HC Deb 17 June 1999 vol 333 cc582-656

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Hanson.]

1.45 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

I welcome the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) to his new place on the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman has proved that he has the merit to earn his promotion, and I congratulate him on it. I congratulate him, too, on his good fortune in taking up his position on the first day on which the House may debate Kosovo in the confident knowledge that NATO's military campaign has secured its objectives.

There is much still to be done. We will continue vigilantly to monitor the withdrawal of all Serb forces until the last vehicle has rolled over the border. That moment will mark not the end of our engagement in Kosovo but the start of a new stage in which we must face the civilian challenge of rebuilding its shattered economy and its fractured society.

We are near the completion of our military objectives. The first was an end to all repression in Kosovo and the withdrawal of all Serb forces, including all army units, special police, and paramilitary forces. As the House knows, Serb forces are carrying out a full withdrawal from Kosovo. The majority of Serb forces have left Kosovo: zones one and two are mostly clear. The military agreement requires the last of them to have left zone three by Monday. Their phased withdrawal is broadly in line with the agreed timetable. On the whole, withdrawal is being accomplished without further violence, but we deplore isolated incidents that have occurred, such as the tank shells reportedly fired into a village last night.

Our second objective was the deployment in Kosovo of an international military presence with NATO at its core. Some 16,000 NATO troops are already deployed across Kosovo. The United Kingdom provides the largest national contribution, currently double the number of troops provided by any ally. The rapid deployment of such a large number of troops with heavy equipment has been a remarkable feat of professional planning and disciplined execution. The House can be proud both of the performance of the British units and of the leadership of the whole operation by General Jackson and his team.

Our third objective was the unconditional return of all refugees. Milosevic not only expelled Kosovo Albanians, but deliberately set out to make their return more difficult by ordering his troops to destroy all the identity papers of those who left. For a long time, Milosevic insisted that any peace plan must enable Serbia to screen refugees who were returning. He will have no such power. At British insistence, the Security Council resolution makes it explicit that only the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will have a say over the return of the refugees.

In short, our military campaign has secured all our objectives. There has been no compromise by NATO, no concession to Belgrade and no guarantee of immunity to Milosevic or those others indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal.

Now that the campaign is over, I am struck by the large number of commentators who turn out to have supported it all along. It did not always seem that way during the dark hours that inevitably occur in any conflict. Nevertheless, we can declare an amnesty, if not in Serbia at least in Britain. I am happy to welcome support for the campaign from all who now welcome its outcome.

I hope nevertheless that a representative of the Scottish National party will turn up to take part at some point in the debate. I regret the fact that no SNP Member is here. Perhaps, now that the title of the debate is being shown on the annunciator screens around the Palace, one of them will hurry in to recant on the SNP leader's denunciation of our campaign as "unpardonable folly". As recently as 1 June, the party's defence spokesman talked of NATO stumbling inexorably towards military defeat in Kosovo". Two days later, on 3 June, Milosevic capitulated. Events have proved that it was not the strategy of NATO that was unpardonable folly, but the powers of prediction of the SNP.

Even those of us who supported the campaign from the start, however, cannot fully grasp the scale of the relief and joy of those who have endured the past three months within Kosovo. The warm and enthusiastic welcome for our troops from Kosovo Albanians who have showered their tanks with flowers testifies to the dark horror from which we have liberated them.

Yesterday I had a phone call from Pristina from Veton Surroi, the publisher of the leading Albanian newspaper, Koha Ditore, and a principal figure in the peace talks at Rambouillet. Veton Surroi has been in hiding in a succession of flats in Pristina since the middle of March. He described it to me as "one long night". The greatest strain had been the knowledge that he brought with him the threat of death to those who hid him. Had we faltered in our resolve and abandoned our military campaign, Veton Surroi would surely have been hunted down and killed, like Fehmi Agani, his colleague in the Rambouillet delegation.

As it is, Veton is now able to join us in the reconstruction of Kosovo. His first priority is to get Koha Ditore back on the streets again. Today I can announce to the House that the Foreign Office will provide a grant of £50,000 to help him to repair the damage to the offices and printing presses of the Albanian newspaper and get it back into production. Access to a free media is a fundamental condition of the democracy we are now able to build in Kosovo.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Before my right hon. Friend develops the point about the reconstruction of Kosovo, as all the broadsheets today lead on their front page with some of the horrifying atrocities that were committed during the last months of the Serbian regime, will he again consider the point that I made to him earlier this week, namely, that a White Paper on the atrocities should be presented to Parliament? I realise that a war crimes investigation will continue and, hopefully, prosecutions will occur.

Mr. Cook

I am considering how I can best respond to my hon. Friend's point. I am not sure that a White Paper would necessarily be the best way forward, but we have placed in the Library details of the atrocities of which we are aware to date. Certainly I shall consider what further document we can make available to Parliament and the public.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

On the point about press freedom and encouraging the forces of democracy within Kosovo, will my right hon. Friend consider what help might be given by the World Service of the BBC, for which there is enormous respect in the region, not only in terms of reaching right into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, beyond the leaders, but in training journalists in that area?

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The House will be aware from previous debates that the broadcasts from the BBC World Service to the region have greatly increased throughout the period of the conflict, and that is one of our tools for making sure that we get the truth past the poisonous wall of propaganda built by President Milosevic. If, over the coming months, we can establish a real, free democracy in Kosovo, with a real, truly open media, it will provide inspiration and encouragement to Opposition forces in Serbia who will see Kosovo enjoying freedoms denied to the people of Serbia.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) anticipated what I was about to say about the victims of war crimes within Kosovo. In some ways, Veton Surroi is among the lucky ones. He has survived, while more than 10,000 others have been murdered. I want those who ordered the murders, the brutality and the tortures to know that we shall spare no effort in bringing them to justice.

One of the toughest negotiations over the text of the Security Council resolution related to the reference to the International War Crimes Tribunal. Throughout those negotiations Britain insisted that there must be a strong, clear commitment to the work of the tribunal. By the end of the negotiations, we had secured a demand for full co-operation with the tribunal by all concerned. Britain will lead the way in providing that full co-operation. The first task falls to our troops in KFOR to identify the sites of war crimes. In village after village that our troops have entered to provide security, they have been confronted by the most harrowing evidence of the atrocities committed against the people of Kosovo.

Only 10 miles into Kosovo at Kacanik, our troops came across the freshly dug earth and the putrid smell of a mass grave. Local villagers have given evidence that about 100 people were killed in April, including the women and children of the village. In Pristina this week, the Parachute Regiment uncovered a regional police headquarters that had clearly been used as a torture centre. In a building with five floors and a cellar, British forces found knives, rubber and wooden batons, baseball bats with Serb slogans carved into them, and drugs, presumably used to sedate the victims. Outside the building, a trail of charred paper led to an incinerator—as the Serb forces left, they appeared to have tried to burn any documentary evidence of their crimes. However, the instruments of torture left behind tell their own story. Investigators for the International War Crimes Tribunal are now visiting the scene.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Before we leave Kacanik, I do not doubt that those terrible things occurred—

Mr. Winnick

That is good of you.

Mr. Dalyell

I think my hon. Friend might wait.

Will my right hon. Friend examine the circumstances at the end of February, in which the Serb police inspector, Bogulduk Staletovic, who was trying to bring together the ethnic Albanian community and the Serbs, was murdered, together with several of his friends? Does my right hon. Friend accept that both sides were involved in brutalities—in some areas, one side was more involved than the other? If there is to be an investigation, the full truth should be revealed.

Mr. Cook

As I told my hon. Friend on Monday, when he put a similar point to me, the remit of the International War Crimes Tribunal is without regard to ethnic identity or nationality. The tribunal will resolve for itself which war crimes it pursues. In Bosnia, the tribunal has already proved that it is blind to ethnic identity when it comes to examining a war crime.

I must rebut my hon. Friend's closing statement. It is wholly false to imply that there is any kind of equivalence between the isolated, occasional examples of violence against the Serb population and the wholesale, co-ordinated, premeditated, pre-planned deportation of a whole people at the point of a revolver, and under pain of brutality and systematic rape. Yes, of course we shall also pursue those responsible for crimes against the Serb people, but I do not think that my hon. Friend—for whose wisdom and intelligence I have great respect—should blind himself to the wholly different character of the sustained brutality launched by Belgrade against the people of Kosovo.

I was about to assure the House that Britain has committed a 15-strong team of police officers experienced in investigating scenes of crime. Those officers are already deployed at Kacanik. Theirs will be the grisly and unpleasant task of exhuming the mass graves and recording the cause of death. Their forensic skill and professional commitment will make a vital contribution to bringing to justice those responsible for the atrocities that have been committed in Kosovo.

If we are to discourage the survivors from taking the law into their own hands and seeking revenge, we must convince them that the international community means business when it offers a legal remedy against those responsible for the atrocities. Reconciliation will not be easy after the horrors of the past year, or of the ethnic cleansing of the past three months. However, we are determined to make every attempt to create a pluralist, multi-ethnic Kosovo. Our objective was to reverse the ethnic cleansing. Having fought that campaign to halt the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians, we will not now tolerate the ethnic cleansing of the Serb population in Kosovo, nor of any other ethnic minority. The Balkans do not need another tragic round of revenge killings. We must break the cycle of violence that perpetuates ethnic hatred and fear.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

Long before Rambouillet, in response to a question I put to him, my right hon. Friend gave the House an assurance that, in any settlement, he would ensure that the human rights of the Serb minority were protected. The idea that Kosovar Albanians and Serbs can live together in peace is something of a pipe dream. We find it hard enough to persuade Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland to live in harmony, and what about the divided island of Cyprus? Might we not have to accept some form of partitioning, even if only in the short run?

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend puts his finger on one of the true tragedies of the Serb population of Kosovo. Some of them have complained that Milosevic betrayed them when he abandoned them; in truth, he betrayed them when he failed to sign up to the Rambouillet peace accords, which would have provided that Serb population with full protection and with their own elected national community leaders to protect their culture, their language, their religion and their customs. That opportunity was lost by Milosevic, and that was the great betrayal of the Serbian population of Kosovo. I agree that it will not be easy to persuade people to face the future without feeling the bitterness of the past, but there can be no long-term future of stability, peace and prosperity for the Balkans if we try to sweep every ethnic group into its own pure cantonment where it has no contact with any of the many other ethnic groups of the Balkans region.

I intend to visit Kosovo next week. Throughout the crisis, I have consulted almost daily with my colleagues, the Foreign Ministers of our major allies, and on behalf of us all I will deliver in Pristina two clear messages to the peoples of Kosovo. To the Serb population I will say, "KFOR is there to protect you as well." The Security Council resolution makes it clear that the obligation relates to the security of Albanian and Serb citizens alike. We ask those Serb residents now fleeing Kosovo to turn back and to contribute to a multi-ethnic Kosovo that respects the human rights of every citizen, irrespective of ethnic identity or religion. To the Albanian population, I shall say that anyone who takes the law into his own hands undermines the opportunity for Kosovo to become an open democracy based on the rule of law. I understand the appalling emotional distress that must be experienced by those who have lost husbands or wives, fathers and mothers, but to pursue revenge for the past will only make it impossible to secure a future without violence for their children.

We have now secured one of the two military priorities set out in the Security Council resolution: an agreement for the withdrawal of all Serb forces. To guarantee the ceasefire throughout Kosovo, it will now be necessary to make progress on the other immediate priority: demilitarising the Kosovo Liberation Army. At Rambouillet, the KLA accepted the principle of demilitarisation in the context of a NATO security force. We are now negotiating the practical arrangements for observance of the ceasefire by the KLA, and we hope soon to have its signature to an undertaking with KFOR for demilitarisation. I hope to speak later today with Hashem Thaqi, the leader of the KLA, to urge an early signature to the undertaking.

By early next week, we expect KFOR to have fulfilled its planned deployment throughout Kosovo. That is based on five sectors, led by Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States. Other allies, such as the Dutch, Belgian and Canadian forces, are already contributing units to one or other of those sectors. Today, the United States hopes to reach agreement with Russia on the basis for a Russian participation in KFOR. Madeleine Albright and Bill Cohen will report tomorrow to a meeting of NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers. We might then be in a position to finalise the arrangements whereby the Russian contribution can play its part in the command structure within one of the allied sectors. Only a fortnight to the day from the date when President Ahtisaari secured the capitulation of President Milosevic, we are already on the way to making a reality of the peacekeeping military presence in Kosovo with NATO leadership.

However, it will take much longer to undertake the immense task of civil and economic reconstruction in Kosovo. It will take the full commitment of all available international agencies to measure up to the task, which will not be over until the last refugee has returned to his or her village and we have ensured that all refugees have the shelter they need for the next winter. When she winds up the debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will speak more fully about our contribution to the return of the refugees and to the urgent task of providing emergency relief to all those who have been trapped hiding among the hillsides and forests of Kosovo for the past terrifying three months.

The objectives we set for the campaign were not ones we drew up to suit ourselves. We did not demand the withdrawal of all Serb forces for the convenience of NATO, nor does NATO have any wish to occupy Kosovo. The driving reason behind the objectives of our campaign was that they should create the conditions necessary for the refugees to know that they could return in safety. We have secured those conditions, and we will not halt until we have completed the task of repopulating Kosovo with the people whom Milosevic tried to deport.

The defeat of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo has an impact that goes far wider than Kosovo itself. It has given hope to the whole of the Balkan region that the rest of Europe will not tolerate aggression or ethnic violence anywhere on our continent. The Government promised that we would make the conflict in Kosovo a turning point for the whole of the region. We could not have reached this successful outcome without the support and the solidarity of all Serbia's neighbours. Each of them understood only too well why it was important to them that Milosevic and his poison of ethnic hatred were defeated.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he seems to be concluding. When he made his statement two days ago, I asked about the political reconstruction of Kosovo. It is plain that NATO and the other allies will have to assist with the creation of representative bodies and political structures in Kosovo. It would be helpful if the right hon. Gentleman could give us a flavour of the intentions in that regard. Perhaps he intended to cover that ground in his speech, but there has not been much sign of it.

Mr. Cook

The basis on which we will reconstruct political institutions in Kosovo is set out in the Rambouillet peace accords, which, if I recall correctly, are in the Library. If they are not, I shall ensure that they are placed there for future reference. Those accords provide for an elected assembly of the Kosovar people and for an executive drawn from it.

As to the immediate future, I must say frankly to the House that the task of civil government in Kosovo will be in the hands of the United Nations, with the assistance of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union, the World Bank and the UNHCR. However, I hope that in a year or more one of the urgent priorities of that civil government, drawn from the interim international administration, will be to transfer its powers to elected representatives of the Kosovar Albanians and to ensure that we maintain the spirit of the Rambouillet peace accord, which provided for maximum decentralisation to the local regions of Kosovo so that communities would have maximum room to settle their own security matters and the future of their own public services. Much of that work has yet to be done, but the Rambouillet peace accords were the result of a lot of hard effort by the international community and they give us a good staging post.

I was about to turn to the neighbours of Serbia and Kosovo, without whom we could not have achieved what we have, and to each of whom we owe a debt. To Bulgaria and Romania, we owe a debt for their co-operation with the sanctions regime and their agreement to overflight by NATO. To Macedonia and Albania, we owe a debt for the extraordinary burden they shouldered from the dramatic tidal wave of refugees, and for willingly giving access to their territories for the deployment of advance NATO forces. To Montenegro, we owe a debt for the great courage President Djukanovic and his Government showed against intimidation by Belgrade, and the open home that they provided for refugees from Kosovo and dissidents from Serbia.

In the immediate future, we must repay our debt by helping those countries to regenerate their economies, which have been badly disrupted by the conflict. In the longer term we must accelerate their ties with the European Union and NATO to ensure that their freedom is underpinned by prosperity through trade with the wealthy markets of Europe, and their security by the guarantee of NATO. In the case of Montenegro, we have already prevented any further build-up of troops by Milosevic by insisting that all forces from Kosovo withdraw to Serbia and none to Montenegro.

We want the people of Serbia also to benefit one day from the strengthened relationship that we are forming with all their neighbours, but we cannot embrace Serbia in the modern Europe until Serbia itself embraces the values on which that modern Europe rests: a belief in the equality of all citizens, respect for the human rights of minority groups and the recognition that a country is strengthened, not weakened, by containing a diversity of ethnic cultures. Nor can Serbia hope to join the international community as long as it is led by a Head of Government who dare not set foot outside its borders in case he is arrested as an indicted war criminal.

Milosevic claimed that he was defending Serbia's heritage. It is hard to think of a more authentic voice of the true Serbian heritage than the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, yet on Tuesday it demanded that Milosevic resign. It declared that every sensible person has to realise that the numerous internal problems and the isolation of our country on the international scene cannot be solved or overcome with this kind of leadership". It called for the Government to be replaced by new people, acceptable to the domestic public and the international community. Milosevic fools nobody—except, possibly, himself—when he goes on state television to announce that he has just achieved victory. Increasingly, as the news seeps back from Kosovo, his people will realise that the pain and damage that his confrontation with NATO brought upon them was for no useful purpose. After immense cost to his people and his economy, Milosevic has been compelled to accept a peace deal on worse terms than he could have got if he had settled through dialogue at Rambouillet.

There will be a time in the future, when the immediate pressure of urgent priorities has lifted, when the House can reflect on some of the wider consequences of the success in Kosovo. I put to the House four positive consequences of what we have achieved. The first is that NATO is healthier and more united. The alliance has come through a testing time, but despite all the gloomy predictions that its resolve would weaken or that its unity would crack, the alliance remained robust and resolute until we secured all our campaign objectives. That can give the House new confidence in the security that our membership of the alliance brings to our nation. We can also take satisfaction in the valuable role that Britain played throughout the crisis in promoting cohesion between the European and American pillars of the alliance.

Secondly, we have opened a new chapter in the relations between western Europe and the Balkan region. We now have the opportunity to close the chapters of Balkan history that are written in blood and to make the region's countries our partners in trade and our equals in freedom.

Thirdly, we have halted the backward-looking nationalism of Milosevic and comprehensively defeated the evil policy of ethnic cleansing. For 10 years, Milosevic has terrorised his region and brought violence to the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. If he had previously been faced with the same resolve and made to experience the same clear defeat without compromise, he might never have visited such brutality on Kosovo. As it is, he will now think long and hard before he attempts it again.

Finally, we have delivered not only a military victory but a victory for our values. The real winners in Kosovo are our values of human rights, ethnic equality and humanitarian law. We did not fight this conflict for territorial gain or strategic advantage. We fought out of principle. The many people across the alliance and in the wider international community who have contributed to the successful outcome will always know that in Kosovo they struck a blow for human decency. It is those people, who have given their all in working on the military or diplomatic track, whom the House should thank. It is to them that we owe an outcome that will make it possible for us to return the refugees to their homes and to begin the task of bringing freedom and peace to Kosovo.

2.15 pm
Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon)

I thank the Secretary of State for welcoming me to my new role. In foreign policy, there is a great deal of consensus between the Government and the Opposition, and I hope that it will continue. Even in areas of consensus, however, difficult issues have to be addressed and difficult questions must be asked. I shall ask some of those questions today. There are also areas of considerable disagreement between us; mainly, I suspect, concerning Europe and the future of the European defence identity and whether that should be developed within NATO. There will be very robust debates on those issues.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. and learned Friend for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who by any standards has had a distinguished political career. He spent 12 years in the Government, eight years in the Cabinet and three years as Home Secretary. That is a series of posts for which almost any hon. Member would settle. It is interesting for Conservative Members to see so many of the reforms that my right hon. Friend introduced as Home Secretary, which were anathematised by the then Opposition, now being put into practice by his successor. There is irony in that.

I turn now to Kosovo. The Foreign Secretary is right to say that NATO and the Government have been very successful in the first phase, and they deserve our congratulations. As he said, there were many doubters, and indeed some said that the task would be impossible. However, it looks as though by Sunday night NATO will have succeeded in getting the military out of Kosovo. It has been an impressive performance. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the solidarity of the alliance has been enhanced by the experience. There are those who wavered, but the alliance came through unscathed.

As the Foreign Secretary said, Kosovo's neighbours have behaved very well. Two in particular have behaved magnificently. Albania and Macedonia have taken in an enormous number of refugees. Macedonia did so at considerable risk to the stability of its own fragile ethnic balance. The Secretary of State for Defence invited me to accompany him to Albania, and it was truly impressive how the people of that country opened their hearts and, literally, their homes to people whom they regarded as brothers. People in Albania said to us, "There is no limit to the number of refugees we can take. They are our brothers." Such practical humanitarian concern is very impressive.

Military lessons must be learned from the experience. We are seeing encouraging and rewarding television pictures of columns of Serb military vehicles leaving Kosovo for Serbia. However, those columns seen to contain an awful lot of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, which I understood we had destroyed. Much of the Serb armour in Kosovo seems to have survived the air attacks. Now is not the time, but at some stage we shall have to consider in more detail whether we knew that that was the case, or whether we truly believed that our figures for the destruction of tanks were correct.

As the Foreign Secretary said, British troops—first the Air Force and now the Army—have played a valuable role in Kosovo. It is good to see them at the forefront of operations, displaying their usual competence. Another of today's ironies is that the troops of whom we hear most are the Parachute Regiment, and soldiers from a former generation of that battalion are under investigation in the Saville inquiry in Northern Ireland. We should reflect on how much we owe to that regiment's courage and training and its commitment in Kosovo, and, in retrospect, how much we owe to those who were in Northern Ireland 20 years ago. It is within the Government's power to alter the inquiry's terms of reference to ensure that the lives of those troops and their families are not endangered.

Despite the success of phase 1 of the campaign, Kosovo is still, for various reasons, not safe for the refugees to return to, and nor is its future secure. Two factors contribute to that. The first is the presence of the Russians at Pristina airport, and the second is the future position of the KLA. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have said on many occasions, and we entirely agree, that the ultimate test of success in the operation will be the return of all the refugees to all parts of Kosovo. Partition in any form is not an acceptable outcome.

There is clearly still a major Yugoslav army capability in Serbia and Montenegro. The buffer zone was reduced in the negotiations from 25 km to 5 km, but the withdrawal of the troops looks as though it is on schedule to end on Sunday night. Then NATO, the Governments and the international organisations can turn their attention to the future of Kosovo.

