§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I beg to move,That this House calls for a reassessment of relations with the Arab world, in particular supporting the lifting of sanctions by the United Nations against Libya, encouraging the re-establishment of direct air-flights and diplomatic relations between London and Tripoli, discussions on the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 bombing, and the 1986 bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi, by Crown Office and Libyan lawyers, the lifting of sanctions by the United Nations against Iraq and the establishment of a United Nations Conference on the supply of arms across frontiers; and calls on the Minister of State at the Foreign Office to make an interim response on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to the allegations broadcast on the Dispatches programme on Channel Four on 25th November relating to Sarkis Soghanalian, Wafic Said, Prince Banda, Nhad Ghadry, Howard Teicher and Mark Thatcher.A Friday in Parliament can be a day for dissenting and unpopular opinions to be heard.
I shall present my credentials for being entitled to such views—something that I have never done before in more than 30 years as a Member of this House—because the motion contains propositions that may be as ill-received by some Members on the Opposition Front Bench as by Ministers.
Both my parents spoke fluent Arabic. Fred Pearce, the author of a remarkable book "The Dammed", has written:Only early this century did Sir William Willcocks, Britain's top imperial Victorian water engineer of the day, attempt to recreate the ancient irrigation systems, and in so doing fashioned much of modern Iraq. Central to his plan was the Hindaya barrage, completed in 1914.My father was Willcock's military secretary and I have childhood memories of being taken to see my dad's friends, such as Freya Stark, the intrepid traveller, and Sir Leonard Woolley, the archaeologist of Ur of the Chaldees and excavator of the ziggurat at Ur. My father subsequently worked on the staff of Sir Percy Cox, who set up Kuwait.
On my honeymoon, when I was lucky enough to go to Egypt, I was invited to the private house of President Nasser—as was his wont—at midnight. I confess to being charmed by him. Sadly, he said, "We know that your mother and father spoke Arabic. Don't you think that you ought to learn?" My excuse is that British politics did not allow it. Albeit a non-Arabic speaker, with the perspective of having been influenced by the Israeli-oriented Dick Crossman, when I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary, I shall gently offer some proposals in keeping with my lifelong knowledge of, respect for and friendship with Arab people.
First, we should seek a new relationship with Libya, or rather return to our traditional friendship.
Yes, the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher was a crime. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. 1098 Taylor) in the House—on this occasion I shall call him my hon. Friend because his relationship with Libya has been entirely honourable and potentially to the great benefit of our country. I look forward with extreme interest to his speech.
Yes, the destruction of Gaddafi's home in Tripoli, the killing of his three-year-old daughter and the bombing of working-class homes in Benghazi in 1986 by bombers based in Britain was also a crime. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant)—whom I am especially glad to see in the House, as he has done so much good for Britain in many areas of the third world—will have more to say about that.
Yes, Lockerbie—as David Leppard put it in his book, "On the Trail of Terror"—was the biggest crime against western civilians since 1945. I went there.
Young policemen from the Lothian and Borders police, from my area, helped to clear up the human horror, I would not wish to be told that I underrate Lockerbie in any way.
But we should ask ourselves the mirror image question: would we British hand over to the Libyan judicial system—which, incidentally, has impressed those hard-headed Edinburgh lawyers involved—two Britons accused on evidence that has never been presented and which, in relation to Malta, has raised doubts in the minds of such men as Dr. Jim Swire and Father Patrick Keegans, of Sherwood crescent in Lockerbie, the men who have lost most?
If Jim Swire can go and meet Colonel Gaddafi and they can talk movingly about their lost daughters, so can the British Government proffer the hand of reconciliation. I ask the Minister of State to say something about his meeting with Dr. Swire on Monday, which I greatly welcomed.
The leader in The Scotsman of 14 November put it succinctly when it said:The other major concern has been the way in which blame for the outrage has been pinned exclusively on Libya. There are well founded suspicions that Syria and Iran were implicated in the plot and that Iran may indeed have instigated the bombing. Yet officially the role of these two countries was swept under the carpet. It is therefore a step forward that the US president-elect, Bill Clinton, has told the family of an American victim that he intends to ensure that the question of Iranian and Syrian involvement will be addressed and fully answered.What will the Government say to the new American Administration on this subject? The leader continued:There will be an opportunity to broach the subject of tightening the UN sanctions after next month's meeting of the sanctions review committee; but any attempt to harden the economic stranglehold on Libya should be resisted until Clinton has had time to act on his promise and the role of Syria and Iran has been properly exposed.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I note my hon. Friend's reaction. What is the Government's reaction to this? The leader also stated:Libya, with friends, makes a convenient scapegoat--rather than stirring up trouble with two Middle Eastern states who are of greater importance to Western policy in the region. One can argue that this is realpolitik but that is no answer. Britain and the US owe it to the victims and their families to attempt to uncover the real circumstances and call the culprits to account. Clinton is right to want the truth—the whole truth —surrounding the Lockerbie bombing to be uncovered.As was said at great length on Wednesday in European Standing Committee B, when my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) was present on the Front 1099 Bench, there are grave concerns about the role of Iran and Syria in this matter. We should remember that one of the two accused, through his wife, has far more close relations with the terrorist gangs of Beirut than he has with Tripoli. There is a big question as to whether the Libyan state was involved at all.
I want to refer to another article in The Scotsman under the byline of Alan Hutchison—I have checked it with Father Keegans himself, the Catholic priest in Lockerbie, who has just been to the United States. The article states:Fr Keegans claimed: 'The British and American governments want it all finished and parcelled up neatly. They have no real intention of bringing the Libyans to trial. I think they are just making noises.The cat does not want to catch the mouse because the mouse would not just squeal, but scream and implicate Syria, Iran, Bush and Thatcher. 'That is Father Keegans' quote, not my gloss on it. If that is what the priest at Lockerbie thinks, I think that there should be an explanation of the agreement that has been widely reported, attributed to March 1989, between Mrs Thatcher and the United States President, Mr. Bush, to play Lockerbie down. What is the truth or otherwise of that? What was said between those two?
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
Would it not be much easier to get at the truth if the Libyans were willing to send those who have been accused of this crime to the United Kingdom? It is all very well for the Libyans to shield them and then for the hon. Gentleman to weave his story, but it would be much better if those men faced British justice, which is known throughout the world to be impartial.
§ Mr. Dalyell
One answer to that question was given in European Standing Committee B on Wednesday. There are complications because if that was done Colonel Gaddafi might well be toppled in favour of militant Islam, because one of those accused is a member of the tribe of Major Jalloud, Colonel Gaddafi's very powerful second in-command. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham knows what I am on about.
The other answer to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) is possibly a much easier one. If evidence were not presented, what would the hon. Gentleman say if two of his London constituents were dispatched by the British Government to Tripoli in the circumstances of the mirror image? I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has made as powerful a point as usual.
I believe that the Crown Office, about which, as the longest serving Member representing Scotland, I am pained to be deeply, deeply critical, should initiate a dialogue with Libyan lawyers on neutral territory. A year has passed since I went to see the then Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, to urge that action, but we are no further forward.
As my motion says, I believe that we should re-establish diplomatic relations with Tripoli. The Libyans, whose ancestors were among the greatest artists of the Roman empire and builders of the incomparable Leptis Magna, are a cultured people, yearning for contact with Britain, where many of them were educated.
If we had treated the Libyans with greater understanding and dignity in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it was my impression from the visit that was organised through the good offices of my hon. Friend the 1100 Member for Tottenham last year that the Libyans might never have been so misinformed as to become involved with the IRA in the first place. That would not have happened if we had remained, sensibly, on good relations with them.
We should re-establish direct air flights between London and Tripoli, both on the basis of medical need —about which my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham may talk, because he has raised the matter in the House frequently—and the needs of the 5,000 British citizens working in Libya. I do not just quote my opinion, because I telephoned and talked with Viscount Weir, the head of G and J Weir and Company Pumps, not exactly a pillar of the Labour party. The quote that we agreed that I should read out in the House from William Weir reads as follows:I find little merit in posturing where trade is concerned and —in common with many exporters—prefer taking, as you do, a pragmatic and practical line in cases like Libya. Given our present balance of trade, little purpose is served in cutting off important markets of that kind when foreign competitors will supply them if we don't.That is the view of one major industrialist.
I spoke about the matter last night with Gordon Law, managing director of Babcock and Wilcox. I have also raised with the Prime Minister the views of John Lacey, Babcock's managing director. So it is clear that yet another major British engineering firm other than Weir believes that we should re-establish relations and gain at least something from participating in some of the great projects that are taking place there, such as the great, ecologically sound man-made river project.
As the motion says, we urge the United Nations and the United States Administration to lift sanctions. I hope that next week, with the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) being first on the list, we shall return to the subject of the position of the United Nations.
I come to the question of Iraq, as raised in the motion. I begin from a totally different departure point from my Front Bench, though not from some of my hon. Friends who are here today and who care and know most about the issues of which I speak. I knew perfectly well that we were exporting considerable quantities of arms to Iraq. I knew from a UN official, for example, that he had to queue for his breakfast in the restaurant of the Rashid hotel in Baghdad, so packed was the place with arms salesman from Europe, including Britain.
I have been concerned for a long time with the question of arms sales. I recall the occasion in December 1979 when, on the Consolidated Fund Bill at 5.12 in the morning, I raised the subject of the joint centrifuge project at Almelo. I began my speech by saying:Remembering Alan Nunn May, Bruno Pontecorvo, the Rosenbergs and even Klaus Fuchs, with his overall grasp of the concept of the physics of the atom bomb, it is arguable whether any of them, or, indeed, all of them together, jeopardised world peace to a greater extent than the activities, in the second half of the 1970s, of Dr. Abel Qader Khan.Certainly the effect of anything that Anthony Blunt may have done pales into trivial insignificance compared with the probable results of Dr. Khan's handiwork.We now have the real threat of regional nuclear confrontation in Asia or the Arab world, laying a powder trail to a possible world holocaust.So-called vertical proliferation is one thing. More nuclear weapons in the same hands do not necessarily increase the likelihood of nuclear war.That is why, even at 10 minutes past 5 o'clock in the morning, I do not apologise to an Under-Secretary, who has 1101 been very good-tempered and had to wait a long time for this Consolidated Fund debate, for keeping him out of his well-deserved bed and rest.The then Under-Secretary of State for Energy, who replied to me at 5.47 in the morning, was one Mr. Norman Lamont, who began:The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Da lyell) certainly need not apologise in any way for keeping the House up at this late hour. He has raised an extremely serious matter. I assure him that the Government share the concern that he has expressed today. We consider that the consequences of what has happened are potentially very far-reaching.The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give me a copy of his speech—in advance."—[Official Report, 18 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 565.]I refer to that debate not so that I can say "I told you so," but to show that I am not a Johnny-come-lately on this subject. I am anxious to recall that 13 years ago the Government said that they were concerned about the matter.
Throughout the 1980s I used to chat about such matters with my friend, then and now, Alan Clark—hardly the most secretive of parliamentary colleagues. I say bluntly that nobody in the House— of any party, on any Bench or in the Press Gallery—has an excuse for saying, if he or she claims to have a modicum of interest in Arab affairs, that we did not know what was going on.
A particular aspect of the whole situation puzzles me. If one does not want to export arms and arms-making material to a country such as Iraq, one does not have i n the Government, let alone anywhere near the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Trade and Industry, a man like Alan Clark. What on earth could anybody believe he would do? He has never made any secret of what he thinks. The fact that he was there at all seems absolutely to undermine any excuse that any Minister, be he the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister, might have for saying that he did not know.
I did not know what I understand to be the now held view of Dr. Ekeus that exports reinforce one's capacity to make chemical weapons. Can the Minister say whether the Iraqi capacity to make chemical weapons was reinforced? While I do not know the answer to that question, I must make the general point that if I and many others knew all that, how on earth can the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister now say that they did not know?
In particular, what about 29 September 1989 when the Prime Minister had a meeting with Tariq Aziz? What explanation does the Foreign Office have for its apparent failure to brief the Prime Minister? A wry, informal Foreign Office explanation is that "We were so busy trying to teach the new Foreign Secretary where Africa was that we may not properly have briefed him." But that will not do. Frankly, the Prime Minister is quick on the uptake and I cannot believe that what we have been told represents any sort of convincing explanation.
How could such competent people—I refer to private secretaries in the Foreign Office private office—apparently not do what they clearly should have done? It must have been regarded as a crucial briefing, and not to have briefed the Foreign Secretary seems a dereliction of their professional duty. One does not send a Foreign Secretary to see Tariq Aziz without telling him of the various problems, especially problems of such a sensitive nature.
Will the Government comment on the allegations published in The Sunday Times on 22 November by Mr. Mark Higson, a former Iraq desk officer in the 1102 Foreign Office, who described how he and other Government officials connived at the export of arms-making equipment to Iraq?
Will the Minister confirm that Mr. Higson worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1989 and that among his responsibilities was the vetting of licence applications for exports to Iraq by British companies, including Matrix Churchill?
Will the Minister confirm that that happened while the present Prime Minister was Foreign Secretary? Why was he not aware that the exporting of arms-making equipment was going on? Mr. Higson is quoted as saying that the export of munitions-making equipment to Iraq in which he connived was unacceptable. Was it the view of Ministers and other officials at the time that, as Mr. Higson says:The whole system was deeply flawed. The policy was bent to facilitate the export of machine tools"?An explanation must be given about what the current Foreign Office thinks about the views of its own desk officer.
Alan Clark has played ducks and drakes with my parliamentary colleagues on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. Much of his evidence was simply not true and not what he knew to be the truth. That view is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Hoyle), a member of the Select Committee and the present chairman of the parliamentary Labour party. I have his authority to say that we are both extremely curious about the Government's view of Mr. Clark's evidence to the Select Committee.
Will the Select Committee do anything about being flouted? Indeed, has it the power to do anything about it? It at least owes it to the House to invite Mr. Clark back and tell him that he owes it an explanation and to ask him how he accounts for what he told it.
The sad conclusion that I have drawn is that the Select Committee system—I know that this is the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who is present—is totally inadequate in such situations.
Alan Clark, like Leon Brittan, was relaxed about cocking a snook at the Select Committee. A properly constituted court of law, however, even for the buccaneering Alan Clark, was a different kettle of fish and he seems to have thought it prudent not to commit perjury.
Reluctantly, I concede to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he is right to say that Parliament cannot do the necessary job and that we need a council of tribunals under the 1921 Act. I say "reluctantly" because the setting up of an inquiry is too often a parliamentary cop out for a job that we ourselves should be doing. However, when one looks at what happened over Westland and what Alan Clark has done to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, one must ask whether Select Committee powers should be extended and whether Parliament should look at how we operate in those crunch cases.
Ministers are being so coy about what they knew for a basically simple reason. If all that arms-making equipment was going to Iraq, did it not give Saddam the wrong signals? Why did they not approach their excellent customer on the basis of dignity before threatening war over Kuwait?
One of the reasons why 37 of us voted on the Adjournment against the war when the House was recalled was, as I put it at the time, because the Nelson eye had 1103 been turned on arms sales to Iraq. I shall believe to my dying day that a settlement could have been arrived at over Kuwait and the Gulf war could have been avoided had there been a proper approach to Saddam.
§ Mr Dalyell
I register the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham assents to that.
The tragedy was that on 9 and 10 August the former Prime Minister was at Aspen, Colorado, and was able to contact President Bush and say something along the lines —there was evidence of this on the front page of the Daily Express of 10 August—"George, don't be a wimp. George, be a man!" The dithering Americans—or the uncertain Americans, because I do not wish to be critical of them as they were not sure what to do—reacted along lines on which they could not go back and we were plunged into what became the Gulf war.
Coming to the final part of the motion, I had many criticisms of the former Prime Minister about Zircon, the miners' strike, Westland, and aspects of the Falklands, but I never once raised the question of Mark Thatcher and Oman, partly because I did not know and partly because I found it distasteful to bring a person's family into the argument.
However, on Wednesday night, an important "Dispatches" programme by Box Productions was shown which must have been watched by more than 2 million people. The issues that it raised go to the heart of Government. The matter cannot be left hanging but must be cleared up. I cannot believe that the programme was broadcast without a tooth-comb of libel lawyers having gone through it.
It is not simply a question of getting at the former Prime Minister. The Iraqis might have been forgiven for being surprised at the west's reaction when they knew that Mark Thatcher was up to the neck in selling them arms-making equipment. There is a good deal of circumstantial evidence that they jumped to the conclusion that, if Mark Thatcher was involved, the general policy had the imprimatur of Prime Ministerial approval.
I should like to ask, therefore, some specific questions.
First, are the Government aware that an executive of the defence company, United Scientific, introduced Mark Thatcher to the arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian in the autumn of 1983 as part of its efforts to win a contract to sell night vision devices, ultimately to be used by Iraq?
Secondly, will the Government confirm or deny that Prince Banda, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, personally presented a letter to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from King Fand of Saudi Arabia in 1985 and that that letter made it implicitly clear that commissions would be paid as part of the Al-Yamamah deal between Saudi Arabia and Britain, involving the sale of Tornado jets and other defence equipment to Saudi Arabia?
Thirdly, will the Government explain the purpose of that letter from King Fand to Prime Minister Thatcher? Will they explain why Mrs. Thatcher dealt with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and not the Saudi ambassador to Britain while negotiating the Al-Yamamah deal?
1104 Fourthly, will the Government confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher received approximately £10 million soon after the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the Al-Yamamah deal in September 1985 and that the agreement on the deal specified that he would receive a further approximately £10 million subsequently?
Fifthly, will the Government confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher and a Saudi Arabian middle man involved in the deal, whose name was Wafic Said, paid income tax on money which they earned from the Al-Yamamah deal?
Sixthly, are the Government aware that, for some time in 1989, Mark Thatcher lived in a house at 34 Eaton terrace while that house was owned by Formugul, a Panamanian company linked with Saudi Arabian business man, Wafic Said, who played a role in the Al-Yamamah deal?
Finally, can the Government confirm or deny that Mr. Christopher Prentice, a Foreign Office official working in the British embassy in Washington in the mid-1980s, was aware that Mark Thatcher was involved in the Al-Yamamah deal?
Those are serious and carefully-thought-out questions. Anyone who watched the programme cannot possibly suppose that the matter can simply be left in the air.
