. Poland wishes to counterbalance that by strong relations with Britain and France and by joining the European Community. It is in Britain's interest to see that happen. We need a new framework in that area in which Poland, Czechoslavakia and Hungary can develop strong democracies, market economies and a secure future. Apart from developing our bilateral interests with them, the best way to see that happen must be to welcome them into the Community. Initially, as we now have, there should be special arrangements with the Community, then association and, over a suitable length of time, full accession. I should like to stress to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that at the same time as the central European countries are expressing an interest in joining the Community and full accession, other countries such as Switzerland, Austria and the Scandinavian countries are also showing an interest. We cannot allow the central European countries to join without allowing those other countries to join if they so wish.

We have not begun to think through the implications of that for the long-term development of the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that no binding commitment should be made within the European Community that makes the accession of other countries such as the central European states more difficult to achieve. That was an extremely important point to make.

Britain's role within the Community is of brick building, while others seek to provide roofs when walls have not been built. Britain is better at providing the bricks—the practical construction of a European Community—and can take a positive lead. We must discuss what it will mean for the Community when those other countries join in due course. I am convinced that there is a role for Britain, and that in seeing that the central European countries join the European Community we shall be strengthening stability in that part of Europe.

6.10 pm
Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

I was tempted to follow the Foreign Secretary in what he said about NATO and the Community, but much of what I would have wished to say was said in a brilliant speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), and some of the points were made by the right hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce). I shall follow the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Secretary in speaking a little on the Gulf.

Perhaps it is not inapposite to say that when I was Defence Secretary and involved very much in Gulf affairs, the father of the right hon. Member for Shoreham was the resident in the Gulf. He was one of the last of Britain's great proconsuls, whose wisdom, experience and sensitivity to the march of events was of inestimable value at that time. When the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) visited the Gulf with the present Foreign Secretary, the thinking of such people taught him that the idea that Britain should go back was simply not on.

I heard from the right hon. Gentleman's father that Kuwait was not prepared to allow us to keep troops there, although we had a treaty for defending Kuwait and the frontier was only a 20-minute drive from the city. We had to keep our troops hundreds of miles away in Bahrain, and the Kuwaiti Government were financing the Free Bahraini Movement, which was trying to get us out of Bahrain as well. Such an experience, which is well known to anyone who has served in the Gulf, should be borne in mind when we consider the attitudes of some Arab Governments to current events.

The debate in September, like the speeches that we have heard so far today, emphasised that the Government have almost the total support of hon. Members for their decision to support the blockade established by the resolution of the Security Council. It has been made clear today, as it was in September, that that is not a blank cheque for future action. It is the possibility and the conditions for the use of force to expel Saddam Hussein to which I want to address my remarks.

It was noticeable in the last debate that hon. Members who had personal experience of war warned how unpredictable war can be. One never knows at the beginning of a war quite how it will end up; weapons on which one is content to rely might not work as effectively in fighting as they work on test ranges. The problems of a war against Iraq are now accepted by almost anyone who reads the newspapers. If we ever have to resort to force, and if we hope to be successful, the plain fact is that the difficulties and dangers of an operation to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait by force must not be underestimated.

General Schwarzkopf, the commander-in-chief, and indeed the commander of British troops if they are used in the Gulf, said that the military problems mean that a war could be as prolonged and bloody as in Vietnam, and for much the same reason. The west is always at a disadvantage fighting an Asian enemy on his own territory, particularly an enemy who attaches less value to human life than our western democracies are liable to do. That was the fatal error made by the French, and later by the Americans, in Vietnam.

There is remarkable agreement on that among Americans who have some experience. Senator Sam Nunn, who is chairman of the Armed Forces Committee of the Senate, and General Schwarzkopf have insisted in recent weeks that the west and its allies in the Gulf must give all other options a chance to work before resorting to the final arbitrament of war.

There has been a notable movement on the political side in the past few weeks. President Bush has wisely decided that, whether or not it is legally possible to rely on article 51 as a justification for the use of force against Iraq, it is politically wise to seek the authority of the United Nations through a specific resolution in the Security Council that endorses military action under agreed conditions. As I understand it, that is the main purpose of Secretary Baker's current tour of the middle east and allied countries. No doubt it will be the main subject of his discussions in London tomorrow.

That does not mean, to answer a question put by a Conservative Back Bencher with whom I had a charming exchange in the last debate, that under no circumstances should Britain act except with total support of a United Nations resolution. It is perfectly conceivable that a resolution might be vetoed by a country that has no direct stake or role in the Gulf or be opposed by tiny countries that oppose the blockade under the existing resolution.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton and, as I understood it, the Foreign Secretary said, it is essential that the alliance that has produced the consensus for the blockade should be maintained if military action is to follow. It is already clear that it will be very difficult, but not necessarily impossible, to maintain the consensus that has made the blockade so successful so far. There are clear misgivings in Moscow about the use of force, and all the hopes that the Foreign Secretary rightly expressed that the Gulf crisis might be the nettle from which we pluck the safety of an enlarged role for the United Nations in creating a new world order would be fatally damaged if the Soviet Union were unable or unwilling to agree to military action.

There are grave misgivings in Japan. I spoke to some of the Japanese leaders earlier this week, and, as the Foreign Secretary will know, it now seems almost certainly that Prime Minister Kaifu will not get the consent of his Parliament to send even non-combatant military personnel to take part in the operation. There are grave misgivings in Germany, reflected in the fact that the German Government, which I believe proposed the motion in Rome that Governments should not support private initiatives, have decided to support the Brandt initiative. There are great misgivings in France, and some of the recent actions of the French Government and some of the remarks made by French leaders have shown how deep those misgivings are.

Most important in some ways is the reaction of the Arab Governments who are supporting the blockade. After Mr. Baker's visit to Cairo a few days ago, the Egyptian Government refused to answer the question whether, if there were resort to war, the Egyptian troops in Saudi Arabia would take part in the operation. The Syrian Government have already expressed deep misgivings about resorting to war and seem to be engaged in a diplomatic campaign against their potential American and British allies in the operation.

Incidentally, there is a tiny point that I should like to put to the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps he will spring to his feet to answer my question. Is it really wise not to give diplomatic recognition to Syria, which is part of the alliance that we are seeking to maintain against Iraq, but at the same time to give diplomatic recognition to Iran, which is little more than neutral in this operation? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can explain this apparent contradiction in the British Government's attitude, or perhaps the reason is one that should never be mentioned in the House.

Mr. Hurd

The reason we broke off relations with Syria some time ago was connected with the Hindawi affair and the evidence that Syria was involved in state terrorism. There is a problem, and one that we would like to see overcome. It has not yet been overcome. There is an obstacle, and it takes two to remove an obstacle.

Mr. Healey

I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman is successful in overcoming the obstacle—I take it that he means the obstacle in No. 10 Downing street.

Even Saudi Arabia is divided on the issue. The Saudi Government have so far refused to say whether they would participate in an operation, although they have said that an operation should not take place from Saudi soil without their agreement. When an official was asked if that meant that the Saudi Government agreed that they would participate, he did not answer.

The command and control muddle reflects that. In fact, a large area of territory along the frontier between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is, I understand, currently manned entirely by Saudi troops and troops from other Muslim states—Arab states and Pakistan—yet it is unclear how the British and American forces in Saudia Arabia which are behind them will be able to operate if those troops are not participating. I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will be in a position to clear up part of the muddle that remains as to how the non-western forces already in Saudi Arabia will operate, under whose command they will be and, indeed, whether they will operate at all.

So far as I can make out, Kuwait is the only Arab country—now represented abroad by the royal family, which fled on the day of the invasion—unequivocally to support military action against Iraq. Indeed, it thinks that such action is long overdue. However, the size of the forces on both sides shows that little of Kuwait will still be standing after such an operation. It will be extremely difficult, although it may well be necessary, to maintain an adequate consensus among the countries which are wholeheartedly supporting the blockade if Washington and London wish to resort to force; yet if force is used essentially bilaterally by British and American forces, the consequence will be a total disaster, as it is bound to make the situation worse than it is today.

One need only reflect on the enormous problems that the Saudi Government and the other Gulf Governments are facing with their own Muslim populations to see the problems that will result if a combination of Christians, Jews and women are engaged in an attempt to destroy a neighbouring Arab state. We may have no sympathy for this attitude, but we ignore the reality of it at our peril.

Even a successful invasion could leave the situation worse than it is today, but not necessarily worse than if we had not undertaken it. Syria and Iran would dominate the middle east once Iraq was no longer a factor. It is only a couple of years since the west was supporting Iraq to prevent Iran from dominating the middle east. There is no guarantee that, if Saddam Hussein falls, the successor will be any more tolerable. Indeed, there is a good deal of evidence that it may be somebody even less tolerable.

I think that we would be wise to heed the words of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), who spoke yesterday: we know from the last world war that it is easy for a war to end with all its initial objectives overthrown. Therefore, it is not entirely wise for western leaders to keep sounding off and shouting wolf about the possible use of force.

There is little doubt that President Bush made those belligerent speeches in the past few weeks because he was running into the mid-term elections and his popularity had collapsed over his handling of the budget. I am bound to say that the various statements that he made recently on the Gulf affair have been as confused and self-contradictory as the statements that he made on the budget. Even on the purpose of the American operation, he started by saying that it was to protect a vital economic resource: oil; then he said that it was to save the world from aggression; and then he said that it was to protect western values, illustrated in the Saudi area by the fact that, even since the war began, some three score men have had their hands chopped off for theft and it is still possible to stone women to death if they are thought to be guilty of some sexual irregularity.

The fact is that American opinion is already deeply divided on the wisdom of going to war. A large minority of Democratic members of the House of Representatives have insisted that President Bush should not go to war without a resolution of Congress to that effect. I believe that, if we went to war without the widest possible international support, British opinion would be as deeply divided as it was during the Suez campaign.

The lesson which I would draw from all this is that it is wise to talk softly if one carries a big stick. We must concentrate on the practical problems of building up the forces needed to do the job fairly quickly. The inability of the British as well as the Americans to get their tanks out to the Gulf in the time originally hoped is a grave warning of some of the deficiencies in current western military planning. What I most deplore is a suggestion, which was present a little even in the Foreign Secretary's speech, that there is no evidence that sanctions can work. I mentioned the Suez affair, which so deeply divided opinion in Britain not so long ago. Sanctions there were totally effective. Within a week of President Eisenhower threatening to cease giving financial help to Britain, France and Israel, those countries withdrew from the territory that they had occupied by aggression earlier in 1956. That was a totally effective use of sanctions. I dare say that Saddam Hussein is a tougher nut than the Tory Prime Minister of Britain at that time, but he cannot be totally immune to the consequences even of economic sanctions.

The most striking point about sanctions now is that they have not only robbed Iraq of what it hoped to gain from occupying Kuwait—the oil produced in Kuwait—but they have made it impossible for Iraq even to sell the oil that it produces on its own territory. Iraq derives 90 per cent. of its hard currency from oil, 90 per cent. of which is carried through the two pipelines through Turkey and through Saudi Arabia. The rest has been successfully interdicted by the naval blockade in the Gulf.

There is a good deal of evidence that the Iraqis are running into deep trouble over oil. They can no longer produce the oil, because there is nowhere to stockpile it, and they have stockpiled everything they can within their existing resources. It is impossible for them to obtain the chemical additives needed to convert the oil out of the ground into fuel suitable for their tanks and their aircraft. That was probably why they tried to introduce domestic oil rationing a few weeks ago. The reason why they dropped the rationing a little later was that they saw that the west realised that that was the reason.

Mr. James Schlesinger, who was Secretary for Energy as well as Secretary of Defence in the United States, said at a meeting that I attended in London a few weeks ago that the United States was also having some difficulty in amassing the necessary stockpiles of fuel for its tanks and its aircraft in Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussein has already been severely punished for his action and has derived no gain from it except for the temporary addition of a number of television sets and video recorders that were looted from Kuwait city.

The cumulative effect of economic sanctions will produce a change in Iraqi policy, although, as I warned the House in the previous debate, it will take months to achieve. However, as Mr. McGeorge Bundy, who was President Kennedy's security adviser, pointed out the other day, a year of sanctions is far cheaper and far more likely to be effective than even one week of war. It may be the middle of next year before Saddam Hussein finally cracks, but the west—or some western Governments—have been very unwise to give him additional disincentives to withdrawing from Kuwait by saying that, if he withdraws, he will be prosecuted as a war criminal and that we shall have a series of Nuremberg trials. If it was desired to encourage him to stay, adding such a condition is the most likely to be successful.

Even the question of what follows a withdrawal should not be pre-empted too rapidly. Only last week, during Mr. Baker's visit to them in Taif, the Kuwaiti Government said that they would be prepared to negotiate about the islands and about the oilfields once the Iraqis had withdrawn. We now know, thanks to the American ambassador in Baghdad and to her attempt to explain the embarrassing compte rendre of her conversation with Saddam Hussein two days before Saddam attacked, that the Americans thought that Saddam Hussein was going to take only the oilfields and the islands, and that is why she did not react to his warning that, if he did not get what he wanted by negotiation, he would get it by force.

In such a situation, the job of diplomacy is to solve disputes without war. The back-up of force is sometimes necessary to make negotiation successful. However, I very much hope that the Prime Minister will let the Foreign Secretary get on with the job of negotiation, which is his job as Foreign Secretary. I noticed that, when Mr. Gorbachev was given the Nobel peace prize the other day, Mr. Gerasimov, whom I quoted to the delectation of the House in the previous debate, said, "Do remember, gentlemen"—he was talking to the world's press—"that he is not getting the Nobel prize for economics."

I do not think that our Prime Minister will ever get the Nobel prize for diplomacy, although I doubt whether Mr. Bernard Ingham would ever show the same independence of spirit as to make a similar remark to the press. In that respect, at least, he falls far short of the standard set by Mr. Gerasimov.

While the military build-up proceeds—and it will probably take until at least the end of the year before all the American troops are in place—it is important to clear up the dangerous ambiguities about the command structure, to which I have referred. It is even more important to clear up some of the ambiguities about the aims of negotiation after Saddam Hussein has withdrawn. It is necessary to discuss the Palestine problem, arms control and disarmament in the middle east because a clear western position supporting the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own and supporting the control of armaments in the area would enormously strengthen support for military action if it ever had to be taken.

One of my conclusions from the events of the past four weeks is that, if the Anglo-Saxons are unwise enough to go to war without at least 90 per cent. of the support that they have had for the blockade, and if the disaster that I fear follows, they will not be able to claim that they did not know that the gun was loaded.

6.36 pm
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Before I debate with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), I should congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on what, by anybody's count, was an outstanding speech. The House and the country should be grateful for his role in these difficult months.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was correct to ensure that we do not underestimate the terrifying dangers of war. I have suffered from some of them. However, I am worried that some people will interpret considerable parts of his speech as a presentation of appeasement. I do not believe that his speech was intended to be that, but I fear that the Iraqis will publish it as such and will use it to their benefit. The speech would appear to show a division in the—so far—unified approach in the House.