One aspect that has received less attention than the military aspects is the civil power that the UN Security Council resolution called for—UNMIK, as I suppose we will come to know and love it. That is being set up. As I understand it, one of the Deputy Secretary-Generals is in charge of it and is in Kosovo.

I hope that the process is moving fast. The military is performing tasks that should be handed over to a civilian authority as soon as possible. Such an authority will have some responsibility for the security of the population of Kosovo, which will be vital to a long-term settlement.

Paragraph 11 of the UN Security Council resolution calls for the deployment of an international police presence. When the Secretary of State for International Development winds up, perhaps she will tell us what progress is being made on the establishment of an international police presence. The KLA clearly wants to be the police in Kosovo, and no doubt many KLA members will have a role to play in that regard, but they cannot be allowed simply to turn themselves into the Kosovan police force.

Bosnia sets a reasonably good example of an international police force gradually incorporating more and more local people, but initially the police force in Kosovo will have to be under the control of the United Nations. We cannot allow the KLA to turn itself into the police force.

The Secretary of State spoke about the atrocities. That is what the campaign has been about. The Government's policy and NATO's has been to defeat that. I spoke at length on the telephone this morning to a journalist who is in Kosovo. She told me that in every village there is a mass grave, and that every garden seems to have a grave in it. We see the appalling scenes on television, as evidence of the mass slaughter is discovered. It is clear from the stories and the mass graveyards that that was worse than anything that I imagined, and we do not yet know the full scale of it.

The Secretary of State mentioned the discovery of a torture chamber at Pristina police station. It is good news that UK investigators are involved in helping the UN war crimes tribunal. We must make sure that as many as possible of the people responsible for those crimes are brought to justice, or a large part of the positive effect of NATO's operation in Kosovo will have been lost. If we cannot bring home to people like Milosevic the fact that they face the serious risk of prosecution for war crimes, they will not be as discouraged as we want them to be.

It is a sad fact that the atrocities continue as the Serbs withdraw. We see them leaving a scorched earth policy behind them. People are killed and their houses destroyed even as the Serb military forces are withdrawing.

As regards the Russians, whatever gloss we put on the matter—I understand why the Government and General Jackson have to say that it is not much of a problem, but it is—they continue to hold the airport, and their presence there will disrupt the establishment of the northern or the French zone.

We were collectively outwitted by the Russians. They cooked up a plan with the Serbs, and we should expect to see more of that. I do not think that Milosevic has run out of tricks. On Wednesday 9 June, late at night, the military agreement was signed. The plan, as I understand it and as was reported, was for NATO troops to enter Kosovo at 4 am on Friday. According to reports in The New York Times and elsewhere, those plans were postponed by 25 hours on Thursday night. The press briefing was postponed as well. As we all know, in the end the NATO troops went in at 5 am on Saturday.

There was some speculation in the press about whether that was at the request of the United States, to enable its troops to be in the forefront of the deployment, but that always seemed an unlikely explanation, because the United States already had 1,700 troops in Macedonia. I do not think that it was planned that they should be among the first troops to enter Kosovo, but they would have been there and gained whatever publicity was needed.

The truth came out when a NATO officer was reported as saying that the Serbs were having difficulty in withdrawing. They were suffering from a shortage of fuel and could not get out on schedule. It appears that that was a subterfuge cooked up by the Russians and the Serbs to give the Russians time to move.

One must ask why that was not foreseen by NATO. Russia always wanted a zone. Its amour propre had clearly been damaged during the process, despite its part in the peace negotiations. The wording of the UN Security Council resolution is slightly ambiguous in this regard. It authorises member states to establish the international security presence, whereas it empowers the Secretary of State—I mean the Secretary-General of the UN; the Secretary of State has many responsibilities, but not that one—to establish the civil authority. That creates an ambiguity and was presumably designed to get over the difficulty of Russian involvement, but it gives the Russians some basis for arguing that they are entitled to a presence.

Reports of the movement of Russian troops in Bosnia went out on Serb radio at 10.30 am on Friday. There must have been some evidence of it earlier. Two hundred troops and their vehicles cannot have been moved out of the American zone in Bosnia without anyone noticing. During the morning, Secretary of State Albright spoke to her counterpart, Ivanov. She has said in public—and the Vice-President of the United States has said the same thing—that she was assured by Mr. Ivanov that the Russians would not move into Kosovo until their role in KFOR had been settled.

NATO could presumably still have moved at that moment. There are some questions as to why it did not. The airport is important. Because we do not have control of the airport, the roads are heavily congested, which makes it difficult to resupply NATO forces and provide food for refugees. We are now planning air drops, which were not planned originally. Not only does NATO need the airport, but it would have been a good idea to deprive the Russians of it. The fact that they hold it gives them a means of bringing in reinforcements, which they did not have before.

Could NATO have moved during that period? If it had done so and denied the Russians the airport, our position would be considerably easier than it is. The Russians did not move into the airport until 2 am on Saturday. NATO deployed at 5 am on Saturday, which of course was too late.

As I said, it seems to me that that was a plan cooked up by Milosevic and the Russians. The Russians behaved in extraordinarily bad faith. I know that the Secretary of State must be more diplomatic in dealing with the matter. It shows extraordinary bad faith on the part of the Russians that they should have played a part in brokering a peace deal; assured the US Secretary of State that they would not move; and then moved in the middle of the night in a way that they knew would create considerable difficulties for the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.

We should expect more of that. The Russians have 1,700 troops with SFOR in Bosnia. There are reports of more troop movements around Bjielina. Apparently troops left their barracks in Lopare and Ugljevik on Saturday for the airport at Bjielina, and on Sunday Bosnia radio reported 150 Russian troops leaving Bosnia across the Bjielina bridge for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I assume that those troops are still in Serbia.

Russia made efforts last week to reinforce its position at Pristina airport from the air. Fortunately NATO moved quickly, and Russia was denied the overflying rights that it would have needed. That clearly was part of Russia's plan.

I know that yesterday and today negotiations have been going on between Secretary of State for Defence Cohen and his counterpart, Sergeyev. Progress was reported yesterday, but it has also been reported that Yeltsin has told Sergeyev that the Russians will not settle for anything less than a Russian zone. I hope that the issue will be resolved over the weekend at the G8 meeting or early next week at the European Union-United States meeting. I gather that President Clinton will be at both. It is important to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

Russia has wanted its own zone all along. According to press reports in The New York Times and elsewhere, it has been offered a zone of operation within the French sector. We must not create a Russian zone. The Secretary of State has said that he will not allow an east German solution to be implemented in Kosovo, or to be effected on the ground. A Russian zone of occupation, or a Russian zone in the KFOR sector, will become a Serb zone and will effectively mean the partition of Kosovo.

We need something along the lines of what is happening in Bosnia, where the Russians are deployed within the American sector, but do not have a particular zone to themselves; they are assisting in various areas. In that way, they can be valuably involved in the peacekeeping process, but without the risk of creating a zone within a zone, which may be as bad as a zone of their own.

That unforeseen problem has created a great deal of difficulty and distraction. I hope that it can be resolved soon because it is making NATO's operations much more difficult than they would otherwise be. When this is all over, we would like it looked into. A few weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister for an inquiry when the war was over, a request which was rather cavalierly rejected. There were inquiries after the Falklands war and the Gulf war. I am sure that the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office will conduct their own internal inquiries into how well they did during the conflict, but there are lessons to be learned and they should be learned publicly. All the secure details of military intelligence need not be disclosed but there are lessons to be learned which should be available to the public and future Governments.

The Government of whom the Secretary of State is a member, and the previous Government, of whom I was a member, took Britain to war without needing the approval of the House of Commons to do so. They did it under prerogative powers. When one does that, there is an even stronger argument for taking a close and objective look after the event at the circumstances leading up to that military action. I should like such an inquiry to consider the diplomatic background, the military advice and the political direction of the military, which has been one of the difficult aspects of NATO's control and has made the military operations more difficult than they would otherwise have been.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the inquiry for which he calls should include all the circumstances leading up to the intervention in Kosovo, right from the time when the EU, and the Federal Republic of Germany in particular, began to persuade the international community unilaterally—without agreement—to recognise Croatia and Slovenia as independent states, as well as the conduct of the international community's relationships with Yugoslavia? [Interruption.] Yes, both Governments.

Mr. Maples

I did not have in mind quite such a wide remit. If we want to go back to 1989, the inquiry will be very long.

There are two schools of thought about whether all this was started by the precipitate recognition of Croatia and Bosnia. I think that it was all started by the rise of the completely unreasonable Serb nationalism, generated, fostered, its flames fanned, by Milosevic. Had it not been for that, these issues, albeit not easily settled, could have been peacefully settled. The real cause was the aggressive, narrow Serb nationalism of which Milosevic's policy was the apogee.

Mr. Winnick

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the reasons for the conflict which broke up the former Yugoslavia, but would it not be right to say that the removal of autonomy from Kosovo played a leading part both in the burning resentments of so many people there and in the creation of the KLA?

Mr. Maples

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right. It was in Kosovo that Milosevic discovered his talent for stirring up this kind of trouble. The removal of Kosovo's autonomy and Vojvodina's autonomy was part of his process of gaining control of the Yugoslav federal presidency, enabling him to perpetrate the horrors that he perpetrated in Croatia and Bosnia.

Mr. Robin Cook

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving us the opportunity to consider the historical perspective. Before he presses too hard for the wide-ranging inquiry that he seeks, I should warn him that one episode on which such an inquiry must undoubtedly properly focus is why it was that the western Governments agreed to Milosevic's insistence that Kosovo be kept out of the Dayton settlement.

Mr. Maples

The Secretary of State is right that that is a question that has to be answered. I was not there and I do not know the details of what happened. But, in retrospect, if Kosovo could have been included, we would not be facing many of our present difficulties. I suspect that the Dayton agreement was difficult enough to get without trying to settle the Kosovo problem at the same time. But if the right hon. Gentleman says that he will set up the inquiry as long as it can consider that question, he has a deal.

I said that two big problems currently face NATO in Kosovo—the Russians and the KLA. I now come to the KLA. It is a big problem. It is moving in and taking over. It is creating something of a myth that it was the KLA that liberated Kosovo. No doubt many KLA members were performing extremely brave actions on the ground during the last three months or so. But we now see them patrolling the streets and they have taken over Pristina police station, or at least they had yesterday. They control the Morini border crossing and they seem to have about 90 per cent. of the German sector under their patrols in one form or another. If they are not themselves guilty of reprisals against the Serb population, I suspect that they are at least allowing them to happen. That cannot be allowed to go on.

One thing that is reinforcing the KLA in its position is its claim that the Russian presence is illegal. I understand that it refuses to disarm while that presence continues. But the KLA cannot be allowed to run things within Kosovo, and that must be made clear. It is creating a potentially extremely dangerous atmosphere.

The Secretary of State referred to that and said that he hoped that an agreement would be reached. Yesterday, there were news reports that such an agreement had been reached, but, as I understand it, it has not been signed. This morning, NATO's Secretary-General said that he expects to see the KLA disarmed within, I think, 120 days.

Mr. Robin Cook

indicated dissent.

Mr. Maples

That was the report that I read. I am glad to hear that it is wrong. We should be talking about a few days.

I realise that the process is difficult and that it may not be possible completely to disarm people. But the KLA, to the extent that its people will function in the role that they see for themselves, must be part of a civil power, supervised by that power and responsible to it in a proper and clear way. We must do that quickly.

There is some confusion—presumably brought about by the difficulty in the diplomatic negotiations—in that the Rambouillet agreement calls for the disarming of the KLA and the United Nations Security Council resolution calls for its demilitarisation. One could argue that, for diplomatic purposes, that means the same thing, but I am sure that it does not mean the same thing to the KLA. At some point we need some clarification, if only for ourselves, of what that means, how it will be done and how long it will take.

I appreciate the difficulties, and the last thing that we want is to start a conflict between NATO and the KLA in Kosovo, but NATO will not be able to control, redevelop and stabilise Kosovo in the way that we want while the KLA still has that degree of presence and control.

The return of refugees from Albania and Macedonia is premature. I gather that 1,000 an hour are crossing at Morini. No doubt that is reasonably welcome to Macedonia because it will at least remove the instability that those refugees created, but it presents some problems. First, the refugees are clogging up the roads which NATO would otherwise be using for the deployment of its troops. Secondly, the mine clearance operation is not yet under way. As we are not yet in most of Kosovo, and will not be in all of it until Monday, it obviously cannot yet have been done. Will the Secretary of State for International Development tell us something about mine clearance—whether the Serbs have honoured their part of the military technical agreement to identify minefields and booby traps and to help to clear them, and what progress is being made in that? Are we having difficulty in supplying the basic necessities of life, such as food, water and some limited medical facilities to refugees at the rate at which they are returning?

Another sad consequence of what has happened is that we now see another group of refugees. Serbs are now leaving with their cars, tractors and trailers loaded up with their personal belongings in the same way that Albanians left a few weeks ago. We must confirm in practical terms to the Serbs in Kosovo that we will protect them and that they are entitled to continue to live there and to conduct their lives, businesses and farms there.

It is encouraging that the Secretary of State mentioned the reaction of the Orthodox Church. I think that the Patriarch has announced that he will return to Pec as a sign of encouragement or of solidarity with the Serbs who live there. I hope that that is the spirit in which it is being done. We must take that position not just for humanitarian reasons, but because, if the 200,000 Serbs who live in Kosovo all become refugees in Serbia, they will help Milosevic to feed the anti-NATO sentiments and dissatisfaction of the Serbs, and their characterisation of themselves as a victim nation.

Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

I think the hon. Gentleman said that the Serbs are leaving in the same way as the Albanians, but they are not leaving in quite the same way. Does he accept that the Albanians were leaving while looking down the barrel of a gun and that the vast majority of the Serbs are leaving out of fear, whether it is justified or not?

Mr. Maples

I accept that, but almost everybody who left did so out of fear of what might happen to them. When I talked to refugees in camps at Kukes, they almost all said that they had left because of what had happened in the village previously or because of what they had heard.

I agree with the Secretary of State; there is no equivalence. There has been an organised campaign of atrocities—genocide, dare one say—against the Albanians in Kosovo. That is not happening against the Serbs, but they clearly fear for their lives and safety, and some of them have already been killed. Nothing worse than that can happen, but appalling things have certainly happened to them and it would be a sad outcome if we succeeded in helping the Albanian Kosovans to return to Kosovo, but all the Serbs left.

Looking to the future, what is happening inside Serbia is a closed book to most of us, but it is important because we will not be able to settle the region in a stable and peaceful way while Milosevic is still in power. I understand that Seselj has left his Government, but I do not know whether that is good or bad, because I suspect that he would have been a lot worse than Milosevic. Zoran Djindjic, the leader of the Democratic party, has called on Milosevic to resign, but he at present resides in Montenegro, and has been there for the whole of the war, so that call will not carry a lot of credibility.

As the Secretary of State said, the Orthodox Church has called on Milosevic to step down, but we have to recognise that we are dealing with an old-style communist regime. Milosevic controls the army, the police, the media—just about everything. I do not expect an answer from the Secretary of State, although it would be nice to have one, but do we think that a coup could succeed—or is a civil war needed to get rid of Milosevic? We have to address that problem in some way because it will be difficult to settle the issues while Milosevic is still in power. What other levers do we have? Will the chance of the stability pact applying to the whole of south-east Europe, except for Serbia, exercise any leverage over him?

There could be problems in other parts of the Balkans—Macedonia, Vojvodina, Sanjak and, perhaps most obviously, Montenegro—and there is danger that NATO will be sucked into them. I hope that we have a policy and that we have thought through some of those questions, particularly in respect of Montenegro. The Serbs have, as recently as yesterday, started to accuse Djukanovic of conspiring with the United States to organise a coup against Milosevic in Belgrade. That sounds like the building of an excuse for intervening in Montenegro in some way.

At the same time, various groups of Montenegrins—academics, business men and the opposition—are demanding a review of their status as part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There are 20,000 troops of the 2nd or the 3rd VJ army in Montenegro and yesterday Belgrade prevented two Montenegrin aeroplanes on a flight from Italy from landing at an airport in Montenegro. The Secretary of State praised Djukanovic, who is the only democratic leader in the region with clean hands, and we have to ask ourselves how we can prevent a Serb coup in Montenegro.

Similar things are perhaps brewing in Vojvodina. The leaders of the Hungarian community are asking for their autonomy to be revived, because they lost it at about the same time that Kosovo lost its autonomy. There are issues to be addressed there, and Milosevic is capable of stirring up trouble in Macedonia and perhaps even in Bosnia again. We need to make sure that we have considered the longer-term problems.

The longer-term stability of Kosovo depends in part on a long-term political settlement. The Rambouillet agreement called for an international meeting within three years to determine the mechanism for a final settlement … on the basis of the will of the people". To many people, that seemed to imply a referendum, but the United Nations Security Council resolution, under which we are operating in Kosovo, reaffirms the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It talks a lot about "autonomy" and "self-administration … pending final settlements". The only reference to the long-term future is in paragraph 11(e), which talks about facilitating political process designed to determine Kosovo's future status, taking into account the Rambouillet accords". That is very vague, and I imagine that it was difficult to achieve any agreement on what the resolution would say, but we have a problem to address.

The Rambouillet accords allowed the possibility of independence for Kosovo. The United Nations Security Council resolution does not explicitly do so, but it makes that reference to the Rambouillet accords, which the Serbs never agreed to or signed in the first place. Is independence a possibility or not? If not, the Kosovans will be stuck with Yugoslav passports, being called up to serve in the Yugoslav army, paying Yugoslav taxes and having to go through Yugoslav-controlled border posts and over borders across which those same Yugoslav forces were driving them in the most inhumane way a few weeks ago.

I have to ask myself whether autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a viable future for Kosovo. I do not expect an answer today, but I hope that the Government are addressing that issue.

Mr. Hogg

At the time of the Rambouillet accords, it was contemplated that there would be sizeable Serb minority in Kosovo and, in those circumstances, devolved status within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia made sense. If the Serb minority flees Kosovo and goes to Serbia, as appears to be happening, the intellectual justification for the autonomous status of Kosovo will disappear entirely.

Mr. Maples

I take my right hon. and learned Friend's argument, but the United Nations Security Council resolution refers to the Helsinki Final Act and there are difficulties in opening up the question of border settlements. However, from a practical point of view, I do not see how autonomy will be enough, either to provide long-term security or for the KLA, which, however it is demilitarised, will not demilitarise entirely.

The stability pact is a great document and a great plan, but it will need money to back it up. I do not think that the numbers appear in it—if they do, I missed them—but considerable economic aid will be needed to help to redevelop the region and bring it into the European mainstream. There are also many unsettled matters in the Balkans outside Kosovo and they cannot be left in the air. If they are, Milosevic will stir them up. He is very good at stirring up trouble and I do not suppose that we have seen the last of his tricks.

The first phase of NATO's operation has been successful—more successful, and perhaps quicker, than any of us dared hope. The Serb military is leaving and NATO is taking over. Refugees are returning and the atrocities are being investigated by the war crimes tribunal. All that is excellent news, but in many ways the difficult phase is just beginning.

There are the immediate problems of the Russians and the KLA, and I hope that they will be soon resolved, but there will be plenty more. Milosevic has not yet run out of tricks and while he remains in power, we should always plan for the worst. Our long-term objective must be to bring peace and stability not only to Kosovo but to the whole of former Yugoslavia. That was never going to be easy, and it is no easier now, but we will support the Government wholeheartedly in pursuing that objective.

We hope that the difficult questions that we have posed have been thought through and that plans exist to deal with the long-term and short-term difficulties. In the end, success will be measured by the return of all the refugees to all parts of Kosovo and a settlement that creates a secure and stable environment for all its citizens.

2.48 pm
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

I welcome the new Opposition team. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) had a reasonably good war. In his speeches, he made the same criticisms as his colleagues who speak on foreign affairs without appearing to want NATO not to acquit itself well. I wish him the best of good fortune in his new post.

I welcome this further debate on Kosovo. The Government have sought to explain—and succeeded in explaining—what they were doing, not only to the House of Commons but to its various Committees, and they were prepared regularly to expose themselves to criticism from Labour and Opposition Members. I am delighted that the Foreign Secretary is going out to Kosovo next week. Perhaps he will take up the seats in the aircraft that members of the Defence Committee were going to take, and perhaps he can persuade his colleagues that, once the Executive have gone to see what has happened, the Defence Committee visit organised by the Ministry of Defence can soon be reactivated. I look forward to him coming back with good news.

The House and the country must be relieved that the worst aspect of the crisis is over, following the success of NATO's operations and the progressive and fairly speedy withdrawal of Serb forces, which is well under way. If I may amend slightly what was said by the Duke of Wellington, however, there is only one thing worse than a battle lost, and that is a battle won.

The Foreign Secretary described some of the problems that NATO, the OSCE, the UN and Governments would have to face following our success. For instance, those organisations must consider how—if it is possible—to integrate Russia in the post-war environment. Last week, both the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee received a delegation from the Duma's international relations committee. Rumours that I had instructed the police to stand guard at the entrance to the House in case the Russians made a sudden and dramatic push to occupy the Chamber proved to be only partly well-founded.

In the short term, those who return to their own territory will not find that entirely welcome. They will be returning to a ravaged country, and will encounter the danger of stepping on land mines as well as massive problems of reconstruction. The Foreign Secretary spoke of his commitment to bringing to trial those indicted of war crimes, and of the problems of the government of Kosovo. He also spoke of the difficulty of deciding what to do about the KLA, about security in the Balkan region and about the role of international political and economic institutions such as the OSCE, the UN and the World Bank.

I trust that we shall witness the demise of Milosevic. The Serbs have not yet forgiven the Ottoman empire for what happened in the 14th century, but I hope that they will wipe the events of the last few months from their minds earlier than in the middle of the next millennium.

