§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mrs. McGuire.]10.42 am
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)
As we have been hearing for the past hour and 10 minutes, the House does not need to be reminded of the scale of the act of mass murder committed on 11 September. Although it appears that there may be fewer British victims than were at first feared, for Britain it remains the greatest loss of civilian life in any single terrorist incident. In any event, it was an attack on democracy and on civilisation. Even if no United Kingdom citizens had lost their lives in the atrocity, we would still share with the United States of America, our allies and our partners, a common determination to secure the mutually reinforcing objectives of justice and security.
Our ultimate aim is simply stated: that there should be no safe haven for terrorists anywhere in the world. In the meantime, we have unfinished business. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just made clear, we now have—and we are publishing it—incontrovertible evidence that links Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaedah organisation with the attacks on 11 September. Our most urgent task is to hold those people to account and to make sure that they pose no further threat to global security. Our response will be targeted and proportionate to achieving those objectives.
Overthrowing the current Taliban regime is not a primary objective of our action, but if the Taliban continue to harbour terrorists they will be considered our enemy and will have to face the consequences. Whether the Taliban become a target is essentially a matter for them, not for us. That is underlined by the terms of United Nations Security Council resolution 1368, which speaks of all necessary steps being taken against not only the terrorists, but those who harbour terrorists.
Those objectives are not up for negotiation. All of us fully understand, not least from conversations with our constituents, that there are those in the House and outside it who are concerned about the prospect of the use of force, and many more who, while supporting the use of force, are profoundly concerned about its consequences. We share that anxiety and concern, but the danger would be much greater if we did not respond effectively.
Our aim is the precise opposite of the terrorists' aim: it is to protect innocent life, not to take it. There can be no possibility of reasoning with people who have no reasonable demands. We have to confront them, as we ought to have confronted fascism in the 1930s: had we done so, the world would have been spared the much bloodier confrontation of the 1940s. Our aim is not revenge, but the complete removal of the threat that terrorism poses to our values and our way of life.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out our overall approach in his statements to the House on 14 September and this morning, and most comprehensively and vividly of all in the address to the Labour party conference on Tuesday. The fact that his address was shown live on all major channels in the United States and in many other countries speaks volumes for the leadership that he is providing not only for our 690 own country but around the world as one of the key allies of the United States of America. It underlines again the extent of the commitment that we as a country have pledged to the people and the Government of the United States.
We all admire the dignity, determination and restraint that President Bush, his Administration and the American people have shown at this most difficult of times. The close friendship between our peoples needs no further explanation today, but I will say that the truest test of friendship is in the hour of need. Twice during the last century, the United States came to Britain's aid; today, we have to come to the aid of the United States.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been making tireless efforts. He has held countless meetings and telephone calls with other world leaders; he has visited Berlin, Paris, New York, Washington and Brussels; and, as the House knows, he has now left for a visit to Russia, the interests of which are, like ours, directly engaged in the crisis and which forms an integral part of the global front against terrorism.
As my right hon. Friend said, let us not forget that, just this week, terrorism has continued to take an ugly toll of innocent human life—in this case, in India. In Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, a suicide bomber struck at the heart of that state's democracy by detonating a bomb in the State Assembly, killing 38 and injuring many more. The terrorist organisation Jaish-i-Mohammad, which I proscribed when I was Home Secretary, has claimed responsibility for that outrage. The House should know that we know that the leader of that organisation is linked to Osama bin Laden. I know that I speak for the whole House when I condemn that utterly unjustified attack and express our condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of India.
International law was mentioned by several Members who questioned my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I cannot emphasise enough that the actions that the United States, we and other partners in the international coalition have in contemplation are entirely within the framework of international law. The founding text of the United Nations, its charter, provides at article 51 for the right of UN members to individual or collective self-defence when they come under armed attack. The UN Security Council has passed two resolutions in the response to the crisis. The first, resolution 1368, states that those directly responsible for the attacks should be held to account, together with those who harbour them. The second, resolution 1373, focuses on two key areas: suppressing the financing of terrorists and denying them a safe haven from which to operate. That is the first time that a resolution has imposed an obligation on all states to respond to the global terrorist threat.
§ Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
My right hon. Friend has outlined the role of the United Nations, and the Prime Minister said that the evidence against bin Laden and his associates has been shared with key partners. Will my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary confirm that one of those key partners is Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, and that the UN's role in the programme on which we are embarked will not be limited simply to organising humanitarian aid?
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not much use people asking for United Nations authority for action and then opposing the action all the same? That happened in Iraq when Mr. Benn demanded a United Nations Security Council resolution, got it and then opposed the action.
§ Mr. Straw
I have a feeling that my right hon. Friend has been waiting for some time to say that. [Laughter.] Which dish is it that is best served cold? [Laughter.] As ever, my right hon. Friend makes an entirely fair point. I have heard people say, "What about the United Nations? Why is not the General Assembly going to meet?" Notwithstanding the fact that the UN General Assembly headquarters are only a few blocks away from the site of the atrocity, it met the very next day. The Security Council passed a resolution, the text of which I have in front of me, and so too did the General Assembly in almost identical terms, except for the final paragraphs, which come within the ambit solely of the Security Council.
The extent and breadth of the international coalition and consensus that has been put together since the atrocity is extraordinary. Resolutions in the Security Council and General Assembly have, on the whole, been unanimous, which is almost unprecedented. As my right hon. Friend made clear, if we are to vote for and support their words, we have to ensure that we understand the meaning of those words, and the meaning of those words is that there has been the fullest possible support and endorsement by the international community as expressed within the General Assembly and Security Council for the military action now in contemplation.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
Is not that exactly the point? The United Nations is no longer immobilised because of cold war enmities. It has the capacity for action. Is not the point that it is the most important international institution, not one of a large number?
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
Are the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues trying to get through the United Nations, building on the resolutions to which he has referred, a binding Geneva-style, all-embracing convention against terrorism. to which every member state would be expected to subscribe if that state was to continue to receive the benefits of membership?
§ Mr. Straw
There are already a number of conventions and I shall come to the details. We are in the vanguard of those who have signed and ratified those conventions. The Government of India have produced a further draft convention. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence and I discussed many matters with the distinguished Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Singh, including how, in alliance with the Government of India and many others, 692 we can better progress the convention, which would provide additional powers. Meanwhile, there is Security Council resolution 1373, which for the first time in the history of the United Nations mandates member states—they are not given an option—to take a variety of actions to fight terrorism of all kinds on one definition.
§ Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)
This is an important point for those of us who recognise that action must be taken against the terrorists. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that under international law and the aegis of the United Nations action has to be, in the Prime Minister's words, proportionate, and that we cannot sanction action going beyond what is legitimate and proportionate?
§ Mr. Straw
Action must be proportionate, but we must bear in mind the proportion of the attack against the United States and the proportion of the threat still posed by the al-Qaeda organisation.
None of us has any quarrel with the people of Afghanistan, who have suffered more than anyone from the wickedness of the current Taliban regime. My right hon. Friend set out the humanitarian assistance that has already been made available and is being put in place. The Secretary of State for International Development and her Department have been in the lead, nationally and internationally, in ensuring that an aid programme backed up by money is put in place. We are using their expertise, which is unrivalled in the world, to ensure that proper coalition of humanitarian assistance.
§ Mr. Straw
I will if I may first make some progress.
Our help to the Afghan people must go beyond that. They have the right to expect a peaceful and secure future. In July, well before the 11 September atrocities, the Government hosted a meeting of Foreign Ministers from neighbouring countries at the request of the United Nations at Wilton Park, a Foreign Office conference centre. It was agreed that a future Government should be broad based and reflect the country's rich ethnic mix. Unlike the Taliban regime, the future Government and country of Afghanistan should be a member of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Straw
I will if I may make some progress first.
We want to work with all responsible Afghans to bring peace to their country and to help it on the path to stable development. The country needs irrigation, agriculture, schools, hospitals and roads. Afghanistan's friends will be generous. Our commitment to the Afghan people is straightforward. We say to them, "You have been ill served by those who have made your country a centre for terrorism across the world. As soon as this stops the world will work with you to build a better future for you and your children."
§ Mr. Straw
I want to make some progress because many Members wish to speak.
693 Regional instability is a natural consequence when the rule of law collapses in a failed state such as Afghanistan, and it is as much a threat to the Muslim world as it is to the west. One country that knows from long experience the damage that the Taliban regime have done to the Afghan people and their neighbours is Iran. Last week, I visited Teheran for talks with President Khatami and the Iranian Government—the first such visit by a British Foreign Secretary in a quarter of a century. We discussed how our two countries could better work together to help the refugees who are already seeking shelter in Iran, 2 million of whom crossed the border before 11 September. We agreed to carry on the fight against drugs. As the House knows, 90 per cent. of the heroin on British streets originates in areas of Afghanistan under Taliban control. A high proportion of it is smuggled through Iran, which has already lost thousands of its troops in the struggle against this evil.
President Khatami has spoken of the need for a dialogue between civilisations. The need is now greater than ever before. The evil deeds of bin Laden and al-Qaeda are sanctioned by no faith, let alone one like Islam, which stresses tolerance and respect for human life.
When I visited Cairo last week, that message was reinforced by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, one of the world spiritual leaders of Sunni Muslims. He told me that the terrorist attacks against the United States went completely against the teachings of Islam and that those responsible should be brought to justice. We are, therefore, at war with terrorism and in that war we are on the same side as Islam.
We would all gain from removing barriers to understanding between peoples and faiths and from creating a much more inclusive world. The experience of 11 September shows the continuing need for Britain to be actively engaged in the world. When states fail or conflict breaks out, it matters to us, whether it happens in the Balkans, Latin America, Africa, the far east or the middle east. Few parts of the world have suffered more from conflict and acts of terrorism than the middle east. Last week, I talked to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as well as to Chairman Arafat of the Palestinian National Authority about the latest moves for peace. I made it clear how determined the United Kingdom is to help those parties reach a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement. The House will therefore wish to join me in expressing dismay at the further acts of violence against innocent civilians this week. The Palestinian National Authority should do more to prevent such acts and to punish those responsible. Israel's response should be neither excessive nor disproportionate.
I urge both sides to redouble their efforts to enforce the ceasefire, to implement confidence-building measures and to resume talks aimed at a settlement based on the principle of "land for peace". Peace with security can come only through such a political process, in which Israel's rights as a state and the rights of its citizens are fully recognised, and which at the same time allows the emergence of a viable, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state committed to co-existence with Israel and recognised and respected by Israel. That has long been the position of the United Kingdom, shown by repeated 694 endorsements of many statements to that effect by the European Union and underlined again by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the Labour party conference. President Bush himself expressed the same view on Tuesday:The idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a vision. so long as the right of Israel to exist is respected".
§ Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon)
When the Foreign Secretary went to Iran and published an article in an Iranian newspaper using the word "Palestine", was that deliberate or accidental?
§ Mr. Straw
It was neither. It certainly was not accidental. I made it absolutely clear at the time. There was no apology. My use of the word "Palestine"—I do not retract one word of that article—places me in good company: with not only the President of the United States, but the Prime Minister of Israel, who just two days before the article appeared spoke in a speech on 23 September of the possibility of a Palestinian state.
§ Mr. Mullin
May I take my right hon. Friend back to the passage of his speech in which he referred to what might come after the Taliban? We should not leave the wretched people of Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the warlords. It was their inability to cease their feuding that led to the Taliban coming to power in the first place. Has he contemplated the possibility of seeking a United Nations mandate for the future government of Afghanistan, as happened in Cambodia and East Timor?
§ Mr. Straw
I agree. There are many lessons to be learned about why the current condition in Afghanistan developed—lessons not only for the Afghan people and those in surrounding states but for the whole international community. That is why the UN Secretary-General has already appointed a special high representative to deal with the matter on his behalf, and why huge effort and consideration is being given to the future structure of a Government and stable state in Afghanistan and the region as a whole. My hon. Friend's suggestion that there may have to be some UN mandate to cover that country is certainly an option that is under consideration. Of course, the decision will have to be made by the Security Council.
§ Mr. Straw
With great respect, I must make progress because many others wish to speak.
The middle east is a key part of the global consensus against terrorism that we are now seeking to build. Let me briefly outline how that consensus is strengthening.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have severed their links with the Taliban. Countries throughout the world are pledging support—financial, humanitarian or strategic—on the many fronts of the fight against terrorism. In the G8, we are looking at ways of cutting 695 off terrorist financing, strengthening aviation security and enhancing co-operation on intelligence and security matters. In the European Union, we have agreed to create a European arrest warrant, a common EU definition of terrorism and a specialist anti-terrorist team in Europol. All 19 NATO allies have accepted the evidence of bin Laden's and al-Qaeda's guilt and, as I have already made clear, resolutions have been passed in the Security Council.
Britain has long taken a lead against terrorism and, sadly, has had all too much experience of fighting it. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that later today in New York a statement will be made that the United Kingdom has accepted an invitation to chair the Security Council committee that will monitor the implementation of resolution 1373, the key UN resolution against terrorism. The fact that our fellow Security Council members have invited us to do so is a personal tribute to the great experience and skills of our ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, and his team.
As we have heard, Britain's anti-terrorist legislation, including the Terrorism Act 2000 that I introduced to the House as Home Secretary, is such that we have already complied with many of the obligations of resolution 1373. We are one of the few states to have ratified and implemented all 12 of the international anti-terrorist conventions, but we are considering what further legislative action we must take. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave details of that yesterday at our party conference and will give further details to the House in due course.
§ Mr. Straw
With great respect, I am about to close my remarks.
I and others have said before in the House that the world changed on 11 September, but we should make it clear to our citizens that our way of life has not changed. We are all more vigilant, and so we should remain. We are seeking a step change in the response to international terrorism in order that we can better protect and enjoy our way of life and the way of life of peaceful peoples throughout the world. Combating the threat of terrorism is the first priority for our society and for the whole of the global community.
On the evidence that we saw in the United States on 11 September. it is obvious that this terrible organisation, these evil people, will strike again if they are given the chance, but I say to the people of the United Kingdom that we have no specific knowledge of any specific threat against this country or our nationals and we are deploying all the tools at our disposal—military, intelligence, police, economic, diplomatic and political—to ensure that those people do not get the chance.
As President Bush has made clear, in the fight against terrorism, against that evil, we face a long, hard struggle. Holding Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and those who harbour them to account will be just the first step, but we will win, because we are defending the values of humanity and the rule of law and civilisation, which are shared by east as well as west, by Muslims as well as those of other faiths and by the great majority of the nations and peoples of the world.
§ 11.7 am
§ Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)
I welcome the debate and the recall of Parliament. The whole House has listened with grave attention to the Prime Minister's statement and the speech of the Foreign Secretary. My hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has outlined our response. I am grateful for the chance to do so more fully.
I join the Foreign Secretary in sending our expressions of sympathy to the Government and people of India in relation to the Srinagar atrocity. Although I welcome this opportunity, I must touch on a difficulty that has arisen because it is three weeks since we previously met to discuss the international crisis and because we are meeting for only one day.
Yesterday the Home Secretary launched a raft of proposals. We have already indicated that, where such proposals are clearly designed to combat and will be effective in combating international and domestic terrorism, we wish to give them a fair wind. It is therefore somewhat disappointing that the Home Secretary will not be explaining to the House today or answering questions on the proposals that he outlined yesterday to his party conference. I hope that he will take the earliest opportunity to do so. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we stand ready to see Parliament recalled again before the end of next week to enable him so to do.
Prior to the Home Secretary's announcements yesterday, we asked for the Secretary of State for International Development to address the House today on the growing humanitarian crisis. That request was rejected by the Leader of the House. Again I trust that the House will at the earliest opportunity have the chance to hear from the right hon. Lady.
It is now more than three weeks since the terrible acts of terrorism were perpetrated on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and the deliberate destruction of so many innocent lives. Three weeks, and the horror of the images remains vivid; the anger at the evil of those outrages lives on; and the determination to bring to book those behind the crimes against humanity is undiminished. What has changed is that the first reflex reaction of a desire for a quick response has been replaced by a grimly determined analysis of the terrorist apparatus that spawned those acts, a systematic identification of those who were responsible for them and the preparation of the means by which its eradication can be achieved.
When we last met in this House three weeks ago, I expressed my hope for a controlled and measured response. I paid tribute to the coolness and restraint of President Bush and his national security team. How much more today must we make clear our admiration for the careful and conscientious way in which our American allies have built the case for action and are focusing on key objectives? President Bush has met outrage with reason and terror with carefully measured reaction. Our confidence in him and his team has not been misplaced. Today I reaffirm our commitment to support the Government in standing shoulder to shoulder with our American colleagues.
Needless to say, in the 23 days that have passed, some have sought to sow seeds of doubt as to whether any action is justified or sensible. I suspect that we shall hear more such voices today. Let me make this clear: to accede to such thoughts would be to betray the thousands of innocent people who died on that dreadful day, and would 697 reward the terrorist murderers who killed them. Indeed, with the passage of time, the need to take on the terrorists, to eradicate them and the apparatus of terror which they control, and to give no respite to those who shelter or hide them, becomes ever clearer and the case ever stronger.
The Prime Minister today outlined some of the incontrovertible evidence of Osama bin Laden's responsibility for, and link with, the murderous destruction of 11 September. As my right hon. Friend made clear, we accept that evidence. It is laid before Parliament today and it makes certain things very clear: to do nothing is not an option; to seek to compromise with bin Laden or those who support him would be to fly in the face of the total barbarity and inhumanity of the deeds for which he must bear the blame. He and his henchmen in al-Qaeda must be pursued and, one way or another, brought to book, and the network of terror that he has cast about the world must be destroyed.
Some also argue that, once that objective has been achieved, that should be an end to the matter. That, too, would be to miss the point. I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary say that that part of our objectives is a start, and only a start. To say that it is the end of the matter would be to leave the terrorist virus alive and flourishing in its various environments, ready to emerge stronger and even more deadly in the future. When the President and the Prime Minister declared their purpose to be the eradication of international terrorism, we applauded them because anything less would be to promote the possibility of even worse acts of terrorism in the future.
Bin Laden must be the first objective along with his friends and supporters, particularly in al-Qaeda, but the fight against international terrorism will have begun only once that objective has been achieved.
International terrorism is not a monster that, once the head has been cut off, shrivels and dies. It is more like a virus that spreads of its own accord, self sufficient within its own environment and location. The fight must continue with equal determination and resolve until the scourge of international terrorism and those who sponsor or promote it are removed.
There will be siren calls from those who wish to see no further action. They will be the "appeasement" challenges of our generation, and the Government will have our full-hearted support in resisting them. We must let those who stand beside us in the fight against terrorism know that we are with them until the campaign has been won. We must not flinch from addressing, too, the terrorism of Hezbollah, of Hamas and, closer to home, of the still active remnants of the Provisional IRA and the loyalist terrorists.
We need to starve the terrorists of their finance—often emanating from crime—which enables them to flourish and to perpetrate their acts of criminal violence. We must never appease them, nor allow them to gain advantage from their acts of terrorism. We must make it clear to any state that sponsors or promotes terrorism, against which we are committed, that we shall bring to bear whatever pressure is needed to ensure that such sponsorship or support is ended.
698 We must leave the terrorists no hiding places, no safe houses, and no communities who will give them shelter and protection. Like the eradication of a virus. it will be hard, long and not without risk, but the ultimate goal of freeing the world from the scourge of terrorism must be worth that hardship and risk. It can be achieved only if we constantly re-emphasise that this is a fight against terrorism—murderous, calculating, increasingly sophisticated and progressively more dangerous. It is not about religion or culture, and those who seek to suggest that it is are, in the end, the friends of terrorism. Where terrorism claims to be about idealism, that concept is invariably distorted and perverted in the psychopathic terrorist mind. That is what allows it to slaughter without mercy.
§ Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)
The right hon. Gentleman uses the word "terrorism", naturally enough in this debate, very often. Is it not time for an agreed definition of terrorism? Does he recall that the Government of whom he was a member could themselves have been accused of sponsoring and supporting terrorism in other countries?
§ Mr. Ancram
I shall treat the hon. Gentleman's last remark with the contempt that it deserves. He may welcome the fact that, the other day, the European Union produced proposals in which there was an attempt to define an act of terrorism, but he knows as well as I do that there are great difficulties, on a United Nations or wider basis, in securing agreement on what actually constitutes terrorism. We shall support the Foreign Secretary in any attempt that he makes to secure such a definition in the future.
§ Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin)
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Government of whom he was a member supported the mujaheddin holy warriors of the Northern Alliance, who gave birth to the Taliban, in their terrorist war against the Government in Kabul, which led us to this juncture in the first place?
§ Mr. Ancram
May I say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I have known for a long time, that I spent four years combating terrorism in Northern Ireland, and I need no lessons from him as to what constitutes a threat of terrorism. The House knows that what we are about today is a campaign to eradicate the virus of international terrorism because it threatens everyone—every religion, Government and nation throughout the world. We must continue to condemn those who seek to stir up religious or racial unrest on the back of 11 September. The origins of those outrages were not Muslim or Christian; they were not of any religion. Indeed, members of all faiths were the victims of them. Those evil deeds were the product of a perverted intelligence, and we must not allow them to drive wedges between people whose faiths are in fact about peace and ideals about human understanding. I support the Government's proposals to deal with that matter in future legislation.
The goal of freeing the world from the scourge of international terrorism can be achieved only if the international will exists. I pay tribute to the coalition that has been built up over the past three weeks, which is truly remarkable, and to the Prime Minister for his contribution to its formation. Last Friday's UN resolution was another 699 milestone in the history of international co-operation. The coalition is the more remarkable—indeed, the stronger—for the fact that it is not homogenous but comprises different levels of participation and, if I may say so, of enthusiasm. At the same time, it is bound together by the common understanding that international terrorism is a virus that can destroy us all.
May I pay a special tribute to the Government of Pakistan, whose courageous stand will be central to the first phase of the fight against terrorism? They have stood up for what is right and we owe the people of Pakistan our support and help, not just in the short term but in the difficult years that may lie ahead. We understand the sensitivities of their position and we respect them.
The fight against international terrorism must have twin tracks. The eradication of terrorism, if it is to mean anything in the long term, must also mean the delivery of hope—the hope of delivery not only from the oppression of terror, but from the oppression of poverty and starvation. In Afghanistan the two are linked, because so much of the humanitarian crisis that we are witnessing is the result of the depredations of the Taliban—but the crisis is wider than that, and if we are to be credible in our fight against terror we must be credible in our fight against humanitarian disaster, too.
The United Nations has said that Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions. That is a problem that cannot be ignored; it needs to be aired on the Floor of the House, and the Government must respond to it.
Before 11 September, Afghanistan had been ravaged by 20 years of civil war. As a result there are now 4 million Afghan refugees in the region, and 1 million internally displaced people. Now we are told that a further 1 million are likely to flee to Pakistan, half a million to Iran and 100,000 to the central Asian republics.
Afghanistan is also a country ravaged by drought of appalling proportions. The harvest has failed for the fourth year in a row, and the United Nations expects 7 million people to become dependent on emergency food supplies. The stark truth is that we are now working against the odds and against the clock to avert a devastating famine.
The Government have announced emergency funds to cope with the refugee crisis. We welcome that, but serious questions remain about standards in the refugee camps, and we look to the Government to assure us that adequate steps will urgently be taken to ensure that the camps are clean and safe and that the basic dignity of the refugees will be respected.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)
I am grateful that the right hon. Gentleman is devoting some of his time to the important issue of humanitarian aid. Does he agree that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has given a tremendous lead, but that, as in other areas, if we act unilaterally we cannot solve all the problems that we want to solve? Because of their commitment, the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State are in a strong position to ask the rest of the world, especially the nations in the coalition, to make the same humanitarian contribution as we do—and that is just as important as addressing the problems that we are discussing today.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that that crisis, like the terrorist crisis, must be dealt with on the basis of a wide coalition. I am also sure that this country, and the Government, have a role in leading the coalition in the direction that he would like. As I said at the beginning. I would have liked to hear from the Secretary of State for International Development in this debate. I hope that at some time in the future we can debate this serious issue, and hear from her.
The United Nations says that we have a six-week window to feed the hungry, and it is terrifyingly clear that there is no time for delay. We need to hear now that the funds made available will be spent without delay to alleviate hunger. In particular, I would welcome information about what steps are being taken internationally to secure as soon as possible the reopening of normal supply routes into Afghanistan. That will be the key to getting aid to those areas.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
Might it be time for the international community to consider the policies of the Governments and alliances that impoverished and drove into further deprivation the people of nations with which we were in conflict? When we use those tactics against nations, rather than dealing with the problems of their leaders, we are feeding the monster.
§ Mr. Ancram
Obviously, part of what we seek to do internationally is to ensure that in dealing with the crisis of terrorism we also deal with some of the reasons why terrorists have been able to base themselves in those countries—but it would perhaps be beyond the bounds of the debate to start dealing now with the global aspects that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
The problem must be dealt with on the ground in Afghanistan. We shall support international actions to ensure that that is done, and we urge the Government to ensure that it happens as soon as possible.
We approach the debate today in a continuing spirit of bipartisanship and support of the Government's reaction to the crisis. However, I would like to pose one or two questions, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will be able to respond to them. First, will he assure the House that where—as in the case of bin Laden—incontrovertible evidence may become available identifying other terrorist organisations or states sponsoring terrorism, the Government will take a similarly robust stance?
What is the Government's current position in relation to Iraq? For years, the regime has been publicly condemned as a major sponsor of terror and a constructor of weapons of mass destruction. Now, suddenly, we hear little or nothing about it. Do the Government support a course of action aimed at eradicating the virus of international terrorism within Iraq, and could that be part of a second phase in the fight against international terrorism?
§ Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is evidence that Iraqi intelligence was involved in the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993? Will he continue to press the Government to 701 reveal their attitude on whether Iraq has been actively supporting bin Laden and his terror network since that time?
§ Mr. Ancram
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that, and I ask the Secretary of State for Defence to respond to what he has said when he replies to the debate.
I have another question to ask. The overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is apparently now a firm objective of the impending action. Will the Government tell us what specific plans there are to fill the political vacuum that will ensue, and who they see as the best alternative likely to achieve stability and peace in that region?
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Could we be clear exactly what the attitude is towards Iraq? Some of us guess that if the Iraqi Government had had much to do with this, it would have leaked; but the truth is that many Iraqis might have been recruited to bin Laden's evil organisation by 10 years of bombing and sanctions. That has to be faced.
§ Mr. Ancram
Obviously, the hon. Gentleman is aware that I am not privy to all the intelligence information that is available to Ministers. The question that I am asking is: if there is incontrovertible evidence linking the Iraqi regime with acts of terrorist atrocity, what action will be taken? If we shy away from action, we begin to undermine our own case in the fight against international terrorism.
Given the escalation of the international terrorist threat, what plans are there to increase the resources available to the intelligence agencies? As the Secretary of State for Defence will be aware, the agencies' heads have described their current and prospective funding position as "challenging", and have flagged up the possibility of being unable to maintain current service levels, let alone meet new challenges. The House recognises the fact that the events of 11 September showed the tragic human cost that can result from inadequate intelligence, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to reassure the House on that important matter.
We debate this serious situation today still in what might be called the period of preparation. That is a time when patience is called upon, and cool nerves are vital, but also a time when our determination and resolve to take on the enemy, international terrorism—that virus of evil inhumanity—and to destroy it, must be strengthened and entrenched. As the Foreign Secretary said, we know that we face an enemy with a level of viciousness and a lack of accepted human values that we have never faced before. Three weeks ago, that enemy struck America with what were in effect human flying bombs, and we must keep that image ever before us. If we do not destroy that enemy, tomorrow it could be us.
We must not waver in our readiness to take part in the fight. We owe it to America for the way in which its people have always stood by us in our time of need—but our motivation is greater than that. This is also our own fight for our own freedom and security. If we truly believe in a world free from terror, and in our children's right to 702 a life free from the blackmail of terrorists, it is a fight that we must engage in, and win. That is the challenge of what the Government face, and again today I offer them our support.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must inform the House that, in order to give as many Back Benchers as possible an opportunity to speak, there will be a limit of eight minutes on Back-Bench speeches.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was fastidious in referring to his visit to Israel last week. He did not refer, however, to the rite of passage that he went through and which all British foreign affairs spokesmen undergo when they visit Israel under Likud Prime Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House had his meeting cancelled because he rightly visited Har Homar. When I was shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. Shamir, then Prime Minister, cancelled a meeting with me, which led Abba Ebban to tell me that a meeting with Mr. Shamir and no meeting with him were of equal value.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been vindicated in respect of what he said in his article and when he was in Israel. Since last week, the President of the United States has said that he believes that there should be a Palestinian land, as did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister two days ago at the Labour party conference. However, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made an error regarding what appeared to be a comparison of the terrorism that is taking place now in the middle cast with that which brought about the destruction of the World Trade Centre. I believe that there is a very great difference.
All terrorism, in any circumstances, is utterly to he condemned, but there are acts of terrorism that have a political objective. Even though the terrorism may be evil, the political objective may be valid. When Menachem Begin, as a future Israeli Prime Minister, ordered the bomb attack on the King David hotel in Jerusalem, he was seeking to establish the case for a Jewish state. When Mr. Shamir, also as a future Prime Minister, participated in the murder of the United States mediator Count Bernadotte, he did so for the same reason. When Yasser Arafat was involved in terrorist activity in the middle east—he was undoubtedly involved in such activity for a long period, before he learned better ways—his aim was to establish the case for a Palestinian state. As it happens, I agree with the objectives of both those groups of terrorists, although I totally oppose the terrorism in which they were involved. Even the unspeakable massacre in Srinagar this week, which both sides have rightly condemned, took place nevertheless within the context of the Kashmiri people's case for a right to speak in their future. The method was utterly wrong, but the objective was understandable and valid.
There is a difference between all those acts, which are based on methods that are utterly to be condemned but have objectives that are sometimes to be supported, and what took place in the United States three weeks ago. There is a very great difference indeed between terrorism with an objective—however wrong the terrorism itself may be—and terrorism that is carried out simply for the sake of terror, which is what occurred in the United States 703 and could happen elsewhere. That is why our Government, together with the United States and the international coalition, are absolutely right in deciding that they have to take action to extirpate the cause of that terrorism and, if possible, to bring to justice those who were responsible. That means military action. It would be foolish of us to deny that such action is necessary, although the Government are perfectly right to say that it must be proportionate and that civilian casualties must be avoided wherever possible.
Belatedly, the west has come to realise that the existence of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is an affront to all human values. It is sad that this terrible series of events in the United States should have brought to the forefront the need to deal with that fact. In my constituency, there are refugees from Afghanistan who have undergone the most terrible experiences in order to flee from the Taliban. They would be the first to want to go back an Afghanistan that was peaceful and law abiding, and no longer treated women as chattels—the treatment received by the women who fled to my constituency.
I want to address one more comment to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and refer to the lessons learned in my constituency. Like most hon. Members, I regard my constituency as my university, as it teaches me about all these issues. I deplore more than I can say the stupid, ill-informed remarks made today by Lady Thatcher. All the messages that I have had from the many Muslims in my constituency are of total condemnation of the atrocities that took place in the United States. It is an ill reward for their condemnation that they have been the victims of attacks such as that on the Eileen Grove mosque in my constituency. I welcome the fact that the Government are taking action to deal with the problem. Those racists who have attacked Muslims in this country—peaceful, law-abiding people who support our Government's policy—are not bin Laden's enemies, but his squalid disciples. There can be no excuse whatever for not dealing with such people, which is why I shall support the legislation that the Government plan to introduce.
Sometimes, there is a sanctimony about expressions of unity in the House, but on this occasion what has been said on both sides of the House has been completely sincere, is utterly necessary and should hearten the Government and the international coalition in the action that they are rightly planning to take.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)
The Prime Minister rightly began his speech by reminding us that the events that have brought us here resulted in the death of 7,000 people from 70 nations in circumstances of unimaginable terror. Although it may be three weeks or more since the events took place, today we once again share in the sorrow of those who have been bereaved and bear their grief with them.
The passage of three weeks does not alter the fact that the events of 11 September were a deliberate and calculated atrocity that was conceived in cold blood, planned with skill and executed ruthlessly and regardless of the consequences. The cause of the attack was not American foreign policy, but an amoral disregard for human life. It is grotesque to suggest that a four-year-old girl, making her first and only flight in an aeroplane, 704 should somehow bear responsibility for the actions of a Government whom she was never allowed the chance to grow up and vote either for or against. No grievance, however real or perceived, justified such slaughter of human life. To echo words that we have all used in the past three weeks, the violence was imprecise and disproportionate and was designed to maximise civilian casualties—the very reverse of the criteria for military response that the Foreign Secretary set out in his speech at his party conference and again in the House today.
I hope that we will put an end to some of the crude anti-Americanism that has characterised comment here in the United Kingdom. I have criticised American foreign policy in the House, as have many other hon. Members. However, the sort of crude anti-Americanism that we have seen in some quarters is wholly unjustified. In the period immediately after the atrocities, people were anxious that the sense of outrage and alarm might provoke the United States into immediate, retaliatory action. Indeed, that is what the terrorists hoped for. As some have already said, it is a measure of the maturity of the Bush Administration that no such thing has happened. The American constitution, let us remember, is composed of checks and balances, and it is clear that in the last three weeks those checks and balances have been at work.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that there is no need for an express resolution from the Security Council authorising a particular military response. Article 51 of the United Nations charter, and resolution 1373—passed last week, on 28 September—authorised the use of force in self-defence. As the Foreign Secretary said, the resolution is unique: never before has there been a resolution, mandatory, imposing obligations on all members of the UN under chapter 7.
If we have a reasonable apprehension that there is the possibility of a further attack, pre-emptive action is justified in international law, whether carried out individually or collectively. As I have said before, I believe that the United Kingdom should make its forces part of that military response. We have an interest in doing so; but the United States is our ally and we have treaty obligations under article 5 of the treaty establishing NATO.
As the Prime Minister also made clear, military action must be based on intelligence and must have clear objectives. Before today, the Prime Minister had said that there was incontrovertible evidence of the involvement of Osama bin Laden. The 19 countries of NATO reached a similar conclusion, abandoning the conditional support that they had initially given in favour of unequivocal support. Today the Government—I think, uniquely—have decided to publish some parts of the intelligence. I do not recall intelligence of this kind being published, for example, at or about the time of the Gulf war. This is a unique occasion, and the House should understand that.