There can be few more commanding yet sombre and challenging tasks for a Member of Parliament than to have to consider and decide what action his country must take and what part Britain must play to overcome the use of armed aggression by another nation. That task becomes bleak and abhorrent when all the indicators point to the need to go to battle—not a political battle and not a battle of argument, but the ultimate battle of men and weapons taking part in war. I am afraid that that is the dark and sombre message which must be the warning from the House tonight. The warning must go to Saddam Hussein and to his murdering clique in Iraq, not only from the Government but from the Back Benches, and the warning must be clear and unequivocal. If. after all the efforts of diplomacy and sanctions, the Iraqis do not withdraw from Kuwait—and they must not only withdraw, but put aside the chemical and nuclear weapons that they possess—Britain will not flinch from playing its part, backed by the United Nations, to force withdrawal from Kuwait.

May I begin my analysis with a certain amount of criticism of the United Nations and western approach? If force is necessary to bring compliance with United Nations resolutions, it must be made clear that war has already been declared. War has been forced on Kuwait, where Iraqi armies have fought Kuwaiti troops and defeated them in battle; where Kuwait's Ministers have been murdered for Iraq to take power; and where Kuwait has been plundered, raped and put under military rule. War exists today. It is not we who will initiate it; it has been started already. Perhaps we are existing in a time equivalent to the days of late 1939 and the early 1940s—the quiet before the storm.

I support absolutely the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. If Saddam Hussein actually withdraws—having pledged that he will not—if he restores the Kuwaiti rulers whom he has termed traitors to Islam, and if he returns the gold that he has stolen from the Kuwaiti treasury, what then will be the position? Remaining in power is a man who seeks to become the leader of the Arab world; a man who will use every opportunity to wreak revenge on America and the western nations; a man who has shown blatant disregard for the most basic civilised standards of international law by forcing men into servitude, and into being his hostages, to provide himself with a human shield.

Does the House really believe that this man—with a known arsenal of chemical weapons, and likely to possess an atomic weapon within a year and a half—will sit quietly and attempt to stabilise and bring peace to the middle east? That cannot be achieved until another regime governs Iraq—we may not know what that regime will be, but it must be a different one—and action has been accepted to control and obliterate the chemical and atomic threat. That is not a simple matter, but it is one from which we must not shrink if, as we hope will happen as a result of a Palestinian settlement, permanent peace is to be restored to the middle east.

My next point can be summed up in two words: "Whither NATO?". I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence turned his mind to this problem. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has probably been the most successful military alliance ever formed. For more than 46 years, 16 nations have pooled part of their military resources to ensure the defence of the west. With the massive deterrent of the nuclear weapon, NATO has ensured peace in Europe for a period that is a record in modern times. Now, however, with the threat of communism and communist expansion, if not terminated, massively diminished and with the probable signing of a conventional forces reduction treaty later this month, we are faced with entirely new requirements.

Already a massive clamour for extensive and dramatic savings on defence expenditure can be heard throughout all the alliances. But are we to let NATO just slip away? To that I answer a trenchant no. What is frequently forgotten is that NATO is not just a military alliance, but the meeting of the minds of political leaders and Ministers in Europe, and from across the Atlantic and Canada. It is not just the military high command—now in Brussels—but the committee of Ministers; sometimes Heads of State, sometimes defence Ministers or Ministers of foreign affairs. In addition, there is the North Atlantic Assembly, which is made up of politicians from every one of the 16 member nations. That is the only body officially recognised by all Governments in the treaty organisation in which American senators and congress men regularly meet European politicians to discuss major problems facing us all—not just military problems, but matters of politics, economics, science and technology, and even civilian affairs. That does not happen in the European Community, the Western European Union or the Council of Europe: America is just not there. It is therefore unique, and I believe that it has provided a basis for ensuring that an ever-growing number of American congress men have come to meet European politicians with whom they would never normally come into contact, and have come to understand what Europe is all about.

I believe that, as the military necessity of the alliance in Europe evaporates, political accord becomes even more important. How do we achieve that for the future? If anyone believes that after Iraq the world will turn into a place where there will be no international disputes—where no nation will ever think of trying to settle problems by the use of force, and where we shall step into communal peace—I think that that person can be compared with the Mad Hatter, living in Wonderland.

I believe that we need to ensure that there exists, or is provided, a deterrent—a major impediment strong enough to deter any nation from again contemplating the use of force. That deterrent should make it obvious to any potentially aggressive nation that aggression on its part cannot and will not be allowed to succeed. That can no longer be a nuclear threat, for no nuclear weapons will be used in a "Bush war", or in the type of instance to which I referred. What could and should be created is a military and political treaty between the existing NATO nations extended to take in Japan—I know that that will require a change in the constitution of the peace treaty, but even now Japan has observer status in relation to the North Atlantic Assembly—and Australia.

That would turn the treaty of the North Atlantic into a global treaty, which before long—or perhaps even at its inception—would allow Russia to become a member. Like NATO, it must be an active military alliance, following closely the NATO structure but functioning "out of area" as they would say in NATO. It should be realistic in numbers and in training, with accepted reinforcement potential so that any aggressor would know that the leaders of the world were—and are—prepared to stop aggression in its infancy if it were ever considered again. Then at least we will have taken some steps to put aside the concept that aggression can succeed. To provide such an alliance will take great diplomatic skill, but we should all strive for such a worthy goal.

Before I refer to a specific matter concerning Europe, I think that it is in order for me to put forward three matters of procedure to the Leader of the House. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new post, and hope that he will look with a reforming eye to carrying through the work of the Select Committee on Procedure and drag our procedure more into line with the demands of modern life.

First, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the three European Special Standing Committees—whose appointment the House approved last month—are nominated by the Select Committee on Selection before the end of the month, and that the necessary administrative back-up for their operation is in place so that they can start to work?

Secondly, may I appeal to my right hon. Friend to find time for a debate, before Christmas, on an amendable motion, so that the House can consider and vote for the recommendations of the Procedure Committee in its 1988 report on the Committee stages of Bills? The report sets out to ensure that all sections of even controversial legislation are debated in Committee before returning to the Floor of the House, and enumerates ways of achieving that goal.

Thirdly, will the Leader of the House turn his mind at an early stage to the impasse that seems to have arisen with private Bill procedure since the report of July 1988 by the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure? It is not for my Committee to comment, as its terms of reference cover only public business, but we cannot fail to notice the long-term and desperate waste of time on the Floor of the House in the present unsatisfactory state of private Bill legislation. I have just received some figures which will amaze the House. In the past Session private legislation was taken at seven o'clock on more than 27 occasions, and more than 76 hours of what would usually be termed prime time were used in this way. I know that the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Sir P. McNair-Wilson) has made recommendations which, if accepted in full, would require primary legislation, but action could be taken in certain areas merely by resolution of the House to alter Standing Orders. That would greatly assist matters. Will the Leader of the House see how that could be done quickly?

Finally on procedural matters, will my right hon. Friend take a step that could well establish him as the most popular man in the House? The major report by the Procedure Committee in 1979 recommended a parliamentary calendar. It argued and recommended that at the start of each Session the Leader of the House should announce the dates on which the House would rise for Christmas, Easter and Whitsun, the dates when the House would return, and the date on which it was aimed to rise for the summer recess. Those dates are clearly in the minds of officials concerned with Government business, so why not announce them this week? Of course, they could be set aside if absolutely necessary, but to establish them now would allow Ministers to organise their lives and the lives of their families in a civilised and reasonable manner which has never been possible before. That would happen without harming the Government's programme. Could not the Leader of the House try this as an experiment for a year without putting it into Standing Orders? When it was done in Canada both parties which had been against the move found it admirable; it benefited the Members and it acted as a programme to keep the civil servants working, rather than believing that Parliament was an open-ended commitment to which they could take their legislation at any time.

To return to the main subject of the debate, I ask for one more matter to be considered. Whether we like it or not, major economic decisions about the future of the European Community will be made within the next six to 24 months. Those decisions are likely to establish the economic structure of Europe for the foreseeable future, if not for 30 or 40 years. In the end, I believe that we shall have to comply with them. If so, it is imperative that our voice be listened to willingly during the negotiations and that our opinions should carry the support of our European colleagues.

Before a move is made to a single currency or to the hard ecu a central European bank will be set up. Its exact format and the manner of the political control over it have still to be settled. It is imperative that Britain has the greatest influence on these decisions. Most of our European partners are as worried as we are about the possible economic domination of Europe by a united Germany, so the siting of the headquarters of the new central European bank would naturally fit into the City of London, rather than into Paris or Bonn. But if we appear to be unco-operative Britain's voice will carry little weight and the bank will be sited elsewhere. I felt that the Prime Minister went some way in her speech yesterday towards making it clear that she wanted to co-operate towards that end, but I ask the Minister who will reply tonight to reinforce the views that I have expressed. No one expects Britain meekly to follow the views of European socialists, but if these changes are to come and if our views are to be supported by colleagues in Europe we shall be able to operate more effectively from inside, by attracting allies to our views, than by standing to one side being impolite to friends and having the initiative taken away by other nations.

I remind the House that general claims about British sovereignty do not ring very true when we realise that much of Britain's right of veto was given up when the House, following the advice of the Prime Minister, approved the Single European Act. So co-operation with our colleagues in Europe must be the best way of ensuring Britain's future influence in the European Community.

Several Hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. This is an appropriate opportunity for me to remind the House that 10-minute speeches will operate from 7 pm, as foreshadowed by Mr. Speaker at the start of our debate.

6.56 pm
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I intend to confine my remarks mainly to our policy in the European Community and to the clamant problems in central and eastern Europe. Before that, I should like to agree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen): I too deeply regret the Government's failure to introduce some provision for compensation from the national health service for the haemophiliacs who acquired the HIV virus. Instead of spending the money on legal disputation, it should have been spent directly on helping this dwindling, innocent group of people. I hope that the new Secretary of State for Health will reconsider this matter, because in discussion of European matters all hon. Members go on about the sovereignty of this House. I guess that the House is almost at one in thinking that something should be done for these poor folk—so let us see the evidence that we have some sovereignty.

We Liberal Democrats are the only federalist party in the House. We have put the matter unequivocally in the amendment that we have tabled to the Loyal Address: we humbly regret the absence from the Gracious Speech of any coherent policy to secure for the people of the United Kingdom the benefits of the economic, monetary and political union of the European Community. Federalism is a proven democratic instrument for achieving political union between different countries and resolving nationalist stresses within existing unions. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said: there are some people who want a federal Europe, and they would be prepared to sacrifice a large part of our parliamentary democracy to get it."—[Official Report, 7 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 30.] That was a malign and distorted misrepresentation of the truth.

It is the Liberal Democrats and the federalists of Europe who have consistently argued for closing the democratic deficit in the European Community and strengthening the powers of the directly elected Parliament. It is the Prime Minister and others like her—many of them in the Labour party—who want to perpetuate the deeply unsatisfactory status quo in the European Community in which decisions are made behind closed doors by an oligarchy of Ministers after long negotiations by national bureaucracies, with national Parliaments such as ours being used merely as rubber stamps. The Chairman of the Select Committee on European Legislation can confirm that.

Federalism means recognising that democracy demands the exercise of democratic choice at many levels and creating institutions to make that possible. The same Prime Minister who calls forth demons at the prospect of European union did not hesitate to impose the poll tax on Scotland although she had only 10 Conservative Members there out of 72 and only about 25 per cent. or 26 per cent. of the popular vote out of a poll of 70 per cent. She apparently saw no contradiction there.

In seeking a common currency in Europe, we do not advocate any central imposition of that kind. There is a profound contradiction in the Government's thinking. However, for a federalist and a Liberal, there is no contradiction between a Scottish Parliament dealing with Scottish issues and a European Parliament dealing with European issues in which Scots are represented, and the same applies for other parts of the United Kingdom. That seems to us common sense.

Perhaps it is because the United Kingdom has such a tradition of centralised and unitary government and such a tradition of the important or supposed value of decisive strong government that we find it difficult to adjust to the idea of participating in different levels of decision making, each of which is democratically controlled.

The SDP strongman, the right hon. Member for Devonport, who sadly is not present tonight, devoted a large part of his speech to quite the oldest and most discredited device of the populist politician—setting up Aunt Sallies and knocking them down. He asked, "Suppose we had had a federalist state in 1980, could it have tackled the decisive issues of the 1980s?" His answer was no, but he gave no proof because there is none.

I do not have any proof to the contrary, but I can state that the capacity of a federal union, or indeed of any kind of alliance, to achieve a common position on any issue must be related to the desire of its members to achieve that end. The resignation of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) was essentially about that. It was not, as the Prime Minister and others have fairly and properly said, about any particular policy. He resigned about the willingness to create the conditions for common policies. The right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East clearly felt that the Prime Minister and her Government did not have that willingness and he believed that that weakened the whole enterprise and our influence within it.

Where does the Labour party stand on this? That is a very good question. I have participated regularly in debates on the European Community.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

I can testify to that.

Sir Russell Johnston

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am seldom grateful to him, but on this occasion I am. I have participated in such debates for 20 years—rather longer than he has, I suspect.

I have expressed a consistent view in debates on the European Community and that is on the record. By comparison, the Labour party's record has been like a snake in oil—it has changed, has moved and has been difficult to grasp.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Russell Johnston

I will allow the very hon. Lady one little minute.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As most of his fellow countrymen have not yet accepted the Act of Union, why would they accept any closer federation with any other nation?

Sir Russell Johnston

My colleagues, friends and fellow countrymen north of the border are a great deal more internationalist than many people in Crewe.

At first, the Labour party was against the European Community. I gather that the Labour party is now against what the Government are doing. However, the Opposition are not clear about what they would like to do instead. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) did not enlighten me about the attitude of the Labour party towards economic and monetary union, far less political union.

I recall that the socialists and the social democratic parties in the European Community produced a common manifesto. However, the British Labour party introduced a derogation and stated that it could not accept the idea of the European Parliament becoming stronger. The Labour party could not go along with that. That was odd, and I wonder whether it is still the position today.

My loyalty is not to this institution—this Parliament in Westminster—but to my voters in my constituency and to my liberal beliefs. What reason have I or any Liberal Democrat to defend this House and its supposed sovereignty? This place is the vehicle through which a Government who attracted only 42 per cent. of the vote, but because of our capricious electoral system achieved a majority of 100, impose their will on the country. As we consider how we will fit into Europe, British people of a liberal democratic view do not have much to lose, but probably have a great deal to gain.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

My hon. Friend has touched on one of the central misconceptions in this argument. The Prime Minister and her Cabinet and the Labour party argue the case on the basis of the sovereignty of Parliament. We should not be arguing on that basis. What matters is the sovereignty of the people. The people have as good a right and as good an interest in vesting their sovereignty in this Parliament as in the Parliament in Europe. If we were to think about the sovereignty of the people rather than the sovereignty of this House above the people, we might put the argument in the right context.

Sir Russell Johnston

Hon. Members will understand that I naturally appreciate the remarks made by my right hon. Friend.

As time is against me, I want to refer quickly to eastern Europe. The Foreign Secretary referred to the know-how fund. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and I are on the advisory board of that fund. The fund has done a great deal of good, but it is still under-resourced and lacking in administrative capacity through the British Council. I hope that something will be done about that.

As I have said in this place before, I believe that the western alliance as a whole—the European Community and the United States—must think urgently about a major total package not just for eastern Europe, but for the Soviet Union itself, which is in dire trouble. We owe Gorbachev some support, and we must also have a more common view about that in Europe. Even a modified Soviet Union based on Russia and some Slav republics will be a major partner for Europe.