I cannot adequately express the pleasure and joy that I experience when I see pictures of Kosovans returning home—pictures that show their euphoria, and the sheer spontaneous pleasure of their greeting of their liberators—and note, in the same newspapers, the professional way in which NATO forces that were waiting in Macedonia moved so swiftly into Kosovo, where they are now providing security. There were one or two hiccups, of course.

Like others, I hope that the Serbs will decide to remain in that country. We do not want another war over ethnic cleansing, if ethnic cleansing happens again in a rather different way.

I think that we should congratulate all who have helped NATO to succeed in its campaign. I do not deny the right of hon. Members on either side of the House to oppose its action: I respect those with pacifist leanings—those who, in their dreams, sing "We'll keep the Serb flag flying here." I do not, however, respect those who argue that the conflict in the Balkans was nothing to do with us. I do not respect those who espouse the view that hundreds of thousands of people can be destroyed for the sake of maintaining the sanctity of what they believe international law should be. I do not respect those who quietly, surreptitiously and snidely—although apparently supporting what NATO and the Government were doing—hoped that both NATO and the Government would fall on their faces.

Many people advanced the argument—based largely on what the so-called experts were saying—that air power would never succeed. I hope that they will do the same as John Keegan, who admitted that, despite his great expertise, he had got it entirely wrong. I will not join, for instance, the manic Norwegian television broadcaster who, after his country defeated England, rattled off a series of names including Lord Nelson, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill; but I could certainly do so. My list would include a number of Members of Parliament, as well as journalists, academics and alleged experts. I hope that the people to whom I have referred will at least have the decency to admit that they were wrong in expressing with such certainty the view that NATO would fail.

One of my colleagues on the Defence Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] Some are here, and I admire them for being here. Others have wisely got out of the way. The colleague to whom I refer, the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), has gone to Russia. If he were here, I would have mentioned this to him. In one speech, he managed to make so many mistakes that I thought he must have missed the lecture at staff college. He said, prematurely, "Our strategy has failed". He also called for the resignation of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the middle of the war, which I do not regard as very sensible. The only crime of the Chief of the Defence Staff was that of supporting the Government, which I consider a rather bizarre reason for demanding his resignation. The hon. Gentleman added: Two months later, as the ground option evaporates, we urgently need an exit … It is clear that our allies want a way out … We have fundamentally misread the nature of the conflict … Having broken international law in attacking Yugoslavia, let us now stand up for the principle of self-determination."—[Official Report, 18 May 1999; Vol. 331, c. 944–46.] I can only say that I am delighted for the Opposition that the purge that has taken place has not yet given the hon. Gentleman a position on the Front Bench, although that may come later.

The alliance held together—it actually held together, although there were those who hoped against hope that it would implode; and, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, it will emerge strengthened by its experience, and by the criticism from both external and internal opponents.

There were those in the alliance whose enthusiasm was less than total. I am thinking, for instance, of an interesting article that I read only this week in a publication of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, and of the less than extreme enthusiasm of the Czech Republic, although the President can be exempted from that criticism. The Greek Government did what had to be done, although I cannot express the same admiration for the media there or for public opinion.

I was delighted when the Foreign Secretary said that the efforts of Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro during the war deserved to be properly rewarded. I hope that they will not be rewarded by some long-term commitment to consider their application to join NATO. When it came to the crunch, they delivered. I understand that the Bulgarians are offering to send troops to work alongside British experts in mine clearance, and I feel that we should express our thanks and admiration.

May I pick up a point raised by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon? Over the years, Parliaments and royal commissions have had ample opportunities to examine wars won and occasionally, if not wars lost, then battles lost. My favourite example is a wonderful inquiry that was undertaken in the early days of the failure of the British, the French and the Turks to capture Sebastopol. The Jameson raid, the Boer war and Gallipoli all produced great opportunities for royal commissions and Parliaments to identify what went right and, more important, what went wrong.

I think it entirely right to identify this rather smart move by the Russians in evading our intelligence services. I certainly advise the hon. Gentleman to look at the events that led to the invasion of the Falkland Islands, when the Argentines were able to move far more than the Russians. They were able to attack the islands, and, I believe, to purchase 500 maps of them from The Stationery Office. I had a copy, but the last Government denied that they existed. The map is stamped by the military governor of Argentina and by the civil commissioner, Rex Hunt. The Argentines managed to move out of this country a vast quantity of their financial resources, and to get on to a war footing without alerting intelligence, and without the Cabinet committee realising what was happening.

When there is any move to criticise an alleged failure, perhaps one should look at other failures. If he is still alive, Lord Franks can perhaps be revived and brought to do an inquiry, which will certainly exonerate NATO and the United Kingdom. I hope that that will be done, if he is still available for the commission.

The Defence Committee has a long tradition of inquiring into wars. We did three inquiries into the Falklands war; all were good reports. We did two reports on the Gulf war. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon will not have seen the press release that the Defence Committee issued last week, which said: The Committee has reconfirmed its commitment to undertake an inquiry into the lessons of Operation Allied Force following the conclusion of any peace settlement in Kosovo and once the situation there has begun to stabilise. Previous Defence Committees undertook substantial inquiries into the lessons of the Falklands conflict and the Gulf War. More detailed terms of reference for the Committee's initial interim inquiry will be published at the appropriate time, but the inquiry is likely to focus on the lessons of the Kosovo crisis for NATO's force structure, decision-making processes and strategy development. It is also likely to consider the effectiveness of the Alliance's intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance capabilities. The performance of UK weapons systems and their interoperability with those of other Allies will also be examined as the evidence becomes available. Further announcements will be made in due course.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

The inquiries that the Select Committee has undertaken into earlier conflicts have been extremely valuable. As the hon. Gentleman knows, they are taken seriously in the Ministry of Defence. Will he consider including in the early part of his inquiry the difficult—I mean no political ill will by saying it—and tortuous negotiations on the diplomatic and political front before the conflict began, which would normally concern the Foreign Affairs Committee? The Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees might consider doing that part of the inquiry jointly, thereby adding even more weight to their conclusions.

Dr. Godman

That is a good idea.

Mr. George

It might be a good idea, but I should like first to liaise with the Foreign Affairs Committee. I was a great reader of its report on Sandline International and Sierra Leone. I would prefer to liaise, as opposed to co-ordinating. Our remit is defence and security. It is important that we do not trespass too far into any other possible inquiries.

Mr. Wells

May I make a suggestion? The Select Committee on International Development report on Kosovo and the humanitarian crisis might be a starting point for the inquiry of the hon. Gentleman's Committee and that of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. George

I have read that report. Having been to Kukes—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's Committee got as far as Kukes—we were able to form our own opinion. I have also read his speeches. Again, it would be far better if he pursued his own inquiry, rather than merging it—if he pursues it—with that of the Defence Committee.

Over the past 12 months or so, the Defence Committee has undertaken two substantial inquiries: one into the NATO summit and the future of NATO, the second into the strategic defence review. Both the inquiries will have to have a Kosovan dimension. We will be able to see the extent to which the SDR—although it has not yet fully unfolded—has been affected by events in Kosovo.

I digress slightly. Although I accept the Government's views on the Reserves, I was delighted to see that one of the heroes of the early days of the entry into Kosovo was a member of the German reserve. That German officer defused a major crisis between the Albanians and the Serbs. The gentleman, a major I believe, was a professor of oriental languages—oh, that our own Reserves had such an opportunity of proving their military competence. [Interruption.] I do not think that the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), should mock the lack of language abilities. I heard him speaking Hungarian three months ago; it had to be translated into English. I am not attempting to be hostile.

The two inquiries that we have done could have the added dimension of Kosovo. It will not be a negative inquiry. Mistakes were made; of course they were. I am not yet aware of any war that has been fought perfectly, although Milosevic claims that his war was. He obtained the same victory as Custer at Little Big Horn and Napoleon at Waterloo. I can imagine Custer down to his last three men and saying, "We really whacked them this time, didn't we?"

Leaving aside the claims of Milosevic, most other wars have their mistakes, but we must learn from our mistakes. We must see what we did well; we did much that was good. Let us hope that we can avoid such crises in future.

I congratulate not only the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development, but the Secretary of State for Defence, who, I understand, is in the Ukraine. Without being seen to be seeking a knighthood or anything further, I should like to compliment the Prime Minister as well. It has been said, "Keep your head while others behind or opposite you are losing theirs." What he did was absolutely right. He can be rightly proud of his contribution.

3.7 pm

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)

I, too, welcome the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) to his first foreign affairs debate. He has moved smoothly from defence to foreign affairs. He will discover shortly that the only difference between them is that, thankfully, in foreign affairs, we do not place such reliance on impenetrable acronyms as appears to be necessary in defence.

Rightly, the hon. Gentleman paid generous tribute to his predecessor, who has enjoyed a distinguished parliamentary career. I, too, shall miss him, not least because he has been an ever-present example of the strength of the adversarial system in contemporary politics.

The debate is something of an interim report. I expect that we shall have more such debates from time to time. As others have said, much has been achieved, but much more remains to be done.

If one passage in the Foreign Secretary's speech attracted virtually unanimous support, it was his powerful account of the importance of dealing properly with those who have been guilty of war crimes. He will, of course, be aware that the extremely powerful and professional chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, has, in recognition of her considerable talents, been appointed to the supreme court of Canada, which means that, after September, the effective leadership that she has been able to give will no longer be available.

It is obviously essential to ensure that Louise Arbour is replaced by someone of equal merit and personal courage. The House may remember that, on one occasion, she went to Kosovo but was turned away at the border. The strength of the International War Crimes Tribunal clearly depends on the quality of the leadership available. I hope that the Government—the Foreign Secretary is nodding in recognition of my point—will ensure that a suitable successor is found.

These occasions, shortly after the end of a conflict, are sometimes seen as an opportunity to draw lessons from a successful military action. When a military action has been a failure, the lessons to be drawn are often much more obvious and provide a readily understood basis for the necessary remedies. When a military action has been successful, however, it is often too easy to draw invalid conclusions, not least if they are hasty and informed only by contemporary evidence.

In recent time, the most obvious illustration of that is the belief—almost ineradicably lodged in the mind of the public after the Gulf war—that so-called smart weapons are in all cases capable of pinpoint accuracy, and that so-called surgical strikes can be effected without risk to anyone or anything other than the designated targets. Those have, to some extent, become myths of our time.

We are at some risk of repeating that flawed approach in precipitate judgments to the effect that air power on its own succeeded in this case, and that it will provide a universally valid approach in future conflicts in which NATO countries, with proper regard for the sensibilities of their citizens, expose their forces to no more risk than bombing from, say, 15,000 ft. I believe that it is much too early to reach such conclusions from the military action that has just been terminated. Moreover, the evidence that is so far available would not justify that conclusion.

What apparently succeeded in this case was a combination of three elements: first, intensive air operations; secondly, strenuous diplomatic efforts, in which Russia's role was significant, even if its motives were not entirely laudable or even always understandable; and, thirdly, the credible threat of ground action, with the accompaniment of NATO's demonstrable willingness to impose its will by the use of its massive war-fighting capability. That raises, at least for consideration, the very substantial probability that, if air operations had begun at the right tempo and intensity, if diplomatic efforts had been sufficiently strenuous initially, and if the threat of ground action had been credible from the beginning, the Milosevic regime might have capitulated earlier.

Never before has such a large-scale military action been undertaken to prosecute a policy of attempting to prevent ethnic cleansing and to secure basic human rights. However, we should realise that the legacy of the action will be an expectation among those who are ethnically repressed around the world, or at least within NATO's range, that NATO will intervene in their plight. The expectation cannot be justified, and there are bound to be occasions of deep disappointment. The intervention that occurred in this case was made because of an almost unique assembly of factors that are unlikely to be repeated.

The first factor was the sustained intransigence of a dictatorial leader. The second was the proximity of that leader, and the evil that was sought to be prevented, to several newly joined and aspirant NATO countries. The third was the possibility of uncontrollable instability in the region. The final factor was ethnic repression on a scale unseen in Europe since the second world war, but the effects of which were daily seen on our news bulletins. The unique combination of those elements created a climate in which NATO action, if not inevitable, was virtually so.

If we ever doubted the legitimacy of our actions, NATO forces are daily finding a catalogue of horror that is indescribable. I do not know if others have felt this way, but I have certainly begun to feel that language is inadequate to convey the depths of the depravity to which the paramilitary and military units of the Milosevic regime have sunk. They have systematically terrorised and brutalised the defenceless people of Kosovo. This was no episode of savage war fighting between equals, but rather a cowardly, despicable and cynical abuse of defenceless men, women and children, with women and children deliberately targeted.

We have been concerned about the Russians' unilateral action. We should be concerned not only about that action, but about the length of time that it seems to be taking to reach an agreement, despite discussions between President Yeltsin and Mr. Clinton. Let us suppose that no agreement can be reached, and that the extent of Russia's intransigence on the matter—driven by domestic considerations—may be unfathomable. If that is so, what then? Was there—I asked the Defence Secretary this question the other day—no intelligence assessment of the risk of that type of Russian adventurism? If there was no such assessment, why not?

The template of Bosnia is available, against which all this should be judged. At Tusla, the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) and I saw for ourselves a practical illustration of the special arrangements that could be made in Bosnia. But what if such arrangements cannot be made in Kosovo? What then? I do not know the answer to those questions, but we should at least be asking them, in the hope that we may be able to provide answers.

Mr. Dalyell

Apparently there is a Serb military refusal to leave the village of Mitrovica unless the Russians are prepared to stay there.

Mr. Campbell

I do not understand that to be any part of the United Nations resolution. If there is such a refusal, it raises in my mind a suspicion that the Serbs who refuse to leave are doing so because they believe that, once they have left, NATO forces might find evidence of their activities, which might make them feel extremely uncomfortable. Those who do not want to go, or want only the representatives of a particular nation to be present when they leave, seem—on the face of it—to have something to hide.

As today's speeches have made clear, the commitment to protect and to secure the human rights of the people of Kosovo has not ended with the cessation of bombing. Military strategists and politicians previously called for—if I may borrow a phrase—a permissive environment to precede the possible entry of ground troops. Now we have to have create a permissive environment to which the refugees feel that they can return in safety. However, as earlier speakers have recognised, we are right to acknowledge that there is an enormous potential for a return to conflict, motivated by revenge and the political aspirations of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and that, for peace to last, an extraordinary degree of commitment and resolve will be required.

NATO's resolution of the stand-off with Russia in Pristina; demilitarisation of the KLA; safe return of the refugees; and the future of the Kosovar Serbs will all provide key tests of the agreement's workability. There are some unhelpful signs. We have already witnessed revenge attacks by KLA and Kosovar Albanians on Kosovar Serbs. The attacks may increase as more refugees return to their own homes, and NATO must deal with them even-handedly and protect the Kosovar Serbs, whose fear of reprisals has led—as hon. Members have said—to another wave of refugees. As many as 37,000 Serb civilians, so far, are said to have retreated with the Yugoslav army.

As hon. Members have also said, some elements of the KLA have threatened to use force against Russian troops. NATO must make it clear that an attack on any part of the international force will be regarded as an attack on the whole force and will bring an immediate and unconditional response.

Self-evidently, too, the campaign's long-term effects will be felt outside of Kosovo. Macedonia and Montenegro will require sustained western guidance and support, whereas relations with Russia are probably at their most delicate since the end the cold war. It is said that Macedonia is on a knife edge. Certainly, there is potential for ethnic tension to escalate into violence. International organisations and foreign Governments must provide Macedonia with the substantial long-term assistance that it needs to deal with the economic consequences of the Kosovo conflict. It has long been feared that Milosevic would turn his attention to Montenegro, although thus far Serbian efforts to replace Mr. Djukanovic have failed. We must be committed to protecting Montenegro from any attempted invasion by Serbian forces.

We must not underestimate the influence of the Russians during the negotiations. The frequent shuttle diplomacy by Mr. Chernomyrdin was of pivotal importance in securing a peace deal, but the unilateral actions of the military, obviously at odds with the Russian Foreign Ministry, in seizing Pristina airport, have left us embarrassed and have left Russia a hollow short-term victory, the repercussions of which have yet to be fully realised. The Russian peacekeepers must be given an explicit outline of their responsibilities and their relationship with NATO in Kosovo. It must be made clear that the Russians will not be given a zone in which to constitute de facto partition and that they will have to work alongside NATO troops in one or more zones.

Only the safe return of the refugees to their homes will demonstrate that the settlement has worked. Repatriation has to be voluntary. It is correct to maintain the temporary refugee status that we have accorded to those who have left Kosovo, but there can be no question of forcibly bussing refugees back into Kosovo before adequate preparations have been made for their safety. We cannot prevent the spontaneous return of refugees, but no one should be left in any doubt about the risks.

The rebuilding programme will require unparalleled determination on the part of the people of Kosovo, who have suffered a horror unimaginable to westerners. The mental, and all too frequently physical, scars of recent times will not heal quickly, but let us hope that a successful programme of long-term reconstruction by the west will help to create a peaceful environment for future generations to live and flourish in.

One of the more pressing tasks is the restoration of the rights and assets of the refugees, who have been stripped of their identity. Restoring their property and civil rights will be a task of epic proportions which must be handled with considerable delicacy. The legal framework for the issue of new documents will be problematic. Will they be Former Republic of Yugoslavia documents or will they be temporary protectorate documents? Will the refugees accept temporary protectorate documents or will they be looking for something else? Will such documents be acceptable if they want to travel throughout the world?

It will inevitably fall to the European Union and the United States to cover the greatest proportion of the costs. If my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) is fortunate enough to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, she will want to concentrate on refugees and on whether the aid from Britain will come from the budget of the Department for International Development or from the contingency fund. My hon. Friend has already had some exchanges with the Secretary of State for International Development on that. It is entirely right that the right hon. Lady is here to wind up the debate, because we have moved on from the military, through the political, to the issue of aid, development and refugees.

When NATO action against Kosovo began at the end of March I said that it was a bad business that might turn out to be a bloody one. I have been proved right. The decision to risk the lives of young men and women in war is the hardest that any Prime Minister has to take. That has been true of past conflicts, it is true of the present conflict and it will be true of future conflicts. The United Kingdom has fortunately escaped casualties so far, but we should not be blind to the risks even if we have enjoyed good fortune on this occasion. NATO has achieved what many thought impossible, securing peace with the threat but without the need or costs of a ground invasion. A ground invasion in the face of opposition would have involved much greater casualties.

I began by saying that the hard work was still to do. I fear that there are horrors aplenty still to come. We should acknowledge in the aftermath of the victory that the refugees will continue to be our responsibility long after they have returned to their homes. Long-term peace in the Balkans will depend largely on the durability of the current agreement.

3.25 pm
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I shall have to leave before the end of the debate owing to a long-standing engagement.

We are considering the murder of thousands of Kosovans, the killing and injuring by bombing of thousands of Serbs and the suffering of 800,000 refugees. I expected some trivialisation from my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, but I was saddened that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who holds great office, felt it appropriate to indulge in political point scoring at the expense of another party and individuals who disagree with his point of view.

Mr. Winnick

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Mahon


Mr. Winnick

She has mentioned me.

Mrs. Mahon

I did not.

Mr. Winnick

Yes she did; the hon. Member for Walsall.

Mrs. Mahon

I am sorry, I meant my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George).

Anyone who has seen today's headlines and the horrendous dots on the map in The Independent showing where the atrocities took place realises that this is a terrible situation. I remember taking a petition to Downing street after the gassing of 8,000 Kurds at Halabja. We have seen such horrors before. I also remember visiting a camp in Afghanistan. During the mid-1990s, I condemned the killing of 30,000 Kurds by a NATO country. Sadly, we have seen horrendous atrocities all too regularly.

It is no secret that I opposed NATO's war on Yugoslavia. I have always believed that it was illegal and immoral. Even more tragic is the fact that as we study the agreement of 3 June, it appears to have been unnecessary. The illegality is clear. That opinion has been expressed by people with far more knowledge of the law than I have. NATO broke its charter, which pledges its signatories to refrain from the threat or use of force inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. It also explicitly recognises the primary responsibility of the Security Council of the UN for the maintenance of international peace and security. In bypassing UN approval for the bombing of Yugoslavia, NATO violated its basic obligation.

I warn those who have had a good war and are now indulging in offensive attacks on others that a grave precedent has been set that could threaten world peace for many years to come. If NATO can arrogate to itself the role of world policeman outside any framework of international law, the message to the rest of the world is that only force counts.

The bombing of Yugoslavia could not be justified on the basis of humanitarian concerns. Unlike NATO, the international peace movement has repeatedly condemned ethnic cleansing by all sides in Yugoslavia, whether the victims are Kosovars, Croats, Serbs or Bosnian Muslims. I want those responsible for perpetrating such horrendous crimes to be brought to justice just as much as anyone else in the Chamber does. There is no place in a civilised society for people who commit such crimes.

Early in the break-up of Yugoslavia, the United States and some other NATO countries chose to demonise one of the groups of people who were suffering. In Croatia and Bosnia, between 1991 and 1995, the media—directed by the USA and others—focused on Serb crimes and played down those committed by Croats and, in some cases, Muslims. There was no moral indignation in the media or from western leaders when 300,000 Serbs in Krajina were driven out of their homes by Croatian forces directed by President Tudjman, who should also be indicted for war crimes. I hear no outcry for that to happen, so I will not hold my breath.

During the past four years nothing has changed. The Serbs as a people are demonised in an increasingly racist way. That dehumanisation makes their suffering count for less. In the past few days, more than 30,000 Serbs have been forced to leave their homes in Kosovo. It has been claimed that that is different because the ethnic cleansing was directed by a Government, but the Serbs are leaving through fear. That is a subtle difference, and the Serbs feel just as bad.

For thousands of the Serbs in Kosovo who are leaving in their tractors in those sad little columns, it is the second time that they have been ethnically cleansed and had to leave. Many Serbs from Krajina settled in Kosovo. I hear little sympathy from the media or from our leaders, in some cases.

I watched a BBC News 24 programme last night in which the Secretary of State for Defence dismissed the Serbs' plight by saying that if they were innocent of war crimes, they could stay in Kosovo. There were pictures of young children on buses that were being stoned. Kate Adie appeared in the same piece, hugging an Albanian child. There was a little Serb child peering from a bus as stones were being flung at him. I found the icy indifference to the Serb child chilling. I do not like to pick out reporters individually for criticism, but that was an appalling scene to witness.