Only part of the intelligence is to be published. Why? Publishing all of it might well put at risk the lives of the people who provided it; but a more pragmatic and perhaps rather more cynical consideration is that such action might prejudice the availability of a valuable source in the future.
In so far as the whole evidence has not been published, I do not shrink from saying that we must take the Prime Minister and his colleagues on trust. The Prime Minister has gone to the country and he has come to the House of 705 Commons; and he has given his word that that is the case. The consequences for the Prime Minister and his Government, were that not to be so, are incalculable, and I therefore have no difficulty in taking the Prime Minister on trust in this matter.
§ Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)
If I understood correctly earlier, the leader of the Liberal Democrats argued for a greater demonstration of the intelligence information. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what his party's position actually is?
§ Mr. Campbell
It is nice to see that the spirit of non-partisanship is surviving the whole of this morning's debate.
As my right hon. Friend said, if further evidence can be published without prejudice, it should be published. The Prime Minister accepted that himself when the point was put to him. I am saying that in the absence of publication of that further evidence, relying on the faith of what the Prime Minister has told the country and the House I am prepared to take the Prime Minister on trust. I do, however, raise a question to which I am sure the Foreign Secretary has addressed himself. That may not be enough for some members of this coalition, and it may be that some form of independent scrutiny or verification will be required. No doubt, along with his officials, the Foreign Secretary will give some consideration to how intelligence beyond what has been published here today may be made available to those whose presence in the coalition is of such fundamental importance.
The Prime Minister also made it clear that, if military operations were embarked on, it was axiomatic that there must be clear aims. I accept the aims set out in the Prime Minister's statement, in which he said:We must bring bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to justice and eliminate the terrorist threat that they pose, and we must ensure that Afghanistan ceases to harbour and sustain international terrorism. If the Taliban regime will not comply with that objective, we must bring about change in that regime to ensure that Afghanistan's links to international terrorism are broken.That is a clear statement of objective justifying military action.
It is also the case that the coalition might well be under strain if action taken were other than proportionate to need. Let us try to deal with that word "proportionate". "Proportionate" does not mean "equivalent". Indeed, I think it was the Foreign Secretary himself who said, emerging from a meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers, that we were talking about "proportionate to need"—and "need" means no more than what is necessary to achieve the aims set out by the Prime Minister in his statement, and to neutralise the threat. The maintenance of the coalition will undoubtedly require careful observance of those principles. Of course, this also means—in contradistinction to what was done by those who perpetrated the atrocities—avoiding civilian casualties as far as humanly possible.
§ Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
The Prime Minister impressed on us the importance of humanitarian aid and the need to ensure that it is in place. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that women in Afghanistan are particularly at risk? They are already subject to cruel, 706 inhuman, degrading treatment by the Taliban. Many are already war widows. In circumstances in which people are fleeing in fear, they will be more vulnerable than anyone else and should be given particular help.
§ Mr. Campbell
It is a sad fact of the conflicts in the Balkans, more recently, and also in Afghanistan that civilians, and women in particular, now bear the brunt. The hon. Lady has a long and distinguished record of bringing such matters to the House's attention and I agree with all that she has said.
If we are to make forces available, we must also make resources available—resources to meet the cost of the massive humanitarian effort required to feed, clothe and shelter millions of refugees throughout the region. I think we have a moral obligation to do that, but we have a pragmatic compulsion as well. Instability in the region would hardly be in our interests, and instability in a Musharraf Government unable to cope with a sudden influx of refugees would be directly against our interests.
§ Geraint Davies (Croydon. Central)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that our aims and objectives should perhaps go beyond getting rid of bin Laden and providing aid? Should we not aim to renew and reconstruct Afghanistan? Will not and should not the price of peace be much greater than the cost of war?
§ Mr. Campbell
I am coming to that, but I am happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman.
The Musharraf Government may well be at risk unless we provide the necessary resources for the humanitarian effort, but millions of Afghan citizens will not survive unless we do. If a military response is justified, a parallel humanitarian response is obligatory.
We should even now be considering how Afghanistan can be brought back from the clutches of the Taliban. I think the principle we should adopt is this: how can we best assist the Afghans to clean up their own country? As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) said, it would be too simple just to pile resources into the Northern Alliance. The suspicion and envy of the Tadjiks in the north and the Pushtuns in the south is legendary, and it would make no sense whatever for us to substitute for the Taliban a different kind of civil war. I was encouraged by the extent to which the Foreign Secretary acknowledged that there may well be a role for the United Nations in the reconstruction period to which the hon. Gentleman was referring. It might at least be worthy of consideration on another occasion whether this is a suitable opportunity for a UN protectorate.
The Home Secretary is to introduce new measures in response to the events of 11 September. I have no doubt that there will be points of agreement between him and us. The extradition process can be torturous, as we discovered in the case of General Pinochet. Surely it is not beyond our wit to fashion a system that is both fair and expeditious. If these are the principles that guide the alternative proposals that are to be made, they would most certainly have our support. In this area, justice delayed is justice denied, as much as in any other area of the law.
§ Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that we still face a fundamental ethical dilemma in responding to the many 707 extradition requests where there is evidence that suggests that the individual we extradite may be facing torture and summary execution in the country to which he or she is returned? There are many examples. We should not avoid the dilemma. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the best way to resolve the dilemma is to strengthen the procedures of the international court? That would allow us to hand over individuals to a fair trial rather than the place where we would otherwise send them.
§ Mr. Campbell
If the international court were in existence, I would be wishing it to exercise its jurisdiction. It is not in existence because an insufficient number of countries have been willing to ratify the statute that would establish it. I cannot fail to point out that the United States is one of those countries. Perhaps the events of three weeks ago will cause some reconsideration of the United States position in that matter.
If we are to believe what we read in the newspapers, the Home Secretary appears to have backed away from introducing compulsory identity cards. If the proposal were to come before the House, I and others on the Liberal Democrat Benches would require considerable persuasion that it was necessary action to take.
We will examine with particular care any proposals that have the potential to penalise genuine asylum seekers. The pathetic men and women who try to cross the channel in inflatable rubber dinghies seem to me to be improbable terrorists. As we now understand, terrorists are much more likely to arrive in London in the first-class cabins of scheduled flights.
I, too, will say a word or two about the middle east. Israel has an unchallengeable right to her existence. However, as the Prime Minister said to his party conference, the Palestinians have a right to justice and to land. That has been echoed by the Bush Administration. We do not need another UN Security Council resolution to implement that approach. Resolutions 242 and 338 set out these principles, as does resolution 435 which condemns the policy of settlements in the occupied territories.
We must recognise that when the Foreign Secretary and I argue that resolution 1373 gives authority for actions of the sort that we are contemplating, there are some people who ask, "Why do you see more efficacy in some resolutions than others? Why do you attach more importance to the implementation of some resolutions rather than others?"
The continuing dispute between Israel and the Palestinians was not the cause of the terrible events of 11 September, but it is used as an excuse. If we are determined to eliminate or at least diminish the terrorist threat, let us ensure also that we eliminate the excuses for terrorism. I thought that the Foreign Secretary was right to visit Iran. I would not necessarily have chosen the language that he used in his article, but those of us who know him and those of us who have had robust political differences of opinion with him were outraged on his behalf when an official of the Israeli Government saw fit to describe him as anti-semitic. It was a disgrace. I hope that he received the apology that he undoubtedly deserved for that intemperate language.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)
I share and wholly endorse the view that the right hon. and learned 708 Gentleman has expressed. Those of us who wish Israel well regret very much that it should try to deal with the Foreign Secretary in the way it tried to deal with his predecessor when he said exactly the same sort of thing over the question of settlements.
§ Mr. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman's intervention speaks for itself.
We must accept that any military action, however proportionate to need, runs the risk of casualties. I do not shrink from asserting that we should always be calculating and cautious about putting the lives of other people's sons and daughters at risk by inviting them to take military action on behalf of the United Kingdom. We should never make such a decision unless we are satisfied in the exercise of a considered judgment that it is necessary. It seems that it may be necessary now. It appears that our armed forces may truly have to be committed not only in the short term but in the long term. In either case, they are entitled to know that they go not only with our gratitude but with our prayers.
§ Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)
I welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which I thought was balanced and reasonable. I welcome especially the prominence that he gave to alleviating the plight of the Afghan people.
I accept that the perpetrators of the unspeakable atrocities in New York and Washington must be found and brought to justice. Their funding and other networks must be wound up, and those who harbour them must be obliged to hand them over. If that leads to the fall of the Taliban, no one will be happier than me. The danger that the lunatics will strike again is real and it must be faced.
On the plight of the people of Afghanistan, I say to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and to anyone who has any influence in this situation: have mercy upon the people of Afghanistan, who during the past 22 years have endured the unendurable. Our immediate priority should not be to start bombing anybody—let Osama bin Laden stew for a while—but to ensure that food and health care is available to the 6 million, 7 million or however many millions of people whose plight is so desperate.
I welcome the restraint that has been shown so far, but nothing will do more to undermine the international coalition that is being so painstakingly assembled than the sight on our television screens throughout the winter of starving people in Afghanistan. As the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) said, nothing will do more to undermine the stability of Pakistan than playing host to hundreds of thousands or millions of people who are starving on its doorstep, and who may not sit idly by while they are starving.
Secondly, as I said in my intervention on my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, we must not abandon the people of Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the warlords, the so-called Northern Alliance. They had their chance. They occupied Kabul. It was their inability to stop feuding and their complete lack of interest in the welfare of their people that led to the rise of the Taliban.
I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said about considering the possibility of a UN protectorate. In my view, that is the way forward. A protectorate was applied for a period in Cambodia, but not for long enough. The 709 UN left a little earlier than it should have done. However, that protectorate made a big difference when Cambodia faced the same sort of chaos as is now being faced by Afghanistan. A protectorate has also been applied in East Timor. In my view, it is the model for post-Taliban Afghanistan. There is a history of short-termism and cynical politicking in the relations between the west and Afghanistan, which have led to the present state of affairs. We must start thinking about the longer term.
Thirdly, we should not start what we cannot finish. I heard Henry Kissinger on the radio the other day saying—and he should know—that Americans do not always think through the consequences of their actions. He can say that again. We do not have to think back very far to the encouragement that was given, and perhaps the support, in the wake of the Gulf war to the uprising by the Shia people in the south of Iraq, who were then abandoned to the mercies of Saddam Hussein. By God, they were butchered.
At various times in the past, in both Iraq and Iran, attempts have been made to encourage uprisings by the Kurdish people. Then the line in Washington changed, people there got bored, their attention wandered elsewhere and other priorities arose, and the Kurdish people were left behind to be butchered. I do not want to see our Prime Minister, who has handled himself magnificently so far, being forced to justify the unjustifiable in the months to come.
I shall say a word about anti-terrorism laws, a matter to which we shall no doubt return, and in which the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which I have the honour to chair, will be taking a close interest. I have an open mind. If there are loopholes that prevent us from effectively fighting terrorism and which need closing, fine. However, there is in this country a long history of anti-terrorism legislation which has been rushed through in haste and repented at leisure. I hope that we will think carefully about any proposed changes.
I heard someone—it might have been the Leader of the Opposition—suggesting that it might be a good idea if the Home Secretary had the power to exclude people solely on the basis of intelligence. I think back again to the Gulf war and remember that, solely on the basis of what was alleged at the time to be impeccable intelligence, many Iraqi people who lived in this country and in the main ran take-away shops were rounded up and put in Pentonville. There was talk of sending them back to Iraq, where God knows what would have happened to them. After it was all over, every single one of them was quietly released, because the quality of the intelligence was found to be so dismal. Some of those people were my constituents, so I am familiar with the precise detail in those cases. It makes me nervous when I hear such proposals.
On ID cards, I am glad that we are not going forward too fast. There may be a case for ID cards. I do not rule it out, but the case must be made. Work has been done on the matter in the past. Under the previous Conservative Government, the Home Affairs Committee considered ID cards, and concluded that they would not work and would cost an awful lot of money. There may well be better things to do with £1 billion than introduce a not very effective system of ID cards. I could be persuaded, but I would have to be persuaded, as would many hon. Members in all parts of the House.
710 Finally, I shall briefly address the bigger picture, as the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife did a moment ago. As he said, the plight of the people of Palestine is not an excuse for terrorism. No one suggests that. As he also said, no one questions the right of Israel to exist. However, it is no use ringing up Ariel Sharon and telling him to exercise restraint for a few weeks while we assemble a fragile coalition, if we let him carry on as he has been doing as soon as the immediate crisis is over. We must recognise that the running sore in the middle east is the background to almost everything that has happened—
§ 12.4 pm
§ Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)
I know that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who has just sat down prematurely, will understand if I do not pursue some of the interesting and characteristically thoughtful points that he was raising. I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence, who is in his place, will respond fully.
I particularly agreed with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South when he said that, to date, the Prime Minister's actions have been magnificent. It is right that those of us on the Opposition Benches fully acknowledge that the Prime Minister's role, not just in this country but internationally, has been what the people of this country have a right to expect from their Prime Minister. We will continue to give him our full support in all that he is doing.
In the few minutes available to me, I shall address the issue of international terrorism—the subject of this important debate, which has rightly led to the return of the House. If there are lessons to be learned from the dreadful events of 11 September, one of them must be that terrorism is wrong from wherever it comes. It can never be justified, least of all in a democratic country where every citizen has equal voting rights and where there is an independent judiciary, a free press and absolutely no excuse for resorting to violence rather than the ballot box. The House will realise that I am referring to a particular part of the United Kingdom—Northern Ireland.
As the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), the distinguished leader of the Ulster Unionist party, mentioned in his intervention, sadly the Provisional IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein, have not, as we all hoped when the Belfast agreement was signed, given up violence for good or their links with international terrorism.
The whole House was shocked and disappointed when the Colombian authorities arrested three members of the Provisional IRA in that part of Colombia which is controlled by the narco-terrorists from FARC. Among the Provisional IRA men who were arrested was the Sinn Fein representative in Havana. They were all highly placed within the movement. To my mind, that drives a coach and horses through the possibility that Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA will fulfil their obligations under the Belfast agreement.
As the right hon. Member for Upper Bann said earlier, the process that we all enthusiastically supported, which was started by John Major and Lord Mayhew, tragically 711 has been entirely one-sided. For the men of violence, the terrorists—whether they are so-called loyalist or republican—it has been entirely take and no give. The House is aware that there has been no decommissioning, no handing in or getting rid of arms and explosives, even though more than 400 terrorist prisoners—so-called loyalists and republicans—have been released.
§ David Burnside (South Antrim)
Will my right hon. Friend, with his experience as shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland, comment on the double standard that has been running through the debate all morning? The Garda Siochana and the Royal Ulster Constabulary have evidence relating to the guilt of the Real IRA in the Omagh bombing which has every bit as much credibility as the evidence supplied by the FBI and the CIA, and which is persuading the Government to take military action. Is that not a double standard?
§ Mr. MacKay
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. If I may, in the few minutes left to me, I will deal with it towards the end of my remarks.
There are international links between republican terrorists in Ireland and other terrorists around the world. A prominent member of ETA was present at the weekend Sinn Fein conference. The House will be aware of the particularly unpleasant bomb attack in the Basque capital only two days ago, in which the court was blown up but mercifully only one passer-by was injured. Equally, there are close links with the narco-terrorists of the FARC in Colombia. If anyone has any doubts about the way in which they wish to destroy democracy they have only to consider the dreadful death of the Colombian Minister who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in the past few days.
I have a request for the Prime Minister and for the Secretary of State for Defence, who is to sum up the debate. As the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) said, we must treat terrorists equally. Terrorism is wrong. The House and the British people want from the Prime Minister the same robust response towards terrorism in Northern Ireland as to the dreadful events of 11 September. It is vital that those who are not prepared to renounce violence are treated in the only way that one can treat terrorists, which is to remove them, arrest them and take away their funds.
This is a bipartisan debate, but the House will forgive me for saying that there has been a lack of enthusiasm about taking that action. Many of us, from the Dispatch Box and elsewhere, have pressed the Government to take a tougher line on terrorism. They have given terrorists the benefit of the doubt again and again and they have been let down. I am not critical that they have given terrorists the benefit of the doubt, but it must now be abundantly clear that they will not decommission their arms and explosives and that they are totally committed to gaining funds from criminal activity and destabilising our democracy. I hope that the legislation that the Home Secretary and other Ministers will put before the House in the next few weeks will allow positive action against terrorism in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)
The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) is right to say that this is a bi-partisan day for the House. In my 14 years as 712 a Member of Parliament I do not recall a debate in which so many speakers on both sides of the House have been in agreement. Of course, we agree that this is a war on terrorism. This is not a war against Islam. It is not about faith, but about dealing with fanaticism and terrorism.
I commend the work done so far by the Foreign and Defence Secretaries, the visit made by the Foreign Secretary to Iran, and the visit that the Prime Minister is about to make to the Gulf and Pakistan. Britain is not going to do this on its own. It is right that we should stand with the United States. America is our closest ally and friend and the attack on the World Trade Centre was an attack on all countries that wish to eradicate terrorism.
Sometimes, however, I feel that we discover our friends in the Arab world only in times of crisis. It is extremely important that relationships are built up and developed over many years. The Arab states have enormous affection and respect for Britain and it is important for the Prime Minister to visit countries such as Oman to ensure that the support is there. The visit to Pakistan is also good. We should commend the role that India and Pakistan have played in unity on this occasion. The British Government should support the attempt by those two countries to work together to defeat terrorism.
I wish to deal in particular with the British Asian community and with the words of Baroness Thatcher that were quoted in The Times today. She stated that she did not hear enough voices of condemnation from the British Muslim community about the events that occurred in New York. I do not know what she has been reading or to what programmes she has been listening. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the only representations and comments that I have heard from the British Muslim and Asian communities have been words of condemnation for what has happened in New York as well as total support for the actions that the Prime Minister and Government have taken. Similarly, on the words of Mr. Berlusconi—although I think that he retracted them—it is important for people to understand the background to what has happened and to acknowledge the enormous contribution that the British Muslim community has made.
Tonight I shall go to Richmond in Surrey, which is the town in this country to which I first emigrated at the age of nine. Thirty one years after we emigrated to Britain, the country has changed. The Asian community has made an enormous contribution to the life of this country. I do not think that we would have imagined 31 years ago that some day someone called Hussain would be captain of the England cricket team. Perhaps in another 31 years someone called Patel may edit The Daily Telegraph.
It is important that we do not look at the British Muslim community and visit mosques only at times of crisis. Dialogue, which hon. Members have every day with constituents of Asian origin, is extremely important. Asians feel that they are part of the mainstream in supporting the Government in what they are doing.
We also need to support the Government's proposals, which were outlined by the Home Secretary yesterday at the Labour party conference. We need to introduce legislation to tackle religious hatred. Some of us have suggested it for some years. It is important to be tough on those who perpetrate acts of racial discrimination. We must look at the laws and the powers that have been given 713 to the Commission for Racial Equality to find out how we can make that body more effective. It should be doing much more work in this area, not only to bring communities together but to take a more proactive role in what is being achieved.
I come to the House in total support of what the Government are doing. I am proud that we have a Prime Minister who is prepared to take a leadership role in international affairs. It is also important that the Asian community speaks out in a united way, as the Muslim community has done—Muslim leaders such as Zaki Badawi, lqbal Sacranie and Syed Pasha have all condemned what has happened.
I look forward to the day when, like the Jewish community in Britain, the Asian community has a body that truly represents it—a sort of Board of Deputies—in which it can say in a united way what it has said separately through its various communities. That day will come and the House should push for such a development. In the mean time, in the current crisis we must work together in a united way in Britain and in the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrorism are defeated once and for all.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)
It is right that the House was recalled today. Hon. Members must remember that we have a central role to play in questioning, sustaining and fortifying our Government at this difficult time. I join hon. Friends on both sides of the House who have congratulated the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the others involved in the excellent work that has been done so far.
Like the hon. Member for Dundee. West (Mr. Ross), I was in New York when this appalling attack took place and 300 of my colleagues from a firm with which I am associated were killed in the north tower. It was an unspeakable outrage, and the more so since the perpetrators of the crime hide behind a great religion that teaches, above all, compassion, love and respect for human life.
There has been no lashing out. America has reacted with great strategic patience and skill and, above all, with calm resolve. The coalition that has been built by the partners is extraordinary. An alliance that includes Russia, the NATO countries, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and all the other Gulf states and that receives the acquiesence of China and Iran would simply have been impossible before 11 September. Inevitably, such an alliance will always be fragile, but, as the Prime Minister said, that fact will not prevent us from proceeding, diplomatically and militarily, with boldness and resolution.
As the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said, at the heart of this catastrophe lies the Arab-Israeli conflict. I warmly welcome what the Prime Minister said about that in his speech to the party conference and again today. When the pieces in his kaleidoscope settle, Governments must truly see to it that we bring all our influence to bear on a resolution of that problem. Some 34 years of occupation and daily humiliation and harassment of an entire people have led to appalling and grotesque consequences. There have been 714 10 years of unconvincing peace process following the Madrid conference and there will be many more catastrophes unless the Governments of the world—particularly those of the United States, Britain and their European allies—put their minds to dealing with this problem.
Our international influence depends on our ability to act in concert with others, notably the United States, Europe, the World Trade Organisation, NATO, the G8, the Security Council of the United Nations and so on. The Government need to use all the energies at their command to secure a just, lasting and, above all, honourable peace for both sides. As I said, I am encouraged by what the Prime Minister said today and I hope very much that the Government will proceed with great vigour and see to it that America does the same.
Moderate Arab leaders are under increasing and possibly irresistible pressure. I hope very much that they will welcome the spirit of what is intended and push forward themselves even if they are entitled to be cynical about the process.
Britain has a role to play and we need to be more confident about it. We can play a thoroughly worthwhile and important role both in our own right and as a trusted ally of the United States—an ally that is able to make a distinctive contribution, as the Prime Minister rightly has in contributing to the formulation of policy in Washington.
I warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary's visit to Iran. It is far too important a country to ignore and, in the new realities, it has a role to play. We need to develop the relationship on a continuing basis, not only on our own account but with our partners in the European Union. At the same time, we must urgently develop and grow a more pragmatic, sensible, mature, lasting and meaningful relationship with Russia, so I am delighted that the Prime Minister has left to visit Moscow.
Does the Foreign Secretary believe that the Foreign Office deploys enough resources to its middle east department? We are embarking on a long and drawn-out business, which will require increased commitments in an already very overstretched department.
Defence will also require more money, and I hope that the Prime Minister will repay as of right the great debt of honour that he owes to the armed forces. In particular, we will need to spend more money on our intelligence services, to whom we should be very grateful and of whom we are very proud.
Britain must take the chances offered by these events. The Prime Minister is right to say that the state of much of Africa is an affront to the world. If the world wanted to put that problem right, it quite clearly could. Britain has a unique role—standing as it does at the centre of the Commonwealth, the G8 and the Security Council—and we can develop a strategy with our partners and allies to try at least to deal with the problem in a co-ordinated way. It will be the job of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to make sure that the Government press ahead with all those plans and that they do not simply slip off the agenda after a period of time in the face of pressing—albeit correct—local domestic difficulties.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said, terrorism knows no bounds. It is not defined by any ethnic group, so it is very difficult to fashion a strategy to deal with such a strange and 715 perplexing enemy. Broadly achievable military and political objectives are developing, but there will be no clear single or timely outcome. This campaign will not be defined by military action—although that must be an important part—and the only way to cope is by the Government and the United States working together through international co-operation and concentric alliances that are built on security, intelligence, diplomacy and economic and military efforts. All those elements must come together, not just in the fight against terrorism but in the resolution of the middle east crisis and, in particular, in dealing with the deep and abiding frustrations that have built up over the years.
As an immediate start at the World Trade Organisation conference in Doha, I hope that our Government will press for a fairer deal for poor countries as a matter of the most profound importance for now and for the future. Meanwhile, I endorse the words of my hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. As British forces prepare themselves for almost imminent action—it cannot be long delayed with the advance of winter and the approach of Ramadan—
§ Mr. Mike O'Brien (North Warwickshire)
When the New York massacre took place, I was on a transatlantic flight. When I flew back to this country, it occurred to me that no one will again get on an airline flight—whether for a family holiday or a business trip—without a chill going down their spine as they recollect the images of the World Trade Centre and the aeroplanes going into it.
This is a time when we need to show full solidarity with the Americans in fighting terrorism. I commend the firm stance taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister from the first in helping to put together a coalition to help the Americans to fight terrorism.
I do not want my family to get on a flight in future and wonder whether they will get off it, and I do not want those constituents who work in tower blocks to wonder whether they will be able to go home. We need to ensure that the threat of international terrorism is dealt with.
I wish to make a few comments about several issues. I want to refer to the Muslim community in this country, to the calls made by many people for evidence to be provided about Osama bin Laden's involvement in terrorism and to the concern about the refugees and civilian casualties that may occur in Afghanistan.
I commend the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) about the Muslim community. We must do all we can to explain that this is not a war against Islam or against Muslims any more than fighting the IRA is a war against Catholics or fighting the UDA is a war against Protestants. We face a small group of fanatics who happen to be based in Afghanistan, but all religions have their fanatics.
I welcome the efforts made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to bring Iran into the alliance. It is important that we receive support from our allies in other Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, as well as from countries with which we have had less cordial relations in the recent past. It is also important that we send a clear message to Britain's Muslims that we are proud of them and their contribution to our country.
716 I was the Minister with responsibility for race equality for four years, and almost weekly I met members of various Muslim groups. I know them and their leaders well. I was delighted by the meeting that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister held in Downing street with many Muslim leaders and the clear messages that were given to them. They were also able to state their condemnation of the atrocities that took place in the United States.
I strongly welcome the announcement of new laws against religious violence and harassment and new laws to deal with incitement to religious hatred. I also welcome moves to sort out some of the problems in our extradition and asylum systems. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider extending the Race Relations Act 1976 to protect Muslims from religious discrimination. That was being considered in the Home Office and I hope that there will be an announcement in due course.
I welcome the Prime Minister's decision to publish some evidence today. That is important. I also welcome the endorsement of the background to that by the leaders of the Opposition parties who have been briefed on the details. The Taliban would have us believe that they will hand over Osama bin Laden if America can prove that he was involved in the New York massacre. I suspect that no matter how much evidence were to be offered, it would not be enough. It beggars belief that the Taliban, who oppress women, persecute homosexuals, feed their finances from the sale of drugs, behead adulterers and massacre their opponents, should pose as civil liberties lawyers when it comes to defending a mass murderer such as bin Laden.
What also worries me is the attitude of some commentators in this country who have demanded the publication of all the evidence, including intelligence information. I am worried by those who question the validity of a western response without proof, as though they expect telephone transcripts, video tapes, documents and witnesses who can be cross-examined. The British and American Governments are justified in maintaining some secrecy in protecting intelligence sources. Sharing background information with Opposition leaders was useful and important, but it is not necessary to share it more widely.
Based on available information, there is a need to act soon. The Government must know that they have the support of Parliament and the British people for that action. The Taliban's demand to examine the evidence should be seen for what it is—a cynical prevarication. We know that the Taliban are sheltering bin Laden. We know that bin Laden is a major terrorist and the prime suspect for financing the mass murder in New York. The Taliban must accept the consequences of helping terrorism and the British Government should support all reasonable action by the Americans to deal with it and to bring bin Laden to justice.
What struck me when reading some recent articles in our media is the fact that some people in this country are anti-American. It worries me that anti-Americanism has sometimes been the anti-semitism of the left, sometimes unreasonably, unjustifiably and based merely on prejudice. It is time to recognise that we must give some meaning to the deaths in New York, and that meaning must be to tackle and end the threat of international terrorism.
717 It occurred to me this morning as I realised that it was poetry day that the words of the American poet, Archibald MacLeish, are right for us to recall as we think of those who died. He said:They say: our deaths are not ours, they are yours.They will mean what you make them.They say: whether our lives and our deaths were for … a new hope or for nothing is something for you.They say: we leave you our deaths, give them meaning.We have a responsibility in some measure to redeem the lives of those who died in New York. Ending the fear of international organised terrorism would give those deaths some meaning.
§ Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)
I am pleased to take part in this debate and to make three points. First, I should like to place on record my strong support for the action being taken by our Government and our Prime Minister and by the American Government. It is right to take every conceivable step to bear down on the individuals responsible for this terrible atrocity. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan are despicable. They clearly harbour terrorists and sponsor acts of terrorism and are a legitimate target for our military response. I strongly support the leadership of President Bush and our Prime Minister at this time and commend them for many of the things that they have said and done.
It is worth reminding ourselves that, in politics, actions speak louder than words. We have lived through a time in international politics when charisma, soundbites and rhetoric have become all important. President Bush was criticised for his response in the first 48 hours when he was clearly a man in shock. Who would not be in shock as the leader of a nation in which such atrocities had happened? He had received a poor press over here before 11 September and many people had spoken poorly of him. We now need to reappraise our opinion of him. His leadership has been exemplary. He has surrounded himself with the best people possible and is determined to do what is right. That is a refreshing change from leaders and politicians who fill our screens with their rhetoric. I am not in any way impugning the excellent speech made by our Prime Minister at the Labour party conference this week and I am not having a sly dig en passant. I am simply saying that I would rather have a president in the White House whose actions are determined to solve the problem than a president whose rhetoric is intended to make us feel better for a while. I support the steps taken by President Bush and our own Prime Minister.
I also support the steps taken by the Secretary of State for International Development to make sure that humanitarian relief for the people of Afghanistan is handled properly. It is heartbreaking to see the women and children of that country suffer. Stories of military conflict throughout history talk about the soldiers and the leaders who send them into battle and about the consequences of success and defeat. We read very little about the women and children who are often the innocent victims of every conflict there has ever been. That applies now to the women and children of Afghanistan, and it is 718 right that we should do all we can to provide aid and to offer as much comfort as possible. That is important and I support the Government's actions.
My second point is that, like several other hon. Members, I represent a constituency in which many service men and women live and work. Many of my constituents are marines or work for the Royal Navy and Plymouth has many fine defence facilities. Many of my constituents are already in the middle east preparing for some sort of military response or are on their way there and will be involved in conflict.
Like many of my colleagues, I spend a lot of time with military personnel as they make up a large part of my constituency and I never cease to be impressed by their courage and professionalism. Those men and women know the horrors of war, but they also know their duty. I have spoken to people in my constituency in the past three weeks who know that their lives and bodies might be on the line over the next few weeks and are ready to step forward to do their duty on behalf of us all. I want to pay tribute to them and say that we in this place will think of them every day. We know that they will make us proud; they always do. Thank heavens for our excellent and professional armed personnel.
As young men and women prepare to go and fight, it occurred to me that too many of us, especially in our younger generation, have taken for granted our essential freedoms and our democracy. We seem to live in a world where we do not think that we have to pay for anything. As young men and women go to the middle east, this is a reminder that there is a price tag for our democracy and precious freedoms. It is remarkable that there are young men and women who are prepared, possibly, to pay that price.
I now come to my third and most important point. I represent a constituency with an ethnic minority population of 0.01 per cent., but I have spent a lot of time in the past few years, and in the past few weeks, meeting members of our Asian community and our Muslim community in this country. I want to say loudly and clearly from the Conservative Benches that this is not a war against Islam; this is not a war against Muslims; this is a war against a few despicable people who will go to any length to cause terror and destruction here in the west.
I have heard nothing but condemnation of the terrible atrocity from the Muslims with whom I have discussed the issue in the past few weeks, so I want to align myself with those who say that we stand shoulder to shoulder not just with our American friends but with the Muslim community in this country. This is one of those moments when we can make a difference to the future. Many young British Muslims are internalising what is going on at the moment and asking themselves where their allegiances lie. By our actions and our language in the House, we can send them a very positive signal. They are as much a part of this country as any hon. Member. They are in their home. This is their country. We are committed to building a multi-racial, multicultural Britain in the 21st century, and it is right that Opposition Members make it clear that that is our commitment to those friends, brothers and sisters in this nation.
We live in serious times, and it is important that the House rises to the challenge. We are fighting for democracy, and I applaud the Government for the steps that they have taken so far. We think of and pray for our 719 young men and women who are on their way to that troubled region, or those who are already there. Above all, through our actions and our words, it is vital that we use this terrible atrocity to build stronger community relations in this country, so that we can all look forward to a better Britain.
§ Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall)
I represent a constituency in which a large number of Muslims live. There are about 10,000 Muslim voters in my constituency. I have not met or seen any Muslim in my constituency who supports terrorism, but that does not mean that there are no individuals or groups who support terrorism, and I have seen some of their activities in my constituency.
I should like to offer my condolences to the thousands of people who lost friends and family following last month's brutal terrorist action, which represents a challenge not just to the United States, but to democratic nations across the world. Nearly 70 nations, including India and Pakistan, lost citizens in the attacks.
I have by no means been an uncritical supporter of the United States, especially in the light of some its foreign policy decisions. Too often, especially under the current Administration, the US has seemed to take the line that compromise with them means following their lead, or people get nothing at all. In the past year, America has acted in a dispiriting unilateralist way on issues such as the world criminal court and global warming, yet none of that, even by the furthest stretch of the imagination, can begin to justify the atrocity that the terrorists have committed. People who have said "I can see why this happened" are lending a dignity to those actions that they do not deserve.
Nothing can justify the deliberate taking of civilian lives, and people automatically forfeit their argument when they turn to such acts of terror, but whatever the moral confusion of those who perpetrated the terrorist acts, we have not held the people of Afghanistan responsible for them—and we should not—nor have we tried to blame any religion, despite the attempts of some to paint the coalition's moves as an attack on Islam. Such people wilfully ignore inconvenient events, such as the fact that NATO went to war against a Christian regime in Kosovo to defend a Muslim minority.
