HC Deb 16 November 1992 vol 214 cc72-113
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.11 pm
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

I beg to move, That this House regrets that the response of the European Community, and notably Her Majesty's Government, since it has assumed the Presidency, to the crisis in former Yugoslavia has been too little and too late; is appalled by the continuing slaughter in Bosnia-Herzegovina; is deeply concerned about the impact of winter in Sarajevo and other cities, where failure to protect and stockpile food will be paid for in lives; condemns the barbaric policy of ethnic cleansing; considers that the first priority must he to suppress the ferocity of the fighting by taking over the air space above Bosnia-Herzegovina under UN mandate and if necessary using it to prevent the use of heavy weapons and aircraft for offensive purposes; calls for the effective policing of the Danube to enforce sanctions; congratulates British troops on humanitarian protection for relief convoys; insists however that they must have full capacity for retaliation including, if necessary, air cover; insists that Her Majesty's Government must respond much more generously to the refugee problem, both financially and in the numbers accepted; is deeply concerned that the conflict may soon spread to Kosovo and Macedonia; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to co-ordinate a European Community wide strategy for refugees as proposed by Germany and for further urgent and appropriate action. I suspect that many people in Europe allowed themselves a period of self-congratulation immediately after the break-up of the Warsaw pact, when the cold war came to an end and, in particular, when European countries participated successfully in the United Nations operation in the middle east to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. But the sense of complacency that these events may have created has been rudely interrupted by the break-up of Yugoslavia into its historical components, fuelled by ethnic hatred of the most virulent kind. On our television screens, atrocity piled on atrocity, inhumanity, barbarism and cruelty have been commonplace.

Which of us can be content with the response of the international community? Which of us believes that Europe has done all that it can? Does any hon. Member feel no sense of shame about our niggardly attitude to refugees?

British troops are at last arriving in Bosnia, but it is right to ask ourselves in what circumstances they do so and for what purpose.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned refugees, and I share his views on visa restrictions. Is he aware that many hon. Members—certainly myself—have been repeatedly ringing the Home Secretary's Private Office and the Under-Secretary's Private Office about the 180 refugees who are isolated and some of whose children may die? In view of the ambiguous nature of the decision about whether to allow them to enter and all the other facts, should not those 180 refugees be allowed to come here as quickly as possible for the most humanitarian reasons?

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Gentleman makes a most eloquent plea, and I shall put it in context.

Let us consider how many refugees we are being asked to take compared with the numbers that countries surrounding Yugoslavia have felt obliged to take. Is not it time for a generous response from the United Kingdom? I suspect that it would do us much good in the international community. It would do us much good in Europe if some of our partners felt that we were as willing to assume these burdens as they have been. I think in particular of the burden that Germany has assumed and of some of the social difficulties that have resulted. It is a moment for some warmth of spirit, but so far we have seen little evidence of it from Ministers.

Our troops have gone to keep the peace. It is a peacekeeping operation, but we must ask ourselves what peace there is to keep. The decision to send British troops was taken many weeks ago, yet some of the concerns that were expressed in early September still have not been adequately met. I assert, I believe without contradiction, that we have no right to place brave men and women in circumstances where they risk their lives without giving them the clearest possible military objectives, the equipment and numbers to meet those objectives and, if necessary, naval and air support. It is said that our troops are in Yugoslavia for a humanitarian purpose—to assist the United Nations in ensuring that aid gets through. Those are desirable motives, but they are not clear-cut military objectives.

There has been much debate about the precise terms of the rules of engagement. I would not ask the Minister of State for the Armed Forces to be express about the terms of the rules of engagement—those who know about these matters know that it is by no means sensible to narrate in detail the terms of engagement—but I must ask him to confirm that the rules of engagement, as framed, conform to the nature of the military task that we are asking our troops to undertake.

It is one thing to issue rules of engagement based on self-defence and on negotiating a right of passage for convoys, but it is a quite different thing when, as happened at the weekend, United Kingdom forces are considered for the escort of refugees. Under what rules of engagement would our troops have conducted that exercise? If refugees in the charge of United Kingdom troops were fired upon, it seems self-evident that the troops would have returned fire. Would that be consistent with the rules of engagement under which they would have had to operate if the task of escorting refugees had been assigned to them?

We have sent to Bosnia Senator tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, but why did it take so long for those vehicles to get there? Why are men and vehicles having to familiarise themselves in winter conditions? How much easier it would have been if troops and their equipment had been deployed earlier.

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will have heard colourful stories in the aftermath of the Gulf war about the performance of some British Army vehicles and how some of them were kept going only by cannibalising others in Europe to the extent that, as has been said, perhaps somewhat flippantly, there were hardly half a dozen decent tanks left in Europe. We must have guarantees about the availability of spare parts and the nature of the maintenance of vehicles, on which the lives of our troops depend.

I must ask the Minister—and I do so with some reticence because these are issues that people are reluctant to discuss openly and in public—what assessment has been made about the possibility of casualties? Will all medical evacuations be effected using Sea King helicopters, which have now been deployed offshore? If that is the case, what assessment has been made of the capability of that aircraft to fly in all circumstances in the Yugoslavian winter?

There are more fundamental questions. On what basis was the number of 1,800 arrived at? What assessment of the task was made in advance of a decision about those numbers? Is it true, as some with confidence have asserted, that the size of the force that the United Kingdom should deploy was determined before the nature of the task had been properly defined? What prompted the increase from 1,800 to the present figure of 2,400? Will the Minister tell the House whether there are any plans to send more troops?

If I recall correctly, the Secretary of State for Defence said to the Defence Select Committee that the initial deployment was for six months and that there might be a further six months of deployment, but that thereafter the matter would have to be reconsidered. If that is the case, are there any plans to send more troops?

What contingency plans are being discussed if, for example, as is not beyond the bounds of possibility, the United Nations were to take the view that the mass evacuation of refugees was necessary? Would the British troops, sent for humanitarian purposes to safeguard the passage of convoys, be turned to other tasks such as guarding airfields or similar tasks? If that is contemplated, are we satisfied that the equipment with which they have been provided is adequate for that purpose?

When Vitez was chosen, it was some way back from the fighting. Now it is right in the middle of the fighting. What consequences will that have for the nature of the operations that British troops are able to carry out? In recent weeks, Canadian, French and Spanish troops have been prevented by irregulars from reaching the areas assigned to them by the United Nations so that deployment, according to United Nations resolution 776, has not yet been achieved.

In the context of the weekend, we must ask how far our troops are empowered to go. I put the matter in a way that is not unnecessarily fanciful. If a drunken militia man with a Kalashnikov stands in the way of a convoy threatening to fire on those who are guarding it, can he stop it, or are our troops empowered to take such steps as they believe necessary to secure the safe passage of that convoy? I ask that question for the following reason.

With the onset of winter, when the lives of many people will be at stake, there is bound to be far greater pressure to get access with food and supplies to those who are in need. Let us remember that it was only when winter came to the people of northern Iraq that public opinion and international opinion were prompted to take the necessary steps. If people are dying in the snow in Bosnia, there may be pressure on us here. That will be nothing compared with the pressure on our troops who will feel compelled to take the steps necessary to ensure that food and supplies get to those who need them most.

In the winter conditions, access to our troops will be more difficult. What steps will be taken to ensure logistical supplies to our troops? Someone who claims some expertise in the matter put it to me the other day that, in the winter in Yugoslavia, British troops might find themselves concentrating almost exclusively on achieving sufficient logistical support to maintain themselves, never mind distributing food and supplies to those who required them.

Let us consider the question of command and control. There are reports that there is some friction between the senior United Kingdom commander and General Morillon. It was always going to be a delicate relationship for reasons that those who understand the politics of NATO will clearly appreciate. Are we satisfied that that relationship is now on a proper military footing? The Minister has an obligation to confirm to the House that the Government are satisfied at the highest level that the command and control arrangements are properly drawn up for the most effective use of our troops and for the best protection that is available to them.

I turn to the question of air power. When the Secretary of State for Defence appeared before the Defence Select Committee, he was reticent when the point was put to him. I ask the Minister a direct question: if the United Kingdom commander on the ground needs air power to protect the lives of those under his command, will he have it? Have the arrangements been made? I do not ask the Minister to tell us from where or in what form—that information would necessarily require to be kept restricted. However, the House and the troops are entitled to know whether and in what circumstances they will have available to them the resources of the Alliance to protect them. I put the matter bluntly once more: if the commander on the ground needs to call down air strikes to protect United Kingdom troops, will he be able to do so? It is a straightforward question which deserves a straightforward answer.

In the context of air power, we know that the Serbs have used military aircraft. The United Nations has responded to that by declaring an air exclusion zone, but, contrary to the air exclusion zone we have established over southern Iraq, we have not yet willed the means to enforce such an exclusion zone in Yugoslavia. What use is an air exclusion zone unless it is enforceable? Will the Government today pledge themselves to ensure that the proper means of enforcing that relevant United Nations resolution will now be obtained?

It is uncharacteristic for such an operation to be carried on without a substantial contribution from the United States. Perhaps the fact that the United States has been locked in a seemingly interminable presidential election has had some influence on the nature and degree of its commitment. It is well known that the intelligence-gathering capability of the United States is second to none. I ask the Minister a direct question: can he tell the House whether, as a contribution to the United Kingdom's efforts in Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom is able to call on the intelligence-gathering efforts of the United States?

I am aware that I have concentrated on what some might think to be domestic military considerations. I hope that I may be excused. I do not lose sight of the scale of the problem, nor does the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who estimates that 400,000 people could perish in Bosnia this winter. I want the United Kingdom troops to help to prevent that, but I want them to have every possible assistance as they try to do so.

As we say on every such occasion in the House, we know that we have professional, versatile and committed forces. We owe them a duty not to expose them to unnecessary risk. My questions this evening go right to the heart of the role and of the effectiveness of United Kingdom forces in Bosnia. The more effective they can be, the more likely it is that the people of that troubled country will have a chance of survival.

7.28 pm
The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: "congratulates the European Community and notably Her Majesty's Government in its capacity as Presidency on its unremitting work for a solution of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia; is appalled by the continuing slaughter in Bosnia-Herzegovina; is deeply concerned about the impact of winter in Sarajevo and other cities and the need to ensure the safe passage of relief supplies to them; expresses its warm support for the work of British troops in providing protective support for relief convoys and is reassured to know that they will have the full right to self-defence; condemns the barbarous policy of ethnic cleansing; calls for the effective policing of the Danube to enforce sanctions; welcomes Her Majesty's Government's response to the refugee problem; is deeply concerned that the conflict may spread to Kosovo and Macedonia; and makes clear its strong support for the work of the international conference on the former Yugoslavia under the leadership of Lord Owen and Mr. Cyrus Vance. The House will recall the Adjournment debate on 25 September when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence set out the Government's response to the troubles that continue to beset the former Yugoslavia, as part of a wider effort by the international community. Attention was focused especially on developments in Bosnia where the conflict has been extremely bloody and seemingly intractable.

We can all agree that the overarching need is for a negotiated, political solution to the conflict. We cannot impose peace on Bosnia militarily—nor should we try; there is no military solution to the problem. The House is well aware of the continuing work of the international conference on the former Yugoslavia in Geneva, which is continuing to draw together the efforts of the European Community and the United Nations in close liaison, building on and following up the achievements of the London conference and bringing together the key leaders on whom all hopes of a settlement depend. Under its co-chairmen, Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, the conference is pursuing a comprehensive programme of work aimed at helping the parties make progress towards a solution. That work must be made to succeed. Without a solution which the parties arrive at of their own free will, there will be no end to the tragedy that is Yugoslavia and no peace for the people of Bosnia.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Before the Minister develops his speech, will he answer the question reflected in the exchange between my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) about the position of the 183 people, predominantly women and children, who have applied for visas to visit the United Kingdom? Have those applications been granted or refused, or has no decision yet been taken?

Mr. Hamilton

No decision has been taken on that. The hon. Gentleman will have to await further announcements from my right hon. Friends on that matter. However, it is worth making the point that, since the conflict began in Yugoslavia, more than 40,000 Yugoslav nationals have arrived in this country already.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I want to comment on this point because a bus from just outside my constituency has been turned back. I remind the Minister that, as the hon. Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) have said, these people are predominantly women and children. One child has a tumour which needs almost immediate surgery to save its life. Those people have been sitting on buses in miserable, cold conditions. I believe that the Home Office has been considering the matter since Friday.