We need more assurances and more detail about the role that the KLA will play in Kosovo. I have a sad feeling that we are seeing a mass exodus of Serbs from Kosovo and we will end up with an almost completely ethnically pure Kosovo, just as we have an almost completely ethnically pure Croatia. The Serbs—Europe's untouchables—will be driven back once again.

I said at the beginning that NATO's first humanitarian war would quickly become a humanitarian disaster. I think that I have been proved right. As it became clear that NATO was willing to kill by bombing from 15,000 ft, it was also clear that many innocent civilian casualties—Serbs and Albanians alike—would be inevitable. It also became clear that the real bombing strategy was to make life intolerable for the civilian population of Yugoslavia, and that was revealed by the commander of the air strikes.

Some 1,500 Serbs have been killed and 5,000 injured, 30 per cent. of them children. That in itself is a war crime under the Geneva convention, which clearly outlaws the targeting of civilian facilities and people. NATO deliberately killed journalists, a make-up girl and civilians when it bombed the television studio, and our leaders described it as a legitimate target. They were wrong, and that bombing was a war crime.

Mr. Soames

Many of us have admired the hon. Lady's principled stand, even if we do not agree with her, but none of us could accept that NATO deliberately killed civilians. It did not ever deliberately kill civilians. It is an unfortunate fact that attack from the air, even with precision-guided weapons, is bound to lead to casualties. To suggest that NATO deliberately killed journalists is an outrageous and terrible thing to say.

Mrs. Mahon

It happens to be true. NATO spokesmen and members of my own Government said that those journalists were a legitimate target. That is on the record. NATO also destroyed electricity and water supplies to the civilian population, as well as bombing their roads, bridges, railways and factories. NATO took away from the Serbs the means of earning a living. It also caused massive structural damage in Kosovo, the country they were saving for the Albanian refugees.

I wish the BBC and others would stop referring to the dangers of unexploded ordnance. Land mines laid by retreating Serb military are a vicious and unacceptable weapon of war, aimed more at civilians than at retreating armies, and so are unexploded NATO cluster bombs. They are mines dropped from 16,000 ft. Some of those bombs have killed civilians, including women and children, in Serbia. In Surdulica, 11 children were incinerated or blown to bits by NATO bombs—I have the pictures from Reuters and other news networks. Do those children's mothers feel any less grief than the Albanian mother who saw her child mown down by a machine gun? I think not. They, too, have dead children to mourn and grieve.

Much has been said about the environmental damage inflicted by NATO's bombing. When I visited Yugoslavia, I witnessed at first hand the damage to the Danube. The bombing of bridges is blocking the river, destroying trade with neighbouring countries and damaging the economy. The bombing of petrochemical and nitrate fertiliser plants in Pancevo and other areas has released considerable quantities of toxic chemicals into the Danube and into the atmosphere. The Danube, the Sava and other water courses have also been polluted by sewage treatment works. In Novi Sad, which was bombed continuously, the sewage works are damaged beyond repair and the drinking water has gone. That will cause health problems for a long time. Who will pay for the reconstruction—or do those Serbs not deserve a clean water supply because they happen to have an evil, wicked leader? Are we going to leave them as we left the victims in Iraq?

The settlement of 3 June shows that the entire war, with its thousands of deaths and massive suffering, and its destruction of an entire country, was unnecessary. NATO went to war to impose the Rambouillet ultimatum, which demanded the occupation of Kosovo exclusively by NATO troops who would have impeded access to Yugoslavia, including all ports, airports, roads and railways and been immune from all legal process. That is now well known. However, the ultimatum also provided for the secession of Kosovo after three years.

The 3 June settlement is a significant retreat from NATO's demands at Rambouillet, because the United Nations is now involved. Russia played a large part in helping to bring about the peace. It should be included in the peacekeeping, and I am glad that people have asked questions about that. If NATO had been prepared to make those compromises at Rambouillet, the whole war might have been avoided, because the sticking points for the Serbs were occupation and secession. The Yugoslav Parliament made it clear that it would accept an international force under the United Nations.

Had we had negotiators who really wanted a negotiated settlement, we would have got one. George Kenny, a former Yugoslav desk officer at the US Department of State, has pointed out that the US wanted to bomb Yugoslavia and wrote the Rambouillet ultimatum conditions in a form that no country would accept. Kenny quotes press sources close to the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, as being confidently briefed that the intention was to set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept, in order to justify the bombing. That will all come out in time, and when it does it will mark a shameful phase in our history.

I believe that the price to be paid for the war will be incalculable, first for the people of the area and, secondly, for our relations with the rest of the world. We who were against the war have nothing to apologise for except to say that we are sorry that there have been any victims. That is a good thing to say. It would have been far preferable to reach a settlement at the beginning, before we ruined a country, killed so many people and unleashed the madness that we have seen in the newspapers today.

I do not apologise for criticising NATO's actions. It took sides in a civil war which, like all civil wars, was bloody and terrible. I once again apologise for its victims, but they are not on my conscience.

I think that there will be an ethnically pure Kosovo. I do not think that the KLA is a stable force; it was certainly not elected by its people. It is taking up positions, and we know that in Prizren, for example, it has declared itself as the police force. I have read of only one instance—it involved the Americans—in which NATO forces have disarmed KLA members. They are not an organised force and they could create even more chaos for their people.

We need seriously to consider what role there is for the Russians and the United Nations. We need more international people who are not members of NATO to go to Kosovo, and we definitely need an international police presence. I want to know who will help the people of Serbia, and especially the children. There are 10.5 million Serbs who are not called Slobodan Milosevic; many of them demonstrated against him and would dearly like to see the back of him. Do we seriously want to make them even greater victims than they are now?

We have sent a dangerous message to the smaller nations that might be called rogue nations. They know that they cannot take on a super-power. I never thought that NATO could be defeated. How could the biggest military alliance in the world, with all that new technology, be defeated by a small country? The smaller nations know that they cannot beat a super-power and NATO, so they might turn their attention to non-NATO nations. Those nations have nuclear weapons. Israel has disregarded a peace accord for five years; and Belarus—an unstable nation—has already asked whether nuclear weapons can be resited on its soil. The smaller nations will want to become nuclear powers themselves and will develop weapons of mass destruction.

3.43 pm
Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)

My view of the recent conflict is diametrically opposed to that of the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), but at least her contribution demonstrates that freedom of expression is alive and well in the House.

The war has gone through the remorseless progress of all previous wars, with a prelude, a conflict and an aftermath. The conflict began and ended in the air, and in my judgment it was won from the air. The media coverage showed an extraordinary concentration on what went wrong in the air campaign, but the real story was how much went right.

Over 78 days allied air crews of a multinational force engaged in extraordinarily complex air operations under a materially dangerous surface-to-air threat and in weather conditions that were for much of the time unfavourable, none the less achieving levels of accuracy and precision that are wholly unprecedented and unparalleled in any previous air conflict of this scale. We cannot praise too highly those in the air forces who were responsible for that achievement.

The Foreign Secretary, wholly understandably, displayed loyalty to his NATO political colleagues, but from my perspective the quality of the civil leadership during the conflict was pretty uneven. Among the European members of NATO, too many leaders and senior politicians were too ready to clutch at every available propaganda straw offered by Milosevic in order to bring the bombing campaign to a premature conclusion.

On the other side of the Atlantic there was a distinct impression of presidential wavering whenever it seemed possible that offensive ground operations might have to be engaged in. In striking contrast, the Prime Minister has shown an unwavering resolution and a total readiness to contemplate all options necessary to bring victory to the NATO forces. In doing so, he performed over the past two and a half months a signal service for NATO's future credibility.

The Foreign Secretary said:

One of the real tragedies for Kosovo and for Serbia is that President Milosevic did not accept the package offered at Rambouillet, which would have given Serbia a better result than it now has"—[Official Report, 14 June 1999; Vol. 333, c. 29.] I wish I could believe that to be the case. I have an unhappy feeling that if Milosevic was given the option to sign up to United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 or to the Rambouillet terms, he would sign up to resolution 1244, which gives him substantially more wriggle room; and we know how dangerous it is to give Milosevic wriggle room.

There are two substantial points on which NATO has given material ground to Milosevic in order to bring about the settlement. The first was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples). In the Rambouillet terms there is a clear statement in paragraph 3 of chapter 8 that after three years, an international meeting shall be convened to determine a mechanism for the final settlement for Kosovo, on the basis of the will of the people". That commitment is tacked into UN resolution 1244 only on the basis of being taken into account. The significance of that paragraph—I think that it was the single most important paragraph in persuading the Kosovo representatives to sign up at Rambouillet—is that it opened the door to the possibility of an independent Kosovo. I was very grateful to the Prime Minister for the answer that he gave me, confirming that that passage in the Rambouillet terms would indeed have opened the door to the independence of Kosovo.

The Prime Minister said: Independence for Kosovo was not part of the Rambouillet accords, although the idea of having a later conference to determine the matter was."—[Official Report, 8 June 1999; Vol. 332, c. 474.] I fear that the concession to Milosevic has taken the possibility of independence for Kosovo off the negotiating table. As we have seen on television, since the end of the war Milosevic has been crowing that he has safeguarded the continuing incorporation of Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Mr. Dalyell

If the right hon. Gentleman is right, as I believe that he may well be, does he see the KLA meekly surrendering its arms?

Sir John Stanley

That question is at present unanswerable. However, my judgment is that, although the KLA may stop displaying arms in public, I should be immensely surprised if large numbers of arms were not secreted in various parts of Kosovo.

The second concession that should arouse great concern in the House is the wording of paragraph 8 of appendix B to chapter 7 of the Rambouillet accords. I shall read the key sentence because it is so crucial. There was a requirement that NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters. That paragraph is profoundly important and should be retained. It should be taken together with what is said in paragraph 21, which states: In carrying out its authorities under this Chapter, NATO is authorised to detain individuals and, as quickly as possible, turn them over to appropriate officials. The significance of those paragraphs is to be found in the context of what is being done to bring the war criminals to justice. As we know all too well from the bitter experience of what happened in Bosnia, where Karadzic and Mladic and the other leading war criminals are still free, the sending out of scene-of-the-crime investigators, the painstaking collection of evidence and the issuing of indictments against individuals for war crimes have no value whatever in the absence of arrangements for international powers of arrest in the locations where the war criminals are.

I was profoundly depressed by the passage in the Foreign Secretary's speech in which he said that Milosevic dare not set foot outside Serbia's borders for fear of arrest. That implies that, as long as Milosevic maintains his position inside Serbia's borders, he is absolutely free from the possibility of arrest and of indictment for the war crimes for which he is due to be charged.

The Foreign Secretary also said that no effort would be spared to bring the war criminals to justice. I totally support that sentiment, but we cannot ignore the absence of the crucial last link in the chain—the link beyond the indictment to the arrest. I hope that the Secretary of State for International Development, when she winds up the debate, will say how it is proposed that the people indicted for war crimes in Kosovo will be arrested. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will intervene to clarify that matter, because all the provisions in appendix B of the Rambouillet accords, which previously were the subject of a clearly stated NATO position, have effectively been dropped as part of the loose incorporation of the accords into UN resolution 1244.

Mr. Robin Cook

The right hon. Gentleman is building a very large house on stilts on the proposition that the Rambouillet accords have somehow been abandoned. They have not been abandoned. They are referred to specifically in the UN resolution as the instruction, not to Milosevic on this occasion, but to the civil administrator, who will operate under the direct instruction of the United Nations and report to the Secretary-General. We have a firmer, more hands-on international basis to implement Rambouillet in Kosovo than we had before.

The right hon. Gentleman's earlier point that independence for Kosovo had been ruled out is false. Neither Britain nor any of our allies favour independence for Kosovo. That was not an objective of the campaign. However, none of the options laid out at Rambouillet has been taken off the negotiating table by the Security Council resolution: indeed, paragraph 11(a) of the resolution specifies that what the international civil administration does in carrying out the Rambouillet accords will be "pending a final settlement". The option of that final settlement after the interim period is present in the Security Council resolution with every bit as much force as it was in the Rambouillet accords.

Sir John Stanley

I am glad to hear what the Foreign Secretary has said. I can only rest my remarks on the text of the resolution.

Mr. Cook

That was the text.

Sir John Stanley

The text speaks of taking the Rambouillet accords into account, which is a very tenuous matter. Although I do not want to delay the House by developing this into a long exchange, will the Foreign Secretary give the House a clear assurance that the provisions for NATO forces to enter any part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to exercise their powers to detain individuals, as stated clearly in the Rambouillet accords, will be carried into effect at an early date?

Mr. Cook

First, the oft-quoted passage on the right of NATO to travel through the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a standard element of all similar status-of-forces agreements, including the one signed by Milosevic—without much murmur—in relation to Bosnia. The identical language was included in the annexe to Rambouillet. I was at Rambouillet, and I can tell the House that the Serb side raised no objections to that usage at the time. Moreover, in the military-technical agreement it is made clear that there will have to be a status-of-forces agreement of that character.

On the question of arrest, the right hon. Gentleman should join the real world. There is no immediate prospect of our being able to enter Belgrade and arrest Milosevic in the face of the 200,000 VJ troops in Serbia. That has always been one of the facts of the matter. However, the right hon. Gentleman should not understate the Government's commitment to effecting the arrest of war criminals wherever possible, nor the effectiveness of British troops in achieving that. That is why, only last week, we carried out the arrest of another war criminal in the British sector in Bosnia.

Sir John Stanley

I think that the Foreign Secretary's response exposes the deficiency that I have highlighted. I am grateful to him for making it clear that there are no prospects, in the near term or possibly ever, of bringing the indicted war criminals to justice. I strongly support all the Foreign Secretary has done to promote international courts and the concept of international criminal justice. However, if that concept is to translate into reality, there can be no safe haven for indicted criminals.

The third part of my speech relates to events before the conflict broke out. Amid the euphoria of peace and the moving mass return home of the refugees, I realise that questions about what happened before the conflict may not seem appropriate. However, I make no apology for asking those questions. During the past 10 weeks, thousands of people have been brutally murdered and hundreds of thousands have lost all but their lives. Expenditure has run into billions of pounds, and billions more will doubtless be spent to repair the damage incurred. It is proper to ask, therefore, whether the horrendous humanitarian disaster in Kosovo might have been averted.

In his recent evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Secretary put interesting new information into the public domain, making it clear that the Government had had knowledge of an impending humanitarian disaster in Kosovo. On 14 April, at paragraph 109, the Foreign Secretary said that it has been reported in the press (and I can confirm it is true) that there was a plan developed in Belgrade known as Operation Horseshoe which was for the cleansing of Kosovo of its Kosovo population. In paragraph 111, he continued: The spring offensive was planned; we knew it was coming; we knew it would be accompanied by ethnic cleansing. If we knew that the spring offensive would bring ethnic cleansing and barbarity unprecedented in post-war Europe, did the NATO countries do all that they reasonably could to deter Milosevic from giving Operation Horseshoe the go-ahead? I should like to explore the issue of deterrence using both ground forces and the air threat.

Serious questions arise over the use of ground forces, particularly for the Americans. In the weeks or months before the air campaign, when Milosevic was presumably deciding whether he could get away with his infamous operation, even a modest deployment of the United States rapid reaction force—the marines—into the border areas of Kosovo could have had a profound impact on his calculations. No such deployment was made. In fairness to the Americans, I must point out that no European NATO country made an advance deployment of rapid reaction forces. A major deterrent opportunity was therefore missed.

That error was compounded by what was said in public about the use of ground forces. NATO countries, including our own, made it clear at the outset that no ground forces would be used for a forced entry into Kosovo. This matter is too important for party politics, so I must point out that the same position was taken by my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. We must ask whether a different position might have had a material impact on Milosevic. I believe that if he had known in January or February that all options, including forced entry, remained open—the position ultimately adopted by NATO 10 weeks later—Operation Horseshoe might not have been given the go-ahead.

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that compromise is necessary if a 19-member alliance is to move. Was it good that NATO acted, even if some undesirable things had to be said about ground troops? Or would it have been better not to act at all?

Sir John Stanley

I have entirely supported NATO's military action since the conflict began, but I take the Secretary of State's point. Movement by unanimity means movement according to the lowest common denominator. However, our position was similar to that which we faced in Iraq. It was open to a limited number of NATO countries to state their positions on ground forces and it was open to individual countries to make forward deployments of ground forces into Macedonia or, conceivably, Albania.

Mr. Bradshaw

I had intended to make the same point as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, but as the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned a build-up of troops, does he agree that if we had substantially built up our forces while negotiating in good faith at Rambouillet, we would have given a great deal of propaganda ammunition to Milosevic, who could have accused us of negotiating in bad faith?

Sir John Stanley

It seems clear that Milosevic had wholly given up on Rambouillet by January or February and was making his barbarous plans for the comprehensive ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. On the suggestion that he may or may not have believed that we were acting in good faith, I shall again quote the Foreign Secretary's remarks to the Foreign Affairs Committee on 14 April, which I found profoundly disturbing. He said that we had a very clear impression that President Milosevic did not believe that we would take military action and, because of that, was not willing to participate fully in the peace process. That remark implies a serious failure among the NATO countries to demonstrate adequate deterrence to Milosevic.

On the air side, there was a similar error to that committed over ground troops. We made it clear at the outset that the target would be Serbian military capability. I do not believe that Milosevic was likely ever to be impressed by a NATO air threat couched in those terms alone. President Tito had an obsession with the survivability of his armed forces against the likelihood—as he saw it—of a Warsaw pact attack, and he had nearly 40 years in which to indulge that obsession.

The television-watching British public may have been somewhat surprised at the end of the campaign. Having been treated, night after night, to statements from NATO spokesmen to the effect that we were successfully degrading Serbian military capability in Kosovo, they may have been shocked to see mile after mile of unscathed armoured vehicles pulling out of Kosovo. That does not come as any surprise to those of us who have watched over the years how the Yugoslav armed forces are deployed and how they protect themselves. Milosevic was never going to be hugely impressed by threats to his military capability.

The air war was turned by substantially widening the target list so that we ended up attacking the main sinews of Milosevic's grip on power. That certainly significantly undermined the confidence of the civilian population in his leadership. We turned our air attacks—rightly, as we had to bring about the end of the war as quickly as possible, if only to save the remaining Albanian Kosovans still alive in Kosovo—to economic and infrastructure targets, party headquarters, state-controlled media and so on. It is a sad reflection on how badly the deterrent card was played that we ended up bombing during the war a wider range of targets than we had ever given any intimation we would do during the peace, when we were trying to prevent the conflict from arising.

In conclusion, it is wholly legitimate and proper to ask whether this appalling humanitarian disaster in Kosovo could have been averted. It is a legitimate question that demands a full and serious answer. It should be answered by those independent of the Government.

4.12 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) asked a number of wholly legitimate questions. I agree with him that one feature of the conflict was the pinpoint accuracy of the bombing. Yes, there were a dozen or so tragic accidents, but in the context of the 37,000 sorties it gives an indication of the sophistication of modern weaponry.

I am less happy about what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Rambouillet accords and his assertion that President Milosevic would have been readier to sign the June agreement than the Rambouillet accords. Surely the right hon. Gentleman recalls that the Rambouillet accords would have provided for a substantial number of Serb troops to remain in Kosovo. That was a major difference from the June agreement. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the possible independence of Kosovo. The Rambouillet accords included a carefully crafted form of words, put together by our British negotiators, which may have pointed towards, but certainly did not mention, a referendum. It was certainly not part of the negotiating aim of NATO to provide the basis for an independent Kosovo.

The right hon. Gentleman made a powerful point about war criminals. The United Nations Security Council resolution calls for the full co-operation of all parties, and that includes the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, he ignored the practical point of reaching into Yugoslavia and getting hold of the indicted war criminals. Short of invading Belgrade, it would be wholly impossible to implement. That said, the right hon. Gentleman, with whom I serve on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, made an excellent contribution to the debate.

I was careful to note that there was no triumphalist tone in the presentation of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Equally, the Prime Minister did not rejoice on the steps of No. 10. That is because we all recognise that we have reached only the first stage in the whole operation. Yes, there has been a remarkable military victory, but many challenges remain. Indeed, Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war", and perhaps there will be far greater challenges in establishing peace and stabilising the Balkans in future.

The Secretary of State for International Development made the important point that sometimes Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen in their criticisms ignored the key factor of alliance diplomacy. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling asked, as have others, why we did not say from the start that we were prepared to commit ground troops. He will know that in the October meetings only one country was prepared to commit ground troops and that was the United Kingdom. That is a fact of life of alliance diplomacy. The debate about ground troops in October last year was diverted by the Holbrooke deal with Milosevic. The deal was almost immediately repudiated by Milosevic as reflected in increased troop deployments in Kosovo.

At Rambouillet, Milosevic was again offered a good deal which would have retained the territorial integrity of his country. He was not serious about it, and then there was Operation Horseshoe. At the end of Rambouillet there was the promise from the Serb negotiator, Milutinovic, that he would go back and sell that deal to Serbia. Clearly, there was total deceit on the part of the Serb negotiators. We then turned to war and now we are back to diplomacy, which should have been the position from the start. But the House must understand the imperatives of alliance diplomacy.

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman was objective enough to mention the key role played by the British Government and to say that the Prime Minister emerges with credit. The Prime Minister was principled and took a moral position from the outset. He stiffened the alliance at key times.

Russia blocked the possibility of military action in the United Nations Security Council. We have to try to understand that in terms of the problems of Russian history and the feeling in Russia that it has been sidelined and bypassed by the international community, for example in relation to what happened in Iraq and Cyprus. One lesson from the conflict must surely be that we must mend our relationship with Russia as speedily as possible.

The other area of great concern is the legal basis for the action. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) pointed out the international legal ambiguities. There were great problems in acting, but think of the problems in the area and beyond had there not been action. Think what encouragement it would have been to others inclined to consider ethnic cleansing. Nevertheless the action gives rise to a proper problem in respect of its international legal basis. We were citing the imminence of humanitarian catastrophe and, of course, that can be interpreted subjectively and can provide an unhappy precedent for intervention elsewhere in the world.