I am pleased that the coalition that is being formed and led by the United States and the United Kingdom has not simply lashed out and retaliated by, for example, the carpet bombing of Kabul. So far, the response has involved a careful assessment of the situation and a gradual and deliberate build-up of our forces. In a moving and symbolic gesture, the Security Council stood up, instead of raising its hands, in support of a motion condemning the atrocities as an unprecedented act. That reflects the rest of the world's willingness to literally stand up and be counted.
That unity has been reflected in the co-operation of some unlikely sources, and it will he essential if we are to take the next necessary steps. The Taliban must, at the very least, be made to hand over Osama bin Laden, and we are right in using targeted force to bring that about. However, the actions that we need to take, and the lessons that we need to learn, are not just in some distant conflict zones, but here at home, where we have seen some of the activities of the terrorists. I have often raised my concerns 720 in the House about the threat posed by terrorists to the west's security and those who live here. Yet, too often, the west has turned a blind eye to terrorism abroad—for example, in Kashmir, where non-Kashmiris have committed terrible atrocities in the name of religion. We should address such issues not just for humanitarian reasons, but out of self-preservation. Acts of terrorism and the religious zealotry that often inspire them have a habit of spreading.
So far, the Government's policies have tended to be too soft, and too much has been tolerated from those who support terrorism abroad and sometimes in this country in one form or another. We should, for example, be prepared to stand firm against the religious fundamentalists in this country who openly call for a holy war. The coalition that has been built up by the US and the UK should also learn from the mistakes that the west has made in the past when confronting an enemy overseas. For example, the Taliban are, in large part, a creation of the policies adopted by the US during the conflict between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. The idea of jihad had almost disappeared from the Muslim world until it was revived, under American encouragement, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The country was left full of weapons and the notion of jihad has spread far beyond the Afghan borders. Let us be cautious when choosing and arming our new allies.
The fears of those who expected the United States to respond with an immediate show of force have not been borne out, and it is now time for us to concentrate on the responsible actions that we can take at home and abroad. We have already increased the aid that we are offering to the region, and it is important that we continue to work to avert the possible humanitarian disaster. We should not make the Afghan people suffer twice for the actions of their leaders. As a member of the Select Committee on International Development, I should like to ask the Secretary of State for International Development to consider that issue.
We must also be responsible at home. Of course, none of us enjoys having our bags checked at the cinema or spending yet more time checking in at the airport, but if we are to prevent a repeat of the events in New York, we have to take precautions. Such inconveniences are a small price to pay for our safety, and they do not represent a victory for the terrorists.
Our democracies are still standing firm. They will not be beaten down by cowardly acts. We should remain vigilant about the activities of racists in this country and abroad.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)
I was in California on the west coast of America on 11 September and I agree with all right hon. and hon. Members who support the measured response by the United States Government in the aftermath of the tragedy. The attacks caused the most severe destruction on mainland America since the civil war 140 years ago. The American people suffered a great shock and I was surprised by their measured response. By the time I left America on the following Sunday, virtually every house had the stars and stripes hanging outside or planted in the garden. There was a great determination 721 among the American people to resist the challenge, not only to them, but to the rest of the western world, to our values and our democratic way of life. Central to that will be the role that our forces play in that activity.
The Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence said that action is necessary. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) said a moment ago, the campaign will not be defined by military action alone. There needs to be military action as soon as we can possibly identify targets that can be eliminated with the minimum loss of innocent lives. We must make it clear to the Government, particularly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that we will support the reallocation of funding that will be required to ensure that our troops can meet that commitment.
I welcome the Defence Secretary's announcement that he intends to review the strategic defence review. That is right and proper in the aftermath of these horrific events. Quite clearly we will need to refocus our troops in order to meet the threat from international terrorism. That will need further funding, however, and I hope that the Minister for Europe, the right hon. Member for Neath (Peter Hain), will convey to the Defence Secretary that we expect some explanation from the Government as to how they will provide the necessary troops to meet the demands that will be placed on them shortly. Our troops are already heavily committed around the world. Overstretch is a popular word, but it illustrates the difficulty that our troops face in being involved in almost continuous back-to-back operations.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) the Prime Minister said that there are no plans to call up reservists. Members expect the Government to share with us as soon as they can what specific plans they have.
We shall have to move beyond looking at the military response to the threat from Islamic fundamentalism. A few days after 11 September, President George Bush senior said that while the United States had invested a lot of money in high-technology espionage, it had neglected human intelligence. He was absolutely right. One of the secrets of our success in Northern Ireland—if that is what it has been—is that we invested a great deal in human intelligence infiltrating terrorist organisations. That is where we must now redirect substantial investment. The United Kingdom is well placed to do that. We have the expertise—we have first-class people—and we have the experience.
I now turn to the Muslim world. There is no doubt that the events of 11 September were the action of a tiny minority of Islamic fundamentalists. However, if there were 19 people on those aeroplanes those 19 people achieved more in a few minutes than an entire generation of communist Governments. They had attacked mainland America. So we have to address the serious issue of Islamic fundamentalism. The Prime Minister reminded us that bin Laden has said that killing Americans is a religious duty. It has been made absolutely clear on both sides of the House that this is not a campaign against Islam. Indeed, it relies for its success on building a coalition with the Islamic world.
I salute in particular the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) who said that we must stand firm against the tiny minority of Islamic fundamentalists in this 722 country who are doing a great disservice not just to the rest of the country, but particularly to the Islamic community as they are undermining the public perception. It may be that the newspapers are giving them more coverage than they deserve, but they are getting that coverage.
For the past five years I have been calling on successive Home Secretaries to take action against Omar Bakri Muhammad whose outpourings are offensive to the vast majority of people in this country, whether they are native British, Christian, Muslim, Jew or whatever. I was supported in my campaign by the Board of Deputies of British Jews whose then president wrote to me saying:For some time the Board of Deputies and in the Jewish community have expressed concern about this individual and the activities of his organization. Nevertheless, it appears that he has been able to continue to orchestrate a campaign of harassment against our community and in particular Jewish students on campus, whilst claiming state benefits from this country.Why on earth is he still in this country? There are others like him, and they are not only abusing our hospitality and the freedom of speech for which this House has fought for generations, but they are polluting the minds of young, susceptible Muslims in this country. British Muslims were arrested in the Yemen—Lord knows what they were doing out there. We have to get to grips with the training camps that are operating here.
I will support the Home Secretary when he brings measures before the House, albeit that it will be the third set of anti-terrorism measures in four years. For goodness sake, the time has come when judges must no longer be allowed to determine policy. Parliament must determine policy. At our briefing last week, for which I am grateful, one of my hon. Friends asked the Prime Minister to produce some judge-proof laws and there was a great roar of laughter. However, it is part of our problem. The Human Rights Act 1998 must not be allowed to stand in the way of the human rights of the great majority of people in this country who support the Government in their determination to eradicate this particularly pernicious form of international terrorism from our midst.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
There is no doubt that the events of 11 September greatly affected us all. The mass murder was wicked in its intent and I join other hon. Members in saying that it had absolutely nothing to do with Islam and in sending our sympathies to the bereaved in their suffering.
Since 11 September we have all been holding our breath, expecting the United States to act as it has done so often in the past—quickly and unilaterally. It is to the credit of the Prime Minister and others that they have held the line by going round the world establishing an international coalition. None of us would disagree with the aim of that coalition—the eradication of terrorism. That is in all our interests, not least for the sake of survival. I believe that that course of action has led to a desire for justice, not revenge. The fact that so many countries are committed to the eradication of terrorism has led to a much more mature debate. Instead of concentrating purely on the military option, the international community has also sought to address the humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding daily before us.
Millions of people are facing imminent starvation and fleeing the major cities of Afghanistan. My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) referred in 723 an intervention to the terrorism against women in that country. Some of us have raised that issue in the House in the past. It should be a source of great shame to us all that the world has looked the other way and ignored the suffering of those women. When the crisis is over, I hope that international attention will turn to the plight of women, not only in Afghanistan but in other countries of the world, and that we get rid of the nonsense that such things are done in the name of religion or of culture. Human rights are human rights and we should not deal with those who daily deny the human rights of others.
The overwhelming priority must be the saving of the Afghan people—we have to get food, shelter and medicines into Afghanistan. In that way, we will win the people's friendship and trust. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said, whatever happens in the coming weeks, we cannot expose the Afghan people to yet another western-funded regime that is no better than the Taliban. A cursory examination of the so-called "Northern Alliance" reveals that many of its members are up to their murderous necks in the blood of innocent Afghans. Any future Government in Afghanistan must be founded on democratic values and on the restoration of civic movements and of law and order. That means a United Nations mandate.
I do not think that it will be possible to eradicate terrorism unless we understand and, more importantly, address the deep-rooted alienation from which the terrorists derive legitimacy and support. The eye-for-an-eye brigade will level the charge of excusing mass murder against those who want explanations and understanding, but that is a nonsensical charge designed to gag those who want debate—well, we shall not be silenced.
People must have noticed that the loudest applause during the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour party conference came when he acknowledged the festering sore that is the middle east. To the assertion that Israel wants secure boundaries, I reply that Palestinians want a state and it should not be beyond the wit of the international community to give them that.
We have to stop ignoring Kashmir. The people of Kashmir have a right to determine the future of their state—the UN resolution has been on the books since 1948. Why do we not listen to the friendly voices in the Gulf who tell us that we are alienating millions of Muslims by constantly bombing the people of Iraq and starving them through sanctions? That is a cruel policy and it is time that it was lifted. Half a million Iraqi children have died in the past 10 years—that is not a price worth paying.
I want the end of the Taliban. That is our common aim. However, bombing the poorest country in the world using cruise missiles at $1 million a time will not hold the coalition together or do anything to save the millions of starving Afghans.
I want the people who committed that heinous crime to be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court. That means that the Americans have to come on board and abide by the decisions of the ICC. The world changed on 11 September, most of all for the United States of America. The Americans now accept that they are as vulnerable as the rest of us to such mindless acts. If we want security, we must use international solutions: that means the United Nations.
724 The subject on which I shall end my speech is one that could not be mentioned at my party's conference: national missile defence. One thing is clear: NMD would neither have detected nor have prevented the terrorist attack that took place on 11 September. However, it seems that President Bush remains determined to go ahead. Before the attacks, NMD was already having a destabilising effect on international relations. On 22 August, President Bush said that the United States was preparing to withdraw unilaterally from the anti-ballistic missile treaty.
The Prime Minister has gained worldwide approval for his role in creating the international coalition. He has made much of our friendship with America, and it is true that we are her closest allies. However, he should tell his friends the truth. He could play an important role by withholding endorsement of NMD.
National missile defence is opposed by the European Union, by most members of the United Nations and by 276 Members of Parliament. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs advised against it, as have many others. It is not a defensive system; it is offensive and we should have nothing to do with it. The Prime Minister could help to make the world far more peaceful by telling the Americans that NMD is no good. NMD does not protect this country, it makes it a more dangerous place and exposes the British people to greater peril.
§ 1.5 pm
§ Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)
These are difficult times. No one should underestimate the shock suffered by the United States and its citizens as a result of the terrorist outrages of 11 September; nor, simply because other countries' citizens, including our own, were killed in smaller numbers, should we forget that the crisis with which we now have to deal is truly international. It is international in terms of its repercussions for peace; for almost every domestic national economy and sector of it; for world trade, regional stability, diplomacy, military preparation and action; for the starving and for the rich; for those of faith and for those of no beliefs. That much is easy to say, because the problems are easy to describe.
In times such as these, it is understandable that even the English language runs short of words—or perhaps it is more accurate to say that those of us with some knowledge of the language find it hard to do anything other than resort to cliché. However, I do not want any clichés that I use in my speech today to inhibit me from asking us to think a little about the role of the House in the conduct of our national affairs.
Before doing that, I ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when he winds up the debate, to reassure us that the Government are not going to introduce compulsory identity cards in order to combat terrorism. I know that other countries use them and that many of us willingly carry means of identification. ID cards have their uses, but they are not an answer to terrorism, as the hijackers showed us on 11 September. Terrorism is countered in the mind of the individual and by public opinion at one level, and by intelligence and evidence at the other. Let us use the weapons that we have already on the statute book, under the common law, and in the alliances that we have and are now building before turning to such measures as ID cards, which hold a spurious attraction for the busy politician.
ID cards are but fool's gold in the current crisis. Their only use would be to identify the remains of the innocent victims of the next attack, unless we prevent it through 725 knowing who our enemy is, where he is, what his strengths and weaknesses are, what are his numbers and where he next intends to attack. That takes intelligence, not ID cards. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), the shadow Foreign Secretary, said, our intelligence services need better funding to carry out that work.
I accept that in times of crisis any Prime Minister must be provided with the freedom to act quickly and effectively to protect the integrity of the country and its institutions and to safeguard its people. I applaud what the Prime Minister has said and done so far. I accept that not every decision that has to be taken can be taken following lengthy deliberations in the House or consultation with every interested party. I accept without question that when the Prime Minister says he has evidence against bin Laden that he cannot share with us in full, he is speaking the truth. The burdens on Prime Ministers at times such as these must be awful, knowing that they must take decisions that may well lead to young lives being lost or put at risk.
A former Law Lord, the late Lord Pearce, said during the 1968 case of Conway v. Rimmer that in times of national emergencythe flame of individual right and justice must burn more palely when it is ringed by the more dramatic light of bombed buildings.Article 15 of the European convention on human rights permits a member state to take measures derogating from its obligations under the conventionin time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with other obligations under international law.I hope that that is of some comfort to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth). However, there are limits beyond which a state may not go, even in grave emergencies. It is open to question whether and how far the normal restraints on Government must yield to the higher interests of the state.
That is not a new dilemma. For many years, we have had to struggle with the proper approach to the contest between individual rights and the needs of Government. In the first and second world wars, a wide range of emergency powers was given to the Executive to make general regulations and to take administrative decisions restricting civil liberties. In the first world war, the Home Secretary could order the internment of anyone he considered of hostile association, and in the second he could detain without trial those whom he had reasonable cause to believe were hostile or had been involved in acts prejudicial to public safety. Draconian powers to restrict the free movement of individuals still exist under the Emergency Powers Acts of 1920 and 1964, but they have not been imposed at any other time of war since 1945, including during the Korean war, the Suez crisis, the Falklands war or the Gulf war.
A terrible wrong has been committed and thousands of innocent people going about their daily lives had their existence snuffed out at the whim of a collection of evil fanatics. Yet more thousands of the victims' relations must live on with only the memories of their loved ones to cling to and, worse, their deaths broadcast time after time on the television. What effect all of that must have had on all of them is too horrific to contemplate; but 726 terrible though the events of 11 September were, no matter how far reaching the economic, political and social consequences of the outrages may yet prove to be, it cannot in all reason be said that we are facing—to quote another international definition of an emergency—an exceptional crisis affecting the whole population amounting to a threat to its organised life.The political and administrative functions of government at federal, state and city level in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania continue, as do their equivalents more or less everywhere in the world, except perhaps in Afghanistan where they have not recently existed in any form that we would recognise or respect.
With that in mind let us remind ourselves that there are no constitutional restraints on the assumption of emergency powers in the United Kingdom. The parliamentary and legal precedents do not make a constitutional distinction between those periods of war and national emergency when it may be justifiable to grant the Executive some special powers, and other periods when it would be less appropriate. We cannot under our constitutional arrangements guarantee against the indefinite prolongation of emergency powers, even by special majority. Many of the emergency powers assumed by the Government during the second world war were preserved or renewed for a number of years after hostilities ceased.
We must do our duty as elected Members of Parliament, sent here to protect the interests and rights of our constituents, as well as the country we live in. The sheer size of this Government's majority may have made some of us forgetful, but to hold this or any Government to account or to criticise this Prime Minister for some of his more fanciful rhetorical excursions is not the same as spitting in church. We in Parliament are the only brake on Government power that the constitution recognises. Let us therefore set the limit beyond which the Executive must not be permitted to go. Let us carefully consider any Bills that are put before us and to the best of our collective knowledge, experience and common sense grant to the Government only those extraordinary powers which they can persuade us that they need.
I welcome this and the earlier recall of Parliament. Now, at this time of crisis, we need to see the Prime Minister metaphorically, if not literally, chained by one wrist to the Dispatch Box, so that he and the Government are reminded of their relationship with the electorate. At this time of crisis we should not only do our duty to the electorate and our country in standing up for the rights of Parliament, but show the planners and perpetrators of the outrages of 11 September that parliamentary democracy matters and that parliamentary democracy can play its part in vanquishing terror.
§ Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)
I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Gamier) on an excellent speech. His central point about the need for the Government through Parliament to be accountable to the people is desperately important at a time when we risk jeopardising some of our fundamental freedoms if we get the balance wrong. When we seek possibly to make war, those same constraints on the Government of the will of the people and accountability to the public must apply.
727 Like many other Members, my constituency has a large number of Muslims. It is not only Muslims who are offended by any attempt to whip up disagreement between the Muslim community in Britain or, indeed, worldwide and humanity generally on this issue. There was an attempt to burn down a mosque in the neighbouring constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I have attended that mosque and many of my constituents go there. I suggest that Opposition Members may like to consider whether they wish formally to make it clear that they dissent from what Lady Thatcher said. Her remarks were not only offensive but incredibly damaging to society, particularly in terms of building consensus about the need for action against terrorism which will command the support of all sectors of society, Muslims and non-Muslims. I have attended mosques where it has been made clear that the actions in New York were anti-Islamic and deserve condemnation by people of any faith. We need to establish that clear understanding of where modern Britain's interests lie. It is not in division between Muslims and non-Muslims.
How do we respond to terrorism? I listened to a former senior United States diplomat who was responsible for negotiating parts of the nuclear arms control treaties among other things. He pointed out how within a short space of time it would be possible for terrorists to take possession of nuclear weaponry, not by missile delivery or even in such a way as to require missile defence to be deterred, but in a suitcase, and to destroy not 7,000 people but perhaps 700,000 or 7 million people. That is a profound point. We must make sure that our society can act firmly and destroy the capacity of terrorists to threaten every one of us.
In a remarkable speech, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) rightly reminded us that it is obscene for a four-year-old child to die as a potential perpetrator of further hatred. What nonsense—what a vile, bitter view of this world. Every state has an obligation to defend its citizens, and a prime part of that is now defence against terrorism.
I understand the need to take action to wipe out those who committed the crime in New York and those who support them, but I caution the Government. If we are to maintain this worldwide coalition that we will need not just for this one action but in the long haul, we must maintain the credibility of the coalition's actions. Therefore, we must give real meaning to the concept of proportionality—though goodness knows what it means after the events in New York. That means that when the Prime Minister and the American Administration rightly say that there is to be no attempt at revenge, they mean it.
I have a letter from the father of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing. I have come to know him over the years. He says that he has lived through terrorism and does not want to see revenge post Lockerbie or now post New York. He is right. What we seek is, of course, justice. We also seek the capacity to stop terrorists. That is very different from revenge.
We see the military mind move towards mission creep—what starts off as a neatly contained operation becomes something very different. I ask my colleagues on the Treasury Bench to think very carefully about the objectives of our campaign. Yes, the Prime Minister is entitled to support so long as we are clear about what we are trying to achieve. He in turn must be clear that he is 728 accountable for ensuring that the military are not allowed to go down that seductive path which takes us way beyond a proportionate and proper response into a world not only of vengeance but one which allows discordant voices to say to moderate Arabs, for example, "You are now backing the wrong side." We have seen a little of that in our handling of other issues in the middle east, particularly in respect of Iraq, and perhaps we now need to consider fundamentally the lack of success of the policies that we have pursued there.
We must have a sense of proportion more generally. I am delighted that in this campaign against international terror we are talking about the inclusion of the Chinese and Russians. The campaign makes sense only if we bring on board such powers. We are not building an unconditional coalition. If in the desire to build a world coalition, we give up, for example, the right to raise serious issues, we fundamentally undermine the whole reason for building the coalition in the first place. Let me refer specifically to relations with President Putin, who is trying to move Russia forward. He is entitled to say to us in the west, "You never recognise the terrorist threat to my country from Chechnya." However, we would not be right to ignore the human rights abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya.
If we are building the coalition, let us build it on the basis that we know what our objectives are. Let us recognise that our response has to be proportionate—it should not be about vengeance but about taking out the terrorists to protect us all and to guarantee the safety of our citizens. Let us not lose sight of the fact that what makes us different from the terrorists is that we will not sanction everything.
I can remember when Governments who are our close friends allowed terrorists to operate in their name in places such as Nicaragua. Let us not forget that. Let us not forget that we cannot move back to a world of hypocrisy if we are to defeat terrorism. We will defeat terrorism by building a world of values. We should maintain that sense of values in everything we do.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)
On behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party, I welcome the statements by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I note with gratitude that there has been an inevitable but welcome cooling of language, particularly this week with the Prime Minister's important speech to the Labour party conference and his statement to the House today. It comes on top of the cool response so far by President Bush and the United States Government. I confess that, like many other hon. Members, I have been surprised by that cool response, but I am very grateful for it and welcome it. It is a tremendous credit to the United States level of democracy and to its Government that they have been able to respond in that way, to stay their hand to date and to build an international coalition to deal with these matters.
We accept that there is a natural right to self-defence for any country and also a right under the United Nations charter, but I think it is fair to say that the actions being discussed go beyond that. The talk is about war, about international action against other countries. I make it clear that we would not support or condone the United Kingdom going to war against the Afghan people.
729 Both our parties accept that military action may form part of the dismantling of al-Qaeda and the network that has supported terrorist atrocities. We accept the evidence of bin Laden's guilt in previous atrocities, which in themselves would justify the taking apart of his network. We accept that, following the New York and Washington horrors, there is an implication that would demand that bin Laden and his associates be brought to international justice, but in trying to achieve that we must remember that the shedding of blood would be the fertiliser for further terrorism. The new world order that has been talked about so much recently cannot be built on blood. That is not bleeding heart liberalism. There is no example of terrorism or a terrorist movement being defeated by military action alone.
I think that the Government accept that in the way they have talked so much about the wide coalition of states that need to take action. Now that we are talking more seriously and directly about how to bring bin Laden to justice, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, we must ask what the objectives of that action are. The first question that I put to the Secretary of State for Defence is whether all negotiations have been exhausted, particularly in the light of some recent movements coming out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am not clear whether the Government's aims still rest just with al-Qaeda as a movement, whether we are extending our military aims to the Taliban themselves, which I accept is a horrendous regime, or indeed whether the Government will listen to the siren voices who want us to extend military action to Iraq and even Iran, Libya and other countries that have undoubtedly sponsored international terrorism in the past.
This then must be the opportunity for the United Nations. Any world order needs to be based on global governance and global policing. We already have that establishment: it is the UN. We have already had an important UN resolution on terrorism, but how much more powerful would it be if we could get a UN resolution supporting the military steps that the Government and the United States Government are discussing? That would surely bring on board other countries that are wavering over that action.
It is worth recalling in that context that in allowing self-defence the UN charter also demands that countries going to war or considering going to war seek redress first in the International Court of Justice. Those international institutions have been under-used and undervalued in the past, particularly by some of those who are talking about a new world order, so the lesson must be that we must work with those institutions and international agreements such as that on Kyoto and the International Criminal Court and desist whenever we can from unilateral action. Of course, it is possible to have unilateral action that includes more than one partner.
We accept that the difficulty is that the Taliban are not the recognised Government of Afghanistan. They are a usurping Government. Indeed, Pakistan hardly has a legitimate Government. Again I ask the Secretary of State whether there are discussions and thoughts to create a UN mandate for Afghanistan and possibly a UN protectorate to deal with the huge humanitarian problems that will flow from whatever action is taken.
730 Finally with regard to the United Nations, a vital question that was raised by the leader of the Liberal Democrats is why the evidence against bin Laden cannot be shared with the Security Council. It would send a clear message to the Arab countries about the way in which the Government seek to work. Is there any country on the Security Council that we do not trust to see the evidence on international terrorism? If we do not trust any country on the Security Council to see that evidence, our fight against international terrorism is over before it has begun.
I have tremendous admiration for those who may be about to lay their lives down for this country and for international justice. I want their efforts and the risks that they are taking to be effective and to bring results. That is why I believe that United Nations involvement will be vital in the long-term aim that the Prime Minister set out in his speech to the Labour party conference. If we are to commit our forces in that way to settle conflicts and to fight terrorism, we must do everything at home to minimise the dangers to our own forces.
On the day of the horrors in New York, an arms trade fair took place in London sponsored by the Government, at which arms were being sold to both sides in the civil war in Uganda, a war which we may now want to get involved in following the Prime Minister's new vision. There are obvious things that we must learn about our way of dealing with international conflict and the arms trade.
As many hon. Members have said, it is not a conflict between civilisation and barbarism, between east and west. We have much more in common: our common humanity. We need to take the opportunity to condemn and ensure the elimination of attacks on Muslims, which I regret to say have occurred both in Wales and Scotland over the past three weeks. In looking at the legislation that the Government will introduce on such matters, both our parties will be totally open-minded on the way forward.
I add only one warning, of which the Government must be aware. Despotic Governments have used accusations of terrorism against their opponents. Those opponents often come to our shores seeking asylum. We must be careful that we do not exclude such people who have been targets of state-sponsored terrorism.
We need to recognise that only bread and dignity bring peace. Dignity may be restored if the outstanding issues surrounding Palestine are resolved. There has been a welcome move in that regard by the Government. The bread that we need to bring forth is the increase in spending on international and overseas aid. We still do not spend 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product on such aid, which we agreed to 25 years ago and reaffirmed in an international agreement in Rio in 1992. We need to uphold those international agreements. The £25 million announced today for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, although welcome, will not, I suspect, be enough. In all our actions, let us feed bodies and minds, not hatred.
§ Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West)
May I join other right hon. and hon. Members in expressing my horror and outrage at the events of 11 September and my deep sympathy, as well as that of my constituents, the people of Dunfermline and west Fife, for all those who lost a loved one, a colleague or a friend on that dreadful day?
Credit is due to the United States President and Administration for the manner in which they have resisted the pressure they must have come under to take immediate 731 retaliatory action and instead opt for considered short-term and long-term approaches. Like other hon. Members, I pay tribute to the key and pivotal role that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the UK Government have played in building and strengthening a global alliance, which rapidly formed to express its horror at what happened on 11 September.
It is difficult to find something to say that has not already been said in the thousands, if not millions, of words that have been spoken in the past three and a half weeks. Therefore, in the limited time available I shall focus on just one or two aspects of the implications for defence and security of the events of 11 September. I join others in paying tribute to the UK armed forces, who have already played a role in events so far and look certain to do so in the weeks ahead.
It is vital that international terrorism is combated by measures on a range of fronts. I welcome those that have already been taken to restrict the financing of terrorism, to share intelligence much more coherently and effectively, to co-operate in policing and to build a global alliance the likes of which we are unlikely to see again in our lifetimes. Although I recognise that there are no quick fixes or easy answers, I believe that action on all fronts is required.
On defence, those who believe that a homeland policy is the answer are clearly wrong. No nation, however large its army, air force or navy and however massive its equipment, can singlehandedly take on this type of international terrorism and be effective. As Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King's college, said in a newspaper article last month, the attacks of 11 Septemberchallenge the western military ethos which is dominated by talk of precision strikes against military targets".I had heard the term "asymmetric warfare" before 11 September, but I now understand more clearly what it means. High-tech, super, lethal weapons count for nothing if one does not know in which direction to fire them and has no clear military targets or infrastructure at which to aim them.
The United Kingdom needs to look again at its strategic defence review and what it said about dealing with such terrorist threats. We must look at the configuration of the rapid reaction forces and at the level and capacity of our special forces. We must consider the most appropriate attack methods when dealing with an enemy that deliberately targets innocent civilians and ensures that they are in the firing line of any military response.
We are dealing with an enemy who pays no regard to the Geneva conventions. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said earlier, we are dealing with an enemy with whom we cannot negotiate because it seeks no rational political objectives, only the destruction and extermination of those it hates using violent means.
We must also review our defence procurement to see what equipment, weaponry and logistical support we need to counteract international terrorism. We must look even more carefully at those to whom we export defence equipment and do our utmost to support the UN Secretary-General's call on Monday for tighter restrictions on biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. It is clear that the terrorists will use them if they can obtain them and transport them in a rucksack, holdall or suitcase.
732 The events of 11 September have implications for the operation of NATO. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss some of those implications with fellow parliamentarians from NATO member countries in the near future. I welcome NATO's decision that article 5 was relevant provided that evidence was received confirming that the United States had been attacked from outside. I understand that NATO ambassadors received that evidence this week.
I also welcome NATO's recognition that it is a transatlantic alliance and that we must offer the US support in return for the support that it has provided to us over the years. However, NATO must accept that a monolithic military response to international terrorism is hardly appropriate and must consider the terms of the Washington treaty agreed in 1999.
Like many who have already spoken, I hope that in the weeks and months ahead we shall continue to find new ways of working that will bring bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice, bring food and shelter to the Afghan people, and result in the end of a brutal and oppressive Taliban regime and its replacement by an interim Government acceptable to all parties under the auspices of the United Nations. I hope that we shall see a better world, free from fear, oppression and poverty.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
I share the sense of many in the House at this time of seriousness, and I understand something of what people in Washington and New York went through. I welcome the humanitarian approach of the mayor of New York, who is reported to be giving caskets to some 5,000 people with some of the ashes from the remains of the World Trade Centre. I say that I understand it because I have had to officiate at funerals where the only evidence of a person's body was a wedding ring. Two lovely young women were killed with others in an indiscriminate attack on a hotel. When we are dealing with international terrorism, there is no difference between New York and Newton Abbey, or between Warrenpoint and Washington.
We speak about tightening our laws, whereas it might be wiser if we were to implement some of them. Earlier in our debate, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said that, when in government, he had fought terrorism for four years. The then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke, admitted that the Government had not used the full rigour of the law in dealing with terrorism in Northern Ireland.
We talk about our forces being called into action in the service of the free world, to free Afghanistan if necessary from the thrall of the Taliban. I trust that, in our humanitarian concern, we shall not just welcome Tommy when he is in action and forget him when he is at home, as we did after the Gulf war and as we have done, dare I say, in the case of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who have been cast aside as a sop to terrorism. Why do I say that? It is because Gerry Adams is on record as saying that even the new police service that we seek to devise in Northern Ireland will simply be treated the same as the RUC was if any Catholics join that force.
We have to start being realistic in dealing with terrorism, wherever it comes from. I join those who condemn the attacks on Muslims as individuals and on 733 their mosques, and I support the leader of the Muslim community in south Belfast, who has gone on the record complaining about them. Whether the attack on the mosque in south Belfast was the work of a particular racist or a reaction to what happened in New York, it could easily be the result of an endemic violence which means that halls, churches and homes are attacked day in, day out by elements of the community who have grown up with a sense of lawlessness. Sometimes when people are brought before the courts one would almost think that the prosecuting police officers were the guilty ones, rather than the people in the dock. That is something that we have to face in implementing our laws.
I am not doing now what I did when I tried to table a question asking a Minister what his interpretation of the law was, and was told that that would not be acceptable, because the courts, not Ministers, interpret the law. I said, "So that means that we who pass these laws here in Parliament don't know what we meant by them." We talk about tightening the laws, and I hope that when we do that we will be more explicit and will not simply provide a haven for barristers and solicitors to make more money out of disputations over meaning.
We are speaking about humanitarian issues, but I note that not once during the debate have I heard a reference to the humanitarian workers who were already working in Afghanistan seeking to help impoverished people. Those workers are now prisoners of the Taliban regime, and they were imprisoned before 11 September. We must bear in mind those who pay a price when they seek to help people in some parts of the world. I understand that there are at least two people from the United Kingdom, some from Australasia and some from Germany, as well as several native Afghan citizens.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) say that the attack on the World Trade Centre was without purpose. I do not know where he has been, because it is significant that 11 September is a historic date, and bin Laden was aware of it. He was giving a message to the western world. If any of us minimise that we will not be keeping our eye on the ball as we deal with his intentions and those of the others whom he has gathered around him.
I appreciate the calm building up of an alliance, but it is sometimes a little like our missionary enterprises in the Christian church, in that many good men pray that the Lord's will be done, but add, "Don't send me, send my sister." When things begin to go wrong, it will he a moment of testing. How many members of the alliance will stand together when the issues have to be dealt with? I have more trust in our own steel, and in that of the United States, to see through to the end that to which we have set our hands.
Intelligence is necessary. We have been told that Washington was taken by surprise. I understand some of the difficulties of intelligence gathering, but I could not help but think back to my visit to Washington two weeks before the Shah of Persia was overthrown. Apparently, the CIA had known nothing about it, and his overthrow took them unawares. They knew that there was some agitation, but they did not think that anything would happen. However, an Iranian taxi driver in Washington told me a fortnight in advance that the Shah would be overthrown.
734 I wonder to what extent the difficulty has been not that there has not been enough intelligence, but how far bureaucrats and politicians—
§ Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
I apologise to the House because I will not be here for the winding-up speeches. I have to deal with a personal problem at that time.
I welcome the fact that we are having a debate here today, but we should be slightly careful about parading British democracy all around the world, when this Parliament is almost unique in having no right to vote on the deployment of British forces anywhere in the world. That is done through the royal prerogative, by the Prime Minister. We should look a little more to our own parliamentary procedures.
I listened with care to the speech by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), and recalled that he had rather strongly opposed General Pinochet being brought to trial anywhere in the world under any kind of international procedures, and then mounted quite a severe attack on the British judicial system. We should be careful. For good historical reasons, we have a separation of powers between Parliament and the judiciary—and that separation should remain. We in this Parliament have knowingly, freely and deliberately passed a Human Rights Act that brings the conventions on human rights into British law. I fully support and understand that. That includes in our law the prohibition of the death penalty, and it means that we should not deport anyone from this country to anywhere where they would face the death penalty. The same applies in any other country that has abolished the death penalty. It does not help our cause in opposing any terrorist act if we reduce our own standards and diminish our own laws.
We should be careful about how we label organisations. Last week, as I came away from the Muslim welfare centre in my constituency, I was asked to do an interview for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. They asked me what my concerns were about civil liberties in this country. My reply was that I was concerned about the easy way in which organisations and people inconvenient to the current British need are labelled terrorists and condemned as such. I recalled that less than half a mile away stood, for the best part of 25 years, the offices of the African National Congress and the South West Africa People's Organisation. Successive Prime Ministers, and one in particular—although never Labour Prime Ministers—labelled those as terrorist organisations, but they now form the Governments of Namibia and South Africa, and President Mandela is now, rightly, a revered figure throughout the world.