For goodness sake, surely it is time that a decision was taken. If the Home Office cannot take a decision tonight, when on earth will it take one?

Mr. Hamilton

I have been helped out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I can now tell the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) what the position is. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department reviewed the applications for visas from that group of refugees this afternoon. He decided that six refugees with family ties in the United Kingdom should be granted visas. The two medical cases are still under review. The rest of the group will be refused visas to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Madden

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I raised this matter with Madam Speaker this afternoon and complained about a number of parliamentary questions that I had tabled for answer on Thursday which have not been answered and to which I have not even received holding replies. I received replies just a few minutes ago and they reveal that the situation is being handled in an extraordinary way. Those men, women and children have applied for visitor visas to visit the United Kingdom. However, for some extraordinary reason, the normal procedure has been hijacked by the Home Office. As we have just heard, the Home Secretary has taken an extremely long time to consider the applications.

I understand from the Minister's mumbled reply that the bulk of the applications have been refused. My point of order which is directly for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that normally, under an application for a visitor visa, the Foreign Office and entry clearance officers at our post in Vienna will consider the application. Why they have been referred in this case alone to London and to the Home Office I do not know. However, it is disgraceful. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is in the Chamber, should be—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair and I suspect that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that. No doubt Ministers will have taken note of what he said.

Mr. Madden

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department very conveniently slipped a piece of paper to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Will the Minister from the Home Department be able to intervene in the debate to tell us why on this occasion the Home Office has hijacked the normal procedures, thereby denying those men, women and children an opportunity—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that that is not a point of order for the Chair. As I have said, no doubt the Government Front Bench will have heard what he said.

Mr. Hamilton

That is right.

Ms. Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

Further to the other points raised, I understand that the refugee organisation based in Leeds sought advice from the Home Office before it sent the coaches. Two of the coaches were taken from Rochdale to the Austrian-Slovenian border. They have now returned. However, all assurances were sought from the Home Office. The Minister should make a statement to explain why Home Office Ministers said on Thursday in the House that visas will be required, but arrangements were made before Thursday.

Mr. Hamilton

Those questions should really be referred to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. I do not think that I can be expected to answer them. However, I tried to help the House on the matter.

Mr. Winnick

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hamilton

No, I must make progress.

Progress is slow and attended by setbacks, as we always knew it would be, but there are encouraging developments. The new constitutional proposals for Bosnia tabled by Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen provide an excellent basis for negotiation. Discussions on a new constitution continue with all the parties in Geneva, despite the initial negative reaction from the Bosnian Serbs. We hope also that the parties will live up to the ceasefire agreement reached on 10 November by the Muslim, Croat and Serb military commanders under the auspices of the Geneva conference mixed military working group, although experience tells us that there are likely to be setbacks. Crucially, the agreements reached at the London conference and being reached, or still to be reached, in Geneva continue to provide benchmarks against which the parties' actions, and their willingness to pursue peace, can be judged.

Where the parties fall short, intense pressure needs to be applied. But that pressure must offer the prospect of an eventual solution, by making the warring sides see where their true interests lie. Military intervention of any kind offers no such prospect. Tighter sanctions if necessary, coupled with the effective enforcement of the arms embargo against the whole of the former Yugoslavia, must continue to be the main vehicle for bringing pressure to bear. Those measures will take time before they are truly effective, but I am confident that, despite sporadic reports of sanctions-busting, the tightening noose of the trade embargo will increasingly threaten any remaining economic and political stability in Serbia. Already shortages of essential materials have resulted in unemployment rising by 60 per cent. and inflation spiralling upwards.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

If the Minister is confident that those sanctions will have that kind of effect, how does he explain the fact that newspapers have reported today that petrol queues in Belgrade are almost non-existent and that a Community member, Greece. is colluding with sanctions-busting? If that is the case, how can the Minister possibly be so confident that sanctions over time will have any effect on the Serbian Government?

Mr. Hamilton

Sanctions are already having some effect. They are creating the most immense problems for the Serbian economy and will continue to do that. However, I take the hon. Gentleman's point. They must be made to work more effectively and that is how we must judge them. Measures are being taken to ensure that the sanctions work better.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend the Minister could help me because I am puzzled. If what my right hon. Friend says is right, all the Serbian people—the good, bad and indifferent—are being slowly strangled to death. Would it not have been better to have done many months ago what many of us wanted and had one or two strikes at military targets within Serbia?

Mr. Hamilton

I shall refer to air strikes. However, the answer to my hon. Friend is that that would not have been right. If there had been strikes, the UN troops of whatever nationality would have been seen to be the enemy. We do not want that. We are not in the business of going to war with the Serbs. We are trying to do what we can to help with humanitarian relief. We do not want there to be a situation in which the only thing upon which the warring factions can agree is that the people in blue berets are the enemy and should be ambushed and shot at at every available opportunity.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

Is the Minister aware of statements by Lord Owen that the military activity in Bosnia is being conducted not from Serbia, but by the Bosnian Serbs themselves? In fact, intervention on a military scale from Serbia has already ceased. Attacks upon military targets in Serbia would inevitably involve civilian casualties and drive the Serb population more and more into the hands of the extremists in Serbia.

Mr. Hamilton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That is absolutely true. We do not want to be in conflict with anybody in Serbia, in Bosnia or in any other parts of the former Yugoslavia. We are trying to negotiate humanitarian convoys through and to give protection to our troops who are involved in that. We do not intend to go to war with any of the factions in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, it would be very regrettable if we got to the stage where we were involved in out-and-out conflict.

Ms. Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hamilton

I am sorry, I shall not give way. I must make progress or I shall never finish my speech.

The United Kingdom has taken the lead in providing technical assistance to the neighbouring countries where the sanctions have to be made to bite. The pressures brought to bear by sanctions will need to be increased further if Belgrade does not take action to halt and reverse the expansionist policies of the Bosnian Serbs in accordance with the commitments made at the London conference. We shall ensure that this is kept firmly on the agenda.

It is self-evident that an end to the fighting in Bosnia cannot be brought about by military intervention, given the nature of the conflict.

Mr. Cormack

My right hon. Friend the Minister is contradicting himself. A few moments ago, in response to an intervention, he agreed that the Bosnian Serbs are no longer being egged on by the Serbs in Serbia. He now says that they are, which I believe to be the case. It cannot be both.

Mr. Hamilton

I was agreeing with the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) that we do not want to become involved in conflict or fighting with any of the factions in Bosnia. I was not particularly agreeing with his point about the Bosnian Serbs, but we are not in the business of air strikes or getting involved in military action against any of the warring factions there.

Ms. Hoey

Does the Minister agree that, if any arms embargo is to work, it must start with a level playing field? Any arms embargo when Bosnians do not have arms and the Serbians do must mean that those who already have arms will use them to massacre the minority of the people in Bosnia who have no arms and who have not been allowed to acquire them by the international community.

Mr. Hamilton

I am not suggesting that we should supply arms to the Bosnian Muslims to even the playing field. I do not think that many people would sympathise with that. It would merely lead to an arms build-up right across the former Yugoslavia, which would not help anybody.

There is no single aggressor and no single front line. In Bosnia we are dealing with Serb against Croat, Muslim against Serb, and Croat against Muslim, not just within one country but within districts, towns and villages, within streets and even mixed blocks of flats. A massive armed intervention might suppress the violence for a time, but it would achieve no permanent result. It could not force people to live together in peace; its withdrawal would be the signal for a resumption of the conflict.

I do not believe that any hon. Member here today espouses that course of action. We could not achieve our lasting aim, and we would run the risk of launching our troops into a bloody civil war, from which withdrawal would be much easier said than done.

A lesser intervention would be unlikely to suppress the violence even temporarily. Domination of Bosnia airspace, a suggestion put forward in the motion and raised by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), would achieve little. The fighting in Bosnia is taking place on the ground, by small groups and individuals who live and operate among civilians—the very people whom we are trying to assist and who would be most at risk from an aerial offensive. Indeed, many of those fighting are civilians who have taken up arms.

Even if the use of air power against the warring factions seemed justified, targets would be very hard to identify, both because of the mountainous heavily wooded terrain and because much of the fighting is done with small, highly mobile weapons such as rifles and machine guns, mortars, hand-held rocket launchers and air-defence weapons. Air strikes against such targets would be likely to add to the casualties without stopping the fighting. And, of course, it would put an immediate end to the humanitarian activities of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They could not continue to operate convoys under such conditions, nor could our troops continue to provide protection for them. We would no longer be regarded as impartial.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

Is the Minister saying that the heavy artillery tanks and guns which ring Sarajevo, for example, cannot be targeted?

Mr. Hamilton

I am saying that they can very easily be moved at night and put into areas where there are schools, convents and so on. If one tried to take them out from the air, one would cause enormous civilian casualties. I think that we have learnt that lesson from previous conflicts.

But of course we cannot stand by and watch the appalling suffering which is already manifest in Bosnia and threatens to engulf the republic as winter approaches. Britain is playing a leading role in international efforts to bring relief to the civilian populations. We have given our full support to the extension of the mandate of the UN protection force—UNPROFOR—in the former Yugoslavia so that the force can provide protective support for humanitarian convoys throughout Bosnia. As the House knows, a British battalion group has been deployed for that purpose. Together with battalions from France, Canada and Spain, and support units from the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, the United States of America and Portugal. it will form part of a new Bosnia command under Major General Philippe Morillon. Their task will be, as we have described earlier, to escort relief convoys, on the basis of negotiated passage, to where they are needed. I am glad to have this opportunity to inform the House about progress with the deployment.

I should like to take up the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East about the delay. The reason was that it took time to get the ships to take out the Warrior armoured personnel carriers and it took time for reconnaissances to be made of the area before the troops arrived there.

The last of the battalion group arrived in theatre today and will shortly be operational. The deployment has been a phased one involving 10 ships, including Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and merchant shipping, transporting vehicles and equipment, and 55 flights transporting personnel. That has been a substantial and complex undertaking which has been achieved smoothly and promptly with the professionalism that we rightly expect from the armed forces. We have been most grateful to the United States Government for their assistance in this process through the provision of the entire airlift for our troops.

The total number of British personnel being deployed is about 2,400 initially, including headquarters troops. The reconnaissance confirmed our earlier planning figure of 1,800 personnel for the battalion group, but there will still be a short term need for some 400 extra men and women, mainly Royal Engineers, to provide support services in the initial stages of the deployment, such as accommodation and sanitation, electricity and water, reflecting the physical damage which has been sustained by so much of the fabric of Bosnia during the past months of conflict.

Following further examination of the medical support for the battalion, we have decided to provide a helicopter casualty evacuation capability in theatre, and have deployed four Royal Navy Sea King aircraft for this purpose. They will operate initially from Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus off Split, transferring to a base ashore when conditions permit. The provision of that capability involves 100 personnel, excluding the Argus crew. The helicopters will he used for casualty evacuation when that is judged to be preferable to evacuation by road.

The United Kingdom contingent will be operating in central and North-East Bosnia, with its headquarters at Vitez and logistic bases at Split, Tomislavgrad and Gorni Vakuf. That represents a change from the UN's earlier plan for our battalion, when it was envisaged that aid might be escorted into North-East Bosnia from Serbia in the east. The reconnaissance showed that that would involve the need to cross too many front lines. It was decided that the delivery of aid would need to go with the ethnic grain to the greatest possible extent, not against it. The French and Canadian battalions reached similar conclusions in their own reconnaissances.

We shall be contributing about 65 personnel to the two-star headquarters and about 180 to the national one-star headquarters in Split. Both are providing an essential contribution to the overall UN operation.

The battalion is well equipped for its role, with personal weapons carried by individual service men, and the Warrior and Scimitar armoured vehicles with their 30 mm Rarden cannon. Ninety-six such vehicles have been deployed. The battalion has its integral mortars and anti-tank weapons readily available should the need arise. Our assessment is that those equipments will be sufficient to meet the battalion's needs. And our troops will have the right to defend themselves as well as the means to do so. I can confirm that they will be operating under what are effectively British rules of engagement. I hope that that answers the point that was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East. If anyone were in any doubt as to the effectiveness of those rules, I would draw his attention to an incident which occurred on Saturday 7 November, when a British reconnaissance party travelling in four Land Rovers from Vitez towards Tuzla returned fire when it came under small-arms and, possibly, mortar fire from unidentified assailants.