It must be remembered that, at the time, many people in the Foreign Office and in Britain saw Saddam Hussein as, in a sense, the successor of the Shah and as the gendarme of this country's and the west's interests. I quite agree that it is against that Khomeini background that my questions should be addressed, but addressed they must be. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am an apologist for Saddam Hussein, may I say that, at the time, it was thought that Saddam Hussein was better than President Assad of Syria. When we consider what the Al-Sabah family has done to the Palestinians in Kuwait, we see that we should not rush to make moral judgments.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I had not realised that my hon. Friend had finished the Mark Thatcher saga. I think that he may have missed one question. If someone finishes up making £10 million in commissions, might it not be reasonable to ask whether he was trained for the job and served an apprenticeship for it? The thing that puzzles me, as I am sure it does my hon. Friend, is that Mark Thatcher was an erstwhile rally driver. He got lost in the desert, then found himself in another part of the desert making loads of money out of arms dealing as a result of his mother being the Prime Minister. That looks odd—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is going on far too long. I think that he has made his point.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am an extremely cautious man and I think that I had better stick to my careful questions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has made his point, and I shall leave it at that.
But there must be answers to my questions, and to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. It simply will not do to pass by on the other side of the road. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country have seen the film. If Box Productions has it wrong, heaven help it in the courts. But if no legal action is taken, what are our fellow people to think?
1105 I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover will excuse me if I do not pursue his line of argument but merely say that I do not think that those issues can simply be left to Lord Justice Scott. There is a suggestion of the problem being kicked into touch. I thought that it was profoundly unsatisfactory when, on this Wednesday, during Foreign Office questions, the Foreign Secretary did not answer direct questions about the right hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) which, had he the will to do so, he could easily have answered. They were questions of relatively simple fact.
One issue was most succinctly put by the chairman of the Bar Council, Anthony Scrivener, QC, who, writing in The Independent, said:There remains one simple unexplained fact in the Iraq arms case. Whoever read the confidential documents would have known that it was improper to proceed with the prosecution.Why was the prosecution then not dropped instead of it being pursued, presumably in the hope that the judge would not allow the documents to be disclosed at the trial?Many of our fellow countrymen are extremely puzzled and want an urgent explanation as to how three men from Matrix Churchill were faced with the serious threat of imprisonment.
The motion calls for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and for discussions in the United Nations on that issue. I rest my case on two submissions, one of which is from Mohammed Arif, the secretary of the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation. He said:Nearly two years have passed since the Gulf war, yet the region remains as turbulent as ever and the toll of human suffering continues to mount.In particular, Iraq continues to be subject to an almost unprecedented regime of sanction and blockade. Whatever the rights and wrongs of previous actions by any side to the dispute, it is our view that sanctions can no longer be justified on political, moral or legal grounds. There is no mandate for the removal of the Iraqi regime by outside forces and, moreover, no evidence has been produced to suggest that the regime's internal position has been weakened, and furthermore, the United Nations appears to be of a view that there have been efforts by Iraq to comply with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.The real victims of the continuing sanctions against Iraq are the most vulnerable members of that society—the old, the sick and wounded, the poor and, above all, children. According to various sources, up to 250,000 Iraqi children may have died. Civilian dwellings, schools, hospitals, sewage works and water, electricity and telecommunications facilities all suffered from war time bombings. Sanctions are preventing the restoration of these facilities, contributing in turn to the spread of hunger and disease. The environment in general has been severely damaged. The lack of medicine, drugs, anaesthetics, water purification materials and so on are leading to countless unnecessary deaths. In September this year, the renowned Norwegian child psychiatrist Professor Magnei Raundalen reported that he had found in Iraq 'a traumatised child population beyond any that he had ever seen.Much of what I have said has not merely come with hindsight. I had a Commons debate on the "ecological consequences of the gulf war" before it ever happened.
The British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation continued:Those suffering from the sanctions are not the strong but the vulnerable members of society who have no say in political matters, including those of war and peace. We call for the immediate lifting of sanctions against Iraq, with priority to helping ensure the supply of food, medicine and other humanitarian requirements. We also call for the right of Iraqi children who cannot be adequately treated at home to be 1106 enabled to receive hospital and recuperative treatment in countries where the relevant specialised resources and facilities are available.It is now clear that there were times when the members of the government were not averse to supplying Iraq with the instruments of war and death. Now is the time to help enable the Iraqi people to receive some of the tools of life and peace.That is the view of members of our society who take such matters extremely seriously.
§ Mr. Bernie Grant
Is my hon. Friend aware that I went on a trip to Iraq, before the war started, with the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation and with Mr. Mohammed Arif? While we were there, we met members of the revolutionary command council and various organisations in Baghdad. All those organisations were keen for a negotiated settlement. Is not it strange that, two years after the war, the people of Iraq are still suffering? There seems to be little impact on the Government of Iraq, although that was supposed to be the point of the policy of the western forces. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation on its steadfast work in the area?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Certainly I congratulate that organisation. My hon. Friend talked to me about his visit before and after he went, and I think that it was an extremely important visit.
I have friends in the Shia community. I will not name them, for self-evident reasons, but I will talk privately to the Minister about them. Those friends say that, although they have cause not to love Saddam Hussein, they realise that the imposition of sanctions entrenches rather than weakens the hold of the hard-liners of the Baathist party and of Saddam Hussein on the Government of Iraq. If the object is to remove Saddam Hussein, consideration should be given to the lifting of sanctions.
I now turn to the recommendations of Christian Aid as presented by David Hampson, who is responsible for Gulf matters and for the Kurdish situation. Christian Aid says:The picture is complicated, but Christian Aid would recommend the international community should:Separate issues of humanitarian aid from the military, economic and political issues unresolved at the end of hostilities.Separate international claims for war compensation from humanitarian relief.Direct humanitarian relief to Iraq on the same basis of need employed in other countries.Urgently review all sanctions which disproportionately and dangerously harm vulnerable sections of Iraqi society.Invest urgently, and under emergency budget lines, to meet the immediate needs of the agricultural, infrastructural and administrative sectors of the de facto autonomous areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. The alternative is annual winter disaster amongst the Kurdish, Christian and Turcoman population.I hope that thought will be given to the lifting of sanctions.
The motion refers to a United Nations conference on the supply of arms across frontiers. I will truncate a lot of what might be said by referring to the speech on Monday by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) in which he urged action on arms sales.
The United Kingdom remains hopelessly dependent on defence production. In round terms, the figures are that defence supports 50 per cent. of the aerospace industry, 40 per cent. of shipbuilding and 30 per cent. of electronics. The Office of Public Service and Science suggests that a 1107 move from military contracts to civil projects will be much harder for thousands of small contractors than was believed.
Let us not forget that behind all the argument revealed in the Matrix Churchill case is trade in the tools of death and chaos.
In the Westminster and Whitehall scales, it is possible for jobs saved at home to balance wars fuelled abroad. That is the black art of justification, which can be persuasive, but is also profoundly sad.
I am aware of the letter to The Times by Simon Brown, the director general of the Machine Tool Technologies Association. He says:Certainly the government should urgently co-ordinate its respective departments in one unified voice instead of having investigated three individuals, causing the loss of almost 1,000 jobs at the Matrix Churchill site.It is incumbent on the government to address the whole subject of export licence procedures forthwith and clarify the situation as soon as possible especially as far as dual-use technology is concerned.The Department of Trade and Industry and other government departments must ensure that such events are not repeated. Justice prevailed, but at an extremely high and unnecessary cost to all concerned.The arms problem cannot be resolved in one country. The sad fact is that the five members of the Security Council of the United Nations are the five largest suppliers of arms in the world. Some of us are active in Labour Action for Peace and in other organisations that have addressed themselves to the problem. Surely the time has come. Good will come out of all the argument on Iraqgate, as it is generically termed, if, at long last, the attention of the House of Commons is fixed on the terrible problem of what to do about armaments. Shakespeare had the words for it when he wrote, "Now thrive the armourers". I fear that that is still the case. Unless we tackle the problem, many other unresolved problems will come to haunt us.
§ Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)
Morning sittings of the House are an abomination and interfere unnecessarily with one's lifestyle. I hope that the Leader of the House does not consider that more are necessary. My comment should not be taken as a criticism of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who customarily engages the interest and the respect of the House—although that does not mean that Conservative Members share all his conclusions.
On Monday, we heard much about the Matrix Churchill case. The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a judicial review during which all the questions can be asked. My understanding is that the judge can call for any documentation if he considers it to be in the public interest to do so. I believe that we should leave it at that.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow adopted a very reasonable tone. He had researched his questions well, unlike so many of his colleagues on Monday. I am not saying that some of his colleagues were encouraged to tell lies on the subject on Monday, but I believe that it was possible that they were telling half truths. I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you find that comment half acceptable.
The speech by the hon. Member for Linlithgow was something of a tour de force—I hope that my hon. Friend 1108 the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) will excuse my attempt at French. On Monday, we heard about the arming of Argentina by a Labour Government in the 1970s. I know that the hon. Member for Linlithgow has a particular interest in Argentina and in what I prefer to call the Falkland islands. On more than one occasion I have heard him mention a ship called, I believe, the Belgrano. It would be interesting to carry out research to find out whether the Belgrano was armed with weaponry that had been supplied by a British Labour Government. However, I have not carried out that research. Although I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's conclusions, I enjoyed his speech. With regard to Libya, I remind him that if someone lets us down once, he will let us down again. I suspect that that applies to the present leader of Libya.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I concede that. I do not know whether the Belgrano carried British equipment, but the escort certainly did.
§ Mr. Knapman
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making his position clear.
I am not sure whether I am allowed to refer to the motion standing in my name on the Order Paper today. Fortunately, some of the motions on the Order Paper have certain similarities and I hope that you will not feel that I am trespassing, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I prefer to dwell on what I believe to be a constant friend in the middle east—a country with which we have an historical friendship. In the world today, where we seem to have great visions and grand designs and a constant need for new alliances, I hope that we will remember to concentrate on the friends with whom we have had ties over many decades—the English-speaking world, the Commonwealth, the United States of American and Jordan.
At the present time, Jordan faces many problems. It is an Arab country without oil, and an Arab country without oil is like Britain without its civil service. There are just 4 million people in Jordan and of those perhaps 1 million are refugees from what I call the west bank. Can we imagine what would happen in this country if 25 per cent. of the population had arrived as refugees and had to be assimilated? Can we imagine the problems that that would cause in our schools, hospitals and infrastructure?
The ill-judged war by Saddam Hussein, to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow referred, affected Jordan far more seriously than any other country. In addition to the refugees, at the outbreak of war the markets traditionally enjoyed by Jordan in Kuwait, the Gulf states and Iraq amounted to 70 per cent of its available external trade. Seventy per cent. of its markets were lost virtually overnight.
That was not all the bad news two years ago. Jordan has had a traditionally high standard of education. It has treated its educational system as a means of providing "the software" for economic recovery in the middle east. It has trained huge numbers of engineers, scientists and teachers. Many of them were working in the countries most closely involved in the war. As a result of the war, there were 300,000 returnees. The social consequences of that were quite devastating and the effect on remittance via pay packets back home was also very serious.
For so many years, Jordan and Israel have been negotiating over water supplies. It is ironic and perhaps a very good lesson for us that United Nations resolutions 1109 and international negotiations are not all about airy-fairy things. In the end, the general agreement on tariffs and trade plan did not depend on bread; it depended on oilseed rape, something even more mundane than bread. It is quite likely that the middle eastern negotiations will depend not, I am happy to say, on oilseed rape but on water.
In addition to those problems, during and after the war that tiny country of 4 million people had 1 million refugees from Iraq in transit across its territory, mainly going to Aqaba. That surely puts our problems with Bosnia into perspective. I suggest that, at the present time, Jordan does not have a lot going for it in a material sense.
I wish now to refer to a report in The Times on 24 November because there is criticism of Jordan al the present time. That report stated:Jordan's prince of peace unfurls the banner of reason.The report refers to Crown Prince Hassan who last night made the annual Winston Churchill address to the English Speaking Union, I believe, although I have not yet seen a copy of his speech. The report stated:Some MPs tried but failed to blackball the invitation.There are no details about such a blackball, and it was obviously unsuccessful, but if the report is true, I for one would be ashamed. The Crown Prince has made it quite plain that his main great problem is that his rational approach to the 44-year Arab-Israeli conflict may fail to win over the Islamic extremists and Palestinian radicals who pose the main threat to Jordan's stability. Those are problems that we should bear in mind before we criticise. The problems that I have described would have ground the spirit of lesser countries, perhaps not so much into the mud as into the dust. As hon. Members will know, disputes in the middle east are as intractable as the problems in Northern Ireland and they date from a great deal earlier.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State tell me why, with all those problems, that tiny nation is such a key player in the middle east? Why are its views so keenly sought by its larger and more powerful neighbours? Could it be that the key to Jordan's success is that it is a stable regime in an area of turbulence? One could say that it is an oasis of sanity in an area of shifting tendencies.
A key factor in that stability is the personality of His Majesty King Hussein. Britain and Jordan share a remarkable coincidence: this year, both our monarch and the King of Jordan have celebrated the 40th anniversaries of their reigns. In the latter's case, he gained the throne when he was very young; he has survived many assassination attempts; and he has a daily and constant need to deploy tact and diplomacy as his rivals are larger, better armed and have more money. That has been the lot of the King of Jordan for four decades. In those circumstances, the House would agree that an occasional annus horribilis was bound to occur. However, largely as a result of his dedication and consistency, there is sometimes an annus mirabilis.
Some people blame Jordan for its part in the Iraq war two years ago. They do that partly because they do not understand the association between Jordan and Iraq. As the King has said, we must remember that the quarrel was not with the Iraqi people but with Saddam Hussein. We should remember that the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan at one time ruled both Jordan and Iraq. We must also remember that in Jordan 92 per cent. of the population are 1110 Sunni Muslim. Who could say how we would have reacted in those circumstances? No wonder Jordan was so frantic to negotiate a peace.
Those frantic efforts to negotiate peace, which were so well reported at the time, were quickly forgotten because they were unsuccessful. They were unsuccessful because it was a case of the logical pursuing the illogical. History so often proves that one cannot reason with a dictator and we should certainly not criticise the Jordanian authorities for their failure in that respect.
For those reasons, I hope that we will be sympathetic to Jordan and its people. Sympathy alone is helpful—but not very helpful. Sympathy with some practical help would be more important. Perhaps I can suggest four different ways in which sympathy, together with some practical assistance, may help. First, as I said, Jordan will play a role in peace talks out of all relation to its size. Does my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister agree that Jordan is a positive force for democracy and plurality? I hope that that is the case.
I understand that Jordan is one of the first countries to set an agenda in the middle eastern talks. Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that an agenda has been set—which is unusual in Arab-Israeli talks—under the heading "Terms of Endearment"? Let us hope that that is an appropriate heading. The draft agenda reportedly commits Israel and Jordan to seek just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the Arab states, the Palestinians and Israel based on the terms of reference contained in the invitations to the Madrid conference. Will Jordan and Israel take steps to arrive at a state of peace that is based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338? Will Israel and Jordan refrain from actions that may adversely affect each other's security and which could pre-judge the final outcome of negotiations?
Another part of the agenda is that Jordan and Israel should combat threats to security that result from all sorts of terrorism. They should renounce the use of force and the use of conventional or non-conventional weapons of mass destruction against each other. There is much more on the agenda. If we can help Jordan, a stable and committed small country, that may encourage other countries in due course also to reach agreement with Israel. If Jordan is a friend, we should tell it so now.
My second point relates to refugees. I have already said that there are about 1 million refugees from the west bank and 300,000 returnees, as well as 1 million refugees in transit across Jordan as a result of the recent middle eastern war. That is a huge drain on the economy. If Jordan had not seen fit to cope well with all the difficulties, they would have created the most horrendous problem for the United Nations. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will agree that we should do nothing to prejudice the efforts of Jordan and Israel.
I turn to my third point. Can my right hon. and learned Friend comment on press reports about the proposed canal which Israel and Jordan are reported to be discussing? Israel and Jordan propose to construct a $2 billion canal to run along the common border from the Gulf of Eilat, or the Gulf of Aqaba, to the Dead sea. The canal would generate hydro-electric power for both countries and be hugely beneficial to them. Have Israel and Jordan sought financial assistance for the proposed canal? Can my right hon. and learned Friend acquaint the House with the present position of the talks?
1111 My fourth point concerns rescheduling of debt, which is a common problem throughout the world these days. As a result of the problems, largely with refugees, that I have described, Jordan now has a debt of some $7 billion. That is a large amount of money for 4 million people. I understand that Great Britain has helped with the rescheduling of some of that debt. Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House the latest position of the talks on rescheduling the debt? If the talks are not successful and we are suddenly obliged through the United Nations to contribute in some way in solving the refugee problem in the middle east, we shall find that that is a much more expensive way to deal with the problem.
As I said, we live in an age of changing alliances and new structures. Some people think that those alliances and structures are federal; some think that they are not. The thread of the speech of the hon. Member for Linlithgow was that we must not forget our friends. Despite the fact that our friends have often been educated in this country and despite our historical ties, they tend to be somewhat overlooked. Perhaps we take them for granted—and we should not.
I know from my research of the position in Jordan that my right hon. and learned Friend is highly respected in middle eastern countries as a politician and almost invariably as a diplomat. I hope that he will use his undoubted talents to further our interests throughout the middle east, especially in a traditional ally such as Jordan.
§ Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for giving the House the opportunity to debate this matter. The House has debated foreign affairs on far too few occasions, and I certainly welcome this opportunity for debate. My hon. Friend has been steadfast in his efforts to seek justice for the middle east. The meticulous work that he has done certainly needs congratulations.
I am glad that we have a new Opposition spokesman on our Front Bench. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) will do something that the Labour Front-Bench team has not done recently—take an independent view of foreign affairs, especially on middle east matters. I believe that in Parliament, and certainly outside, the Labour party tends to follow on the coat-tails of the Government without having an independent view. I know that my hon. Friend will do what my hon. Friends have not done previously and ensure that he meets representatives from Governments such as those of Libya and Iraq. There is nothing better than meeting those people face to face to understand what is happening in the middle east and in foreign affairs generally.
As we know, there was a terrible tragedy at Lockerbie in December 1988. More than 200 people died on Pan Am flight 103, which was bound for New York. It was a terrible crime. Everyone with whom I have been involved is keen to get to the bottom of the tragedy and the truth of it. People whom I have met in Libya—I have been to Libya five or six times—have also said that they want the truth about Lockerbie to come out. They want the guilty parties to be punished. At the outset, we should say that we do not support terrorism. We want the issues of Lockerbie to be sorted out and the perpetrators brought to justice.