I attended Friday prayers at the Seven Sisters mosque in Finsbury Park last week, and there were 1,500 people there. Many of them were terrified of the abuse that they had received on the streets, and that their shops had received. They were terrified of the bottles thrown through windows and the way in which women had been abused on the streets for wearing Islamic clothes. Their whole religion had been denigrated because President Bush started off on 11 September saying things like, 735 "This is a war between civilisation and the rest of the world." I do not think that he had thought about what he was saying, but the danger is that such language, parroted by the worst aspects of the British media, becomes an open sesame for nasty racists on the streets of inner London to have a go at anyone whom they believe to be Islamic. As I was walking away from the Labour party conference I heard teenagers in Brighton, seeing somebody whom they perceived to be a Muslim on the other side of the street, start shouting "bin Laden" at him. That is the kind of dangerous harmful nonsense that goes on.
No one among the 1,500 people at the mosque in Finsbury Park did anything other than condemn what happened to the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and they did not want any more deaths. I had the impression that they were also concerned about launching a military attack on Afghanistan, which would not bring back any of those who tragically died in New York or Washington, but would result in civilian casualties and could unleash a chain of events in which this country would be sucked into an Afghan civil war.
We have to think a little more carefully about the history of Afghanistan, including the west's support of the mujaheddin against the Soviet-backed Government in the late 1970s and early 1980s, its funding of the mujaheddin, the mujaheddin's spawning of the Taliban and the CIA's funding of the bin Laden organisation. Bin Laden used that money to build bunkers throughout Afghanistan. For all we know, he could have done the same in many other places. What goes around comes around. I hope that people in the United States, in their terror and understandable desire to see an end to any terrorist threat, think also about some of the regimes and friendships that they have spawned over the years, and the production and financing of the phalanx of organisations that currently exists.
In the construction of a global alliance against terrorism, we should think a little more carefully about the human rights records and perceptions of some of the countries that are involved. When the Prime Minister travels to Moscow—I imagine that he is already on his way there—and meets President Putin this evening, I hope that he will convey the condemnation of millions of people around the world of the activities of the Russian army in Chechnya and of what it is doing to ordinary people there. When images of what is happening are translated into other parts of the world, many people are horrified, just as we are horrified by what happened to the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on 11 September. If we are serious about the rule of law and human rights, we must be very careful to condemn abuses of human rights, whoever commits them, whoever they are committed against and however uncomfortable or inconvenient it is for us to do so. If we are not consistent, we will, understandably, receive the charge of hypocrisy.
When President Bush talks about bringing bin Laden or whoever else to justice, I try to work out what sort of justice he means. Successive United States Administrations have specifically ignored or condemned decisions of the world court that were inconvenient for them. For example, the United States refused to accept views on the mining of harbours in Nicaragua and questions about the validity of nuclear weapons. Specifically, it refused to sign up to the International Criminal Court conventions, which is one of the reasons 736 why the court has not yet been established. If we are such a close friend of the United States, cannot we use our relationship as a basis to persuade it that, in the interests of justice and of causing no more needless deaths, we must have an international rule of law and a proper international court at which criminals can be brought to justice? Cannot we persuade it that, instead of using the United Nations only for humanitarian aid—although God knows plenty of aid is currently needed—we must respect the fact that if we want a world order that is based on justice, a world body must administer it. I do not believe that the Pentagon or NATO can administer world justice. The United Nations provides the basis and principle that are needed.
People around the world have many different views. Everyone is horrified at what happened—
§ Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk)
However else we define this act of terrorism—Ministers, other hon. Members and the media have used a wide variety of definitions—we must be aware that it has a political objective. The terrorists might be motivated by the desire to hurt people and there may be a criminal element, but if hon. Members fail to recognise that there is a political purpose, they will underestimate what these people are trying to achieve.
A number of hon. Members have spoken about the failure or inadequacy of the western intelligence services. I shall not speak about those issues in detail, although many lessons must obviously be learned. Far more important is our underestimation of the international terrorists. These people were not idiots or some form of militant headbangers on cocaine. They carefully planned what they were going to do and achieved their objective. If they had not done so, we would not be here today. Let us not underestimate what they achieved. Without praising their actions in any way, I remind the House that they achieved a stupendous and successful first, as far as they saw it. They co-ordinated widespread international activity to crash two American airliners in the centre of New York and to bring down a world symbol, and they managed to land an aircraft on the centre of American military power, the Pentagon. Without the bravery of the passengers and crew on another airliner, they might well have taken out the White House. The international repercussions are enormous. Although many people are prepared to condemn these acts, we should all be aware that some men and women around the world are not only toasting what happened but thinking that the west is incredibly vulnerable.
It gives me no pleasure to flag up my suspicion that the United States Government, the British Government and those of Germany and other countries were in full and absolute panic after what happened on 11 September. They had every reason to panic. Our national security had been directly breached in an unimaginable way and we could do nothing about it. It is a sobering thought that an American President has devolved huge responsibility and given to two senior American air force generals the right to shoot down any American or international airliner that might present a major terrorist threat, if they think that such action is required.
737 We must rethink our approach to the problem. I believe that the Americans are rightly in a state of shock. For the first time, the United States of America itself has come under direct attack. Yes, it has had terrorist incidents before, but it has now been attacked directly and in the most appalling way. It is no longer an island that is isolated from the rest of the world, and that will have a major impact on American foreign and defence policy. As a by-product, casualty limitation, which has become an honourable principle of war in the United States and in NATO, has now disappeared entirely. The United States is determined to bring the culprits to book and is now prepared to tolerate military casualties for the simple reason that 6,000-odd civilians died. Whether we like it or not, it will be acting in a more robust manner.
One of the major lessons that we are learning is that, whatever the arguments in terms of morality, international relations and everything else, all western Governments—let me say that I endorse the actions taken by our Government—must not only think about how to stop what happened on 11 September from happening again, but hunt down the people who did it. If the perpetrators are not brought to international or national justice, other organisations will repeat the attacks. They will either commit a copycat crime, although that is probably unlikely, or do what other hon. Members have talked about and use chemical, biological or—God forbid—nuclear weapons. It is the task of our Government and security forces not to refight the last battle, but to think in conjunction with others about how to prevent any repetition of the attacks.
Amid all the consequences of 11 September, an impact has been felt in the House of Commons on the two days on which it has sat during the recess. Not only have party politics on the whole disappeared and domestic politics been put on a back burner, but the Prime Minister rightly invited to No. 10 the leading members of the main Select Committees that are directly involved. I urge the members and Chairmen of those Committees to take the initiative. In the past—I speak as a former special adviser under Lady Thatcher's Government—Select Committees have all too often been seen merely as talking shops with little influence and impact. They were almost "annoying, but irrelevant". However, I believe that, following the Prime Minister's invitation, they have an important role to play, not least because I think our own public are worried about the future. They are not just worried about the fact that we may find ourselves involved in widespread military action; they are deeply apprehensive about future terrorist acts. With the best will in the world, our Government and the American Government—apart from taking some defensive steps—have not come up with a foolproof answer, and I do not expect them to.
When Parliament returns, we shall need a major debate. As I have said, however, we should be in no doubt about this: 11 September was a major terrorist success, there are some very nasty people out there who wish to do a copycat, and it is our task to make certain that we support our Government to ensure that that does not happen.
§ 2.1 pm
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush)
Last Tuesday, in a remarkable speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke for me and, I suspect, 738 many millions around the world. There were three reasons for that. First, my right hon. Friend was very clear, and very focused on what needed to be done to deal with the immediate emergency: that included taking the necessary and appropriate military action. Secondly and very importantly, he indicated that he understood some of the circumstances—particularly the instability in the middle east and surrounding countries—that aggravate these problems.
In saying that, however, my right hon. Friend did not fall into a trap into which many do fall: that of saying that being able to explain the circumstances that aggravate the political or economic instability of regions such as this somehow excuses those who take or organise terrorist actions. There can be no excuse. There can be no excuse for individuals, groups or nation states. That is why it may well be appropriate and necessary to deal with some aspects of the Taliban regime.
It is important to understand this. If we do not, we shall make another mistake that people make and assume that Arabs in particular—I have many Arab constituents—have not the free will and the ability to solve some of the problems in their own countries, and to know that those problems exist. They do know; and they resent the implication, often made with good intentions, that Saddam Hussein and others of his kind—including the Taliban—are there only because of what the west, or the United States, has done.
Those people know that there is a democratic deficit in some of their countries. They know that there is a human rights deficit. They know that some of what the west has done aggravates those problems, and they know in particular that the double standards between Israel and Palestine cause a lot of discontent on the streets. I agree with them about that. But never—please—make the mistake of assuming that because somehow or other the west gets its actions wrong in such areas, that justifies the reaction of either terrorist groups or, indeed, the Saddam Husseins of this world. My Arab constituents resent that assumption. They believe—they know—who is responsible for the misery of the Afghan people and for that of the Iraqi people, and it is not the west.
Thirdly, the Prime Minister spoke for me by doing something incredibly important: he put this destructive act in a context in which something optimistic could be built from it at the end of the day. We may well—I think we will—secure greater international agreement on how to deal with violence of one type or another, and that alone is important. We may—indeed, we must—put more emphasis on resolving the difficulties between Palestine and Israel. I agree with almost all that has been said about that so far, and about the all-important need to ensure that Israel recognises its responsibilities to move in that regard.
Let no one dismiss the hope that the Prime Minister expressed last Tuesday for a better world; the only people who object to it are cynics and depressives. Of course it can be dismissed, as one or two rather right-wing journalists did when speaking to me on Tuesday night. They said, "You will never deliver it." Well, I would far rather enter this century—this millennium—with that expression of hope, and that agenda, than ever to return to the agendas of the past, when it was assumed that war could not be prevented, that it was not possible to go in for peacekeeping, and that it was not possible to deal with 739 the Rwandas and the Bosnias. We can. We did it in Bosnia, and, as the Prime Minister said, we should have done it in Rwanda.
The real danger underlying so much of this—we are all aware of it, although we may not have expressed it in these words—is that of a clash between civilisations and religions if we mishandle it. Pakistan is crucial: it contains 143 million people, it has a nuclear weapon, and if it becomes unstable—it is already unstable, in fact, but if it becomes another Iraq or, indeed, Iran of the 1980s—we shall be in serious trouble. The handling of this is therefore very important, which is why it is right to keep emphasising the importance of Islam.
By Islam I mean not just a religion—I speak as one who has very little time for any religion, as I am not religious—but a civilisation. I dearly hope that the BBC will show the programmes that it featured late at night before 11 September at an earlier time, because those programmes were exceptionally good. They told people about Islam and what it stood for. There are fundamentalists in all walks of life—in religion, and in politics. Fundamentalists and authoritarians are the danger, not any particular religious or political belief. I say that with some feeling.
I want to emphasise something else. This is why I particularly wanted to speak in the debate. The Afghan taxi driver from my constituency who, when I checked the other day, was still lying in intensive care paralysed from the neck down, is there not just because of the bigotry and religious hatred that can boil around, but because of incredible ignorance. What sort of people did not put two and two together? Why did they not think, "Perhaps this guy is an Afghan refugee; if he is, he may have problems with the Taliban; therefore, he may be our friend rather than our enemy"? It is not just wicked; it is incredibly stupid.
My last point has already been made by a couple of Members. There is a danger of people being anti-American. This country has good reason to draw some lessons from history. Let us look back at a few pages of history. It may surprise people to know that, 100 years ago almost to the day, The New York Times described Britain as a great power that was destined to rule the world. The French and the Germans said the same. We retreated into isolation; and only the Daily Mail could have produced, just a few years later, the headline "Fog in the Channel—Europe isolated".
Great powers are destined to be both admired and resented. Great powers do get their interventions wrong, and they do harm as well as good; but it is important to keep the balance in our own minds too, because they do much good. Many people will say that, and in my constituency—which represents so many from around the world—they frequently do. We should listen to them, look back at our own history, and use it to learn lessons for today.
§ 2.8 pm
§ Patsy Calton (Cheadle)
I endorse what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), and will not go over the same ground.
I was one of those who were in the American capital at the time of the attacks. I was a member of an all-party delegation, with colleagues, many of whom are here 740 today. We were evacuated very precipitately—not surprisingly, given the nature of the attacks and the fact that there was still a plane in the air at the time. It lives with all of us that we may well be here now because of the bravery of the passengers on the plane that came down in Pennsylvania.
On the previous day, 10 September, we had engaged in a number of discussions with leading politicians and State Department officials. As friends and allies, we were nevertheless bringing to their attention our concerns about some areas of American foreign policy, specifically the aftermath of Kyoto, the Palestine-Israel conflict and national missile defence issues. The comments were striking and the Americans were more than prepared to listen. We were given a clear sign that the Bush Administration welcomed comment and criticism and that what we said would not be ignored. The events of the following day put much of that out of our minds. I pay my own tribute to the dignity and unity of the American people whom we saw, and to the bravery of the firemen and policemen who had to handle what happened.
I agree entirely with the comments that have been made about the need for military action to be proportionate. It should be time limited and we should be looking for clear outcomes. Humanitarian aid should be part of the work that produces the outcomes that we are seeking.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife and my right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that we should be involving the United Nations, and specifically Kofi Annan, in providing legitimacy for the action that we would have to take. In my reading of Colin Powell's biography, the lesson of Vietnam is that the public, in a protracted action, need to be convinced of the legitimacy of any action taken.
I am more than happy to accept the word of the leader of my party, as no doubt other Members are prepared to accept the word of their leaders, but we must accept that the public will sometimes need a little more than the say-so of leading politicians. It is important to bring in someone who is seen to be neutral.
I turn to the work that we need to do in our communities. In my constituency, the work of the chair of the Cheadle Muslim Association, Mr. Assad Zaman, has built bridges between the Muslim community and parts of that community and others. Some of the first messages of concern for my own safety came from the Muslim community in my constituency.
We must voice the message that action or activity is not being taken against Muslims and Islam. We need to go further than that. We are leaders in our communities, and as such we should assist the integration of people from other cultures and other faiths. In particular, we need to respect one another's cultures and faiths; merely crying for integration is not sufficient.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) talked about the force of law in terms of racist attacks and the need for it to be brought to bear. There is relevant legislation on the statute book already but too often, sadly, it is not being used when it should be. Legislation should be extended to deal with religious attacks to cover the Muslims in my constituency and elsewhere.
Politicians should be careful about their language and so should the media. I was much taken with the comments of the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), 741 who talked about the need for positive language when dealing with these issues. We need to be careful because it is not only what we say that matters. There is the potential for misunderstanding on the part of people with different cultures and faiths.
The Muslim population in my constituency is concerned about the linkage of asylum seekers with race issues. They are concerned also about comments about a just war. Justice has specific meanings for people of the Muslim faith. Similarly, I hope that "crusade" has dropped out of the language.
I was impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) in the debate on 14 September. It was a brave and compassionate speech that came at a time when perhaps we would have been talking only about retaliatory action. The hon. Gentleman made us stop and think. We all did well to do that in the circumstances.
Good can come from the present situation in allowing and encouraging greater co-operation that involves different communities, different countries and different ethnic groups and faiths. They can be united in their determination to prevent terrorist attacks. We cannot continue to act as though we are different people throughout the world. Terrorism must not be allowed to work its way between us.
§ Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
It has just been reported on Ceefax that a Russian aircraft flying from Israel to Siberia has been destroyed by a terrorist bomb with the loss of 66 passengers and 10 crew. I refer to that to bring home to the House that it seems that some people—probably, I guess, those who perpetrated similar atrocities elsewhere recently—are already carrying out the further strand of their attacks.
We must send our sympathy to the people of Israel, to the Russians and to India for terrorist actions that took place earlier this week. Further atrocities will clearly bring home to us the realities of the situation. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we must prepare for further atrocities. I speak as a Co-operative Member. Three years ago, in August 1998, nearly 200 employees of the International Co-operative Alliance—they were mainly Kenyan citizens—were killed by Osama bin Laden in his attack on the American embassy in Nairobi. What sort of crime could development workers perpetrate to justify such an act? They were working to try to help co-operative development in Africa. Some of them were Muslims.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said that there was no basis for the policy of bin Laden and his organisation. He argued that it had no objective. I must disagree. His objective, in his own words, is to destroy the Zionist crusader alliance and its international collaborators. That objective probably covers all or most of us in this place and many hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. In these circumstances we must recognise that this is a conflict that will continue for a long time and be prepared for the consequences.
I am pleased that the Russians are involved in the coalition. I am pleased also that the Prime Minister is going to Russia today to cement the relationship. 742 However, we should praise also President Bush and the American Administration, and those words do not come easily to me. The attack in Kenya in 1998 led to an almost instant, punitive and controversial response by President Clinton against the alleged chemical plants in Sudan. We have not seen such a reaction from the current American Administration, and we should all welcome that. That shows a level of maturity and seriousness, which I hope will be continued in future.
We must take action against bin Laden, his organisation and his allies. Those are not just the people whom he has directly under his control. There are sister terrorist organisations, some of them on the list that our Government published in the schedule to the Terrorism Act 2000—organisations directed against the Government of Egypt and other Arab Governments, not just against the Americans and the Israelis.
We must recognise that in the conflict there will be voices, some of which we have heard in this country, saying, "Yes, but what about this?" or "Yes, but what about that?" My position is that there can be no excuse, no qualification and no justification—no what-aboutery—to justify the crimes on 11 September or the crimes carried out today.
Sometimes people claim that there is a problem with the definition of terrorism, freedom fighters and resistance movements. We should examine the tactics pursued by an organisation to realise its aspirations and achieve its goal, however legitimate. The goal may be legitimate, but the tactics unacceptable. Mass murder, the killing of children, placing bombs in discotheques, blowing up aircraft and machine-gunning buses are not acceptable tactics in any struggle. We need to say that. That is why we are right to call for an end to all terrorism, as well as dealing with the wider issues and conflicts.
Bin Laden is not carrying out terrorism because he was poor. Many of the idealistic young men recruited to his organisation, including a few misguided British people, had wealthy backgrounds and went to public schools. They did not join the organisation because they personally were oppressed. They adopted a particular ideological position and followed the logic to the terrible situation in which we find ourselves.
We must be clear that even if we eradicated all the poverty in the middle east and even if the Palestinians had a state, it would not satisfy the aspirations of Osama bin Laden and what he stands for, because his agenda is wider than that. For those reasons, the House is right to unite behind the Government and the international coalition and to send out a forceful message that when action is taken to free the people of Afghanistan, to free the women of Afghanistan and to defeat international terrorism, we are all in it together.
§ Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)
I entirely agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) about what motives these terrorists have. I shall deal with that in a moment.
There cannot be many constituencies that have not been affected in some way by the appallingly barbaric outrage. Relations of victims, the victims themselves or members of the armed forces who are currently in the middle east may live in those constituencies. In west Norfolk we have 743 the largest Tornado base in the country at RAF Marham. Many constituents of mine will be involved in the RAF in the weeks ahead, if military action is contemplated.
I join many other hon. Members in congratulating the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their response and the work that they have done to react cautiously and build a wide coalition. Partly as a result of that approach, the recent United Nations resolution on terrorism was a positive move which will go a long way towards cutting off the funds of the various terrorist organisations.
Turning now to extradition. I believe that our law is inadequate. Rightly or wrongly, Britain is seen as a safe haven for terrorism. We have been used as a communications centre for the al-Qaeda movement. At least 10 of the 19 hijackers passed through London. If we are serious about combating international terrorism, we must urgently examine our extradition laws. We have rightly demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden or face the consequences. We have often complained when the United States has failed to extradite swiftly suspected IRA terrorists to this country.
The case of Lotfi Raissi brings the matter into sharp focus. He is the 27-year-old Algerian pilot who helped a number of the hijackers to train as pilots. He is wanted in the USA in connection with the outrage. I welcome the fact that FBI agents have been to interview him, but unless our law is changed and an amendment is made to the European convention on human rights, particularly article 3, which is now incorporated into our own law, the extradition process may go on for two to three years. That is simply not good enough.
MI5 should not have to lobby for the reform of the convention. I despaired the other day when I read of the remarks of Lord Chief Justice Woolf. In normal times, yes, basic freedoms should take second place to the fight against terrorism, but we are not living in normal times, as various other cases show, such as the case of Adel Bary and Ibrahim Eidarous, who were both arrested in London in connection with the 1999 US embassy bombings. They face extradition to the US.
Extradition proceedings against Khalid al Fawwaz, a well-known fund-raiser for al-Qaeda, have been going on for two and a half years and have cost well over half a million pounds. He is on benefit in this country, and there is no prospect of that extradition being brought to a swift conclusion. Finally, there is the case of Sheikh Omar Abu Omar, a close ally of bin Laden. He has been sentenced in absentia in the Jordanian courts. He is living in the United Kingdom on benefit and is fighting extradition.
I do not believe that it is beyond the best legal brains in this country to devise a new framework for extradition that protects many of those who face extradition, but which can deal specifically with known and suspected terrorists—
§ Mr. Galloway
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for live cases which are before the British courts to be referred to in the way that the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) is 744 referring to them—declaring people guilty whose cases are still being considered by the British judicial system? Is not the hon. Gentleman making a terrifically irresponsible speech?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Certainly, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) is correct to say that details of cases currently under jurisdiction should not be referred to. I personally did not hear the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) say that the person to whom he was referring was guilty.
§ Mr. Bellingham
No, Madam Deputy Speaker, I did not in any way suggest that the people whom I mentioned were guilty. I referred to the system. Everything that I said is on the wider public record. It has been in the newspapers, on the radio and elsewhere in the media.
The European convention on human rights will have to be amended and new primary legislation will be required in this country. The attack against terrorism that will take place throughout the western world must also involve the IRA and the other terrorist organisations operating in Northern Ireland. When President George W. Bush speaks of cutting off the finances of terrorist organisations and introducing legislation to that effect in Congress, I hope that he will bear in mind Noraid, the fund-raising arm of the IRA, which has been raising large sums of money in America.
We must consider the background to the appalling atrocities. We must examine the mindset that drives the self-sacrifice terrorists to the deeds that they committed. One of the most striking aspects of the attacks, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South pointed out, is that we are not speaking about people brought up in the slums of Cairo or Tripoli. We are speaking about people who had a university education, were highly intelligent and had much to look forward to in their lives. What drove them to commit those atrocities? They have a mindset that is completely alien to our culture and way of life.
I feel strongly that until we deal with the two issues in the middle east that are creating festering sores in which this type of terrorism breeds, we will not solve the problem. I am referring to the Palestinian question. Without going into great detail, I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) said. Until we sort out the Palestinian problem and the Palestinians have their own sovereign state this problem will not go away. That may not be the policy of my party, but it is my firm view.
I also strongly believe that until we deal with the plight of the Iraqi people such a breeding ground in that country will continue to fester. Iraqis of my generation—those in their 30s and 40s—are very pro-British. They always have been—we have many friends in Iraq. The new generation, however, feels unbelievably bitter about the sanctions, which have not had one iota of effect on Saddam Hussein. After the war we all believed that the Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Kurds would unite to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but that was wishful thinking.
Until we tackle the plight of the Iraqi people—look at what is going on in that country and deal with the anger and hatred that is building up—and the Palestinian question, we will not solve the problem of international terrorism.
§ Hugh Bayley (City of York)
I will not be present for the reply to the debate as I have been asked to go to Paris this afternoon to represent my party at a meeting of the Socialist International.
The Government and the Prime Minister in particular have responded well domestically and on the international stage to the crisis. We have a clear duty to protect our citizens from atrocities. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) pointed out that the risks are very real and continuing.
I have read the evidence that the Prime Minister placed in the Library this morning and I believe that military action is a necessary part of our response to make it less likely, or impossible, for further atrocities such as those committed on 11 September to take place.
I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say this morning that he believes that the humanitarian coalition is as vital as military action. The humanitarian crisis faced even before the events of 11 September by the people of Afghanistan was very real. After 23 years of war, seven years of Taliban misrule and three years of drought, food production in the country last year was half the normal production—in some parts of the country it was only one tenth of the normal level. Twenty five per cent. of children born in Afghanistan die before the age of five.
The problems faced by women are particularly acute. I have no idea what it costs to buy a place on a truck going from Kabul to the border, but it will be out of the price range of any of the 700,000 war widows in Afghanistan, who are not allowed by the Taliban to work and have to survive as best they can on the help of friends or family or by begging on the streets. They and their children will be major casualties.
The United Nations published a report headed "The Deepening Crisis" a week before the World Trade Centre attack, which talks about 5 million Afghans being displaced within Afghanistan or as refugees to neighbouring countries. Last Friday, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its "Donor Alert" report estimated that a further 2.5 million Afghans are likely to flee their homes from fear of conflict or conflict itself. Some will move within the country, about a million are expected to cross the border to Pakistan, 400,000 to go to Iran and 100,000 to central Asia.
The United Kingdom has well-established aid programmes in Afghanistan and elsewhere to assist Afghan refugees. The Department for International Development has responded quickly and positively to the crisis with the allocation of a further £25 million on top of the £35 million in aid that it sent to Afghanistan last year, as well as another £11 million of aid to Pakistan, in particular for the poorer areas that are likely to receive refugees. About £15 million of that UK aid has already been disbursed. Speed is essential. Food supplies need to get through before the winter sets in as communications will be frustrated by the winter weather as well as by a breakdown of law and order which may follow military action.
Is £36 million enough? No. In its report on Friday, the United Nations called for an international fund of $584 million—just under $200 million for food aid over the next six months and about $270 million to help refugees.
It is instructive to consider what happened in Kosovo. Fewer than a million Kosovan Albanian refugees fled south to Macedonia or Albania. Although that is still a 746 huge number, it is about a third of the number that the UN estimates will flee Afghanistan. The logistics were easier in the former Yugoslavia than they are in and around Afghanistan and the donor community pledged $2.6 billion for Kosovo in 1999. The United Kingdom has provided more than £100 million in bilateral aid to Kosovo since July 1999.
At present the UK's contributions come from the Department's contingency reserves, which is the right place for them to come from. However, will the Secretary of State for Defence say in his reply whether, if additional resources are required—I accept that we will not know that until we know the number of refugees—the Treasury will make them available to ensure that the Department for International Development does not have to cut necessary aid programmes in other parts of the world?
Furthermore, in addition to planning military action to constrain and defeat the terrorists, will the Secretary of State's Department plan for the armed forces to carry out humanitarian tasks? Our armed forces played a magnificent and important humanitarian role in the former Yugoslavia. Given the size of the humanitarian task, I am certain that we will need support from the military to provide security, so that aid can get through to the people for whom it is intended and is not looted or captured by bandits, and possibly to help build refugee camps or provide wider logistical support to aid operations. Is that planning taking place and, most importantly, is it taking place in consultation with the Department for International Development?
Obviously, meticulous military planning is taking place with regard to action against terrorism. It must be meticulous because it is a matter of life and death for those involved, including a number of my constituents as my constituency is a garrison town, and our armed forces will be at risk because of the military action that we are taking. Will the planning be as meticulous for the humanitarian role that they may also be called upon to perform, which will also be a matter of life and death for Afghans?
§ Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)
I add my voice to the chorus of approval from the House in praising the considered, purposeful and resolute leadership of President George W. Bush. He has been severely tested in the most tragic and appalling of circumstances and within months of taking office. He has been tested, but he has not been found wanting. We are, indeed, very fortunate to have such a man in the White House. I also praise the achievements of the Prime Minister in forging such a close and effective working relationship with the President.
The Conservative party, perhaps more than any, has always known the value of the special relationship, but the Prime Minister has demonstrated that the bonds that bind our two nations are not the property of any one party but the prerogative of all. I am sorry, therefore, that the leader of the Liberal Democrats found it necessary to sound off at his party conference when he warned about writing blank cheques to America.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell
Does the hon. Gentleman understand that Senator Biden, Senator Strom Thurmond or any legislator in the United States would be as 747 concerned to ensure the safety of British forces and British interests as any Member of the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Barker
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right, but the only thing that has been hasty and ill considered has been not the actions of the President of the United States but the rhetoric of the leader of the Liberal Democrats at their conference. His remarks were hasty and ill judged.
The President did us all a signal honour when he acknowledged in Congress that America has no truer friend than Great Britain. However, I am particularly glad that the Prime Minister is reaching out not just to our oldest allies but to new-found friends such as Russia. I wish the Prime Minister godspeed in his journey today. Russia has more motivation than most to join us in the war against terror.
I lived and worked in Moscow two years ago when the city was convulsed by the terrorist bombing of residential apartment blocks. Hundreds of innocent civilians were slaughtered, literally in their beds. The fear in the city that ensued was almost tangible as people went home at night not knowing whether they would wake up the next morning. In recent years, similar atrocities have been perpetrated right across the Commonwealth of Independent States, and I believe that President Putin has the makings of a staunch ally in the new global war against terror.
Although our national security must never be compromised, I would like greater emphasis to be placed on the effective sharing of intelligence when it is safe to do so. We have an unparalleled history of successful intelligence sharing with the United States, and now on matters of terrorism we can and must be more proactive with others. There is still plenty of scope for better collaboration with our European partners, particularly those within the Schengen bloc, and with other nations such as Russia that stand ready to march with us against this new threat.
The Prime Minister has helped to stitch together a remarkable coalition, and of course any ensuing military action will be bound to impose a strain on so broad an alliance. However, the Government must make sure that this new spirit of international co-operation is converted into solid, tangible and practical benefits as quickly as possible. Better and more effective cross-border intelligence is such a benefit and it will be a key pillar of any counter-terrorist strategy that is to prove successful.
In this new and complex war against terror, our salvation will be in the detail. The Prime Minister has set the right course. It will now fall to him and to all his governmental colleagues to deliver. We hope and pray that they can.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
The events of 11 September arguably represent the most significant defining moment since the fall of the Berlin wall. It is not that international terrorism is new, but the scale and the audacity of the event that took place in New York and the unprecedented way in which the terrorists had the capacity to inflict war on nation states changes for ever our approach to dealing with terrorism itself. Terrorism is 748 not a battle between conventional military forces; it involves ordinary people and the values and principles with which they run their lives.
There is no doubt that bad and undemocratic government creates the conditions in which terrorism can take hold. If the fall of the Berlin wall brought freedom, it also raised expectations. In many parts of the world, open access to television and to a view of the world that had been long denied to the people behind the structure of the Soviet Union meant that they wanted and expected to receive the benefits that they had seen. Of course they did not receive those benefits and, because in many countries they could not express their anger and opposition, some people became prone to listening to the voices of extremism. They perhaps believed that those voices represented the way forward.
Anger caused by domestic problems is to an extent fuelled by the way we conduct international relations. There are examples that show how members of the Muslim world might fall into the trap set by Osama bin Laden and others. In the Gulf war, American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia where two of the most holy Muslim sites are situated; we continue to police the exclusion zones in Iraq; and the United States has uncritical support for Israel's actions in the middle east. Rightly or wrongly, many people in the Muslim world see all that as an affront and as proof of western disregard for Muslim societies and their rights, values and opinions. Such dissent can breed terrorism, because in many of those countries there are few ways for anger to be expressed through legitimate channels. Some Governments are happy to see the popular discontent in their own country directed outside the country rather than at themselves.
Terrorism is a symptom of the absence of democratic government, where people feel marginalised and impotent. The converse is also true. Strong democracies are a counter to terrorism, and as a part of our response to the atrocities in New York and Washington we need to review and reinvigorate our involvement in supporting democracy and the rule of law in the belt of countries that stretches from Morocco to Pakistan.
I have learned today that the Pakistan Government have seen the evidence linking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to the recent terrorist acts. They consider that the evidence is strong enough to stand up in a court of law, and it is useful to know that in this debate.
If we are to respond to terrorism, we must ensure that other countries have the democracy and accountability within their own culture that we have here. Parliaments in such countries must be made to work and must be filled with people who truly represent the interests of their communities. Political parties must seek out a constituency and offer a real channel for communicating public discontent and for translating it into change. Local communities should be helped to make local government work for them, and people should start to have confidence that their Government are there to serve them and that they can seek legal redress through the courts.
It is vital that the United Kingdom plays its part to promote the development of inclusive and pluralist democracies throughout the world. I chair the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the organisation has the necessary expertise and experience to take a lead in this important task. We do that in conjunction with partner organisations in Europe and the USA.
749 The organisation works directly with local partners to develop culturally appropriate democratic structures. It works with national and local government, with civil society and with other international partners. Its work in Africa, central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has demonstrated that it has the necessary flexibility, sensitivity and robustness to tackle the difficult task of developing democracy in a wide range of cultures. We are uniquely placed in having that organisation to help us.
At our conference, the Prime Minister declared his unswerving support for justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed in all parts of the world, particularly where the international community has failed to take adequate action to ensure that justice and international law are applied. The middle east is just one such place. The Prime Minister clearly does not divorce the future security of the state of Israel from the issues of justice for the Palestinians. As he said, they should have achance to prosper and in their own land, as equal partners with Israel in that future.The two are inextricably linked.
The current situation is a far cry from justice. The slums of Gaza, to which the Prime Minister referred, hit the news again yesterday morning with the heavy Israeli military reprisals after the shooting dead of two Jewish settlers by Hamas gunmen. Such killings are reprehensible, but as well as condemning the killings we must address the sense of injustice that is rife within the Gaza strip, where appalling squalor and the deprivation of basic human civil liberties create a breeding ground for frustration. In Beach Camp, more than 70,000 Palestinian refugees live in three quarters of a square kilometre without proper drainage or clean water. Quite literally in the midst of the deprivation, Israel provocatively chooses to allow the existence of settlements, where Jewish citizens enjoy prosperity and the protection of an inflated Israeli military presence, which is denied to the refugees.