But we must also remember that the battalion's task is not a projection of force. This is a humanitarian mission and it is no part of the plan for the force to fight its way through opposition in order to deliver its aid. There will be no tanks, artillery or combat air support. That would profoundly alter the essence of the operation. Our troops are there to help bring relief to the suffering, not to add to the fighting. Their rules of engagement allow them to fire in self-defence. Retaliation is expressly forbidden.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

In the event that British troops find themselves in circumstances in which, for their own protection, it is the view of the senior commander that air strikes are necessary, will they be available to him to call down?

Mr. Hamilton

No, they will not. I had hoped to make that clear. That sort of asset will not be available. If the troops find themselves under heavy attack they must use their weapons of self-defence to fight their way out. They must retreat from their positions, or drive through using their self-protection weapons. If they find themselves in this position, that will mean that their negotiated passage has failed—the parties to some agreement have reneged on that agreement. It will mean in effect that the negotiated agreements have come apart. If the troops cannot get an agreement from the warring factions, they will not start out in the first place.

Though the battalion's relief operation is only now about to begin in earnest, with the arrival of the main contingent of the Cheshires, the Royal Irish and the Lancers and their armoured vehicles, the advance parties of the British contingent have been active in preparing for the task, reconnoitring and preparing routes, establishing bases and getting round the table with local people to ensure that, so far as possible, our contingent gains the co-operation, understanding and respect of all the parties. They have also made a start on the humanitarian task. Over the weekend of 31 October to 1 November they escorted a UNHCR convoy carrying 86 pallets of relief supplies from Split to Vitez, in the aftermath of the fall to the Serbs of the town of Jajce, and the consequent flow of tens of thousands of refugees towards Travnik.

RAF participation in the relief flights to Sarajevo resumed on 10 October, in the light of assurances by the parties about the safety of humanitarian flights. Since the start of the operation in July, the RAF Hercules have flown 205 missions to Sarajevo and have delivered 2,812.5 tonnes of aid. An RN ship is taking part in the NATO and WEU naval monitoring operations in the Adriatic, which are monitoring compliance with the arms embargo against the whole of the former Yugoslavia and the trade sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. We are also taking part in the operation by the NATO airborne early warning force to support the naval monitoring forces and to monitor compliance with the no-fly zone in Bosnia imposed in Security Council resolution 781.

As well as providing a battalion group, Britain is contributing to the humanitarian effort in many other forms. Our financial contribution is substantial: over £70 million so far, some £41 million of which has been channelled through the European Community and the remainder through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other international and British relief agencies. All our assistance is carried out in co-operation with international agencies working throughout the area—in particular UNHCR, which is co-ordinating the international community's response to the crisis. Our immediate priority is to provide food and shelter for refugees over this winter. The items for which our funds have been used include 43 trucks and support vehicles and staff operating as part of the UNHCR road delivery operation, running two or three convoys a week to Sarajevo and other areas; £2.6 million worth of medical supplies provided to the World Health Organisation and UNHCR; the provision of specialist personnel, such as medical advisers, logisticians to help plan and operate road convoys and manage the airlift, road engineers and radio operators, and mining and power teams. Our funds have also provided £3 million for the restoration of nine centres to provide winter shelter for up to 20,000 people in the Vitez-Travnik-Zenica area, where the number of refugees has increased following recent fighting.

We are also playing an active part, as president of the EC, in creating a European Community task force for the former Yugoslavia, and have provided and paid for the head of the task force and three other key staff.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

What action are the Government taking to ensure that the almost 2 million refugees who are being driven out of their homes by massacres and ethnic cleansing and who are still in parts of former Yugoslavia will be able to return home? Have the Government finally abandoned their idea of safe havens? There are none inside Bosnia-Herzegovina. If so, what alternative plans do the Government have to ensure that at least most of those people can eventually return home, bearing in mind that the Government are unwilling to enforce any of their humanitarian efforts against Serbian military attack?

Mr. Hamilton

That is a matter of great concern to the United Nations, and it has been discussed in Geneva. The United Nations has always taken the view that it is much better to try to provide a safe haven in the areas from which people originally come than to remove them from the country. Some areas of Bosnia are certainly much safer than others. Our troops will try to remove people from the areas where their lives are most threatened to areas which are relatively safer. The United Nations has always taken this view so that people can return whence they came when the fighting is, as we hope, finally over.

Mr. Meacher

The Minister's answer is manifestly unsatisfactory. I recently spent a week in Yugoslavia. The only area that is "safe" for the 43 per cent. of the population who are Muslims—they form the largest group —is the central corridor, whose size is rapidly being diminished with every day's fighting—as witness the significant recent fall of Jajce. The only other safe part is the tiny pocket of north-west Bosnia known as Bihac.

The Minister must get himself better briefed, because what he is saying does not relate to what is happening on the ground.

Mr. Hamilton

If the hon. Gentleman is trying to persuade the House that there is some simple solution to finding safe havens for 2 million refugees, he is misleading the House. This is an intractable problem, but everything possible will be done to try to help these people reach areas safer than the ones from which they are fleeing. I do not pretend that there is a straightforward solution; nor should the hon. Gentleman.

Finally, though the Government continue to believe that the solution to the refugee problem does not lie in the dispersal of refugees across Europe, we have made clear our commitment to take into this country a share of the highest priority cases. We have already responded to a request of this nature from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

These are the concrete actions that the British Government are taking to help the people of Bosnia, both in the immediate future and for the longer term. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and I welcome the opportunity to restate our policy to the House tonight.

7.58 pm
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

I am sure that all hon. Members have been appalled by some of the answers given by the Minister of State tonight. I should like to deal with some of the questions to which he seemed unable to provide the answers.

The main purpose of any action that we take is to bring the fighting to an end and to get food to the civilian population, both in their homes and in the refugee camps and concentration camps. Some of the Minister's answers leave much to be desired.

The Minister has not dealt with the issue of our acceptance, or non-acceptance, of refugees and the Government seem to be confused about their policy on refugees. That was highlighted recently by the tragic case mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), of the eight-month-old baby who desperately requires emergency surgery, in which the Foreign Office and the Home Office seem to have their lines crossed. Surely we can ask Ministers to consider urgently the possibility of establishing some form of hotline to enable people who are most in need of urgent medical treatment to receive it.

The Minister was asked whether a decision had been made about the refugees who are waiting in buses to come to this country. He gave the shameful answer that six have been allowed in. He tried to redress that shameful statement by saying that we must accept that there are 40,000 Yugoslays in this country already. They have probably been here since the last war.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

I meant that 40,000 refugees had been brought in to the United Kingdom since the conflict began.

Mr. Rogers

I am prepared to be corrected on that, but the Minister should have made it more clear. Whether we accept large numbers or not, we are adopting a shameful role. It is all right for the Minister to argue that it is better to keep people as close to their homes as possible, both partially to negate the aim of ethnic cleansing and to allow for a return when conditions allow. However, that argument was based on the assumption—highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher)—that the refugees will return to their homes fairly quickly. The likelihood of a quick return is rapidly fading and we must tackle the problem in that context and not the one in which it was originally set.

Sir John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, on the two most successful occasions on which large numbers from Mozambique camped in Malawi and when people from Afghanistan camped in northern Pakistan, the refugees remained in those camps for many years with international and medical support but returned to their homelands with the conclusion of the internal conflicts? Does not the hon. Gentleman consider that that is the most successful way to deal with large numbers of refugees and that that might prove to be the best way to deal with them on this occasion?

Mr. Rogers

The cases that the hon. Gentleman illustrated were completely different from the situation in Yugoslavia. He was talking about two simple political conflicts: once the political situation was resolved, people were able to return. We are talking about an area where ethnic divisions run deep and have been exacerbated during the past few months. No one in his right mind can think that all the refugees—there are about 700,000 in Croatia—are likely to return to Bosnia in the medium term at least. We ought to agree that we cannot allow those people—they are mainly women and children—to live for ever in a limbo or never-never land of camp existence. It is shameful for a civilised country to turn its back on such a problem. Shame on the Government for not dealing with it properly.

If it were felt that we could not accept large numbers of refugees, surely we should increase financial help for countries that are prepared to shoulder their burdens.

Mr. Winnick

Opposition Members at least agree with my hon. Friend. Does he accept that the announcement regarding those 180 refugees was totally unsatisfactory? The Minister is not connected with the Home Office, and he was must reluctant to answer questions on the issues. Should not the Home Secretary come to the House on Tuesday to explain why his Department, and presumably he himself, have taken such a decision? There is mounting concern. Although the war cannot be helped, it does not alter the fact that a relatively small group of people have been caught in a diplomatic battle about whether Austria or Britain will accept them. Many of them are children and are very young and they are living in buses in an isolated place. Surely the least we could do is accept them, instead of which apparently only eight are to be allowed into this country.

Mr. Rogers

I understood that it was only six. I agree, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will press that matter with the Home Secretary.

Mr. Madden

Before my hon. Friend leaves that subject, can he cast any light on why the Foreign Office should abdicate its responsibility on this occasion? In other countries where visa arrangements are in force, entry clearance officers at British overseas posts consider visa applications. Why on earth did not the British post in Vienna decide to issue visit visas to that wretched group of people, who are seeking only to visit the United Kingdom? They are not seeking political asylum or refuge, but merely a six-month stay.

Mr. Rogers

I agree. Perhaps, after the debate, the Minister will be shamed into dealing with that problem urgently tomorrow.

One of the most crucial and agonising decisions to be taken at United Nations, European and local levels is whether we should deploy more military force in the former Yugoslavia. When we contemplate the increase in suffering for the civilian population during the next few months, the decision becomes more acute. As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said on 25 September: We support the deployment of British troops under UN auspices."—[Official Report, 25 September 1992; Vol. 212. c. 132.] However, we have consistently argued about the precise role of the British troops in Bosnia, and the rules of engagement under which they will operate, as was highlighted by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), the Opposition defence spokesman, in the debate on 25 September.

That role has not been clearly explained to the House, although I was encouraged by the remarks of the Minister of State for the Armed Forces—the first time that I have been encouraged in four years of shadowing him in the defence team—to the Select Committee on Defence, when he said: If ever we are going to commit our young servicemen into these situations we must be sure that they have not only the necessary equipment to defend themselves but also allow them to use that equipment. I am disappointed in the Minister's reply to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East, who asked whether commanders could call up air strikes. He said, "No, they couldn't." The other part of his answer was more significant: he said, "We don't have the capability "

Mr. Archie Hamilton


Mr. Rogers

If the Minister looks at the record, he will see that he said, "They did not have them available anyhow". I presume that he meant that the commanders do not have the capability.

Mr. Hamilton

I have to put the record straight, as I have heard enough rubbish from the hon. Gentleman so far. I said that they would not have that capability in theatre, not that they would not have it at all. I want to make it clear that the capability to launch air strikes will not be available to our troops in Bosnia.

Mr. Rogers

I am used to the right hon. Gentleman's personal insults. Other hon. Members will recall that three years ago I accused him, during defence debates, of being part of the conspiracy to export arms to Iraq. I was told that I was making poisonous accusations—not by the Minister, but by Mr. Alan Clark. I was told that I was talking complete nonsense. I am probably one of the few Members of Parliament who can say tonight, with absolute certainty, "I told you so." Even the right hon. Gentleman's insults will not prevent me from speaking the truth.

To return to the issue of troops in Yugoslavia, British troops will be exposed and if the capability is not in the theatre, is it not about time the Minister of State for the Armed Forces put it there?

Mr. Hamilton

indicated dissent.

Mr. Rogers

If the Minister is prepared to say that if young British service men come under attack from overwhelming forces he will allow Harriers and Tornados to sit there unused, that will not go down well outside the House. I accept that we do not want to use excessive force; but surely in such a critical situation it should be considered, at least as an option. The Minister shuts his mind to the problem, as he so often does.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the mere fact that the capability was available and could be called on could be a considerable deterrent?