1112 That is what the families want. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow mentioned Dr. Jim Swire and his work. We all pay tribute to Dr. Jim Swire and to the Lockerbie families because their tragedy has been great. The way in which those families, particularly the British families, have conducted themselves is a tremendous credit to them in the face of the difficulties that they have suffered. In April 1986, there was another tragedy when the Americans bombed Tripoli and Benghazi and more than 100 people died. The planes that bombed Tripoli and Benghazi took off from British air bases. Therefore, the British have some responsibility for what was a terrible crime, perpetrated against the people of Libya. The reason for that bombing was that the Libyans were responsible for the La Belle discotheque bombing in Germany. Since then, most independent observers have shown that Libya was not responsible for that. To this day, neither the British Government nor the American Government have apologised to the Libyan people for that bombing or for the deaths that occurred as a result of it. To help relations, the Minister could say that, on behalf of the British Government, he is prepared to apologise to the Libyan people for that bombing.
Bearing in mind the bad blood that has existed between Libya, Britain and the United States, it is incumbent on us to examine what has happend. The British and American Governments have been demonstrating double standards in respect of Libya. For example, if we look at the United Nations resolutions, we find a very strange thing. We find that Britain, the United States and France voted for the resolution to impose sanctions on Libya. As I understand it—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—a party that is involved in a dispute that goes before the United Nations Security Council does not take part in the vote. Britain, France and the United States voted on the resolution to impose sanctions on Libya. Of course, if they had not voted, they would not have had the required majority to pass the sanctions resolution.
We are told that the British and American Governments are concerned about human rights. I put to the Minister the human rights of the two suspects involved. Warrants were issued and the men were arrested by the Libyan Government and kept under house arrest. That is a problem. When our parliamentary delegation and others visied Libya in September, we met the men's lawyers. We were told that the men are being paid their salaries and that they are under tremendous pressure. The Libyan courts are unable to resolve the issue because no evidence is forthcoming and there have been no proper discussions or negotiations with the Libyan Government. One lawyer said that if that carries on for much longer, the men will have to be released from house arrest because their human rights are being transgressed.
One of the points that the lawyer, Mr. Legwill, made to us was that the Libyan authorities could not extradite the men because, according to Libyan law, there is no extradition treaty with Britain or the United States of America. He told me that if Colonel Gaddafi tried to get the men out of Libya, he would immediately apply to a judge in Libya and stop them being removed because Colonel Gaddafi does not have that power. That is an important point. The British and the Americans are claiming that they are acting legally, but they are trying to make Colonel Gaddafi break his own laws in Libya to meet their requirements. I want the Minister to exlain that. If everything is operating on a proper legal basis, why does 1113 he expect a country that does not have an extradition treaty to extradite its citizens to this country and break its own laws?
§ Mr. Dalyell
That point greatly concerned the Minister's former colleague, Ivor Stanbrook, the previous Member for Orpington and a serious lawyer. We should respect Arab law in the same way as we hope that Arabs will respect our law.
§ Mr. Grant
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is absolutely correct. Double standards are being applied by the Americans and British in this matter.
The British and the Americans have done other things. They have ignored the Montreal convention relating to terrorism on aeroplanes and so on. It categorically slates that if citizens of one country are suspected of committing such a crime, they should be tried in their own country. To get around the Montreal convention, it was necessary for the British, the Americans and the French to move the resolution in the Security Council which overrode international law. Before the resolution was passed, international law stated that the Montreal convention would apply in such cases.
The Libyans took out the equivalent of an injunction to try to have the matter resolved. Each judge seemed to have a different perspective on the matter. They did not allow the injunction, but they have still to make a full determination. We look forward to what the International Court of Justice has to say.
By no means could we say that the British and Americans have been acting legally—certainly not according to what was international law in such matters. The sanctions imposed on Libya have been very severe.
The House will remember that the French Government were directly responsible for the blowing up and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. In doing so, they killed a New Zealand citizen. New Zealand asked France to extradite the responsible citizens. It was clearly state terrorism by the French Government, because the persons who were responsible were members of the French secret service. The French refused to extradite their citizens, stating point blank that French law did not allow them to do so. That was the end of the matter. France is now to sign a motion demanding that another country extradite its citizens to Britain, the United States and other nations, which is an example of its double standards.
The United States has carried out acts of state terrorism for a long time, especially in that region itself. It invaded Grenada, breaking international law; it mined the Nicaraguan harbours, and took no notice when the International Court of Justice ruled that that had been an illegal action. It recently kidnapped General Noriega in Panama, on the pretext that he was involved in the drug trade.
§ Mr. Grant
He may well have been, but many people are involved in drug trafficking. The Americans thought that that was sufficient reason to enter a sovereign country, kidnap the head of that country and bring him to justice.
Why has the United States not sent a task force to arrest the Colombian drug barons who could not be kept in Colombian prisons because the army was too weak and the Medellin cartel too strong? Having adopted a policing 1114 role, as it seems to have done, the United States should now kidnap all those who are directly responsible for the arrival of the crack, cocaine and heroin trade in that country and in Britain. We must view what is happening to Libya in the context of the actions of the Americans and the French—and the British Government have coat-tailed the Americans in this regard.
Sanctions have had a dramatic effect on Libya. In September, I led a delegation of parliamentarians, trade unionists and church and community leaders on a fact-finding mission. We were especially concerned about health matters, and our report—entitled "Report of a fact finding delegation to investigate the effects of the sanctions imposed on Libya by United Nations Security Council Resolution 748"—paid particular attention to those matters. Earlier in this Session of Parliament, the Minister made a number of statements about sanctions to European Standing Committee B; he said, among other things, that sanctions were intended to hurt. It seems that he is quite happy for innocent Libyans to be maimed and killed as a result of them and feels that that is what the Libyan Government should expect.
We were told that the United States' deployment of sanctions against Libya was intended to make the Libyan Government hand over the two accused men, either to Britain or to the United States itself, and was certainly not intended to affect the lives of innocent people. Has the Minister changed his view, or does he still feel that the deaths of innocent people are nothing to do with him?
Our delegation met a number of people in Tripoli, including Dr. Al Zaidi of the Tripoli burns unit. He told us that dozens of people had died, partly because the special antibiotics that were used to treat burns could not be imported by road or by sea; they had to be flown in. Children, housewives and other burns cases were dying because the drugs were not available. Moreover, the air ambulance that brought patients to the unit could not operate: it had no spare parts, because sanctions had been levied against all air transport. If an accident occurred in Benghazi, which is hundreds of miles from Tripoli, the best way to deal with it would be to fly the victims to Tripoli for treatment, but, because the air ambulance was out of service, people were having to be transported hundreds of miles by road, and a number of them would die during the journey.
The doctor told us that, earlier in the year, there had been an explosion in a Tripoli factory. A number of people had died because they could not be flown out of the country for treatment. Up to 60 per cent. of the unit's staff were expatriates, and 90 per cent. of them had left since April because of the uncertainty surrounding sanctions. President Bush had threatened not only sanctions but, following sanctions, military action, and that had forced a number of medical staff to leave. They could not be replaced.
The sanctions had also prevented consultants from flying into Libya from Switzerland, Britain and other countries to mark medical students' examination papers. As a result, the number of medical staff was becoming smaller and smaller. More than 150 people had died on the way to Tunisia or Egypt, because they had been forced to travel by road. Those are all serious problems, on which the Minister should comment.
The Minister told the European Standing Committee that Libya had not applied for special dispensation for the air ambulance. Obtaining such exemptions, however, 1115 takes a minimum of 12 hours, and can take 48 hours—a special United Nations committee, headed by Hungary, has to call all parties together and ask them whether they will give permission for an exemption on medical grounds. When a British expatriate who worked in the Libyan oil fields needed medical attention urgently, the British Government tried to get an air ambulance into Libya; we understand that it took a minimum of 12 hours—possibly longer—for permission to be obtained. Fortunately, the person concerned recovered during that period, but that person could easily have died in the process.
Britain is a signatory to United Nations resolution 748, and is a permanent member of the Security Council. If it took Britain 12 hours to obtain permission for one of its own citizens to leave Libya, one can imagine how long it would take for Libyans to obtain permission to leave Libya. I suggested to the Minister during the European Standing Committee debate that if Libya wanted to fly its citizens out of the country, air clearance should be granted, wherever they landed—in Switzerland, Holland, Germany, or wherever—and that in Egypt there should be a United Nations team of doctors to examine patients to establish whether they are genuinely ill. They could then be taken to hospital and treated humanely. To set up a United Nations bureaucracy to scrutinise any application for exemption is an atrocious abuse of the United Nations Security Council resolution.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I drew the Hansard record of the debate in European Standing Committee B to the attention of a number of expatriate workers and their families. They are ferociously angry with some of the attitudes adopted by the British Government. While working with their Libyan colleagues, they are earning money for this country, but they feel that they are greatly impeded in all sorts of ways by the strong attitude of the British Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Grant
I thank my hon. Friend. We, too, spoke to British expatriates. About 5,000 of them are working in Libya. They are very concerned about their position. Many of them have left Libya because they fear that, should they fall seriously ill, they would be unable to leave the country. Many of them earn large sums of money, much of which is sent back to Britain and helps our economy.
Libya acts as a magnet for workers from the whole of north Africa and even further afield. The economies of Morocco, Egypt and a number of other countries are supported by the work done in Libya by expatriate workers from those countries. More than I million people in the region go to work in Libya and send money back home. Libya runs a free health service for the Libyan people and for people who enter Libya from surrounding countries. Their free medical treatment is being impeded by sanctions.
The result of sanctions, in particular the sanctions against air flights, is that many Libyan projects have had to close. The Libyans have frozen all new developments. That has created a problem for Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow knows that Brown and Root is the main consultant for the great man-made river project, which employs tens of thousands of workers, including 5,000 from Britain and other countries. Because certain parts cannot reach Libya quickly as a result of 1116 sanctions, real difficulties have been created. A number of sub-contracts that should have been awarded to British companies are now going to Korean companies and companies in other countries. Therefore, sanctions are hurting the British economy.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Last night, I was on the same platform as the Minister for Energy and Sir Richard Morris, the ex-chairman of Brown and Root, who is extremely concerned that those who work for Brown and Root are being put at a disadvantage because Libya is having to place contracts with South Korea and others on account of the political situation. That has very serious implications for employment in this country. That is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of Gordon Law, the managing director of Babcock and Wilcox. The injury done to British industry cannot be underestimated.
§ Mr. Grant
Once again I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am glad that he has given me this opportunity to make these points. I know that he could have made them in his own speech, but he has now provided us with additional information. I was unaware of the fact that he had had that conversation, but the effect of sanctions on our economy is such that the Foreign Office must answer these points.
§ Mr. lain Duncan-Smith (Chingford)
To widen slightly what the hon. Gentleman has said about the sanctions against Libya, does he not agree that history has demonstrated that wherever sanctions are applied, they invariably fail to resolve the problem in that territory and that, as a general rule, Governments should avoid sanctions and employ other policies to bring about co-operation with other Governments, thereby involving them in a more humane environment?
§ Mr. Grant
I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point. He is absolutely correct. I made the same point during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow with regard to Iraq. Sanctions do not resolve problems, as those who impose them claim. It is about time that the British and American Governments changed their policy. It is not working. It is hurting the innocent people. We ought, in 1992, to be going down an alternative road.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)
The hon. Gentleman makes a general case against sanctions. Does he also oppose the sanctions that the United Nations has imposed on Serbia?
§ Mr. Grant
If we are to talk about Serbia, we shall be going down a different road. I believe that the United Nations should go down a different road in relation to Serbia. If the United Nations believes that ethnic cleansing should not take place, but that we should not allow refugees to come into this and other countries and that they should stay in their own areas, it is incumbent on the United Nations to go into the former Yugoslavia, to create safe havens for those people and to do so by means of military force. I am not a pacifist. I do not oppose the use of military force. Sanctions are not working there. Arms are being smuggled across the Bulgarian and other borders, so—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not continue down that path. A passing reference is one thing, but to make a long speech on that subject is not in order.
§ Mr. Duncan
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not like to add to his list of exceptions when discussing how sanctions work, but does he agree that sanctions against South Africa have been totally ineffective and that they, too, should be abolished?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must not tempt another hon. Member down the wrong path.
§ Mr. John Marshall
To return to the middle east, via Serbia and South Africa, the hon. Gentleman said that he did not believe in sanctions. Will he therefore make a categorical condemnation of the Arab boycott and ask the Government to stop their sanctions against Israel and agree to sell them arms and oil?
§ Mr. Grant
Perhaps I should be, but one cannot do everything.
The Government allowed the sale of machine tools for arms to Iraq yet stopped the sale of trucks to Libya because, according to the Minister, they could be used for military purposes. It is amazing that the export of trucks was stopped because they could be used for military purposes, yet machine tools. which could clearly be used to make arms, were allowed to be exported. Perhaps the Minister will comment on the Government's apparent diverse policy.
Where do we go from here? There is a new President in America—thank God, some might say—so perhaps we will get a new policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said that Mr. Clinton has stated that he will examine matters ruled out by President Bush and the British Government on the involvement of Iran and Syria. Let us hope that those matters are given fresh and impartial consideration.
We know that the Government are involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Libyans. I believe that the negotiations should be open and that hon. Members should debate what is going on to try to resolve the matter. If the British and American Governments have nothing to be afraid of, they should welcome the Arab League's proposed international inquiry, as it will break the deadlock. The Libyans and a number of other countries favour a third country trial, which is reasonable. The Maltese, for example, have offered to try the two Libyans who have been accused of planting the Lockerbie bomb. As the American and British Governments have stated that the crime started when the suitcase was put on the plane in Malta, I see no reason why both refuse to 1118 allow the Maltese to try the Libyans. Libyan lawyers have told me that their system is based on that used in France and the majority of countries on the continent. They are happy to come to an arrangement whereby the men are tried in a country with a similar legal system.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
The hon. Gentleman has already spoken of the extradition difficulties standing in the way of the Libyan authorities, to which I shall refer in my speech. Is he saying that these two men would voluntarily surrender themselves to the courts of Malta or that the Libyan Government should extradite them?
§ Mr. Grant
That is a fair point. Lawyers for the men have stated that they would be quite prepared to allow the men to be tried in a third country. They are not prepared to allow Britain and America to dictate where their clients should be tried. That offer, which was made by Mr. Legwill, the principal lawyer concerned, should be pursued further. If discussions were held, we might see a breakthrough. Mr. Legwill made it clear that arrangements could be made for his clients to be tried outside Libya, not in Britain or the United States but in a third country.
With the new world situation and the new President of the United States, we should make progress. I know that the Security Council is due to discuss the matter in December, and I hope that the British Government will at least accept a suspension of sanctions to allow discussions on how to resolve the matter.
The north African region—Algeria, Tunisia and so on —is very volatile at the moment. One of the only stable countries is Libya. On its way to Libya, our delegation passed through Tunisia. Every half a mile our bus was stopped and searched by armed soldiers, despite arrangements having been made to allow us to pass. Libya was different: people were moving freely, there were no major military exercises and there was no hostility. I urge hon. Members to join an all-party delegation that I have been asked to put together by the General People's Congress in Libya in order to visit Libya next spring and hold discussions with the assembly, the congress, the Foreign Minister and the leader of Libya. If they do so, as a number of my hon. Friends and I did, they will find that Libyans are reasonable and cultured people. Libya was very peaceful. I certainly did not see any guns, apart from those worn by a few police officers, which were well obscured. We were treated very well, despite the pressure that Libya is under from the British Government. If the Government do not want to resolve the matter, parliamentarians in this country and in Libya should be able to speak because—who knows?—we might be able to achieve a solution that the Government have not been able to find so far.
§ Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)
I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words on the motion. I believe that the House will be aware of my continuing interest in the oil industry, inasmuch as I purchase oil from the middle east and supply it to surrounding countries that are not oil producers.
I hope that the House will accept my apologies for not being able to remain until the end of the debate, but I have a speaking engagement in my constituency. I hope that the Minister, in particular, will accept my apologies.
1119 I intend to take a slightly broader sweep of the region than the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I do not possess his remarkable forensic qualities. There are moments when his extraordinarily close focus on such issues distorts his view. There are times when he sees the pigment but not the full picture.
I am happy to refer to the main arguments of the hon. Member for Linlithgow about Libya. I feel strongly about the subject, as one of my close friends in the oil business was on Pan Am flight 103, and I have vivid memories of that day. Some of the first transactions that I conducted in the oil business were in Libya. The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that Korean companies have a major share of the construction business in Libya. They used to be paid in crude oil, which I purchased, sold in the market and converted to dollars to pay them. That is an example of how trade between two countries can extend far beyond the regions that are apparently involved.
I accept much of what the hon. Member for Linlithgow said about apportioning blame, and that one should not focus only on Libya as being responsible for the Lockerbie crime but should include Iran and Syria.
I confess that I am saddened and perplexed by the way in which Libya has behaved. I should love to find a solution to the problem of our diplomatic relations with that country. I should like nothing more than for our two cultures to be harmonious again, trading openly and with the two peoples speaking warmly of one another. However, we must be realistic and understand that that country has a particularly maverick Administration. Any Foreign Office Minister or official who seeks some sort of accord faces the utmost difficulty in conducting a rational conversation to try to reach some sort of solution. Furthermore—
§ Mr. Duncan
I shall give way in a moment. When the hon. Gentleman rises to his feet, will he admit that Libya undoubtedly supplied Semtex explosives to the IRA, and has attempted to undermine our Government?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Bad things have been done since the early 1980s. Conservative Members would be welcome to stay to listen to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor)—I hope that the House will be able to hear his speech. He will speak for himself, but his mission to Libya was extremely important and it was a tragedy that that initiative was not taken up by the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Duncan
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I hope that I shall be able to stay to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who is familiar with Libya.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Linlithgow for his views on the matter. He referred to the Matrix Churchill problems and the sale of weapons to Iraq. The fact that there was a queue for breakfast at the Rashid hotel does not necessarily prove that it was full of arms salesmen. In my experience, there is always a queue for breakfast there. It would be as well to play for time and to appreciate that a judicial inquiry will consider the matter in detail.
Our constituents often question the defence of the invasion of Kuwait. Some people accuse the Government of being interested in repelling that invasion because of oil 1120 —they say that if there had been no oil they would not have done so. I do not accept that. Unlike Yugoslavia, where Islamic people face severe torture, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq was a clear case of aggressive invasion, although it was admittedly in a sensitive part of the world in which we have interests.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow, applying his remarkable forensic skills, made certain allegations about Mark Thatcher's behaviour and said that the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was in Aspen, Colorado when the invasion took place. He studied the matter in such detail that he almost seemed to imply that the Thatcher family was responsible for the invasion of Kuwait. Great danger lies in apportioning blame in that way. Saddam Hussein was to blame for the invasion of Kuwait. It is somewhat specious to suggest that Lady Thatcher was to blame because she was in Aspen—albeit she was there to stiffen the resolve of the then President of the United States.