The greatest and most overlooked factor in the repeated failures to bring about a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been the failure to address the issue of Palestinian refugees. During the Camp David talks there was no acknowledgement from Israel of any legal, historic or moral responsibility for the refugee phenomenon. Behind the scenes, only minimal and tentative offers to accept the return of a token number of refugees were being made. The refugee problem is huge, and it is central to any viable peace process. Palestinians comprise the largest and one of the oldest groups of refugees in the world. As well as the refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, two thirds of the Palestinian population in Gaza and one third of the population on the west bank are refugees.
The joint parliamentary middle east councils in this building produced a report asking the Palestinian refugees to say in their own words how they envisaged living in peace side by side with their Israeli colleagues. That report is full of hope and I recommend it—
§ Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford)
I extend my thanks to the Secretary of State for Defence and his officials for the way they have kept me and the shadow defence team informed of events over the past few weeks. It has been most welcome.
On 11 September, we witnessed a ghastly symptom of the old disease of terrorism. Seven thousand people are dead with no warning, no demands and no mercy. For me and I am sure for many other hon. Members, the sight of jets flying low over London to Heathrow will be a permanent reminder of the people who died in those tragic events. Nothing can justify such a savage attack on freedom and such a disgusting assault on innocent lives. It was outside the bounds of international law and showed no regard for human rights. Our response should remain always within international law. We must respect the human rights that the terrorists seek to destroy.
It is probable that in the next few days or weeks, British troops will be involved in military action. Hon. Members must always remember that the members of the armed forces and their families are our constituents and our friends. I and many of my Liberal Democrat colleagues have members of the armed forces based in our constituencies. At such a time it is right to praise the professionalism of the people who may go to war. I know that there are individuals from my constituency who are already out there. If they are deployed, we will pray for their safe return home.
I support proportionate military action against terrorism, but I understand that military force is a tool, not a policy. The aim of any action must be clearly stated and the scale of operations must be directed towards achieving that aim. In short, such action must be targeted, based on sound intelligence and fall within the boundaries of international law. I am confident that that will be the case in this instance.
I join other hon. Members in praising President Bush for the measured way in which he has responded to the crisis. He is a credit to his nation. He understands that any disproportionate action would achieve nothing, except to create anger and discontent, split the coalition and make those bent on committing acts of terror all the more aggressive and desperate. We should never respond to tenor with terror; we should respond with justice and humanity.
There have been those who have criticised my party's position and say that we should have offered unequivocal support. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Barker) did so a few moments ago. It is sad that in a debate where members of all political parties have tried to speak for Britain, at least one Back-Bench Opposition Member criticised another party. I should tell that hon. Gentleman that, together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) and others, I met the United States ambassador when he came to our party conference two weeks ago. We explained our position to him and he said that he supported and understood it.
If one says "We support everything that you do", there can be no debate, no questioning and no scrutiny. Throughout the extraordinary and strong relationship that has existed between the United Kingdom and the United States since the second world war, there has never been a blank cheque between Britain and America. During the 751 war in Vietnam, the Americans pleaded with us to send troops but we, quite rightly, said no. During the Falklands campaign, the Americans supplied us with important intelligence, but they never deployed troops. During the Suez crisis, they rightly said no to our requests.
§ Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)
In that case, can the hon. Gentleman explain why so much fuss was made about a blank cheque when nobody was ever suggesting such a thing?
§ Mr. Keetch
I am sorry, but just such a suggestion was clearly made by Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen. They said that they would support any action. One does not start a military campaign by saying to a close ally—however close that ally may be—that one will do whatever it wants. I am not suggesting that the Government are adopting that course. We have never given such a blank cheque to America, and America has never given such a blank cheque to us.
§ Mr. Barker
The hon. Gentleman is right—there have been no blank cheques. Perhaps he will explain why the leader of the Liberal Democrats was addressing remarks to the Conservative party, when everybody else thought that he should be addressing his remarks to the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Keetch
The point of my right hon. Friend's comments, which I support and which have widespread support across the country, was to ensure that any action should be within international law as well as being appropriate and responsible. Nothing that we have said has suggested anything else. I was saddened that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle chose to raise this issue during this well-natured debate.
Several hon. Members have said that our military campaign should be based on sound intelligence, and that is right. We should remember that a bomb is only as smart as the intelligence that targets it—we all remember the events surrounding the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. We possess some of the finest intelligence services in the world. We must develop our intelligence to try to track down the perpetrators of the events in New York and Washington and to ensure that such events never happen again. To that end, I must add my voice to the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) who in the past has raised concerns about the cuts at GCHQ. Surely, sound intelligence must be the basis on which we fight this conflict.
At the Labour party conference, the Secretary of State for Defence announced a review of our forces. No doubt we will see more details of that in due course. I hope that this new chapter of the strategic defence review will not be used as an excuse to merge and scrap regiments, as has been rumoured since the beginning of this year. We must recognise that any review of our armed forces without looking at finances would be a wasted opportunity. We must address the imbalance between commitments, capability and resources if we are to stop the inordinate strain on our armed forces. If we do not, before long we will be driven once more into a wholesale, strategic defence review.
We in this House should not think that we are so important that every sentence we utter is listened to in the United States. On Monday this week I had the privilege 752 of meeting Bob McNamara who served with distinction as the Secretary of Defence under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He was Secretary of Defence during the Cuban missile crisis. It was his view that we should never underestimate the power that allies could have in US politics and that Britain, as America's closest ally, could have a vital role in shaping US policy. That is why our words do matter. We must make the right noises and talk of justice, not revenge.
The Prime Minister's speech in Brighton earlier this week has been described by many as Gladstonian, so I urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to remember the words of William Gladstone, when he talked about the life of a person in Afghanistan and about justice, not revenge. He said:Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God as can be your own.We should remember that when we go into action because those words, spoken in 1879, are as true today as they were then.
§ 3 pm
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Staying on the reference of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) to winter snows, may I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), a very direct question? What assessment has been made of the consequences both for humanitarian aid and for military action of the indubitable fact that, within seven or eight weeks from now at the latest, the passes of Afghanistan will become impassable? That is my first question.
In a carefully considered comment, the Leader of the Opposition asked about action against Iraq and, bluntly, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's response was somewhat ambiguous. Unpalatable though it may be and although some hon. Members may think that I am away with the fairies, I shall ask this question: is this not an opportunity at least to start talking to the Government of Iraq? The fact is that anyone who knows anything about the Baath party knows that it is highly secular and that the Iraqi Government loathe the Taliban. That is the fact of the matter. The Iraqi Government have no time for what the Taliban represent. Might not this be the opportunity at least to start a dialogue and to find out what Baghdad has to say?
Bluntly, it is my opinion that the Government of Iraq had nothing to do with this. That may be right or it may be wrong, but it is my opinion, for what it is worth. It is also true that anyone—Saudis, Yemenis or Iraqis—may well have been recruited to the evil organisation of bin Laden because the bombing and sanctions have gone on for 10 years. The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) made an interesting speech and asked similar questions from the other side of the House. I hope that that issue will be addressed in the wind-up speech.
§ 3.2 pm
§ Mr. John Baron (Billericay)
First, I join other hon. Members in congratulating the United States on the restraint that it has shown in the face of the terrorist attack. My thoughts and prayers—indeed, those of the 753 House generally—are with the American people at this time and, indeed, with all those who have suffered loss, not least those in my constituency.
Tensions are running high in the middle east at the moment, and it is essential that any action—and action there will be—must be focused, thought through and considered. In bringing bin Laden and his terrorist accomplices to justice, a primary aim must also be to minimise the loss of innocent life, for we all know that two wrongs do not make a right.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Government on the handling of this affair so far, and especially the part that they have played in forging an international alliance against terrorism. We all agree with the Prime Minister's and the Foreign Secretary's confirmation today that we will fight all forms of terrorism anywhere in the world. However, I have one concern—does the Government agree that if the new globally co-ordinated fight against terrorism is to have legitimacy and credibility, there must be consistency of approach in its application? Yet the fact remains that, despite bending over backwards to appease terrorists in Northern Ireland, we have not managed to ensure any decommissioning of weapons, and I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and others who have made that point. That is clearly wrong. We send troops to Macedonia to decommission warring factions there, but we cannot disarm terrorists in our own backyard. That contradiction in our approach will not help us in the eyes of the international community when it comes to fighting terrorism.
§ Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)
Although the hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is more than a little confusion and frustration about such matters, especially on the Unionist side, does he also accept that the other lesson for us from Northern Ireland is that it is necessary to enter into a dialogue to address the motives that drive terrorism? Indeed, a former Conservative Prime Minister was instrumental in creating that dialogue.
§ Mr. Baron
I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman. Dialogue is terribly important, but in Northern Ireland we have a democratic process by which people can engage in dialogue through the ballot box. There are parties, politics and everyone has a vote. There is no excuse whatever for taking up arms in Northern Ireland—or, indeed, in the whole island of Ireland.
I want briefly to raise two other related issues, the first of which relates to defence spending. I am concerned that defence spending now represents about 2.5 per cent. of gross domestic product—the lowest level in real terms probably since the Napoleonic wars. This year's allocation represents yet another cut in real terms. My concern is that that approach not only puts our own security at risk, but adds to the risks to our own troops on the ground. We all know that our troops in Kosovo, for example, did not have enough boots and that their radios were not up to sufficient standard so mobile phones had to be used. We know that the SAS has yet to receive its new Chinook helicopter. I ask the Government to realise that they cannot penny-pinch when it comes to the cost of defending the realm.
Finally, I want to raise the broader issue of police numbers, which is related to terrorism. There is increasing evidence, particularly in my constituency, that police 754 resources are being stretched too far. That is not the local police force's fault. The police do not have sufficient numbers to police the local community as they would wish. Will the Government now realise that, in addition to a much tougher approach towards terrorism, we owe it to the vast majority of law-abiding citizens to get much tougher with criminals in general? Part of the fight against crime must include many more police on the streets—as many as 25,000 to 30,000 more. That is the sort of step change required. I ask the Government to consider such an approach, for, if nothing else, the events of 11 September have shown that we must do all we can to protect the law-abiding majority, whether from criminals or terrorists.
§ 3.8 pm
§ Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)
Not only were the events of 11 September appalling and devastating, but in the days and weeks that have followed all of us, whether or not we are politicians, have had to question many things as we try to come to terms with the way in which the world needs to respond. In the military sphere, there is now talk about having to come to terms with asymmetrical warfare. In many ways, we will have to come to terms with issues involving asymmetrical politics as well, as we face often contradictory pressures, all of which will have to inform our actions in the days, weeks and months ahead.
As we rightly commit ourselves to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the USA, we know that the events in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington were attacks not only on the USA, but in a very real sense on us all. For that reason, the response must be international. The Government have contributed a great deal to the emerging coalition, but there are still real issues to address about how the coalition functions and its relationship to institutions such as the United Nations. I certainly welcome the Foreign Secretary's comments today on that matter. I emphasise to my right hon. Friend that if international confidence in the coalition is to be maintained over months, not just weeks, a real sense of international ownership must be brought to bear as well. Given the changed situation, in the coming months I look forward to greater emphasis being placed on the demand that we have supported in the House for the International Criminal Court. Perhaps we will now have some allies among those who so far have resisted that.
The contradictory pressures are nowhere more evident than in Afghanistan, where we are considering the likelihood of military action while simultaneously trying to address a humanitarian disaster of mammoth proportions. I am not opposed to a military response, and if we expect our military forces to operate in Afghanistan they have to have the means to do so. However, the targeting of any such action is vital to minimise civilian casualties. A successful humanitarian effort will not only save lives, but will be as important as military action in isolating support for the Taliban in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the brief time that I have available, I want to raise two issues. The first is on the meaning of terrorism and the second relates to the situation in the middle east, our response to which will have huge significance for the prospects of building the different world to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister rightly referred in his speech to the Labour party conference this week.
755 I very much agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) when he said that there was a danger of talking about terrorism as having one definition or about terrorists as an undifferentiated group. For the families and friends of innocent victims of terrorist acts, it makes no difference who or what the terrorist is and whether their loved one has been killed in a hijack, by a bomb or by a bullet. That is why, for my constituents and others in Birmingham, the twin towers outrage brought back many memories of the pub bombings of the 1970s. The circumstances and the scale are very different, but the pain and loss felt by loved ones is the same.
Determining the response of the international community to terrorism is more complex, however. No single response is appropriate in all situations. In truth, there never has been an international consensus on what should be defined as terrorism. At one of the spectrum is al-Qaeda, which has global objectives and a strategy of hate in which means and ends are intertwined in a cycle of violence. It is a fanaticism that has grotesquely distorted Islam and has rightly been condemned by Muslims world wide. In the light of recent events it is not clear whether any level of violence would be regarded as unacceptable by groups such as that. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary observed recently, there really is no diplomatic alternative to confronting such groups.
We also know that innocent civilians have died in attacks born not out of a distorted global strategy, but out of despair, poverty and oppression, which all too often we in the west have allowed to continue for decades. We should not underestimate the anger that such apparent double standards has engendered in many parts of the world. While it is right for the international community to say that the deliberate targeting of civilians or the use of terror for political ends is wrong whatever the cause, the fact remains that ultimately it will not be the suppression of such acts that defeats them, but solving the injustices that causes them.
That is why finding a solution to the situation in the middle east has moved centre stage and Britain's contribution is vital. It is important to state and restate that Israel has a right to security and Israelis have a right to live in peace. Internationally, we can help to safeguard those rights. I was pleased when on Tuesday and again today my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister emphasised that the rights of Palestinians must also be recognised as, to use his words, "equal partners with Israel" in shaping their common future. We need to understand what equality means in that part of the world.
I have had an interest in the middle east for many years, but it was only when I saw for myself the squalor of Gaza that I was able to comprehend the scale of inequality that has been tolerated for more than half a century. I began to appreciate a bit more how daily inequality felt when I was in a car that was stopped at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Apparently, we were stopped and turned back for no other reason than the fact that the driver was Palestinian. Even though things are much worse now, at the height of the peace process I began to understand how ordinary Palestinians felt when the world was applauding the progress being made while their homes were being expropriated, apparently without a murmur of international opposition.
756 In that part of the world violence and terror has been used on both sides, and it needs to be condemned on both sides. Bin Laden has little interest in the Palestinian question. Indeed, the continuation of that tragedy suits him down to the ground. However, if we are to defeat Bin Laden and his ilk we need to address it. Given our relationship with the middle east, we are in a unique position to take initiatives there. Now, in this new situation, the United States has a great deal of power to do something and Europe has a significant role to play. Ensuring that Israel has the security that its people deserve and need and that Palestinian rights are no less precious and the Palestinians have their own state will not only make the world a safer place, but I hope that Israel and Israelis will also understand that it will contribute perhaps more than anything else to something that they crave—peace and security in their own land.
Many people have asked whether some good can come out of the tragedy of 11 September and in some ways it is difficult to see how it can, but if we are resolute in our determination to outlaw terrorism and bring the likes of bin Laden to justice, and if we can begin to tackle the causes of despair, oppression and poverty that have been clearly revealed in the middle east, just maybe some good will come out of it and those 7,000 people will not have died entirely in vain.
§ Patrick Mercer (Newark)
We heard some prophetic words from the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) when he referred to Osama bin Laden being allowed to stew for a while. I suggest that is precisely what we should not let him do.
We have just seen on Teletext that a few hours ago another aircraft has been destroyed by an act of terrorism, this time over the Black sea, with upwards of 70 deaths. There is no doubt that terrorists see this as a long-term affair, not a short-term one. There have been terrorist operations in Srinigar and the Islamist movement in Uzbekistan is now threatening the bases that the American forces hope to use north of Afghanistan. The terrorists are in for a long-term operation. American forces have already been warned off—not just for this operation but to replace units in theatre in six months' time, so units from the 10th mountain division already have the warning for the next unit to take over from them in six months.
What about ourselves? We are promised a review of our strategic defence review, but what capacity do we really have to defend the nation? I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) about police numbers. In my constituency, Newark and Retford are also horribly short of policemen, who provide us with security at its most basic level.
In military terms, what interceptor aircraft are available to protect Heathrow? On 11 September the order was given to get aircraft in the air, yet there was none available. What nuclear, biological and chemical warfare defence do we have? The old civil defence system is long disbanded. The Army has one nuclear, biological and chemical warfare regiment at its disposal and that is currently deployed. The Territorial Army has trained troops but no equipment to defend us. Currently, the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre and the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre are desperately short of manpower. There are photographic interpreters, Arabic speakers, intelligence 757 officers, interpreters and interrogators, all of whom are reservists or territorials. The regular units need them now, yet they have not been called. These people cannot reasonably be asked simply to volunteer to leave their employment to assist; they must be told officially to do so.
In the 1970s and 1980s a battalion was regularly deployed at Heathrow airport to exercise for just this sort of emergency. It has long gone; no such battalion exists any more at Windsor. What about our defence medical services? There are 14 field ambulance units on war establishment but we can field only three. In the past, the Territorial Army had home defence battalions, as did the Regular Army. Now, the TA has all but gone.
§ Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
Will the hon. Gentleman remind the House who decimated the British forces medical support services?
§ Patrick Mercer
I do not seek to attribute blame. I merely say that something needs to be done, because we do not have the people we need to do the job now.
What about aggressive operations as opposed to those that are purely defensive? We are desperately short of pilots to man the few aircraft that we have. I have already mentioned the TA, our regular forces are overstretched, and I am told that there is no plan to replace any of the regular units that are currently in theatre on Exercise Saif Sareea. Last but not least, what is being done to take advantage of the current atmosphere to recruit the 8,000 soldiers, not to mention the seamen and airmen, of whom our regular forces are short? What is being done to seize the initiative—to go out and recruit while the climate is right and people want to serve their nation? The answer is not very much, if anything.
Our armed forces are in a parlous state. We have heard how our defence spending has been cut during the past 15 years. I suggest that we are not ready for sustained operations. While we have tiny numbers of special forces who can be—indeed, probably have been—deployed, the operation in which we are engaged might not be short term, and we are likely to need troops, weapons and equipment. In the 1930s, far-sighted politicians took unpalatable decisions and prepared us for a war that some regarded as inevitable; the result was victories such as the Battle of Britain following hard on defeats such as Dunkirk. I suggest to the House that we need to remedy the current situation, and remedy it soon.
§ Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
Like many others, I rise to express my full support for the Government's actions. I especially welcome the evidence that the humanitarian contribution is moving up the scale of priorities. That issue is of great importance, and I am sure that the Select Committee on International Development and others will want to become more involved than they have been thus far in terms of consultation and so on.
In the time available to me, I shall focus on an issue related to the Government response to which no one else has referred: money laundering. Over the past few weeks, it has become commonplace to say that we must cut off the terrorists' supply of money and that the Government 758 must respond better to the problem of money laundering. I fully support that view, but I do not want us to rush into a knee-jerk response that allows us to kid ourselves that we have done something about the problem when we have not.
It was pleasing to hear the Government's announcement this week that they had seized £59 million of Taliban money. It is good to see that the European Union is struggling to issue a directive on money laundering, and that the Queen's Speech contained a commitment in respect of money laundering. However, such things have been said before, so I remain unconvinced that much will actually happen.
Earlier this week, there was a puzzling announcement that we are now to regulate bureaux de change—apparently, the United Kingdom is the only country in Europe that does not already regulate such bodies. The Government say that each year £3 billion to £4 billion, 65 per cent. of which is estimated to be illegal, goes out of the country through those organisations; but I wonder how long the Government have known that and why we are attending to it only now. The Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that 90 per cent. of the heroin on sale in Britain comes from Afghanistan, to a street value of £2 billion to £3 billion; but how many prosecutions have there been in that respect?
Earlier this year, the International Development Committee examined corruption and, in that context, money laundering. We found a sorry scene indeed, the most notorious aspect of which is the Abacha case. The Nigerian Government asked us to help in tracking down £4 billion that had been taken out of Nigeria by Abacha, and to freeze Abacha's assets. Two years later, we have not done it, even though Governments such as Switzerland's—hardly famous for transparent accountancy—have done it, as has Liechtenstein. However, the papers this week reveal that we are still going through the process of judicial review and that nothing has happened.
Our structures are a mess, and I am not the only one who says so—every independent observer says the same. The head of the United Nations Development Programme, Mark Malloch Brown, told the Select Committee:I think different countries have different Achilles heels on corruption. The United Kingdom has … this banking issueas its Achilles heel. London is a major financial centre and is therefore attractive to money launderers, but the current UK response to money laundering is piecemeal and unco-ordinated. Our approach fails to acknowledge the importance of money laundering to the worldwide problem of corruption.
The Select Committee was deeply concerned about the role of one of this country's most valuable financial assets: the City of London itself. A recent book on the subject states:Because of its key strategic position as a global financial centre the United Kingdom is a major laundering centre.
I shall be pleased if we now take money laundering seriously, but let us not indulge in a knee-jerk response. I have a proposal to make to the House, because I think that the House should be involved. We should not merely accept the piece of legislation that the Home Secretary produces; estimable though it may be in itself, it cannot possibly be adequate to the task. As a consequence of the Scott inquiry into the control of arms exports, the House set up the Quadripartite Committee, comprising four 759 Select Committees—on Trade and Industry, on Employment, on International Development and on Foreign Affairs. Under the chairmanship of Ted Rowlands, the Committee produced a powerful piece of work that, through a consensual process in the House, resulted in the Bill on arms control that is currently going through Parliament.
I propose that we consider establishing a Quadripartite Committee on money laundering, so that we cannot kid ourselves that we have tackled money laundering, which is a huge industry, when we have not done so. We should ask members of the Select Committees on International Development, on the Treasury, on Foreign Affairs and on Trade and Industry to examine the issue of money laundering and do a thorough job. If, over the next six weeks, we simply pass a piecemeal measure, we will fail to tackle a problem of huge importance.
§ Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
Does my hon. Friend agree that we would do well to consider making one member of a company's board of directors legally responsible for incidents of money laundering, so that when laundering is discovered—The Guardian today quotes a figure of $1 billion and says that HSBC, Barclays bank, National Westminster bank and others are involved—directors are fined and banks are stopped from dealing?
§ Tony Worthington
My hon. Friend has illustrated the value of my suggestion, which is that we should explore Members' ideas about how to tackle corruption and money laundering once and for all in a way that involves the House. We must not content ourselves with a small Bill that only pretends to do the job. I commend that idea to the House.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) has informed the House of today's terrible tragedy, whereby another aircraft has been taken out of the sky. I am sure that the whole House sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have been killed.
The Americans are coming to terms with terrorism happening within their country for the first time, but it has been happening in this country for 30 years. In 1969, I was in Northern Ireland as one of the first troops to go into the Province. I well remember marching into Londonderry in full colonial riot gear. One of the lessons that we had to learn at the start of those troubles, and which thankfully the United States has learned already, was the need for forbearance. We learned quickly that colonial riot drill banners that said on one side, "Disperse or we fire", and on the other, "Anyone crossing the line will be shot", would not work in that environment. I am not suggesting that punitive action is not necessary, but we have to go about things gently.
The second lesson that we learned, which is pertinent, was that friends can change sides. I ask the Minister to beware of that. It is often forgotten that we went in to protect the Catholic community. I had many cups of tea on the Falls road, but a few months later those residents were effectively against us. We must be careful with the alliances that we build in Afghanistan.
All the work that has gone in on the political front to solving the problems in Northern Ireland is a great example to the world. The work of the hon. Member for 760 East Antrim (Mr. Beggs), other Members representing other parties and my right hon. Friend the former Member for Huntingdon, Mr. Major, has made a huge difference. If we are to get a global resolution, we must constantly look to diplomatic initiatives, not just to the military option.
For that reason, in 1988, I together with some other colleagues clandestinely met Yasser Arafat in Tunis. He was then a terrorist. One of my colleagues was a strongly pro-Israeli Member. We went out to talk to Arafat and to try to gain some understanding. Subsequently, we visited the west bank and saw the problems. In line with the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and my hon. Friend the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham), we concluded that those problems had to be sorted out. One of the fundamental problems now is that Arafat is not responsible for Hezbollah and the other extreme groups. It is no good driving tanks into Gaza and shooting up the police station, which Arafat does control. If there is to be any chance of conflict resolution, that must be understood. In much the same way in Northern Ireland we cannot just drive tanks down the Falls road. That simply would not work.
The other great issue out there concerns the settlements. During the third Reich the Germans talked of lebensraum, or more space. I am not suggesting that more space should be found. One cannot go into another country or these territories and simply drop one's own people on the mountain-tops without consequences. The settlements have caused much unhappiness across the whole of Arabia. We must be alerted to those facts.
During the Gulf war I was the secretary of the Conservative Back Bench defence committee and the foreign affairs committee. Intelligence was given to us privately. I commend the Prime Minister for trying to inform the House more about what is going on today by putting papers in the Library. That war was self-contained. Now we are in Afghanistan. Let us not forget that of the 16,000 troops in the second or third Afghan war only one came out alive, and that was because the Afghan authorities let him out. This theatre is very different and we must proceed with the greatest possible caution.
Good has already come out of this conflict, as new alliances are being forged. I had a lot to do with building alliances at the end of the cold war with newly elected Russian Members through the Future of Europe Trust, which the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. MacDonald) and I set up. Russian terrorist problems are legion. Someone tried to fly an aircraft into the Kremlin not long ago, but that is often forgotten.
We have a great opportunity to build that alliance. Iran has suddenly come in from the cold. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—we should take another look at Iraq. It has had sanctions for 10 years, yet the problem remains. Now that we have the possibility of dramatic change, let us at least address it. It is important that somebody should be finding out what the parameters are.
At the end of this conflict, we shall probably be dealing with all the tribes in Afghanistan. The only way forward is to have a UN mandate. We cannot hand over to one group or another. We have co-operation from all the surrounding countries and we need to build on that with a mandate.
761 We are fortunate in the quality of our leadership in this conflict. The Prime Minister has set a good example and I cannot deny that he has done the country proud. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and. Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) has arrived at the right time because he is a security expert and a soldier. We are blessed that he is on the Front Bench with all his experience of dealing with terrorism. He can say a lot behind the scenes. It appears that the President of the United States has found himself, too. Some of us were not 100 per cent. happy with his performance before the war broke out, but he has demonstrated great leadership at a time of great crisis.
I speak for all my constituents when I say how much we feel for those who lost their lives in America and their families. Last night I spoke to a friend in New York who explained the ghastliness of it all, saying that they do not want to do anything except see their closest friends. The day before yesterday, I spoke to a Russian who said, "We have been living under threat, but we are now experiencing some sort of relief. We are coming out of the cold and people are understanding us—understanding the fact that Grozny was built by the Tsars and that we see it as a Russian town." Those issues must be understood.
We live in a time of great horror and great hope. We have great hope because new coalitions are emerging and we have a tremendous opportunity to make the world a better place, notwithstanding the ghastliness of this terrible tragedy.
§ Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)
The 11 September was not just an American tragedy but a global tragedy. As our Prime Minister saw from the start, it required, therefore, a united global response. Within hours of the atrocity, we heard some more extreme voices, such as Richard Perle, who advocated widespread indiscriminate vengeance and accelerating missile defence. On the first, we must be grateful that President Bush has shown careful judgment and listened to wiser counsels, especially those of our Prime Minister. We have had the promise that the military aspects of our response will be targeted and proportionate.
On missile defence, the justification given for it is the fact that there are rogue states whose dictators insanely hate the United States, seek to obtain rockets and weapons of mass destruction and are sufficiently irrational not to be deterred by nuclear annihilation. On 11 September, three of those four rogue states sent messages of sympathy and support to the United States. Even if their motive was cynical—to avoid reprisals—that does not imply that they are impervious to deterrence. The fourth rogue state is Iraq. Saddam Hussein may be insane, but I believe that he has a murderous obsession with self-preservation.
Only North Korea has attempted to test a long-range rocket, which could not have reached the United States. The test failed and has never been repeated. The Ministry of Defence, looking ahead 30 years, describes a rogue rocket attack as low risk. The Foreign Affairs Committee's report suggests that the threat has been exaggerated, probably pushed by political and commercial interests rather than strategic thinking. The Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously warned against some of 762 the dangers that could follow from missile defence. We have had similar warnings from the present Chief of the Defence Staff and his predecessor. Such concerns have been expressed in Parliament and in the country, where a series of opinion polls suggest that 70 per cent. of the public are concerned about the proposal, not least because of the fear that in trying to reduce a comparatively low risk we may increase far more grave dangers; not least if it breaks down the whole system of treaties, arms control and non-proliferation; not least if it divides us at a time when we need global unity; or if it starts to destabilise any of the nuclear weapons states, and that increases the risk of proliferation not only to rogue states but to terrorists.
We should remember that terrorists can be impervious to deterrence. They can be difficult to identify and to locate, as we have seen recently. They can deliver weapons of mass destruction by van or boat, which are as impervious to missile defence as the type of attack that occurred on 11 September. Rogue states may prefer to use smuggled weapons rather than a rocket, which could invoke a pre-emptive attack before it was used, or lead to nuclear annihilation after it was used.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary said in the previous debate that there was a real danger of terrorists getting hold of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Reference has just been made to the visit by two United States elder statesmen, Robert McNamara and Thomas Graham, to talk to Members of Parliament and Front-Bench spokesmen of the three main parties They both say that they think that there is a threat of nuclear terrorist attack within five to 10 years. Thomas Graham says that he has seen the room in which the previous South African Government made their nuclear weapons. He said that none of the apparatus in that room would be difficult to obtain and could probably be obtained in the average British city and certainly in London. Six nuclear weapons were produced, which were considerably more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb and could be packed on to a van.
I want to compare two threats: the threat of smuggled weapons and the threat of rogue state missiles. The first is real, immediate and high. The second may not be illusory but is certainly distant in time and low.
This is a time for extremely delicate diplomacy. I hope that our Prime Minister will use the immense respect that he has gained in the United States from his international statesmanship not just to suggest that it should be moderate in its approach to this crisis, but to encourage it to reconsider priorities with regard to missile defence, the biological weapons convention and treaties and multilateralism as a whole. This is not a time to emphasise policies that create disunity and division. We need the greatest global unity to pursue not just this campaign but the world vision that the Prime Minister expounded on Tuesday.
I hope that the American Administration will listen to the voice of the American people. Before this tragedy, opinion polls showed that 77 per cent. of them believed that the greatest threat came from terrorism and only 10 per cent. believed that it came from rogue state missiles. Immediately after the tragedy, Newsweek did a different survey in which 72 per cent. of people said that they believed the immediate priority was airline security and other security and only 18 per cent. said that it was missile defence.
763 This is a time to recognise that we need international unity to fight not only terrorism and its causes, but proliferation. One of the tragic lessons of 11 September was surely that the unilateral military invulnerability of any one state is a dangerous delusion. Increasingly, the national security of every state depends on the common security of all nations.
§ John Barrett (Edinburgh, West)
Although our thoughts are with the victims and the families and loved ones of the 7,000 who died in New York and Washington, we should give some thought to the victims of terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, refugees on the move and in camps, starving, eating grass or nothing. It is not only in the west that terrorism is ruining lives.
We heard earlier who is responsible and that the evidence points clearly to bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime. I look forward to as much of that evidence being published as possible but accept that not all of it will be in the public domain. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) said, we have to take on trust what we do not see published. It is important that we convince not only hon. Members and our allies, but the general public and the general public in other countries that what we are doing is right. We must be believed.
We have identified who is co-ordinating the training for terrorism in Afghanistan and the regime that allows that to go on. Who allows it is culpable and must be stopped but serious problems will arise. Winter is about to set in and there are dangers, which have been mentioned by many hon. Members, in entering into an alliance with the Northern Alliance.
It will require resolve by all our allies. International co-operation is vital and is developing further today, but we must not allow strains on that international alliance, if and when military action starts, to affect our attempts to deal with the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding and the aid that is already arriving in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We must give humanitarian and military objectives equal priority.
We have had difficulty establishing the exact number of victims in New York and Washington and we do not know the number of victims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is good to see aid beginning to get through. In my constituency, many Pakistani families have friends and relations in Pakistan, particularly in Islamabad. They have contacted me about the crisis. I have received no letters arguing that we and our allies should move forward more quickly, but dozens of letters arguing caution. I agree with a number of points that have been raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) in the House and elsewhere.
On the domestic front, we must give greater consideration to the risks in this country. There has already been an attack on a mosque in Edinburgh, but one of my greatest concerns is the threat that exists to nuclear power stations, among other installations, in this country. The hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) mentioned the ability of terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons. Since 11 September, things have moved on. Weapons of mass destruction can be domestic airliners. Petrol tankers have been mentioned in connection with a potential attack on the Sears tower. We must look at 764 security at home. We in the House are aware that security measures have increased. I would like security measures outside to increase too.
§ Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
I would like us to look beyond what will happen in the next six weeks to six months and examine institutions that we currently call world which may not be global. The globalisation of the financial markets in the 1990s happened without any Government aid. It was a decision by big banks. They went 24 hours a day, seven days a week uncontrolled by us, the elected Members of democratic western states. When we talk about the globalisation of politics, what does it mean? I wonder whether we could reflect on that for a minute or two.
Most of the institutions that we call world—the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank—reside in America. They were born in the early part of the war in 1940, 1941 and 1942. They may not reflect where we are in world politics today. Perhaps the issue among the non-western democratic states is that they have a problem with that culturally, politically, economically and socially. Perhaps one of the things that we will have to give some thought to is whether those institutions can stay in America and whether the way in which they are run, the boards are run and the directors are controlled have to open up.
An early definition of the globalisation of politics may be: one country, one vote. That might mean looking again at the United Nations and a Security Council that has a veto. Could that be the right way to proceed if, out of the terror of the past few weeks, we are to develop new systems of global organisations? I leave that question with the House.
This matter is compounded, too, by that small thing of the 1990s called the internet. I receive daily e-mails from people in Kabul, Islamabad, Bombay and Delhi urging us not to invade or bomb because we have no idea how bad things are. I imagine that that will continue during the next six months. Thus we have an extraordinary ability to communicate with people whom we are trying to destroy, albeit not deliberately. The process is far more complicated socially because of the way in which we are able to interact as global citizens. I do not believe that the world organisations fully comprehend the pace at which the world has moved against the institutions that we currently call "world".