I intervened on the Foreign Secretary to ask about the Baltic states. Are the Government going to press for their representation at the CSCE summit and also press the Soviet Union to resume the independence negotiations which it has broken off?

It would also have been nice if the Foreign Secretary had referred at the beginning of this new Session to the success so far of German reunification. People like me have certainly not forgotten the stupidities of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and that very peculiar ideological conference intended to examine the German psyche. Perhaps we should apologise for that several times over. No one in the Warsaw pact, Prague or Budapest would argue that it is in their best interests for the European Community to hold back its integration. They want us to do better. If we do so, we can do more for them and they could join in time.

We Liberal Democrats believe that the future of our country lies in the European Community. We are unhappy about the Government's approach. It is not a matter of agreeing about everything; it is a matter of listening to others and working with others, so that we may build something much better than we have had or would otherwise have.

7.9 pm

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

I preface my remarks by apologising to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the House. I reiterate the apology that I gave to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence because I shall have to leave the House some time this evening to attend an urgent engagement that I cannot avoid.

I intervened on the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) not in a spirit of animosity but to point out that, on 7 September, he said: We believe that any further operations found necessary, such as an air blockade, should, like operations already undertaken, be clearly and unequivocally authorised by the United Nations."—[Official Report, 7 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 892.] On 6 September, the Leader of the Opposition said: if further military action is necessary it should be taken under the full authority of the United Nations."—[Official Report, 6 September 1990; Vol. 177, c. 748.] The right hon. Member for Gorton said today that any further action should have the widest possible support. There is a change in emphasis. It is very slight, very subtle, but also very important, and I welcome it. The Labour party has had a thoroughly responsible attitude to what has been going on in the Gulf. I welcome that change because events have changed.

The second paragraph of the Gracious Speech reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the defence of the nation. The precedence of that reaffirmation shows the priority that the Government give to defence. However, I wish to deal with one specific matter, the Gulf. Clearly, those who talked six months ago about a massive and immediate peace dividend were wrong, and it is quite interesting to note just how quiet they are today.

The United Nations has defined its objectives in the Gulf. They include an unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, and the restoration of the legitimate Government. I trust that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other leaders of the allied powers will agree that the definition of a legitimate Kuwaiti Government includes the return of the Al Sabah family. There is a variety of reasons, and for brevity I shall mention only one. If that definition is not agreed, it will signal to other sheikdoms of the Gulf and to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia something that will be inherently destabilising, undermine them and consequently damage our interests. The other objectives are freedom for hostages who are illegally and monstrously detained, and reparations. The world cannot afford those to be the only objectives, and we must insist that Iraq is denied the ability to wage a war of mass destruction. That is essential, otherwise the calm that will follow an Iraqi withdrawal will be a peace that is hollow, shallow and short.

We must therefore consider the methods that the United Nations is using. Sanctions are the main one, particularly in respect of oil exports. That will be effective. It will stop oil moving, but whether it will succeed in forcing out Iraq is a different matter altogether. We need also to be aware of the danger of Iraq bartering oil later for spare parts now. We must recognise that, however hard countries such as Turkey, Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia try, there will be smuggling across borders. Consequently, the rich, the powerful and the decision-makers will be all right, but the poor and the hostages will suffer. When that suffering is seen on television, the west will forget that Saddam Hussein is the author of that misery and will blame sanctions.

I sometimes wonder how many allies are willing to sustain a war of limited objectives. Therefore, there is the paradox that, although, with time, sanctions will become effective, time is probably on Saddam Hussein's side. I may be wrong—sanctions may work. They may force a withdrawal, or we may find—it is a great danger—that the Kuwaiti Government, frustrated by delay, decide to buy off Iraq for £15 billion, for Bubiyan island and Warbah on the Shatt al Arab. I hope not, but I do not know. However. I know that, however effective sanctions are and whether or not Kuwait decides to take unilateral action, it nevertheless is likely to permit Saddam Hussein to remain in power. It is likely to permit a tyrant to claim a victory, however illusory. It is likely to allow that wicked dictator, in two to three years, to threaten a nuclear holocaust, and a nuclear holocaust that he would not hesitate to carry out.

On 6 June 1985, in a debate on the non-proliferation treaty, in which I mentioned Iraq, I said: I am convinced that if nuclear war ever broke out it would not be initiated by the super powers but by a nation without any sense of responsibility, where power is concentrated in the hands of the evil, the insane or the bigoted dictator."—[Official Report, 6 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 537.] Under the heel of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is a nation without any sense of responsibility, where power is concentrated in the hands of a bigoted and evil dictator. Unless others can find a better way of fulfilling both objectives—withdrawal and the denial to Iraq of the means of mass destruction—I am driven to the reluctant conclusion that force may have to be used.

There are risks. There are political, humanitarian and military risks. There is the risk to Ras Tanura, a major source of western oil, there is the risk to Israel, there is the risk of the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons by Iraq, and even if it were a predominantly air war, there would be major casualties. There would be fewer casualties than in a land war, but there would be a major number. Even if the bombing or whatever action allied air forces took was so precise so as not to hurt one hair on the head of any hostage, I have absolutely no doubt that Saddam Hussein would slaughter some and blame it on allied action.

We are also told that there is the risk of alienating Arab opinion. Having travelled extensively through that region, the near east and the middle east, for many years, I believe that the idea that the Arab world is united is wrong. The Arabs are no more united today than the Christians were in the 15th century. Nor are even the Palestinians pro-Iraqi. They are anti-American—a country that they fear and envy.

There is a danger with the press as well. There is the Kate Adie factor whereby a competent, honest and inquiring journalist is pressured by time, is unwittingly directed and consequently manipulated by an Iraqi dictatorship and therefore gives a wrong portrayal of events. At the same time, colleagues in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and so on give information or indulge in a form of speculation that damages the chances of allied forces. There are great risks, but those who oppose the use of force must answer whether they are prepared to countenance an Iraq, under the heel of a malign dictator, that is armed with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and if not, what would they do?

I notice, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have only a few more seconds, so I shall conclude. There is much to be done in the region, and a newly coherent United Nations is the body to do it. There are the issues of just settlement of the Palestine question, and of an arms embargo on Iran, Syria and Iraq, but the priority now is to expel Iraq from the sovereign state of Kuwait and to deny Iraq the weapons of mass destruction.

7.19 pm
Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

It is inevitable that a debate on foreign affairs should be somewhat unstructured because, by definition, it includes all human activity outside our coastlines. So I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) will forgive me if I do not follow him because, in the interest of time, I shall concentrate on one issue, which was adverted to in speeches from both Front Benches but understandably not developed. I refer to the issue that has come to be called again "the Palestine question". I raise it largely in self-defence because I have been asked from a number of quarters whether my reticence on the subject in our debate in September was calculated. It was not; it was a response to constraints on time. It is true that some of the allegations made in that debate went unanswered, which is why I crave the indulgence of the House tonight.

I begin by applauding the Government's insistence that no kind of enforced concession by Israel is on offer as the price of President Hussein's withdrawal from Kuwait. There is no link between the two situations. No one should be encouraged to hope that there is a sacrificial lamb available for that purpose.

I am old enough to remember each phase of this unhappy story since 1947. I have seen the successive stages of the tragedy, each leading inevitably to the next. I have seen each side, like the characters in a Shakespearean drama, reacting to situations that they did not create or seek—and reacting in very much the way in which I suspect that I should have reacted in their respective situations. I have seen the temptation for well-intentioned people in other countries, at a safe distance from the violence, to pontificate about how those concerned should behave, rather like a trainer shouting instructions to his fighter from outside the ring. I have also seen that happen in Northern Ireland.

I believe that we are under an obligation to try to act in the role of peacemakers, but I do not think that we shall best achieve that by echoing the indignation of those most closely involved. Of course, we cannot ignore infringements of human rights whether they are on the west bank, in Jerusalem, in Iraq or Kuwait, in the gaols of Syria or in the villages of Kurdistan. I understand when my Israeli friends say, "But do you know about the atrocities in the Arab countries? Have you read Amnesty International's report on Kuwait? Why are they never mentioned?", and I understand the situation faced by the young soldiers on Temple Mount. Much of the blame rests with those who orchestrated that situation. But we have to say to the Israeli authorities—as some of us have tried to say to the authorities in Northern Ireland—"It is no service to the rule of law when those charged with enforcing it believe that it does not apply to them." One cannot invoke Satan to cast out Satan.

I understand that each side can complain of past wrongs. The Arabs are entitled to say that, on any showing, their interests were involved in the events of 1947 and that, at the least, they had some rights, but they were not consulted. They are entitled to say that the need for a Jewish homeland had arisen partly at least because of bigotry and anti-semitism in Europe and yet Europe had solved its problem not at its own expense, and paid its guilt money not from its own account, but at the expense of the Arabs. I understand that that is why in 1947 they refused to recognise Israel's right to exist and why in 1948 they refused to recognise the decision of the United Nations.

For its part, Israel is entitled to say that in 1948 it was prepared to accept the compromise that had commended itself to the United Nations; that it was Israel which was attacked in 1948 by seven armies; that the rest of the world did not lift a finger to save it or to make peace, but settled down to watch in the expectation that Israel would be destroyed, and its people possibly massacred, and that Israel's survival rested not on any international guarantees, but on its own defensive capability. Israel is entitled to say that it occupied the west bank in consequence not of a war in which Israel was the aggressor, but of a naked attack on Israel, which was declared even by the Security Council to be an act of aggression, and that, again, Israel's survival rested on its own efforts. Israel is entitled to say that it was nearly destroyed because the country east of Jordan is so narrow as to be virtually indefensible against a sudden attack, and that its presence on the west bank was originally a strategic one. Israel is entitled to say that between 1983 and 1987 Iraq, Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Syria acquired military equipment to a total value of $42 billion, while Israel acquired equipment worth only $3 billion.

There is nothing more pointless than to preach at either or both sides without showing some understanding of what it is like to be part of that unhappy situation. However, it remains the case that along with resentment, recriminations and anxieties, all the people concerned share a deep hunger for peace and a recognition that there is no other avenue to security and prosperity. That peace will have to be reached on the basis of compromise—and "compromise" is an easy word to say. But for both sides, a compromise would mean giving up something that it sees as important because there cannot be a painless compromise. It may have to entail an element of risk, although I hope that we should be wary of urging either side to buy peace at a price that we should not wish to see imposed on this country.

But this generation has no right to condemn posterity to a perpetual state of war. A compromise there must be, but it can be achieved only by meeting and talking. The Israeli Labour party is right about that of course. It would be easier to persuade the Israeli people if Mr. Arafat were more consistent in his statements about violence; if he were to revise his view that President Hussein made "a great speech" when he threatened to destroy half of Israel with chemical weapons; or if he repudiated Mr. Al Abbis' statement after the coastal operation in May, that the policy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation is still as defined by the Palestine National Council's endorsement of the armed struggle in 1988. If Mr. Arafat disagrees with that, it would be easy for him to say so.

There need to be talks. But this country would not help that process by attempting to prescribe in advance the conclusions that should emerge from those talks. It may be necessary to distinguish between settlement on the west bank and a right to some defensive arrangements that would not confine Israel within an indefensible border. It may be necessary for everyone to accept that the deep emotions felt about east Jerusalem by three of the world's major religions require some special arrangements.

All the parties may need to break away from the assumption that every square inch of the earth's surface must fall within the exclusive and inviolable territorial jurisdiction of a single nation state. Certainly, I believe that that assumption has outlived its usefulness. But Israel must be prepared to discuss these matters. We would contribute best to that process, not by becoming involved in the arguments, but by urging both sides to concentrate less on the past than on the future, and to emphasise that a moderate is not necessarily either a traitor or a coward. If we cannot effect a reconciliation, we should not indulge ourselves in words that drive the participants more deeply into a fortress mentality. If we cannot reduce the temperature, at least we should not be hellbent on exacerbating it. If we cannot heal the wounds, it does not follow that we should seek to make them deeper and wider.

There is no time to elaborate further, but I believe that the view that I have expressed is the view of the Government. If so, many people will welcome it if the Secretary of State for Defence endorses that view when he replies.

7.29 pm
Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)

I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary devoted such an important part of his speech today to the situation in the Gulf which, of course, has moved on considerably since it was last discussed in the House. I wish to take up and briefly develop the point that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made towards the conclusion of her speech yesterday. She said: Time is running out for Saddam Hussein … either he gets out of Kuwait soon, or we and our allies will remove him by force, and he will go down to defeat with all its consequences. He has been warned."—[Official Report, 7 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 34.] I submit that it is essential for us to prepare the British public for the momentous and hard decisions that must soon be taken on the Gulf. No one likes or glories in war, but we must establish in advance why war will probably be necessary.

International sanctions have been in place for three months now and have had absolutely no effect in persuading Saddam Hussein to disgorge Kuwait. Indeed, throughout that time he has continued his rape and pillage of that sad country and evinced a cruelty that was movingly illustrated by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary today and, indeed, by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. At the same time, Saddam Hussein has played a sadistic cat-and-mouse game with innocent hostages.

Sanctions have perhaps served a useful purpose demonstrating the near-unanimous international disapproval of his aggression, but anyone who puts his faith in sanctions alone to achieve the United Nations declared objectives is sadly deluding himself. Several of us were of that view when sanctions were first put in place. Since then, several studies have been made of their likely effect, most notably by The Economist intelligence unit. Its report published last month concluded that sanctions would be damaging to Iraq only in the long term and possibly not before the end of next summer.

We have seen a pretty effective sea and air blockade, but it it is hard to make a land blockade effective. There is easy seepage across the border with Iran and the western border with Jordan is highly porous. Some hope was expressed for the efficacy of sanctions when Iraq imposed petrol rationing. One thing of which Iraq is not short is oil, but Iraq feared a lack of imported additives. Yet soon after it was discovered that it could manufacture its own additives, and petrol rationing has been lifted. There is nothing like sanctions for encouraging import substitution.

The 1990 harvest in Iraq was good, giving it enough grain to last several months. After that it might be in difficulty, but can we imagine the western world even wanting to starve Iraq into submission? Could we resist pictures on television every night of babies crying for food? Of course not. How could the United Nations ever cast itself in the role of the Government of Ethiopia and deliberately use starvation as a political weapon? I am sure that we would not. Sanctions will cause discomfort to the Iraqi people and perhaps even distress but they will never cause them to rise up and topple Saddam Hussein. He has far too strong a power base to make that even possible. Sanctions alone will never free the people of Kuwait.

Some people urge us to give sanctions more time to work. Undoubtedly, more time will be given, but I ask those people this question: for how long should we give sanctions the chance to work? Should we wait six months, nine months or 12 months? When that time has expired, would those people be prepared to sanction military action, or is their total reliance on sanctions a way of dodging reality, a cloak for what is at root appeasement?

Meanwhile, we have the steady build-up of allied forces in Saudi Arabia and other states and in the waters of the Gulf. There are already more than 240,000 United States troops on the ground. Two further armoured divisions and support forces will bring the figure to 350,000. Britain has an armoured division there and more. Warships from many nations are in Gulf waters and the allies have an impressive concentration of air power. It will not be physically or politically possible to keep such a large allied force in a state of full alert in such punishing conditions for a further six or nine months or whatever in the slim hope that sanctions will do their job for them. If the forces are to stay there, I fear that they must soon be used.