Of course we have legitimate interests in the middle east. The flow of oil is important to world security. If one is kicked in the shins, one may react mildly, but if one is kicked in a more sensitive part of the anatomy, one is likely to react more acutely.
The market for oil supplies is fairly stable. Oil is flowing freely, at a reasonable price. Since the last oil shock in 1978–79, sources of oil have been discovered in many parts of the world, diluting the concentration of oil supplies in the middle east. None the less, the middle east and the Gulf remain critical to the stable supply of crude oil. If the Straits of Hormuz were shut, the price of oil would suddenly and dramatically increase and it would cut the flow of the major share of the world's consumed and exported oil.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) referred to embargoes. I agree with him that if there is a lesson to be learnt from the past 20 years, it is that embargoes—especially of oil—do not work unless they are supported by a military blockade. It is simply a fact of trading life that such embargoes are always circumvented. Even though ships are large objects, and cargoes of oil are supplied in hundreds of thousands of tonnes, there are ways and means to circumvent embargoes. They are an ineffective diplomatic device and cannot be applied effectively without military and intelligence support to monitor and enforce them.
That begs the question whether the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries is dead. In many respects it is dormant. It can no longer control the price of oil as it did in the early 1970s, but if it were to disband one might find that the lack of its psychological influence, which affects and underpins the market, would lead to a dramatic further collapse in the price of oil.
The second question that I must study briefly is the nature of likely future Governments in the Gulf region. May I be allowed to include Pakistan in the Arab world, as it is an Islamic country? It has a fragile democracy. I hope that it will survive, but it is in a perilous state. I was saddened to read a leader in The Times earlier this week denigrating Benazir Bhutto and saying that her attempt to rally popular opinion was almost an illegitimate activity. Rallying popular opinion strikes me as perfectly legitimate. It is remarkable that her leadership of the opposition is witnessing such a speedy and dramatic comeback.
1121 The only democracy in the middle east is Israel. I know that some would enjoy denigrating the country, but we should not forget that, as a democracy, it enjoys certain validity. I defy any hon. Member to cite an example of two democracies that have gone to war. Some examples are close to meeting that definition, but I cannot think of one.
We must appreciate that, in the middle east, there is scope for various sytems of government. The Gulf states illustrate the fragile position of monarchs under threat. In such tribal communities there is always the threat of domestic upheaval. Despotic and fundamentalist regimes nearby are a threat to those neighbours who enjoy traditional quasi-feudal systems of government.
We must appreciate that it would be desperately wrong for us to try to impose democracies on those countries and to say that their regimes are somehow less legitimate because they are not yet practising democracies. The path to democracy in many of those countries should not and cannot be accelerated. We should be doing them a grave disservice if we tried to impose our western ideals on their forms of government. In various parts of the world different countries are differently suited to different forms of government. As one wise old bird from the Foreign Office said to me only last night—he was probably looking back to India—"One has to appreciate that there needs to be variety in government. Indeed, there was a point when processions of elephants were an essential part of the governmental process."
The key to our good relations is trade. Our diplomatic influence will wane further if we believe that simply clubbishness and an Oxford accent will suffice when dealing with the political elites of the middle east. Our commercial relationships are inextricably linked to our political relationships and influence in that region.
I was heartened to learn from the autumn statement that the budget of the Export Credits Guarantee Deparment will be increased by £750 million. I hope that that budget will cover the Gulf states with which our trade is of great advantage, to them and to us. Last night a dinner was hosted by the Bahrain Society—I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) was unable to attend because he had the Adjournment debate—and that remarkable man, the Minister for Development, Mr. Yousef Shirawi, pointed out the enormous extent of the development that his country still wishes to undertake. That development offers us a remarkable trading opportunity, and I hope that Foreign Office Ministers and Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry will concentrate their efforts on it.
The pattern of influence in the middle east has changed dramatically with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the past 10 years Syria has had a pivotal role in determining the balance of influence in that region, but it no longer has the backing of the Soviet Union, which it enjoyed for so long. The balance of trade and influence has changed and that offers us a remarkable opportunity to exercise our influence through diplomacy and trade.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) that the sooner we have greater trade within that region, with the withdrawal of the Arab boycott on Israel, the more fruitful it will be for the relationships of all those countries in that troubled part of the globe.
§ Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)
I shall make a brief contribution to the debate, which gives me the opportunity to raise the case of one of my constituents, Paul Ride, who is in prison in Baghdad. His case is greatly influenced by the general relationship between our Government and that of Iraq.
I appreciated greatly the opening speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who made a powerful and reasoned case for his motion. It was also interesting to learn from the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) about the situation in Jordan, where one person in four is a refugee. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that example should be viewed in the context of Europe and, in particular, of Bosnia. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could draw that to the attention of some of his hon. Friends who seem so intent on pushing the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill through Parliament with the excuse that too many refugees are coming to this country. Jordan puts that claim into perspective.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, it is clear that arms sales to Iraq have gone on for years. During the Iran-Iraq war people in this country were fed the idea of Iran as the aggressor—the villain of the piece in everything that was going on in the middle east. Iraq was presented as the buffer that would prevent Iran rolling across the middle east and imposing a fundamentalist regime.
During the war arms were sold to Iraq and it used chemical weapons. Before and after the war, the Kurdish minority were persecuted and internal repression was practised in Iraq. Those facts were drawn to the attention of the House by some of my hon. Friends, but they were largely ignored. The regime in Iraq was repressive then, and it is still.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow also pointed out, the regime in Kuwait is hardly democratic; nor is the way in which Palestinians have been treated there since the Gulf war. Since that war, a regime of sanctions and blockades has operated against Iraq, and that is the background to my constituent's case.
Paul Ride was working as a catering manager in Kuwait and, in late June, he disappeared near the border with Iraq when he went to visit a friend who worked nearby. The exact circumstances are still not 100 per cent. clear, but we know that he was arrested by an Iraqi patrol. It was several weeks before his wife knew anything, because he simply disappeared. However, it then turned out that he was in prison in Baghdad and, when news of his appearance first came through, he was about to be put on trial. At that trial he was sentenced to seven years in prison on a charge of illegally entering the country.
Another Briton, Michael Wainwright, is also in prison in Baghdad and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) is dealing with his case. An American was also arrested by the Iraqis on the border, but he was soon released. Obviously that begs the question why the Americans were able to get one of their citizens released so quickly, while our citizens are in gaol and are likely to stay there for several years.
The reason that Paul Ride and Michael Wainwright have been held is that their imprisonment is a form of retaliation against sanctions—it is a bargaining counter. Their release depends on our relationship with Iraq. We do 1123 not have an Iraqi embassy in London any more, but there is an Iraqi interest section at the Jordanian embassy and Iraqi diplomats are posted to other European countries. They have been approached by MEPs and others working on behalf of Paul Ride and Michael Wainwright.
Iraqi diplomats say, "How can you expect us to take the humanitarian steps you seek, and release those people who are in prison, when your sanctions mean that our children cannot obtain the medicines they need?" My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow vividly pointed out the situation. "How can we take such humanitarian steps when there would be repercussions for us in our country?", they ask.
We have heard how the real victims of the sanctions on Iraq are the most vulnerable, the old, the sick and the children. Up to a quarter of a million children may have died through lack of drugs and medicines. I have with me a letter from the head of the Iraqi interest section at the Jordanian embassy pointing out that the harsh economic sanctions have caused an acute shortage of medicines and medical appliances. It adds that the Iraqi Red Crescent Society is asking humanitarian organisations to supply urgently required items such as rubella vaccine, of which 200,000 doses are required, hepatitis B vaccine for adults and children, yellow fever vaccine, anti-gas gangrene serum and anti-snake serum. It is a long list.
I point out in my early-day motion 942, which has attracted a significant number of signatures in recent days, the contrast between the attitude of Governments in refusing to supply medicines and what was happening before the Gulf war. Whatever the circumstances of the arms sales—who knew about them, what they were and who signed this or that letter—everybody knows that arms and machine tools to make arms were sold. Contrast that state of affairs with what is happening now and the inability of people to obtain medicines.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House. He will appreciate that the sanctions regime does not prohibit the import of medicines into Iraq.
§ Mr. Gerrard
While the sanctions regime may not prohibit medicines being imported by Iraq, the embargo and freezing of assets in foreign currencies makes it virtually impossible for Iraq to obtain the supplies it needs.
The Government should reconsider their position over sanctions. I have raised the issue today from the point of view of an individual and the effect it is having on a constituent of mine. The general feeling is that nothing will happen to achieve his release until there is a change of position. Having raised it at the constituency level, I am anxious to make it clear that I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow in the wider context of the need to lift the sanctions.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
I apologise to the Minister for the fact that I shall not be able to stay till the end of the debate. I explained in a letter to Madam Speaker that I had other engagements in my constituency.
I welcome the statement in the motion about the positive attitude of the United Kingdom towards its traditional friends in the middle east. In particular, I 1124 welcome the fact that Prime Minister Rabin is due to visit this country next month. I am sure that he will receive a warm welcome, for, during the few months that he has been Prime Minister, he has shown greater flexibility of thought than many Arab states have shown since the foundation of the state of Israel.
Israeli Prime Ministers have visited this country on many occasions. It is noted in Israel that only one serving British Prime Minister has visited that country. I refer to Lady Thatcher, who went there in 1986. I remember that visit with great pleasure because I was there at the time. The warmth of the reception that she received should underline to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the wisdom perhaps of his paying a visit to Israel.
The people of Israel would also like a visit from a member of our royal family. Her Majesty the Queen has visited a number of Israel's neighbours. It would help relations in that part of the world if she or a member of her family visited Israel.
Everyone welcomes the fact that individuals such as Terry Waite are at long last free. They were incarcerated for far too long. The manoeuvres that started the release of hostages in the middle east began with the decision of Israel to release a number of prisoners held in that country. It hoped that the result would be that Israeli hostages who have been held in the middle east for many years and whose relatives have not heard from them might be released.
For example, I have met Mr. and Mrs. Baumel, whose son was captured by the Syrians in 1982 and taken to Damascus. He has been held under circumstances of which we are not aware, and we do not even know if he is still alive. His parents should be told what has happened to their son.
I also recently met Mr. and Mrs. Fink, from Manchester, who now live in Israel and whose son some was similarly captured. They have not had a word from his captors about his whereabouts. In both cases, the captors have acted against all international understanding and conventions governing the way in which prisoners should be treated.
I have recently heard from friends of Mr. Arad, who has been held for many years. His daughter has not had the privilege of getting to know her father. We should be told whether Mr. Arad, an Israeli navigator, is alive. He should be released, having been kept longer than any prisoner was detained during the second world war.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
I am sure that my hon. Friend wishes to give the House a balanced picture. He will be aware that no country in the middle east holds as many prisoners without proper trial as does Israel. A major step that Israel could take to help the peace process would be to release more than 1,000 Palestinians being held without proper legal trial.
§ Mr. Marshall
My hon. Friend expects my speeches on the middle east to be as balanced as his. There exists in Israel a rule of law which is the envy of many other states in the area. The justices there have an independence which is denied to many judges in other countries in the middle east and in other parts of the world.
We must accept certain realities about the middle east, one of which concerns the future of Jerusalem. While certain parts of the middle east are negotiable in the peace process, people should not blind themselves to the fact that 1125 the future of Jerusalem is an issue about which no Israeli Government would negotiate. Those who favour religious tolerance and freedom must believe that Jerusalem should remain a united, not a divided, city. There is more religious freedom in Jerusalem today than there was when it was a divided city.
For Israelis in general, and for the Jewish community, the western wall is the holiest part of the world. When it was under Jordanian control, nobody was able to go from Israel to worship there. The first time that an Israeli could go there was in 1967. No Israeli Government could be expected to agree to Jerusalem again becoming a divided city. Some 70 per cent. of the population are Jewish. When it was partially under Jordanian control, the Jordanians did not honour their religious beliefs and they have therefore lost any right to have a say over Jerusalem's future.
I should like—I suspect that one or two former British ambassadors wish that it had happened—the British embassy to be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Those who have lived in Tel Aviv have often said that they would be happy if the next embassy went to Jerusalem.
There are many problems in the middle east, and there are many refugees in Jordan. In the late 1940s, there was a huge transfer of populations. Refugees from Arab countries went to Israel, and Palestinians left Israel to become refugees elsewhere. Let us consider the attitudes of their respective Governments. The Israeli Government set out to house their people and provide them with jobs and opportunities. Many of the Arab Governments did nothing of the sort but merely allowed the refugees to fester and multiply and did not provide them with decent housing conditions.
If the Arab states had wanted to solve the problem, they could have done so. Had they devoted two months' oil revenues to sorting out the problems of many of their refugees, the difficulties would have disappeared decades ago. We must accept the fact that certain Governments in the middle east are indifferent to the refugees' fate. Indeed, one suspects that, the worse that fate, the happier they are.
§ 12.1 pm
§ Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
I was struck by how remarkably wide my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) had managed to draw the motion. It allows us to range over a period of history that goes back to the Balfour declaration and up to the recent "Dispatches" programme. You will forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I cover much the same ground.
When I look at the history of our involvement in the Arab world, I am struck by how overwhelmingly destructive and divisive it has been. We have played a game of deceit in which we have said one thing while practising another. In an embarrassing moment immediately after the Russian revolution, Lenin and Trotsky decided on a breathtaking innovation. They published all the secret documents and treaties in the Russian Foreign Ministry, which proved embarrassing for Britain when it transpired that we had promised the land of Palestine to both the Jews and the Arabs at exactly the same time, while keeping both documents confidential and not telling either party what was proposed.
Such duplicity and behind-the-scenes dealings produce military conflicts that rumble on not just for decades but for the best part of a century. I have come to the 1126 conclusion that all our interests would be better served if we based our foreign policy on some form of morality, rather than on the nonsense of looking for expediency and contracts, and working out what is in our immediate short-term interest. It is in our interest that there should be a stable world: the only way to achieve stability is if there is justice, if peoples have the right to self-determination and if one set of peoples does not enslave another.
Like many people, I am happy that some progress has been made in resolving the issue between the Palestinian people and the state of Israel. I am not overwhelmed with joy, however, at the slow pace of those negotiations. Even the new Israeli Government are being unrealistic about the future arrangements that they expect the Palestinian people to accept.
The Palestinians have been in that area for tens of thousands of years and have a long-standing, recognised culture. They are the most cosmopolitan and international of all the Arab peoples. Perhaps because most of the rest of the world has marched through their territory at some time, they have been open to more outside influence than anyone else in the Arab world. I know of no other Arab peoples more committed to the concept of democracy. Three generations have lived in camps for displaced persons with refugee status, eking out an existence on the margins of other peoples' nations and societies. That has given them more confidence in the commitment that the state that they eventually create will be a democracy and will not replicate some of the unpleasant military or feudal dictatorships in the regime.
Israel should now show the imagination to offer the Palestinians not just a deal that they would be prepared to accept but one that lays the foundation for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. That must mean a Palestinian state on the west bank and Gaza. It will not be good enough to expect people who have suffered so much for so long to put up with municipal status, giving them about the same amount of power over their affairs as the people of Islington or Tottenham have under the present regime here.
No one wants to have an expansion of arms in the area. I should not be surprised to find that a deal could be struck between the Palestinians and Israelis that would ensure that the Palestinian state would be demilitarised. There could be economic co-operation and development, meaning that, within five or 10 years, everyone in the area would have an interest in preserving the peace because their economies would be growing and they would be trading with each other.
All the power rests with Israel. Israel has 200 nuclear weapons; the most powerful, modern and efficient military machine in the area; and a virtual blank cheque from the new United States President-elect, Bill Clinton, who is completely committed to the Israeli cause and has been in American politics for many years. From that position of strength, Israel must take the concessions. It cannot expect those who do not have a military machine, nuclear weapons, their own state or a right to vote under Israeli occupation to make concessions. They have nothing to concede. If Israel is now prepared to show imagination, a peace can be secured that will respect the traditions of the two peoples and lay the foundations for peace in the future. It means that Israel must make concessions and I hope that the British Government will make that point privately and publicly to the Israeli Government.
1127 If our involvement in the issue of Israel and Palestine has been slightly two-faced over the decades, our recent involvement with Iraq and Iran make it look a model of straightforwardness and honesty. Like most people in Britain, I have been amazed as revelation after revelation has emerged about the scale of our involvement in the Gulf wars in the past 12 years. I remember hearing numerous Ministers say that the Government did not support the continuation of the war between Iraq and Iran but that they were in favour of a complete arms embargo being imposed on Iran and Iraq so that the war could be brought to a conclusion.
It is now apparent that, from day one, Britain and America were doing everything in their power covertly to supply information and provide arms to sustain Iraq's attack on Iran, simply because they considered that Saddam Hussein was a lesser evil than the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Iranian revolution was a genuine revolution from below. It was a wave of anger by the Iranian people, who had seen their nation subjected to outside western influences, decade after decade. They saw their Government, in the form of the Shah, as a western puppet and had seen that puppet supported by western Governments for convenience because he was anti-Communist. They had seen western Governments loth to raise any issues of human rights abuses. They had seen the oil companies exercising their influence. There was none of the pride of a nation state. Would we have tolerated that subject position? Of course not. Eventually, it created a revolution from below—as genuine a revolution as that in Russia in 1917, that in China in 1949 or that in Cuba in 1959. We should have recognised that.
Like virtually everyone here, I would have found it difficult to support the Ayatollah's political programme, but that was a matter for the Iranian people. However, because western interests felt threatened, we helped to arm and build up Iraq. There was, remarkably, a degree of anticipation at the end of the cold war. The Soviet Union was providing conventional weapons to Iraq and we in the west were covertly providing the rest, which was much more dangerous.
That war continued for eight years and resulted in the slaughter of millions of people, to achieve nothing. It left an Iraqi military machinery that was so powerful that America took the first opportunity to smash it; America perceived it as a threat to western interests, which it clearly was, as Saddam Hussein was a wild cannon.
Would not it have been better if we have kept out of the conflict during that eight years and not encouraged one side and prolonged the slaughter with our support? Did we think that simply because Saddam Hussein was temporarily on our side against the Ayatollah, he was someone whose military strength we should build up? Would it not have been more honest to work with the refugee groups—the Kurds who fled from Saddam Hussein's tyranny and the Shia Arabs in the south—who wanted a better Iraq?
It seems that our morality in terms of foreign policy goes no further than the immortal words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, when he was President in the 1930s, discussed the obnoxious regime of Somoza in Nicaragua with his Secretary of State. The Secretary of 1128 State said, "This man is a son of a bitch" and President Roosevelt replied, "He is our son of a bitch." Sadly, that seems to be the underlying basis on which we in this country approach foreign policy issues.