We have had a half discussion about the laundering of money. This House has always been critical of the moving of money by Swiss banks in Geneva and Zurich, but we are just as guilty. London banks have laundered many billions of pounds and we have allowed it. It simply cannot be right that the boards of directors get away with that scot free. We must look again at our banking regulations in the City. If banks such as HSBC and Citibank are global, as they say they are, there must be a global way to regulate, organise or restructure them. Given that we will not get it from the World Bank or the IMF, we as politicians must give a lead.
I want to look at some of the cultural implications. We have two of the most magnificent external organisations in the world: the BBC World Service and the British Council. I was pleased to find in my mail this morning the "open minds" commitment from the British Council. 765 An additional £1 million is being given from today to establish much greater contact in the Arabic and the Islamic worlds. It is strange that that has not happened already, but we must give much more consideration to the cultural implications of the relationship between, in a crude sense, Christians and Muslims. That is one of the fundamental issues.
The BBC World Service has done a phenomenal job. It is the only trusted service in Afghanistan—indeed, it is the only radio service in Afghanistan, extraordinarily. It has done amazing translations and has broadcast 24 hours a day in the past three weeks, and we should be truly proud of it. Its staff have worked heroically to bring that about.
To build on that, the House must consider whether we could establish something between a Nobel prize and an Oscar. We have awarded achievement scholarships for 100 years or so; is there not a way in which those could work the other way round, so that British young people between the ages of 18 to 30 could study in non-Christian countries and better see the relationship between the west and the middle east? It would be good to work on that idea.
Four weeks ago, I was with three other hon. Members in Tunisia. In a serious discussion with the Tunisian cultural Minister, he explained, "We are Arabic and Muslim, but we were also French. We have two languages, Arabic and French, but the internet is 98 per cent. English. In one generation, written Arabic is disappearing from our culture because of the implications of English." We take it for granted that people will speak English, but we do not understand the cultural power of English and how it is affecting the middle east and the far east. The power of the English language has deep cultural implications, and we should consider them carefully.
§ Mr. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire)
I wholeheartedly support the Prime Minister's statement and that of the Leader of the Opposition, and the remarks made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
We must in due course use our influence with the United States of America to urge them to address the reasons for the hatred of America and the west that is prevalent in the middle east. I think in particular of the several thousand militant madrassas that are training underprivileged children in Pakistan. Last week, one of the students of those madrassas was quoted as saying, "We will come after you. We will come into your schools and your playgrounds. We will get your children."
It will avail us nothing if we manage to dispose of Mr. bin Laden and his network if his place is taken by hundreds of others with similar views. It is extremely important that we urge on the US the extreme importance of a fair and even-handed foreign policy, particularly in relation to Israel and the Palestinians. The US must also pay more attention to the positive promotion of the American image and to showing what good humanitarian and development work the US does in other parts of the world.
To avoid charges of hypocrisy against the US, it is absolutely vital that we urge the US to take all further possible steps to stop the funding of terrorist organizations 766 within the US itself. This country, among others, has been the recipient of funds of terrorist organisations, which have been used to ill effect against our own people. Our constituents are entitled to ask that we urge the Government to stress the importance of that to America.
Several hon. Members have spoken about the importance of civil defence, which needs to be urgently addressed. The Government need urgently to consider issues such as the safety of our food and water supply. Speaking as a former Territorial Army soldier, I hope that the Government will look carefully at using our reserve forces in a much greater civil defence capacity. The US national guard is now mobilised to a huge extent. Our reserve forces are extremely capable and could shoulder a great deal of civil defence responsibility at little cost to the public purse.
Before I came to this House I worked in the London insurance market, and I have friends and colleagues who work in tall, prominent buildings in our financial district. It is perfectly reasonable for any employee working on the upper floors of a tall building to ask their employer what steps they are supposed to take for their own safety, should an aircraft crash into the middle of the building. I urge the Government to speak with employer organisations and City authorities to ensure that some thought is given to the safety of employees who work at the top of tall buildings.
Many of my constituents have told me that they are extremely pleased that Parliament was recalled three days after the events of 11 September and has been recalled again today. We do not know how events will unfold over the next few days. Calls have been made already in this debate for Parliament to return again next week, perhaps on Thursday or Friday. If we are to establish this House as the prime place in which important debates about the international situation take place, I urge that the House be recalled again towards the end of next week.
§ Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester)
When we were recalled to this Chamber three weeks ago, I remember thinking that these were extraordinary times. As news is still coming in today about another possible terrorist atrocity, the memories of three weeks ago are brought back, although the aftershock of those events has yet to subside.
Over the past three weeks I have been moved by the compassion and resolve that I have seen throughout the country, not least among people in my constituency. In the past two weeks the British people have shown their support in many ways. I pay particular tribute to the firefighters in my constituency, who collected more than £8,000 for the families of their heroic colleagues who died in New York.
All over the country we have seen, outside post offices and town halls, queues of people wishing to sign books of condolence. It is important for us to remember that the British people have held prayer services for the victims in churches throughout the land—and not just in churches, but in mosques, Sikh gurdwaras, Hindu temples and other temples.
Our compassion is best defined not only by its strength but by its breadth. Although most of us have stood together against terrorism, a tiny few have added to the horror of 11 September. Since the attacks in New York, 767 Pennsylvania and Washington, we have seen a spate of reprisals in this country, mostly directed at Asians. If we are determined to root out terrorism, those acts of terror cannot be allowed to escape justice, either. I very much support the measures that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary outlined yesterday in Brighton.
It is easy to categorise people in this day and age, but let us not forget that the turban and the beard are worn by people of more than one religion. They are worn by Muslims, but also by Sikhs; they are not a badge of fanaticism. My own grandfather proudly wears a turban and a beard, and he wore them with great pride for king and country in Burma, in the conflict between 1939 and 1945—and in that conflict many of his colleagues died for king and country wearing turbans and beards.
Last week we saw a leaflet produced by the British National party, showing the World Trade Centre in ruins, and containing the words:Islam creates ferocious hatred, spawning psychotic mass murderers … and vicious rioters in our towns".That is a false and ignorant statement. Such intemperate language is disloyal to our nation, and I hope that the new legislation to outlaw discrimination on the basis of religion will help to tackle it.
It is particularly important at the moment to reassure the Muslim communities both at home and abroad that we are not at war with Islam. Muslims are not the enemies of the British people. I commend the actions of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last week in meeting the representatives of the ethnic communities, especially the Muslim groups, in Downing street.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also deserves to be commended for his handling of the difficult task that he faced last week with his diplomatic trip to Iran and Israel. Our international coalition is strengthened by its breadth. If we ask Islamic countries to stand with us against terrorism, they must be made to feel that they stand with us on even and solid ground, and that is what I believe we are doing. I hope that the recent visit to meet the Israelis and the Palestinians will prove to be one of a number of turning points in the search for an acceptable and lasting peace for both the communities there.
As I said, it is easy to have certain views about one community or another. My mind goes back to when I was at university, when a friend of mine, Nasser Masri, was always late to return to lectures when we came back from the holidays. He always returned a week after the rest of us, and we asked why, what was going on? What was wrong with Nasser? After a while, he overcame his embarrassment and told us. His crime was to have been born a Palestinian, in Ramallah, so every time he returned to his studies in the United Kingdom, he was detained for a week.
Such measures breed anger and create difficult circumstances. We are right to ensure that diplomatic discussions are opened between the Israelis and the Palestinian people. I am pleased to see the Foreign Secretary's measures designed to bring that about.
I had a message earlier today from the two mosques in my constituency of Gloucester. People there were very concerned about the remarks of a former Prime Minster, reported today, about their views on what happened on 11 September. I said that I would be happy to put across their view that what happened on that clay was not only a 768 crime but a crime against religion and a crime against all of us. It was a crime against civilisation, and they totally condemn it.
§ 4.6 pm
§ Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)
I find it ironic that on a day when I am speaking in a debate on the international security situation, the former Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, is splashed across the front pages of the newspapers. It was Lady Thatcher who inspired me to get involved in party politics in the first place, at a time of similar international crisis towards the end of the 1980s, when the former Soviet Union was breaking up, and I felt less than confident in the ability of the then Prime Minister to keep us all from nuclear destruction. Now here we are at a time of equally significant international crisis in terms of the possible repercussions of our actions.
I speak as someone who counts himself a friend of America and the Americans. It already been acknowledged in the debate that there has been a latent anti-Americanism, particularly on the left, in British politics. I remember a conversation I had some years ago with American friends whom I had made in Latin America, when I had gone through all the things that I disliked about America. My friend said, "Essentially, you're saying we're all like Ronald Reagan." I said, "Yes, that's it; you've got it." She replied, "So can I assume that you're all like Margaret Thatcher, and share her views?" I realised that we had been engaged in the grossest form of stereotyping of the Americans, which we would never accept if we were talking about an ethnic minority or any other grouping, yet somehow it had seemed acceptable.
Since then, and since entering the House, I have made good friends with many American politicians. Last year I visited Representative Dennis Kucinich, who showed me that there was a huge variety in American pluralist politics, which we do not always see from this side of the Atlantic. We have to understand that America is a complex nation, with a very pluralist political system.
Speaking as a friend of the United States and of American citizens in general, I think it is important that we define what our friendship means. The United States faces a difficult situation. It needs to plan for the future and understand how it should respond, and it comes to us, their friends, to ask about that.
My experience is that in such circumstances a casual friend will not bother, will not listen and is not interested. A good friend will listen uncritically and say, "I'll support you wholeheartedly. I'll give you whatever you want." Our very best friends, however, will listen critically to what we say and then tell us what they really think. They will not just assume that what we say is correct. They will put our interests ahead even of their friendship with us—and that is the position that we should take now towards the United States. We should be that country's very best friends, listening to what it has to say but not scared to criticise.
The Opposition, too, should have that relationship with the Government. We do not wish the Government to fail; we wish them to be successful in working with the United States—but we cannot be expected to be entirely uncritical. That would be a derogation of our duty as a friend of the United States.
Two concerns have been raised with me. I had a public meeting in the constituency last week, because I had had a lot of mail on the subject and lot of e-mail urging 769 caution. More than 50 people came to the meeting, which was called at very short notice. The notes of caution came through, and two aspects particularly concern me. First, I was told about the impact on community relations, which has rightly been spoken about a great deal today. It was put to me that there is genuine and palpable fear in many communities in the United Kingdom. That fear is likely to increase as and when the prospect of military action arises.
We must also be realistic about how we are making people in our communities feel. Many people properly maintain close cultural and family ties with people in the affected regions. We believe in strong families and consider that it is right for people to maintain such links. They will now feel an immense tug. Norman Tebbit's cricket test is irrelevant. It is a perfectly natural human response, and nothing Islamic, to feel concern for one's friends and relatives in a zone that is threatened by conflict. That anxiety will be magnified if the conflict is to involve troops in the country that one regards as one's home.
For example, in the second world war, Australian Germans were allies of the United Kingdom and would have had no truck with the Nazi regime, but natural human emotion would have meant that they felt very distressed about the bombing raids against Germany. We are facing a testing and difficult time in which we must be not only tolerant but understanding. We must also show political leadership.
The Home Secretary struck a good note when the media dragged in the few voices on the fringe, as they will do in such circumstances, that were giving the anti-American line. He merely said that those people were being silly. It is very important for us, as politicians, to maintain that line. Involvement in terrorism or the incitement of violence is serious, but let us not get on our high horses when people are dragged up to express their opposition. If we disagree, let us say that it is silly but not get on our bandstands and stir things up even more because, as has been pointed out, it is the British National party that will fill the void. I hope that we are responsible and understand the difficulties faced by members of our community as military action becomes increasingly likely.
I want to deal briefly with the implications of the recent events for international justice. We may be moving into a new era in which our opinions and actions will be checked for consistency as never before. The history of the cold war is littered with stories of different countries funding groups that carried out terrorist acts throughout the world. That has been happening since the second world war. We now have a chance to start to understand terrorism for what it is—murder. Whether terrorism is committed by Colombians who think that they are operating against guerrillas on behalf of the state, by the IRA or loyalists, or by anybody else, it involves acts of murder, none of which are so gross as that which was committed on 11 September. We should never fund or support murder. We must consider mechanisms for dealing with murderers as we always have done in this country: primarily by judicial means and not by summary execution or by sending in troops. Troops may be required, as they have been in Northern Ireland, to carry out the requirements of 770 justice. There may be no other means of dealing with the situation, but our primary recourse should be the judicial method.
The formation and building of the International Criminal Court will be crucial if we are to move forward. There are people who deserve to be tried but, because of human rights concerns, cannot be sent back to the countries where the request for trial was made. We cannot sacrifice one aspect for another and say that human rights are no longer important when people are suspected of terrorism. We must satisfy the need for human rights to be upheld and the need to deal with terrorism. I believe that an international justice system will help us to solve that problem, but we must be subject to it just as much as we expect others to be.
I still have an element of hope. I believe that we can achieve our objectives only by sticking with our principles of international law. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister achieves success in being the best friend of America by guiding it towards the most appropriate response to the awful murders of 11 September.
§ Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me an opportunity, albeit a brief one, to speak in this very important debate. I have been sitting in the Chamber for most of the day. The standard of most contributions was first class and the debate has helped us to develop a number of ideas.
In the short time that I have, I want to concentrate on one matter: the implications of 11 September for NATO. Along with other hon. Members, I am a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which has an important summit this weekend in Ottawa. It will be the biggest gathering of transatlantic parliamentarians since the horrors of 11 September, in respect of which there are a number of issues that we must address as Members of the House and as delegates.
I have heard hon. Members refer time after time to the scale of what happened, but I sometimes think that it cannot sink in. I had the misfortune of seeing the events of 11 September unfold live on television, as I am sure many other people did. A television was switched on in the office at the time, and what we saw resembled the outtakes of a disaster movie. It did not look real. For many people, even after reading about what happened in the papers day after day, I do not think that the reality, implications and scale of what happened have sunk in.
As time has passed, the situation has, in some respects, got worse. After a few days, people are saying that it all happened over there in America and that they are glad that no action has been taken and that the Americans have sat back. However, the House must be absolutely clear that the implications of what occurred are enormous and unprecedented. A threshold was crossed on that day which will affect the security environment in which we live and the security threats that we face. Most importantly, its effect will be felt in the way in which we react and reconfigure our defences to confront the problem.
In 20 minutes, more innocent civilians were killed in New York than have been killed during 30 years of the horror of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Without the heroism of the emergency services and the courage of New Yorkers, more people would have been killed in that 771 single event than have been killed through acts of terrorism—within the terms that are generally used to define it—in the history of mankind.
The implications are enormous. As a Parliamentary Private Secretary, I played a tiny role in discussing the strategic defence review with Back Benchers on both sides of the House. We considered the terrorist threat, just as NATO did, but it was nothing like what we confronted on 11 September. In the SDR and the foreign policy document that guided it, terrorism was seen as an asymmetric threat, alongside organised crime, drug dealing, environmental disasters and displacement of populations. After 11 September, however, it will have to be considered in a very different light.
NATO will also have to be considered differently. Under article 24 of the NATO strategic concept, we addressed in Washington in 1999 the fear of terrorist attacks and asymmetric warfare. Again, however, the scale and unexpectedness of what happened on 11 September was never once contemplated. It was never dreamed that a number of passenger jets, laden with fuel, would be used as weapons of mass destruction. We could forget missiles and the nuclear bomb; the scale of the destruction that occurred was the equivalent of that which would be produced by a small nuclear device. What took place was beyond human reason, which is what makes it so difficult for us to deal with it.
First, I ask Ministers seriously to consider formally revising article 24 so that it includes military actions as a legitimate response to terrorist threats from a body out of area. That must be written into the charter to make it absolutely clear for the future. Secondly, there has been much talk about the number of NATO allies that will participate in whatever action is taken, and about the inclusion of some countries and the exclusion of others. The truth is that most NATO allies were incapable of contributing to any sort of action because they do not have the necessary defence capabilities.
I believe that NATO will now have to review and redouble its efforts to ensure that member states achieve the defence capability goals that it set in Washington in 1999. It must ensure that, if future terrorist threats arise, we are in a proper position to respond in military terms. I do not believe for one second that military means alone will provide any sort of solution to such a threat, but we must consider the flexibility and mobility of forces, as well as their sustainability in distant fields of action. Most important, we must consider interoperability. Our forces must be able to communicate with each other. NATO must bear in mind that we could not send a force consisting of all those different member forces to Uzbekistan or the Persian gulf to mount a combined operation at such a distance.
We must also consider whether NATO now needs a specific anti-terrorist arm or unit within the alliance that can be called on, not in the event of something like this happening again but to prevent it from ever happening. Everyone suspects that we will not see the same atrocity and outrage again and that another asymmetric attack will take place—a completely unexpected attack, of an entirely different nature. That is the threat that we face, and I think we must consider the implications in our own review and our own foreign policy.
This is not a war on Islam. In Wales, we have the oldest Muslim community in the United Kingdom, and the oldest continuously existing mosque. When I met members of 772 our Muslim community, they were unanimous in condemning what had taken place. One local leader, Mansour Ahmed, made it absolutely clear—we should bear this in mind—that he was a Welsh Muslim first and, by definition, a British Muslim first. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are in absolute agreement with that.
Let us be careful, however. I want to touch on one final issue. I may be stating the obvious, but we should be aware—
§ Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking)
Many may imagine my Surrey constituency to be a prosperous, middle-class area. In some respects it is, but many will not know that Woking contains the oldest mosque in the country and that a large number of people with a Pakistani Muslim background have been settled in Woking, contributing enormously to the community and its welfare, for some years.
I echo what was said by the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) when I say that all my experience of conversing with dozens of Muslims in the Woking area suggests that we are talking not about a clash with Islam but about something entirely different. We are talking about a clash between those of good will from all religions and those of bad will, wherever they may be. I have spoken to the leaders of the Woking community in the past few days. They are very responsible—there is a seriously responsible imam. My Labour opponent in the last general election was a member of the mosque, and a more decent person one would never find, however far one travelled. He was a very good man indeed.
All those Muslims in Woking are united in their condemnation of what happened on 11 September. Never let us in this House feel that a wedge can be driven between us and those outside who are of good will. It is a united front that we must all show—and I speak on behalf of Woking when I say that the message from that constituency could not be stronger in support of what this Government are trying to do, with the rest of the free world.
About eight years ago, I formed the Immigration Advisory Service. It replaced the United Kingdom Immigration Advisory Service, and it exists in eight, 10 or 12 offices around the United Kingdom, giving free legal help and advice to those with rights of appeal under immigration law and those with asylum problems. It strikes me as odd, but we must realise that we in this country have probably the best voluntary sector in Europe—or the best Government-supported organisation, in terms of money—giving help to those with rights of appeal under immigration law. I do not just congratulate the Conservative Government on increasing IAS funding until 1997; I congratulate the last Labour Government on continuing to do so.
The organisation now employs hundreds of qualified lawyers around the country, giving the best possible advice to those with rights of appeal under immigration and asylum law. Many Members on both sides of the House will have had cause to send to the organisation 773 constituents who were worried and upset. Long may it and what it stands for flourish: I believe that it will be called on particularly over the next few months.
Partly because of my connection with the IAS and, of course, my Woking interests, I travelled to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir not long ago. I visited a town called Mirpur. Some know Mirpur. It is a tough town. Many of my constituents originate from it and many return to it for holidays. While I was there, three people came up to me and said, "Mr. Malins, I am from Woking. What is happening about the position in so-and-so road?"
Two or three things struck me about Mirpur. We should never forget that it is a very troubled area. The nuclear experiments carried out by India and Pakistan not so long ago caused a great deal of worry to many people and illustrate the fragility of the situation there. The same can be said of Kashmir, where there is an on-going problem.
I was also struck by the sheer inhospitability of the climate. When I was there, the temperature was well over 40 deg centigrade. It is mercilessly hot at times, and the mountains were mercilessly difficult to climb up and down. It is a very bleak terrain, and Afghanistan must be the same as it is next door. Within a few weeks, the weather in Afghanistan will become much worse. It will be awful, and there will be a huge humanitarian need in that part of the world. I applaud anything that the Government do—I am sure that they will be supported throughout the House—in relation to humanitarian needs over the next few months.
I remark in passing that one of the scourges of our country—I say this with my judicial hat on—is heroin, which has such a terrible effect on so many of our youngsters who appear before me in court. Heroin is one of the nastiest things ever to have hit this country of ours, and one of the most destructive for young people. It is sad, is it not, that Afghanistan is, as far as I can see, the source of the heroin that comes to this country. We will have to watch out for that.
The area is troubled generally, however. All of us in the House must focus on the need, over the next few months, to ensure that we do what we can to help the people—an awful lot of them—who will be displaced by a combination of terribly sad events.
I have been in the House for a long time, and I know that we spend much of our time involved in party politics. I suppose that is the nature of our lives in this place. I believe that over the next few months the spotlight will be on the House as it has never been before and may not be again in our lifetime. We shall have to consider some of the most critical issues relating to asylum, terrorism and immigration. These are issues that cause high feelings and emotions.
The House must pass the test over the next few months. The best thoughts among us all must be allowed to coalesce to help us form a policy that will help to take us ahead. I have never felt—I am sure that I speak for many Members—such a heavy duty upon me as a parliamentarian to get things right over the next few months. We may have but one chance. We must all contribute as best we can in a spirit of utter co-operation.
§ Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North)
To be under attack is to be under a microscope. The response an individual makes defines clearly who they are. Faced with criticism and hatred, a person can show either courage or cowardice, calm resolve or reckless retaliation. Perhaps no response is as fitting as that of self-examination—that is to look at one's life, to examine it and to face its failings, but also to rediscover what is good. I believe that a nation is no different.
If the attack of 11 September was an attack on more than people and buildings—and it was—we must use it to re-examine our way of life. If there be any virtue in the way that we live, we should proclaim it as a memorial to those who died and as a covenant with those who share our values throughout the world in which we shall continue to live governed by the principles of tolerance, democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Those are principles that we hold precious.
Our tolerance gives us the humility to recognise that ours is not the only way of living. Our democracy establishes rights for those who oppose and seek to change our way of life. Our freedom means that no human being is forced to subject himself to another's will. However, the rule of law binds together each one of those principles under a supreme authority, which is the principle of equality.
In our way of life no individual is above the law. The rights and freedoms that our democracy establishes are the equal rights and freedoms of equal citizens. The rule of law stands in judgment against the thief who would take these privileges for himself only to use them to steal the same rights and freedoms from his neighbour.
To those who seek to turn our tolerance into their tyranny and terror we say, "You do not understand us. Our freedom does not arise because we care not what our neighbours do. Our freedom is born out of the dignity and respect in which we hold them, believing them to enjoy that same right to choose their way of life and determine their own actions as we claim for ourselves."
Freedom is a virtue of double worth. It ennobles the one who receives it. It gives autonomy, turning a human being into a person. However, freedom also blesses the one who bestows it by turning resentful subjects into equal friends. That was the lesson that gave birth to the Commonwealth. Indeed, it is a lesson that some Commonwealth states still have to learn.
How, then, do freedom, democracy, tolerance and the rule of law respond to those who would attack them? Do we meet terror with terror, barbarity with barbarity? That would be to cast aside the very values that we claim to be defending.
I welcome the restraint and thoughtfulness with which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the United States President have worked during the past three weeks. However, let those who would attack our way of life know that our tolerance is not weakness—it is what gives us our dignity and strength. Let the terrorists know that our freedom is not licence and that we shall defend our freedom. Let them know that the rule of law is not impotent. We shall not seek blind vengeance but we will exact justice, for we believe that there is virtue in the way we live. We believe that there is value in the principles we hold. We believe that the dignity of each human soul comes not from enforced enslavement to another's ideal, but from the liberty to choose a life that is one's own.
775 In Srinagar this week, another 38 people had that liberty taken from them by a terrorist bomb. Although I welcome the Pakistan Government's co-operation with the coalition, I ask the Minister to assure the House that no matter how desirable that co-operation may be in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, we will not overlook the complicity of General Musharraf and Pakistan in the cross-border attacks and terrorist insurgency across the line of control. Let the House be clear that our choice of friends in any coalition against terror must not include states that still actively promote terror in neighbouring countries. The price of their friendship is too high if it means being selective in the application of our principles.
Let us also be clear that we do not confuse terrorism with human rights abuses. That both are vile and wrong does not mean that both are the same. They are not, and we do no one any service by speaking as if they were. They are different evils requiring different remedies. In precisely the same way, we must distinguish genuine civil war where freedom fighters are engaged in a military campaign of secession that is fought against a state and its legitimate military and economic targets. America, too, won her freedom from tyrannical rule, and George Washington was not a terrorist.
Yet countries and dictators throughout the world try to brand as terrorists those who use violence to oppose them. We do liberty a disservice if, for expediency's sake, we accept that partisan interpretation. I know that it cannot have escaped the notice of at least one Foreign Office Minister that the definition of terror in currency today would have bracketed the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela together with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
The Prime Minister is absolutely correct to insist that we use this tragedy as a wake-up call to the world community to rededicate itself to global justice—justice in world trade and justice for the developing world. If we are to deliver that promise, let us now raise our aid budget to the 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product that has for far too long been only a target. Injustice and poverty allow fanaticism to breed and do its work. It is no justification, but it is a precondition of terrorism.
Finally, when the terrorists stand before their God to account for the evil that they have done, I pray that He may look at the response that their evil has engendered in us: the courage of the firefighters; the compassion of the paramedics; the solidarity and support of whole communities; the sympathy, the kindness and the acts of generosity. Let their God count all our acts of love to the terrorists benefit, so that He can indeed judge them as "The Compassionate and The Merciful".
§ Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow)
I speak in the debate in support of the Government's position. I do that not out of habit or a sense of duty, but as a father of two children who feels that he is living through the most frightening period that he has ever lived through. However, what we are doing seems to be the most credible way of dealing with the situation. It is not without risks, but whatever we do entails a degree of risk, and anyone who pretends otherwise is deluding himself. The Government are proposing the least worst set of options.
What happened in New York and Washington was simply a crime against humanity. In those circumstances, the British Government were right to stand side by side 776 with the American people and their Government—right not only because one of our major allies had experienced an enormous atrocity committed upon its innocent civilians, but because it was only through strong support that we had any hope of influencing American actions.
I believe that our influence has been felt. How many of us on 11 September feared that there would be a disproportionate, untargeted, knee-jerk response by the American Government? That has not happened, partly because of the influence and the advice of the British Government. We need, and we are getting. a cautious, reasoned response that will involve various elements—increased international dialogue and understanding, internal security measures, a huge and genuine expansion of humanitarian aid, but also, regrettably, a proportionate military response designed explicitly to reduce terrorist capability.
I am not naive. I know that however determined we are to avoid civilian casualties, that may not be possible in all circumstances. That leads to enormous soul searching to judge whether we should still go ahead with military action. On balance, I believe that we should. I would simply ask those who argue that we should not go ahead with any form of military action, what are the alternative means to deal with and prevent further attacks on the scale of those in New York and Washington?
In that regard, it was instructive to read the article in New Statesman last Friday, which laid down a challenge to 10 or 12 critics of military action who are on the left. Effectively, New Statesman asked, "If not military action, what is your alternative response?" I read the responses carefully. They were long in their critique of the historical development of American foreign policy—I agreed with much of that critique—but sadly they were short, if not non-existent, on how else we may proceed and protect ourselves.
That is the nub of the situation. We must understand that however much we increase international aid—that needs to happen—or we desire, and should see, a different and more even-handed American stance in the middle east, or we reduce international poverty, bin Laden and al-Qaeda will still try to commit terrorist mayhem and kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Next time they will try to do it with chemical, biological and nuclear capability. That is the scale of the threat that we are facing and we must stand up to it.
We also need to understand clearly what drives bin Laden and his followers. It is a hatred of the values that America and the rest of the west stand for as much as opposition to American foreign policy. Sexual equality, religious tolerance and the use of culture, entertainment and recreation as a means to personal self-fulfilment are decadence and depravity as far as bin Laden is concerned. The problem for people on the left, who have instinctively adopted an anti-American stance in the past, is that those are the very values that we hold dear. They are our values every bit as much as those of the American people and nation. That is the crisis that we face.
I also address my remarks to some of the zealots on the right who are trying to use the present circumstances to their own political ends. I address them to the British National party and to some of the right-wing commentators who attack and question the right of anyone to question and challenge military action in the present circumstances. I have made clear my view—people who 777 oppose military action are both naive and wrong in the present circumstances, but I passionately defend their right to say what they think. That is what we are fighting for.
Some of the articles that I have read in our national newspapers do not fit with the sort of debate that we should be having. This is a serious situation and everyone has a right to put forward his or her view. That right should be respected, but it is being lost at present.
I visited the Muslim community in my constituency of Harlow last Friday. Members of that community made it clear to me that they oppose what has happened as much as I do. In that regard, the comments of Lady Thatcher this morning should be treated with silent contempt. They were insulting and that is the way that we should deal with them. When I met the Muslim community I was also struck by the fact that many of them feel that Muslims throughout the world are always under attack. I came away from the discussion convinced that, whatever else happens in the coming weeks and months, we desperately need greater dialogue and understanding between the Muslim world and the rest of the world. We must proceed with conviction.
Therefore, we need proportionate military action, humanitarian aid and dialogue and understanding, but also greater internal security. We have not yet faced up to the way in which all our lives will be changed by what happened on 11 September. If I needed any convincing of that I got it when I arrived in Brighton on Sunday to see British police officers with sub-machine guns standing on the street corner. We need to consider all our internal security measures and that should include identity cards.
We are in a hugely dangerous situation in which there are no easy solutions. I have one final plea. We are not going to eradicate international terrorism—that will never be possible—but we are trying to diminish its capability. In that sense, we should proceed as we are doing and support the Government's actions.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
I speak from the left and this is my first opportunity to express publicly in the House my heartfelt sympathy with the American people, among whom I have personal friends, for the barbaric attack that took place on 11 September. It was probably the worst act of terrorism in world history and it deserves a very firm response from us all.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister and President Bush have embarked on attempts to develop diplomatic contacts with many different countries to combat terrorism. Economic and financial actions have been taken, and I happen to believe that we cannot exclude military action. However, I would support military action only on the condition that it is very carefully targeted. I do not want to return to the House in two or three weeks time and find that we are debating whether it was right for the international community, in taking military action, to have used depleted uranium or cluster bombs, as were so disgracefully used against the people of Yugoslavia.
The greatest danger that confronts us is the use of biological weapons. Thousands of people lost their lives in New York and Washington DC, but the use of a very 778 small quantity of germs—that is what they are—could kill not thousands but millions. That is the perspective from which I speak. I see that as a considerable danger. The people who were willing to do what they did in New York and Washington would be willing to use any means to wipe out whole populations.
Apart from the war against terrorism, we have to consider the problem of poverty, and I am glad that the Prime Minister addressed that issue at the Labour party conference. Poverty is the lubricant that oils the wheels of terrorism. I have no doubt about that. Many of the problems in Northern Ireland, for example, would disappear if there were a more equal distribution of wealth among the people in the Province. That is true of the world as well, and I say to the Prime Minister that poverty cannot be eradicated by the existing economic world order.
The real cause of poverty is, in fact, the dependence on a economic system worldwide in which a relatively few people have wealth and the vast majority are poor. It is a difficult problem to solve, because many people have been won over to the idea of market economics and free trade. It is not free trade but planned trade that we want if we are to help the people of Afghanistan and other parts of the world. That will not be easy to provide, but we must do it.
Arms have been used in Afghanistan, Rwanda and in the Congo—the Prime Minister referred to such places in Brighton—but there is no arms industry in Afghanistan, Rwanda or the Congo. We know where the arms come from: we sell them ourselves. On the very day that the disaster happened in the United States, there was the obscenity of a London international arms fair. There should be no more arms fairs in this country and we should work for a convention that will ensure that the arms trade is very tightly controlled.
An opportunity can arise from all this. I am glad that the Prime Minister is visiting President Putin this afternoon. The Russians have suffered, but they have received scant sympathy. We have tended to see only one side of the argument over Chechnya. The Russians have suffered the bombing of apartment blocks killing hundreds of people in Moscow, a blast in a shopping arcade and a bomb in a subway. They have had terrorism on their doorstep. I am pleased that Russia and the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are involved with us in getting at the core of the terrorist threat that is facing us.
Let us not be hypocritical. I am opposed to terrorism, all terrorism. I was opposed to the KLA terrorists in Kosovo—Madeleine Albright said that they were terrorists. I understand that it is possible to find information on the internet which suggests that bin Laden was helping the KLA terrorists for whom we provided air cover. The KLA bought their arms from the proceeds of the drugs trade, and I will guarantee that a considerable quantity of those drugs came from Afghanistan. Bin Laden was an agent of the CIA during its fight with the Soviet forces and has now come back to hit the people who fed him.
If we are to be opposed to terrorism, it must be all terrorism. America has involved itself elsewhere. It has supported terrorists in trying to overthrow the Government of Cuba as well as the use of terror to subvert the democratically elected Government in Chile. Since the 779 second world war, no country in the world has bombed as many other countries as the United States. We must address the foreign policies of the United States and Britain. Thank God it was a Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in the 1960s and 1970s who kept us out of the Vietnam war.
We must fight terrorism and embark on a military expedition in Afghanistan. My thoughts will go out to the people who have to fight that war and their relatives in this country. When it is over, let us have no more talk of expanding NATO without including Russia and let us have no more talk of a national missile defence capability. That is for the past—
§ Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe)
I wish to declare an interest of a kind. According to the Muslim Council of Great Britain at the time of the general election, my constituency has the highest proportion of ethnic minority members of any Conservative-held seat. According to the 1991 census, which is now 10 years out of date, up to 7,000 people of Pakistani and Kashmiri descent were living in High Wycombe, and I hope that the House will indulge me if I refer to them.
Traditionally, compared with some other parts of the country, race relations in High Wycombe have been good. It is worth noting that they have remained good since 11 September, as they have in most of the country. I have been up and down my constituency, speaking to members of the ethnic community. Their perception of the situation is rather different from that of others. As soon as the atrocities occurred in America, the Mosque committee declared to the local media its horror at the loss of so many lives, including the lives of about 600 Muslims. Those on the committee are as horrified at what happened as any other constituent of any other colour. They have made that point forcefully to me and to other people locally. However, they are bound to consider the situation in a way that is perhaps rather different from those who live in the more prosperous, countryside parts of the constituency that surround the town.