A further and valid reason to support military action was touched on earlier. It would give us the chance to take out Saddam Hussein's growing nuclear capability. There is little doubt among experts that after the severe setback of the Israeli attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981, Iraq is racing to acquire nuclear weapons. Estimates of how long it will take vary. Some say two years, others say more. Perhaps Iraq could make only a limited number of nuclear warheads, but in the hands of a man who has shown how cheerfully he can deploy chemical weapons against his own people, they would constitute a danger far greater than faces us now. It could be a choice between military action now or nuclear war in a couple of years.

So it is our duty and the Government's duty to prepare the public by explaining the logic of military action. For when that action comes it must be fast, without any warning beyond that which has already been given. We shall wake up one morning to discover that we are at war, and our people must be left in no doubt of the justice and necessity of that war.

7.38 pm
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I wish that once in a while I could be called before the hour of 7 o'clock. I find it not a little irksome that I am constantly limited to 10 minutes and hence unable to realise the expectations of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) about Ulster Unionist Members when they speak in the House. The time limit on my speech means that I must confine it to matters which are of immediate importance to the people whom I represent.

This year was the eighth time that I have listened to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. When I go to listen to it I am warmed for a moment by the way in which the Government's intentions are stated—briefly and effectively as if they were to be pursued honourably. Unfortunately, that feeling does not last for long. When I turn back towards this Chamber I realise that I have to face yet another year of evasion, equivocation and mental reservation on some of the fine ideals contained i n the Most Gracious Speech. It states: My Government attach the highest priority to national security, and to the preservation of international peace with freedom and justice … My Government will work … for the unconditional implementation of the resolution of the United Nations Security Council … My Government will maintain their efforts to secure the release of all Britons held hostage … in the Middle East … My Government will maintain their fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and overseas … In Northern Ireland, my Government will be resolute in their efforts to defeat terrorism. Unfortunately, the Government's record does not reassure me on any of those points.

As I listened to the Foreign Secretary today I recalled a speech by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) before the recess. He reminded us that perhaps all of us were less than honourable in the way in which we went about the business of the House. I sometimes feel that we are far too bound by three-line Whips to vote for measures which return to haunt us as the months and years pass. Not least in that category is the situation that we face in the middle east.

For several years we turned a blind eye to the iniquities of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army in the genocide of the Kurdish people, and supported Saddam's Government. Nor is our relationship with Sudan able to be justified. How can we continue to ignore the plight of the tribes in the south which are being systematically exterminated. At the beginning of a new Session it behoves us all to mean what we say and to ensure that we do riot build up for this nation a dishonourable and almost disreputable name in the world.

It is extremely difficult for us now to embark upon war, but I agree with the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) that we are bound for a war in the middle east. Although the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) seemed almost to argue against enjoining battle with Saddam, he pointed out that if we did not do so we might be in a worse position next year or the year after. I ask all Members of the House to encourage our Government to think about what is honourable and truly British as they deal with international affairs.

I will say nothing more about the Gulf, but will turn closer to home. Another important issue in foreign affairs is the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. The Queen's Speech states that the Government will maintain positive relations with the Republic of Ireland. What does that mean? Does it mean that we shall pursue the same futile objective through the Anglo-Irish Agreement as we have been pursuing over the past five years?

I am pleased to see the Secretary of State for Defence on the Front Bench. It is proper for me to remind him how when he sold the agreement to us he told us that it would copper-fasten the union in perpetuity. Neither he nor I can believe that any longer because during the McGimpsey court case article 1 of the agreement was cast to one side. Counsel for the Irish Government spelt out what it meant when he said, "It is not defined at all, my Lord. It is carefully not defined." He was speaking about the status of Northern Ireland.

We must recognise that articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution are even more relevant in the relationship between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom. They enshrine a harsh, uncompromising, territorial claim on Northern Ireland. That irredentist attitude has not been weakened one whit by the agreement. Therefore, it behoves the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to ensure that a new basis is established whereby the totality of relationships between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic can be properly and honourably defined.

It is not with out significance that on 24 October during Question Time in the Dail the Taoiseach was questioned by the leader of Fine Gael, Mr. Alan Dukes, the leader of the Workers party, Mr. Proinsias de Rossa, and the leader of the Irish Labour party, Mr. Dick Spring. Each pressed him to consider what might be done in relation to articles 2 and 3.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom King)

That is good.

Mr. Maginnis

Of course it is good, but it would be even better if some of our Ministers would get off their backsides and press for articles 2 and 3 to be reconsidered. They have avoided facing the necessity of doing so. While they fail to do so, the people of Northern Ireland suffer. There is no impetus for the Irish Government to do anything about the IRA terrorists from Donegal who directed a bomb into a checkpoint where it killed five of our soldiers and an innocent civilian who they had tied to the seat of the vehicle in which they had forced him to transport it.

I realise that I have run out of time. I wished to make many other points. We have hostages in Northern Ireland held by paramilitaries and we must not forget them any more than the hostages held in the middle east.

7.48 pm
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) knows that I do not share his views on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, but I pay tribute to him for his determination to eradicate terrorism from Northern Ireland.

I have listened to our brief debate on foreign affairs this evening and two issues dominate rather as Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro dominate the plains of east Africa. They are the Gulf crisis and our European future.

When Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait I desperately hoped that Britain, which knows the Gulf area better than any other European country and certainly better than the United States, would give a worthy and honest lead. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Government on the lead that we, in conjunction with the United States, have given to the rest of the world.

We should be bracing our countrymen and women for the possibility of a winter war even though I hope that a diplomatic and peaceful solution will be found. It has been said that one can do many things with bayonets except sit on them. We recall the Royal Marine commandos being tossed about in the Atlantic storms. We either had to put them in, which we did successfully, or take them back to Ascension and Gibraltar. If it is decided to use force to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait, I shall understand the arguments.

My other mountain is how we in Britain and in Europe can build up a united, free enterprise, non-protectionist Europe. In Britain and in the two major parties we are not doing very well. In 1983 the Labour party was anti-European. It is trying to catch up fast, but there are some laggards. In my party a small tail wagging the dog minority is opposed to our European future. As I said earlier, some of them have produced a pamphlet saying that we should join up with outer Europe, whatever that is supposed to mean. What an election slogan for Bexleyheath—"Vote for the Conservative party and go down to the second division." In due course the Government will have to stare down that small minority, many of whom honestly opposed Europe from the start and voted against it in the House.

Hon. Members have spoken about my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), a man of many talents and abilities. Like many of my hon. Friends, I was greatly embarrassed by his comments on Germany. I lived in Berlin for two years with the British Army. Germans under the age of 60 bear no responsibility whatever for the events that led to the second world war. Anyone who looks at the way in which West Germany has performed since the end of the war will see an astonishing story that cannot be bettered by any European country. Its public transport, social welfare and social cohesion are truly remarkable. One of the mistakes made by our Government over the years—and I am sure that a Labour Government would have made the same mistake—was to follow too closely the United States and not closely enough West Germany. We were interlocked with the Reagan Administration and already American historians are saying that it was a fairly quirky regime. However, I do not have time to explore that. Some members of the Government believe that our relationship with the United States is paramount, but in 1990 that is a dangerous mistake. That relationship is incredibly important in the context of the nuclear aspect of the Gulf crisis, but in general it is an outdated concept. If the United Kingdom is to get anywhere, we must build up a united Europe. That is what the United States wants us to do. It has given the message, "Do not regard us as close at the expense of your Community partners." We should understand that message.

John Banham, the distinguished director-general of the CBI, talking about currencies, said: We do not want the United Kingdom's ultimate commitment to a single currency to be called into question. We believe that a single currency is good for Britain. He added that CBI members were absolutely committed to playing a full and expanding role in Europe. Some of my hon. Friends will say that that is Euro-fanaticism, but it is not. It is the view of those in business and commerce who are trying to increase exports to the continent. It is the view of many of our people who are in their 20s and 30s even if it is not the view of those who are in their 60s and 70s, and we should understand on which side the future lies.

I should be happy to see a common currency. The other day one of the tabloids suggested that the Conservative election platform would be defending the pound sterling against foolish foreigners. Can we think of anything more ridiculous? For a start, every hon. Member knows that in due course we shall join because there is no alternative. Such a move would be popular. Young people who are used to travelling around Europe fail to understand why there should be artificial currency barriers between one country and another.

We have made a fundamental mistake in our approach to Europe. In a curious way for Britain, over the years we have drained out of the discussion the sense of idealism. It was said that Kennedy was an idealist without an illusion. lain Macleod wittily described Harold Wilson as an illusionist without ideals. There is an element of idealism in the European Community. My grandfather was in the Royal Navy and was a beachmaster at Gallipoli and my father was seriously wounded at Dunkirk. Both world wars came about because western Europe was divided. In my lifetime, during which I was a regular soldier for 10 years, there was no further war on the European mainland. There are two reasons for that—nuclear weapons and the attempt to build up a united western Europe.

Another matter that we must consider is the future. I have two sons aged 11 and nine. When I talk about Europe in my constituency and in the House I am thinking of their future and about the pollution that we must clear up in Europe. How can we deal with a polluted Rhine that is pouring rubbish into the North sea except on a united European basis? How can we build up European industry to compete with Japan and the far east without a sense of European identity? I say to the Government, "Raise your sights and give us some vision, otherwise our people will perish." The British people would respect a lead and follow it. Let us have it.

7.56 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I hesitate to intrude on the grief of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) but I think that he rather misunderstands what his Government have done. Occasionally, I have to explain to some of my European colleagues that it was the Prime Minister who used her power to push the Single European Act through Parliament. I voted against it because I was perfectly clear about what it would do. However, the Conservative Government went ahead and are now managing with a trick of mirrors to appear to be facing both ways at the same time. That is not a new art because they have exercised it for many years. It is a dangerous practice and the hon. Member for Bexleyheath spoke with honesty about some of the implications. I hope that my voters will read carefully what he said because most of them will be totally opposed to every single word.

The problem of misrepresentation is very important. I listened with great care to the Foreign Secretary, especially when he spoke about the Gulf, because I am deeply concerned at the way in which a legitimate argument about what is happening in a volatile part of the world is increasingly being used as an argument for what is fashionably called linkage. Linkage is the theory by which we take the political situation that arises following the invasion of a friendly country by one of its neighbours and its occupation and destruction as a counterweight to the position elsewhere. The argument is, "If we are to find a solution with all the Arab states, the only thing to do is to bring about a state of affairs in other parts of the middle east that can be put into the balance and used to solve the problem."

That argument would be acceptable if we were talking about like meeting like. Before the Government forget the true implications of accepting an argument such as that posed by those who talk about linkage, we must understand some of the things that have been happening in the intifada. It is very noticeable that a country with a clear record of allowing the media in and discussing what is happening because of its difficult internal situation is somehow being likened to a dictator who took action with no consultation, and certainly with no intention of finding an equitable political solution. We must resist the argument that the situation in Israel is equivalent to that in the Gulf. It is not, it has not been and it will not be. We do enormous disservice to the political problems in the middle east if we attempt—by inference, or because we think we can buy off moderate Arab votes—to link those two in the way that has been suggested, mainly by people such as Saddam Hussein.

We hear about the intifada but we rarely hear about the number of Israelis who are killed—we do not hear of the young reserve officers. Nor do we hear about incidents such as the one today in which five people infiltrated from the north of Jordan and killed a young army officer, or of the man who was stoned to death in his car because he took a wrong turning. But those incidents are just as real and damaging to the people involved.

As a mother and a grandmother I learnt long ago not to take the word of middle-aged men who urge others towards violent solutions without understanding the implications of what they are saying. I do not presume to judge how we shall reach a fair settlement in the middle east. In the final analysis, that must be for the parties concerned to decide. In a democratic country such as Israel the political parties, following and leading the wishes of the voters, must decide.

A solution must come from the sort of talks that the Israeli Labour party has tried hard to initiate, even in the face of considerable adverse comment from the Israeli electorate. The one thing that I do know is that we cannot suggest that a solution to the situation in Israel will buy us political time elsewhere in the middle east merely because we want a solution in the Gulf for our own reasons.

It is in the Israeli people's interests that a solution and pattern for the future is found in the middle east. That is where their trading links must be. They, above all, must benefit from peace and from a stable political situation, but hon. Members cannot bring that about—no matter how much we wish to do so, nor how genuinely we have the interests of the groups on either side at heart. We can influence the discussion of what is happening in the Gulf by the way in which we describe the situation, and the way in which we measure those taking part in this battle.

I pray that we shall find a peaceful solution to events in the Gulf, not least because Saddam Hussein has access to a uranium mine within his borders. I fear very much not only for the future of middle eastern countries but for our interests and those people who will be unprotected from the sort of action that a man like him could take with nuclear weapons.

When this issue has been raised in the House in the past, and when criticism has been made of the so-called trade arguments, which meant that Britain was prepared to deal with countries that were not interested in democracy or the development of a politically stable situation, the Government were not prepared to act or to investigate what was happening.

Israel is a free state. It allows open discussion within its borders, and it has the right to expect that we will at least give it a fair and honest hearing. I fear that that is not the case in the United Kingdom today. Of all people, we should understand that if we listen to only one side of a delicate and important political argument, finally we will confuse, complicate and eventually destroy all hopes of a political solution.

8.4 pm

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

If the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) will forgive me, I shall return to the issue that she has just mentioned.

The debate has been dominated by the Gulf, quite rightly. We have heard some interesting contributions on that subject, not least from distinguished Opposition Members. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) showed the anguish of someone who understands the effects of war, whereas his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, acknowledged the reality that sometimes one has to face up to the need to use force to prevent tyranny.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that we should wait six months, but we must remember the wise and telling words of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who gave us, in such graphic and horrific detail, the reasons for the need to use force earlier than one otherwise would have wished. He told us what is happening to people in Kuwait now—both British and other overseas hostages and the Kuwaitis themselves.

One has to bear in mind the question of how one deals with Iraqi aggression in Kuwait. That aggression should be reiterated again and again to the British public, so that they understand that is the reason, should we need to use force to solve the problem. All the other questions relating to Iraq's relations with Kuwait and its claims fall into place behind that.

Occasionally, it is worth while reminding ourselves of the history rather than the claimed history. Kuwait was acknowledged as a country by the international community some centuries before Iraq was so recognised, Kuwait was never part of the Basra province of the Ottoman empire—it was always outside. Since 1756, the present ruling family has been in charge of Kuwait. Iraq was only created in 1923. All the disagreements between the two countries can be brought back to the negotiating table, but, for the present, we must remember only the aggression and horror for the Kuwaitis and for the people who found themselves stranded there.

I shall return to the point where I think that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich left off, by referring briefly to my visit to Tunisia this summer. I met Tunisians who did not take Kuwait's side. They told me that they were in no sense supporters of Saddam Hussein, but they had doubts about Kuwait and its support for the poorer Arab nations. Kuwait, and perhaps Saudi Arabia, need to take on board the fact that some of the poorer Arab nations feel that they have been let down by some of the richer Arab nations.

They also told me that I must realise that some poorer Arabs take the view that the world does nothing when some country such as Palestine is annexed, but it acts when the oil-rich areas are annexed. We have to understand that point of view. It reminds us of the necessity to find solutions to the Palestinian problem as soon as we can, once this sad episode is over. We have to try to reconcile the points of view that we have heard tonight about Palestine and the Palestinians and the rights of Israel and the Israelis.