The same is true of Government of both colours. Like many Labour Members, I listened with acute embarrassment when, in the debate on Iraq, the Government listed the degree of covert arms sales that Labour Governments had been prepared to go along with. Such a policy has to end. If we pump arms into the volatile regions of the world, we shall create wars that ultimately damage us greatly and cost much more than the short-term profits of one or two arms companies.
I shall now deal with precisely how the arms entered Iraq, which seems a particularly pernicious issue. It should not be an immediate party political issue. I believe the Prime Minister's assurance that he knew nothing of it. I have watched the right hon. Gentleman for 25 years and I can honestly say that I have never seen him lie—in Lambeth council or here. It may be embarrassing to him that the document was in his office but he did not read it, but people under pressure occasionally make such mistakes. I do not think that there is any great shock or horror about the Prime Minister's role in the affair.
The shocks will come in relation to the role of the present Prime Minister's predecessor and her family. I hope that all parties will be prepared to deal with the issue honestly and openly. What has been going on is a scandal of immense proportions. We should all have an interest in ensuring that no party in government allows such a scandal again.
I knew virtually nothing about the involvement of Mark Thatcher in the arms trade. When I see Mark Thatcher's name in the newspaper, I usually turn over and move on to something else. He was not someone I had an interest in and he never struck me as particularly bright or as someone with very much to say. I was not terribly interested in motor racing. I have crossed the Sahara desert twice without getting lost and I find it difficult to see how anyone could get lost there. There is only one road crossing the desert, so one simply has to go along it one way or the other.
I was surprised when, one day sitting in my bath, I was reading The Guardian and I came across a little article by Richard Norton-Taylor, who has an excellent track record for finding out embarrassing things that the Government prefer us not to know. The article spoke of a book that had published in America by a former Israeli military intelligence officer, Ari Ben-Menashe. The book could not be published in Britain because of our restrictive libel laws. It contained damaging revelations about Mark Thatcher and arms sales to Iraq.
By a stroke of immense good fortune, I was due to go to the United States the following week. I got straight off the plane and went into a bookshop to buy a copy of "Prophets of War". I read it from cover to cover, and Mark Thatcher merely played a bit part—he had a walk-on role. The book was much more to do with what George Bush did or did not know about the hostage arrangements in Iraq in the 1980 election and other matters.
When I returned to the House, I submitted an early-day motion, which I resubmitted in a slightly different form after the Scott inquiry was announced by the Prime Minister. To my surprise, it attracted 53 signatures. I usually find it difficult to obtain double figures for 1129 signatures on my early-day motions. However, people who are not known as my closest confidantes and who are not from my wing of the Labour party signed it.
The early-day motion contained the charges of Ari Ben-Menashe. I accept that we have to be cautious when dealing with the relevations of rogue intelligence officers who have turned against their former employer. However, it is important to remember that Mark Thatcher and the Iraqi arms deals played only a minor part in the book and were not essential to what the author was trying to establish.
The author makes various charges. The book stated that Mark Thatcher owned a Texas-based company that was used to move equipment directly from Britain to Iraq. It should he relatively easy for Lord Justice Scott to determine whether that is true or false. The allegation was that Mark Thatcher introduced the supergun designer, Gerald Bull—who was subsequently murdered—to the South African military intelligence general, Pieter Van der Westhuizen, who then introduced Gerald Bull to the Iraqi deputy chief of procurement, who arranged a payment for Gerald Bull's services via Cardoen Industries financial network.
The book also alleges that Mark Thatcher was an associate of Dr. Carlos Cardoen, who is now getting a little more publicity for his activities. Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe was invited by one of my colleagues and came to the House of Commons this week. He was questioned by several lion. Members. According to Ari Ben-Menashe, Dr. Cardoen's main job in life was the procurement of arms for Iraq in the west. When Ari Ben-Menashe—who was then still working for United States intelligence and trying to discourage Gerald Bull from going ahead with the supergun—arrived at Dr. Cardoen's office, he found Mark Thatcher there. What was Mark Thatcher doing with Iraq's main procurer of weapons in the west? The book alleges that Dr. Cardoen was introduced to Mr. Bull by Mark Thatcher, who was the link person.
If those allegations are true, they are breathtaking. Conservative Members are having to listen to unpleasant things about their former colleagues. But if we reverse the circumstances, we can ask what Conservative Members would be saying if my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) had been Prime Minister for the past 10 years and it had just been discovered that his three daughters had all become multi-millionaires in the arms trade and had been wandering around selling armaments to a country with which we were ultimately at war. I suspect that we would have heard something from Conservative Members.
§ Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)
The hon. Gentleman is making an extraordinary allegation—he is suggesting guilt by smear. He makes allegations about Mark Thatcher, who is not a colleague of any hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman must make absolutely clear whether he is making allegations against the former Prime Minister of this country or not. If he is not doing so, to try to imply that there is some association between the former Prime Minister and Mark Thatcher, other than that they are mother and son, is disgraceful.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I am afraid that I am now coming to specific details. The hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) made it clear that he was not a former associate 1130 of Mark Thatcher. I suspect that many Conservative Members will say much the same thing over coming months as Lord Justice Scott continues his inquiry.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I asked a number of specific and careful questions about Mark Thatcher. Some 2 million or more people watched the "Dispatches" programme, produced by Box Productions. As I stressed, the company must have gone to its libel lawyers. Those viewers heard of serious allegations by a member of the Reagan Administration, Mr. Howard Teicher suggesting that political families were involved in matters of considerable difficulty. The hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) should see what hundreds of thousands of people have seen on television. He might then agree that it is at least up to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to respond to those allegations.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I thank my hon. Friend. I made it clear in the early-day motion that I was repeating the allegations. At that stage, I was not certain of the extent to which the allegations might be gross exaggerations. When Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe came to the House this week, I pointed out that his book was published several months ago. Mark Thatcher is a resident of Texas. I asked Ari Ben-Menashe whether he had received any libel writs about the charges in the book. The answer was that he had not. Mark Thatcher is not short of a bob or two, so he could afford a lawyer. I should have thought that charges of such gravity would bring forth a writ if they were inaccurate. That is another mark that suggests that the allegations are probably true.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In relation to the meeting at the Carlton Tower, Howard Teicher is reported to have expressed great concern that a member of a political family should exploit a perceived connection to make money. Our hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins), a very responsible parliamentary colleague who is a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, said that in the light of all that and in the light of what was said to the Select Committee, there must be a full disclosure. If those are not matters for the Floor of the House, I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I thank my hon. Friend again. He raises an important point. We in Britain know that in many instances Mark Thatcher was an embarrassment to his mother and to the Conservative party. That is why he was in effect bundled off into exile in Texas after the scandal involving Cementation. He was lucky to get away without going inside. He was bundled off so that he would no longer be an embarrassment.
Hon. Members know that Mark Thatcher is no mastermind who will one day inherit the Tory party leadership. However, there are many nations in which the sons and daughters of prime ministers and presidents inherit political office as a result of their control of political parties. Dynastic politics are powerful in many nations. We may have had no illusion about the real influence of Mark Thatcher, but many people in other countries who saw the son of a long-serving and powerful Prime Minister sitting at meetings discussing the purchase of British armaments for sale to Iraq would have thought that the Government must have some awareness of what was going on.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does my hon. Friend recollect the previous occasion on which he and I put forward a 1131 controversial view? We were rubbished on the Floor of the House by the then junior Home Office Minister, who is now the Secretary of State for Education, on the matter of Colin Wallace. Colin Wallace was then, rightly, awarded thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money in compensation. Everything that we said turned out to be true and everything that was said by Ministers turned out to be a load of drivel.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I am delighted to be reminded of that case. I recall my hon. Friend and myself going through three years of general abuse. We were told that we were obsessive and monomaniacal, that we had wild staring eyes and that we tabled too many questions. Did anyone get up and apologise when it was all shown to be true? There was a deathly silence on the Conservative Benches.
One of the joys of the House of Commons is that one raises an issue and then suddenly one starts to get anonymous letters. I now receive anonymous letters from all round the world about people who bumped into Mark Thatcher or who saw him with somebody else. One must treat those letters circumspectly. I am now collaborating with a journalist, Mark Hollingsworth, who is writing a book about Mark Thatcher's arms dealings and I shall pass all the information to him. I am sure that Conservative Members look forward to the book's publication.
I received further information about an arms deal—this brings us back to our involvement with the Arab world—which was not with Iraq. I received information from a journalist which I then put forward in the form of three early-day motions. The first stated:That this House notes that the Foreign Secretary received a letter dated 3rd June 1992 from Mr. Abdul S. Minty, director of the World Campaign against Military and Nuclear Collaboration with South Africa, alleging that Mr. Mark Thatcher was involved in promoting the sale of South African G6 Howitzers to Saudi Arabia; further notes that Britain is a member of the United Nations 421 Arms Embargo Committee of the Security Council and was present when these allegations were discussed by the Committee; and requests that the Foreign Secretary report to the House on the action taken by Britain's representatives when this matter was reported and on the nature of his reply to Mr. Minty.The second early-day motion stated:That this House notes the reports to the United Nations 421 Committee that Mr. Mark Thatcher offered to act as the 'middle man' in an attempt by Armscor, the South African government owned weapons dealer, to break the United Nations arms embargo and sell £328 million worth of G6 howitzers to Saudi Arabia".I do not know what the commission rates are, but the commission on £328 million must be more than a few bob.
The early-day motion continued:the deal was dropped after pressure from the United States Government"—who had been alerted to it. The early-day motion thencalls on the British Government to deposit in the Library of the House the reports on these events compiled by MI5 and MI6.The third early-day motion stated:That this House notes that Lyttleton Engineering were participants at the four day Defence and Security Exhibition which opened in Bahrain on 11 th May 1992, that Lyttleton Engineering is a former subsidiary of Armscor (and now part of the state-owned Denel Group) and known to produce G5 and G6 Howitzer guns; further notes that Mark Thatcher accompanied his mother to the opening of the 'Britain in the Gulf' trade fair in Dubai two weeks earlier and that Mark Thatcher's unofficial spokesman, Sir Tim Bell,"—1132 who is known to some Conservative Members—has refused to confirm or deny whether or not he attended the defence exhibition; and calls on Mr. Mark Thatcher to give a full account of his movements and activities in this area.
§ Mr. Knapman
The hon. Gentleman referred to an "unofficial spokesman." Will he describe the duties of an "unofficial spokesman"?
§ Mr. Livingstone
It is quite simple. When journalists telephone Mark Thatcher to ask whether he has been flogging arms to country A, B, C or D, he refers them to Sir Tim Bell. Sir Tim Bell then reminds the journalists about the libel laws and says that he cannot confirm or deny anything. That is the exact nature of the role. I do not know whether he is paid for his services, but I recall that Sir Tim Bell has very strong links with the Conservative party and the former Prime Minister.
To my surprise, I was told that my early-day motions were not acceptable because they were repetitious and were caught by Speaker Weatherill's ruling. Therefore, I resubmitted my motions as questions and I received answers to them yesterday. Those answers are interesting.
The first states:A letter from Mr. Minty dated 3 June 1992 was received in the office of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on that day. The reply, from an official, dated 25 June, stated:'The United Kingdom adheres to UN Security Council resolutions 558 and 591 concerning, inter alia, the import of South African-produced arms. We take seriously allegations of British involvement in any contravention of these resolutions.'In the case the hon. Member raises, we have no knowledge as to whether South African-produced arms were purchased by customers in third countries. But we shall investigate any alleged British involvement if it is established that such arms were imported in breach of the above resolutions.The second reply states:There has been no substantive discussion within the committee"—that is, the UN committee on the arms embargo—to date, although the chairman has undertaken to seek information on the report from the relevant parties. But if the committee were to establish that arms have been imported in breach of United Nations Security Council resolution 558, we would of course be prepared to investigate any allegations of British involvement.In response to my question about pressure from America to scrap the deal, the response was that the British Governmentare not aware of any such representations."—[Official Report, 26 November 1992; Vol. 214, c. 767–68.]I tabled a written question to the Secretary of State for Defence asking if he wouldlist all communications between his Department and Mr. Mark Thatcher concerning the Defence and Security Exhibition in Bahrain on 11 May.I received an evasive answer to that question. The reply was:It is not the practice for Government Departments to list communications with members of the public.I am not surprised about that.
It strikes me that those answers are remarkably similar, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, to the denials—if one can call them that—that we received on the Colin Wallace affair. There was never a categoric "no". We were told, "Well, if there's information we'll look into it. If you know anything, pass it to the police." When I do not receive an absolute denial, I am encouraged to continue probing.
1133 Those rather open-ended replies, which do not dismiss the charges, suggest that the British Government are not writing out the allegations from Mr. Abdul Minty, which are now being investigated by the United Nations Security Council.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Are we not further entitled to probe because there is every suggestion that the Cabinet guidelines issued in relation to behaviour in respect of such matters have been flouted? The "Dispatches" programme broadcast in print the Cabinet guidelines in relation to the undertakings that should be given by families because families are mentioned specifically in those guidelines. It is fair to ask whether the Cabinet guidelines were flouted. The Government will have to answer that at some time.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I am particularly struck by that point. Let us be honest about this. If the Foreign Secretary had been able to make me look a complete wally and if he could simply dismiss the charges out of hand, would he not have taken that opportunity? Would he not have said that it was nonsense? Would he not have struck me down and made me a laughing stock before the House? Instead, there have been guarded replies which leave it open to him, if he has to do so, to admit eventually that the allegations are true.
However, I must emphasise that we are still talking about allegations that Mark Thatcher was trading arms to Iraq and that he was trying to sell South African arms to Saudi Arabia. However, if there is any shred of truth in the charges, are we to believe that MI5 and MI6 did not warn the Prime Minister of the day about the activities in which her son was involved? Surely the director of MI5 or MI6 must have thought that it was important, if any information of that kind came to light, to warn the Prime Minister immediately that her son was engaged in activities that were illegal in British law and contravened United Nations resolutions. Of course, the director of MI5 or MI6 would have done that.
If the allegations are true, we will want to know what the intelligence and security services told the Prime Minister of the day. Was the Prime Minister of the day warned about what was happening and what action did she take? Lord Justice Scott will have to examine that matter. I hope that the Government will give a commitment that the full files of MI5 and MI6 on Mark Thatcher—I am prepared to bet money with any Government Members that those files exist—are made available to Lord Justice Scott. I hope that they will also be made available to hon. Members on the Labour Front Bench so that we can see whether there has been any abuse. We want no cover-up.
There is no reason whatever why the Government should defend Mark Thatcher and his arms deals. That is not a reflection on the Prime Minister. However, if the Government have been defending arms deals, we want it out in the open so that the defence of such deals will not happen again under a Tory Government, a Labour Government or any other Government.
I shall examine the position of Dr. Carlos Cardoen a little more. He is a major and powerful figure in Chile. According to Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe, Dr. Cardoen is a business associate of Mark Thatcher. A British journalist who went to investigate Dr. Cardoen has been murdered. That is a particularly unpleasant twist to the story.
1134 I draw the attention of the House to early-day motion 827 which attracted considerable support. It stated:That this House, recalling the mysterious death in an hotel room in Santiago, Chile, in March 1990, subsequently held to be murder, of the British defence journalist Jonathan Moyle, conscious of the belief of Mr. Moyle's family that their son was murdered because of his investigations into the supply to Iraq of the Helios weapons guidance system and the Stonefish mine by Chilean arms dealers Cardoen Industries, and noting the links between Cardoen and Matrix Churchill and the Iraqi regime, calls upon Mr. Justice Scott to include in his inquiry an investigation into the circumstances of the murder of this young British journalist.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Chilean authorities investigating the murder have reported that the British Government have been unhelpful in that investigation? The British Government should come clean about that matter. Have the British Government been unhelpful to the Chilean authorities which are investigating the murder?
§ Mr. Livingstone
I am able to confirm what my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) said, I shall come to that matter in a moment.
A pattern has emerged. Mark Thatcher has been linked to Dr. Carlos Cardoen. It is alleged that Mark Thatcher's Texas-based company sent arms to Iraq. Then the British journalist who was sent to investigate was murdered. After the pattern emerged, I tabled another early-day motion, which stated:That this House notes the belief of Mr. Moyle's family that he was murdered because of his investigation into the arms deals of Carlos Cardoen, the Chilean associate of Mr. Mark Thatcher, and calls on both men to publish full details of their business links.Once again, I was told by the Table Office that the early-day motion was repetitious, according to the previous Speaker's ruling on repetitious motions.
Yesterday, we saw Dr. Cardoen speak out in public for the first time. In the months and years that have passed, I have never seen a picture of that gentleman work its way into the press, let alone heard of his conducting an interview and being questioned by British journalists. However, in yesterday's The Independent an account of that interview was reported. That report is truly shocking. It brings a much more sinister twist to the matter and raises frightening issues.
Dr. Cardoen revealed that he briefed the British and United States Governments during most of the 1980s on Baghdad's efforts to acquire weapons. Dr. Cardoen is no longer some shady arms dealer; he claims to have briefed our Government and the United States Government during the 1980s. The report states:Dr. Carlos Cardoen, who produced and procured weapons for Iraq from 1981"—he admits the charge that he was the main arms procurer for Iraq in the west—told the Independent that the British and American embassies in Santiago, as well as US Department of Defense officials, were given 'ample explanation' of Iraq's procurement networkWhy should they not be given that explanation? We were supporting Iraq in its war. It should come as no surprise to the public —and that officials visited his arms plants on several occasions and 'verified the entire manufacturing process of the arms in question.'We are now told by Iraq's main arms procurer that British and American embassy officials visited his plants 1135 which made the arms for Iraq and inspected the process. We shall expect an explanation from the Minister when he replies to the debate.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does not that underline the serious concern that many of us have about the ethics of officials? For many years, I never doubted the ethics of the British civil service. But the whole Ponting trial and now the information that officials were apparently party to actions which are improper in the eyes of the House of Commons raise deeply disturbing issues.
§ Mr. Livingstone
I certainly hope that Lord Justice Scott will interview the officials and bring them before his committee to question them on the exact details of whom they told and where the information went after they visited Dr. Cardoen's arms factories.
There is also the Matrix Churchill affair. In his first interview, certainly with western media, Dr. Cardoen revealed that Matrix Churchill was allowed to export machine tools to him, even though the Foreign Office was fully aware of his relationship with Saddam Hussein. We shall want that matter to be investigated in full by Lord Justice Scott.