To a very few members of what I shall call the majority community in my constituency and elsewhere, Islam seems like a great threat. When some members of the majority community saw the television pictures of the atrocities in America, as other hon. Members and I did, they would have viewed Islam as a great, murderous, monstrous, armed, irrational threat to what has, I note, been called western civilisation. To members of the Asian community in my constituency and to me, Islam does not seem like that at all.
I would in no sense want to stereotype my constituents, and it should be noted that many of my Asian constituents are proceeding at great speed through schools to good jobs, but it is the case that that community tends to form one of the poorer parts of the whole community in the constituency generally. Rather than being part of a powerful group that perceives itself as having great strength, they see themselves as a vulnerable, threatened minority, and they consider events differently. Again, I emphasise that local race relations have been good.
Whereas the white majority in the country naturally feels itself emotionally bound up with the United States because of our long historical and cultural involvement 780 with it, my Asian constituents tend to consider things rather differently. They have forcefully told me that they believe that much of American foreign policy is mistaken. In relation to Kashmir especially, they believe that the world has not behaved with the urgency that it has sometimes shown in other cases, such as in the middle east and Northern Ireland. Of course, they are especially concerned about the current situation in Pakistan. I do not agree with every part of that point of view. I like to think of myself as a staunch supporter of the United States.
I merely point out all that to show that, although there have been some despicable verbal and physical racist attacks throughout the country, race relations are good at the moment and the situation has been relatively peaceful. None the less, I am slightly concerned that in the longer term we could end up with two communities who consider things rather differently. I hope and believe that the majority community in High Wycombe is striving mightily to understand that people who come here, or even those who were born here with origins elsewhere, will not always look at the world in the way that they do.
I certainly think that it is worth taking a lot of trouble to understand how the Asian community in my constituency feels, and that is true of many people locally and of those in my Conservative association. It is also worth those in the Asian community trying to understand—again, I believe that they are making a great effort to do so—why those cultural links with the United States are so strong and why many people here who saw the atrocious events of 11 September felt such outrage, horror and shock. After all, at this time, when so much of our attention lies elsewhere and as the threat of conflict lies before us, it is worth remembering that we in modern Britain, with all the diverse communities that it contains, are all in this together—or perhaps that we should be—and I hope that communities of all kinds will work together to bring about that happy conclusion.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)
Three weeks after New York, I do not believe that there has been any change in the feeling of horror at what happened and the feeling that the people who carried out the attacks were absolutely despicable. However, there have been some changes since the last debate when many hon. Members were concerned that there would be an over-hasty reaction and a lashing out. That has not happened and everyone should be thankful. The actions of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister certainly contributed to that not happening and to that fear diminishing, but many fears remain about innocent people being killed and the longer-term consequences of any military action.
Although I accept and believe that there would be public support for military action against bin Laden, many people would not support sustained bombing. They would certainly not support indiscriminate bombing. Support is fragile and could very easily melt away if the wrong action were taken.
It seems that there will be military action and I am concerned about what will happen if the first strikes do not lead to bin Laden being captured or killed or to the Taliban handing him over or changing their views, so I would still urge caution on military action.
My constituency has the largest Pakistani community of any London constituency and I would echo much of what has been said today about the fears of Pakistani and 781 other Muslim communities in Britain. They are concerned about what could happen here, and I have heard stories and seen people who have been abused, threatened or even attacked. We should also recognise that many of them have fears about their country of origin. They are telling me and, I am sure, other hon. Members of their fear that the conflict could spill over into Pakistan. Let us be under no illusion: many people in Pakistan support the Taliban and have had associations with them. There is a real danger that the conflict could spill over the border into Pakistan. We must be extremely careful and try to ensure that it does not happen.
We now have a broad and unusual coalition of states all saying that they will co-operate to deal not just with bin Laden but with international terrorism. We should try to ensure that any action that we take—even if it appears on the surface to be successful—does not lead to that coalition disintegrating, as if it does it will be impossible in the long term to deal with international terrorism.
Everyone accepts that it will be a long haul and a long process and that we will need a variety of tactics dealing with money laundering, improving intelligence services, sharing intelligence and so on.
Like other hon. Members, I believe that one of the most important features of that long-term strategy has to be cutting off the sources of support for the terrorists. That means looking at our foreign policy and the effects of British and American foreign policy. I do not believe that it is remotely possible to change the minds or win the hearts of the bin Ladens of this world. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that there is no common agenda possible with such people, and that is absolutely right. What we have to do is to win other hearts and minds. Our actions must not be focused solely on the recruitment of hijackers and bombers; we must consider also what conditions allow terrorists to operate successfully for a long time.
Terrorists are able to count on a variety of support: some provide tacit support—they are not prepared to give up terrorists; some provide papers or safe houses; and some give active support. Active support is merely the tip of an immense iceberg, and it is on melting the base of that iceberg that we should concentrate our efforts. That is where changes in foreign policy really matter.
The middle east has been mentioned by several Members, and I shall not repeat things that have already been said, but my experience of visiting the middle east and talking to refugees in the camps of the west bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria is that everyone can tell visitors about the United Nations resolutions and what they say. Everyone knows what their rights are and what their rights should be.
Such people also want to talk to visitors from other countries about the double standards of their country. If a visitor says, "Of course we are in favour of the UN resolutions. We support them. Of course we want a Palestinian state," he will be asked in return, "What have you done about it? What action have you taken to put pressure on the likes of Ariel Sharon? What have you done to tell him, not just that settlements should not be expanded, but that every single settlement that currently stands in the occupied territories is illegal under international law and UN resolutions say that they should 782 not be there? What have you done to deal with that?" The people point to the fact that we have taken action in other cases to enforce UN resolutions.
We have to answer such questions; otherwise, individuals will continue to have the gut feelings that generate both tacit and active support for terrorists, and states that might have helped to deal with terrorists will feel unable to do so because they fear the reaction of their own population.
My final point is that the issue is an international one, and it should remain so. Other Members have mentioned the role of the United Nations. We must not reach a position where the perception is that the United States and the United Kingdom are the sole arbiters of what is right or wrong and of what can or cannot be done in the conflict. It is tremendously important that the international coalition is kept in being.
§ 5.8 pm
§ Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham)
I thank the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) for speaking on behalf of the Muslims in his constituency. The fears that he articulated on their behalf are echoed among my constituents in the east end of London.
No cause on earth can justify the outrages of 11 September, but matters were made worse—if such a thing is possible—by hearing claims that those who carried them out would go to heaven. That struck me as larding terrorism with religious obscenity—it was a perversion of religion to make such a claim. What sort of heaven would welcome mass murderers—killers of innocent men, women and children? If such a grotesque place exists, Hitler, Pol Pot and Vlad the Impaler must already be there. I am one of those who believe that religious fundamentalism, be it Jewish, Christian or Islamic, is a curse. History reveals that religious fanaticism ranks with poverty and disease as one of the biggest killers of human beings.
I add my voice to those who have congratulated the Prime Minister and the Government on the stand that they have taken thus far, and I welcome the stand taken by President Bush, who has surprised and amazed people in this country and in the United States of America, but I feel compelled to echo some of the caveats. I was a Member of Parliament when we were busy arming Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran. We said that he was a despot who killed his own people, but we still supplied him with arms.
We have already heard about the western support that was given to bin Laden. We know that the Taliban were heavily supported by the CIA. I say that not to be recriminatory, but to remind people that all of this is based on the bankrupt, dangerous policy of saying that my enemy's enemy is my friend. We should remember that before we jump into bed with the Northern Alliance.
Like the hon. Member for Wycombe, I wish to say a few words on behalf of my thousands of Muslim constituents in West Ham and tens of thousands of Muslims in Newham, as well as the hundreds of Afghan refugees in my constituency. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) when I say that all those people are apprehensive and many are frightened about what will happen next. Many have family and friends in Afghanistan and the bordering areas 783 of Pakistan. Action, which I agree must be taken, must be proportionate and, at all costs, avoid loss of innocent civilian lives. It is pointless to bomb the rubble of Afghanistan or to cause the destabilisation of Pakistan. Yes, action should be taken but we do not want to import a conflict in Afghanistan to the streets of the east end or to our towns and cities. I trust that Ministers are aware of these dangers. They cannot repeat often enough assurances to our Muslim constituencies that they are aware of those concerns and will act accordingly.
In that context, I must join others in deploring the reported words of Baroness Thatcher, who spoke of Muslim terrorism as though somehow the sins of bin Laden belong to Islam and all the different groups in the Islamic world. It is insulting to law-abiding Muslims. We do not refer to terrorism in Northern Ireland as Christian terrorism although there are underlying religious currents in the actions of the nationalist and loyalist groups there. A period of silence from Baroness Thatcher can only help the situation; so far, none of her words has helped.
On a light-hearted and personal note, speaking as Chairman of the Works of Art Committee, I have just taken delivery of an 8 ft tall marble statue of the Baroness that weighs just under two tonnes. I am looking for a location for it. Already, I am having difficulties, and clearly I must now cross off all the mosques as possible locations.
I am looking forward to the Home Secretary's proposals to tighten laws against terrorism. People who use the language of terrorism to incite hatred and murder should be treated as terrorists. I am also looking forward to proposals to allow refugees and economic migrants to work. It is scandalous how we treat these people. They want to work but are told that they cannot. We are forcing them into areas of uncertain employment and we are inflicting poverty on them. It is unacceptable. I look forward to a proper immigration policy. We are lucky to live in a democratic, free society, but we need always to protect our freedoms against those who exploit and abuse them, and I am not talking just about terrorism.
I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) make points about identity cards. I have opposed them in the past and still need to receive assurances on how they might be used, if we are to introduce them. We need that debate, but if identity cards can be used in France, I see no reason why we should fear them here.
There is a justifiable case for a mandatory national DNA data bank. It would be helpful not only against terrorism but against crime and in identification following cataclysmic accidents. Most of those who died in the twin towers will never be identified because there is no way to do so. A compulsory DNA record is essential in this country, as it could be elsewhere.
We rightly cherish our personal freedoms in this country, but the world has changed and we should not shrink from taking action that balances our personal freedom with the safety of all our people.
§ Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)
I add my condolences to those already given in the House.
On 11 September, I was in South Africa and along with so many millions watched in shock and disbelief as the horror unfolded on television. My greatest fear was that 784 there would be immediate and brutal retaliation. It did not happen. I too pay tribute to Ministers, to the Prime Minister in particular and indeed to the United States Administration for their wisdom in creating the international coalition and the climate in which a considered response has become possible.
Many of my constituents, while condemning the atrocities, have urged me to speak out against military action and in favour of peace. They are right in believing that I am a peacemaker, though never a pacifist. I have always believed that the international community should have as many people trained in conflict resolution as in military strategy. Indeed there are countless examples of prolonged terrorist wars ending only by concerted peacemaking, and of past terrorists holding political power in modern democracies. However, the events of 11 September are wholly different. The unspeakable horror of the attacks on innocent civilians could reflect no justification. For me, it is not a choice between war and peace. It is a matter of justice—justice that can and should be universal.
International law requires us to bring the suspected perpetrators of terrorism to trial. I accept with a heavy heart that that is no longer an option. The Taliban regime not only failed to hand over Osama bin Laden but have offered him their military protection. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has reiterated, the military response must be proportionate and targeted. Its aim must be the destruction of the military base from which the terrorist acts of 11 September were organised. That is a limited military objective. It should remain limited.
"The world will never be the same" has already become a clichè in respect of 11 September, but I hope that it might prove to be the case because our world has rarely been united in pursuit of justice. Too often, nations subscribing to the thesis "My enemy's enemy is my friend" have colluded in the narcotics trade, in money laundering and in illegal arms dealing. Too often, powerful nations have fuelled regional conflicts to preserve economic interests and turned a blind eye to terrible human suffering in countries where they have no similar economic interest.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister spoke of reordering the world. The international coalition is charged with the task of rooting out and destroying support for terrorism in all its forms. We can all subscribe to that, but it will be self-defeating if it does not embrace a wider justice. Justice for the Palestinians must be one of its priorities not only because, as many have said, it is right of itself, but because continuing injustice in the heart of the Arab world inevitably provides a recruiting ground for fanatics.
Our challenges lie not just in the mistakes of the past, but with our current behaviour. The world community, primarily under the auspices of the United Nations, has sought to conclude international treaties that would make our world a safer place. A reordered world would require the United States to adhere to the anti-ballistic missile treaty, to support an international criminal court and to ratify the convention on anti-personnel land mines and the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
Global warming poses a security threat as great as any international terrorist organisation. Food and water supplies for millions are already jeopardised, whole land masses are already threatened with submersion, and freak storms already wreak havoc throughout the globe 785 with incredible economic consequences. A new, global, energy-security paradigm is urgently needed. A rapid shift to renewable energy by the west would pave the way to oil independence and the removal of nuclear power plants as terrorist targets. Most significantly, cutting our output of global greenhouse gases and developing benign forms of energy would be a powerful signal to the developing world.
We in the west are right to be proud of our shared democracy, openness and freedoms, but they depend on the exercise of justice and the rule of law, and those must determine our way ahead. We may need to work with the Northern Alliance now, but we must ensure that we do not help it to impose another terrible regime on the people—particularly the women—of Afghanistan. We must commit ourselves not just to massive humanitarian relief now, but to UN protection and the future rebuilding of Afghanistan, as we have done in the Balkans.
I represent a multi-ethnic community with constituents with roots in every part of the globe. A minority are Muslims, a minority refugees and a few are from Afghanistan. Many have appreciated the reassurances of respect for Islam given by my right hon. Friends, and the Home Secretary's announcement of new laws on incitement. However, many are also concerned lest new security measures fall disproportionately on people of colour. I know that my right hon. Friends will understand that.
On 11 September, the peoples of the most powerful state on earth experienced a profound and unique vulnerability that no military defence can overcome. As we seek to end the threat from the perpetrators of those acts, we shall need to remember that we all share that vulnerability. In Afghanistan, we shall need to use the minimum force necessary and to take every possible step to protect innocent civilians. We shall need to look again at the desperate plight of the world's poorest people and not allow the economic consequences of 11 September to fall on them through reduced aid and development funding.
We shall need to look again at the World Trade Organisation and listen more carefully to the leaders of the developing world about fairness in our dealings, particularly with their agricultural produce. In truth, we shall need to exercise the greatest caution and wisdom if we are not to destabilise whole areas of Asia and the middle east, giving rise to more odious and dangerous regimes.
As ever, the greatest task ahead of the international coalition will be not the waging of the war but the winning of a lasting peace in the re-ordered world of which the Prime Minister so eloquently spoke.
§ Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)
I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House on what is undoubtedly a crucial moment in the history of the civilised world.
We have all suspected for a number of years that we live in a dangerous and, perhaps, increasingly unpredictable world. The events of 11 September proved clearly that the worst really can happen, perhaps in a way that none of us had imagined. If there is one lesson that I 786 hope our Government and other Governments in the western world will learn from 11 September it is that we need to be prepared for the worst. What happened in New York was terrible; what could happen if weapons of mass destruction were to be used against our cities and our people is frightening beyond measure.
In recent days we have seen that events such as those that took place on 11 September are not limited to the United States, Europe or the NATO area. A horrendous attack has taken place in Kashmir and only this afternoon we learned that an airliner has been shot down out of the skies over the middle east, with many people killed. We must find a way to remove the hatred and terror from this planet and to create a more law-abiding, peaceful and potentially beneficial environment for all mankind.
Clearly, we should express our support not just for the victims of the events in New York but for those who have suffered in Kashmir and in today's attack over the middle east.
We should send our thanks to all those who have responded so nobly and selflessly to help the victims of the recent terror attacks. I pay particular tribute to those from this country who went out to counsel the families of the victims and provide support in their hour of bereavement. Many of those who gave up their time to do that are volunteers from our best known voluntary organisations in this country. They deserve our praise, and I hope that the Government will ensure that the process of support and counselling is not limited to the time when those families are in New York, but will continue afterwards.
I also pay tribute to those in this country who have done so much to raise money for the New York disaster fund. For example, the local fire service in my constituency held a fundraising morning last week at Epsom fire station to raise funds for their colleagues in New York.
I have a small Islamic community in my constituency, but I did not turn to them to seek their opinion, looking for condemnation of what happened in New York. I did not need to. I know them well as friends, as well as residents of the local community, and there is no need to ask about their attitude to what happened. They would condemn it, as would any right-minded citizen of this country.
However, like many Islamic communities in this country, they fear what might happen to them in the aftermath. It is undoubtedly our duty, as leaders in our respective communities, to set an example to all the people whom we represent, and to show that we need to support the Islamic community in this country. It is not they who carried out that horrendous act.
I ask our broadcasters to think about the groups to which they give air time. There is a danger that they may look to publicise the views of a minority at the expense of the views of the majority, and that does no favours to the majority of the Muslim community.
We need to focus on three issues in the aftermath of the events of recent weeks. First, there is the need for a balanced response. I share the pleasure of other Members of the House that the United States has taken time to think about its response, and has not responded in an abrupt, hasty and potentially damaging manner.
None the less, we need to take tough action; we have no option. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell)—I see that he has now left the Chamber—was correct to 787 say that when dealing with an enemy who is willing to attack without thought, concern or consideration for civilian life, we have no choice but to respond in a way that tries to stamp out that threat properly once and for all.
We need to balance our response by providing the aid that is needed for the millions who have been removed from their homes in Afghanistan and who today are wandering the deserts looking for food.
Undoubtedly, we have a political responsibility to do what this country has always done, and try to find solutions for the world's trouble spots. The western world has played an active role over many years in trying to solve the problems in the trouble spots of the middle east, and to support a peace process between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world. As in other areas that threaten to create the environment that provides a recruiting ground for the terrorists, those efforts need to be redoubled.
The second challenge is that we need a pragmatic approach to civil liberties in this country. We must ensure that the rights of the individual do not take priority over the rights of society as a whole. While protecting the rights of the individual, we also have to protect our people collectively. That means that we should keep the possibility of identity cards under consideration, if our security forces and police advise us that that is the right step to take.
Last week a senior police officer said to me that there are people in this country—they may come here as asylum seekers or refugees, or perhaps through conventional channels—who are a genuine threat to our society. If we need a more regulated society to ensure that such people cannot take action that undermines our society, so be it. We should expect anyone who seeks to live here to respect the security of our society, and in my view, if there are people who do not do that, we should not be afraid to withdraw from them the welcome that we first offered them.
We clearly need to focus on our defences. During the past 10 years, we have run down aspects of our armed forces for a variety of reasons. In the wake of the cold war, in our belief in a peace dividend and our feeling that the world might be a safer place, we risked taking our eyes of the ball regarding our defences. We now have clear evidence to show that we must think again. I am glad to hear that the Government have decided to review force structures in this country and to consider whether we have the right capabilities to protect our people. One or two hon. Members mentioned the need to focus on civil defence. I have spoken to people in our security forces during the past couple of weeks and I know that many of them have serious concerns about the nation's ability to withstand a major attack. We need to be certain that we have the best possible civil defence structures.
What happened on 11 September brought to life a challenge. I suspect that it has been building for years. The terrifying thing—
§ Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
We have reached the stage of the debate where everything that can be said has been said, but not everyone has said it. I shall now add my piece.
788 There is general consensus on the view that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given very distinguished national leadership in this crisis. In his statement, he sought to clarify some of our objectives. Yes, they include the destruction of bin Laden and his network, and possibly also of the Taliban, as it is very difficult to disentangle bin Laden from them. It is worrying, however, to hear some people in or close to the United States Administration use phrases such as "attacking every snake in the swamp". One can imagine the roll call of countries that they have in mind.
We must make it absolutely clear that we have very limited military objectives. If we want to put countries such as Iraq into the frame, we must remember that there are more effective weapons such as the smarter sanctions and the sort of draft Security Council resolution that was being discussed in early July, but which the Russian Federation blocked for its own commercial reasons. Such measures are far more effective than military action. Seeking to deal with "other snakes in the swamp" could not only destroy the coalition that has been painstakingly built up, but lead to a wider and horrific war.
I want briefly to examine some of the motives of the terrorists, some of the effects of their actions and the lessons that we may seek to learn. On motives, it has been properly said that there is no way in which we can do deals with bin Laden or find a consensus. Usually, hijackers ask to be taken to a particular country or request the release of some of their co-religionists. The agenda of bin Laden and his associates is so much wider than that; even if, by some miracle, the Palestinian conflict were resolved tomorrow, it would not be satisfied. They want to go much further in acting against western civilisation and all the moderate Arab states that work with the west in general. There is no way in which we can seek to compromise with such people.
Some people, such as Huntington, talk of the great clash of civilisations that is to come. I reject that view. Far more productive is the sort of slogan that President Khatami used when he spoke of a dialogue of civilisations. I hope that, among our religious leaders and more widely, there will be such a dialogue of civilisations and that it can be productive.
I welcome what the Government have said about new laws on incitement, which will help to reassure a number of Britain's Muslim communities. Those communities will be feeling beleaguered. I also welcome what has been said by many of their leaders in expressing outrage about the atrocities in the United States. I hope that they will go further. I hope that they and others who have the respect of Muslims overseas will say that suicide bombing is a perversion of the Koran and that there is no way in which those who use themselves to destroy the lives of innocent people can hope to obtain an accelerated passage to paradise for themselves and their families. That is one of the great problems. How do we convey the message to people in, no doubt, deprived communities abroad that it is not, in fact, a grand thing to die in such a way? It is a problem for us, but it is a particular problem for religious leaders in those communities.
The terrorist seeks—obviously—to instil terror. He hopes to ensure that people lose confidence in their own institutions. There are lessons for us to learn in what the terrorists are doing. Have they succeeded? Certainly, in some ways, they have instilled terror, and they have had the most awful effects. Certainly, there have been effects 789 on our economies. We have seen what has happened to the airlines; we have seen a loss of jobs around the world, partly attributable to the events of 11 September. But our economies—the western economies—are much stronger than that, and of course we shall recover. We must ensure that we do not overreact to those awful events, and we must seek to ensure that the civil liberties we enjoy in the west are maintained.
Let us consider some of the lessons that we can learn, both at home and abroad. Some of the effects may be positive. In the past, the coalition against terrorism has been ineffective; now, the world appears to have woken up to the dangers posed by terrorism. It has been shown that we are all vulnerable. Indeed, the United States may experience a sea change in its own policies, away from the unilateralism that characterised the first months of the Bush Administration and the negative policies of the biological weapons convention, Kyoto and so on. There may well now be a recognition that engagement is very much in the Americans' own national interest.
What, then, are the lessons for us? First, we need radical improvement in the way in which we tackle the problems of terrorism. There must be no surrender to the terrorists. Abroad, we seek the widest possible co-operation in terms of sharing intelligence, and in terms of the police and judicial authorities, dealing with money laundering and so forth. That is absolutely vital. We must seize the opportunity that has come to us with the aftershocks of the events of 11 September.
We also need to defeat the enemy at the political level. Tribute has been paid to the work of not only the British Council but the BBC World Service. The World Service has expanded its services in Pashto, Persian and Urdu, and is enhancing its medium-wave and short-wave transmissions to Afghanistan and the surrounding region. It can play a crucial role in countries such as Afghanistan, where, with no television or credible national newspapers, radio is the main form of communication. The World Service has responded speedily, and I hope that the Government will pick up the bill that will no doubt follow.
At home, issues such as that of identity cards have been raised. What disturbs me is that we in Parliament are spectators in that debate. We hear noises off from the debate in Government. Are they for the scheme or not? Do they want it to be voluntary or compulsory? I hope that the decision will be made by Parliament, and after due debate. I am distressed—
§ Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)
We should pay tribute to three enormously important contributions that the Prime Minister has made to the way in which the world has dealt with events following the awesome and tragic destruction of life in America on 11 September. He should be given credit for the restraint that has been built into how we now identify both the scale and nature of the threat, and the way in which we are beginning to talk about it. He needs to be congratulated on the sense of solidarity to which he has contributed in pulling together in the international coalition that the world has formed. 790 He needs also to be congratulated on ensuring the first stages of legitimacy of international action in the two resolutions that the UN Security Council has passed. Those are the bedrocks or founding stones upon which we should base our judgment as to how and where we proceed from here.
I am one of those who has urged a large degree of caution. I have raised some serious reservations about the nature of military intervention. It is important to address the challenges that have been set out. I am not opposed to intervention. What happened in New York was an appalling act of terrorism, not an act of war. The difference between the two is extremely important.
In an act of war, there is an opposition, which is usually another country. The battles involve ownership of land or the right to rule. At the end of the day a peace process has to be agreed, as a surrender or a brokered peace. There are identifiable parties between whom that peace has to be brokered. What happened in New York had nothing to do with that process.
That is the basis on which it is said that it is impossible to negotiate with bin Laden. His actions are not based on the occupation of particular land but are in pursuit of a distorted version of an ideology. That poses a challenge to the way we meet that threat. It cannot sit comfortably behind a bland endorsement that there is a conventional military solution.
Those who have examined specifically the landscape of Afghanistan would warn us that there is precious little to be gained by bombing a country that already sits on the edge of the stone age to somewhere before or beyond it. The strategy of intervention that I advocate is one that is driven by our notion of justice and by international law and legitimacy. On that basis, we must have the courage to return to the Security Council to ensure that we have even more specific mandates for the defined actions that follow. It is important that we have that endorsement of legitimacy and the definition of constraints that go hand in hand with it.
I want to see a specific mandate for action that will authorise the international community's sanction of special forces being involved in the pursuit of bin Laden. I want to see that pursuit defined at least by an opening intention, which is that we are seeking to get hold of bin Laden to subject him to trial under international criminal rules in an international criminal court.
I want us to affirm the importance internationally of proceeding on the basis of evidence. We should proceed through the UN because I know there must be a mandate for Afghanistan of the sort that related to Cambodia. If we are to honour any of our international obligations to Afghanistan and the poverty that exists there, such a mandate will be essential.
I have forewarned in various articles about the lack of precision in what we are saying that we are doing. There must be a balance. The pursuit of bin Laden will have to be painstaking and relentless. He will not offer himself up easily and it will not be entirely clear what part of anyone's terrain he will be occupying. That is my reservation when it comes to bombardment and what it might do. If Afghanistan needs to be bombarded with anything, it should be bread, grain and medicines. It is imperative that they are delivered in the next several weeks.
791 Bin Laden must be pursued with relentless determination so that he can be brought before the international courts of justice. If that is to be done, we will probably have to remove him forcibly. Constraints are important to us because they will send out a different message to current allies in the coalition. I am worried that without a definition we may send out the most unfortunate green-light messages to some of our partners, which would be interpreted as approval to act in whatever way they like.
None of us can doubt that there are people in Russia who would consider the flattening of Chechnya to be a proportionate response, in their terms. In China, the obliteration of Falun Gong practitioners might be seen as a proportionate response. In Israel, I see no charge by Sharon to find new common ground with the PLO. Instead, the charge is to obliterate every symbol that may represent Palestinian independence, in order to say that that is part of the destruction of the al-Qaeda network. Even in Ireland, a hardening of the divides would allow some to say that it is proportionate to define eight-year-old schoolgirls armed only with a fully laden lunch box as the legitimate targets of pipe bombs.
We must define not proportionate response but appropriate response in more specific terms, if the international coalition is to be held together on the basis of just and humanitarian causes and international equity.
Pursuing bin Laden to trial obliges us to consider how and where we set out the evidence. The Leader of the Opposition said this morning that bin Laden was guilty as charged, but none of us has seen any charges, and none of us has seen the evidence. I do not want to see it. It is not appropriate to present it in the House or to the public, but it ought to be presented to the UN Security Council or to an international panel of judges, as demanded by Pakistan and, according to the news today, as required by Saudi Arabia as the basis for action not just to pursue America's enemies but to pursue a broader attack on terrorism.
In doing that domestically, we can do several things. We ought to reduce risk, rather than making citizens feel insecure. As a Government, we should reconsider the decision to approve a MOX reprocessing plant. Hitting one nuclear power station would result in the unleashing of 200 Chernobyls. That would be the scale of the disaster if an airliner was flown into a nuclear power station. We should not get distracted by the debate about ID cards. The equivalent of the cost of such cards would provide 4,000 or more officers on the beat or involved in intelligence-based policing—
§ Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)
Since the appalling atrocities on 11 September, we have heard that our civilisation is under threat. We have even heard that the attack represents a clash of civilisations. In the short time available to me, I begin by rejecting that claim outright.
To speak of a clash of civilisations is to imply that one fanatic and his network, supported by another bunch of fanatics—the Taliban—represent a civilisation. Given their track record, the opposite is true. They represent the antithesis of civilisation. They represent destruction and 792 degradation in all spheres—political, social and economic. It is true, however, that owing to the extreme nature of their barbarity, those fanatics might in the long run quicken the international community's determination to create and to police a world order based on the rule of law.
We achieved the rule of law and democracy in Britain only towards the end of the second millennium. The beginning of the third millennium marks the infancy of global democracy. The United Nations is only 52 years old—imagine when the UN is 300 years old, in 2249. Whether we reach that year will depend on the future success of the UN. British people looking back on us in that age will view us as being at the mediaeval stage of global governance and development. Whatever those British people survey in 2249, some small part—or possibly a large part—will have been shaped by our response to the events of 11 September 2001.
What will that response be'? It must be a rules-based approach to international relations. That means strengthening our global institutions, nurturing global institutions that are rules-based and democratic, and reforming those that are not.
Incidentally, the World Trade Organisation is one of the most democratic and rules-based global institutions. Given the link that has been made by the symbolic attack on the World Trade Centre and the debate around globalisation, we would do well to remember that we must ensure that the economic rights of people in developing countries are tied into the response we put together.
I have been delighted to hear what our Prime Minister has had to say on that matter. Indeed, only a few days ago at the Labour party conference he spoke of the need to find security and justice within institutions and a global response that looks to and speaks to people in the developing world. He even mentioned conflicts that I have heard no one else mention recently, such as those in the Congo and Rwanda. He did so because until we start to look into some of the root causes of instability and insecurity around the world, we will not be able to deal with the threat of terrorism, which is cowardly and uses those problems as an excuse for its own appalling deeds.
If we are to create a rules-based response and to improve rules-based institutions, we must first look to the United Nations. I welcomed the Foreign Secretary's remarks when he said that a UN mandate for governing Afghanistan was an option that would be considered. We certainly need a UN peacekeeping force with a mandate to establish a transitional administration that is able to facilitate democratic elections at some point—the same type of force as that used in Cambodia and East Timor.
Again, if we are to strengthen a rules-based approach, Britain needs more influence over the global institutions that shape our world. I was pleased to hear this morning that the Security Council has invited Britain to chair a committee that will study the use of sanctions against members who do not uphold resolution 1373, which legally binds UN member states toseek out, prosecute or extradite terrorists on their soil.
If we are talking about strengthening those international institutions, we cannot help but recognise that sub-international institutions—that is, regional institutions—have also grown in importance, which leads us inexorably towards the European Union. I certainly hope that there too, Britain will continue to increase and exercise its influence. Clearly, we can have more influence over those institutions 793 only through participation not isolation. I hope that is one thing that the American Government will also consider in their response, which until this point has been extremely measured.
Everyone has said that everything has changed since 11 September. For me, it certainly has. Before 11 September, no one could have convinced me that I would ever have a shred of respect for President Bush, but today I do respect the response of the American Administration.
We also need to consider some of the reasons why so many people dislike and even distrust America—I speak as an American citizen who holds an American passport. One obvious reason that it is important to single out America is because it is the most powerful country on the planet. Perceived hypocrisy massively compounds the usual antagonisms that face a world superpower. Some people despise America because it is a superpower. Some people despise it because of its values—free speech, liberty and democracy; and some people despise it because they feel that much of its foreign policy since the second world war has made a mockery of those values—a mockery of free speech, liberty and democracy. There are many examples: Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in 1960, Cuba in 1961, Chile in 1973 and Nicaragua between 1981 and 1986. There is no need to labour the sense of injustice that many people have felt about the perceived use of double standards in American foreign policy. As many speakers have said, nowhere is that more obvious than in Israel and Palestine.
My grandfather was in the British Army, and one Member spoke of how his Sikh grandfather wore a turban and beard and went to battle for king and country during the second world war—
§ Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)
I begin by relating something of which I am a bit ashamed. On the afternoon of Tuesday 11 September, I saw on the internet what had happened in New York and my thought immediately was "Israel". That was a small victory for Osama bin Laden. He had succeeded in part of what he had set out to do by bringing to my attention a situation that he believed was unjust. We must not delude ourselves that there is no reason behind the action that he has taken. That is not to say that we should yield or should negotiate even if it is clear that he has presented us with something to negotiate about. I am sure that something more than the problems in Israel lie behind his activities, and the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) mentioned an example.
Over the next couple of days, like many hon. Members I developed an increased regard for President Bush. He had the uniquely difficult task of representing the view of a nation that had been attacked at home when it had never been attacked at home before. He had to bring together the feelings and demands for retribution, revenge and retaliation and turn them into something sensible, measured and concrete, and that, with the support of the international community, he could deliver. He has done just that. He has turned the immediate demand for revenge 794 into a much more measured demand for justice and prevention. He has done so—I am sure in part—because he has surrounded himself with wise counsellors and has taken note of the views of the international community represented not least by the Prime Minister.
We need to address a couple of issues—I am sure that the Prime Minister and others may already have done so—in our reaction, but they have not, as far as I know, been mentioned in the debate. When I did a phone-in on Isle of Wight Radio recently, the most difficult questions I was asked were: "Why, given that you support the action whatever it is, are you not talking about introducing freedom and democracy to the Arab world? You say that the action is in defence of democracy, freedom and civilisation, so why are you not talking of introducing those virtues to the whole of the middle east, which is pretty short on freedom and democracy?"
I hope that I gave the right answer. I said that we have to respect other civilisations as well as our own. Liberal democracy is the best way to rule any country, but it is not within our power to impose liberal democracy out of the barrel of a gun on a nation or on a culture that believes in a different system of government. Whether it is a theocracy, autocracy or whatever kind of government, we must have respect, in delivering internationally agreed objectives, for the people of civilisations different from our own.