Mr. Rogers

Indeed; I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman points that out. For years, the Government have said that deterrence is the basis of their military philosophy, but now deterrence goes out of the window. Perhaps that is because they are under so much pressure that they cannot think straight.

If we are to increase military intervention in the area, it must be done on the basis that the only way to obtain peace is to separate the warring factions by deploying a superior ground force or using air power to take out Serbian heavy weapons, thus creating a more level playing field, as the Bosnians have requested.

The decision on whether those options are feasible could be left to the generals—as a politician, I should hate to interfere in such a decision—but there seems to be an enormous difference even between the generals. Some say that two or three divisions, amounting to 30,000 to 40,000 men, combined with maritime air cover, would be needed and others say that some 500,000 or even more men would be necessary to maintain peace. The opinion on the required force levels seems to depend on whether one supports intervention.

We should be under no illusion because, as soon as either of those enhanced force options is used, the humanitarian assistance presently deployed will go out of the window. I agree with that part of the Minister's speech. If it reaches the point where we are involved in a war, it could have the opposite effect of what we are trying to do in other respects. No one could believe that the Serbs would sit back and accept that form of intervention. Whatever intervention is used, whether air strikes or ground forces, the present suffering among the civilian population will be as nothing compared to the direct and indirect suffering that will result from aggressive military intervention.

Even assuming that such intervention is feasible and effective, what happens next? Are we prepared to maintain a standing army in the area indefinitely? As soon as we pull it out, we all know that the fighting will start again.

For some people, military intervention may be morally desirable at this stage, but I doubt whether it is a solution to the complex problems, which, as the Minister rightly said, can only be resolved politically.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

Will my hon. Friend comment on the Minister's reference to safe havens, which seems to be his only practical suggestion to deal with the refugee problem? Is not the basis of any idea of safe havens that they be safe? They cannot be safe in Bosnia if they are protected only by Bosnians who are not well armed, so if safe havens are to be a policy, should not that policy be safeguarded by United Nations troops?

Mr. Rogers

I must confess that I cannot give an expert opinion on the safe havens issue, which was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West. I understand from my hon. Friend that the geographical location of safe havens will be extremely difficult in Bosnia and they may not be available as an option to save lives.

Apart from using large-scale military force, only one other practical measure is available to us—sanctions. That is why I welcome, in the Government amendment, the reference to sanctions and the Minister's statement that the Government will at last tighten up on them. They are supposed to have been in place for months and the Minister has virtually acknowledged that they have not been maintained.

In the past few weeks, I have heard people say that sanctions do not work. Normally, they say that as a preface to arguing for armed intervention. They are absolutely right—sanctions do not work if they are not enforced. We are seeing a flagrant breach of sanctions that were first agreed by the European Community and then reinforced by resolution 713 and subsequent resolutions of the UN Security Council. The bans on trade and the supply of weapons have been continually ignored. Mandatory sanctions have not been taken seriously and there is ample evidence that convoys of barges are using the Danube to take strategic materials into Serbia, as well as using land routes from the south and east.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) said in an intervention, today's Financial Times contains an article by Laura Sibler on how sanctions are being busted and strategic materials are getting through to Serbia. It is no good thinking that we are not involved in or responsible for that matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) raised that matter with the Department of Trade and Industry and was told that import-export trade statistics for the Yugoslav republics were not even available. I understood that we were at least monitoring trade, even if we were doing nothing to stop it. I hope that, in a couple of years' time, the ex-Prime Minister and ex-Defence Ministers will not say, "It is nothing to do with me, guvnor. Don't blame me, because I didn't know anything about it. Nobody told me" —just as they are now saying about the arms deals with Iraq.

We have held the European Community presidency for the past six months and have been in a unique position to insist that sanctions be enforced and properly monitored. But, yet again, the Government have failed lamentably. If sanctions are not given a chance to work, the argument against military intervention is substantially weakened. The crux of the matter is that if we allow those war profiteers to make their pound of flesh out of innocent civilians now, pretty soon they will make a pound of flesh out of British troops, too. We want the mandatory sanctions against Serbia to be enforced rigorously by a more effective monitoring of the River Danube and other land access routes into Serbia.

However difficult it may be to enforce sanctions, it will be much easier than attempting to apply a military solution. Even a ring of steel would be a much cheaper option than the cost of placing an army in Bosnia, not only financially but in the saving of human life and misery.

The heart of the matter is the intended acquisition of land by force, the physical and ethnic cleansing of areas ahead of a peace settlement. The acquisition of land of recognised neighbouring sovereign states is against the prime underlying ethics of civilised relationships and international law. That is why we must continually make it clear that boundaries between states or new states created by ethnic cleansing will not be internationally recognised. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said last August, a state based on such an obscene and uncivilised policy should be treated as an outlawed state and should be given no legitimacy in the world community.

8.19 pm
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Most hon. Members would echo the concluding words of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), although for reasons that I shall seek to explain some other parts of his speech were less easy to agree with. The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) who opened the debate performed a signal service for the House with an admirable speech. He and his colleagues are to be congratulated on choosing this horrific subject for their Supply day debate.

When we turn our attention, as we do all too rarely, to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, I feel an overwhelming sadness. All hon. Members have certain events seared into their memories. Some of my formative searing experiences were as a small boy seeing the Pathé news reels of Belsen and as a sixth former seeing the dreadful carnage in Budapest in 1956 and feeling at the time that everything possible must be done to ensure that such events never recur to deface the European continent. In the former Yugoslavia we are seeing a re-run of events as horrific as both of those.

No one could have been unmoved on reading the terrible accounts relayed by extraordinarily brave journalists from the former Yugoslavia. It is fitting for the House to pay tribute to those journalists, many of whom have lost their lives in bringing home to us what has been going on. The free world's response has been inadequate. I have felt that from the time before the Serbian forces started to shell Dubrovnik about a year ago. I felt then, and I feel now, that firm and concerted action might well have prevented the events in Bosnia. Some of us said that those events could and would take place but certain actions were ruled out.

The hon. Member for Rhondda spoke appositely about deterrence. A country with a weapon or a force that is viewed as a deterrent does not announce to the world that it will never use it. That was my party's consistent criticism of Labour's position on the nuclear deterrent. It was not that we were warmongers or that we viewed with anything other then abhorrence the possibility of using it, but we did not rule that out. Unfortunately, when Milosevic and his warlords in and outside Serbia got to work, the west—the free world, including the European Community—ruled out force.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) speaks with great knowledge and authority about Serbia, but I would say to him that if we had been prepared to bomb munition factories and take some tough, surgical action against Serbia about a year ago and had mounted a naval blockade of Dubrovnik, we might have avoided the subsequent carnage. I make no apology for saying that again.

We cannot undo what has been done, but surely we can learn some lessons, one of which is to eschew ambivalence. It is incomprehensible for any member of the Government to speak as if there can be neutrality between a fire brigade and a fire or between an aggressor and those who are being victimised. I do not suggest that no atrocities have been committed by Croatians or Bosnians because there is evidence of some, but the overwhelming evidence is that the massacres, the carnage and the destruction of' a nation's heritage in Croatia and Bosnia have been the work of the Serbs.

Last week I attended a concert in the Royal Festival hall in aid of Dubrovnik. More than 3,000 people came to show their dismay at the destruction of one of Europe's prime cultural sites. Who destroyed it? It was not the Croatians. Serbia has persistently been the aggressor. Again I make no apology for referring to the video that was sent to us about eight weeks ago. It came from a rather improbable source which I think was the Sunday Sport. That video made the most appalling viewing. It showed trays of young men's genitals, and a woman being disembowelled to find out whether she was pregnant with a boy or girl. It is horrible to speak about such things, but one must do so to bring home the enormity of such happenings.

We cannot and should not for a moment seek to suggest that there is any equality of culpability between the Serbs and the rest because there is not. I am sure that many people in Serbia are as appalled and disgusted as hon. Members at the events there. Many of them would like to replace their present regime with one approximating to the system that we enjoy. However, the Serbian regime is culpable. That is why I find it so difficult to understand why we are unable to guarantee an air exclusion zone.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East asked some extremely pertinent questions. While I have great regard and affection for my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces who responded, I do not think that his response was adequate. It was a case of ruling something out, and we should not do that. The UN peacekeeping force includes our young men.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

My hon. Friend may be confusing two different propositions. The proposition advanced by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) dealt with the deployment of aircraft in support of the United Kingdom troops in Bosnia. My hon. Friend speaks about an air exclusion zone, which is a quite different proposition. I shall refer to it in my winding-up speech.

Mr. Cormack

I was happy to give way but my right hon. and learned Friend intervened a little too early. The point made several times in the debate is that British troops are on the ground in Bosnia as part of the UN force. A few weeks ago we were told that only 1,800 would be required, but that estimate has been increased by almost 1,000 to 2,658 according to the latest figures. If that force is subjected to unprovoked air aggression, it must be defended from the air and not left to defend itself from the ground.

Mr. Hogg

I think that that is a slightly different issue and I am sorry that there is confusion. Perhaps I am responsible for it. A breach of the United Nations resolution on a no-fly zone would raise different questions. I do not think that the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East raised that matter, but I shall deal with it in my winding-up speech. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces was entirely right in what he said about United Kingdom forces and prospective air power. There is a different answer if the Serbs use air power in breach of the United Nations Security Council resolution.

Mr. Cormack

If there is a different answer to be given, I am mightily relieved. What I believe to be clear, and what seemed clear in what the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East said, is that it is crucial that our forces are given every necessary protection. If my right hon. and learned Friend is saying that that is the case, I thank him for it, and I am delighted by it.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his polite observations about me. I made two points about air power. First, as the United Nations has declared an air exclusion zone but has not yet willed the means to enforce it, I asked whether it makes any sense to have a zone that one is not willing to enforce. Secondly, I asked whether, if the lives of those in the British force were at risk, the senior commander would have the right to call down air forces to protect it.

Mr. Cormack

I concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman's two points. It seems that we now have at least a partial assurance on one of them from my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister. As he said, he will develop that point when he winds up, and I am sure that we shall all be listening with great interest to what he has to say.

Mr. Hogg

I should rather say it later.

Mr. Cormack

I should prefer that as well, having already given way three times in quick succession. The House would be at one in expecting that the United Nations, having willed the troops on the ground, would will the means to defend them. I think also that the House would be at one in expecting any British commander to have flexible options, and not be leading his troops with one arm tied behind his back.

Mr. Macdonald

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cormack

I shall give way once more, but interventions make for long speeches.

Mr. Macdonald

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because this is an important point. I understand that the Government are now saying that, whereas British forces on the ground would not be able to call in air support to defend themselves from attack on the ground, they would be able to call in air support to protect themselves from attack from the air, such attack being in breach of the United Nations exclusion zone. One wonders whether that principle could be extended to the civilian populations on the ground to protect them from attack from the air.

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Gentleman moves us on, and I am glad to be moved on. I hope that we shall have a clear, definitive answer, deployed with all the forensic skills for which my right hon. and learned Friend is renowned, when he winds up. I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I would go on to say that there is still an overwhelming case for using strategic strikes against the aggressor, in the air or in Serbia. We should not rule that out.

I return to the deterrent point. We should not tell any potential enemies that we shall rule out anything. We should keep them guessing. We should continue to apply sanctions and try to make them as effective as possible as quickly as possible. We should try to deal with the Danube problem—a very real problem. After all, we did not rule out that option—indeed, we deployed it fairly quickly—when another sovereign state was overwhelmed in July 1990. Whether we like it or not, Bosnia was recognised as a sovereign state. There are those in the House—I pay proper tribute to them—who did not like that fact. Nevertheless, it has been so recognised, since the beginning of this year, by all the countries of the European Community and many beyond.

Therefore, we have an obligation to do something to ensure that this new nation, which we have recognised, is not completely dismembered. It is already pretty close to being dismembered. The figures are horrendous—2 million refugees, and people who are not given to exaggeration talk of perhaps 400,000 perishing in the ice and snow this year. If that happens, as it so easily could, it will be a damning indictment of us all.

