HC Deb 21 April 1999 vol 329 cc905-7
Q8. [80329] Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

When he last met president Clinton.

The prime minister

I last met the president in February, but, obviously, we have remained in very close contact, particularly over the past few weeks.

Dr. Godman

I take it that Northern Ireland was on the agends. Does the Prime Minister agree with the remark of President Mary McAleese yesterday eveinig: What has proved most difficult to agree on is the emblematic issue of beginning disarmament"? My right hon. Friend, the Taoiseach and, indeed, President Clinton himself have sought to lower the political temperature and sustain dialogue between the parties concerned, so that an accommodation can be reached which meets the interests of the people of north and south. May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that one way of lowering the political temperature would be to guarantee the impartiality and the integrity of the investigation into the despicable murder of Rosemary Nelson?

The Prime Minister

I entirely share my hon. Friend's sentiments about the murder of Rosemary Nelson. We have put in an independent police force from Kent precisely to carry out that investigation. I hope that people can see that we are making every effort possible to ensure that the people who carried out that barbaric act are brought to justice.

We will carry on working for the implementation of the Good Friday agreement in every way that we can. The declaration that we made at Hillsborough was a way—we thought—that could provide us with a route through this particular impasse, but we will carry on working as hard as we can to achieve that. That is because, first, the vast majority of people—the parties to the Good Friday agreement—want the agreement to work. The most frustrating thing about the whole issue is that they want it to work and are, in my view, all committed to making it work, but we are down to some very great difficulties in getting over the last remaining hurdles.

Secondly, the Good Friday agreement still remains the best chance that people have for a good future in Northern Ireland, because it resolves the constitutional issues and allows us to move to equality of treatment for everybody in Northern Ireland. That is surely what the whole House would want.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Given the uncertainty of the air operations, will the right hon. Gentleman consult our allies in Washington this weekend on the necessity of providing rapid reaction forces, airborne forces and commando forces not only on the carriers in the Adriatic but in other locations around Kosovo, so that President Milosevic may be in no doubt that NATO is absolutely, irrevocably determined to see this through?

The Prime Minister

We certainly are determined to see this through. I do not want to add anything to what I said on the issue of ground forces earlier in our Question Time exchanges. I know that the hon. Gentleman realises that, in any event, at this stage we would be fighting an air campaign. However, as was said by the US State Department a short time ago, and as I said yesterday, all options remain under review. The difficulties that we have set out in respect of ground forces remain, but as I said in answer to earlier questions and say again now, Milosevic does not have a veto on NATO action.

On the hon. Gentleman's particular points, we review all options, but there is a justifiable limit to the degree to which we should discuss wholly openly every single different part of military tactics and strategy. I know that he will understand that, too. I assure him that our will and determination to see this through is absolute. I believe that demonstrating that will at the NATO summit this week is a big part of ensuring success.

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