I have been to the occupied territories. I have been to the hospital in Gaza and have seen the bullet holes in those children. I have seen a little boy in Hebron with phosphorous burns, and met the mayor who had his legs blown off in an attack. I have seen the houses which were bulldozed simply because children threw stones at the occupying troops.

Both we and Israel must accept that that is not the way to find solutions to the problems in the middle east. It is not just a question of me listening to Palestinians telling me what could be exaggerated tales; it is also a question of me listening to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and, I believe, to a Norwegian leader who was in Gaza at the time and who confirmed, very much from an impartial point of view, that that is what is happening. For the sake of peace in the world at large and in the middle east, we must rapidly find solutions to the Palestinian problem, while at the same time protecting Israel's real interests.

No one, however, must be allowed to pretend that crimes are not being committed throughout the world. It is right to encourage international jurists to come together to look at the evidence. I am not a great supporter of the War Crimes Bill. I do not believe that anyone could be given a fair trial at this distance in time. Witnesses for the defence could not be found who would be prepared to come forward and give credible evidence in court. Nevertheless, there are nationalist terrorists—Saddam Hussein is one. Certain people are also committing barbaric acts on behalf of Israel. Others, no doubt, are committing similar acts on behalf of Arab groups. We have to collect the evidence and take people to court.

We held a debate recently on Cambodia. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments that were deployed across the Floor of the House, but one underestimated argument is the need for the world community to find the evidence to bring against Pol Pot. At the moment, he is sitting pretty in Thailand. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge leaders continue to plan to take over that country again because the world does not accept its responsibilities and does not say that that man and his henchmen must never be part of any future Government in Cambodia.

The only way to stop him is to collect the evidence; it is there. We have seen it in photographs showing the skulls of people he has murdered. That man must be hounded out of the country that he desecrated. As from the "Hound of Heaven", he flees justice. He flees him down the nights and down the days. He flees him down the arches of the years, because he will never, ever, escape international justice. We must support international justice both in this country and in the United Nations. I hope that Ministers will take that line and pursue such a policy with regard to Cambodia.

Another area of acute suffering in the world is referred to obliquely in the Gracious Speech—the suffering of many children in the world. This is not a day on which I refer to wars and pestilences or to natural or man-made disasters. It is an average day in the world. Today, 6,000 children will die of pneumonia, 7,000 of diarrhoeal dehydration and 8,000 of diseases such as measles, whooping cough and tetanus. These are children whom the world could save. New technology is not needed to save them. What is needed is 50p per child for antibiotics, 5p per child for oral rehydration therapy salts and 6.5p per child for vaccines. For the cost of one year's total tobacco advertising in the United States or one month's vodka consumption in the USSR, one could save 50 million lives.

I am so pleased that the Prime Minister made time to attend the world summit for children at the end of September and that she came back as a party to that pledge. The Gracious Speech refers to the additional aid that we are to give the developing world. I ask in particular that aid should be given to children, be it in the form of education, health care, the provision of nutritious food or clean water and sanitation. We can all unite around that cause.

At a time when we are considering the possibility of having to go to war to protect people, we ought to remember that many centuries ago there was a children's crusade to the same part of the middle east which cost the lives of 70,000 children. In this year of grace, we can perhaps unite as a world and take part in another crusade for children, by means of which we could protect some 50 million young lives.

8.14 pm
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) has just made a very compassionate speech.

I intend to speak about the Gulf crisis. Before I do so, however, may I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on his candid comment that sanctions alone will not deal with the problem? He then said that war should be avoided, if at all possible. I am also indebted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who referred to Senator Sam Nunn's comment—that all other options should be considered. As my right hon. Friend said, the truth is that it would be a very difficult war. In the event, however, of a war being needed and required, I want to make it clear that I shall support it. I do not duck that responsibility. War should not be ruled out. If at all possible, however, we should find another way.

The problem is that we are bound by a United Nations resolution that provides for unconditional withdrawal. I wonder what "unconditional" means. Does it mean that we do not even have to set out guidelines for a settlement? I intend to deal with the guidelines, first as they ought to apply to Iraq and secondly as to the response of Kuwait and the west. I want peace to be given a chance before we are driven into a war.

I believe that the Iraqi Government ought to be asked whether they would be prepared to permit at an early stage the free passage into Kuwait of an unarmed contingent of United Nations personnel to set up collection points for the evacuation of those persons in hiding, such a proposal to be the subject of negotiations between the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Iraqi Government.

Would they permit all foreign nationals currently living in Iraq the right to leave, if they so require?

Would they be prepared to withdraw from the former territory of Kuwait all Iraqi military and civilian personnel who have entered that territory since 2 August 1990?

Would they be prepared to refrain from any hostile act which might impede the restoration of the former administrative, governmental and constitutional arrangements, with a right to vote extended only to those who were residents of the former Kuwait prior to 2 August 1990?

Would they be prepared to recognise the independence and sovereignty of the state of Kuwait within the frontiers as specified in the exchange of letters of July 1932 between the Prime Minister of Iraq and the then ruler of Kuwait and as set out in the agreement of 4 October 1963, the timing of such recognition to be the subject of United Nations decision with due regard being paid to internal political conditions within Iraq?

Would they be prepared to accept the dismantling of all chemical weapons manufacturing facilities which might exist, the destruction of all chemical weapons stocks and a self-imposed ban on their use?

Would they be prepared unilaterally to renounce all development and manufacture of nuclear weapons with a clear and unambiguous affirmation of acceptance of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

Would they also be prepared to accept permanent international inspection arrangements in the case of all nuclear facilities in Iraq by a body to be mutually agreed but including representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Would they be prepared to accept a demilitarised zone 150 km in depth on that territory of Iraq fronting the boundaries of Iraq with Saudi Arabia and the boundaries of Iraq and the former state of Kuwait, this zone to include that land which comprises neutral Tawal territory providing for a corridor where the demilitarisation does not apply—15 km in width from a line at its southern end logitudinally 30.5° to that point in the north where the 150 km demilitarised zone no longer applies, this zone to apply for a period of five years from the signing of the agreement, at the end of five years the future of the zone to be decided by a conference of the Arab nations, with defensive forces only to be stationed in this zone and only with the approval of the United Nations?

Would they be prepared to return to the former Kuwait all confiscated assets, including bank deposits, reserves, works of art, plant and equipment, aircraft, vehicles marine equipment, administrative records and all public property formerly in the ownership of Kuwaiti public bodies?

Would they be prepared to return to the former Kuwait and its citizens all that confiscated private property which can be identified as of Kuwaiti origin with agreed arrangements for the identification, wherever possible, of the former owners of such property? Would they be prepared to withdraw the threat of a missle attack against the state of Israel?

Would the Iraqi Government be prepared to accept those guidelines in return for an undertaking underwritten by the major powers that there should be arranged an international conference of the major powers on the Palestinian question with an open agenda and without prior commitment to any particular course of action? Such a conference would be convened within 12 months of a diplomatic settlement. Clearly, in presenting my case in this way it is implied that there is a form of linkage, but I am trying to avoid it.

Would the Iraqi Government be prepared to accept the guidelines in return for the following: an airlift of food and necessary supplies to Iraq to deal with immediate shortages; the lifting of the oil embargo; the normalisation of trade and diplomatic relations and the ending of sanctions; the releasing of Iraqi assets currently frozen; a negotiated settlement on the question of outstanding loans between Iraq and Kuwait with due sensitivity being paid to the problems of Iraq and any obligations placed on Iraq arising out of the present conflict and the war with Iran, such a settlement to call upon the resources of the world bank or similar multilateral financial institutions; consideration to be given to the problems of Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf with a commitment to arrange for financial support for the development of adequate oil and general trade infrastructural and port facilities for the purpose of facilitating the export of Iraqi oil in large tankers; a calm, rational and sensitive approach being adopted by the major powers to the question of war reparations for losses incurred during the conflict and on the question of allegations of mistreatment during the period of the dispute of foreign nationals and former residents of Kuwait; a United Nations sponsored geological survey and evaluation of oil reserves to establish what proportion of oil extracted from the Rumaila oil field is drawn from that part of the field which extends into Iraqi territory, the division of the oil revenues to be based on the findings of that evaluation; a declining and tapering percentage of Iraq's share of proposed Rumaila oil revenues to be used for the reconstruction of infrastructure lost during the course of the invasion and occupation, the scale of such a contribution to be decided upon by the Arab nations; discussions between Iraq and other Gulf states on the future volume of defence equipment and advisory personnel to be retained not only in Saudi Arabia but in the Gulf as a whole and which has been dispatched to the Gulf for reasons arising out of the most recent escalation of the conflict beginning 2 August 1990; the withdrawal of those United States, United Kingdom and allied military and civilian personnel who have been stationed in the Gulf for reasons arising out of the escalation of conflict beginning 2 August 1990; the granting, for a consideration, of the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah on a lease to Iraq and/or on the basis of some shared responsibility, to be negotiated under the auspices of either a negotiating body comprising the Arab nations or the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that both islands be treated as a de-militarised zone.

The House will recognise that the proposals I have set out involve concessions on all sides. The main concessions for Iraq would be on the question of nuclear and chemical weapons technology and the withdrawal from the territory currently occupied and annexed. My view is that movement on those points would do much to alleviate international tension and could lead to a settlement.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East opened the door today for that sort of solution. He did not spell out anything specifically. He talked of a diplomatic solution, having spent some 15 minutes addressing the House on the consequences of war. He did not rule out war, and I do not do so either. However, war must be a position of last resort. The position of first resort must be to gain some understanding and avoid war in the knowledge that that is in the wider international interest.

8.24 pm
Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) down the long route that he effectively carved out in 10 minutes. I want to talk about the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Hon. Members will remember that a few days ago the people of Moscow witnessed a military parade to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the October revolution in 1917. Therefore, that recollection is an opportunity for us to be reminded that there was not a smooth transition between the overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy and the move to complete control by the Bolshevik or Communist party, in what became the Soviet Union. In fact, for four or five years, there was absolute anarchy from the east to the west and from the north to the south of the former Tsarist empire. As a result, some areas were controlled by the left, some by the right, some by the monarchists, by the hard left, the military and all sorts of combinations. It was not until 1924 that total control was exercised by the Bolshevik Government forces.

The two decades that followed saw the death of some 38 million people under Stalin. I have a vague and horrible feeling that, if we are not careful, the Soviet Union will not slide into the warlord anarchy of the 1920s, but there will be a growth of unsettled nation states that have an ethnic root as their raison d'etre and that the enforced co-operation that existed from 1924 until the appointment of President Gorbachev will disappear. Thus, having overthrown one form of central control, the Soviet Union might now descend into anarchy.

For example, on 28 October, elections were held in the autonomous republic of Georgia. The Communist party of Georgia hoped to win that election but managed to poll just over 20 per cent. of the popular vote. According to The Economist, Georgia is set to become the sixth Soviet autonomous republic to declare independence. The article in The Economist goes on to say: The Soviet Union is a patchwork of nationalities. It contains nearly 200 linguisitic groups … In nine Soviet republics out of the 15, 30 per cent. of the population belongs to one or more minority groups. This hugely complicates the appeal to nationalism as a basis for self-government. What of the lot of the ordinary Muscovite or Leningradian who has perestroika and glasnost on one side and the possibility of starving children on the other? Reform versus food is a potent dilemma for the ordinary family struggling to stay alive in the Soviet Union.

What time scale can we see for the growth of democracy in the Soviet Union? There are those who would hanker romantically after the old ways and the old days. They will say, "It was not like this under Stalin, Andropov or Chernenko." The generals in what passes for the military clubs in the Soviet Union will undoubtedly sit around and plan and plot accordingly.

The question for the House, for this democracy and for this continent is not so much whether the slide into anarchy happens—I hope that it does not—but what happens to the huge nuclear weaponry that the Soviet Union possesses, given animosity between not only one former autonomous republic and another but between ethnic groups in those autonomous republics.

There are clearly two schools of thought. The first is that the Soviet Union should be allowed to collapse into a morass of anarchy. Thousands, if not millions, of ordinary decent people would suffer the immense consequences of that, and in place of the regime under President Gorbachev there might grow something worse. The second is to keep alive the faint but struggling light of democracy by giving as much assistance as we can in political support, moral support, food, equipment and technical advice so that President Gorbachev can steer his reforms from the choppy waters of semi-anarchy into the perhaps still waters of industrial democratic development. I prefer the second school of thought.

I hope, like many other hon. Members, that we shall seek to involve the east European nations as early as we can in the Community to achieve the stability that is necessary in the east. I commend the motion to the House.

8.30 pm
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I commend the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) for not using his full time. I followed his remarks on the Soviet Union with interest, as I did the remarks of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend), who discussed Europe. I shall confine my remarks to events in the middle east and the Gulf.

Labour Members believe in international order, and that it is best combined with international authority. We all know the difficulties that we have had since 1945 in using international authority, because the United Nations has never functioned as it was designed to function. Developments in the Soviet Union, to which the hon. Member for Dartford referred, have created the opportunity and climate for the international community, through the United Nations, to act in concert, as it has in the Gulf, with a series of United Nations resolutions passed in the Security Council, designed to place pressure on Saddam Hussein and his Government to withdraw from Kuwait.

I was in France when those events took place in early August. There were interviews on French television with high authorities in Baghdad, all of whom said, "Forget about Kuwait. Once Saddam Hussein has entered Kuwait, he is not leaving." That position has not altered one iota since then. Sanctions, the taking of hostages, the propaganda of those calling on Muslims throughout the Muslim world to involve themselves in a holy jihad and the propaganda about the United States congressional elections have all tried to cloud our eyes with a variety of dusts to weaken the resolve of the world community in relation to Saddam Hussein.

That does not mean that I believe that there should be a war in the Gulf. The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) spoke of sanctions, how long they could work and how long they should be allowed to work. In the early stages of the crisis, we spoke of the politics of a long haul. We agreed that sanctions would not be a panacea that would work quickly.

We must link sanctions with diplomacy. It is interesting that as Secretary Baker travels through the capitals of the countries involved in the coalition against Saddam Hussein he is getting two specific messages: first, that sanctions should be given time to work and, secondly, that a United Nations resolution will be required for military action.

I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who spoke of the need for the widest international response in the widest international sense of coming together. The message that Secretary Baker is getting—I hope that he will be given the same message when he comes to London tomorrow—is that a United Nations resolution is the appropriate way of keeping the coalition together. I recognise the difficulties involved, but nevertheless keeping the consensus is in the interests of the world community and, ultimately, in the interests of Kuwait.

I have never shared the view of some Labour Members that it is not right to go to war under article 51 but that it might be right to do so under article 42. There is no moral basis in that argument. If one is a pacifist I can understand the argument, but if one is not, it is a matter of semantics to decide what article should be used to go to war.

I believe in the policy of the long haul. Diplomacy should be linked to that policy. There should be a long and patient effort to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. We have heard much about linkage, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who made his first speech on foreign affairs for 11 years. Hon. Members will be aware what we have lost and missed in those 11 years, and I hope that he will soon contribute to other foreign affairs debates.