My right hon. and learned Friend should not close his eyes, nationally, as part of the European Community or as part of the United Nations. I am not talking about massive involvement. I have never done so, and nor have people like the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), who is nodding now. I am talking about the sort of action that Lord Owen was advocating until the very day that he became the United Nations mediator. I am talking about the sort of action advocated by Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, to whom my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces was such an assiduous Parliamentary Private Secretary for so long.

I urge my right hon. and learned Friend not to rule out that option entirely. What is happening in Bosnia is utterly shameful. Both the motion tabled by the Liberal Democrats and the Government amendment refer to Kosovo and Macedonia. We all know that terrible things are happening in Kosovo, as they are in Macedonia, although what is happening in Kosovo has been more widely reported. People are being excluded from their schools and colleges, being harried from their homes and being ill treated. The cauldron is boiling and it might boil over. If it did, we could find ourselves facing a full-scale Balkan war, a war that could involve Albania, Bulgaria and two NATO countries—Greece and Turkey—on opposite sides.

We must not rule out any option because, above all, that war is what we must deter. We cannot bring back the tens of thousands who have already been slaughtered or massacred. We cannot restore the tens of thousands maimed. We cannot, overnight, put together the families that have been shattered and dispersed. But we can do something to deter the warlords and others from plunging Macedonia and Kosovo into similar hardship and strife.

Mr. Rogers

The hon. Gentleman said earlier that we should anticipate these conflicts and perhaps, if we had done so, they might not have escalated as they have in Bosnia. As I understand it, there are eight missions in Bosnia, including those from Norway and the United States. Would it not be appropriate—and perhaps the Minister can deal with this point—to put more missions and more monitoring in the area and perhaps to anticipate the problems that the hon. Gentleman is so graphically describing?

Mr. Cormack

That might well be the case. Firmness and resolution in dealing with the acute problem before us now will be the best deterrent to those who are tempted to tread this appalling path to devastation and destruction.

It is not just that. Those people, many of whom thought before the war broke out that they had been liberated from communism and totalitarianism, looked to the free world. They aspired to what they thought were the values that had been withheld from them. The problem is not just there. As we speak, all over the former Soviet Union there are cauldrons simmering—for example, terrible things are happening in Georgia, although we do not see them nightly on our television screens.

The firmness, resolve and effectiveness with which the European Community and the free world in general deal with the problem of the former Yugoslavia will have a significant effect on what does or does not happen elsewhere. The world is a far more dangerous place than it was before the wall and the iron curtain came down. I rejoice that they are down and that the cold war is ended.

But the new situation calls for great statesmanship, vision and resolution. Although I pay tribute to what Ministers have sought to do, we have not been effective enough and there is no point in pretending that we have. I hope that a stiffening of resolve will emerge from this debate.

It is also important to consider the position of the British infantry. I make no apology for raising this matter, which I touched upon in September. We are extremely fortunate in the way in which we are served by our armed forces. Their versatility, professionalism and cool courage is an example to us all, yet they are thin on the ground. Since "Options for Change" was published, many of us, some with a territorial interest—I do not apologise for my interest in the Staffordshire Regiment—have said time and again that we are stretching the infantry too far. That fear has been backed up by military men of immense experience and prestige, as was illustrated by the recent letter to The Times from Field Marshal Lord Bramall.

In September we were told that the number of men to be sent to Yugoslavia would be limited to 1,800; 2,658 troops are now there. I do not object to that. It might be necessary to increase that number to 3,000 and I would not object to that either. But we have Northern Ireland, and events in this capital city at the weekend have reminded us that that problem will not go away. There are other trouble spots in the world.

We will not lightly be forgiven if we deprive ourselves of the means of defence, but the infantry is being stretched to a dangerous degree. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will review this issue. He has already said that he will if circumstances change and, through my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, I should like to tell him that those circumstances have changed, are changing, and will continue to do so. I make no apology for urging, once more, that reconsideration.

Apart from the expressions of total revulsion and absolute sympathy, I hope that what comes out of this debate will be a determination to do everything that we can to bring this conflict to a close. I agree with the hon. Member for Rhondda that we cannot do that by massive intervention on the ground, and I have not advocated and will not advocate that, but we can do it by a demonstration of resolve and by a refusal to forgo weapons that we have every right to consider using. I hope that when my right hon. and learned Friend replies to the debate he will recognise that.

8.42 pm
Ms. Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

I agree with practically everything that the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) said. At the risk of upsetting some of my colleagues, I congratulate the Liberal Democrats on using this opportunity to discuss this serious topic.

Terrible events are taking place in the heart of Europe, and I was appalled not just at the banality of the Government's amendment, but by the speech of the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. There was a note of complacency in it and an almost total acceptance not just of what has happened but of what is likely to happen in the coming months in Yugoslavia. We as politicians, not just of the House, but of the European Community and the world, must take collective blame for what has happened. We must accept that blame because we have stood by, as a nation, and watched nothing less than the extinction of another nation and its cultural identity, the nation of Bosnia.

More than one third of a million civilians are trapped in Sarajevo alone, without food, electricity or running water. We all know that they are dying daily, and we must recognise that, apart from fine words, fine intentions and some belated military help with humanitarian aid, they are dying because this country and the rest of the EC have refused to intervene. I do not believe that we have used our position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to support the initiatives aimed a t confronting Serbian militarism.

Consider the publicity that was devoted to the London peace conference in August and what was supposed to come out of it. At that conference the Prime Minister named Serbia as the chief instigator of atrocities and territorial aggression in the region. He claimed success in reaching specific agreements that guaranteed the integrity and security of Bosnia and its people. What has happened to those agreements? We were told that the sieges of towns and cities would be soon lifted, but that has not happened. We were told that there would be international supervision of the use of heavy weapons, but that has not happened. We were also told that there would be a ban on military flights, but no air exclusion zone has been observed. The promise to enforce sanctions on the Danube has not been fulfilled.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

On the question of the air exclusion zone, we have no evidence of any combat mission having been flown since 12 October. We believe that, at the moment at least, the no-flight regime has been observed for combat missions.

Ms. Hoey

The Minister may say that, but that is not exactly what has happened. I believe that the air exclusion zone has not been monitored and has not been observed.

The agreement on the creation of an international criminal court has not been realised. I accept that some civilians have been released from detention camps, but just as some have been released, some have been imprisoned. We heard many fine words at that peace conference, but we have seen little action. In some ways Britain has even obstructed the UN in carrying out initiatives aimed at enforcing the agreements reached in London.

A lot of the blame must rest with the Foreign Office, which has continued to portray this conflict as a civil war and promoted the myth that all sides are equally to blame. I agree with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South that anyone who has studied what has happened cannot fail to say that the blame must lie with the Serbians. There have been atrocities committed on all sides, but the systematic atrocities carried out by the Serbians must be recognised.

Civilians will get hurt in all wars, but all the evidence points to the fact that the Serbians have a deliberate and calculated policy of targeting civilians. Their policy is to kill them in sufficient numbers to make others run away. I do not believe that that is war; it is terrorism on a scale unprecedented in Europe since the Nazis.

It is equally clear that journalists have been targeted by the Serbians. I am sure that all hon. Members would want to pay tribute to the fine work done by television and newspaper journalists. Without their reports we would be unaware of some of the terrible atrocities that have occurred.

If we allow Bosnia-Herzegovina to be destroyed, I believe that all hope for the survival of democracy and decency in that part of the world will end. Britain has some responsibility and must take action; there is still much to be done. I may be out of line with some of my Front-Bench colleagues, but I believe that Britain should act to lift the UN arms embargo on Bosnia. I do not believe that it is right that Bosnians are dying because they have no weapons to defend themselves. They are literally being killed because they have no opportunity to get the weapons that they need to defend themselves. There is no point in sending in the military to ensure that food aid gets through to the people of Sarajevo only for those people to be killed a few days later. We should get the United Nations to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia.

We should be pressing for selective air strikes against the artillery and other heavy weapons of the former Yugoslav army. I agree that we do not want a wholesale military presence in the area, but, as other hon. Members have said, if when we saw the pictures of what was happening in Dubrovnik selective action had been taken, that might have deterred the Serbians from doing what they then did in Sarajevo. If we do not learn a lesson from that, there will be an escalation in the conflict in that area. I am also worried about what is happening in Kosovo. If the Serbians knew that we were prepared to take action, it might deter them from going further.

The greatest priority is to save the citizens in Sarajevo. That is essential for the survival of Bosnia's physical and cultural identity. Last year, almost 30 per cent. of Bosnians married people from different religious groups. That is good evidence of the tolerance that has sustained Bosnia's character and identity for centuries. It must be protected from the nationalism and ethnic cleansing that threaten not only that region but the peace and security of Europe.

Will the Minister say how much more Serbian aggression the Government will allow before they are prepared to take action? I supported our actions in the Gulf war in support of Kuwait, so I cannot justify Britain doing nothing about what is happening in central Europe. I hope that the debate will bring to the forefront the need for action. We must not sit back and allow more people to die. If we do not take action, in a year's time the conflict will spread throughout Europe. We could stop that happening, but currently the Government are refusing to do so.

Will the Minister answer some of the questions asked by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) which were not answered by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces? I hope that the debate will bring us a little nearer to the end of a conflict that we cannot allow to continue.

8.52 pm
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

Although I agree with most of what has been said about the dreadful conflict in the former Yugoslavia, I want to concentrate my remarks on the refugees issue. I am concerned that we are thinking only about refugees in the former Yugoslavia and not taking the wider context into account. The problems in that area are repeated throughout the world, so it is wrong that the House should concentrate on the Yugoslav refugees.

What about the Sikhs in the Punjab, where there is also ethnic cleansing and the worst sort of brutality? To follow on the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), there is also murder, rape and pillage in the Punjab. Other than when I have raised the matter through Adjournment debates, I cannot remember the issue being raised on the Floor of the House, and certainly not by either of the two main Opposition parties. I remind the House that all that is happening in a former Commonwealth country which has a direct relationship with us. It is not a country in Europe which, if I may put it this way, has no direct connection with Britain.

The worldwide problems are caused by civil wars. I understand that there are currently 44 conflicts throughout the world. The problems of refugees arise from the economic chaos that is rife the length and breadth of Africa. Many African countries are former Commonwealth countries, but no one is as concerned about them as about Yugoslavia.

Many people are moving around the world in search of safer and better lives, but that is not the reason for our refugee legislation. There are problems in Romania, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Somalia, Zaire, Uganda and Sri Lanka—and of course, the whole of the Soviet Union is breaking up. Countries are worried about refugees. France is worried about Algeria and Spain about north Africa and the border that allows refugees directly to enter Spain. Portugal is worried about the refugee problem in Macau, where people can apply for a full European passport. Germany has a problem because 250,000 refugees arrived there last year and a further 500,000 are expected this year from eastern Europe, Turkey, Afghanistan, Africa and, now, the former Yugoslavia. The anger of Germans has nothing to do with Nazi thugs—everyone is opposed to them.

Sir Russell Johnston

Surely there is a difference between economic refugees, of which the hon. Gentleman rightly says there are many, and people who have been burnt out of their homes.

Mr. Dicks

I accept the hon. Gentleman's point, but as I said earlier, people are suffering those same conditions in the Punjab, yet there is apparently no concern in the House about that. The Government show no concern about it in their relationship with India. It has been happening since long before the events in the former Yugoslavia, but no one cares. People are concerned about the former Yugoslavia—it is the in thing. I have almost 10,000 Sikhs in my constituency who ask, "Why the concern? We know what is happening in Yugoslavia and we do not want it to continue, but where is the concern about what has happened to our relatives in our country?"

If the refugees going to Germany are granted asylum status, they can move wherever they wish around the EEC. They could come to Britain if they so wanted—and many of those seeking that status in Europe might want to do that. We must consider the position facing Britain before we think of taking hundreds, thousands or even millions of refugees.

It takes up to three years to determine a claim. Between 1984 and 1990, 2,700 people from India applied for asylum. None was granted it because apparently none qualified, but 47 per cent.—more than 1,200—were allowed to stay because it took so long to process their applications. That can only encourage people to apply for asylum and to make bogus applications.

There are already some 4,200 people from Somalia in this country of whom 665 are seeking asylum status. Those 4,200 people came here as visitors or students. I am sure that the House is aware of the fact that, whatever the circumstances, they will not be sent back. I find that rather surprising. There were 50,000 applications for asylum in Britain last year and there could be even more this year.