In the early 1990s Lord Hurd, when he was Foreign Secretary, made an interesting speech to the United Nations General Assembly stating that the UN should seek to forestall conflict, but should work through regional groups. His specific proposal in relation to Africa, for example, was that the west should provide military training and infrastructure for an African intervention force. That might be relevant now in the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Alas, nothing appears to have been done regarding that initiative of the early-1990s. I hope that one lesson from that would be to consider ways not only of refining the international legal basis, but of using regional intervention by regional groupings when such conflicts arise.

In relation to the immediate task ahead, the first priority is the safe return of the refugees. Almost 1.4 million Kosovan Albanians are currently refugees—internally displaced, in camps or abroad. It is vital that they are allowed to return home in safety and that shelter should be found for them. I look forward to hearing what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development says about prefabricated housing, for example. One of the more distressing features is that, even as they departed, Serb forces were gratuitously destroying the houses of those people who had fled their country. I hope that something will be said about what we can do to ensure the provision of houses.

The international force must contain the desire for revenge. KFOR faces an enormous challenge in controlling the understandable desire for revenge on both sides. KFOR must be seen to be wholly even-handed. Yes, KLA men as well as Serbs must be arrested—as must whoever tries to step outside the peace agreement. Serbs are indeed now leaving Kosovo; we must try not to replace one form of ethnic cleansing by another. Surely, it is of the utmost importance to try to preserve a multi-ethnic entity in Kosovo itself. It would be a poor model for the region if we were to allow, or condone, atrocities that fuelled a further exodus of the Serb population of Kosovo—which was roughly 200,000.

Uncertainties remain, including those in respect of Russia. Many points have been made about Russia's cheeky and deceitful intervention at the airport. However, relations with Russia are part of the collateral, political damage that has resulted from the conflict. There are also problems within Russia. The NATO intervention has reinforced the stereotype of an aggressive NATO and encouraged nationalist forces in Russia. Much must be done to build bridges, as I have pointed out. The alliance surely underestimated Russia's determination to seek a role in the Balkans. Moscow is determined to be heard this time and really wants to be part of the solution. In the end game, it is vital that Russia plays a part. However, Russian demands for its own sector, which may lead to partition, must be resisted.

There are problems regarding the future legal status of Kosovo, and there are ambiguities in the UN Security Council resolution. We talk about the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia remaining, but what will be Serbia's authority—if any—within Kosovo? Travel documents have been mentioned. What form of travel documents will the Kosovan Albanians have when they leave? Clearly, they will be most reluctant to travel on Yugoslav documents. Will they have temporary UN travel documents? What consideration has been given to that matter? It is difficult to see how any real authority can be exercised over Kosovo by Serbia.

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing made some points about independence, self-government and the ambiguities relating to those matters in the June agreement. The interim Administration that has been agreed will be under the authority of the UN; that means that China and Russia will have an effective power of veto over the future of the province. However, the status under international law is uncertain. One talks about territorial integrity, but, in effect, it will be UN trusteeship in all but the formal, legal position.

What about President Milosevic himself? He is an indicted war criminal, but we continue to deal with him as if nothing has changed. In so doing, there is a serious danger of undermining the war crimes tribunal and, ultimately, the international criminal tribunal and humanitarian international law generally. Obviously, we must remain alert and must be extremely cautious; we must not give Milosevic too many opportunities to exercise what the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling called the wriggle factor, or the ambiguities remaining after the agreements or in other places, such as Macedonia, Montenegro and Vojvodina where he may try to use his ability to make difficulties. The west will have only a partial victory as long as Milosevic remains in power.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development may pick up the point that I made earlier about the way in which the BBC World Service may be used constructively. Its output to the region has already been increased, but it could play an important role in the training of democratic journalists and media people, and in increasing its output to reach beyond the current Milosevic regime to the people of Yugoslavia.

In relation to the KLA, a point was made about the interesting difference between "disarmament" and "demilitarisation", presumably because, with some form of light arms, the KLA is still assumed to have a policing force in the new Kosovo. It is not clear how the KLA organisation will respond, although so far the indications are reasonably favourable. However, there is obviously a division within the KLA between those who want an independent Kosovo and others who support a Greater Albania, which would be a highly destabilising feature in the area as a whole. There is antipathy between Rugova loyalists and the KLA leadership, and clear evidence—although it has not been mentioned in this debate—of a degree of criminality among some of the KLA groupings.

In relation to the longer-term need to build a lasting peace, we want to bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice—a point made forcefully by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling. The evidence of the mass graves already revealed is absolutely appalling. The perpetrators must not be allowed to get away with those atrocities. Although the leaders must be indicted, there should perhaps be a lesser form of punishment for the smaller fry. Various precedents could be considered—perhaps from South Africa, in the use of a truth and reconciliation commission. We need to find some way of allowing people to expiate the acts that they have committed.

In relation to the longer-term building of relevant structures in the area, economic frameworks are needed. I welcome the British Government's initiative in respect of free trade agreements between the western European countries and the countries of the region. In those economic structures, we need to be aware that several of the countries in the region are themselves innocent victims of the conflict. One thinks of the damage to the economy of not only the obvious countries, such as Macedonia and Albania, but of Bulgaria and Romania. That suggests that we need to have a stability pact—a stabilisation agreement for the Balkans as a whole. There must not be the paralysis of policy that existed after 1989, when Milosevic ended autonomy in Vojvodina and in Kosovo, but the international community allowed that to continue and did nothing.

There is a challenge facing us, and we must not allow that paralysis of policy that existed between 1989 and 1999 to return. We must build civic institutions and co-ordinate the efforts of all the relevant international organisations—NATO, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the international financial institutions. There has to be a massive injection of resources into the region as a whole. It is often said that, when there is war, lavish resources are speedily found, but there is far greater reluctance to provide resources for peace building.

Another lesson that we must learn is that the Balkans are part of our common European home, yet there is a great deal of combustible material throughout the Balkans to fuel future conflict. The challenge now is to learn the lessons of what we have done and, as important, what we have failed to do over the past decade. We have to work with vision and commitment in terms of resources, both human and material, to build greater stability for the future.

4.31 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) in his entirely justified tribute to the Prime Minister and his conduct during these extremely difficult months. The crisis in Kosovo must have placed an appalling burden on the right hon. Gentleman's shoulders, especially as it occurred at the same time as great difficulties in Northern Ireland.

I also congratulate the Secretary of State for International Development who, in my mind, has been transmogrified into a veritable Boadicea by her robust support for the refugees, the efforts she made to help them, and her support for the remarkable efforts of the British soldiers, who showed with astonishing skill that they can turn their hand to almost any task that is given to them. I am glad that the right hon. Lady gave them such great encouragement, and that she has been of such tremendous support to the armed forces in general.

I agree with so much of what was said by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who is Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, that I do not propose to take up his points; however, I shall endorse one or two of them in my remarks. I do not think that this is yet the moment for a fundamental and detailed lessons-learned debate, but such a debate will have to take place, so I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman and his Committee are to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into the events in Kosovo, even though far more water will have to flow under the bridge before he commences that exercise. There is a need to examine not only the military but the political and diplomatic background to what transpired.

I want to raise two matters that have already been touched on by several speakers, because they are of continuing consequence to the unfolding of events. My starting premise is that I do not believe that the war should ever have happened. I have two criticisms to level—criticisms not necessarily of the Government, but of the way in which the whole NATO machine handled the crisis as it developed.

First, as the hon. Member for Swansea, East said, our failure, and the failure of the west, properly to engage with the Russians over the past few years has gravely damaged the stability of the world, and great dangers will flow from that. The abject failure to engage the Russians much earlier in the process led, among other things, to the inevitability of the ensuing conflict. That was a serious mistake, and I hope that any inquiry will deal at great length with the way in which the Russians were handled.

Secondly, I believe that it was wrong to undertake operations without the sanction of the United Nations. I have no doubt that our doing so has greatly undermined our position internationally and that it will make our diplomatic life much harder in future. The much-despised United Nations, despite its numerous failings, is the only comprehensive law-based body that exists for the purpose of settling disputes among its members, and however inconvenient the process may be—it is very inconvenient indeed—it was an arrogant subversion of the proper and correct conduct of all the laws relating to the settling of international disputes not to have gone every painful inch of the way to try to make the United Nations deal with its responsibilities. Part of the problem is that, foolishly, our American friends have treated the UN atrociously over the years. It is time for the great western powers to try to make the UN work again, but that will never happen if the rules of international law are flouted.

All that is now past and, although I congratulate the Government and the Prime Minister on having achieved a successful conclusion to phase 1, there remains a huge amount of work to do. First, we have to deal with the desperate problems facing the returning refugees. I shall not speak at length about reconstruction, because there are hon. Members present who know far more about it than I do, but I shall make some subsidiary points.

KFOR has to pacify and bring order out of total anarchy in the face of a tidal wave of poison surging through a broken and ruined country. That is not an easy or happy state of affairs. However, there is no one better equipped to play the role that they will be called upon to play than the British troops present on the ground. They are uniquely well-trained and well-equipped to undertake that dangerous and extremely difficult work. It is contemptible that, on the night on which we are debating Kosovo, there are no members of the press present, even though, on the ground in Kosovo, large numbers of British troops face imminent and real danger.

I pay warm and heartfelt tribute to General Mike Jackson, General Dannatt, Brigadier Freer of the 5th Airborne Brigade, Brigadier Rollo of the 4th Armoured Brigade and all the service men and women under their command for a stunning entry into Kosovo and its subsequent investment. It was a truly miraculous piece of logistical planning, and everyone—I repeat, everyone—deserves the greatest credit.

As a former Minister for the Armed Forces, I was not surprised, but I was thrilled, to see how all the regiments who spent a long time waiting on the border, knowing that they would eventually have to go into Kosovo, deployed extraordinary and heroic skills to build towns, cities, even empires for those poor refugees. Their wonderfully humane, generous and good-humoured treatment of the refugees makes them some of the finest ambassadors we could ever have.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing described in moving language, and far better than I could, the astonishing achievements of the NATO pilots and air forces. I pay warm tribute to our own Harrier and Tornado crews, to the Chinook and Puma pilots, to the ground and support crews, and to all their NATO comrades for doing an excellent job.

However, we need to assess the role of air power in the campaign, especially in view of the astonishing achievements of the new weapons. It has been interesting to see how much of the Serb armour and how many of its men have been withdrawn: there must be an assessment to determine how so much equipment and so many troops survived. At least the air forces achieved one thing: the rate and, in later days, the breadth, of the bombing campaign in Kosovo pretty much ensured that the armour and heavy kit was never used and had to be kept bottled up. To that extent, the campaign worked, because anything that poked its nose out of doors in anything approaching reasonable conditions was given a very nasty smack in the puss indeed.

Counts of tanks and heavy armoured vehicles destroyed are always unreliable—as they were in the Gulf war. It will be instructive for our armed forces and for all those involved in the conflict to learn how the Serbs hid their heavy kit—hon. Members will know the arrangements that President Tito made over many years. Serb methods proved to be astonishingly effective, and I have no doubt that people will be sent from London to see what we can learn. We will want to gauge the effectiveness of their decoys and their camouflage and see where and how deeply their bunkers were sited. There are important lessons to be learned for future conflicts because, in truth, the Serbs appear to have done tiresomely well.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it not an awkward truth that the only time that losses were really inflicted on Serb armour was when the KLA guerrillas cut the road from Pec and the Serbs were forced to leave their positions?

Mr. Soames

This is a world of awkward truths. I have no notion—nor, I think, do the intelligence people—of the scale of Serb losses. If Serb or enemy armour of any sort had put in an appearance at a time and a place where NATO air power was able to deal with it, it would not have progressed far down the road. I suspect that the Serbs moved by night, were extremely canny and were prepared to sacrifice a few—but only a few—tanks when fighting the KLA. We will need to assess on what basis the intelligence people made their estimates and whether their desire to prove how well the campaign was going led to their telling us that more Serb armour had been damaged than was in fact the case. I have no doubt that we will learn lessons for the future.

I now come to the Russians. As I told the Foreign Secretary on Monday, I believe that Russian behaviour in the past few days has been utterly reprehensible. The Russians have proved yet again that, in military terms, they are totally unreliable and untrustworthy. We must not cave in to the Russian-Serbian collusion to establish a separate zone. That is what they are trying to do and, unless we are careful—because it would be convenient to end this frightful argument and pressure—we will find that they have succeeded. I believe that, if we have much more trouble from the Russians, we should cut off their water and give them no more food and see how they like that.

This Yeltsin power play must not be allowed to stand. If Russia behaves well, it should be rewarded. However, its bad and irresponsible conduct under these circumstances—when it is meant to be part of a force that is attempting to bring peace and order to Kosovo—must not be free of cost. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be extremely frank—a great deal more frank and less mealy-mouthed than he was in the House on Monday—with the Russians when he meets them this weekend, and will tell them that their behaviour is totally unacceptable.

The lessons of SFOR in Bosnia are instructive to the situation in Kosovo. The Dayton accord stopped the fighting, but with terrible hidden penalties. The Serbs and the Muslims are today no closer to living in harmony than they were at the beginning of the conflict. The various factions fight each other using every means short of war, including bureaucratic and administrative means. They argue about absolutely everything. The point scoring and incessant bloody-mindedness is almost impossible to deal with. We must establish a different structure for Kosovo.

We can try to bribe the communities in Kosovo to live together—the Secretary of State for International Development can do an awful lot of that through her Department. We can try to cajole them to live together but, in the end, they must accept a common rationale for the future. I believe that that is the greatest challenge ahead. We must develop a clear policy for Kosovo and its future as soon as possible and make sure that we have the will to enforce it with a very robust mandate.

At the same time as disarming the KLA—which must be done quickly by one means or another—I hope that, after all the rhetoric, we will all show a clear political will to go after the vile war criminals who have perpetrated acts of unspeakable savagery, cruelty and barbarism. We will watch carefully to see how the Government act in that regard. I know that the Government's heart is in the right place because the previous Government said the same thing. However, for all sorts of reasons not connected with the British Government, the necessary authority was not obtained in Bosnia and, time and again, the most terrible war criminals slipped through our fingers when we could have lifted them. We failed then because we did not have the political will. I hope that the Government will act extremely robustly in this case—although I fear that many of the horses will have bolted.

As to the reconstruction of Kosovo, I hope that, when Kosovo is made safe, the Secretary of State for International Development—who is very imaginative in such matters—will ensure that Great Britain does all sorts of good and original work on the ground. I would like to see British schools adopt schools in Kosovo. I would like to see parish and town councils take responsibility for small villages and try to raise money to ship the things that they will need. The Kosovar people will have nothing. Until people have seen what ethnic cleansing looks like on the ground, what is involved and the awfulness that has been wreaked on those small communities, they can have no idea of the sorts of problems with which the poor Kosovars must deal. I would like to see the building industry volunteer some of its expertise and put its shoulder to the wheel to assist in constructing houses. Of course, there will be much work for the non-governmental organisations.

As the hon. Member for Swansea, East said, this crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of Macedonia and Albania. They will require—and they deserve—economic and other assistance. While press interest in Kosovo declines—in three weeks, there will not be a Kosovo story in the newspapers; the press will have forgotten all about it—the problems will become more severe, not easier, with each passing day. The dangers to the soldiers as they move further inland and off the highways will also increase but the reptiles will show no interest at all. We must ensure that we create a bold regional plan of reconstruction—and that will require a vision that has been terribly lacking in attempts to end previous conflicts in the Balkans.

I want to say a few words about NATO's strategy. First, the militarily indecisive, inept and morally compromising manner in which the beginning of the 80-day bombing campaign was conducted and the dilatory deployment of troops on the ground in Kosovo—I agreed with every word spoken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling—leaves a residue of long-term concerns that extend well beyond Kosovo. They will have to be seriously addressed.

Foremost among those concerns, as I have already said, is Russia's role in the crisis, the world's perception of the American way of war and all that it will mean for future foreign policy, and NATO's combat command procedures. The Kosovo crisis raises important issues regarding each of those concerns.

There are more immediate questions of great importance concerning the civilian administration and future policing arrangements. What should commanders on the ground do today if they are faced with anarchy? Whose law applies tonight? Who will decide questions of land ownership? Who will decide who owns the house at the end of the ruined street when people want to start rebuilding? All those and many more questions will have to be decided within the next few days if we are not to see increasing unrest, when tens of thousands of refugees will be pouring back—God bless them—to their homes.

This war has been conducted like no other military operation before. It has been fought uniquely, against the wisdom of all the pundits, by high-tech, airborne, stand-off weaponry, as if its sole underlying principle was that the life of even one American or NATO service man was not worth risking to save the lives of thousands of Kosovars. That new way of war sets a dubious, even dangerous, standard for the future. Success in warfare should not be determined by the avoidance of casualties. If the political and moral stakes are imperative enough to warrant the use of force, necessary force should be used to achieve the ends. This war was fought at no political risk or human cost. May it prove to have set an absolutely paralysing precedent for any future American President or British Prime Minister.

In the light of those factors and the awkwardly and unnecessarily long bombing campaign, we shall need to review and revise NATO's decision-making procedures. A clearer distinction will need to be made between the requirements for a basic, solid unanimity in NATO's commitment to action and the need for a military power or authority endowed with discretion to execute that commitment by military means. I have to tell the Secretary of State for International Development that the Normandy landings could not have taken place under the command structure that was used in this campaign.

Nevertheless, the outcome of the conflict demonstrates that NATO is Europe's only effective security system and that the American-European connection remains absolutely essential to Europe's stability. Along with everyone who has bothered to think about this matter, I am deeply grateful to the Americans for coming to our aid and playing such a vital part in the operations. However imperfect it may have been, this was America's campaign. That makes it all the more important that the Kosovo experience be assessed in a constructively critical fashion. Many lessons must be learned not only about military activities, but about future European security and defence arrangements and the future command structure of NATO. All those are vital to our security not only for the next few years but for generations to come.

I want again to pay tribute to the soldiers of the 5th Airborne Brigade and the 4th Army Brigade and all the supporting arms of the Royal Air Force in the theatre. I pay particular tribute to my own old regiment, the King's Royal Hussars, who in the past few days have demonstrated great dash and daring, great pride in their skills, and discipline. Their actions on the ground have been seen on television. They combine independence of mind and judgment with the superb ability of the British soldier, whatever his rank, quickly to assess the odds and make instant decisions under the most severe pressure with enduring and inspirational courage.

The cuts that were made by my Government have, in the light of history, proved to be too deep. I have no doubt that in undertaking the strategic defence review, the Government's heart was in the right place, but although there is a broad stability of spending, the resources are fewer and the commitments remain the same. I look to the Government to honour their obligations to our armed forces and to this country's future security. If we are to develop a greater European capability, we must ensure that defence spending is increased.

With Northern Ireland possibly about to go pear-shaped—although I pray not—all sorts of problems to come in Kosovo, and the Army's commitments in Cyprus and Bosnia, the Navy's commitments and the commitments of the Air Force in Iraq and elsewhere, the armed forces cannot undertake those operations while being expected to find 3 per cent. efficiency savings per year. That is wholly unacceptable. Looking back on my own role in those discussions, I feel a terrible tightening in my tummy, and shame that we went too far.

This has been an important debate. I would not want the Secretary of State for International Development to think that any of my criticisms were directed solely at the Government. We have been operating in a coalition and there are lessons to be learned. I hope that the Prime Minister, who, as I said, has behaved admirably throughout, can drive the lessons-learned debate and make sure that we do not end up being such a poodle to the Americans in dealing with the Russians, the middle east and all the other flashpoints when we should have an independent European and British voice which balances that of the United States.

4.56 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

There were one or two points in the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) to which I shall refer in the course of my own.

I expect that if the war were continuing, we would be having a somewhat different debate today and a far greater attendance, particularly from those who opposed the military action from the beginning. Several hon. Members on both sides of the House would have been telling us how futile it was, that bombing would never secure an agreement with Belgrade, that it was a disaster from the outset and that we should give up. The scene is quite different today, and I am very pleased that the military action has been successful.

As I said in my intervention during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it is appropriate that the debate is taking place on a day when the broadsheets, at least, are reporting on their front page the horrifying atrocities carried out against civilians—men, women and children—who were ethnic Albanians. Those crimes remind one in so many respects of what the Nazis did during their occupation.

There was never any doubt in my mind that it would have been totally wrong if we had allowed what was happening in Kosovo to continue, without military action being taken. When the Foreign Secretary reported to the House on 18 January on the murder of 45 ethnic Albanians, I said that I did not believe that it would be possible to secure any agreement with Milosevic without air strikes. I would therefore be the last person to have criticised the decision in late March, following the failure of the negotiations in France, to take appropriate military action.

Of course it would have been preferable if that had been done through the United Nations, as the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex said. I have supported the United Nations from the beginning, if only because of my age. I have always been a firm supporter of the United Nations, and I hope that that will continue. However, the hon. Gentleman, like his colleagues and some of mine, knows that it would not have been possible to secure UN agreement.

If we could have achieved that at the Security Council, of course we would have done so. It would have been preferable, but as it was not possible, the alternative was to take the action that we took under NATO, or to take no action at all. That was the choice. There was no question of our ignoring the United Nations and saying that we were not interested in that organisation.

I do not believe that, apart from one or two clauses, Belgrade would have accepted the agreement on offer earlier this year in France. It has been claimed by some of my colleagues that it was annexe B that was so objectionable to the Belgrade regime, and that without it, there could have been agreement. I do not believe anything of the kind. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary pointed out that the Serbians did not focus particularly on annexe B during the negotiations in March. The fact is that Milosevic would have found it difficult to sell what would have been seen by the ultra-nationalists as a complete sell-out on Kosovo and, for that reason, he decided not to sign. If he thought, as obviously he did, that he could hold on to Kosovo, he was determined to do so.