Dr. Cardoen said in his interview:On behalf of the Iraqi government, we acquired Matrix-manufactured machine tools and then re-exported them to Baghdad. All this was done in keeping with all legal documentation demanded by British law.One must ask whether, as the officials saw the trial of the Matrix Churchill Three progress—I suppose one could call them that—any of them thought to alert the people who were conducting that prosecution that, throughout that time, Dr. Cardoen had passed to the British Government all that they needed to know, as he took Matrix Churchill's weaponry and machine tools and passed them on to Iraq.
How could officials be silent, knowing that all the documentation had been passed to the Government, having been briefed by Dr. Cardoen and having been allowed to see his arms factories, where the Matrix Churchill machinery was repackaged and shipped on?
The Foreign Office has a wonderful response. It says "We shall await the outcome of the Scott inquiry." That has become one of the most frequently used phrases in British politics today. I half expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the Budget will have to await the outcome of the Scott inquiry. Soon, government will stop until Lord Justice Scott manages to conclude the inquiry. How can it be that the Government cannot answer our simple questions? The Government are using Lord Justice Scott to hide behind.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will my hon. Friend once again reflect that not only he and I, and a few other difficult—in the eyes of some people—Members of Parliament are asking these questions? The chairman of the Bar Council has said:Whoever read the confidential documents would have known that it was improper to proceed with the prosecution.Why was the prosecution then not dropped instead of it being pursued, presumably in the hope that the judge would not allow the documents to be disclosed at the trial?
That was said by Anthony Scrivener QC, the chairman of the Bar Council, not the hon. Member for Brent, East or the hon. Member for Linlithgow.
§ Mr. Livingstone
We are in the company of not only the chairman of the Bar Council but two junior Ministers.
What is now revealed in today's newspapers, and in The Guardian in particular, is that two junior Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry refused to sign the documents which their senior colleagues were then prepared to sign. If two junior Ministers knew that it was wrong to sign those documents, how come the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was able to overide them and sign them? There are honourable Conservative Members who realise that the Government were behind the arms sales to Iraq and were not prepared to send innocent men to gaol, but their views as junior Ministers were overridden, and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry signed in their place.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Attorney-General has misled the lot of us in claiming that they had to do it. His argument has been destroyed by Anthony Bradley, professor emeritus of public and constitutional law at the university of Edinburgh and the editor of Public Law.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
I am not sure whether I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, but I thought that he said that the Attorney-General misled someone or other. I hope that he did not, but, if he did, would he mind rephrasing that?
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Attorney-General has led Parliament, the press and people into great confusion on the issue of public interest immunity and has been badly advised in this matter.
§ Mr. Livingstone
There is going to be a lot of confusion before this matter is out of the way, I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
In his interview, Dr. Cardoen refers to the murder of Jonathan Moyle, which brings me back to the point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton. He believes that the point that was raised by my hon. Friend is correct. We readthe Chilean authorities"—not our Government—announced last week that they were re-opening of the investigation into Jonathan Moyle's death. The judge co-ordinating the original inquiry, which was unable to identify Mr. Moyle's murderers, complained that his investigation was obstructed principally by the unwillingness of the British authorities to co-operate.We are talking about embassy officials refusing to co-operate with a Chilean judge investigating the murder of a British journalist who was investigating arms deals involving the former Prime Minister's son. That is a scandal, if true, for which people should go to prison.
Who authorised British officials to refuse to co-operate with the Chilean judge investigating the murder of a British journalist? Was the decision taken at ministerial level? Was it taken on the advice of the security or intelligent services? That is what we wish to know. Then we see the disinformation nonsense again. We readMr. Moyle died in a Santiago hotel room in March 1990, apparently after being injected in the heel. British officials alleged that he died while masturbating.That is exactly what we would expect—disinformation, an attempt to smear someone who has been murdered, not by a Russian spy, not by Carlos Cardoen's henchmen, but by British officials. Who authorised the British officials —the responsible Minister is here; I am sure that he will 1137 tell us—to brief the press that that journalist died while masturbating, when it now appears that he was injected with a lethal substance in his heel?
What did British officials have to cover up? Was it eight years of illegal sanctions busting and arms deals to Iraq that involved the former Prime Minister's son? Is that worth killing for? That is what it is beginning to look like —it is beginning to look like British officials have helped to cover up the murder of a British journalist who was getting embarrassingly close to breaking open a story about the arms dealings of the son of the former British Prime Minister. That is why the matter becomes more sinister with every day that passes.
Arms dealers—unnamed—have insisted that Jonathan Moyle was killed by the Iraqis while investigating an arms deal by Dr. Cardoen and the Iraqis. That may have centred on negotiations that Dr. Cardoen and with Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd. —another British firm —based in Hampshire, for the transfer of sophisticated mine technology. I hope that the British firm will be interviewed by Lord Justice Scott. I hope that we shall be told exactly what it was negotiating to sell the Iraqi regime via Dr. Cardoen's military and financial network.
Dr. Cardoendenies any role in Mr. Moyle's death.I put that on the record because it has been said that it would be unfair to quote part of Dr. Cardoen's interview without also quoting his denials.GEC-Marconi said that contacts with both Cardoen and Iraq were known in advance to the Ministry of Defence.Isn't that interesting! Why were we not told? Why was the Ministry of Defence alerted to what was going on? Did it tell Ministers? Was the Secretary of State for Defence involved? Should not the fact that, at the height of a. war, we were helping to build up one of the most unstable of dictators and to construct a vast military machine in Iraq have been reported to Cabinet? Would not members of the whole Cabinet have liked to discuss whether that was a wise policy? I do not even ask whether it was a moral one. Has there been any discussion since then about how convenient Jonathan Moyle's death has been to the British Government, and to anyone else who may be involved in the matter?
Dr. Cardoen says:it was wrong to cast him as the 'mastermind of an arms procurement network'…onsidering the relatively small amount of business we did with that country in the face of the huge arms sales carried out by the United States and the United Kingdom.I do not want to defend Dr. Cardoen. He has many interesting side interests: for instance, he possesses a major collection of Nazi war daggers. I suspect that he is not "one of us", as the former Prime Minister would have said—I doubt that he is a socialist, that is—but what he has said is of no assistance whatever to the Government.
Dr. Cardoen was educated in the United States of America and was advised to go into weapons production by General Pinochet—also not "one of us". In the early 1980s, he made his money by producingaviation cluster bombs which kill over an area equivalent to 10 football pitches. For the duration of the war"—the war between Iraq and Iran, that is—he was making $80 million a year selling the bombs to Iraq.I should have expected the Prime Minister of the day to advise her son that this was not a business associate with whom he should be involved. Can we imagine what would have happened if one of the children of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), the former 1138 Leader of the Opposition, had been involved with an arms dealer? We would have heard about it; I suspect, indeed, that the Tory press would have run the story for days, until my right hon. Friend had been driven out of public life. However, there was not a peep out of the press. I should also have expected MI6 to alert the Prime Minister to what was going on.
In 1987, Dr. Cardoen built a factory outside Baghdad. This was not some small-time supplier, but the Iraqi Government's main arms supplier other than Governments. The factory was builtfor the production of artillery ammunition and cluster bombs. He brought Matrix Churchill machine tools for this plant.I would have expected MI5 to pick up on that, and brief someone in the British Government.
With the end of the Gulf war came a crisis. How could Dr. Cardoen continue to make ends meet? He diversified.He went into partnership with South Africa for the production of ammunition and he was also negotiating for the transfer of modified US-made Bell helicopters to Iraq. It was rumours of this deal that drew Jonathan Moyle to Santiago.That brings me back to the point at which I came in: the involvement of Mark Thatcher in an attempt to break United Nations sanctions and enable South African arms to be sold to Saudi Arabia.
I have no evidence; circumstantial evidence, however, can be so extensive and so cross-referenced as to build up a case that is overwhelmingly damning. I believe that The Independent, The Guardian, former Israeli intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe and many others who have investigated the matter have built up a case so overwhelming on the basis of such evidence that any jury would convict on what was put before it. It is now the Government's duty to prove their innocence. It is their duty to prove that they did not know what was going on and to convince the House that the former Prime Minister was not briefed about her son's activities. If they cannot do so, they have forfeited any moral claim to continue in office.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
The House will be relieved to hear that I do not need 53 minutes to put over some thoughts on the middle east. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) fired off a sheaf of allegations. His speech resembled a train with many carriages: I did not see very many passengers sitting in them, though the hon. Gentleman had his hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) stoking up the engine from time to time.
Since the hon. Gentleman has been a Member of Parliament, he has enjoyed spattering these Benches with allegations. I feel rather like a tramp who is asked to look through every single street litter bin in Pimlico just in case there is one unsmoked cigar to pick out and smoke. I shall not bother. Most of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman are matters for the law courts. I am interested in the fact that he made a speech that has the protection of the House of Commons. I wonder whether he will make a similar speech outside the House this afternoon.
If the hon. Gentleman and I sat in the Tea Room for an hour discussing politics, we would disagree on 99 points out of 100. I want to refer to the one issue on which I think we do agree; I believe it to be at the heart of our debate.
1139 I think we both agree that the core issue in the troubled middle east concerns the rights and the freedom of the Palestinian people.
Before I address that issue, I intend to say something about our troubled relationships with Libya, the main subject of the first motion on the Order Paper. It is curious that three of us independently approach the middle east from different angles. Those of my colleagues who are anxious to have lunch can read the synopsis of my remarks in the third motion on the Order Paper and rejoin us, having had their lunch.
We have diplomatic relations with all the 21 Arab countries in the middle east except Libya and Iraq. We had problems with Syria; but when British troops were serving alongside Syrian soldiers it was agreed that it would be wise to allow British and Syrian diplomats to meet one another. Thus, we restored relations with Syria.
It is not in the interests of this country to have no relations with Libya. Before Colonel Gaddafi arrived on the scene, we had rather good relations with Libya, from which both sides benefited. There is a great deal of trade to be had with Libya, to the mutual benefit of both countries. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow knows, no doubt, in my capacity as chairman of the Conservative middle east council, I was invited to meet a senior member of the Libyan Government recently to talk about the possibility of restoring relations with Libya.
I shall be blunt with the House. There are many members of the Metropolitan police living in my constituency. If I talk to my constituents about restoring relations with Libya, the first thing they mention is the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. Secondly, they refer to the shipment of arms to the IRA. It is a grim thought that, however successful the authorities may be in the north and the south of Ireland in finding arms caches, there are enough arms available to the IRA to last well into the next century, and perhaps to the year 2020.
Therefore, people regard Colonel Gaddafi, if not the Libyan people, with a jaundiced eye. The Lockerbie explosion was a disgrace. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State described it as the worst civilian massacre in Europe since the end of the second world war, or words to that effect. I believe that that is true. Two hundred and seventy innocent people died in the explosion. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and could not help thinking that Colonel Gaddafi might be well advised to extradite the two individuals in question and then we would see whether legal action followed in Libya.
The hon. Gentleman made a genuine point about the Montreal convention. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister is well qualified to talk about that later.
What emerges is that we need an international court to try criminal cases. I know that it has been suggested that Libya would be happy to hold the trial in Malta, and I believe that Germany has been mentioned recently, but there is no precedent for it. I hope that the Government will raise in the Security Council—it has been raised previously—the possibility of setting up an international criminal court to try those responsible for terrorist crimes and crimes against humanity.
I want to move on to the middle east peace process. Let me begin by paying tribute to President Bush and 1140 Secretary of State Baker, who have painstakingly got the talks under way. It was a considerable achievement, but I cannot honestly regard the United States of America as a neutral between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Are the Palestinians in receipt of more than $3 billion, paid in advance every year? Of course not.
The fact of the matter is that the United States has used Israel as a client state, and in the cold war Israel was seen as an aircraft carrier permanently moored in a strategic part of the world. That was an absurd idea, but I met many people in the United States who saw Israel in those terms. Israel has now become a liability to the United States. I cannot believe, although I pay tribute to the United States, that it is in a good position to push the talks to a peaceful conclusion unless the European Community puts its weight behind the wheel to an extent that I have not yet seen.
The European Community is more involved in the middle east than is the United States. We share a border with the middle east. We have unique responsibilities for the creation of the problem in the first place, and I agree with the hon. Member for Brent, East that we promised Palestine to two different people, which was one of the biggest blunders of British diplomacy this century.
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will tell us that when Community leaders meet at Edinburgh—goodness knows, the problems hovering around the Edinburgh summit must be like the ravens hovering around Edinburgh castle—there will be a strong statement supporting what we said in Venice and in Lisbon, and backing the Palestinian people and the need to get a peaceful long-term settlement to this vexed problem.
I now turn to a related matter—the position of Israel in the Lebanon. My right hon. and learned Friend and I had a quick go at this at a late hour last night. It is monstrous that one middle eastern country is occupying 10 per cent. of an independent and sovereign Arab state. Worse, it has set up a surrogate army—the south Lebanese army—to hold down the people living in the area. It is a hornets' nest. I draw the House's attention to a splendid quote by the late Lord Caradon, who wrote some time ago:To imagine that security comes from repression, grabbing and holding territory, from creeping colonisation in Arab lands or from a concrete encirclement in Jerusalem, from domination by forts and outposts, is a most dangerous deception.He went on:every schoolboy knows that forts in enemy territory are not a guarantee of security, they are a guarantee of insecurity, an invitation to resistance and harassment and attack.I suggest to the House that that is exactly what has happened in southern Lebanon in recent months.
A United Nations spokesman was quoted the other day as saying:The Israelis send their soldiers to occupy someone else's country and get bombed"—it was after the recent incident involving Hezbollah.They then say they are being attacked by terrorists and blame us for not protecting them.
§ Mr. Sumberg
My hon. Friend said of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) that there were 99 issues on which he would disagree with him and one on which he would agree with him. I imagine that my hon. Friend and I are in much the same position.
Will my hon. Friend consider the state of the Lebanon? It is not a country or a state, but a piece of land, parceled up by warlords, including the Syrian army. To pretend 1141 that Lebanon is a united nation, with all the structures of a modern state, is unrealistic. Israel is in Lebanon to protect its borders and its people from terrorist attacks, which have taken place year in and year out. To ignore that factor is to ignore the problems facing the Israeli Government.
§ Mr. Townsend
I am in danger of following the hon. Member for Brent, East in making a rather longer speech than I had intended to make. I am particularly interested in the Lebanon. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) does not suggest that because one country is in a shambles—which I hope that it is emerging from—another country should be allowed to seal off 10 per cent. of it, and send a surrogate army in to repress the local people. That is an impossible international concept. Following the TAIF agreement and international support, the new Government in Lebanon are seeking to establish law and order in that troubled and divided country. We should wish them well. Law and order will not be established as long as the Israelis are allowed to maraud in other people's territory.
When I raised the subject of Lebanon some years ago, one of the Minister's predecessors spoke strongly on the subject, saying:In common with our European Community partners and others, we remain committed to UNIFIL as a force of stability in southern Lebanon. We deplore the recent increase in fighting and all attacks on UNIFIL. Shooting at UNIFIL is completely unjustified. We condemn punitive expulsions —despite UNIFIL protests—of old men, women and children from their houses in Israel's self-declared security zone. The continued Israeli military presence in the Lebanon is provocative, destabilising and against Israel's own long-term interests."—[Official Report, 23 March 1992; Vol. 149, c. 133–34.]I challenge my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to be sufficiently robust to match that when he winds up.
The plight of the marsh Arabs in southern Iraq has troubled me for some time. I welcome the setting up of a no-fly zone there. One of the reasons behind that decision of the United Nations Security Council was to deal with the plight of the Shiia people in the bottom of Iraq. There are two good books on the Arab world which I recommend to my hon. Friends for their holiday reading —Lawrence of Arabia's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", and Wilfred Thesiger's, "The Marsh Arabs". Thesiger writes charmingly of the community that he lived with in the marshes and points out that Iraq's civilisation was founded on the edge of the marshes.
To bring us up to date, my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) recently visited the marsh Arabs. To give the flavour, she told the House that just inside Iraq she found:There are great black, smoking areas, stretching into the water where one or more missiles landed, perhaps an hour earlier. The black zones are 300 metres long: if the missiles had landed in the town they would have demolished 20,000 homes …Food stocks have been removed …The farms have been burnt, including the small rice farms in the marshesShe was also told by the villagers that Iraqi troops were stationed 30 km outside the marshes. Those soldiers returned daily by assault boats, which carry some 35 armed men, to burn, shoot and kill defenceless people and destroy their towns and villages. Whole areas are being emptied of their inhabitants.
1142 We have stopped Saddam Hussein using his aircraft to attack the marsh Arabs, but, of course, he has the military might to move into those villages by assault boat and to use his artillery to destroy them. Although it is true that marsh Arabs are fleeing daily into Iran, where there are already more than 3 million refugees, those who remain behind are captured, tortured and killed. Just maintaining a no-fly zone is insufficient.
I believe that the Government line—it is not my job to speak for them—is that they are greatly concerned about this, but, bearing in mind the trouble they had with the Arab world in setting up that no-fly zone, they do riot believe that a further step is possible. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will make it absolutely clear that we will not sit idly by and that we will raise this matter in the Security Council.
I cannot recall a time since I entered the House—I came here in 1974—when we have all known from official reports produced in this country and abroad that 50,000 people are being exterminated like a plague of locusts. That is happening, and unless action is taken, frankly, by the turn of the year, those people who Wilfred Thesiger so ably described in his book will no longer be on the face of the earth. Surely there is something that we, a permanent member of the Security Council, can do about that.
Before I conclude, I should like to refer briefly to the Atlantic coast of the Arab world. In common with many of my hon. Friends, I enjoyed meeting the head of the Polisario, who was in London a few days ago. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, faces an appalling dilemma that requires the wisdom of Solomon. We have promised a referendum on the western Sahara. The Polisario believes that those who are entitled to vote should be those on the Spanish census in 1974. The Moroccans believe that there are good grounds for adding names to the list—they have produced a lot of names that they want to be added. A journalist said that that was rather like asking the Irish in Boston to be allowed to have a vote in the Irish general election.
It is not for Britain to take sides, but it is for Britain to give all the help that it can, to strain the sinews, to help the United Nations Secretary-General over this particular hurdle. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will find time to comment on that.
§ Mr. Knapman
I take it that my hon. Friend is making the point that a referendum is a good thing where constitutional issues are involved. If that is the case, may I take the opportunity of reminding him of that in forthcoming weeks?
§ Mr. Townsend
My hon. Friend has shared an office with me for many years and I think that he knows my views on that rather well. They are not entirely to his liking.