During the past two years 106 unaccompanied children arrived at Heathrow in my borough of Hillingdon, which has had to find them accommodation and educate and feed them. So far, it has cost my local authority £1 million, but there has been no help from the Government.

On the specific matter of the former Yugoslavia, a parliamentary answer shows that in the year ending August 1992, 50,800 people from that area were given leave to enter Britain, mainly as visitors or students—but with the implicit understanding that they would not be sent back. A further 500 have applied for asylum. That makes nearly 52,000 refugees already from the former Yugoslavia who have nipped in rather quietly knowing that, whatever happens, they will not have to return.

I appeared on a television programme with a 19-year-old refugee who said, "I don't want to go back home. I get £30 a week and my accommodation paid for. I will not return, even if the situation changes." Who can blame him? He was allowed entry for a course that he has now given up, and he just wants to stay.

I hate to use the word "do-gooders" in this context, but one must question the actions of those who believe that it is a good idea to take empty coaches to a border and to return to Britain with refugees. I thought that a refugee was someone who sought refuge—and that the first place to do that was immediately outside the troubled area. However, some people are bussing refugees through two or three countries, which causes problems for others. One newspaper report states: Dover, perhaps unusually, has never had a major refugee problem. But three weeks ago 250 people arrived in a convoy of coaches from Bosnia, brought by a voluntary group based in Leeds. Two days before they arrived, the authorities were told that they were going to apply for political asylum, and that entitled them to the full range of benefits—housing, social security, health and legal aid. A council spokesman said: It is all very laudable for these people to bring people in, but they haven't thought out who will foot the bill. The Sikhs in my constituency might well say, "This seems to be the game to play now. We will charter a plane to India and bring out a few thousand Sikhs over a period of time." Another interested group might say, "The real issue is Somalia, so we will take a plane there and bring out some refugees." Another group could say, "We will take a few coaches to eastern Europe and bring refugees back to Dover."

If such people arrive at a port, existing law on asylum allows them entry. The individuals who bussed refugees in from Bosnia have been in touch with the Home Office, and it is sending extra staff to the ports to cope with the situation. Laudable though such actions by do-gooders and members of the chattering classes may be, they have not thought through the consequences if every group having an interest abroad starts to do the same.

With the exception of one child who is likely to be adopted by an eminent ITN reporter, refugees will not be sent to Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Hampshire. Instead, they will stay near their port of entry and move to inner-city areas that already have problems. Local authorities will have to cope and local residents—through direct taxes and the council tax—will have to pay the bill.

Most right hon. and hon. Members have problems with housing waiting lists in their constituencies. I certainly do. When refugees arrive, my constituents say, "Hang on, Mr. Dicks—we have been waiting for years for a transfer or for accommodation. We feel sorry for refugees, but they should be helped nearer their own countries and not be brought to Britain to occupy accommodation meant for us." It may be wonderful to drop refugees off at Dover or Leeds and let someone else take responsibility for them, but all right hon. and hon. Members have an obligation to their constituents. They must always come first and last. I would not mind so much if there were any spare facilities.

As to the churches and vicars who encourage such action, how many of them are using their church halls to accommodate refugees, and how many archbishops have handed over their palaces for that purpose? I shall be surprised and delighted if one of them is accommodating a refugee family. I make this challenge to the Church—before it starts saying all those wonderful words, it should open its doors first and feed and clothe the refugees, and then it will not be denying a citizen of this country his or her right to housing.

We should seriously consider redrafting the 1951 United Nations convention on refugees, because it was never designed to cope with the present situation or with economic refugees from Vietnam and Africa. Neither was it meant to cope with thousands of refugees from the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. That convention was never meant to put pressure on the developed world. Its wording and the responsibilities that it imparts are out of date. I want the Government to persuade the United Nations to rewrite that convention, to control not just the arrival of refugees but their departure.

Those who, in their unworldly way, encourage refugees to come to this country should also be prohibited by legislation from encouraging people to seek refuge here after travelling through two or three other countries, when there may be safe refuge just outside their own borders. People must be told that they cannot continue to exercise their conscience and make themselves feel good when sitting by the fire at night—not taking anyone in themselves, but expecting everyone else to do so.

We should certainly provide help and support in the countries concerned and just outside their borders. The safe haven concept is best, and we must do all that we can to encourage it. If neighbouring countries want to take in thousands of refugees that is their business, not ours.

The people of Britain have had enough: they have done their share. They are saying, "Hang on—are we going to be a soft touch again?" Everyone else wants to shout about it; as I have said, the chattering classes want to do something. But the working-class chap in the street, who pays his taxes, wonders what the hell is going on in this country. It seems to him that every time there is a problem somewhere and people want to move from that area—for whatever reason—good old Britain is the place for them to go.

My young daughter, her husband and their three children must be pushed down the waiting list because of the stupid Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, and the fact that having to cope with refugees means that newcomers are placed at the top of the list. Old-age pensioners in my constituency could do with a bigger pension, but have had to accept increases in line with inflation; meanwhile people come here from nowhere, and are literally given everything that they require to live a good life. I am not saying that there is not a reason for that, but let it not happen in this part of the world again. Let us be realistic: we have done our share. We are not a soft touch. We are not the dustbin of the world, to which people should come when everything else has gone wrong.

If the Government and the House continue to take the same view, we are likely to see the same dreadful developments that have been seen in Germany. Thank God we have no Le Pen in this country now. Many people are saying that they are sick and tired of being taken for a ride, and, if we continue to allow refugees to enter this country—as I have said, they go to the tough working-class areas around the ports and in the inner cities —we shall experience the civil strife that has taken place in Germany, France and Italy. I do not want that, but the only way to stop it is to control what is happening, rather than saying, "Wonderful Britain must open all the doors and let everyone in."

9.5 pm

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and his colleagues on arranging this evening's debate. I am sorry that more debates have not taken place on the issue.

As time is now short, I shall concentrate on the key points. According to the motion, the record of the European Community and the Foreign Office on Yugoslavia has consistently been too little and too late". That is putting it mildly. In my view, the actions of the Foreign Office and the Community in the earlier stages of the crisis contributed significantly to the outbreak of fighting, to its continuation and to the form that it took. People could see what would happen in Bosnia from the moment that trouble started in Knin and around Krajina: it was obvious and predictable. Rather than preventing it, however, we took action that, if anything, encouraged it.

We sec the same picture of people sitting back and waiting for the next conflict to erupt when we look at reports of pressure on Muslims in Sandzak, troubles in Kosovo and continuing problems throughout Macedonia. The tinder is there; but, rather than defusing the situation, we seem to be sitting back. I am particularly concerned about Macedonia, which is currently in limbo. We seem to have put it on ice, as it were, so that it can sit and wait until its neighbours are ready to carve it up.

Before war broke out in Bosnia, Milosevic clearly signalled his desire to do a deal with his neighbours to carve up Bosnia. Now he is signalling his desire to do the same with Macedonia. What will we do about that? At present, the Macedonian administration satisfied the normal criteria for recognition, and it is clear that Macedonia would be recognised but for the problems caused by the Greeks. The Greeks had some legitimate concerns, which have been met. What concerns us now is Greek ambition, together with Serb and, perhaps, Bulgarian ambition. We should seriously consider recognising Macedonia; if we are not prepared to do that, we should make it abundantly clear that we will not tolerate any forcible intervention by other parties in Macedonia. We should make our feelings very clear to the Greeks.

We have intervened in Bosnia rather belatedly, and I am concerned about the manner of our intervention. The present intervention strikes me as incoherent. United Nations troops could have been sent in in the normal way to supervise agreed ceasefire lines. At the other end of the scale, we could have intervened to impose our will on the situation by compelling the combatants to move back to the lines that we considered appropriate. We are told, however, that that is not what is happening. It seems that we are intervening somewhere in the middle, but the position is not entirely clear. We are deceiving ourselves if we imagine that our current intervention is, or can be, limited to so-called humanitarian work.

Sieges are taking place everywhere. To supply food to besieged people is intervention on behalf of the besieged persons and will be perceived by the besiegers as the provision of military aid. In some circumstances, food is a weapon. Our intervention, therefore, is effectively on one side. We pretend to ourselves that we are not intervening. That is foolish and is likely to end in greater trouble.

We cannot, however, walk away from the problem. We cannot allow the war to continue, sit back and let the people fight it out among themselves. That might have been okay in 1912 or 1913, but it is not okay in a world where there is the United Nations, and it is not okay in a Europe where there are the various agreements about the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. I suppose that in some way we are trying to vindicate the CSCE.

The debate has concentrated so far on the means of exerting pressure, whether it be diplomatic, economic or limited military involvement. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) about not forswearing certain action and making sure that there is a credible military capability available to be used, if only to keep people guessing.

We have to think hard about our objective. I said earlier that the intervention was incoherent. It does not seem to me to have any clear objective in mind. We must start to think about what our objective is and then work back from that to see what are the appropriate means of achieving it. Having a clear objective in this case means having a view about the desired outcome. Through this whole debate, the British Government and the other European Governments seem to have been incredibly coy about the desired outcome. That must be spelt out. We must be clear about it, and then we can look at the ways and means.

9.11 pm
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

I welcome the fact that the debate is taking place. I welcome also the way in which it has been conducted—soberly and with considerable reflection. The debate has been distinguished by no rancour having been shown on either side of the House. That is important.

This is an emotional issue. I must declare right away that I support the Government amendment, but the motion reflects the tension and anger that we feel about the slaughter and atrocities in that region. It reflects our awareness of the impending horror of the forthcoming winter and the feeling of total revulsion about the continuation of ethnic cleansing.

At times, however, the House tries to blame the wrong party. It is easy to blame the Government, because they are there. Nevertheless, we bear in mind that the Government have agonised long and hard about how to perform our role in the Balkans. We are very much aware of the Prime Minister's anguish. He was anxious to make his contribution—hence the London peace conference. He made a firm stand by condemning Serbia for the atrocities. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was keen that Lord Carrington should play a role in the European Community peace initiative. He, of course, was followed by Lord Owen. The British Government were anxious to ensure that we provided an honourable deployment of troops.

It is remarkable that this country has contributed 2.600 troops to the area, out of a total force of 6,000. That is a larger share, in proportion to our responsibilities, than has been provided by any other country. That ought to be recognised when anybody suggests that the Government are taking no action, are flaccid and are unwilling to act.

I share everybody's concern about the refugee problem. We must remember that 40,000 refugees have already made their way to this country. I know that passions are aroused over refugees. I have declared in the House on a previous occasion that my mother is Serbian. I remember that after the last war Serbian refugees came to this country, fleeing from oppression and totalitarianism in communist Yugoslavia. So I know how important it is to ensure that we give refugees the right welcome.

I take issue with the Government on one matter: although it is quite honourable and correct to say that we must try to encourage refugees to stay close to their home country, we must recognise that there is no safe place for them to hide. It is foolhardy for us to put our heads in the ground and to imagine that if refugees stay there they will be safe later. It is not an easy problem and I am not offering any simple answers. Indeed, there are no simple answers, and it would be false of the Opposition to suggest that there are. We must show some flexibility.

Mr. Rogers

We are not suggesting that.

Lady Olga Maitland

None the less, that impression was given; forgive me if I got the wrong impression.

Mr. Rogers

I never suggested that there was an easy option. I told the Minister that I agreed entirely that the decisions that needed to be taken were extremely complicated and difficult. The hon. Lady is misrepresenting Labour's position.

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank the hon. Gentleman. At least we have been able to clear up the matter to some extent.

I support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), who was concerned that in deploying our troops we were putting "Options for Change" under strain. I hope that "Options for Change" is not so set in concrete that we cannot take a more flexible view, should the need arise.

I pay tribute to our troops. I have heard wonderful reports of their enthusiasm, professionalism and desire to get up and go and to serve in a humanitarian role, which is a new role for them. Their role is not just to help aid get through to those who are desperate; their mere presence is a comfort to those who are under pressure and it is tempting for them to hope that our troops would open fire on their behalf. It is important that we keep a clear head about what we expect of our troops. We cannot confuse their humanitarian work with what I call their pro-active fighting work: the two do not mix. As hon. Members have said, if our troops were involved in more than self-defence, there would be consequences for the civilians whom they are trying to protect. It is easy to say, "We must do something and fight at all costs", but it is important to realise the consequences: for example, the Red Cross could not continue to supply aid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would be affected and there would be no one to protect the convoys.