This time round, an agreement was accepted, with much relief among the people in Serbia. We know why, apart from the ultra-nationalists, they are so relieved that the bombing has come to an end and agreement has been possible. The Guardian today reports on the reaction of various people in Belgrade. One 47-year-old woman is quoted as saying: What was the point? What did [the war] achieve? It was madness. Then she dropped her voice and said: It's a dangerous thing to say, but we should get rid of the president. He's been a disaster. If there was a protest tomorrow, I'd join it. I have a great deal of respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon). I hope that it is mutual. As it so happens, we disagreed over the Gulf war. But my hon. Friend seemed to say that there had been crimes of atrocity on all sides. No one denies that crimes have been committed in former Yugoslavia by all sides. The difference, as the Foreign Secretary emphasised, is the brutality and the systematic outrages and atrocities that we read about in the newspapers, particularly today. It is not sufficient for my hon. Friend simply to say that she is against Milosevic. I have never doubted that for one moment. She is as much a democrat as I am. But without military action there would have been no way in which we could have achieved what we set out to achieve—the ending of Serbian rule in Kosovo—for all the reasons that I and others have outlined.

The critics have lost the argument over military action, although, perhaps not surprisingly among professional politicians, there is a reluctance to admit that. In our trade, we do not go out of our way to be self-critical, so I am not particularly surprised that those who have been proved wrong refuse to admit it.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Winnick

Yes, because I was about to refer to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dalyell

There might be an apology from me. It would probably be an interim apology at the end of the Parliament, and then after five years.

Mr. Winnick

Yes, I have heard about the five years on a previous occasion. There is one form of apology that my hon. Friend could make, and that is for his remarks on 13 April. In exchanges with the Prime Minister on Kosovo he mentioned a report on drugs by the German Federal Criminal Agency, backed by Scotland Yard, which, he said, points out that the ethnic Albanian community is the most prominent group in Europe in the trafficking".—[Official Report, 13 April 1999; Vol. 329, c. 28.] Is that not horrifying? If my hon. Friend had said that about blacks, Asians or Jews, there would have been outrage in the House. Should there not be similar outrage now? Here are a people who have been treated in the way I have just described, and that is how my hon. Friend considers it appropriate to refer to ethnic Albanians. That there are some among them, as among all people, who are criminals of one kind or another, is not in doubt, but my hon. Friend should not have phrased that in the way that he did. My hon. Friend talks about an apology, but an apology for those remarks would not come amiss.

Unlike the critics, I do not use the position of Serbian civilians as a means of knocking NATO. I have just explained my position, which my hon. Friends have known about from the beginning of the military action. But I do say—this is where I agree with other hon. Members—that it is imperative that everything be done, both in words and deeds, to reassure the civilian Serbs in Kosovo that they have no less right to be there, and to be there in peace and safety, than the ethnic Albanians. There can be no question of a Serb-free Kosovo. I do not want that and it would be totally opposed to what we set out to achieve.

Who cannot understand the bitterness felt by so many of the majority community in Kosovo? The ethnic Albanians perhaps feel that all Serbs are guilty and that the civilian Serbs in Kosovo, if they were not involved in such crimes, did not do much to stop them. Nevertheless, the fact remains that most Serbian civilians there were not involved in such crimes, and that should be recognised.

The KLA must be brought under control, as soon and as urgently as possible. That organisation needs to know quickly that it must not be in the business of harassing, or worse, civilian Serbs and that it cannot have a structure that inflicts on civilian Serbs the feeling that their safety is continually being undermined. That is why there is an important responsibility for the NATO command to make sure that that happens in practice and that the civilian Serbs are duly protected in every way possible.

I understand the argument that aid will not be forthcoming for Serbia as long as Milosevic runs that country. He is a total opportunist. Those of us who watched the film about the way in which Yugoslavia disintegrated saw how he climbed on the nationalist platform and used the Serb minority in Kosovo to consolidate his rule in Belgrade. We know and understand that, and he must be held responsible for so many of the crimes that were committed—not only in Kosovo, but in Bosnia.

Despite that, and although I have only contempt for Milosevic, I have to say that a number of people in the political class in Serbia are against Milosevic, but for the wrong reasons. I have spoken, perhaps twice in all, to some of the demonstrators in Whitehall, who have been there from the beginning of the bombing. I found that, almost without exception, they are against Milosevic, but from an ultra-nationalist point of view. Indeed, they said, "He's a communist."

Instead of concluding, like us, that democracy is the option, and should be the choice, in Yugoslavia, those people have taken a very different point of view. They represent the most ultra-nationalist element in Belgrade. Although we condemn Milosevic—the politician who, above all, is responsible for the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and for what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo—we should not forget other elements in Serbia who are by no means democrats and no friends of the west.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

The hon. Gentleman's experience with the demonstrators outside Downing street may be slightly unfortunate. I have spoken to them on lots of occasions and many people there are committed to democracy. Many people who were with me in supporting the independent radio station B92 are bitterly opposed to Milosevic—from a democratic, not an ultra-nationalist, point of view. If the hon. Gentleman met an ultra-nationalist I am sorry, but I think that that is the exception rather than the rule.

Mr. Winnick

I hope so. On one occasion when I spoke to the demonstrators I showed them a newspaper report of the murder of a brave man in Serbia, the editor of a newspaper. They showed no interest whatever, but if there are among them people such as those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman that is very good. I know that many people in Serbia, including some in the political class, want a different Government—not a nationalist or a Milosevic Government, but a democratic Government. That was the very reason for putting that editor to death—a reason that is perfectly clear from the point of view of the Belgrade regime.

I therefore hope that, once the situation in Kosovo becomes more stable, we will see what can be done most effectively to bring Serbia back into the international community. There can hardly be any stability in the Balkans if Serbia is isolated and ordinary people who are not ultra-nationalists or Milosevic supporters have to live a hand-to-mouth existence in much deprivation and despair. Everything that can be done to support people who are opposed to crimes, adventurist policies and so forth should be done. I agree that it is difficult, and that it cannot be done immediately; I merely warn the House that an isolated Serbia could pose a great danger in the future.

It was said at various times in the war that what was happening was another Vietnam. I may be wrong, but I believe that I am the only Member of Parliament still in the House who, at the time, protested here about what was happening in Vietnam. It must have seemed to some people that I was doing so almost every day, and, if I may say so with due modesty, I do not believe that I was wrong. But I saw no possible comparison between Vietnam and Kosovo, and I believe that had we and our European partners turned away—had we simply said that these crimes were terrible but that we had decided to take no action, a course advocated by my hon. Friends the Members for Halifax and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), and promoted during the statement made on 18 January—it would have been a terrible shame, and a stain on our country and its honour.

Of course I regret the bombing, and the civilian casualties that it caused. I am a human being; why should I not feel regret? Nevertheless, I believe that what NATO did—with our contribution and, of course, that of the United States—was absolutely justified. I believe that future generations of parliamentarians will view it as a necessary step, and I am glad that it has resulted in a successful conclusion. Whatever may be the future in Kosovo, we have demonstrated in practice that we will not allow ethnic cleansing, mass murder and rapes to continue without taking some form of action—if need be, the sort of military action that has been taken over the past few weeks.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. So far, Back-Bench speeches have lasted for an average of more than 20 minutes. If all who have sat through the debate hoping to speak are to have the chance do so, the average must be reduced to about 10 minutes.

5.13 pm
Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton)

I promise to make the shortest speech of the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Let me, from an independent viewpoint, congratulate the Government on a remarkable achievement, although no one would pretend that it is an unqualified achievement. The original objective of preventing a humanitarian massacre was tragically not met, and the results are being uncovered on the ground every day.

There is also a moral element. This was the most remarkable military campaign of its kind ever waged in that the attacking force, while inflicting great casualties and damage, suffered not a single casualty itself—not so much as an airman with a twisted ankle. We can be grateful for that, but we should also wonder whether, because the targeting was so general and sometimes unfocused, the casualties on the other side in the target area—often among innocent people—were much greater than they need have been.

We should also wonder whether there is validity in the new doctrine that decisive military results can be achieved by air power alone. I think not. I note that the Serb capitulation came at precisely the moment when, for the first time, ground forces were used in a realistic way. I am a former infantry man and ground force man myself, and I have insisted from the start that circumstances on the ground can be changed only by boots on the ground. We are fortunate indeed that two of the boots in Kosovo are occupied by one of the most remarkable British military men I know, General Sir Michael Jackson, who has had previous experience of this kind of operation. In 1995, he led part of the implementation force in Bosnia that imposed the Dayton settlement from Gornji Vakuf to Banja Luka. He did it brilliantly. He drove his people hard and won the affection as well as the respect of the soldiers who served him; that is not always the case with generals. Now they face a complex task in Kosovo, especially in dealing with the KLA.

I cannot help feeling that there may be an uncomfortable analogy with the situation in which British troops found themselves in 1969 and the early 1970s on the streets of Northern Ireland, where they were first greeted as saviours but soon found themselves to be targets. One of the young captains on the streets in those days was Michael Jackson. He will be aware of what the problems are.

Another problem involves the Serbs. The action is not against the Serbs; it is to protect the Serbs. They are a decent and honourable people, who have been terribly misled and have suffered. There is no monopoly of suffering. There is no monopoly of evil. Let it be noted that many of the Serbs who are streaming out in their tens of thousands are refugees for a second time, having first been driven out of Krajina. Reference was made to the destructive nationalism of the Serbs. In my time in the Balkans, which was considerable, I saw no more destructive nationalism than that of the Croats.

I note the historical perspective. Next week, we come to the end of the eighth year of the wars of the dissolution of Yugoslavia—eight years of misery and bloodshed. Sometimes I have asked myself whether the situation could have been averted. Could not the decisive action that we have seen in past months have been taken earlier? Of course it could.

The possible time for action was the autumn of 1990, when Dubrovnik was being shelled and Vukovar obliterated. I was in Vukovar on the day that it fell to the Serbs. It had been hit by 2 million shells and it looked like Stalingrad on the Danube during the second world war.

Three weeks later, I came back to London thinking that people would surely be taking account of that situation. I discovered that the commentators and the political circles were concerning themselves not with the great tragedy of the Croats and Serbs, but only with the Maastricht treaty, which was then being negotiated.

It is no secret now—it is well known—that the concessions that were given by the Germans to the British on the opt-out clauses of the treaty were matched by concessions by the British to the Germans on the unilateral recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. That was the fuse that lit two powder kegs: one was Bosnia, the other was Kosovo. We must now live with the consequences.

I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames). Speaking as an ex-reptile, I especially agree with what he said about the reptiles. Kosovo will soon be gone from the news headlines.

We do not have an armed force of sufficient size to maintain through rotation the commitments that we have taken on. We will have to raise more infantry battalions and, more specifically, engineer regiments. We will have to pay for it somehow. The cost has not yet been calculated.

In those eight years, we have seen the consequences not only of action, but, much more lethal, of inaction. That inaction is now over—all credit to the Government for that. Let us all support them as we build a peace.

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

The Foreign Secretary said that our soldiers in Kosovo would be blind to the ethnic origin of the people whom they were there to protect. I can only hope that that will be the case. Knowing British soldiers and having served in the services, albeit in the Air Force, I am sure that our soldiers will do their utmost to protect Serbs as well as Albanians in Kosovo. I was delighted that General Sir Michael Jackson took the trouble to say to Serbs in Pristina that that was his objective; I am sure that he is sincere in that objective.

We have to look at the reality of the situation, and into the minds of many Serbs, in Serbia, have been living for the past eight years against a background of anti-Serb hysteria in the media, particularly in the west—in America, Britain and Germany—which has demonised every Serb, saying that all of them were evil. The hysteria has been deeply regrettable.

Serbia was bombed for 78 days, which has served only to harness support for Serb ultra-nationalism. In bombing Serbia, NATO has done its best to reward and to give succour to the nationalists. The Serbian people realise that they have been demonised by the west, and that the west has ignored the plight of refugees from Krajina, as it ignored the Serbs who suffered in Bosnia. People in Serbia see Krajina Serbs on their own doorsteps. As the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) rightly said, many of the Krajina Serbs had been given homes in Kosovo, but are now refugees yet again.

The Foreign Secretary said that NATO had secured its objectives. Has it? I remember being told that NATO's objective was to protect the Albanians and to ensure that they were able to live again in Kosovo, and that bombing would ensure that they were protected. In a debate at the beginning of the war, I asked not whether bombing would bring Yugoslavia to its knees, but whether bombing would make the situation better or worse. Quite clearly, it has made the situation worse.

Before the bombing started, there were many internally displaced people in Kosovo, but only 4,000 had left as refugees for Albania or Macedonia. If I am wrong about that figure, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development will correct me, but I am sure that it was about 4,000. Now, there are about 800,000 refugees. Although some of the refugees are returning to Kosovo—to a precarious situation—their situation is worse than it was before the bombing.

God knows how many people were massacred after 24 March, when the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitors were withdrawn. I am certain that the monitors' presence saved lives.

Mr. Bradshaw

Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend. The OECD itself and the United Nations estimate that 350,000 ethnic Albanians had been ethnically cleansed before a single NATO bomb fell.

Mr. Wareing

Yes, but all of those people did not go to Macedonia or Albania, as many of them settled in the forests and mountains of Kosovo—[Interruption.] Although my hon. Friend laughs at that, the fact is that, after 24 March, the situation became very much worse.

We are also being told that Milosevic has now accepted what he was being offered before 24 March. However, as many hon. Members have said, the Rambouillet accords essentially dictated NATO control of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Why, then, are NATO troops now able to enter Kosovo only from Macedonia or Albania? Annexe B is not in the 3 June agreement. Only the Russians have been allowed to go through Serbia to reach Kosovo. When I heard that the Russians were in Kosovo I thought that it was marvellous, because at least that will help to protect the Serb population. There would be less fear in Kosovo with the presence of Russian troops.

We have all heard about the difficulties that the German forces have had in Prizren. Perhaps Ministers can tell me the current situation there. The headlines in the Evening Standard two nights ago said that the German forces had been sidelined in Prizren and the KLA were in charge there. How can we tell the Serb population that we can protect them if they see that in one of the largest towns in Kosovo the NATO writ does not run?

I was also pleased that Russian troops had gone to Pristina, if only because the Russians had received no reward for the work that they put into the diplomatic efforts before the 3 June agreement. Without Russia, the Rambouillet accords would not have been changed and NATO would not have made the concessions that it undoubtedly made by no longer saying that it wants to occupy the whole of Yugoslavia. I am surprised that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not feel it necessary to express appreciation for the work of Mr. Chernomyrdin on behalf of us all in bringing about the 3 June agreement.

The hon. Member for Tatton stole the words from my mouth when he said that the position of the allied forces in Kosovo may well mirror what happened in Northern Ireland. The British troops were originally sent to Northern Ireland to protect the Catholic population against the B Specials, who were eventually disbanded, but they ended up fighting the IRA. I would not be at all surprised if, in the not-too-distant future, British soldiers and others in the NATO force found themselves fighting the KLA.

Another difference between Rambouillet and the 3 June agreement is that there is no provision in the new agreement for a referendum in three years. Do we think for a moment that the KLA—a terrorist organisation with a vision of a greater Albania—will give way on independence after the fighting that it has been involved in? Of course it will not. If we believe that we can easily disarm the KLA and that all the arms will be taken over by NATO, we are living in a fool's paradise.

If we want to promote the Balkan region and we are concerned about the Romanians, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians and the Macedonians, we have to look at the situation in Serbia. The depleted uranium bombs that we dropped—a war crime in itself—are polluting the Danube and the earth. That does not stop at the frontier of Serbia; it will affect its trading partners and neighbours in the region.

If we do not give assistance to Serbia, who will benefit? I warned the House, eight years ago in 1991, of the danger of Seselj. The Foreign Secretary mentioned a democratic Serbia. That will take time. However, I have visited the former Yugoslavia more than 40 times, including about a dozen times during the conflicts of the past eight years, and I can confirm that it is far easier to talk to people on the streets or in the tavernas and cafes of Belgrade or any of the other cities in that part of the world than it was in Ceaucescu's Romania. I remember that people in Romania would talk to me only in whispers in doorways. I suggest that Belgrade is also much freer than Zagreb.

My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) has done a wonderful job in opposing the insanity that has been inflicted on Europe in past months. She referred to many of the problems and I believe that, unless we give assistance to the Serbs in Yugoslavia, if they get rid of Milosevic they will get someone worse instead—they will get Seselj. They will not get a democrat overnight. If the west shows that it is interested in the ordinary people and their partners in the area, there is a greater chance of getting them to consider their political system and reaching a more desirable end to their political problem.

It is sad that our country has played its part in helping NATO to usurp the United Nations. We know that the US is undoubtedly the great power behind NATO, which will not do anything without the support of the Americans. If anyone is blind to ethnic origins, it is Americans, at least as far as the Kurds in Turkey are concerned. Turkey is one of the so-called 19 democracies. Is Turkey really a democracy? Of course it is not, and that is why we are placing a barrier in the way of its entrance into the European Union.

Are the Americans really interested in democracy and human rights, when they supply arms to Indonesia even after all the horror in East Timor? Can we say that the Americans are interested in democracy, when the history of American policy reveals the crushing of a democratic regime in Guatemala in 1954? In 1973, the US gave aid to crush the democratic regime in Chile. Many other instances of its imperialism could be cited.

Mr. Winnick

I mentioned in my speech what I felt about US involvement in Vietnam and my total condemnation of its actions in Chile in 1973 and Guatemala in 1954. However, the fact that the US was wrong on several occasions does not mean that it cannot be right on others. Were we not pleased to have its support in the first and second world wars, in particular? Despite the blemishes on the US record at home and in Latin America, one must take every situation on its merits.

Mr. Wareing

I was very pleased when the Americans were brought into the war in December 1941 after the bombing of Pearl harbour. I was also delighted—because we were alone—that on 22 June 1941 we got the support of the Soviet Union, despite the regime there.

We have come to the end of the cold war, or at least we thought so. Many of us, and perhaps even my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick)—I am careful to get the name of his constituency right, because he was understandably agitated when someone got it wrong before—used to say that we hoped that one day the cold war would end and east and west would come together, with an end to the Warsaw pact and NATO.

The Warsaw pact has gone and I still hope for the end of NATO because I believe that the security of Europe, and indeed the world, requires harmony with Russia, which is still a great country. True, it has been disastrously ruined by accepting Thatcherite economics, but it has huge potential. It is still a nuclear power and a member of the United Nations Security Council, so it cannot be ignored. We should try not only to end the disastrous situation caused in part by NATO's actions but to find a new European security system that embraces Russia. In that way, we can ensure that there will be no more Kosovos, because we will be together.

I congratulate the new shadow Foreign Secretary on his appointment, but I was astonished when he spent about a third of his speech attacking Russia. I can understand him attacking Milosevic or Tudjman. I wish that Ministers had attacked Tudjman as much as they attacked Milosevic. As my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax said, Tudjman is equally a war criminal. I have met them both and I know what they are like. It is a toss-up between them. Tudjman is a forbidding character from start to finish, but that does not mean that Milosevic is a great chap.

We should choose our friends carefully. We chose the undemocratic regime in Turkey and shook hands with the Croatian regime. Croatia helped NATO, allowing flights over its territory and stopping oil supplies to Serbia. We need an even-handed approach in the future, which we have not had for some time.

5.38 pm
Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

The House knows that I opposed the bombing of Kosovo and Belgrade. I did so because I did not think that it would achieve the objective that we set for ourselves: to avoid an horrific humanitarian disaster that was being planned by Milosevic. Unfortunately, that disaster has taken place in spades and practically all the people for whom we went to war are displaced or refugees. Including those inside Kosovo, that adds up to more than 1 million people, and the total Albanian population of Kosovo is about 1.5 million.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wells

Not just at the moment, please, particularly since we have very little time—and I know the hon. Lady wants to speak.

None the less, it would be churlish not to say that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for International Development have been steadfast in pushing through their policy. They have troops going into Kosovo, the bombing has stopped and we are beginning to get the refugees back to their homes. I admire and applaud that achievement but, like many hon. Members, I do not believe that the action was necessary in the first place.

I think that a consensus has begun to develop in this debate. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) has been courageous in persisting with the points that she has made. Much of what she had to say was acknowledged by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, who agreed that the undermining of the international rule of law enshrined in article 2(4) of the United Nations charter is unforgivable and will lead to unforeseen turbulence in the rest of the world.

That agreement was shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley). So a consensus is emerging that serious damage has been done to organisations with a long history that we have supported through thick and thin. It is not good enough to say, as the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) did, that we shall simply ignore and override such organisations when we do not get what we want.

The result of the action is that Russia has been left on the outside. Russia was the key to achieving any kind of agreement with Serbia. There was an idea that the bombing would get rid of Milosevic, but we have not succeeded in that. We still have to negotiate with him, and we have only reinforced his support in Belgrade and Serbia. If we had not bombed but had encouraged those who were against his policies in Serbia, we might have got rid of him, with the result that we would now be negotiating with a more pliable person with whom we could do business. That is not a possibility with Milosevic.

So I make no apology for not supporting the war. The diplomacy employed by the international community in relation to the break-up of Yugoslavia has been a disaster. The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) said that a deal was done with the former Chancellor Kohl to secure the British opt-outs in the Maastricht treaty talks by letting Germany recognise Croatia and Slovenia. If true, that was one of the most disastrous and dishonourable international agreements ever made. That is why we must call an international conference on how we deal with unacceptable genocidal activities in countries. We must find a peaceful way to allow countries to disaggregate without fighting, ethnic cleansing or the other horrors that we have seen.

If we have the vision, we must try and restore a sustainable international law respected and obeyed by all countries, however inconvenient it may be. Such a rule of law might be implemented by the United Nations Assembly, or NATO might revert to a defensive role. That is what we must try to rebuild.

However, I believe that Russia's actions, taken to re-establish its position in the world order, are justified. I do not support—and neither do the Government or the Opposition—the idea of a separate Russian zone, as it would be heavily influenced by Serb interests. Yet we ignore Russia at our peril. We would be stupid to do so: we must enfold, embrace and help that country—and get help from it—in these difficult situations. We made a serious mistake by ignoring the Russian veto at the United Nations and Russian counsel at Rambouillet.