The fact is that we cannot link events in the Gulf with those in Israel and the occupied territory. However, because of the new climate in international affairs and the consensus between the Soviet Union and the United States, which involves China, there is now a framework for a proper international conference to deal with the problems of the middle east. In dealing with those problems, we should have to deal with the essential issue of the Palestinians, the west bank, Gaza and the Lebanon. After 16 years, the civil war in Lebanon is coming to an end. There is a resolution, which perhaps not all of us think proper, to get the militia out of Beirut and Lebanon. Possibly we shall reach the stage when Syrian forces can withdraw, and once there is security on the Israeli-Lebanese border perhaps we can get the Israelis to withdraw as well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) put a question to the Foreign Secretary about Kurdish refugees on the Turkish border. We know how the Kurds have been gassed, killed and flung out of their villages. Some of them reached our country only a few weeks ago and sought political asylum. Why not involve the Kurds in the international conference? If we did, we should be, in a sense, taking up the international conference of Versailles from 1918 to 1921 and seeing how we could consider the middle east and redress a series of grievances that have been allowed to fester over many decades.

There is the question of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the middle east. I had a conversation in one of the committee rooms in Bradford, North this week with a Labour party member who reminded me of a conversation that he had some 10 years ago with my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), saying that if there was to be a nuclear war it was likely to be in the middle east. With the threat of chemical weapons being used and severe retaliation, that may not be far from the truth. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, once one begins a war, one never knows where it will end. There are massive dangers for the middle east and for the world in a war that gets out of hand. Therefore, any international conference on this subject must look at the issue of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

I have made a brief tour of circumstances in the Gulf. I hope that the advice that Mr. Baker gets in London will be that diplomacy must he brought to bear. There must be a long haul on sanctions and, if possible, a further United Nations resolution. We live in a global village that is fragile and apprehensive. None of us knows how the future in the middle east will evolve, but we must believe in peace. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of saying that there is no alternative. The alternative lies in diplomacy, sanctions, the long haul and the cohesion of the international community. I commend those views to the House.

8.40 pm
Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on a magnificient speech. I was particularly charmed by his views on Europe. He went into the brighter side of Europe's institutions. The Queen's Speech refers to balanced and verifiable measures of arms control. I understand from my right hon. Friend's speech that on 19 November a treaty will be signed to bring about the removal of 100,000 weapons from the European war zone.

These are momentous times. The CSCE in Paris, involving 34 sovereign states, will become the centre of a framework for a major institution for Europe. I am concerned, however, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not mention by name another European institution, the Western European Union. However, all the implications were there—he mentioned the European pillar of defence, which is the WEU, and said that we would definitely need a roving European-backed military force. We have had that in the Gulf. The navies of the western European countries were in the region during the Iran war and they are there now during the present deadlock.

Political union in Europe has been mentioned increasingly. The Liberal Democrats are all for federalisation, saying that we will all speak with one voice. Having served a total of 14 years in European institutions, some of those years in the European Parliament under the double mandate and 11 years in the Council of Europe, I know that we do not speak with one voice. That is obvious to everyone. There will be disagreements from time to time. I believe that political union must be put on the back burner this time because monetary union will be difficult to achieve. There is a danger that we are producing, through the Commission and the European Parliament, a mass of European legislation, some of which is almost unenforceable. We all know that unenforceable law is poor law.

The emphasis in the European Parliament—I respect most of its work—is to get a mandate for defence and for foreign affairs, but that has never been in the treaty of Rome. The European Parliament should concern itself with Europe's trading arrangements, prepare the level playing field, look at competition policy and make sure that France and Germany obey the laws and that we trade equally with each other. It would be a retrograde step to hand over defence or foreign affairs to the European Parliament.

I am also worried about competition. We have a wonderful team of auditors in Luxembourg scrutinising the Commission's financial affairs and the regulations that come from the Commission and from time to time we get a report. Those matters do not get much publicity here, but I believe that once a year we should get a report from the auditors so that we can at least say that we are scrutinising the Commission with a view to cutting out waste. There is as much waste in Europe as in any other area. For too long, the House of Commons and the House of Lords have not tried hard enough to pin down details of that waste which is so professionally pointed out by the auditors in Luxembourg.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that four states wanted to join the European Community. That is one good reason why we must curb the excesses of the common agricultural policy. Apparently, we have had some success this week, with 30 per cent. off subsidies, but I am cynical about that. We must wait and see how other countries manage their affairs. The addition of four new states would bring membership to 16, which is a long way off the CSCE total of 34. As we well know, there are 24 nations in the Council of Europe. We must ensure that there are not too many institutions for Europe. We certainly do not want excessive duplication of institutions—in other words, more and more waste.

How curiously the scene changes in one year. Last year, the focus of attention was Hong Kong. The year before, it was Afghanistan; and the middle east is a perennial favourite. We have talked about the problems in Angola and in central Europe, where the Securitate was killing people only a year ago. We are now concentrating on one of the biggest issues that has ever come before the United Nations. Like my colleagues, I am worried about sanctions. Can we starve a country of many millions of people? Can we allow such scenes to be seen on television by the British public? Would there be any political support for that action? Sanctions in the long term would affect only the lower stratum of the Iraqi community; the rest would live exactly as they did before. We must ensure that we do not talk with two voices. Are we saying that, if we want sanctions to work, we are prepared to see a whole nation starve to death? I do not think that many politicians would want to do that.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary outlined some of the horrific details of the actions of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. We have not discussed that enough, although I have asked a couple of questions in the House about it. We have been living almost in a Walter Mitty world, saying, "Here we have a lovely little war in Kuwait, but no one has died. It was all done so quickly that there were no casualties." But that is wrong. There are many casualties. What are we going to liberate? We are going to liberate sand and the few Kuwaitis who can get away. My right hon. Friend said that there are still 500 hostages in hiding. They will be in serious danger, not because of the armed forces that will invade to release Kuwait but because of the Iraqi forces already there. They will become deliberately bestial in their ways.

My view is based on a piece today from the Press Association. The article, which contains a report from official journals in Baghdad, will curdle the blood of the House. It says: Iraq threatened today to turn the Arabian peninsula into ashes and the Saudi oil fields into a sea of fire if attacked … Only Moslem shrines in Mecca and Medina would be spared if US-led forces tried to drive Iraq out of Kuwait". We stay in Saudi Arabia and we hope that Iraq will slowly but surely turn to less emotive leaders, but I cannot see that happening. In view of all the evidence that has been piling up, I believe that we must go into Kuwait to liberate it, as the United Nations wishes. That must be done for the sake of the people in Kuwait and it must be done fairly soon.

8.50 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The London Evening Standard described the Queen's Speech using the headline, "Thatcher Clears the Decks." The paper meant that the legislative programme was light so that the Government would be ready for the election. From the Prime Minister's speech yesterday and the Chancellor's autumn statement today, clearing the decks seems to mean shouting the lies louder. The Prime Minister and the Conservative party are engaged in that bluff.

The credibility of the Prime Minister and the Conservative party is damaged beyond recall by the realities that our people experience daily. Examples of the bluff are clear in the economy. The Prime Minister said that we have economic resurgence and that we are seeing the "re-industrialisation of Britain". Nobody believes that.

There is a story about the Prime Minister and the Cabinet getting caught in Regent's park zoo on the wrong side of the crocodile lake. The Prime Minister walks across the lake on the backs of the crocodiles in the style of James Bond. People say, "How did you do it, Prime Minister?" The Prime Minister undoes her jacket to reveal a T-shirt saying on one side, "We have economic resurgence" and on the other side, "We are seeing the re-industrialisation of Britain," and says, "Even the crocodiles couldn't swallow that."

All the economic indicators tell a different story. There is high inflation and high interest rates, which are coming down slowly now because of the desperate worries about recession, but which are still high. Even the banks which make profits on high interest rates want the rate to come down because they know that debts will not be repaid. There is low growth, low investment and high unemployment, which has risen for six months running. If France and Spain are an example, after entry into the exchange rate mechanism employment is likely to rise by another 1 million in the next one year to 18 months.

Last year, the balance of payments deficit was £19.1 billion on the current account—the highest on record—and was £13.2 billion in the first nine months of this year. The Prime Minister said that there is more investment here from the United States, from Germany and from Japan. The balance of payments debt is being paid by the ownership of Britain by those countries. In the words of the Confederation of British Industry, the United Kingdom is "ripe for takeover"—and, I might add, on the cheap.

The Tories claim that public services are safe in their hands, but we see public squalor. Our people know that there is squalor in our public transport system and that there is neglect, from a mere lick of paint to the lack of investment in new rail lines. Our people know that the NHS has been destroyed by hospital closures, health authority debt and longer waiting lists. There is no new public housing, so we have cardboard city, and there is no major infrastructure work for the future. We have no clean-up plans for our rivers and no plans for a new sewerage system.

The Prime Minister attacked borrowing. What is wrong with borrowing to invest for the future? The cost of worth while projects such as sewerage systems and the cleaning up of our rivers can be shared with future generations, who will benefit from it. In the face of all the evidence, there is incredulity among our people at the Prime Minister's claim that it is so good under the Tories.

The Tories are split over Europe and that reflects the split in United Kingdom businesses over whether to go with the European capitalists or with the United States. Both choices would represent a narrowing of our independence and a changed understanding of our role and of our importance. We have diminished from the Great Britain of empire, an idea used by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), when he was chairman of the Conservative party, and by the Prime Minister during the previous election campaign. In many ways, the Euro argument is phoney. It was the Prime Minister who signed the Single European Act and none of her present concerns was made known then, although they stem from it.

Many of our people do not care which currency is used; they care about getting more of that currency in their pockets. Europe cannot be the narrow, bureaucratic and undemocratic capitalist club of the Twelve. It must encompass all Europe—east as well as west. That will happen anyway as Germany moves closer to an alliance with Russia in both their interests.

Capitalism and recession in Europe mean unemployment on a huge scale, the division and instability that flow from it, and war. That is why free-market Thatcherism will not work in Europe—as it does not work now in this country. The future of Europe will be democratic socialist.

Meanwhile, debt ravages more and more of the world, and the Gulf crisis and recession will make that worse. There will be unnecessary loss of life, environmental disaster, human underdevelopment and war, promoted by the arms trade and principally promoted by the United States and the United Kingdom, the biggest arms dealers. Increasing numbers of refugees come to this country, to the rest of Europe and to the industrialised world as a consequence of that abysmal policy. The Government have caused the increased number of refugees, but they will not pick up the problem.

Curbing the arms trade should have been included in the Queen's Speech. We have sold about 10,000 chemical protection kits—and to which country? To Iraq. The Iraqis can now feel free to use their chemical weapons against us. British companies, with the support of the Government, have attended arms fairs in Baghdad to sell weapons. We even sold Iraq some of our desert uniforms, so we now have only jungle green uniforms—a wonderful camouflage in the desert.

In an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), the Minister of State for Defence Procurement talked about the role of the Defence Export Services Organisation and of International Military Services Ltd. The Minister pointed out that the role of DESO was to assist the British defence industry in selling its products in overseas markets … International Military Services Ltd. is a private limited company … whose shares are vested in the Secretary of State for Defence. It offers, on a commercial basis, a range of marketing and project management services in the defence field available to both Government and industry."—[Official Report, 30 April 1990; Vol. 171, C. 428.] That is the arms trade in which the Government are involved.

We should be adopting proposals such as those put forward by CND for controlling arms sales and curbing the spread of missile technology: The Government should set up a register of arms sales … The DTI, MoD and FCO should set up a specialist unit to investigate 'dual-use' exports and screen suspect orders … The MTCR"— the Missile Technology Control Regime— should be tightened to include shorter range missiles and lighter payloads than at present … An independent international MTCR enforcement and verification agency should be set up … Cessation of all missile proliferation within the MTCR. Cessation of joint missile projects like the Anglo-French 'Eurodynamics' company set up to research a new air launched nuclear missile … All missile producers should be encouraged to join the MTCR through incentives and penalties. All that should have been in the Queen's Speech.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that she is using war in the Gulf as a political tool. The last paragraph in her speech on the Loyal Address must be seen in the context of the leadership challenge to her, and her current electoral position. Its placing at the end of the speech was bellicose and cynical: she is prepared to use force to reverse the electoral trends running against her. Of course, we must make distinctions—in regard to, for instance, the use of force under the auspices of the United Nations. Whether or not such force is exercised by the United States—the main protagonist—the moral position is against any force being used, because it would be a colonialist measure to protect oil for the use of the capitalist world. My position is clear: I oppose a first-strike policy. We should let sanctions work, and, at the very least, stick with the United Nations.

Neither a cynical war nor bluff can save the Tories. They are split, and their policies are a shambles. As Harold Wilson said, they could not manage a vinegar bottle stall in a chip shop; and, as always, their intentions are malevolent. They wish to maintain wealth, power and privilege for their small elite, and to put everyone else firmly in their place lower down the scale. That has been increasingly understood—but the British people will clear the decks of them at the next election.

9 pm

Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks—except to say that he is mistaken when he says that desert camouflage is not available to our forces in the Gulf.

Opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary outlined the remarkable breakthrough that has been achieved in the CFE negotiations in Vienna which, on the Soviet side, will involve the destruction of some 100,000 major items of conventional military equipment. The scale is dramatic: we are talking about mountains—indeed Everests—of steel. If lined up in a continuous military traffic jam, those 100,000 Soviet tanks, armoured combat vehicles and self-propelled guns would stretch for 600 miles. That is the distance from the Palace of Westminster to the Brandenburg gate in the Berlin wall, which gives us some idea of the scale of what has been achieved.

I pay tribute to the part played by the British Government, our American allies and, indeed, President Gorbachev in achieving the most dramatic breakthrough in arms control for the past 40 years. Once carried into effect, those reductions will effectively remove any imminent conventional military threat to western Europe from the Soviet Union.

However, with 16,000 British forces deployed in the Gulf tonight, I should like to address my remarks to that area. Three months have now elapsed since the United States and Britain made their military commitment there. A formidable alliance has been forged—which is evident in the Gulf, where the allied forces now number in excess of 400,000. It is also evident in the United Nations, and—I am glad to say—it is still very evident in this House.

While that build-up has been taking place, the fate of Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people, which has been off our television screens—and therefore out of sight and, for too many people, out of mind—has been horrendous. Thousands of people have been murdered in cold blood. Museums have been looted. Zoo animals have been barbecued. Hospitals have been despoiled, with vital equipment removed from patients in intensive care. Even babies have been turned out of incubators. Meanwhile, the brutal torture and murder of loyal Kuwaitis believed to oppose the invaders has been relentless.

Only yesterday a letter was published in The Independent—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to it—from a British citizen in Kuwait, writing under the pseudonym John Smith: The treatment of the Kuwaitis by the Iraqis is atrocious and breaks all international laws and conventions. Electrocution, burnings, beatings and the use of chemicals are all part of the Iraqi interrogation techniques. Executions of Kuwaiti civilians occur every day. The Iraqis often take Kuwaitis back to their homes for execution, and before killing them fire shots in the air in order to attract the attention of people living nearby. In this manner, the Iraqis ensure that the executions are witnessed by friends and families of the victims …

The outside world calls for a 'peaceful' or 'diplomatic' solution to the crisis. Everyone in Kuwait disagrees and believes a 'military' solution is required. Peaceful and diplomatic efforts, to date, have resulted in hundreds of Kuwaitis being tortured and killed in some of the most horrible ways possible. Many others will be killed before this is resolved. Other nationalities, including British, are dying because of the lack of access to medical facilities and the stress brought on by the Iraqi occupation …

Every day that passes brings more deaths, more hardship and more suffering. It does not bring the Iraqi regime any nearer its end. That will have to be brought about by military action. That is the view of a Briton living in hiding in Kuwait. It is a clear plea for action.