It is important that we get our priorities right. The United Nations is saying, "Let us put lives before guns as we face a cold winter." We must also consider air strikes. What kind of air strikes are we talking about? Air strikes may encourage more fighting.

We definitely have not reached the point where we can say "No, never" to any other course of action. We must monitor the situation and reconsider it in six months. I take the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South about the art and meaning of deterrence. History shows that it can work, and it could work again. The message that we must send to the Serbians is that unacceptable damage could be inflicted—I am not saying definitely, because that is the art of deterrence—and that, despite what they think, they may not get away with it so much in the future. That is an international decision, not a United Kingdom decision. We must realise that there are agonies that the whole Community will have to face.

I understand the sense of frustration. I remember that, when the first break-up of the former Yugoslavia began, my mother, who is a Serb and realistic about what is happening, said, "Remember 1914. It will all explode all over again. Somehow we shall have to alert people to the character of the Balkans. The people there are not logical as one would expect people in Europe to be. They have their own culture, their own anger and their own pain. Realise that it is not a problem that will just fade away".

One of the mistakes that we made is that we gave the wrong message to the aggressors in Serbia. We sent a message saying, "Perhaps you can get away with your ill-gotten gains." That is the responsibility of the international community and we now have to live with the consequences.

It is important that we back the new endeavours to impose sanctions. It is important that we ensure that they really work and that the Serbians feel the bite and the anger. We must ensure that the people of Yugoslavia realise that their government is at stake. It is important that we ensure that the sanctions work because they have failed so far. The United Nations has become a laughing stock in the sanctions-busting game. To see the Greek oil tankers trundling through is offensive to common decency. I welcome all the endeavours to bring the problem under control.

I conclude on the important point that a political solution is the only solution that will finally work in Yugoslavia. It is, therefore, important that we look hard and clearly at the man who is perpetrating the atrocities and at the man who is the oppressor—Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic is now under pressure. There will be elections on 20 December. We in the west have a moral duty to back the pro-democracy movement—to back Milan Panic who has so bravely tried to stand up to the man who brought him into power in Yugoslavia.

We should give the pro-democracy movement the moral support it deserves. Representatives from DEPOS —the pro-democracy movement—are coming to London next week. We should be able to say, "Go back to Yugoslavia. You are not forgotten. We back you all the way." There is only one way in which to bring peace in the Balkans. We must ensure that Slobodan Milosevic cannot continue his evil work for the future.

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

I am sorry that the debate has been so short. We have heard some good speeches, but there is so much more to say and so many more questions to ask.

There are four differences between our motion and the Government amendment. The first is a question of emphasis. The Government congratulate themselves. We say that what they have done is too little and too late. The second is the question of military intervention, especially air strikes, to which various hon. Members have referred. The third is the question of air cover for our troops, in which we might include the issue of the so-called blockades or non-blockades in the Adriatic and on the Danube. The fourth is the question of refugees. I will deal with each in turn, taking up points made by hon. Members on the way. I will turn in conclusion to the question of Kosovo and Macedonia.

When we consider not simply the present dreadful position but the history of the European Community's involvement and the attitudes expressed by the British Government at various stages of the Yugoslavian tragedy, we must realise that to say that the House "congratulates" —the amendment says "notably" congratulates—the Government is extraordinary. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) made a quite excellent speech. In his downbeat way, he said that what the Government had done was really rather inadequate—and that was putting it very mildly.

From the very beginning, when I told the Minister of State in May 1991 that the European Community should perhaps take on a mediation role or even provide a peacekeeping force, the Minister said: I do not think that the European Community should play such a role."—[Official Report, 22 May 1991; Vol. 191, c. 919.] That did not show a great deal of foresight, and it was not very long afterwards that Lord Carrington was appointed.

The British Government also resisted the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. They suggested that "premature" recognition would worsen the conflict. As Jonathan Eyal, director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute, wrote in The Independent today: Croatia and Slovenia are independent only because they were prepared to fight for their freedom. Let us face it: the Government—and the European Community—would certainly have been prepared to watch them being crushed by the JNA.

I respond badly to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, who responded to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), talking once more about factions in what was Yugoslavia. That is a denial of what has happened over the past year and a half. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South put it very clearly. Of course there have been atrocities by the Croats and there have been atrocities by the Muslims. However, there has been no concerted policy. As far as I am aware, there has been no siege of Serbian towns by Muslims or by Croats. As the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey) put it extremely effectively, this has by and large been a Serbian war of aggression within Yugoslavia. To try to be even handed about the matter is not to face reality.

The Government amendment significantly does not refer to military intervention one way or the other. However, the Minister of State spoke about it at length. We argued for the use of air power to relieve the siege of Osijek in December 1991. It was clear then where the aggressors were and what they had. The Croats had no heavy guns, tanks or rockets. They were surrounded and were being pounded to pieces, as Vukovar already had been. It would have been possible to use air power then, and if we had used it there would have been no siege of Sarajevo.

Both the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) said that it was clear very early on to the Serbs that no one was prepared to act to stop them. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East made that point when he intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Rhondda. If one tells an aggressor, "We are not going to do anything to stop you", the aggressor will continue. That is straightforward and simple.

I appeared on one of those ITV "Comment" programmes on 10 June. I said that the situation in Sarajevo had to be stopped and my words echoed those of the hon. Member for Vauxhall. I said: In Sarajevo, people are in the cellars, without electricity, water or food. If you have children, think of what that would be like … It is clear that Milosevic only understands force. I think the European Community through the UN now has no alternative but to consider this and most urgently. They should say to Milosevic, 'unless this siege is lifted and the shelling stopped within 48 hours, aircraft from the West will destroy these artillery positions'". I am not saying that only now; I have said it before. If we had done that then, it would have stopped matters.

Even when we went to the G7 summit in July, only Britain was against even the consideration of military intervention. Mitterrand was in favour, despite the earlier support that the French gave the Serbs, and Kohl was in favour. All right, we know perfectly well that the Germans are excluded by their constitution from external involvement in that way, but they certainly showed in respect of the Gulf that they were prepared to pay, and that is going to change. That constitution was put on them by us, so let us not start blaming them for it.

On the closure of air space, as recently as 15 May the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs wrote to me, saying: I do not think an aerial blockade of Serbia would be right. That has been the pattern of "too little too late" all along. As has been said, we have, apparently, a holding closure of Bosnian air space. It has not been breached; I do not dispute that. However, we allowed the dropping of cluster bombs by the Bosnian-Serb air force on civilians, and I am sure that we could have prevented it.

Mr. Rogers

That was a point of difference between the Minister and myself. As I understand it, the Minister said that we do not have the capability in the theatre to take such action as is being proposed. The Government should address that matter urgently.

Sir Russell Johnston

I do not think that that is the case, but never mind. Nevertheless, we are now closing air space when that is much less relevant than it was. What is relevant is that, as various hon. Members have pointed out, with the breach of sea space in the Adriatic and up the Danube oil and military hardware have come, and what have we done about that? "Too little, too late" is a fair description. There is certainly no cause for congratulation, far less notable congratulation.

The Government's amendment welcomes Her Majesty's Government's response to the refugee problem". For a Government who have just introduced a visa system for Bosnia without even the means of getting visas, who have taken in only a comparatively small number and who have not made any direct contribution—although I accept that they have made a contribution through the European Community and refugee organisations to poor countries such as Croatia and Hungary who have taken in an enormous number, or, for that matter, given proper credit to the Federal Republic of Germany for its huge contribution of about 260,000 to 270,000—that is terribly complacent. Not much was said about what else would be done. "Sharing" is what we said. The Federal Republic of Germany, as the Minister knows, has suggested that the European Community, of which we are still the President, should try to work out some allocations.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) said that there are many refugees in many places all over the world. I know that. One cannot do everything, but that does not preclude the fact that we are concerned that people have been burnt out of their houses and are staggering helplessly through the snow. May I tell the hon. Gentleman what happens in the Federal Republic of Germany? He asked, "Where are they going to go? They are going to congregate around London." The Germans have constructed camps all over the federal republic, and they are related to the size of the towns in question so that the burden is not concentrated in one place. Central Government take responsibility rather than offload it on to the Lander Government. So the hon. Gentleman's was not a reasonable argument.

The hon. Member for Rhondda was right: the action that we are taking is not the action of a country which is rightly proud of its civilisation. The 186 people in buses, of which we are letting in six, who have been mentioned sum up how disgraceful this all is. Rightly, the debate has focused on such people, but they are a tiny drop in a great ocean of misery.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fife, North-East —[HON. MEMBERS: "He is not right hon."] I am anticipating, perhaps. In any event, my hon. and learned Friend spoke of the dangers and challenges that face British troops. Neither he nor I understands why it is not possible to provide combat air cover, operating out of Italy. Not so long ago we were told that we could counteract vast hordes of Russians, pounding through central Europe. Now we cannot produce the aircraft to take out a few tanks. Strange.

I should like to know about the difference between the British role and that of the French. The British role seems to be exclusively to protect humanitarian convoys in dangerous circumstances brought about especially by the recent push by the Serbs. But in the little north-western enclave of Bihac the French are in the business of keeping out the Serbs—they appear to have a combat role there. That is puzzling, since I had thought that the role of all United Nations forces should be the same. I am not arguing against the French action: I just want to know what the difference is.

The siege of the great cities and the ethnic cleansing must be stopped, and if that means air strikes, so be it. Europe has been slow and fearful. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)—he is sitting behind me: one should always be concerned if the leader is sitting behind one—and I visited the heights above Sarajevo and saw the gun emplacements. The Minister said that they could be moved. Of course, they could be, but they can also be pinpointed. The guns stand above the vast bowl in which Sarajevo lies, and I still think that action could be taken against them.

It is certainly hypocrisy to go on about the integrity of Bosnia while allowing it to be gutted. That integrity no longer exists—or hardly. The Evening Standard tonight says: They were a pitiful sight on the road to Travnik, now the only town between the British base and Serbian positions. They were shelled as they tried to get through Turbe and … there were scores of casualties. Many herded their livestock as they ran. One farmer put a calf, wounded by shrapnel and apparently close to death, on a cart carrying his family. That is what is happening. Certainly, it is all terribly difficult. There will soon be nothing left of Bosnia—there is little left already. We are already too late to stop many deaths in the besieged enclaves. The scale of the intervention is too limited, but we should still try.

There has been talk at the United Nations of a war crimes tribunal, but that has since disappeared from the agenda. What has happened to it?

The Government should forthwith review their policy on refugees. That means taking more of them than we have hitherto. We are taking proportionately far fewer than Sweden, Luxembourg and many other countries. That means taking more refugees, and producing more money to help, because a massive tragedy is taking place next door to us. The only sensible way forward is a sharing arrangement through the European Community.

Kosovo and Macedonia are certainly the next areas of great danger. In saying that I am not overlooking the difficulties of the Hungarians in Vojvodina. There are real difficulties there, and we recognise that, but we are not able to cover every issue this night.

Lord Owen's stance on Kosovo—which I heard him spell out on 3 October, when he addressed the Council of Europe, and which the Secretary of State subsequently confirmed, in a written answer to me on 19 October, as Government policy—is wrong. The stance is wrong in its practical consequences, and it is morally indefensible. To exclude the right of the 90 per cent. Albanian majority to self-determination if they want it after more than a decade of suppression by 8 per cent. of Serbs is not sustainable.

When I attended the unofficial election held by the Kosovan Albanians on 24 May—and spent an hour in a Serbian police station—I saw an admirable display of peaceful protest. I do not know how long that will hold. I do not think that it will be for long.

When I and my right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal Democrats saw President Cosic of the rump Yugoslavia in Belgrade in August, we understood that he would accept United Nations monitors. Many more should be sent, and the Government should do something about that now.

When there is a final conference to resolve the issue, as there will be eventually, it should be made clear that the right of Kosovo to self-determination, if the people so wish, has to be accepted.