When we talk of defending "civilisation", I believe that we use that word in its widest possible sense. We are talking not just about the defence of western civilisation as represented by capitalism and liberal democracy, but about the civilisations of the Arab world and of the east, and we have perhaps done too much, insensitively, to undermine them in the past.
I believe that over the last century, indeed the last millennium, the United Kingdom, as a western european country, has brought untold benefits to other parts of the world. However, other parts of the world think differently now and we do not have the power that we used to have to impose our values on others. Therefore, I address, with just a little concern, the Prime Minister's aspirations expressed at his party conference on Tuesday. Of course, to reshape the world is a wonderful aspiration, but I wonder whether we have the right to do so.
I believe that we have the right to defend our values and to defend our civilisation when it is under attack. We also have the responsibility to defend other civilisations when they are under attack. Arab countries take a different view from us about the role of women in society and about the role of democracy. I believe that our responsibility, indeed our right, is limited to defending ourselves when under attack. We do not have the right to intervene in countries that rule themselves effectively, even though we may disagree to a considerable extent. Of course, it is a grey distinction. It is the distinction between the appalling atrocities of the Taliban, not least towards women, and the different approach to the role of women adopted by western civilisations.
Let us be unlimited in our ambitions but limited in our objectives to that which is achievable and legitimate. That far, we will support the Prime Minister and the United States in defending our interests and protecting our civilisation.
§ 6.3 pm
§ Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk, West)
In peacetime, during the latter part of the last century, people in this country gave less thought to national and international security than to the contents of their weekly shopping. In wartime, during the first half of the last century, the reverse tended to be the case. That pattern always seemed not only understandable but as it should be, as freedom from fear and insecurity were two of the immediate aims of the two great wars of that century.
While no one in their right mind ever desired either of those great wars, both brought unquestionable benefits which extended well beyond the defeat of fascism. Those benefits, which included universal suffrage and the national health service, came as post-war expressions of the collective endeavour and sense of higher national and international purpose engendered by those terrible wars. In wartime 20th century Britain, there was most certainly such a place as society.
Those who came through one of those wars—we are still blessed in our constituencies with many who came through both—are perhaps the only people who truly know what national wartime spirit really felt like. Others can empathise, through endeavour or conflict in their own lives or through studying war and society in the 20th century. I believe that in the years following 11 September 2001, our nation, alongside our allies, needs to rediscover important aspects of what has in the past been called wartime spirit.
Certainly, times have changed, and that spirit may manifest itself in new ways. Society is far richer and more diverse, and old-fashioned jingoism is most certainly not the order of the day, but it is fair to say that today many people recognise the need for a renewed collective spirit. That will be reflected in their attitudes to a host of issues, from military deployment to national investment in public services and international partnerships within and outwith the European Union. In that respect, ordinary citizens need to understand something that those who have written the doctrine of the British armed services have known for some years: in the 21st century, it no longer makes sense to speak of war and peace as though there is a clear delineation between them.
Through our televisions, many of us will have begun to learn the early language that goes with casting aside those old certainties. Each day we hear the term "asymmetrical warfare"—we have heard it several times today—and we know that, if nothing else, it means that the conflict that we face is entirely unlike the symmetrical conflict of the similarly configured armies, navies and air forces that faced each other during most 20th century wars.
We have long lived with the reality of low-intensity conflict, such as that in Northern Ireland, as opposed to the high-intensity conflict of what used to be called total war. The reality is that terms such as low-intensity and high-intensity warfare and asymmetrical and symmetrical warfare now have the main public purpose of indicating that a spectrum of violence and military action exists and that during the 21st century our armed forces, and more generally we as a society, must be prepared to act and live along that entire spectrum. In turn, therefore, the very language of peacetime and wartime will need to change. For example, considering whether or not we as a nation are at war will become more a matter of language and perception than one of Governments making a categorical decision about whether or not we are at war.
796 A most important thing is that the people of this country adopt permanently a number of assumptions and attitudes that have been associated until now with periods of armed conflict, one of which is that the fundamental right to life will, from time to time, require all of us to accept temporary constraints, or perhaps more permanent ones, on certain personal freedoms and higher standards of security than those that we may have been used to recently. Such measures will, of course, be balanced against the need to maintain an open, democratic society, but other assumptions will include the need to make personal sacrifices from time to time, the need to show resolve when others, including those in the armed services, make such sacrifices, and the need to grasp the importance of information flows towards and away from our enemies.
Perhaps above all, the British people must continuously look beyond the day-to-day events of the coming months and years to see the greater democratic and humanitarian significance of our efforts across the world. Of course, the imperative now lies with reducing the risk of terrorist attack wherever possible. That will naturally focus our attention on particular geographical areas in the short term, but it is impossible to understate the potential effect of the emerging new world consensus on regions that need our help more than ever before.
We know that humanitarian aid of a high order will need to accompany any military action in Afghanistan, for example, and I hope that wherever a specific threat of worldwide-reach terrorism rears its head, a combination of incisive military action and comprehensive humanitarian relief will yield the results that we all seek. However, we will need to keep our eye on those areas where conflict is endemic, yet where the immediate risk to us is perhaps lower, and I am thinking of Africa in particular.
I was privileged to spend a short while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently as part of the all-party group on the African Great Lakes region, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King). My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has noted elsewhere that the developed nations could have responded far better to the Rwandan genocide of 1993 and 1994. Although the current situation in the Congo is in some ways quite different, we should be in no doubt about the misery caused there by years of civil, and rather less than civil, war. We have a responsibility to act there, too, in whatever way we can, and the people of the region must not become invisible casualties of our own struggle against terrorism for our own security.
As has already been mentioned, it is also time for us to consider the relationship between sound governance and democracy. It seems to me that our aim must always be to drive democracy forward in those parts of the world where it is not currently practised. At the same time, however, it is impossible for democracy to operate in a collapsed state. In such situations it is essential for us to encourage administrations to adopt high standards of governance, to invest in infrastructure and to encourage civil society and human rights without demanding impossibly short time horizons for our standards of democracy before, for example, even the most rudimentary internal communications are in place. In short, we must recognise that there are leaders in non-democratic societies who strive for better for their people while at the same time driving home to them in unambiguous terms that democratic structures must be the eventual aim everywhere.
797 September 11 was a cataclysm and a tragedy from which, I hope, good will eventually come—
§ Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.Britain's national security is based on the mutual support that comes from membership of NATO. That will not change … there are new threats to our people from crime and terrorism. Instability around the world can affect us directly and we have global responsibility to play …The person who drafted those words at the beginning of the defence section of our manifesto can scarcely have known how meaningful they would become within months of the June 2001 election.
Just days after the grim events of Tuesday 11 September, Plymouth was set to be the venue for the ceremony marking the change of command for the NATO Standing Naval Force Mediterranean. The passing of the command from the Italian flag officer to the United Kingdom was scheduled to take place at the same time as our previous debate. As things turned out, the service personnel involved had more pressing matters than the planned ceremony and the social celebration attached to it. In the wake of the attack on New York it would have been quite unthinkable.
Plymouth's links with America go wider than its role as a key defence city through the 50-year-old alliance of NATO. The vast majority of the 46 places in the world named after Plymouth, England, are in the United States. Many American firms have operations in Plymouth. Some of them recently joined other firms through the chamber of commerce to make something more of our historic Mayflower steps, which for far too long were a disappointing commemoration of the departure of the pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 to establish a new home in what has become Plymouth, Massachusetts, ironically to escape religious intolerance in this country.
Searching for some tangible means of expressing their shared grief, many Plymothians and tourists have made their way to the steps with flowers and candles. Samantha Ravell, a 12-year-old student at Lipson college, summed it up rather well when lighting her candle. She is quoted by the local evening paper as saying:It just seemed the right thing to do.A simple bunch of yellow carnations was accompanied by the message:For all the victims of New York city and Washington DC and throughout the USA, and all others that have died at the hands of terrorists.This has to stop.LuvBrendan & other children of the 21st century.
To be young should be to be optimistic. The appalling events of 11 September undoubtedly represent a sea change. Out of adversity it is sometimes possible to derive not only strength, but an advance in civilisation. Because words are capable of so many sensitive meanings at times of heightened tension, I should explain that I mean civilisation in the most generic sense—as the opposite of barbarism in all its many forms and not just as the 798 prevailing culture of western democracies. Never has it been more difficult—and yet easier—for us to move in a more civil direction and for Governments to establish frameworks which encourage the best rather than the worst in people.
I urge my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to follow through in respect of the role of drugs in financing international terrorism. Earlier this year he undertook to make Britain the hardest country in the western world for drug dealers to operate in. No doubt he did not imagine that we would need to address the issue in quite such a context.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure us that a key goal in removing the tools of terrorism will be to destroy the fields of death where the drugs cycle starts. If they are a key part of funding a network that can commit such heinous acts as those of 11 September, that is justification enough for their destruction, but drugs do far more than that, as hundreds of my constituents know to their cost having witnessed the lives of children and people close to them ruined by drugs. There are more than 1,000 addicts in Plymouth alone, but they are not the only victims: it is estimated that in Plymouth goods worth £1 million are stolen each week to feed drug habits. Those who are the victims of the vicious cycle that starts in the poppy fields of Afghanistan extend far beyond those who died on 11 September.
The Royal Navy has been building up experience working alongside international agencies: earlier this year, drugs worth £70 million were seized off South America. I hope that as part of our long-term determination to tackle the roots of terrorism, that experience will be built on and deployed with even greater effect. Our armed services are among the finest. As we speak, 14,000 are on exercise in Oman, together with a similar number of Omani troops. We hope that our service personnel will return home by Christmas.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown) who asked the Prime Minister not to allow under-18s to be deployed. I believe that that should be their choice. It is a choice that 17-year-old Heather Woolger, a west country Wren serving on HMS Cornwall, a type 22 frigate, wants to be able to make for herself. Her mother is proud of what she has achieved, but is understandably concerned: if it were left to her mother, Heather would, no doubt, be home by now. However, like her family, I feel that at 17 she is capable of making her own choices in such matters.
At the beginning of the 21st century, we have the tools to find creative solutions to the world's great challenges—not only the terrible events of last month, but the many other problems that scar the planet. We have a tremendous responsibility to the children of the 21st century to use those tools well.
§ Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)
I begin by commending the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner), who movingly summed up the mood of the House and of the public as we face the terrorist threat. He made it clear that we should not allow the terrorists to mould our opinions or to dictate the agenda.
It is pointing out the obvious to say that the issues raised in response to the Prime Minister's statement this morning and during today's debate are by no means 799 confined to foreign affairs and defence matters; they take in home affairs and international development as well. I intend no criticism of the Government when I say that Ministers have done a great deal of thinking aloud about the need to improve our national security and the effectiveness of the campaign to combat terrorism—indeed, we applaud the Home Secretary and his colleagues for doing so—but they have opened up many more questions than they are able to resolve.
I echo the words of the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Foreign Secretary: such questions should be fully debated by Parliament. We, like many other Members of Parliament, are asking when Parliament will see the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for International Development at the Dispatch Box. Part of the purpose of recalling Parliament is to give the Government the opportunity to face proper scrutiny of their proposals and to respond to the questions raised. Next Thursday or Friday appear to us to be appropriate dates for such a debate.
The key message that emerges from today's debate is that the whole of the civilised world desires a response to the crisis that is far more comprehensive and effective than the sort of simplistic military reaction that some feared would be the response. The Government clearly understand the need to address a wide range of internal security issues, especially those that relate to the means of arrest, prosecution and extradition of suspected terrorists, their helpers and their financiers—a point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) and for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham). Today, I can inform the House that we have tabled amendments to the Export Control Bill precisely to address the question of people from the United Kingdom providing military assistance to terrorists overseas.
I also commend the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Gamier). His points deserve to be addressed directly by the Home Secretary. My hon. and learned Friend rightly demonstrated to terrorists why Parliament matters.
Many hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Woking (Mr. Malins) and for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman), raised the whole question of race relations and spoke of the need to amend the law of incitement to racial hatred. Almost every speaker in the debate would have liked to hear from a Minister with direct responsibility for policy on those matters.
On the definition of terrorism, do the Government agree with the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) that there is to be a distinction between international terrorism and domestic terrorism? I have to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and the Ulster Unionists who expressed considerable unease on that point. Are the Government proposing an international definition of terrorism for use by the European Union and other international bodies?
International development was widely debated. Clearly, there is widespread concern in the House about the need to supply aid to Afghanistan and the other countries in the region affected. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) asked about the standards of refugee camps and what action the Government may be taking. We welcome the Government's commitments of £25 million directly for Afghanistan and £11 million for the refugee camps in Pakistan, but we need to hear from 800 the Secretary of State for International Development how the aid will get through and how we will prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.
Let there be no illusion that our words in Parliament, legal reforms, resolute action at home and a generous international aid programme abroad on their own can resolve the immediate threat that is posed by Osama bin Laden and his allies who comprise the network of international terrorism. That is why we commend the resolute action that the Government have taken in preparation for the military action that we fear may be necessary.
The House as a whole appears at ease with the way in which the United States has led the international response so far. There has been less fear of a so-called blank cheque for United States military action—a false image that did nothing but raise fears of an intemperate response, which have clearly proved to be false. The foundation of this confidence is the extraordinary international coalition that the United States, the United Kingdom and NATO have assembled in support of a truly comprehensive response. On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to express my appreciation for the work of the NATO Secretary-General, Lord Robertson.
On Tuesday, NATO formally invoked article 5 of the Washington treaty. Lord Robertson announced that since it had been determined that the attacks had been directed from abroad, they were regarded as an action covered by article 5. I now understand that the United States has formally called on NATO to mobilise its resources for possible military action. Today, NATO has outlined eight measures to support the US military effort, including unrestricted access to European airspace, ports and airports.
No one can doubt that the Atlantic alliance has the central and crucial role in the current international coalition against terrorism. In recent years NATO has had its many doubters and many have, sadly, questioned its role and value. The Prime Minister himself has even referred to those who would wish to destroy NATO. I trust that its crucial role in the current crisis will dispel for ever such doubts about the alliance's future. We must, however, always be ready to adapt its role to meet new challenges.
The same applies to our armed forces, so I invite the Secretary of State for Defence to enlarge on his announcement in Brighton on Tuesday. What precisely did he mean by "rebalance"? He said:As a result of the attacks on the United States, we will be looking again at how we organise our defence.This will not be a new Strategic Defence Review, but an opportunity, if necessary, to rebalance our existing efforts.I welcome the Government's readiness and flexibility of mind to revisit SDR so soon after its implementation. We have always said that SDR would not be the end of the process. However, I am concerned about the word "rebalance" because it implies that what may be added to one capability may be cut from another in order to balance the books. I can imagine the Treasury urging the word "rebalance" into the text of the Secretary of State's speeches and that he is not altogether happy with it.
We have consistently warned of how defence commitments must be matched by defence capabilities. The Prime Minister's ambitions to police more of the 801 world make that warning all the more relevant, so I commend the Secretary of State's comments on "The World at One" on Tuesday:I think we need to look very carefully at the level of financial commitment that we require".I agree. He will have our support in advancing his case with the Treasury.
I ask the Secretary of State to clarify whether there is to be some special forces review, as reported in the press. I know that he is aware of how difficult it would be to expand the Special Air Service or the Special Boat Squadron without losing what makes them so special. Will there be a consultation paper? Is there a time scale for the review? Will there be cross-departmental consultation, as with SDR? Many people, including my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson), have expressed concern about the resourcing of the security services. Will the review be based on a formal reassessment of asymmetric threats, which is clearly already under way informally, reflecting the interrelationship between terrorism and the illegal trade in drugs, international racketeering and financial fraud?
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of visiting our forces on exercise in Oman. Exercise Saif Sareea 2 involves the deployment of huge quantities of equipment, including tanks, aircraft and ships, along with 23,000 service personnel in hostile desert conditions over an area that stretches for hundreds of miles. It is a fantastic achievement for those involved, from the chiefs of staff to every one of those carrying out their duties in theatre. The exercise tests to the limit our ability to project real military strength to the most distant corners of the world. Everyone I met showed their sheer professionalism, guts and good humour, despite considerable physical hardship. I hope that the House will join me in commending all those involved.
There will be many lessons to learn from Saif Sareea 2. Many of the lessons were touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), but now is not the occasion to embark on that debate wholesale. However, there is one important message to which the Secretary of State should immediately and publicly respond, and I have given him notice of the concern. Forces personnel on Saif Sareea 2 were promised a "welfare package" that included the opportunity of regular telephone and internet contact with their families at home. In the aftermath of 11 September, that regular contact is hugely important for service men and women who wish to reassure their folks back home. In the case of certain deployments, it has proved impossible to fulfil that promise.
Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he will give his attention to that small but acute problem? There can be little worse than waiting for an expected call that never comes. We owe it to our service men and women and their families to provide every means of reassurance that we can at this worrying time.
It is the first duty of any Government to provide for the safety and security of their citizens. On 11 September, our citizens were subject to a terrible and evil attack. They were murdered by an enemy who remains free, able and motivated to strike again. The news this afternoon is that he may already have done so.
802 The Government would be failing in their duty if they did not use every means at their disposal to deal with that threat. The House would be failing in its duty if it did not support the Government at this time. That is why we support the Government's determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and her other allies as the whole civilised world comes to terms with what has happened.
The Foreign Secretary said that on 11 September the world changed, and of course he is right in terms of our perception of our own security and of our need to change our attitude towards it. In substance, however, the world did not change; it merely revealed itself. As the horrible freshness of the 11 September tragedy begins to fade in our minds, we must never again drop our guard.
I commend the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), who apologises for being unable to be in his place. He said that it will be the job of Her Majesty's Opposition to urge the Government to press on with the plans and strategy that they are currently formulating to protect the world from the terrorist threat. I assure my hon. Friend that that is what we shall do.
Our armed forces are prepared and ready to do whatever they are called upon to do. That is their job and they are devoted to it. Nevertheless, our thoughts and prayers will be with them and their families every hour of every day until their task is done.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)
First, I apologise to the House for my absence from the Chamber during the middle of the debate. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will understand why, in these very particular circumstances, I have not been present in the Chamber for as long as I would normally have been, and for as long as I should have liked.
The question of the tragic crash in the Black sea has been raised. A Russian TU154 travelling from Tel Aviv to Russia crashed into the Black sea. We understand that 66 passengers and 10 to 12 crew were on board; sadly, all are believed to have died. It is too soon to say what was the cause of that unfortunate crash. A number of theories are doing the rounds, but it is better for the moment that we do not rush to any early conclusions. It is important. though, that the House should express its concern for the victims and their families, and the Government will certainly be writing to both the Russian and Israeli Governments to express our condolences.
The scale of the terror that faced the world on 11 September went beyond anything that we had seen before. The exact numbers of those killed are still not known and may not be known for many days, or even weeks, more, but it is clear that some 6,000 people lost their lives in those appalling attacks.
We have seen suicide attacks before, but never causing death on such a scale. As the Prime Minister said, it was a turning point in our history. Our world now looks a very different place. We now face new challenges—from the terrorists responsible for the attacks on the United States and from others using similar tactics.
Two tasks lie ahead: we must bring those responsible for the events of 11 September to account, along with all those who support, harbour and protect them; and we must deal with the wider threat of the evil of international terrorism.
803 Our message to Osama bin Laden has been absolutely clear. We know that he is guilty. Information that the Prime Minister has placed in the Library of the House makes that quite clear. We will bring him to account. Our message to the Taliban has also been clear. The world is watching them. Their chance to surrender the terrorists and end their support for terrorism is fast running out. In answer to the question from the shadow Foreign Secretary, that is our aim: to remove the support for terrorism in Afghanistan, and to show that such support will not be tolerated elsewhere.
As a number of right hon. and hon. Members have said, the United States has shown great dignity and restraint since 11 September. We commend its refusal to lash out in instant revenge. Whatever action is taken, in self-defence and within the UN charter, must be proportionate and carefully targeted—compatible with legitimate self-defence in accordance with international law. It will therefore be rules-based, as was requested and required by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King). We recognise that it must target the guilty, and wherever possible, avoid harming the innocent. We recognise that it may take time, and may risk lives, but we recognise, too, that the time for forceful military action against Osama bin Laden, his associates, and—if they do not act—those who support them, is undoubtedly coming.
A shadow of evil and death fell across New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September. It fell across the United States. It fell across the whole free world—but from that shadow some good must emerge. We face a choice. We could cower in the face of this threat, or we can destroy it. With our allies, we are determined to eliminate terrorism as a force in international affairs.
The United Kingdom will play a full and active role in working to achieve those objectives. To do otherwise would be to ignore our responsibilities as a close ally of the United States and as a member of the United Nations, the G8, NATO and the European Union.
My answer to the points raised by a number of right hon. and hon. Members is that it is because we recognise the range of responsibilities that we are working to build a humanitarian coalition to deal with the growing crisis faced by Afghan refugees, and to offer those innocent and helpless people—victims themselves, with whom we have no quarrel—the assistance that they need. The United Kingdom was the first country to pledge money for refugees. The sum now stands at some £36 million, in addition to the £35 million that we have given to Afghan refugees since 1997.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the humanitarian aid be provided before the winter snows come, and the passes become impassable?
§ Mr. Hoon
It is already being provided. The Department for International Development's first shipment of 400 tents arrived in Iran yesterday. A further flight with more supplies is due to depart for Iran at the end of this week. We do recognise the effects of the onset of winter, and the difficult conditions in Afghanistan, but much determined effort is being made throughout the world to ensure that aid reaches the country quickly. There is, of course, a great deal more that we need to do, 804 and I assure my hon. Friend that we are thinking urgently about what further help we and the rest of the world can give. I know that many right hon. and hon. Members were concerned about that, especially my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), and I hope that I have been able to satisfy them that we are making determined efforts.
In addition to the building of a humanitarian coalition, a range of further measures are being taken by the international community. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been in regular contact with President Bush. I have been in close contact with Donald Rumsfeld, the United States Defence Secretary. This close contact has been matched at all levels within the Ministry of Defence, and right across Government. We have consulted carefully on the appropriate response to the attacks on 11 September, and have made it clear to our United States ally that we will offer it every assistance in whatever action it takes.
As the Prime Minister announced this morning, we have received an initial request from the United States for a range of military capabilities. We have already responded positively to that, and we shall consider further requests as and when they are received.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
The Secretary of State has said that Britain is prepared to respond positively. Will he say what impact that will have on the heavy commitments in which our armed forces are already engaged in various parts of the world, not least in the Balkans?
§ Mr. Hoon
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, which he has raised with me before. Clearly it is my responsibility, on behalf of the Government, to ensure that our armed forces are not asked to do more than they can reasonably sustain, and we shall have careful regard to that consideration in the weeks and months ahead.
§ Ms Oona King
On the point of funding the military, and in the wake of the attacks of 11 September, does my right hon. Friend share my hope that both the left and right will learn some lessons? Should not the left accept that we need to prioritise military spending so that peacekeeping roles, among others, can be fulfilled and the right accept that we must prioritise humanitarian aid and that it must be paid for?
§ Mr. Hoon
The lesson of events in the Balkans and elsewhere—indeed, this is one of the lessons of the modern world—is that we need to recognise that humanitarian crises go hand in hand with military ones and that there must be a co-ordinated response across government. I think that that point was made from the Opposition Benches. It is important for us to join together those responses, as this Government in particular have done.
§ Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead)
If military action is taken, when does my right hon. Friend expect to be in a position to announce the rules of engagement and the war aims? If those aims do not include removing the Taliban, on what basis will they be engaged?
§ Mr. Hoon
I had thought that my hon. Friend might have noticed that I dealt with that point earlier. The purpose of any military action would be to create a 805 condition in Afghanistan whereby it had a Government who did not support international terrorism, took appropriate steps to remove terrorists from within its borders and ensured that no further help was given to terrorism.
I was dealing with contacts between allies. I want to make it clear that there have been a range of such contacts, not only with the United States, but with other allies. NATO defence Ministers met in Brussels last week to discuss how we can work together in our response to the threat of international terrorism. NATO has taken the unprecedented step of invoking article 5 for the first time in its history, in recognition that the attack on the United States was an attack on all of us. Other allies, therefore, also stand by to assist the United States.
The discussions in Brussels included a meeting with the new Russian Defence Minister—the first civilian to be made a Defence Minister in that country. The response to the attacks on the United States has been remarkable for the degree of unity shown by nations across the world. The Russian support for the United States has been invaluable. The Prime Minister's visit to Russia today is a sign of that developing closeness, on which I hope to build when I visit Russia for talks with its new Defence Minister next week.
The United Kingdom's armed forces have continued to serve our country with very great distinction. They have consistently excelled recently in a number of difficult situations in the Balkans, East Timor and Africa. Only last month, I went to see Britain's contribution to Task Force Harvest in Macedonia. Their professionalism, skill and determination to play their part in restoring stability to that country were all that we have come to expect. I have no doubt that, if and when they are called on to play their part in the action against Osama bin Laden and his associates, against the Taliban, and against others who support terrorism, they will do so with the same distinction.
Many of our service personnel have already deployed to Oman to take part in Exercise Saif Sareea with the Omani armed forces. Planning for the exercise began some four years ago. It has been designed to test and prove the success of key elements of our joint rapid reaction forces. It also demonstrates the closeness of our friendship with Oman and will develop our wide-ranging defence relationship.
Before this debate, the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) raised with me the issue of the welfare package. I was grateful to him for relating to me the experiences that he gained when visiting the exercise in Oman. We were aware of certain difficulties with the welfare package. Efforts are being made to put that right. I am grateful for the thoughtful way in which he raised the matter and the balanced manner in which he dealt with it today.
The United Kingdom's contribution to the exercise is immense. It is the largest overseas deployment by British forces since the Gulf conflict. As the House will have heard, some 20,000 service personnel are taking part. We have deployed the Illustrious Carrier Group, 3 Commando Brigade, five squadrons of Challenger 2 tanks, some 50 fast jet aircraft and many other force elements. I must emphasise to the House that they are there to take part in 806 the exercise. Obviously, however, in the light of the attacks on the United States and given that we know where they originated, it is a fortunate coincidence that our forces can by their presence contribute to the trap that we are closing around Osama bin Laden. We are prepared and ready to draw on those deployed forces if that is required, but, as a number of Members have said, the war on international terrorism will not be won by military force alone. It must be fought on other fronts too—through diplomacy, new legislation and new economic measures. That point was made by a number of right hon. and hon. Members, including, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith).
The enemy that we face is sophisticated. It has close links with transnational organised crime, illegal arms trafficking, the movement of illicit drugs, and money laundering. It threatens us in many ways. Our response must be sophisticated too, and organised on a national, regional and international basis. That was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy). I emphasise that we have already made our first moves. We have acted to increase the security of the United Kingdom in the face of these threats.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear, we have no evidence of any specific threat of terrorist action against the United Kingdom. It is, perhaps, one thing to describe a doomsday scenario in a Sunday newspaper; it is quite another to deploy a functioning, effective weapon of mass destruction. Of course, that does not mean that we should not be vigilant—as we all must be.
§ Laura Moffatt (Crawley)
Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking those who work in international airports, especially Gatwick and Heathrow? They have performed an enormous task in coming out of their offices and assisting the security operation. Theirs has clearly been a difficult job for too long, but is it not remarkable that they are prepared to continue that mammoth task in the circumstances that airlines now face?
§ Mr. Hoon
Absolutely. Their task is difficult not least because, until 11 September, training for those close to airports and airlines was based on the assumption that they would be dealing with a rational threat—that they would be dealing with people who, in effect, wanted to exchange the safety and security of potential hostages for the fulfilling of some demand which, however irrational, could be dealt with in a sensible way. That training, and that approach, will now have to be adjusted to take account of those who no longer have a rational approach, but are essentially determined to bring about their own deaths and the deaths of as many other people as possible. That requires very different training and a very different approach. I commend all those in airports and airlines who have had to adjust to a very different and extraordinarily dangerous reality.
When I addressed the House two weeks ago, I talked about the valuable work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in pulling together contingency plans to deal with any incident that might occur. The plans involve a wide range of Government Departments and agencies, as well as bodies and institutions in the private sector. Many of the plans were drawn up long before 11 September; where necessary, they are being reviewed in the light of what happened.
807 My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already spoken about what we are doing in the diplomatic sphere. As the House is aware, the Prime Minister is playing a leading role in drawing together a global coalition, united in its determination to rid the world of this terrorist threat.
§ Lynne Jones
Does my right hon. Friend intend to deal with the points made by several Members about the need to bolster and extend the capability of international organisations such as the United Nations, and to set up an international criminal court? In particular, does he intend to address the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) about the need to question the role of the veto within the Security Council? Finally, has he considered whether we should use resources that it is proposed should be deployed in national missile defence for purposes that would be more effective in resolving conflicts and combating global threats?
§ Mr. Hoon
I had not intended to deal with all those points specifically. However, the Government have been strongly committed to the international institutions. The UN is showing its very great strength in these particular difficulties. Certainly the Government have supported a process of reform within the UN. I am sure that my hon. Friend recognises that that process can proceed only by way of consensus within the UN. That approach has not always been the one that all Governments have been willing to take.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has indicated what we intend to do on the legislative front. The new Terrorism Act 2000 came into force in February, and extended the proscription regime to include 21 international organisations. As for the point made by the hon. Member for North Essex, the Act includes a definition of terrorism. Perhaps that is a useful starting point for examining terrorism both nationally and internationally. We are determined that the United Kingdom will not become a place where terrorists and their supporters can take refuge.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has set in hand an urgent review of the case for new powers, policies and other action that may be necessary in the light of what happened on 11 September. New legislation will be brought forward during this Session.
As I have mentioned, the existing legal powers to tackle terrorism have been updated very recently. They are among the toughest in the world. Even so, as a measure of our determination, these powers will still be reviewed. Consideration is being given to providing the courts with new powers, improving the appeals process and cutting off terrorists' access to the money that they use to finance their operations. The Home Office is also considering proposals for tightening the asylum system to deal with those who seek to abuse it. Against this background, it is considering the means by which transport companies obtain a wide range of information on arriving passengers and then provide it to law enforcement agencies. All these measures are expected to have benefits to law enforcement agencies that are fighting related threats to our society such as drugs and organised crime, a point well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton.
808 The Home Office is also considering tightening the laws on incitement to cover religious as well as racial hatred, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien) and other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Home Office has plans to deal with people such as Omar Bakri Muhammad and Abu Hamza, who are operating freely in our country and inciting people against our liberal traditions? They are inciting the wholesale murder of people with whom they disagree. What action will be taken against them? The people of Britain are offended that no action has been taken under the plethora of terrorist legislation that we already have.
§ Mr. Hoon
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point in his usual style. The matter is being considered with some urgency in the Home Office. I understand that the shadow Home Office team has been briefed on the efforts that are being made.
On the economic front, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out earlier in the week the new measures that we intend to take to ensure that no bank or financial institution, national or international, will be able to offer a hiding place for terrorist funds without fear of prosecution. These measures include police monitoring of accounts that may be used for terrorism, police powers to seize cash throughout the country, police powers to freeze funds at the outset of an investigation. tougher obligations on banks and financial institutions to report transactions that they suspect may be related to terrorism, supervising the implementation of the money laundering regulations by bureaux de change and money transmitters and allowing the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise to exchange relevant information with law enforcement authorities.
§ Mr. Hoon
I need now to make some progress.
These actions will be replicated across the world as nations respond to the obligations of the UN Security Council resolution 1373, taking the necessary measures to suppress the financing of terrorists and denying them a safe haven from which to operate.
We recognise the powerful points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson). [Interruption.] I shall eventually get the pronunciation right of the constituency of Clydebank and Milngavie.
The cold war ended 12 years ago. We knew what it meant when the Berlin wall came down. We knew that we were watching events that would reshape our lives, as we did when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre collapsed. The end of the cold war meant that threats to international stability were no longer likely to come from superpower rivalries, but instead from ethnic and religious conflict; population and environmental pressures; competition for scarce resources; drugs, crime and, of course, terrorism.
Events over the past decade have, sadly, proved that we were right. There has been ethnic conflict in the Balkans, vicious internal conflict in Sierra Leone to gain control 809 of the diamond fields, and elsewhere endemic warfare in Africa. We knew that the world had changed, so we had to change to face the new challenges. The strategic defence review ensured that our armed forces were structured and equipped to operate and succeed in this new environment.
The process of implementing the review is still under way, but already we are seeing the results. Our armed forces have deployed to Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Macedonia, in each case acting with skill and determination and, only where necessary, with lethal force. They have, again and again, been a force for good in the world.
The strategic defence review leaves us well placed to take on and defeat international terrorism. We have significantly improved capabilities, reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, precision strike, rapid deployment, and sophisticated command and control, all of which will play their part in the campaign against international terrorism.
The attacks on the United States have shown us that we must build on this success and go further. We must look harder at the kind of asymmetric threat that we saw on 11 September. We must ensure that our concepts, force structures and capabilities are exactly those that we need. That deals with the point made by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth).
As I have already made clear, this will not be a new strategic defence review, but we need to add a new chapter to it and to look hard at our priorities in our plans and programmes, so that we can add capability where it counts—where it makes a difference. Just as the strategic defence review itself benefited from an open and inclusive approach, so will this further work draw fully on wider 810 opinion and expertise. I hope that, in the light of his extremely thoughtful remarks, my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) will contribute to that process. I invite the Opposition defence team to do the same. I am determined that the work will be as open and inclusive as it can be.
The United Kingdom will respond to the challenge of meeting the new threats, but achieving our objectives—bringing Osama bin Laden to account, along with others who support him, and tackling the wider threat of international terrorism wherever it operates in our world—will not be easy. We are embarking on a new mission, requiring a multifaceted approach on a number of different fronts. It will involve a series of deliberate, co-ordinated steps. Can I appeal to Members of the House to judge the success of the overall strategy not by individual actions, but only by the results of the whole?
Staying the course will be hard. It will be long. It may well be painful. We will have to show the patience and the resilience that we have shown in facing other threats in our history. Continuing the patient, careful strategy that we have begun is the way to achieve our goal. I know that the House will share our determination to see this through. At the very least, it is what we owe to those who died three weeks ago.
§ Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.