Although I respect the views of those who have called for more time to be allowed for sanctions to work, I disagree with them most strongly. They must face the fact that their policy will impose mass starvation on the civilian population of Iraq. Are they prepared to support such a policy? When it comes to it, I doubt it. They must also face up to the terrible price being paid by the Kuwaiti people, and by the British and other foreigners in Kuwait, as each day goes by.

If the allies fail to take decisive action to resolve this crisis, it will prove to be another Suez, but with infinitely more dire consequences, given that Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons and its imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons will be undisturbed.

Wild statements have been made in the United States and indeed in yesterday's debate in the Chamber about the scale of allied casualties that may be expected in the event of war. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said yesterday that the French Defence Minister, Monsieur Chevenement—incidentally, he is also chairman of the Franco-Iraqi friendship group in the Nationale—was forecasting "100,000 dead". Not to be outdone, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) announced, without quoting any authority, that 500,000 body-bags had been sent to British and American forces in the Gulf. Those are nothing but absurd assertions and reckless guesstimates, based on nothing. I suspect that the reality will prove to be much nearer hundreds than thousands of dead.

Any conflict will be resolved first and foremost in the air. Indeed, the first 180 minutes are likely to prove decisive, as they were in 1967 when the Israeli air force destroyed 300 out of 340 Egyptian aircraft at 19 bases in the first three hours. The United States and Britain have deployed air assets in the Gulf that are fully capable of destroying the Iraqi air force, the offensive missiles that Saddam Hussein has deployed and weapons of mass destruction, in a similar time frame.

As a war correspondent before entering this House, I had occasion to fly low over the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights after both the 1967 and 1973 conflicts. I saw with my own eyes the fate of an army in the desert that loses its air cover. The scene was one of pure devastation, with hundreds upon hundreds of burnt-out tanks, armoured personnel carriers and self-propelled guns, stretching as far as the eye could see. Many of the tank crews had not waited to be hit, having witnessed the fate of others around them; they had opened their lids and hoofed it across the desert.

I trust that any attack that might take place will be conceived first and foremost to secure a decisive victory but also to keep allied and civilian casualities to an absolute minimum. Let no one in London, Washington or Baghdad doubt the capabilities or resolve of our armed forces to defeat Iraq, to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and to liberate the people of Kuwait. Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated that the hour of action may not be far away. That being so, may our forces know as they prepare to go into battle that they go with a heartfelt godspeed from this House.

9.10 pm
Mr. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

We hold this debate on the eve of a most important anniversary. Exactly a year ago, the crowds massed in Berlin, and within hours, on 9 November 1989, they had torn down the Berlin wall—that terrible monument to communism. I wish the new nation well. We have nothing to fear from a united Germany which is now so securely democratic and prosperous. If the Germans are economically competent and competitive, so are we. I and my constituents in Derbyshire, whether they work for Rolls-Royce or Toyota, have no doubt that we can show the Germans a clean pair of heels.

The debate on Europe is now heard more loudly than for many years, and that is good. As a democrat, I try to find out what my constituents and the people of this country want. I examined with some care the MORI opinion poll survey results which were published in The Sunday Times last weekend. That is a remarkable survey, because the same questions have been asked of the British people for 17 years, so it is possible to trace the pattern of opinion.

The survey asked how people would vote if there was a referendum on whether Britain should stay in Europe or get out. In 1980, 26 per cent. would have voted to stay in and 65 per cent. would have voted to get out. The "No" vote has fallen to 28 per cent. and the "Yes" vote is 62 per cent. In other words, the position has reversed over 10 years. The "Yes" vote is 2:1 in favour. So much for the notion that this Government have led people to be anti-European. The opposite is the case.

The MORI poll also asked whether people thought Britain's membership of the European Community was a good thing. In 1973 when we first joined, fewer than one person in three—only 31 per cent.-thought that it was a good thing, and 34 per cent.—thought that it was a bad thing. In November 1990, we have the highest approval rate ever for Europe at 49 per cent., with only one person in five saying that it is a bad thing.

There are some curious patterns there. Clearly a large number of the British people would vote to stay in the European Community even though they do not believe that it is a good thing. Only the British could be sufficiently polite to vote for something that they do not like. Despite the fact that we have been in the Community for nearly two decades, and despite the highest ever approval ratings, fewer than half our people—only 49 per cent.—believe that our membership of the European Community is a good thing.

There is a lesson there for colleagues on both sides of the House, for those who support Europe, for the Commissioners and for the CBI. They have not yet carried with them the majority of the British people. If they want to make progress they have some convincing to do. They should not take for granted the support of this nation, If we want the kingdom to go forward with more enthusiasm, we must argue the case in favour of Europe and demonstrate the good that comes to our country from Europe more effectively than we are doing at the moment.

There is also an age difference. It is very marked in these polls, and it has been referred to once or twice already. Overwhelmingly, young people are in favour and older people are not so sure. For example, 58 per cent. of those under 25 think that our membership of the European Community is a good thing, compared with only 37 per cent. of those aged 65 and older. I suppose that our older generation remember a time when we had an empire and we marched into Europe—Europe, of course, was somewhere else; we were not Europeans in those days—and sorted them out and then left them to get on with their lives, and it was nothing whatever to do with Britain from then on. The middle-aged—my generation, perhaps—were the traders and the travellers who voted to join the Common Market and want to see barriers to trade reduced, but are hesitant about anything more dramatic, such as political union.

The generation of the under-25s do not remember those times. They do not remember when we were not in Europe. They tell pollsters also that they are content with the European passport, that they are relaxed about the ecu, whether or not it means the end of sterling as a separate local currency. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said: there could be no question of giving up our pound sterling unless and until Parliament and people at that time so decide. This Parliament should not pre-empt a choice that should be for future Parliaments and future generations to make."—[Official Report, 7 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 31.] That is absolutely right, and I am sure that even the Labour party could agree with that, but the future generations are already with us and the timetable for those decisions is almost certainly much quicker than the 40 to 50 years that were mentioned in the debate last week. I suspect that we will take those decisions within the next 10 years.

We should not underestimate the emotional drive in Europe, not just in Germany and France. We heard it recently in this Palace of Westminster from President Cossiga of Italy on his state visit as well—the drive towards a united Europe, a drive which sees the change completed in time for the millennium in the year 2000.

However, there is not much comfort for Labour Members. Here they are dancing ahead in the polls, so MORI asked people which party they thought had the best policy on Britain's relations with our European partners, and only one voter in four said, "The Labour party." We Tories did best—not much better, but we certainly did best. Only one voter in 17 supports the Liberal Democrats' approval of everything that comes out of Europe, so we can leave them out of the count.

Barely half of Labour's own supporters approve their own party's stance on Europe, and one Labour voter in nine thinks that the Tories have the best policies in Europe. So not only do the Eurocrats have a job to do in convincing the British people of the virtues of being in Europe; the Labour party's hacks have some convincing to do of their own supporters that they have the best policies on Europe.

That is not surprising when we read carefully what the Labour party has said, some of which was read into the record by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). We find that the only clear policy that Labour has on Europe is a proposal to transfer certain powers from this House to the European Parliament and that is the only proposal on Europe that the British people are dead against—all generations, all voters, and all groups in all parts of the country. That is the only thing that the Labour party has and the British voters are against.

My own worry is that there has been too much emphasis on "What is Europe doing for us, the British?" and on what Britain is getting out of it. I am quite certain that we have to be in. There is nowhere else for Britain to go. It is a very cold world outside. If one were to think about the Commonwealth, for example, being a group of equal partners, one has only to come with me to Bangladesh on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association visit soon and see how unlikely that is.

I should like us to see what we can do for Europe, to paraphrase John Kennedy's inaugural speech in 1960. We have a huge part to play in the creation of a free, democratic and prosperous continent. I am all for freedom of trade, but we will not get it unless Britain keeps nagging about subsidies and invisible barriers to trade. Every time we have nagged, our partners have huffed and puffed about it, been rude about the Prime Minister and then given in, as they did again this week.

I am against bureaucracy wherever it is found, whether it is in Whitehall, in Derbyshire county council at Matlock, in Brussels, in Strasbourg, in Geneva or wherever. We can show the people of the rest of Europe how to govern without excessive state interference and without taxing people to the hilt. We have a much clearer idea about what government is and is not for and about when Governments should leave people to make their own decisions.

For those reasons, I feel that our role in the European Community should be positive. That does not mean that we should agree with everything or that we should swallow all the tripe that comes out of the Commission as if it were gospel. It means that the future of Britain inside that strong community of nations is a rosy future, and I, for one, am content with that.

9.19 pm
Sir Michael Marshall (Arundel)

Next week, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) and I leave for Libya. That begins part of a process of Inter-Parliamentary Union fact-finding missions which, over succeeding weeks, will involve hon. Members of all parties in visits to Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Yemen. The visits are designed to establish three things. The first is to explore the attitudes of those who seemingly are supporters of our position on the question of Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, but who oppose the presence of western forces. It must be part of our mission to ask those countries exactly what is their own argument and how they will seek to enforce the United Nations resolutions.

Secondly, we wish to express solidarity for those who are part of the 25 nations that are joined in making a contribution in the Gulf. Thirdly—this is most important—we should recognise the sensitivity of, and the need for understanding towards, some of the countries that have special problems in this situation, such as Jordan. If I had more time, I would expand on that point.

However, in the context of the Gulf, I should like to deal with one or two other bilateral relations and it may surprise hon. Members if I turn first to Argentina. It should be recognised that Argentina is part of the community of nations that is committed to joint action in the Gulf. Like other hon. Members, I recently visited Argentina, and should like to remind the House that no fewer than 2 million Argentines are of Arab extraction, led by their president. We welcome the fact that Argentina is playing this role in the new world order, and that should be part of the recognition we accord in the trade and investment talks in the week beginning 26 November, when the Argentine Foreign Minister is to visit this country. That trade and investment agreement will be significant in opening up all kinds of opportunities.

Those of us who recently visited the province of Misiones know that the opportunities for British trade and investment and for two-way trade should lead us to urge caution upon all those with influence in these matters. In our fisheries negotiations, while recognising the sensitivities of the Falklands, this country and Argentina, we should also recognise that those trade and investment agreements are crucial confidence-building measures which I hope will lead us to a more fruitful understanding of the relationship between our countries.

In the brief time available to me, I turn next to central and eastern Europe, to which part of the activities of the Inter-Parliamentary Union have traditionally been directed but have, to some extent, now been put on the back burner. I urge my right hon. Friends to think of what might be done to assist not only Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, but other areas in special need, such as Romania.

Many hon. Members will also have received a desperate appeal from Bulgaria. I talked today to the Bulgarian chargé d'affaires, and wish to place on record the appalling situation in that country. Its cries from the heart should make us think again about the need for Governments, the voluntary agencies and the United Nations to think about disaster relief in new ways, and not just in the traditional third-world terms.

I conclude by regretting that I shall not have a chance to develop my argument about the importance of the work to which hon. Members of all parties are committed in connection with the forthcoming visit of the Chinese Speaker, Mr. Wan Li, the week after next. That will be an important stage in beginning a new dialogue with China, which can not only cover trade and investment, science and technology, and the environment, but in which the question of Hong Kong will be critical. It is an opportunity to reach a joint affirmation of our commitment to secure the future of that colony. I know that the whole House is engaged with those matters. I commend those who are assisting in that process and look for further support from those right hon. and hon. Members who are present.

9.23 pm
Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan)

Today's debate has focused primarily on Europe and the Gulf. It has had a topical nature few recent Gracious Speech foreign affairs and defence debates have had. The fact that it is in what might be regarded as prime time rather than tucked away on a Friday is evidence of the significance that the House attaches to the subject this year. However, in some respects it is unfortunate that we did not have the debate tomorrow because, as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said, it is the anniversary of an event that has transformed so much of our thinking in the past 12 months.

In some respects European issues have been diminished by our understandable preoccupation with the Gulf. Speaker after speaker this evening divided their remarks into two sections—first Europe and secondly the Gulf. Certainly there is a fair degree of consensus on the Gulf crisis, although there are some areas of division. Some hon. Members foresee the need to use arms earlier than others. Some would argue that we should delay, perhaps indefinitely, and others among us take the view that military action will come and that when it does we will have to use the force of arms with care but with some regret because we sought a peaceful solution.

When the crisis emerged the Labour party called for an economic embargo and applauded its creation. We advocated naval and military deployment and we shall continue to support it. If additional deployment is deemed appropriate to sustain that presence the Labour party will look sympathetically at what forces commanders deem necessary. We have all marvelled at the vigour and strength of the United Nations in responding to the threat to peace in the Gulf.

The Opposition believe that there is still time for sanctions to work and that the liberation of Kuwait and the freeing of hostages may be achieved by means other than the force of arms. Indeed, it is ironic that several Conservative Members said that they did not want to sustain sanctions because they might work and inflict the damage that everyone recognises was the case for introducing them in the first place. If those hon. Members believe that the suffering of folk in Iraq is less appropriate than the carnage that would ensue from force of arms, they should stop and think about the troops being massed on both sides of the border and the damage that could be inflicted not just to the buildings and infrastructure of Iraq and, indeed, that which remains in Kuwait. We must bear in mind the nature of what war in the raw will create. The hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), who graphically related his experiences as a war correspondent, demonstrated that danger. We still have time.

We have heard imaginative speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House this evening. In particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) gave an interesting prescription. The House will want to read his speech in Hansard tomorrow because it was detailed. It showed that people are giving thought to diplomatic options. But all the signs are that there is little likelihood of the Iraqi authorities expressing any interest in a negotiated settlement.

It is fair to say that if we realise our objectives by peaceful means but do not at the same time secure either the dismantling by treaty or the destruction by force of arms of Iraq's nuclear and chemical capabilities, any solution that we achieve will be a pyrrhic one. The long-term security of not only the Gulf but the middle east will be guaranteed only if a degree of legitimacy is afforded to the settlement. That meets the point that we must carry the other Arab and Muslim states with us. If we cannot achieve that consensus, what is the chance of our being able to require Israel to look at its nuclear capability? We cannot require some countries to give up their capabilities if others in the region will not. I am not arguing for linkage. This will be a staged resolution. It will not happen simultaneously. It will not be achieved by a process of diplomatic mirrors. There will be a lengthy, tortuous period of negotiation after what may be an overlong period of war.

We must remember that we need to sustain the consensus. It has been a unique feature of the past nine weeks. The American presence and the Soviet acquiescence are not necessarily inseparable, but without one, the other is meaningless and, if not meaningless, it is profoundly dangerous.

Tonight's debate has focused largely on the Gulf. We have not given as much attention to "Options for Change" as we perhaps should have done. Operation Granby, as the Ministry of Defence calls it, is preoccupying many people. I hope that at a later stage we can consider the MOD response to the Defence Select Committee's report on recent events in Europe. There is much of it that many of us would like to consider.