Macedonia should be recognised and given economic aid. It has taken the punishment of sanctions more than any of the other countries. It is untenable that Greece should be the country to stop that happening when the United States, at the United Nations meeting in New York last week, pinpointed Greece as massively breaching the oil embargo to Serbia and Montenegro. I am not merely saying this now—I said it in July: the Government are wrong in that.

I have two final, long-term questions; we should remember the long term. First, what is Government thinking on a European or Euro-United Nations peacekeeping force? The Bosnian problem will not be the last that we have to face in that area. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told me on 15 May: I do not expect the fighting to end until the factions lose their appetite for war. If one deals in that sort of futile hand-wringing that is okay, but I think that we should have some ideas about peacekeeping.

Secondly, last year, in the Council of Europe, I argued that its remit should be widened from individual to collective breaches of human rights; in other words, to create obligations in respect of minority groups. I understand that France, Spain and the United Kingdom have been particularly opposed to any moves in that direction. Why?

We shall divide the House tonight, but not because we want to. It is because we do not think that our country has acted as it should in a terrible crisis—it is our country and not merely the Government's, although I notice that they sometimes do not make much distinction—and we want to put on record our deep unhappiness.

9.43 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

This is an important debate which deals with what is probably the greatest tragedy in post-war European history in which about 2,400 British soldiers are now engaged. It is a war in which tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and serious crimes have been committed. We must concede that no early solution is in sight.

As is to be expected with such a motion, the debate has been wide-ranging and I am conscious that I cannot respond to all the points made. However, the debate could be reduced to three main themes: first, the general policy being pursued by the Government and other European Governments from the start of the crisis, when Slovenia and Croatia announced their independence, until now; secondly, the presence of British troops operating in what was Yugoslavia, the circumstances that surround their deployment, and how we can tackle the humanitarian crisis that they and we face; thirdly, how we hope to bring about a political settlement in what was Yugoslavia. In responding to the specific points raised by hon. Members, I shall try to remain within the framework that I have just identified.

I wish to consider the policy that has been pursued from the outbreak of the crisis until now and, in particular, to respond to some of the points made by my hon. and right hon. Friends. I shall deal with two points: first, the role of Serbia; and secondly, the suggestion that we should have used force in a pre-emptive way. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey) and others focused on those points.

It is absolutely clear that Serbia is primarily responsible for what has happened and is now happening in the former Yugoslavia. That is not to say that others have not committed atrocities but I concede that the primary responsibility lies with the Serbians in Serbia and Bosnia. However, we must keep in mind the important proviso that, although I regard Milosevic as a powerful influence behind what is happening in Bosnia, I believe that neither he nor Karadzic have total control over what is happening there. If one needed evidence of that, one could simply remark that the assurances that Milosevic gave regarding the removal of aircraft were not adhered to by General Mladic. Although Milosevic bears a great deal of responsibility and therefore so does Serbia, war lords in Bosnia are pursuing their own policies and objectives.

I do not believe that, by using the kind of military force that has been referred to, we would have stopped or could now stop the conflict. I accept that that could legitimately be disputed, and one can only give one's opinion. That is my opinion, partly because I do not think that Serbia is totally responsible for what is happening in Bosnia—separate leaders have separate policies—partly because the nature of the conflict does not admit of the military action in the middle east two years ago, and partly for the powerful reason that, once the United Nations has used force in that way, it will disqualify itself from the range of other functions that we all deem to be important, notably the supply of humanitarian aid and the brokering role.

Mr. Rogers

If the Minister is ascribing good intentions to Karadzic and Milosevic, the best thing to do is to get them to join us in putting down those warlords who seem to be out of their control.

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Gentleman misinterprets me. I did not say that Karadzic or Milosevic have good intentions because I do not believe that for a moment. I do not think that they have total control over the warlords in Bosnia, many of whom have even worse intentions. That is a different point.

Mr. Ashdown

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hogg

No. I should like to deal with the main issue raised by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and I shall allow an intervention if it is material.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked many important questions about troop deployment, air cover, exclusion zones, the size of the force and so on. The present force numbers 2,400 and not 2,600 but that is a small point. At present we have no intention of increasing that force and our deployment was for 12 months. We hope that at the end of that time it will be possible to stop the deployment, but we shall have to examine the situation in Bosnia at that time. Therefore, I cannot say whether we shall extend the deployment beyond the initial 12 months.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces dealt with the rules of engagement. Our soldiers will have the ability to defend themselves. They do not have to wait until they are fired upon, nor do they have to return similar fire because they have a range of heavy weapons that are known to the House. They will not have to seek authority up the line. The soldiers on the ground are authorised to use reasonable minimum force to defend themselves and—this answers another of the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions—those for whom they have a direct responsibility at that time.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East asked about air power. Two quite separate issues are involved and they were also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). I shall deal first with what I have been calling the air exclusion zone and then with the question whether United Kingdom troops will be able to call for air cover to resist ground attack. United Nations Security Council resolution 786 authorises the no-fly zone and provides for an increase in the United Nations peacekeeping force to monitor the bases. Those forces are being deployed and we have no evidence of any aircraft flying combat missions since 12 October.

What happens if Serbian forces fly combat missions in breach of the resolution? The answer is that we would have to return to the Security Council for an appropriate resolution. I cannot say what would emerge, but I should be rather surprised if the Security Council were not ready to authorise the use of force in those circumstances. The Serbs had better contemplate that for their own good and in the interests of everybody else.

I was asked about air power being available to United Kingdom ground forces. The purpose of the deployment is, of course, to carry out humanitarian functions. The two that I have in mind at the moment are the convoy of humanitarian supplies and, where appropriate, the escorting of refugees. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State made plain, it is no function of the British forces to fight their way through obstacles. If it becomes too dangerous for British forces to operate, that is to say, if the level of risk is too high with regard to the objectives, they will be pulled back either to defensive positions or absolutely.

We have not provided air cover of the kind to which the hon. and learned Member referred because that is relevant only to the kind of operations on which our troops are not to be asked to embark. If it reaches that level of risk, they will be pulled back. There is another point. Air cover of the kind for which he is calling is appropriate only if it is continuous—that is to say, large numbers of aircraft flying up and down the column. That is not what we are contemplating. Moreover, says I, warming to my theme, the risk that we are facing is mortar fire or rocket attack from within urban areas. I cannot believe that Tornados or other aircraft are an appropriate response to that kind of risk.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman burns himself out, will he contemplate the following circumstances, which are not so extravagant as to be unreasonable? Let us imagine British troops engaged in the escort of refugees, as was proposed at the weekend. They are ambushed and encircled. Withdrawal in the terms used both by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is not possible. In such circumstances, why should not the senior commander on the ground have available to him —not flying up and down the column—from nearby NATO air bases, forces from which he can call down air strikes so that he can effect the withdrawal that the Minister postulates?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. and learned Gentleman needs to contemplate another point. We are not in the business of fighting through obstacles. We are in the business of negotiating passage. Anything else is bound to fail because it will run to a war. Therefore, the British troops will have to assess in advance whether what they are contemplating doing can be done with reasonable safety having regard to the forces that are available. If they cannot do it, they will not do it.

Mr. Macdonald

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hogg

No. I cannot give way because I have only four minutes left.

I shall now address one or two specific points, of which perhaps the most important is sanctions. I think that the House misunderstands the position. Much of the sanctions regime has been very successful. Serbian trade is down 40 per cent., industrial production is down 50 per cent., unemployment is up 60 per cent. and inflation is acute. Therefore, the pressure on the Serbian economy is real, but that said, I accept that there has been a greater flow of oil and petrol into Serbia than we would wish. We are seeking to address that, in two ways.

First, and this is the product of the United Kingdom presidency, we are employing sanctions monitors in various adjoining countries. Secondly, and much more important, is the resolution being adopted today, which will deal with transhipment. There are two kinds of transhipment for these purposes—down the Danube, and through Serbia to other countries. Our purpose is to stop both and to enforce the provisions that will be contained in that regime. This will make a considerable difference to the availability of oil and petrol in Serbia. We shall come back to this if we deem it necessary because we must deny oil and petrol to the Serbian Government.

I shall deal now with the visas issue, which has troubled a number of right hon. and hon. Members for reasons that I well understand. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary made the position clear on 5 November. What we have decided is that, in common with all other EC countries of note, a visa regime is justified for the kind of reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) outlined. But at the same time we have said that there will be a regime for admitting persons to this country who are identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ICRC.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 37, Noes 166.

Division No. 87] [9.59 pm
Ainger, Nick Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Dafis, Cynog
Barnes, Harry Flynn, Paul
Bayley, Hugh Foster, Don (Bath)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hall, Mike
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Harvey, Nick
Cormack, Patrick Hoey, Kate
Cryer, Bob Hood, Jimmy
Hutton, John Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Johnston, Sir Russell Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Trimble, David
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Tyler, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Wallace, James
Llwyd, Elfyn Wicks, Malcolm
Lynne, Ms Liz Wigley, Dafydd
Macdonald, Calum
Madden, Max Tellers for the Ayes:
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Mr. Simon Hughes and Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Short, Clare
Alexander, Richard Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Amess, David Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Ancram, Michael Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Arbuthnot, James Hague, William
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Hargreaves, Andrew
Ashby, David Harris, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Haselhurst, Alan
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Hawkins, Nick
Bates, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Beresford, Sir Paul Heald, Oliver
Blackburn, Dr John G. Heathcoat-Amory, David
Body, Sir Richard Hendry, Charles
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hicks, Robert
Booth, Hartley Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Boswell, Tim Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Horam, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bowis, John Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Brandreth, Gyles Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Brazier, Julian Hunter, Andrew
Bright, Graham Jenkin, Bernard
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Jessel, Toby
Browning, Mrs. Angela Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Burns, Simon Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Burt, Alistair Kilfedder, Sir James
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Kirkhope, Timothy
Carrington, Matthew Knapman, Roger
Carttiss, Michael Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Chapman, Sydney Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Clappison, James Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Legg, Barry
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Colvin, Michael Lidington, David
Congdon, David Lightbown, David
Conway, Derek Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Lord, Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Luff, Peter
Cran, James MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) MacKay, Andrew
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) McLoughlin, Patrick
Davis, David (Boothferry) Madel, David
Day, Stephen Maitland, Lady Olga
Deva, Nirj Joseph Malone, Gerald
Devlin, Tim Mans, Keith
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Dover, Den Merchant, Piers
Duncan, Alan Milligan, Stephen
Duncan-Smith, Iain Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Elletson, Harold Nelson, Anthony
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Neubert, Sir Michael
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Fabricant, Michael Norris, Steve
Fenner, Dame Peggy Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Fishburn, Dudley Pickles, Eric
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Porter, David (Waveney)
Forth, Eric Powell, William (Corby)
Freeman, Roger Richards, Rod
French, Douglas Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Gale, Roger Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Gallie, Phil Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Gillan, Cheryl Shaw, David (Dover)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Gorst, John Sims, Roger
Skinner, Dennis Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Walden, George
Speed, Sir Keith Waller, Gary
Spencer, Sir Derek Ward, John
Spink, Dr Robert Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sproat, Iain Waterson, Nigel
Stephen, Michael Watts, John
Stern, Michael Wells, Bowen
Stewart, Allan Wheeler, Sir John
Streeter, Gary Whittingdale, John
Sweeney, Walter Widdecombe, Ann
Sykes, John Wilkinson, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Willetts, David
Thomason, Roy Wilshire, David
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Yeo, Tim
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Trend, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Trotter, Neville Mr. Irvine Patrick and Mr. Tim Wood.
Twinn, Dr Ian

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to he agreed to.

Resolved, That this House congratulates the European Community and notably Her Majesty's Government in its capacity as Presidency on its unremitting work for a solution of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia; is appalled by the continuing slaughter in Bosnia-Herzegovina; is deeply concerned about the impact of winter in Sarajevo and other cities and the need to ensure the safe passage of relief supplies to them; expresses its warm support for the work of British troops in providing protective support for relief convoys and is reassured to know that they will have the full right to self-defence; condemns the barbarous policy of ethnic cleansing; calls for the effective policing of the Danube to enforce sanctions; welcomes Her Majesty's Government's response to the refugee problem; is deeply concerned that the conflict may spread to Kosovo and Macedonia; and makes clear its strong support for the work of the international conference on the former Yugoslavia under the leadership of Lord Owen and Mr. Cyrus Vance.