The moment has come for me to conclude, and I shall do so by reverting to my opening remarks. The peace process has made limited progress in the past year. Inevitably the wilder men in the Palestinian camp say that it is a waste of time and that they must go back to violence. The moderates in the Palestinian camp, including the PLO, are saying, "We must remain stuck into the talks, painful though that may be. Hopefully, Rabin and the new Labour Government in Israel will in time make concessions."
1143 If progress is not made in the talks, and if they finally collapse, the death and destruction that might follow among Palestinians and Israelis is beyond our imagination. I do not see how another war between Jews and Arabs could be avoided in the middle east if the talks finally run into the sand.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) on making a good speech. I agreed with much of it; indeed, I agreed with more of it than the 1 per cent. to which he referred in his opening remarks. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on choosing this subject for debate.
The House has not had an opportunity for a long time to discuss the Arab world in general and relations with Libya and Iraq in particular. Hon. Members have not had a chance to air their views on that important issue, despite its importance to many people in that part of the world and here.
I will not follow the route taken by the hon. Member for Bexleyheath, or by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) in his excellent speech. I shall not dwell on the monstrous Iraqgate scandal. In due course, that whole issue will have to be explained, and not just as a result of Lord Justice Scott's inquiry. It would be wrong for the Government to hide behind such a report. If they tried to do that, the issue would not go away, because innocent people nearly went to prison because of a Government cover-up.
Let us not forget that British and allied troops risked their lives because, out of greed, the Government promoted arms sales to the unstable Iraqi regime. British troops risked their lives by facing those very arms. The issue will not go away even after the Scott report is published. I suspect that it will have a prominent place at the next general election; perhaps it should have been raised more prominently at the last election. If the Government do not answer the Iraqgate questions now, they will have to do so at the next election.
I echo the comments of my neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) in calling for the early release of his constituent, Paul Ride, who is in prison in Iraq. I endorse everything that he said and hope that Mr. Ride will be back with his family at the earliest opportunity.
Several hon. Members have referred to the need to improve relations with Libya. I agree that such an improvement would be beneficial for all concerned. The Lockerbie bombing was montrous and disgusting, but it has not been proved conclusively, at any rate to my satisfaction, that the Libyans were solely responsible. While the blame has been heaped on Libya, Syria and Iran have been forgotten. At other times, when those countries were the bêtes noirs of this country's foreign policy, the blame was heaped onto them. That is not a satisfactory way of getting to the truth.
Not long after that event, an Iranian civilian aircraft was shot down by American forces; I throw that fact out to the House because it could just as easily have been the case that Iran was seeking revenge by attacking American aircraft. It is therefore wrong to put all the blame on Libya 1144 in that respect. I have visited Libya and seen the result of the American bombing when America attempted to kill General Gaddafi in his home and succeeded in killing his baby stepdaughter. That, too, was a disgraceful act.
The whole sorry affair should belong to the past and we should seek to improve relations with Libya. There is great scope to improve relations with Libya. There is great scope in Libya for work for British people and for improving non-military trade. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, we seem to place a disproportionate emphasis on defence sales and military trade, and that needs to be reshaped.
I welcome the election of Governor Clinton to the presidency of the United States for various economic reasons and because of the phrase used by his predecessor at the previous elections when he said that he hoped for a kinder, gentler world. That signally failed to appear and I hope that President-elect Clinton will help us to move towards that kinder, gentler world.
I hope for the eventual downfall—sooner rather than later—of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He is a militarist human rights abuser and a warmonger of the worst order. As my hon. Friends the Members for Brent, East and for Linlithgow said, Saddam Hussein's military machine was built up and sustained by western Governments, including those of the United States and of Britain.
It is likely that, at the beginning of President-elect Clinton's term of office, he will be tested on Iraq. Iraq will probably provoke him and he will feel it necessary to show a demonstration of strength against Saddam Hussein. All that I ask is that it be a strength of character, not of might. The key point is that he should think of the children when he reacts to that provocation. I urge him to do nothing that will make the plight of children in Iraq worse than it already is. He can insist that Iraq complies with United Nations resolutions and dismantles all its weapons of mass destruction, and he can insist that Saddam Hussein be persona non grata throughout the civilised world. But he must not insist on the full enforcement of present United Nations economic sanctions. Those sanctions are much too harsh and damaging to the children of Iraq. That message is at the heart of my speech.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the Security Council should have one weapon at its disposal while it searches for chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq?
§ Mr. Cohen
Indeed, I think that there is a case for maintaining some sanctions—I favour the progressive easing of sanctions. We should take a carrot-and-stick approach. At present, the world is adopting only the stick approach to Saddam Hussein. The Foreign Office should know that that is not the ideal approach and it is better to use the temptation of a carrot. There should be no sanctions that damage the interests of those children or affect the flow of necessary medical supplies and foodstuffs to Iraq.
The rest of the world, the United Nations and our Government should back those who oppose the Iraqi regime. They met at a conference last month at Salahuddin; the delegation included representatives from the Kurdish people in Iraq. There was a coalition of four forces opposed to Hussein. They proposed that Iraq should be a federalist state. I support that suggestion, 1145 which would also take into account the interests of the marsh Arabs—the Shi'ites of whom the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) spoke.
The proposal is not supported by some of Iraq's neighbouring countries which contain Kurdish people, for example, Syria and Turkey. However, I believe that it is a sensible solution which would give the Kurdish people autonomy in their own affairs. Western Governments such as our own and that of the United States have been silent on the matter. They should openly support the proposal of a federalist state in Iraq, back the Iraqi opposition forces and give whatever support they can to the Kurds.
That policy is not supported by Iraq's neighbours such as Turkey. In recent months, we have seen the disgraceful annexation of part of northern Iraq by Turkish forces. Their incursion amounts to annexation. They have said that they will have to stay there until 31 December, but, if we consider Cyprus, where they occupy the north, we see that they could well stay in northern Iraq for much longer. That would be an outrage; after all, the war was fought because of the invasion of one country by another—the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. However, Turkey is invading part of northern Iraq. The Government have kept relatively silent on that matter.
§ Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)
The hon. Gentleman referred to Cyprus. Is it not correct that, in 1960, under a treaty guaranteed by Britain, Greece, Turkey and the two communities in Cyprus, Turkey was given the power to intervene to guarantee the constitution of Cyprus when independence was given?
§ Mr. Cohen
We are talking about the Arab world, and I do not want to start discussing Cyprus. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus is totally unjustifiable. After all, the Berlin wall has come down and Germany is now united, whereas Cyprus continues to be arbitrarily divided and there is an occupying force there. No international law can justify that. The Government should speak openly about the Turkish annexation of northern Iraq and say that that is unacceptable. I hope that the Minister will say that later.
The key issue is the children in Iraq. I bring to the attention of the House an article entitled "Sanctions bite deep" in the Middle East International of 15 May 1992. The article was written six months ago, yet this is the first opportunity we have had to raise the matter in the House. We must thank my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, not the Government, for this opportunity.
The article points out that before the imposition of sanctions in August 1990, the World Health Organisation categorised Iraq as a developed country in terms of its health services. Some 96 per cent. of its urban population and 78 per cent. of its rural population had access to free public health care before sanctions were imposed. Of the 3.5 million Iraqi children under the age of five, 900,000 are at risk of severe malnutrion. The death rate has doubled since before the war because of diseases resulting from malnutrition. The long-term effects of stunting and retardation have yet to appear.
Between August 1990 and January 1992, 31,330 children below the age of five and 67,636 above the age of five have died of malnutrition and disease. In the first three months of 1992, 12,000 infants and 19,950 older children died. Infant mortality has trebled since the war and since sanctions were imposed, and the death rate for older children has doubled. The article refers to the fact that 1146 Iraqi's foreign assets have been blocked. It says that Iraq cannot import vaccines. At least half of Iraq's 18 million people are forced to consume contaminated water, which leads to disease. Last year, there were 9,000 cases of cholera and typhoid cases increased dramatically.
There is undernourishment because Iraq cannot import foodstuffs at the pre-war level as a result of the sanctions. Hospitals are unable to treat patients and are now operating at 30 per cent. of capacity. Some 60 per cent. of specialised equipment is out of order because of a lack of spare parts. The hospitals have to reuse disposable syringes, and surgical gloves are in such short supply that they have to be reused repeatedly. We know what happens if disposable syringes are reused— there is a danger of spreading AIDS. There is a block on chemicals for water purification and on the manufacture of anaesthetics. Some important medical items date back to the third quarter of 1989. Old items are being used when new items should be introduced.
The article points out that the Security Council chose to disregard the recommendation of its own adviser, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, that Iraq should be permitted to import $500 million-worth of medical supplies. That can be described only as a vindictive act against the children. Iraq's total oil exports have had to be limited to $1.6 billion a year. One third of that was to go towards paying for reparations. That meant that the remaining sum was $840 million short of the $1.73 billion that the Prince fixed as necessary to pay for urgent purchases of medical supplies and food. Those are vindictive acts not against Saddam Hussein, but against his population and especially against the children.
The Government should be pressing for the sanctions on foodstuffs and urgent medical supplies to be lifted. When President-elect Clinton demonstrates his strength, I hope that he will not insist that those sanctions should continue.
§ Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)
I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. However, I want first to apologise to the House for having missed the opening speeches of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman), I am sure that they made compelling and telling points about Anglo-Arab relations. That is an important subject and I am extremely glad that the House is debating it today.
It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), who made an impassioned speech. He was right to highlight the plight of the population in Iraq which is desperate and worsening. I have a great deal of sympathy with the humanitarian spirit in which the hon. Gentleman spoke. The plight of the children and the minorities in Iraq is very sad and is something which the world community should address seriously.
It must be said that the remedy for their plight and for the suffering of the Iraqi people lies in the hands of their President, Saddam Hussein. If he decided to allow the export of oil from Iraq under the United Nations agreements, he would be able to better the lot of his people. If he conformed entirely with the requirements of the Security Council, the sanctions would be lifted very quickly and that would allow the population to return to the prosperous lifestyle that they enjoyed before the wars 1147 of aggrandisement which, although not started against Iran by Saddam Hussein, were certainly aided and abetted by his policies.
I do not want to address my comments specifically to Iraq today. The nub of Anglo-Arab relations is the need to ensure that our relations with a wide variety of states in the Arab world are at the best possible level. The middle east is a very sad part of the world at the moment. It is fraught with many conflicts, some of which have broken out in war and some of which have the potential to break out in war. The roots of those conflicts are not the responsibility of the Arabs themselves. The conflicts date back to the partition of the Arab world after the first world war and the somewhat artificial boundaries that were created then.
The conflicts date back to the strains caused by the rapid growth in wealth of the Arab world with the increases in oil prices that began in 1973. That undoubtedly caused great strains between previously friendly neighbours. However, the principal problem in the Arab world—this is the key to much of the conflict in the middle east—is the plight of the Palestinians and the dispute between the Arabs and the Israelis.
One of the great tragedies of that dispute is that it was not created by the Israelis, the Arabs or the Palestinians; it was created from the problems after the first world war and the desperate plight of the Jewish nation after the second world war. That led to impossible pressures on land and resources in the middle east which we have not yet resolved. It is incumbent on the west to help the parties to find a solution to that problem.
With the election of Governor Clinton as President-elect, many of us are worried about a possible change in American policy between Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab world in general and, in particular, Syria. Opinion in Israel on the right way forward to find peace is divided; most obviously, on the question whether peace can be bought in exchange for concessions on land, whether there are other solutions or whether it is possible to create a state of Israel that encompasses the Palestinians and Arabs.
That is a problem which perhaps Israel cannot solve itself. There was hope that the negotiations that started in Madrid would result in a solution. However, there is an enormous variation in how the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams reach decisions about what is possible. There is certainly no universal agreement on the Arab side on what they want to come out of the negotiations, any more than there is on the Israeli side.
The only possibility of finding a satisfactory solution and getting a lasting agreement is if the President of the United States can hold together the pressure that has previously been put on both sides in the negotiations to enable the hotheads in Israel and the Arab world to be kept under control. I am afraid that the change of President will lead to a hiatus in United States policy and perhaps a slackening of resolve, perhaps for a short time. Such a slackening of resolve would mean that the talks which started in Madrid would break down. A breakdown in talks would allow the hotheads on both sides to get an upper hand and we would return to a conflict in the middle east which caused so much grief in the past.
We need to examine ways in which our Government can help the Americans to understand, in the transition 1148 phase between the two Administrations, the issues that are at stake. To find a proper solution to the Palestinian problem is vital for world peace.
I encourage my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to make every effort possible to persuade President-elect Clinton and his team of the vital importance of pursuing the policy which was previously pursued by President Bush.
§ Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington) said much with which I agree. I hope that I will have time in the next 19 minutes to talk about the peace talks which must be at the absolute centre of any discussion about the middle east and our relations with the Arab world. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on the breadth of the subject that he put down for debate today. The debate has given us an opportunity to discuss a range of issues connected with the Arab world.
I will summarise the points in my hon. Friend's motion. First, he wants to end the sanctions against Libya. Secondly, he wants to end the sanctions against Iraq. Thirdly, he wants a United Nations conference on arms sales. Fourthly, he wants a response to Wednesday's "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4. Fifthly, and most important, he has called for a reassessment of relations with the Arab world. He will not be surprised when I tell him that I agree with much of what he said, but not all of it.
I will try to respond as effectively as I can to most of the main points made in the debate. I refer briefly to the specific issues in connection with Libya and Iraq. In the case of Libya, my hon. Friend referred to the bombing of Tripoli. Labour Members deplored and condemned that bombing unreservedly. It is worth remembering what my right hon. Friend the former Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister at the time of the bombing. The day after the bombing he said:Will she accept that it has caused bloodshed and damage to innocents, will result in a loss of American and British influence, even over moderate Arab states and has meant a gain in support for Gaddafi, even from his sworn enemies? … Those are all terrible costs to pay. They are all reasons for us to condemn the United States actions and all reasons why the right hon. Lady, as a true and candid friend of the United States and as a true enemy of terrorism, should join us in that condemnation."—[Official Report, 15 April 1986; Vol. 95, c. 731.]Our view is crystal clear. It is extremely important that Opposition Members reiterate that point today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow went on to talk about sanctions against Libya. I have great respect for the enormous amount of information and the contacts that he has on the subject, and even the linguistic skills of his parents. We debated the matter in great detail in European Standing Committee B as recently as three weeks ago. It would take up extremely valuable time if I were to repeat all the arguments in that debate.
We clearly supported United Nations resolution 748, which imposed the sanctions on Libya. We noted the review of the sanctions by the United Nations sanctions committee this year. We know that, under the 120-day rule, they will be considered again by mid-December at the latest. We very much hope that there will be a positive response from the Libyans by that time.
1149 I echo several points that my hon. Friends have made. It was never the intention that the sanctions should not respect significant humanitarian needs. They are specifically spelt out in the United Nations resolution and also in the European Community regulation. I hope that the Minister will deal with those points.
I now refer to the problem of Iraq. The House will forgive me if I do not immediately talk about arms sales to Iraq, but I must talk briefly about sanctions. Again, a number of moving speeches have been made. I must remind the House that we support the continuation of sanctions against Iraq. The reasons for the continuation of the sanctions were spelt out in the Security Council's statement this week. I will not read out all the reasons, but among them were the refusal of Iraqto co-operate in selling oil to help fund humanitarian programmes in Iraq …`Grave human rights abuses' against the Kurdish population in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.A refusal to recognise the new border drawn between Iraq and Kuwait by United Nations surveyors.Refusal to renounce its territorial claim to Kuwait. Harassment and threats against United Nations weapons inspectors sent to Iraq".I commend that collection of powerful reasons to the House.
I should not leave the issue of relations with Iraq without referring to my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) and for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon). The House will know about their sterling efforts in representing their constituents Paul Ride and Michael Wainwright. Whatever efforts the Foreign Office is making to deal with the serious plight of those two men and their families, I hope that they will be redoubled.
I now refer to Iraq and arms sales. That matter was dealt with extensively in the House on Monday, but there have been developments since then. One of them was contained in today's report in The Guardian. As hon. Members will know, one of the most telling points of the debate was when the President of the Board of Trade dealt with signing public interest immunity certificates. He was challenged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), the former Leader of the Opposition, about the signing of those certificates. I remind the House of a little question and answer session. My right hon. Friend asked:When the right hon. Gentleman signed the certificate, did he know that the people to which the material related had been of assistance to the Government in collecting intelligence information which was of use to the Government?
§ Mr. Grocott
My hon. Friend is right. It was raised earlier by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell). I quoted that passage because the response is quite telling. The President of the Board of Trade replied:The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the moment one is drawn into discussions on that subject a vast range of sub-questions arise which can be dealt with only by a proper and full inquiry."—[Official Report, 23 November 1992; Vol. 214, c. 650.]According to a significant report in The Guardian today, which quotes Whitehall and legal sources, at least one Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry —perhaps even two—refused to sign public interest immunity certificates. The Ministers concerned are cited as probably the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) and maybe the right hon. Member for Hove 1150 (Mr. Sainsbury). What is the Minister's response to that? Did the Foreign office experience the same problem, with various Ministers passing certificates around and trying to get people to sign them?
The "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4, which is mentioned in the motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, was watched by a large audience. A number of serious allegations were made in the programme, and were aired again by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow pointed out, any television programme involved in such allegations would have to be very careful; certainly, when I was making television programmes, lawyers would go through material with a fine-toothed comb before deciding that it was fit to be broadcast. The chances are that some of the best material ended up on the cutting-room floor; that is normally what happens when lawyers deal with material cautiously. Despite all that, however, the "Dispatches" documentary clearly stated that there had been infringements of Cabinet rules. That suggestion cannot be ignored; the Government must respond.
Other important issues are arms sales and the middle east peace talks. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, the right body to deal with arms sales is the United Nations, whose five permanent members have a specific responsibility in that regard. In recent years they have produced about 86 per cent. of all weapons traded internationally—84 per cent. of tanks, 79 per cent. of armoured personnel carriers, 94 per cent. of supersonic combat aircraft, 99 per cent. of subsonic combat aircraft, 73 per cent. of field artillery and 87 per cent. of helicopters. There are good reasons why particular countries need particular weapons at particular times, and good reasons why other countries need to supply them, but the overall picture of arms supplies to the middle east is deeply worrying, especially since the end of the Gulf war.
I do not suggest that there are easy solutions to the problems. At least a start has been made with the common guidelines on arms exports which were agreed by the five permanent Security Council members in October 1991. Another useful development was the General Assembly's decision in December 1991 to establish a register of conventional arms transfers. The problem of arms sales, however, is one which we could begin to deal with at home. I feel that there should be much more openness about it. The Matrix Churchill case shows the need for greater public scrutiny of arms exports in order to enable Parliament to scrutinise the Government's activities.