How should we deal with the refugees? The Secretary of State for International Development has been good enough to place in the Library details of what she has done, some of which I have read. Those details will form part of a research paper that the Library is producing. Much aid will be given to international organisations in Europe, to UNICEF and to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The Secretary of State has accepted that the UNHCR is an imperfect instrument, and I welcome the fact that her Department has given not money but services and supplies when the UNHCR has required them on the ground.

I retain serious misgivings about the UNHCR's leadership and determination to manage the situation. When refugees flood home in an uncontrolled way, we continually hear cries that there is no power to stop them. However, the UNHCR should have powers to intervene, explain, dissuade and cajole the refugees into returning in an orderly fashion that would allow them to begin to rebuild their lives and their homes. The refugees will return to homes without water or electricity. Sometimes, there will be no road; certainly, there will be no fuel. Their fields will not have been cultivated and they will have no money or means by which to see themselves through the 12 months before the next harvest or with which to rebuild their homes.

The European Community Humanitarian Office has suggested to the UNHCR a framework within which we can all work. Much more must be done, however. The Secretary of State should explain how the operation will be handled. How will we provide shelter or enable people to build homes? One research paper says that roughly 50 per cent. of the houses in Kosovo have been damaged or destroyed. The UNHCR will provide basic shelter materials for approximately 35,000 housing units. Basic shelter kits will include plastic sheeting, roofing and windows, some timber, a toolkit and possibly some window and door frames.

I am not certain that that will be enough. We cannot be dealing with only 35,000 houses, the number must be a great deal higher. It also seems to me that one would not be able to rebuild a housing unit with that basic equipment. We require a much more imaginative approach. Pre-fabricated buildings may be the quickest means by which to re-establish refugees in decent housing that will see them through the winter. The situation is urgent as the Balkan winter in Kosovo is severe. Homes must be rebuilt between now and October, or refugees will be in the open and young children and older people will die.

We need an imaginative approach, prosecuted with the vigour and determination that the Secretary of State exhibits in her approach to many problems of international development. We must provide food, shelter and clothes. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) referred to links with British communities, and one feature of recent events has been the huge response of the British public. We should encourage that, and we should provide an organisation within the Department to make links between our schools, local and national non-governmental organisations and organisations in Kosovo. That would get people communicating with each other and working together to re-establish villages and towns as quickly as possible.

I understand that the Secretary of State has established a new Balkan supremo in her Department—a post aimed at co-ordinating the efforts of her Department and, presumably, liaising with the international organisations to which much of our money is going, namely UNICEF, the UNHCR and the European Community. How does she foresee that working? We are heavily involved and we must show in the civilian, refugee and humanitarian effort the same imagination, co-ordination and determination as was shown in the military campaign in order to return this as quickly as possible to a civilised, organised society going in the direction that the people want to take.

If we can do that, it could provide the basis for good will to spread in the Balkans and for the Balkan peoples to see that we are interested in their future and want them to live a decent life without civil conflict. It could begin to build a structure and a Balkan settlement of which we can all be proud and under which the people of the Balkans can live at last, after many centuries, in peace and constructive communal living. That would be a wonderful achievement. It is within our grasp, despite the past difficulties.

5.51 pm
Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow)

I am pleased to take part in the debate. The conflict in which this country and NATO took part was absolutely justified. It was crucial that we prevailed.

Anyone who still has doubts about the justice of that action should listen to some of the stories that are coming out of Kosovo day by day from independent reporters. We knew that the situation was appalling from the horrific stories of ethnic cleansing, with old men, women and children being lined up and shot. A description in The Guardian today moved me greatly. A man, describing what had happened, said: You can't imagine the sound of the scream when a child dies … Ismet, who was three, was crying, 'Mummy I want water.' And they shot him in the face. Everybody in this Chamber, particularly parents, cannot fail to be moved by such a description. I do not cite that atrocity for the sake of it; I ask those who have opposed the conflict from the beginning, used phrases such as "truth is the first casualty of war" and dismissed these tales as the usual pack of NATO lies, to reflect on these realistic accounts.

I am relieved that the Government took the stance that they did over Kosovo and that we rejected the isolationist notion that it is justifiable to take military action only when British lives, security or financial interests are at stake. The decision was not an easy one. Clearly, there were problems and reservations. However, the Government, rightly, set out a clear, moral case for action. They took a lead and stuck to it with determination.

There were political risks. It is conceivable that if we had not achieved our objectives, the Government's reputation could have been tarnished beyond measure. It is worth highlighting that point because some people criticise the Government for not having a moral basis to their values. Despite the political risks, the Prime Minister and the Government took the view that the moral principles at stake outweighed those risks. I am pleased that we took that stance.

I shall address briefly some of the points made by my hon. Friends. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) is not in the Chamber. I respect her and have a great deal of time for her as a politician, although I disagree with her in this case. She cited numerous examples of conflicts throughout the world in which atrocities had occurred. She implied that, because we did not act on those occasions, we should not have acted in Kosovo. The logic of that position is that one would never act anywhere. I wholly reject the notion that if one cannot act everywhere, one should never act anywhere. That is a counsel of despair and would allow the world to develop according to its worst excesses.

My hon. Friend also referred to the demonising of Serbs. I have absolutely no disagreement with innocent Serbs, who are human beings like everyone in the Chamber. However, the idea, proposed by my hon. Friend, that there is moral equivalence between the actions of the KLA and those of the Serbian regime under Milosevic is not sustainable when we consider the facts.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) made a number of points. I am choosing my words carefully when I say that I begin to get very angry indeed when I hear someone referring to the 350,000 people who were expelled from their homes, and are living in the forests and hills, as settled. To attempt to minimise the scale of the atrocity that took place before even the first NATO bomb had been dropped is to attempt to defend the indefensible.

It is crucial that we learn lessons from the conflict. The first is that we need to pursue vigorously the concept of European defence co-operation. I say that not because I want to undermine NATO—any form of European defence co-operation would be within NATO—nor because I am arguing for a European army. We shall never give up the right of sovereign nation states to determine whether they should take part in military conflict. However, it is certainly arguable that, in circumstances such as those that have existed in the former Yugoslavia for much of this decade, without the over-dependence on the financial resources and hardware of the United States, European nations would rightly have acted sooner if they had had the capability, and would perhaps have been able to prevent some of the atrocities. It is worth exploring whether we should develop a defence capability that would enable us to do that.

The second lesson is that we need to rethink the role of the United Nations. I believe in the UN and that it is a force for good and for peace. However, the conflict has shown up the shortcomings of the UN and the need for reform. The UN was born in a different era, and in a different world. Its charter stresses the territorial integrity and political independence of the nation state. However, during the conflict, Kofi Annan made it clear that the right to national sovereignty does not confer an absolute right for a Government—whether or not they are democratic—to do what they will to their people within the confines of the nation state. Since the inception of the UN, the concept of taking military action for humanitarian purposes has developed throughout the world and has gained widespread international repute. However, the UN charter does not address either of those developments in international thinking.

We need to rethink the UN's decision-making structure. The criticism that there was no explicit authorisation for military action related to the decision-making structure of the UN Security Council, in which one permanent member of the council has an absolute right of veto. Do we really want to preserve the kind of structure whereby, whatever the scale of humanitarian atrocity and however overwhelming the agreement among every other country in the UN, one country, which happens to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should be able to block that action? At the least, we need to challenge that notion.

I realise that time is short and that other hon. Members want to speak. In conclusion, I point out that I am not someone, either as a politician or as an individual, who has a liking for war. War is brutal: it is ugly and, in many ways, it demeans humanity. However, I have never been a pacifist. I know that, in certain circumstances, it is justifiable to take military action to tackle a greater evil. This conflict was one of the occasions on which we were justified in taking such action.

That action received widespread support because people understood the issues that were at stake and that there was no realistic alternative if the atrocities taking place in Kosovo were to be stopped. I am pleased that the Government adopted the stance that they did; I am pleased that we have prevailed; and I am pleased to have been able to support the action.

6 pm

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

It is a privilege to speak in this debate which, despite the rather low attendance, has been graced by some eloquent speeches. As a new Member of Parliament, it has been a privilege to listen.

Some events in world history take us by surprise, but some should not. The Kosovo problem did not creep up to take us by surprise; it has been staring at us for decades. The bitter enmity and racial tension between Serbs and ethnic Albanians have often risen to the surface. Hon. Members who have now visited the region will have seen it only in the context of horrendous stories and terrible events, but I am lucky to have known Kosovo in happier times. I also remember being threatened by ethnic Albanians in Pristina more than 20 years ago, because I was speaking Serbo-Croat. I quickly had to return to speaking English, albeit briefly, to establish my identity. That said, many on both sides of the ethnic divide have lived amicably side by side over the centuries, and even today many thousands of ethnic Albanians live in Serbia, including Belgrade.

Today's is the first debate that has taken place since the end of the bombing campaign, and many of the issues that I wanted to raise have already been touched on. However, I do want to say that it has not been easy for those of us who opposed the NATO bombing: we have struggled with our innate patriotism and sense of loyalty to our armed forces and we have been labelled traitors or even Nazi sympathisers.

I am confident that no one in the House supports the ruthless regime of Milosevic. Some of us have been trying in recent years to give help to those who oppose him and his regime and to bring democracy to Yugoslavia. Why, because we dared to speak out—an exercise of our democratic rights which is, I concede, largely denied in Milosevic's Yugoslavia—should we have been so labelled?

I was not a Member of Parliament at the time, but I remember when principled Front Benchers of the then Opposition resigned—some were even sacked—because they opposed or questioned the bombing of Iraq during the Gulf war, even though that war arose from the invasion of one sovereign country by another. However, I do not want to make party-political points, because support for and opposition to the Kosovo conflict has brought together some strange alliances, which has been very revealing.

One aspect of the conflict that worries me a great deal is the use of weapons containing depleted uranium. We have been assured in parliamentary answers that Britain has not deployed such weapons, but it would appear that some of our allies have done so. The use of such weapons should be the subject of a full and open debate, and I hope that the Government will address that issue in due course.

I am also greatly alarmed by the environmental damage caused throughout the region, such as the poisoning of rivers of international status. We have learned of great damage done to the unique habitat of the Danube delta, where both people and wildlife are now suffering. The refugees returning to Kosovo will find not only a country materially destroyed, but an environmental wasteland. Of course, Serbia itself has identical problems.

I turn to the present. We are now in an extremely dangerous position. I pay tribute to all the peacekeeping forces in the area, especially the British armed forces. I have no doubt that they will demonstrate the highest standards of professionalism, and I am utterly confident that they will be as even-handed in their duties as it is possible for them to be.

However, to the Serbs in Kosovo, NATO will be seen as an occupying force. That is why the Russians' input is so utterly important and why I believe—we have heard this repeatedly this afternoon—that they should have been involved earlier.

Unfortunately, the Serb population is leaving Kosovo in droves. The pendulum has swung and the humanitarian disaster is only getting worse. We have heard in the debate that the people who fled from Krajina at the point of a gun are on the move again. They are every bit as deserving of our sympathy and humanitarian aid as the poor wretched people who were driven from their homes in Kosovo to Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, or wherever. We must show equality in our pity and in our actions.

Neighbouring countries must be given as much help as possible because they have paid a great price. Hungary estimated in May that it had lost revenues amounting to at least $200 million, and its tourist industry is a wreck. Macedonia has also borne much of the burden of the side effects of this action. Its export trade has all but collapsed, as has that of Albania. Principally, we must not forget Montenegro, the country to which, in a strange twist, we were sending aid at the same time as we were bombing it. Real aid to those countries must be given the highest priority.

I disagree with the Government's notion that we cannot help Serbia until Milosevic leaves power—although I understand the sentiment. I think that we must use both the carrot and the stick—and I suggest that the stick has been used against the Serbian people with incredible ferocity. If we are earnest in our desire to bring full democracy to Yugoslavia, we must show the Serbian people more than merely a glimpse of the future: we must give them what the vast majority crave. There has been—and still is—a great deal of opposition to the current regime, but we must allow the Yugoslav people to make their own decisions. We must not dictate to them, but we can show them the choices and the possibilities available.

At this point, I thank the British Yugoslavs. Even in demonstrations, they behaved peacefully in the face of a demonisation that reached great heights. For a few weeks, every crime committed in this country was pinned on the Serbian people.

Before concluding, I draw the attention of the House to another issue that deserves our immediate focus: the perilous state of and threats to the priceless cultural sites throughout the region. The world-famous Gracanica monastery has been affected by nearby bombs, and I believe its portal in particular has sustained a great deal of damage. Thirteen churches in the Veliko Hoce district have been destroyed and their priests have fled. The monastery at Decani—where, incidentally, monks sheltered Albanian Kosovars throughout the conflict—is also at risk. The list is long. Although most of the damage was caused by stray NATO bombs, retreating Serbs have set fire to the famous Islamic library adjacent to the main mosque in Prizren, and reprisals by the KLA against cultural sites remain a great threat. Important sites in Serbia, such as the fortress at Petrovaradin on the Danube, have also been badly damaged.

I have had my doubts about whether it was right to oppose the NATO action. Every day, as we read or see pictures of more brutality and horrors, those doubts remain. The thought "What else could we have done?" echoes around my head. The questions that I leave with hon. Members today are whether, as a result of this action, the region is more stable; whether we have averted the humanitarian disaster; whether we stopped the killings as quickly as we could; and whether the world is a safer place. I fear that, despite everything, some countries will start to build up their military forces again—indeed, I think this conflict shows that our armed forces are at a perilously low level.

These last months have been some of the most difficult, in a political sense, that I have known. I have realised for the first time that propaganda comes from both sides in a war, not just the enemy. I winced at the jingoism of the press and the horror of military action, and I do not think that I will ever again be able to regard such issues in black and white, as I once did. I feel, as in the conversion of St. Paul, that the scales have fallen from my eyes.

I am pleased that my worst fears have not been realised, and I admit that I am happy that I was wrong. I have also realised the great dilemmas and responsibilities that fall on those who govern this country, and I should like to thank them for their sincere efforts and for bearing those terrible responsibilities so well. I hope that those efforts will be rewarded with the lasting peace that we all desire.

6.10 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

My own speech is necessarily truncated, but I believe that the debate has been better for the fact that Back Benchers have not been limited to 10-minute speeches.

I had the good fortune to be called to speak last week, on 10 June, when, at column 843 of the Official Report, I asked several questions to which I am still awaiting answers. On 30 June, I shall ask question No. 3 to the Prime Minister. I shall ask simply who is tasked with disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army.

On that subject, I refer to an article by Chris Stephen, reporting from Pristina, for The Scotsman this morning. He writes: The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army said yesterday that it would not disarm as required by the United Nations until Russian troops pulled back from the province. The KLA spokesman, Pleurat Sejdiu, said in London that the rebel army, with an estimated 20,000 soldiers, might even go to war with Russian troops if they established a separate zone in Kosovo, which he said would amount to a partitioning of the Yugoslav province. 'Nobody will start to disarm until the Russians go. If they make their own zone it may be war' he said. At the United Nations, Russia's ambassador said that the Security Council needed to deal with the refusal of the KLA to give up its weapons. I ask the Government to respond to that point.

Finally—I promise to be brief—my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) referred to my remarks about drugs. I shall simply quote from the New Statesman of 9 April, which I was quoting when I made those remarks. It said that a recent intelligence report issued by the German Federal Criminal Agency came to the conclusion that 'ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in western Europe'". I used that quotation in my remarks. My question might have been better framed if it had asked specifically about the KLA. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North that I was quoting accurately from an article which I shall give him.

6.13 pm
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

I have listened for a long time to much self-congratulation—not triumphalism—and much analysis of politics and military tactics. It is a trifle early to engage in such analysis of what happened and why.

I supported the action throughout, and I never doubted that we were doing the right thing. Instead of looking back, at the fag-end of the debate, I shall deal briefly with the present problems. As the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) said hours ago—she is no longer in her place—there is an awful mess that needs cleaning up.

Until the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) spoke, I thought that no one would mention what is to be done about the refugees and the people who are returning to live in Kosovo. The debate has been very one-sided. The hon. Gentleman made several points, particularly about the UNHCR and the organisation of non-governmental organisations to prevent them from becoming confused, as happened in Rwanda. I shall not repeat those points.

I have a shopping list for the Secretary of State. First, the children in Kosovo, whether they are Serb or Kosovar children, are dreadfully shocked and traumatised. They have experienced things that no child should ever expect to experience. They have seen fathers killed, and mothers raped and beaten before their eyes. I saw an item on the BBC News website about a paramilitary policeman who had killed 54 people in one day. That sort of thing is being witnessed by children.

The children have lost their families. They need medical, social and, above all, psychiatric help because they are the future of their country. Without the right help now, those events could be repeated in their generation. It is terribly urgent for them to get the necessary help, and I hope that the Secretary of State will put their needs foremost.

The Secretary of State mentioned yesterday that hospitals were practically non-existent in Kosovo. When I visited Tirana in Albania, which has not been bombed, I described the facilities as pre-Florence Nightingale. That country had not had the effects of war to deal with. It was trying to cope with the refugees and its own people, and it had nothing. Medical facilities must be at the top of the list of the aid to be sent out for returning refugees.

I shall mention yet again—probably for the third time in the House—the needs of the host families in Albania and Macedonia. If they were given more financial and food aid, they might be able to keep many refugees in their families and homes for a long time yet, so encouraging the refugees to stay where it is safe and not to try to return to Kosovo too early.

The documentation of refugees has been dealt with, so I shall not go over it again.

Land mines will cause an enormous amount of injury and death in the coming weeks. The matter has not been discussed much in the House. This could be an opportunity to relaunch the Ottawa treaty process. Is there nothing that we can do to revitalise the campaign against land mines? We need a global land mines task force under the UN. Could not Kosovo and Bosnia be the place to restart the campaign? Will the Serb nation help us do that?

However optimistic we are, a guerrilla war is sure to be fought in Kosovo for some time. Has anyone addressed the question of where the supply of small arms and armaments will come from? The arms brokers in this country must be rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate yet another market for their goods. Has any member of the Government considered the problem? What proposals have been advanced to prevent the activities of arms brokers in Britain and elsewhere?

Lastly—I know that the Secretary of State expects me to say this, so I will say it—I should again like reassurance from her that the medium and long-term costs of aid and the reconstruction of the Balkan states will come from the Treasury and not from the Department for International Development. It was she who said some weeks ago that we should not expect the poorest people of the world to pay for the reconstruction of the Balkans. It is our responsibility.

6.19 pm
Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)

On Saturday morning I got up early and watched Sky News to see the entry of British troops into Kosovo. I continued to watch television throughout Saturday morning. Even when my family, with whom I usually long to spend time, rose much later than I had, and even when the cricket came on on the other side, I continued to watch British troops going into Kosovo.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Something serious.

Mr. Streeter

Yes, for me to miss watching cricket is a serious matter. My wife could not understand why I was watching for so many hours. Sky News was terrific, but of course it repeated the same thing over and over again. I asked myself why I was so gripped by what I was watching. I think it was for two reasons. First, I felt immense pride in the skill and ability of our troops to do this kind of work—the peacekeeping and spearhead rapid reaction soldiering in which they have been trained for so many years. When last year I went with the former shadow Foreign Secretary to meet our troops who were engaged in peacekeeping in Bosnia, again I was impressed by their professionalism, sensitivity, training and ability to keep the peace as well as fight a war. The pride that I have in our troops welled up within me on Saturday.

Secondly, I had just returned from a five-day visit to Albania visiting refugees in Tirana, and Kukes on the northern border. I went there to see the condition in which the refugees were living. After a poor start, the aid agencies did a terrific job in caring for people there. Most were medically well, with enough food and water, and attempts were being made by UNICEF and others to care for the children and to provide some kind of schooling. That was interesting.

I also heard the stories of people just like us, and of the trauma that they have experienced. I was able to speak with them about friends, neighbours and relatives who had been killed. I talked with some young people about what they have gone through. I met one girl called Susanna, whom I will never forget. Speaking in good English, she told me how one day the Serbs arrived in her village, knocked down her family's front door and gave them 10 minutes to get out. They got out, but some of their friends and neighbours did not make it.

As I watched Sky News on Saturday I knew the joy that would be welling up in the hearts of the refugees in Albania. This was the day for which they had been waiting. This was the day that meant that they would soon be going home—the very thing for which they had hoped and prayed all those weeks and months. It was a moving experience.

Taking part in today's debate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) said, has been a privilege. We have heard many different points of view, but all of us are now committed to ensuring that we win and lead the peace.

I join those who have been paying tribute to the Government and to NATO on the outcome of all that has taken place. The Prime Minister has talked in the past of a moral crusade. The conservative in me wants to leap up and be more pragmatic than that—and to say that that kind of language does not fit the situation. But when it comes down to it, we are talking about a battle of imperfect good against outrageous evil. I am proud to have been part of a country that has played its part in bringing Milosevic to heel in Kosovo. We were right to do that and we will be right to see it all the way through.

This has been a debate of the highest quality. It was opened by the Foreign Secretary and by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), who made some extremely valuable points in his maiden outing, asking questions which I know the Secretary of State for International Development will be keen to answer. Incidentally, I intend to give the right hon. Lady plenty of time to respond to the debate.

We were pleased to hear from the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, who said that his Committee would look into the conflict and see what lessons could be learned from it, and that will be a valuable exercise.

It was interesting to hear from the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), who brings experience to these debates. He spoke movingly of the true horror of the war and had many interesting thoughts about how we must now win the peace and restore the property and legal rights of the Kosovar Albanians.

The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) told us that she had to leave the debate early. I do not agree with her point of view, but I respect her right to bring it to the debate. It would not be much of a debate if everyone agreed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) voiced his concerns about the ground given to Milosevic by NATO and the possible closing of the door on independence. It was good to hear the Foreign Secretary's intervention on that point. My right hon. Friend also made an important point about the new arrangements not giving NATO the right of free access across the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the impact that that has on our ability to arrest indicted war criminals. We all want those men, and perhaps women, to be brought to justice, but without the power of arrest and the power to gain access to them, any rights are toothless. My right hon. Friend was right to ask those searching questions and to ask also whether more could have been done to avert war.