The references in the Gracious Speech to further negotiations in Europe should enable all of Europe to obtain greater cuts in the form of verifiable measures. If we delay following on the success of the first round of CFE negotiations, we could end up with reciprocal unilateralism—the tit-for-tat disarmament which, although welcome, falls way short of agreements that can be subject to guarantees of inspection and verification. Those security problems are both in Europe and out of area.

Some argue for a European out-of-area role. The prospect of fulfilling such a role without United States participation is hard to imagine. The constructive role played by the Soviet Union in recent months shows its willingness to be involved. Europe cannot afford to alienate either of those great powers because the consequence of isolation from either one or the other is all too evident to and easily understood by those who have read our recent history.

Some say that we do not need to worry ourselves about that and that we need only build up talks on the security dimension for the European Community. We in the Labour party approach that with great caution. Existing NATO members, such as France, have only a semi-detached relationship with NATO's military structure. Germany is prohibited by its constitution from participating outside the NATO area and any prospects of change in the constitution will be confined to United Nations matters, assuming that those constitutional changes can be made.

Within the European Community, Ireland has maintained its neutrality throughout its period of membership. The Austrian and Swedish applications could be jeopardised if we challenged their long-established view on security. If Sweden and Austria were to be frightened off, the participation of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland would be long delayed. We must recognise that the idea of a European answer to the world's security problems creates problems for traditionally neutral countries and the Soviet Union.

Our objective must be the establishment of a common security system from Vancouver to Vladivostock. Its initial tasks will be to oversee and arbitrate on the inspection and verification procedures established by disarmament treaties, to establish means of resolving territorial and ethnic-based disputes, to seek agreement on future levels of armaments between states and to explore ways of securing joint procurement so that we have a means whereby we can defend ourselves at far lower levels of expenditure than at present. Such work will not be completed in the next 12 months, but it must be started. We all wish our representatives well when they meet in Paris next week. The search for a new security framework for Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union must go on.

Today's debate, which some have called the alphabet soup debate, has almost become a creature of those who remember the meanings of the acronyms. The devotees of an institution tend to argue that it is the one with the answers. I believe that our ambitions should be far more modest. Instead of talking about a new architecture for Europe or thinking in terms of reinforced concrete structures, we should seek what I prefer to think of as a scaffolding that can be assembled, changed and taken down as and when it is appropriate to do so and not become wedded to a simplistic idea.

The Labour party has advocated the mutual dissolution of the Warsaw pact and NATO, but the pact has disintegrated. When Soviet military might stopped backing eastern bloc regimes, the whole thing fell apart. The new Governments have for the most part turned their backs on the old military alliance. It is ironic that they have not shown any marked apprehension about the continued presence of NATO forces in Germany. The size of such forces will be reduced drastically, but there is still a job of organisation and co-ordination for NATO forces on the southern flank, in the North sea and in the Atlantic. The work involved in achieving arms reductions in those areas and the organisation of central Europe gives the lie to those who say that NATO no longer has a function.

NATO uniquely is equipped to participate in the work of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe—not to dominate it or to alienate, but to help fill the gap in the CSCE process by way of bureaucracy. One of the great mistakes that people make is to attribute to the CSCE process properties that it does not have. The fact that it does not have a telephone number is evidence of the absence of any bureaucracy. There are obvious gaps in the chancellories of eastern Europe and the new democracies, and the bulk of the responsibility to find a new structure may fall on NATO members and some neutral states in Scandinavia and elsewhere.

This may be the last Queen's Speech before the next general election. As a result, the legislative programme will not be too heavy. I am told that we are to have 15 Bills this year. Last year we had about 45. There is one major item of legislation from the Ministry of Defence—facilitation of contractor operation of the atomic weapons establishments. There are four establishments—Aldermaston, Burghfield, Cardiff and Foulness—and there have been problems with the management of the operation for a long time. There is difficulty about construction of the A90 facilities.

There have been terrible problems with recruitment and retention in the Aldermaston and Burghfield area. Those plants are in an area of low unemployment where there is a high demand for skilled labour and it is difficult for the Ministry of Defence, with its present salary structure, to attract and retain workers. The Government have tried to meet some of the problems. Management consultants have been introduced to assist with management of the plant—to stop it bleeding to death, as someone said—and to prepare for the contractorisation programme.

As I understand it, the work is being given to a group of managers from Hunting-BRAE Ltd. They have to assist in the short-term management of the plant, and to prepare for contractorisation, which will be going out to tender, so there will be some competition. It seems rather strange that the management consultants who will be preparing the brief will be potential contenders for the contract.

The work force has expressed a number of anxieties, and I know that the Secretary of State was good enough to see them before the announcement of the intention to legislate.

The Opposition which will emerge to contractorisation will be different from the campaigns waged over the dockyards and the royal ordnance factories. The Rosyth dockyard makes the argument for contractorisation, whereas the Devonport dockyard experience makes the argument against.

The unions have expressed a number of concerns, which we shall raise with the Minister on Second Reading. But there have been clear indications from the work force that they do not want to indulge in the trench warfare which was the hallmark of the previous contractorisation of defence establishments. There is a willingness to work on an agency arrangement and to search for compromise, but there is a desire to stay within the civil service. There is also a desire to afford managers the opportunity to try our new forms of operation and to establish a new pay structure, which could operate within an agency arrangement.

I make that point because this establishment is radically different from the dockyards. It is a unique facility and there is no prospect of diversification into other activities. There is a sole client and customer—the Government. The materials used are extremely dangerous and it is feared that profit may not be compatible with safety. Privatisation of this type of activity in the United States has brought about terrible environmental problems and safety difficulties.

As I said earlier, the light legislative load this year may give us opportunities to debate foreign affairs and security matters. We must recognise that the Government have so far failed to respond to the Defence Select Committee's challenges on the failure of forward defence as it is now organised, and its relevance to the alliance, and have failed to identify how we can have a flexible response, without flexibility in the form of the renewal of different weapons systems.

Every hon. Member has referred to the prospect of further fighting in the Gulf—a war which may prove easier to start than to finish. Nevertheless, the Labour party in opposition recognises its responsibilities and will continue to support our troops, the allies and the Government, so long as they are seeking to secure the liberation of Kuwait and of the hostages, and the establishment of a security system in the middle east. We hope that we shall not have to return to this matter in a future debate on the Queen's Speech because we hope that it will be resolved, but if it is not, we know where our sympathies lie. We believe that the Government and the Opposition are largely of one mind on this issue. However, we repeat that our support, although fulsome of our men and of our needs, is not a blank cheque. As the Opposition, we reserve the right to question, to query and to challenge where appropriate. That should not be seen as anything less than backing for our men, who are ready to do an unpleasant job under some of the most difficult and trying conditions in the world.

9.43 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom King)

A wide range of subjects has been covered in the debate. In the time left to me, I am afraid that my response will have to be extremely flexible.

I have to disabuse the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill). He is more naive about these matters than I had appreciated. He has found only 15 Bills in the Queen's Speech; therefore, he thinks that as we dealt with 45 Bills in the previous Session, this will be a much shorter one. I must remind him that the previous Queen's Speech contained only 15 Bills but that we had no difficulty in expanding that number to 45.

Whatever one may think about the quality of today's debate, it has been much easier to hear the speeches. There is no harm in that. The Government appreciate very much the note upon which the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) opened the debate and the note upon which the hon. Member for Clackmannan ended it. We appreciate the support of Her Majesty's Opposition at a time of great national difficulty when our forces and our people, many of them detained against their will, above all look for that united voice.

The few passing criticisms that I shall make are not intended to detract from the deep thought that has been given to these matters. Occasionally the right hon. Member for Gorton criticises the Government for what he disapproves of, but when he approves of what we do he says that it was his idea in the first place and that we are merely following his policies. Since we have initiated one or two of those ideas ourselves, we find that a little difficult to take. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I say also that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary opened the debate with an absolutely outstanding speech. He spoke genuinely and drew support from both sides of the House.

We are living in a time of tumultuous change and grave challenge. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) rightly said that tomorrow will be the first anniversary of the Berlin wall coming down. It is three and a half months since I stood at this Dispatch Box and announced "Options for Change". It is 99 days since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to that amazing upheaval as nine months of good news and three months of much more sombre and unattractive news.

The right hon. Member for Gorton was uncharacteristically unfair to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he criticised what he described as my right hon. Friend's inactivity over South Africa. I thought that that was absolutely incredible. During the past four to six months more has happened than ever before in South Africa to change the awful face of apartheid. As the right hon. Gentleman and the House know perfectly well, the United Kingdom is not only talking to all the parties but is trusted by all the parties. If the negotiations are carried to the successful conclusion that we all hope to see, the United Kingdom may yet have an important role to play. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), to whose speeches I have listened over many years, knows perfectly well that three weeks ago President de Klerk carried through the repeal of the Separate Amenities Act. Two years ago people would have thought that that was impossible. He says that nothing has happened, but that is unfair.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

But the Government have done nothing.

Mr. King

The right hon. Member for Gorton referred to the speech made in Colorado by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in which she talked about a European Magna Carta. He said, "That has disappeared, hasn't it? We haven't seen much sign of it." I ask the right hon. Gentleman to contain himself for another 10 days. The conference on security and co-operation in Europe summit is soon to take place. There will be a final document that will include a section on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. At that gathering in Paris there will be 34 nations. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and peaceful assembly, freedom of movement and freedom to own property will be enshrined in that document. The initiative was taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, yet the right hon. Member for Gorton has the nerve to say that it has disappeared. It will be triumphantly displayed in 10 days' time. I hope that then he will recognise it for what it is.

I appreciated what the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Clackmannan said about the future of NATO. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made it clear that it is important that NATO should continue. It should not disintegrate into disarray, as is happening with the Warsaw pact. It must evolve and change. We all recognise its importance. The hon. Member for Clackmannan sends me letters saying that we are not spending enough on weapons or that we may not be placing some contract for tanks or frigates. The Opposition enjoy this activity. The right hon. Member for Gorton said that the next Labour Government will play an active and constructive role in NATO. What with? What are they going to use when the Labour party conference resolutions will slash their defence expenditure? I say in the kindest way, there are many pious words but there is little to back them up.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) referred to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He said that he would read what I have to say so I shall say something so that he can read it. I say to him and his hon. Friends that there are different views about whether the Irish Government could or should do more in different ways to improve security and whether they could improve their co-operation with Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, anybody who believes that we are likely to do better in tackling the real problems in Northern Ireland without trying to work in harmony and understanding with the Republic of Ireland is living in total ignorance of the real circumstances.

It is sad that people of ability and courage such as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone continue to bash their heads against the same old brick walls instead of starting to do something more positive and constructive.

This incredible year will be marked by the signing of the conventional forces in Europe treaty at the CSCE conference in 10 days. The year has passed so quickly that many of its events have been overtaken by subsequent developments. I remember the shiver that went through London in February when the news came through that the Americans were thinking of doing a separate deal on manpower numbers and that they were going to come down to 195,000 on the central front and 30,000 outside. People wondered whether it was wise or dangerous. We have gone way beyond that now. The question now is whether the number will be in six figures.

The most recent development on 12 September was the treaty on final settlement with respect to Germany. What an amazing title that is. It was marked by the departure of the British commandant from Berlin. We are no longer part of the four-power arrangement. We now see the unified Germany as a full member of NATO. The final settlement also agrees the total withdrawal of Soviet troops by the end of 1994.

I have been in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the Polish Vice Minister of Defence has been here this week. They are all desperate for closer contact with the west. We see the Warsaw pact dissolving before our eyes. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) referred to the break-up of the Soviet Union.

There was a startling and interesting intervention from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston). It is extraordinary to talk now about access for the Baltic states to the CSCE. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been talking to the Estonian Foreign Minister. All that underlines the extraordinary changes that we are seeing. They have great implications for us. I have talked about the NATO strategy and "Options for Change". There will be reductions. The House heard my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer today and will have had a chance to study the figures. They will gradually gather momentum and we shall be able to achieve savings through rationalisation and some reductions in our armed forces, particularly in Germany where we shall see significantly lower force levels, in not only the front line but the support areas. Hon. Members will appreciate that those reductions will mean pain and the loss of jobs in some industries that are used to defence equipment orders. They will perhaps mean changes in some bases, but everybody understands that that is an inevitable consequence.

We must obviously maintain adequate defences. I spoke in my statement on "Options for Change" of the threat of the unexpected and of the need for flexibility and mobility. I did not know that within eight days the need would be so clearly demonstrated. As I speak tonight, we have some 17,000 men and women committed to the Gulf from the Army, Navy and Air Force. The move of the 7th armoured brigade involved 40 ships, 4,200 vehicles and 40,000 tonnes of ammunition and stores. It was an amazing achievement. [Interruption.] I am sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) criticise it. It was an amazing logistical achievement. I am going to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf on Sunday. I look forward with much interest to seeing everything that I have heard about the excellent morale, the good performance of the equipment and the work that has been done.

Important issues are still to be tackled. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke of the integration of command and control. I am satisfied with our arrangements, but he rightly referred to the 28 or so countries that are involved, some of which are involved only at sea, but a significant number are involved on land. It is important to ensure proper command and control arrangements.

It is also important to ensure the welfare of our people in the Gulf. I do not want to go into detail about the issues of free mail arrangements, better telephone arrangements, rest and relaxation and entertainment, to which we attach importance.

We see ourselves as part of a force of 28 or so countries, of which Czechoslovakia was the last to make a contribution. Some of the work has been done under the auspices of the WEU to develop the European pillar to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs referred.

President Bush has announced that he is sending further substantial reinforcements to the Gulf. I spoke this evening to Secretary Cheney, who confirmed that although they are substantial reinforcements of additional heavy divisions that will provide an adequate offensive military option, they mark no change in United States policy because it still seeks to resolve this difficult conflict by peaceful means.

My hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed), for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) and for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill), the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East exercised their minds, as we do constantly on these difficult issues, about how to ensure that the aggression and the awfulness of what is happening in Kuwait is ended at the earliest possible moment by peaceful means. It must be done by the most effective application of the embargo and the ruthless application of the sanctions regime, backed up by a credible military option. It must be backed up by the reality that if peaceful means are not achieved, force will be used.

We are conscious that in the modern world of communications, with Cable News Network and other channels, everything that we say is listened to, perhaps more in Baghdad than anywhere else. We must be careful what we say. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East is a distinguished former Secretary of State and has held two major offices of state, but listening to his speech I wondered—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) said this—what impact it would have had in Baghdad. We must choose our words carefully.

What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and the way in which she put it, is more likely to settle this by peaceful means without conflict because, from her words, there will be no question but that there is a military option which, if the aggression is not ended, will be used.

Mr. Healey

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. King

l am sorry, but I shall not give way. I am saying this in the kindest possible way. I should like to quote the words of someone from Kuwait to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred. I do not know whether the House knows that "John Smith" who wrote from Kuwait also wrote to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and said: I belong to no political party and have never voted for the Conservative Party. Nevertheless I am sending you a copy of my recent article as I think that you have most accurately represented the feelings of British civilians caught up in the situation, and I would ask you to continue with the views and opinions that you have expressed. We want the situation settled by peaceful means. We are determined to see the aggression end. We are determined to see that one way or another Saddam Hussein will go. If he does not go peacefully, he must face the consequences.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.