Some hon. Members will be familiar with the pressure group Safer World. It believes that the minimum requirement should be the submission of a written report by the Government, with a description of the previous year's authorisation of deliveries of arms, together with a copy of the guidelines governing their control, and that the report should form the basis of an annual debate in Parliament, for the knowledge that Government decisions would be open to parliamentary scrutiny each year would have a salutary effect on any Government who were thinking of being flexible with the application of the rules governing the arms trade. The Government might have been much happier today had there been proper parliamentary scrutiny. There would have been no need for Lord Justice Scott's inquiry, or for worries about the issue of public interest immunity certificates.
1151 That brings me to what must surely be at the heart of any debate on Britain's relations with the Arab world—the desperate need for a settlement of the problems between Israel and the Palestinian people. Every other issue in the middle east is, in some sense, subordinate to and dependent upon that one. The problem has not changed over the years—to achieve security for the states in the region and recognition and the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people.
During the past 12 months there has been more reason for optimism than has been the case for many years. The end of the cold war led to a great deal of optimism. It meant that at least there was the possibility that the great powers of the world would not use the states in the middle east as their pawns in the way that the imperial powers of old used them to fight their surrogate wars. The end of the Gulf war meant that for the first time the United States, recognising its enormous power and influence in the middle east, showed a willingness to be a key player in trying to solve the problem between Israel and the Palestinians.
I never thought that I would congratulate a Republican Administration in the United States, but Secretary Baker ought to be admired for starting the talks. I must also mention the great optimism at the time of the Israeli general election. On 13 July of this year the new Prime Minister, Mr. Rabin, told the Knesset:We must join the international movement towards peace …lest we be the last to remain, all alone, in the station. The new Government has accordingly made it a prime goal to promote the making of peace and take vigorous steps that will lead to the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict… We believe wholeheartedly that peace is possible, that it is imperative and that it will ensue.Those were golden words from anyone concerned about the problems of the middle east.
There are real concerns now about the delay in the peace process. When Secretary Baker set it up just over a year ago he said that he hoped that there would be an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians before the end of the first 12 months. That has not happened. Nobody disputes that an enormous amount of work has been done. There have been bilateral talks that will soon enter their eighth round. There has also been a range of multilateral talks, but the feeling persists that time is not on the side of the peace makers. For those who want to see peace in the middle east, time is of the essence to the negotiators. They need to be able to show to the people they represent that there are real benefits to be gained from the negotiating process.
The two key issues that need to be addressed were mentioned by the Foreign Secretary in his speech on Monday. He said:We urge the Israelis to improve the position on human rights in the occupied territories …so that the people who are negotiating on behalf of the Palestinians can actually show to their constituents the practical benefits of the peace process. A complete freeze on settlement activity. …would be such a step.What steps are the Government taking to inject new life and impetus into the peace process and to persuade President-elect Clinton of the urgent need to act? We have had a Baker initiative, so let us now have a Clinton initiative. Of all the pressing problems facing him, it is 1152 difficult to imagine a more important international problem than the continuation of the peace process and an attempt to settle the problems of the middle east.
Britain has made many mistakes in the history of its dealings with the countries of the middle east, but there can be no doubt about our duty now—to do all within our power through the EC, the United Nations and our support for the Madrid initiative to see that Governments representing the most dangerous part of the world continue to talk to each other rather than fight. We should be generous with our time and money. The settlement of the seemingly endless conflict between Israel and her neighbouring states is a prize worth all the effort.
§ 2 pm
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)
The maintenance of peace in the middle east has been one of the most important strategic objectives of British foreign policy certainly since the beginning of this century. I am certain that it will remain so for decades to come. The reasons are quite evident: the ensuring of a stable and secure supply of oil to the west, the strategic geographical importance of the middle east, the fact that the area is riven with historical, religious and ethnic tensions, the fact that the countries involved have a substantial accumulation of weaponry—sometimes weaponry of mass destruction—and the fact that emanating from the middle east are muscles and nerves that reach other parts of the world and are capable of causing convulsions there. For all those reasons, therefore, the middle east is of enormous importance to this country in particular and the western world in general.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for tabling the motion and enabling the House to address those matters. I am grateful, too, to my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) and for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) for having widened the nature and framework of the debate.
Clearly, I have to make my own assessment of priorities when I seek to reply to all the points that have been made. I candidly say, therefore, that I shall not follow the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) in the questions that he asked about Mark Thatcher. Against the background of such an important issue, it seemed to be a curious ordering of priorities to have spent nearly 50 minutes talking about Mark Thatcher.
I shall, however, deal with broader issues. I shall begin with a short comment on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who spoke of democracy. He was right to remind us that western concepts of pluralism and democracy cannot be imported into the middle east without some adjustment. He was also right that we must be careful not to undermine the legitimacy of existing regimes, and that is clearly true of the shaplier Governments.
I do not draw from those observations the conclusion that we should simply reinforce the status quo, because enormous dangers would flow from that. People want greater participation in the process of government in their countries, and it seems to be in our interests—and it may be our duty—to reinforce that desire and to persuade friendly Governments in the middle east to respond to that pressure and to acknowledge when good change takes place. I willingly acknowledge the changes that have taken place in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and, most obviously, in the 1153 kingdom of Jordan. Those are all welcome, but we need to go on pressing our friends in the middle east to ensure that their Governments are more responsive to the desires of the people whom they govern and are more accountable.
Several hon. Members—most obviously, the hon. Member for Linlithgow—focused on Libya. I shall respond to him and mention some other aspects of that issue. The hon. Gentleman was right—I saw Dr. James Swire earlier this week, together with Pamela Dix. I told them that the warrants had been issued only for those people against whom there was prima facie evidence of guilt. It was for the prosecution authorities—the Lord Advocate, the police and the agencies which have been responsible for the inquiries—to determine against whom there was sufficient evidence to issue a warrant. The Government have not in any way endeavoured to shape the outcome of those inquiries. Those authorities determined the outcome and followed where the evidence led.
Looking to the future, we expect Libya fully to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. In particular, we expect the Libyan Government to surrender the two named individuals for trial—to either the courts of Scotland or of the United States.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath reminded us of the Libyan Government's extremely poor record. They supplied arms and explosives to the IRA, as a result of which many people died; WPC Fletcher was shot by someone from within the Libyan embassy; and we believe that they were associated with the Lockerbie disaster and crime. All those incidents are on our minds, and I see no prospect of relations with Libya improving until it complies fully with the Security Council resolutions. I do not think that sanctions could or should be lifted until that happens.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The authorities have not followed entirely where the investigation led. The Scottish police have been unable to interview Marwan Khreesat, and Yvonne Ridley, the journalist of Scotland on Sunday, was told by Mr. Jibril that he would be willing to talk to western investigators. That has never been followed up, although I wrote to the Foreign Secretary about it.
§ Mr. Hogg
My noble Friend the Lord Advocate is content with the evidence that he has accumulated against those named individuals. Warrants have been issued against those for whom we think that there is prima facie evidence of guilt. I have no hesitation in saying that they followed the evidence where it led.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) mentioned extradition. I disagree with his analysis. It may or may not be true that a Libyan law precludes the extradition of Libyan citizens, but the Libyans have suggested on various occasions that the two named individuals could be tried elsewhere, before an international court or the court of a third country. The hon. Gentleman echoed that when he referred to the Government of Malta and the courts there. From all the discussions of which I am aware, it does not seem that the Libyan Government have any difficulty in sending those two characters to a court of which they approve; therefore, it seems that the Libyan Government could have no difficulty in sending them to the courts of the United States or Scotland, which is what I hope and expect them to do.
The Montreal convention—
§ Mr. Hogg
I shall proceed to the Montreal convention, which the hon. Member for Tottenham mentioned.
I do not accept that the British, United States or French Governments have acted in any way in breach of that convention. It is perhaps necessary to remind ourselves of the nature of the allegations against those two named individuals: it is that they, senior officials of the Libyan Government, committed these grave acts of murder. There must be a strong suspicion that what they did was authorised by higher officials in the Libyan Administration. I find it an offensive concept that a state, which may have authorised murder of this kind, should also be the state responsible for the trial of its, possibly, authorised agents. In my view, the Montreal convention does not apply to state crime and, in any event, the International Court of Justice made it plain that the decisions of the Security Council override the Montreal convention.
The hon. Member for Tottenham referred also to the Libyan health service and the difficulties that it faces. He made the same point in the European Standing Committee on Wednesday, so I shall deal with it swiftly, but I understand that he attaches considerable importance to it.
The first thing to understand is that the sanctions regime does not impose a prohibition on the importation of medicines or medical supplies. Moreover, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, the provisions of resolution 748 enable the Libyan Government to apply on humanitarian grounds for an exemption from the prohibition on air flights. The hon. Gentleman was fair enough to acknowledge that that Government have made no such application.
The hon. Gentleman said that the procedure is cumbersome. If the Libyan Government want to make an application, we are perfectly willing to look at the mechanism, but I suspect that the truth is that that Government do not want to recognise the existence of the sanctions regime. Therefore, however flexible the mechanism may be, they would not operate it.
It is true that doctors and medical staff have been leaving Libya, but that has as much to do with the fact that they have not been paid as with any other consideration that the hon. Gentleman suggested. The plain truth is that there are penalties associated with sanction regimes. If Libyans want to remove those penalties, they would do well to persuade their Government to comply with the Security Council resolution.
§ Mr. Bernie Grant
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not answered my other point, that it is normal in the United Nations Security Council for parties to a dispute not to vote on a resolution involving that dispute. Why did Britain, France and the United States, which are parties to the dispute, vote on resolution 748?
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman raised precisely that point in the European Standing Committee and I was able to say then, and I now repeat, that he has entirely misunderstood the practice and procedure within the United Nations.
The hon. Member for Tottenham also referred to the AWD truck contract. The UN resolution imposes a positive ban on the sale of military vehicles, but some of the vehicles in question are to be supplied to the Libyan army. All of them have the characteristics of a military 1155 vehicle, in the sense that they are sand-coloured and have long-range fuel tanks. Clearly, they could be used to carry men and munitions. I am not saying that those vehicles are, as a matter of law, certainly military ones, but they may be. Therefore, if there is an application to export them to Libya—as yet we have not received one—we will do two things: first, we must refer to the sanctions committee, or, to put it more accurately, we will refer to that committee, and secondly, we must consider whether the vehicles fall within the scope of the secondary legislation that we have put in place. To do otherwise would be not to comply with the regulations which, broadly speaking, have the support of most hon. Members.
Much time has been spent on the guidelines relating to the supply to Iraq of arms and arms-making material. I remind the House that the matter was fully covered in Monday's debate. Whatever else may be true, it is a fact that this country has by far the most stringent arms control regime of any country in the world—hence the guidelines issued in 1985 by the then Foreign Secretary which prohibited absolutely the supply of lethal equipment.
Difficulties have arisen in respect of the supply of dual-use machinery which is not the subject of an absolute bar. Here, the criteria were directed to preventing the flow of machine tools designed significantly to enhance Iraqi military capacity. As the House knows, Lord Justice Scott's inquiry will address the question whether the Government's policies then in place were properly carried out.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud that that issue should be left to that inquiry. I also echo what he said about an awful lot of humbug having been talked on the matter. No one supposed in the 1980s that British troops would be involved in a war with Iraq. Hindsight of that kind distorts vision and makes dishonest the position being taken by many hon. Members.
I agree with the hon. Member for Brent, East that, applying those standards, he had every reason to be embarrassed by the substantial supply of arms authorised by the then Labour Government to the Argentine, involving type 42 destroyers, missiles of various kinds, RAF Canberra and helicopters. Neither side on this matter is in a position to criticise the other.
§ Mr. Grocott
The Minister will appreciate that there are several crucial aspects of the matter. One was the deliberate attempt by Ministers to mislead Parliament on the basis of known comments by civil servants at the time. For example, one civil servant was quoted as having said:There seems to be considerable merit in keeping as quiet as possible about this politically sensitive issue.So a crucial issue is the difference between what was happening in private and what was being said in public.
§ Mr. Hogg
The Prime Minister set up the Scott inquiry to see whether there was any merit in points of that kind.
The more substantive matter is the question of lifting sanctions on Iraq. I see no early prospect of that. There has not yet been full compliance with the relevant elements in the resolutions—for example, there are still 800 or so Kuwait detainees held by Iraq. There has been a failure to make full disclosure of all the weapons of mass destruction and a failure to sign up to the verification regime.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath said, massive repression is going on in the marshes of south 1156 Iraq. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) rightly alluded to the fact that an economic blockade is going on in the north of Iraq, and there has been complete failure to comply with the demarcation procedure along the Iraq-Kuwait frontier. The time has not come for sanctions to be lifted.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow has a point when he says that there is privation in Iraq, and the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard), to whose speech I shall come shortly, referred to difficulties with medicines. However, I am sure that both the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath will bear in mind that, although resolutions 706 and 712 set up a mechanism whereby the supply of oil could be used to fund the purchase of medicines and other humanitarian supplies to Iraq, Saddam Hussein declined to accept that mechanism.
§ Mr. Knapman
Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that, given that the border between Jordan and Iraq is largely a long line drawn in the sand, Jordan is doing its best to ensure that sanctions are not broken?
§ Mr. Hogg
I shall deal with the important points that my hon. Friend made about Jordan in a moment, but the answer to his question is that Jordan's compliance with the sanctions regime has improved enormously in recent months. I accept that the Jordanian Government are making serious attempts to prevent a substantial evasion of sanctions across that border.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow asked about Mr. Ride. The sentences imposed by the Iraqi courts are grotesque and wholly disproportionate to the nature of the alleged offence. In the absence of diplomatic relations, we are doing our best to maintain contact with Mr. Ride and Mr. Wainwright and I am extremely grateful to the Russian Government for what has been done by Russian diplomats in Baghdad to maintain contact. The Russians last saw Mr. Ride and Mr. Wainwright on 21 November and I am glad to say that both were physically well. As the hon. Member for Walthamstow knows, Mrs. Ride was able to visit her husband fairly recently.
We shall continue vigorously to press the case of Mr. Ride and Mr. Wainwright. Two diplomats are now in Amman awaiting visas to travel to Baghdad to see the conditions in which they are held. However, those diplomats are not in the business of negotiating. We shall not negotiate the release of those two people. There is no relationship between the sanctions and getting those people out of prison. The sanctions regime is justified, for all the reasons that I have given. The prison sentence is not justified, and one cannot and should not trade one for the other.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath is troubled by the issue of the marsh Arabs in south Iraq, and so am I. They are certainly being seriously oppressed, which was one of the reasons—perhaps the conclusive reason—why we instituted the no-fly zone. I accept that ground action is continuing against the marsh Arabs and, moreover, a blockade is in place. I know that it will disappoint my hon. Friend, but I must be candid to the House and say that I see no early prospect of Security Council authority for taking military action in south Iraq. My hon. Friend, who knows the arguments involved—the 1157 sensitivities of the adjourning Arab states—will understand the difficulties, even if he thinks that we are wrong to heed them.
The only assurance that I can give my hon. Friend now flows from the recent signing of the memorandum of understanding, which authorises the setting up of a relief programme in south Iraq and the deployment of the United Nations guards. Using such channels as we have, we shall press the Iraqi Government to comply with the undertakings contained in the memorandum of understanding.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud made an important and interesting speech and touched on an issue of considerable importance to us—the stability of the kingdom of Jordan and this country's ancient friendship with Jordan and its present monarch. He was entirely right to say that. It is true that our relationship was put under serious strain during the Gulf war, but ours is an old friendship and has survived that strain. We very much wish to see the king remain in place, his country remain stable and his relationships with adjoining states in the middle east reinforced and, where necessary, improved. We shall help in that process as much as we are able.
There are a number of reasons for attaching importance to the kingdom of Jordan—one of which is, of course, geographical. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud said, that country is leading the way in developing democratic forms in the middle east. We welcome the election under universal franchise that took place in November 1989 as an extremely helpful step forward. The role of the king, especially in the peace process negotiations, has been to provide a useful voice, for moderation—one which we reinforce and should like to endorse.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud also made an important point about the refugees. The return to Jordan of about 300,000 refugees as a consequence of the Gulf war has placed that country under a burden of considerable economic pressure. My hon. Friend asked what we were doing about the rescheduling of debt. Negotiations with Jordan on a Paris club bilateral agreement on the rescheduling of intergovernmental debt are currently proceeding to what I hope will be a successful conclusion. As for commercial debt, negotiations with the London club are continuing. The main aid from the United Kingdom goes via the European Community's financial protocols, under which 126 mecu have been made available. We have a small bilateral programme. The issue of the canal is probably best carried forward in the multilateral discussions currently under way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) raised two important issues touching on the middle east. The first involves hostages, and there was a slight tension on the subject between my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South. I very much agree that all those held without due process of law should be released. That certainly applies to Ron Arad, the navigator. We have made strenuous efforts, first, to determine whether he is alive—we believe that he is, but we have no concrete evidence—and, secondly, to press those with influence to secure his release. It is also true that people such as Sheikh Obeid and those held in south Lebanon without due process of law should be released. We have made that case on a number of occasions to the Israeli Government, and 1158 I hope that it will be heeded. I recognise what a vexing subject Jerusalem is. We do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem or recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, which is why no British ambassador will be posted there. Jerusalem, as a whole, is a special case and its status is yet to be determined. We believe that the city should not be divided. Jerusalem and its status must be addressed in the peace process. I suspect that the problem will not be resolved until the rest of the negotiations have been concluded arid agreements are in place.
The subject of the peace process was touched on by a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for The Wrekin and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath. I regard it as an enormously important issue—
§ Mr. Hogg
I shall not give way.
I very much welcome the flexibility shown by Prime Minister Rabin.
A number of principles should govern our approach and, I hope, that of the parties. First, talks must proceed on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 —the concept of land for peace. Secondly, the security of the state of Israel must be ensured. Thirdly, everybody must recognise that the Palestinians have a right to determine their own political future and have a right to land to make a reality of that self-determination. I believe that an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a condition precedent to any development between Israel and the Arab states. I do not believe that Israel can secure separate, free-standing agreements with the Arab states unless there is satisfaction about the Palestinians.
The Israelis will have to make substantial concessions and it will not be easy for them—
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is traditional in the House that, in Friday debates, Ministers answer questions rather than make general policy statements. Five hours ago, I began to ask a number of specific questions about Mr. Higson and what he had been reported as saying, about Libya and Iraq, and about the evidence given to me by the Shias. The Minister of State, who is a senior member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has made no attempt to refer to the questions. He dismissed the other questions—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The Chair has no responsibility for the content of any hon. Member's speech, as the hon. Gentleman knows.