As usual, the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) made a contribution that showed his experience. He spoke of the difficulties of alliance diplomacy and brought his experience to bear on some of the key issues, including the legal basis of the action that is taking place—that clearly has to be discussed on a wider stage—and the importance of our relationship with Russia.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) made a moving and powerful contribution, speaking with conviction about the importance of the United Nations and how we have to try to make it work again. In the context of globalisation, multilateral global institutions and their mechanisms have to work more effectively, and we must have a debate about that important matter. As usual, my hon. Friend spoke from his considerable knowledge—knowledge which I wish I had—of our armed forces, the skill of the British troops, the role that they are playing and some of the challenges that lie ahead.

My hon. Friend suggested some imaginative ways, including twinning, of helping the communities in Kosovo, and spoke words to which we should all listen, about the need to make sure that we commit enough spending to defence, whoever is in government, to ensure that Britain has the resources to enable it to do what it perhaps does better than any country in the world. If that is our contribution to the global debate, let it be so and let us pay the price required to achieve it. I strongly agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bradshaw

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) also spoke about the desperate need for a more effective European common foreign and defence policy. Is that aspiration shared by his Front Benchers?

Mr. Streeter

No. It is good to have a debate in which many different views are expressed, but I do not agree with my hon. Friend on that.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has spoken consistently in support of the Government's action throughout the conflict, and rightly called for the KLA to be brought quickly under control. The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) congratulated the Government and spoke from his experience about the need for more for infantry battalions and engineers. We are always wise to listen to his view on such issues.

The contribution of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) did not surprise us, but I respect the hon. Gentleman personally and he brought value to the debate by introducing another point of view to it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), the Chairman of the International Development Committee, has been consistent in his view of the diplomacy and military activity that has taken place in the past few months, and he rightly looked ahead to how best to get the refugees home and support them through the winter. I am sure that the Secretary of State will respond to many of the points he made.

The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell) made powerful points about how and when we intervene—we need to have a debate about that—and spoke of the lessons that we must learn.

The House listened carefully when my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), who has great personal experience of the Balkans, put to us another point of view. His was a measured contribution to which the House would be wise to listen and he rightly talked of the importance of reaching out to the Yugoslav people. Welcoming Serbia into the greater European family of nations should be a medium-term objective, and we should not forget that Serbs are people too.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) made a brief contribution, raising the question of the KLA, and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) spoke about the importance of caring for the traumatised children and the host families and made other points about caring for the returning refugees.

The debate has been valuable and it has been a privilege to take part in it. I have three or four points to raise with the Secretary of State, the first of which has been made by many Members. We need to learn the lessons of what has gone on, whether it has been a success or a failure. Conservative Members have called for an inquiry into all that has taken place, but that is not playing party politics; it is simply an attempt to learn what we can do better next time. That is absolutely vital.

I have travelled around the world in the past 12 months—that has been part of my international development portfolio—and I have learned that decisions we make in the west affect the lives of people in the developing world. We need to learn the lessons relating to past decisions about our diplomacy, how we intervene and what we say and do. It is absolutely essential that the Government set up a formal inquiry in due course, so that those vital lessons can be learned.

In particular, I ask the Secretary of State to comment on the role of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. During yesterday's Question Time, we discussed its plan to oversee the return of refugees, and the fact that that plan was already being overwhelmed by the reality on the ground. There is no point in imposing a bureaucratic plan if the operation involved will be clogged up by the thousands who are leaving in advance. We must be flexible, and reflect what is actually happening.

When I was in Albania two weeks ago, I engaged in discussions with senior UNHCR officials who told me that in 1998 a plan had been drawn up to accommodate the possible mass exodus of refugees from Kosovo, and to respond urgently and instantly to the fear that ethnic cleansing would drive hundreds of thousands of refugees across the border. When the horrible eventuality ensued, however, the action plan was nowhere to be found: no one could find it. When the exodus began, the UNHCR was not ready.

I consider that an astonishing tale. It may not be true—certainly I find it hard to believe—but I was told it by senior officials. Perhaps the Secretary of State will comment on it. Let me ask her this: what are the British Government doing to ensure that the UNHCR is radically improved, following all that we have seen over the past few months? I know that this is not our Government's primary responsibility, but I hope that we are taking the lead in improving the performance of the UNHCR, which has a vital role to play in overseeing the support of refugees in Kosovo and the reconstruction of their lives.

Yesterday, I referred to the current return of refugees. We all recognise the need for caution and the danger of mines, but—here we are talking about people who are based in Albania and Macedonia—what kind of mentality can draw up a return plan that suggests that refugees will not start to return in any numbers until three weeks after NATO goes in, and that a further three or four months will elapse before the main body of refugees return? Have these people not spoken to the refugees? All those to whom I spoke in Kukes had only one thing on their minds: to get home as quickly as possible. It is not a bit of good for the UNHCR to say that that is inconvenient or dangerous; it is what the refugees are going to do.

If the UNHCR is to make a valuable contribution, it must have a plan that is in touch with reality. Of course the refugees must be warned about mines, and of course we must do what we can to clear Kosovo of mines; but these people are going home. Make no mistake about it: when the last Serb forces have withdrawn from Kosovo on Sunday, there will be a mass return, and we must be ready for it. I ask the Secretary of State to seek an urgent meeting with Kofi Annan, and to impress on him the need to overhaul the UNHCR's working practice and capacity.

Can we be confident that adequate food, water and medical supplies are being reserved in preparation for the return of refugees? Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the supplies will be sufficient this weekend to support the hundreds of thousands who are likely to return? Can she also say something about the condition of the Kosovars who did not flee the country, but stayed sheltering in the countryside? What steps are now being taken to meet their urgent medical and other needs? Perhaps those are the people who have suffered most of all.

What is the Department doing to support the demining that is now so vital? What resources are being pumped into that, and will the Secretary of State confirm that the need is urgent? Will she also confirm that humanitarian help will be available to Serb civilians who remain in Kosovo, and that our approach will be simply that humanity is humanity, from whichever ethnic background we come?

Is the United Kingdom still taking refugees each week? If so, when is that phase of our help expected to end? Has it not always been our priority to see people return home? Will the right hon. Lady comment on the situation at Pristina airport? Is it not true that the Russian presence there is not just a minor inconvenience, or diplomatic incident? Is it not hampering our aid effort because we are unable to get supplies flown in as we would like? Does she think that the matter can be finally resolved with our friends in Russia at this weekend's International Monetary Fund talks?

I was going to make several other points about long-term reconstruction, but I should like to give the Secretary of State plenty of time to respond to the points that have been raised. As I have said, it has been an excellent debate, We are all pleased that NATO has won the war. We commend NATO for that. We all agree that we must now win the peace. We must get the Kosovar Albanians home and begin the long and difficult task of reconstruction so that we can see peace, stability and, in due course, prosperity in the Balkans.

6.36 pm
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) for giving me extra time. I want to respond as fully as I can to the good contributions that have been made. I will try to ensure that we respond in writing to those that I do not manage to reach.

It has been a good debate, although it has been a little too much of a post mortem. We have not got the refugees home. I am not blaming anyone for that, but hon. Members are talking almost as though it is over. In fact, we will have a problem as big as the one we had earlier. It is a welcome problem, but there is still a lot to do. There will be much pain and mess. Many children who were driven out of their homes and into camps will be blown up by mines and unexploded ordnance when they get home, so we should not be complacent about what is left to be done.

There has been broad support in the House for the action. It is notable that people who oppose wars always talk of those who defend military action as jingoists, saying that they wallow in that action. There has been none of that. It has all been with great regret. As the hon. Member for South-West Devon said, it was imperfect good against outrageous evil. We always knew that.

War is never good. It is always better prevented. None of us celebrated the war in Kosovo, but most of us thought that it was absolutely necessary. I say to those who opposed the war: of course we all respect their right to do so, but I did not hear a single one of them say what we should have done to prevent ethnic cleansing from being rewarded. Our failure to act in Bosnia made Milosevic stronger and stronger and more willing to go on in Kosovo. Regrettably, there was no other way. Of course, if we had acted earlier in Bosnia, who knows?—but we did not. We should have stopped Hitler earlier.

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) said that we could not have undertaken the D-day landings in the current climate. I agree—we could not have sustained our action in the second world war. We would not have kept on.

There has been carping from the media. They expected instant results and no one to get hurt. During the second world war, they would have said, "Mr. Hitler criticised the bombing from his bunker today." They would have said that the concentration camps were not there when the war began, so they were really our responsibility. Some of that is worrying. Is this country capable now of taking military action when it is necessary to defeat monstrous evil? There are profound lessons to discuss and to learn, but we have a bit of time in which to do so.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), made an impressive and eloquent speech. He talked about the handling of Russia. Clearly, that is a delicate and complicated matter, but we have had contradictory behaviour from Russia. It has co-operated on the UN Security Council resolution, which was important for the world and in resolving the problem—but then came that strange behaviour with its sudden military activity in Pristina.

The most worrying thing is that there might not be an organised Government in Moscow. If the country's decision making is split, that is very worrying for future stability.

It is the view of all those close to the ground that the situation at Pristina airport is not a major problem. It can be handled. It is not stopping aid resources being brought in. Of course, we need to do this delicately. There can be no zone; there can be no partition. We all agree about that, but for the future, we should handle Russia delicately now, and look at the conditions in Russia and the terrible growth in poverty.

Russian men have lost nine years of life expectancy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The growth of poverty and instability in the country is serious for its people and for the future of us all. We need to give the matter more attention.

The view of our military forces and of NATO forces generally is that most Kosovo Liberation Army members have behaved remarkably responsibly. Furthermore, the United Nations Security Council resolution states that the KLA should demilitarise, not disarm—there is a difference. People will not be able to go around loaded with arms, but neither does every last scrap of weaponry have to be removed. Talks are in progress to reach an agreement on those issues.

There have been some bad incidents, and some arrests, since KFOR entered Kosovo, but KFOR has been very even-handed in dealing with any abuse, whether it comes from Serb forces or individuals or from the KLA. We hope that we shall be able to reach a sensible settlement on those matters.

Initially, the United Nations will lead the new civilian authorities, and local police forces will have to be established and trained. Many very responsible young men joined the KLA and should be encouraged to become part of the new policing arrangements, so that they have a responsible job in bringing order to their country. We have to make arrangements such as that.

We are very clear that we should try, in every way that we possibly can, to ensure that the Kosovar Serbs are made to feel safe. That is part of the agreement and of everything that we have said. Enormous pressure is being put on the KLA to ensure that there is no victimisation, and KFOR has given great assurances on the matter. Nevertheless, 38,000 Kosovar Serbs have left. Although we regret that, not all the Kosovar Serbs will leave.

We know that, in any exodus, everyone does not leave. There will still be Serbian people in Kosovo, and they will have to be reassured that they are full citizens and are protected absolutely. Those who are guilty of terrible war crimes, as some are, should be dealt with by the International War Crimes Tribunal, not in reprisals. We shall do everything in our power to secure that objective.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon asked whether Yugoslav forces have co-operated in providing information on mines and demining. The answer is yes—although, of course, that does not mean that all the mines have been cleared, or that KFOR has detailed reports on all the mines. Nevertheless, Yugoslav forces have co-operated, in accordance with the agreement.

We are also clear that, as long as Milosevic and his regime remain—he is an indicted war criminal, and the regime is deeply corrupt and oppressive—there will be no reconstruction assistance to Serbia. We are equally clear that the moment there is any change of regime, we shall do everything in our power to co-operate with Serbia in helping it to become part of modern, democratic Europe. Although that is the position, if humanitarian assistance is needed, it will be provided; it goes to anyone, regardless of his or her origins. If Serbia has such a need, it will be provided for.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said, it is very significant that the Orthodox Church leadership has called for Milosevic to step down. Let us really hope he does, as that would be the best thing for the future of the people of Serbia.

The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) paid tribute to Louise Arbour. I join him in that. She has been responsible for dealing with war crimes not only in former Yugoslavia, but in Rwanda—which is also recovering from terrible genocide, although the international community failed to act in that case. She has done a very fine job, and I am sure that we all wish her well in her future job. We must, if we can, find someone else in the international system who is as good to take over from her.

My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) had, as she said, to leave the Chamber before the end of the debate. She knows that I have great affection for her, but profoundly disagree with the position that she has taken on the conflict. I should tell her—and everyone else who says that we should not act without United Nations authority—that, if we had waited for such authority, we would not have acted in Kosovo, so that ethnic cleansing would have been rewarded, and territory would have been taken by rape, pillage and the killing of children.

At the United Nations Human Rights Commission hearings, Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, said that he was proud to lead an organisation of sovereign nations, and to live at a time when we have more respect for democracy and human rights than ever before in human history. He also said, however, that, in recent years, there have been three terrible incidents of genocide and ethnic cleansing—in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda—and that there has now been another one, in Kosovo. He said that for as long as he leads the United Nations, no organisation based on sovereign states can be used as a cloud to allow ethnic cleansing and genocide to go on.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has said that UN arrangements were imperfect and there had to be a way to deal with such situations. The UN has sensibly taken on responsibilities as soon as possible. It is not good enough to say that we can do nothing in the face of a great evil unless the UN says so. We had to act against forces that were not only evil but preventable and threatening massive and increasing instability in Europe, probably spreading to the territories of the former Soviet Union and creating a danger of continuing war and conflict for our continent. Those who say that we should not have acted without specific UN authorisation disagree with Kofi Annan and are wrong.

Many hon. Members spoke about environmental damage. I have met the head of the UN environmental agency in the past few days. It is going to carry out a survey of Kosovo and Serbia and report to the international community. He said that a quick survey of the Danube had been carried out and the situation was not as bad as some people claim. He is going to do that for the benefit of us all, but he thinks that the reports of terrible environmental degradation are exaggerated.

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), a former Minister for the Armed Forces, raised some important issues to which I do not have time to do justice. Some of them relate to the new international arrangements in the post-cold war world, such as what kind of NATO and United Nations we want. Paragraph 11(e) of the Security Council resolution says that the Secretary-General should facilitate a political process designed to determine Kosovo's future status, taking into account the Rambouillet accords. That leaves the future status of Kosovo open and it will be decided by the UN. Mr. Milosevic says that he is determined that it will remain part of the former Yugoslavia, but he is not speaking the truth, just as he does not about many other matters.

I agree that the record of arresting war criminals since Bosnia has been very poor. That is partly because of the nature of Republika Srpska and all the difficulties involved. Milosevic thought that he could get Republika Srpska to be part of his greater Serbia. The situation should become easier if we are wise about settling Kosovo. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we should invade Serbia to get the war criminals. Obviously we should get all of them as soon as we can, but the Dayton settlement meant that we have been operating with our arms behind our backs. I think that we shall make faster progress now.

Sir John Stanley


Clare Short

I am terribly sorry, but I do not have time to give way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke about training journalists. We have been doing that. The World Service has scheduled extra programming. We have been training Kosovar Albanians in the camps, because information is desperately needed there. We have been providing wind-up radios. We shall continue with that work, because access to the truth is an important part of democracy. We are engaging in ever more such programmes across the world and I guarantee that we shall try to expand the work further.

I share in the tribute that the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) paid to the armed forces. When I went to Macedonia, many thousands of refugees were stuck on the border in no man's land, people were dying, babies were being born in the mud and there was a real danger of cholera. They had been there for days. Our armed forces set up a kitchen and cooked 26,000 meals. No one ordered them to do it or provided the money. When I went there I said that I would pay for it, but the armed forces spent money without being asked and ferried all the meals up. Then they started building the camp. It was very moving and I felt enormously proud of them. I am sure that they saved many people from dying. We should always be enormously proud of them.

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Bell) for having left the Chamber when they spoke, but I had some things to do. I have been given a report of what they said.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) has consistently taken a position sympathetic to Mr. Milosevic. I profoundly disagree with him. He continues to argue that position, as he has a right to do, but I think that he is deeply wrong. He and many others—John Pilger, Tariq Ali—are so anti-American that they are against what the US does, not against what is wrong. The US has been wrong in the past—

Mr. Wareing


Clare Short

I cannot give way because of the time constraints. It is morally blind to take one side regardless of what it does. It is profoundly wrong to stand against taking action against ethnic cleansing just because the US is in favour of action. My hon. Friend the Member for West Derby claims that we are all pro-Croatia and Tudjman, but that is not true. The Croatian regime is ethnically oppressive and undemocratic, the economy is in poor shape, and the people of Croatia will need help in reforming their institutions, so no one here speaks in favour of the situation in that country.

I apologise to some of the hon. Members who spoke because I will not have time to address their comments. I briefly addressed the point made about the KLA by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), but I do not have time to speak at any great length.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell) talked about the need to make progress with European defence co-operation. I ask Conservative Front Benchers not to be so anti-European that they adopt foolish positions. Some 80 per cent. of the air power used was US air power. Europe spends 60 per cent. of what the US spends on defence, but we spend it so ineffectively that we do not have 60 per cent. of its capacity. We must be able to collaborate and use resources more effectively. The nature of war has changed and we need different equipment. We must therefore seek better European defence co-operation.

The overwhelming task now is to get the refugees home in safety. Some of those who were displaced internally are weak and malnourished, but they are not in such bad shape as some people feared. They are under-nourished, but most of them have had some kind of nourishment. The priority is to get food and medical supplies to them and get them home.

As I have said before, we cannot tell the refugees in Macedonia and Albania that they cannot go home. They need information. They need to be advised about where the mines are and what the dangers are. We are undertaking massive mine education campaigns. There have already been some accidents, and I fear that there will be more. However, the refugees are starting to move home. Those who lived near Kukes can see their villages from the border and they want to go home.

The return will be phased, as we have learned from Bosnia. The people who are close and who know they are safe will go early. The young and the fit go home to fix up the house or to find out the situation, and then send for the children and the older people later. Some of the more vulnerable will stay in Macedonia, Albania and here and go back as their families get things ready for them. Then we will be left with the very vulnerable—the children who became separated from their families and the elderly people whose children were killed. They will need special help to get home and we must ensure that provision is made for them.

The return will be messy, but we can support people as they make their own decisions. It will be chaotic and untidy, and the UNHCR is unwise to think that it can control it all. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) on this point. He knows that I respect him greatly, but I must tell him that now is not the time for speaking at length about what went wrong with the UNHCR. It is still in charge of the operation to return people to Kosovo and we must work with it and strengthen it. Things are a bit better now, but there are lessons to be learned when it is all over and we will get on to that job at the appropriate time.

Britain has a capacity to move more quickly than some others do. We have offices in Tirana and Skopje and we shall open an office in Pristina. We can spend our money quickly and we therefore have flexibility. We operate through the most effective agencies we can find to assist programmes on the ground. We need to examine the specific role Britain can play to make the best contribution we can make, and we will try to make a big contribution on demining.

The military will demine on the routes they will use, but the rest of the country needs to be demined too. We have agreed with the UN Mines Advisory Service—we had a meeting in London—that we will help. The Halo Trust, a British NGO, has started surveying for mines and unexploded ordnance.

We will begin to do the job systematically. I said to the head of the United Nations Environment Programme that the people surveying the mines and those examining the environmental damage should act together and see where the problems are throughout Kosovo and Serbia. I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax that unexploded ordnance is both NATO and Serb, and the mines are all Serb.

We will bring in building materials to enable people instantly to patch up their houses and get into some accommodation, perhaps putting up tents beside the houses to see them through the winter, and then we will move on to more long-term facilitation for rebuilding. Reconstruction will take a long time. The process needs to run seamlessly as people get home and start to rebuild. Wherever possible we want to empower people to solve their own problems rather than doing it for them.

The new civilian authorities will be led by the UN. There is a Secretary-General plan, and we will implement it as soon as possible. A society has to be built from scratch, with schools, hospitals and medical systems, and we have to settle what law will apply. It will not be easy. It will take time and there will be a lot of mess but we must do it as well as possible.

I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow that there are a lot of drug addicts and drug dealers in Scotland. That is what is wrong with what he said. Scotland Yard may have reported that there are some Albanian criminals in the world, but to speak of people who have been bombed, raped and killed as though they were all criminals is unbearable.

I am humbled by the courage of people who kept their dignity as they were driven out and made to live in camps. Now they are going back and they are determined to rebuild. That does not mean that they are all saints—no people are—but their dignity is humbling and they have a considerable job to do.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Clare Short

I am really sorry, but I cannot because I have only a couple of minutes left.

There are special problems because the World Bank cannot lend to Kosovo any more than it can to Montenegro, first, because it can lend only to countries that are members, and, secondly, because of their status as part of the former Yugoslavia. We need to make special arrangements to ensure that Kosovo and Montenegro get the reconstruction help that they need, and to make up for the fact that the World Bank and the other development banks cannot help them.

The other countries in the region have been absolutely remarkable in their support for the NATO action, in a way that they were not at the time of Bosnia. They have the beacon of modern democratic Europe before their eyes and they desperately want to be a part of it. They know that the old poison of the Balkans—ethnic hatred, separation and attacks—cannot be part of their future if they are to be part of a modern Europe. That gives us a fantastic historical responsibility and opportunity.

The region wants to change and to become part of a modern democratic Europe. We have to help in that process. It will not be easy. The neighbouring countries have not been bombed—people sometimes talk as though they have—but they are in transition from communism and many of them are hardly making the transition. Albania is the poorest country in Europe.

Macedonia complained and complained. It heroically took a lot of refugees but when we said that we would help with money, it did not have the Government systems to tell us how much was needed. We had to send in experts—from the Adam Smith Institute, as it happens—to work out what was needed. Incidentally, the experts told me the other day that they never supported Thatcherism. Macedonia's Government financial systems do not work. Helping the countries to reconstruct is not simply a matter of throwing money around. We need to build democratic societies from scratch. It will not be easy, but it is possible.

Anything less means that all this can happen again. That is the story of the Balkans. We have in our hands the real chance to take the poison and nastiness of ethnic hatred, and the taking of territory by ethnic cleansing, out of the region and to make the Balkans a part of modern Europe. That is a great responsibility and it will take years. We need to work together.

We have had a problem in the conflict, but there is still a major problem in Russia and for the people of Russia.

It being Seven o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I gently say, as a former elected member of the executive of the British-American parliamentary group, that some of us feel a little hurt at just being told that we are anti-American, when our objection is to certain—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is a matter for debate, not for the Chair.