HC Deb 05 January 2004 vol 416 cc21-33 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about Libya.

As the House will be aware, the announcements about Libya's weapons programmes occurred on 19 December, a day after the House had adjourned for the Christmas recess. I therefore felt that the House would like an early opportunity to hear a report from me and to discuss those developments.

Libya is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and to the biological weapons convention. We have long been concerned, however, about Libya's proliferation activities, which potentially could have posed a threat to the region, and might put Libya in breach of those international obligations. Furthermore, there have been profound concerns about two Libyan acts of terrorism in the 1980s: the Pan Am flight destroyed over Lockerbie in December 1988, and the murder of Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher in April 1984.

For several years, we have been engaged in discussion with the Libyan authorities to resolve those two issues. The discussions led to the trial—under Scots law, but in The Hague—of Libyan citizens accused of offences in connection with the Lockerbie outrage and, much more recently, to Libya agreeing to pay compensation to the families of those killed at Lockerbie, and to the Libyans accepting full responsibility for the actions of their officials. In consequence, United Nations Security Council sanctions were lifted under Security Council resolution 1506 on 12 September last year. The Libyans have also paid compensation to the family of WPC Fletcher, although we continue our efforts to pursue her murderers.

An important aspect of the Lockerbie discussions was Libya's categorical renunciation of terrorism and its pledge to co-operate in the international fight against terrorism. My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), restored diplomatic relations in 1999. In 2002, the Minister for Trade and Investment, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), who was then an Under-Secretary in the Foreign Office, visited Libya and held fruitful discussions with Colonel Gadafi. Last year, we concluded a cultural and transport agreement with Libya. More recently, Libya repaid on 30 December—just a week ago—£20 million of debt that it had owed to our Export Credits Guarantee Department.

This process of engagement provided the backdrop for the discussions on Libya's weapons programme, which began with an approach to us by Libya in March last year. At Libyan request, these discussions took place in the strictest secrecy. Nine months of work by officials and experts from the United States and the United Kingdom then followed. Libya acknowledged to us that it was developing a nuclear fuel cycle intended to support nuclear weapons development. A team of British and American officials were given access to projects at more than 10 sites. Those projects included uranium enrichment. Libya had not yet developed a nuclear weapon, but it was on the way to doing so. Libya provided to us evidence of activity in the chemical weapons field, including significant quantities of chemical agent and bombs designed to be filled with chemical agent. The team of British and American specialists was given access to scientists at research centres with dual-use potential to support biological weapons-related work. Libya has provided access to facilities where missile research and development work has been conducted.

As a result of these discussions, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, United States President Bush and the Libyan Foreign Minister, Abdulrahman Shalgam, on behalf of Colonel Gadafi, made parallel public statements on 19 December. I am placing Foreign Minister Shalgam's statement in the Library of the House. In the Libyan statement, Colonel Gadafi committed his country of its own free will…to eliminate these materials, equipment and programmes", thus ridding itself of all internationally banned weapons. Our own Prime Minister, in his statement, paid tribute to Colonel Gadafi for making this courageous decision.

I have invited Foreign Minister Shalgam to visit London soon to discuss a range of bilateral and international issues. That will form part of the process of implementing Libya's decision to dismantle its weapons programmes. Britain and the United States will now make progress with the practical issues of verification and of the dismantling of the weapons, in partnership with Libya and with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We have committed ourselves to helping with the preparation of Libya's return to those two international organisations, and to helping to dismantle the programmes that Libya has agreed to destroy. Responsibility for verifying Libya's declarations lies with the IAEA and OPCW, within their respective remits, and it is for the Libyan authorities to inform those organisations about the details of their programmes.

I have kept in close touch with Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, director-general of the IAEA, and I spoke to him again this morning. He took a team to Libya last week and visited a number of sites there. A report will be presented to the next meeting of the IAEA board of governors in March.

This agreement represents a successful outcome for the engagement by the United States and the United Kingdom with Libya over a long period. We have, I believe, established a relationship of trust, which has enabled Libya first to renounce terrorism and now to renounce the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. I applaud the remarks of Foreign Minister Shalgam, who has said: Libya's belief is that an arms race does not serve its security nor the security of the region, but conflicts with Libya's overarching goal of a world where security and peace hold sway. For our part, we have recognised that we now have corresponding responsibilities to enable Libya to come fully into the mainstream of the international community.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction represents one of the most serious threats to national and international security. Tackling that threat is at the heart of the Government's efforts to create a more peaceful and more prosperous world. In parallel with the discussions with Libya, much work has continued with Iran following its agreement in principle with the IAEA board of governors and the Foreign Ministers of Germany and France and myself. Iran has now signed an additional protocol allowing intrusive inspections under the IAEA's regime, as agreed with the three Foreign Ministers—including me—on 20 October.

It is always, and obviously, better to resolve issues through negotiation and agreement when that is possible, but for that to happen it is necessary to have a partner with whom to negotiate. Over the last five years, we have built a relationship with Libya, through active diplomacy, which has enabled us together to take an important step towards reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction and enhancing international peace and security.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con)

I thank the Foreign Secretary both for his statement and for allowing me to see it in advance.

Conservative Members welcome the statement of 19 December that Libya would transparently and verifiably complete elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, restrict its missile programme range to 300 km and adhere to the chemical weapons convention. That is hopeful news, and if those commitments are in due course fulfilled it will be good news. May I, through the Foreign Secretary, congratulate the skilful British public servants who, along with their American colleagues, have painstakingly—over many months—brought the Libyans to the current promising position?

It is significant that this progress has been made not through a United Nations resolution or through formal European Union initiatives, but through the firmness of purpose and deft diplomacy of the United Kingdom and the United States. I must ask the Foreign Secretary whether there are other states with extant WMD programmes where the UK and the US are undertaking similar initiatives—for instance, Syria or North Korea.

Can the Foreign Secretary be more specific about the extent and nature of the WMD programmes in Libya that are covered by the agreement? How advanced were the programmes that are now being investigated? Have experts either seen or uncovered in Libya "massive evidence" of programmes and facilities for the production of WMD of the sort claimed in relation to Iraq by the Prime Minister on 16 December?

There have been recent reports that Libya purchased a significant part of its nuclear know-how and materials from Pakistan. Has the Foreign Secretary had discussions with the Government of Pakistan as to whether those reports are true and, if so, what was the nature and extent of such transaction?

I welcome the progress confirmed by the Foreign Secretary today, but is it not wise to exercise a healthy degree of caution when dealing with Colonel Gadafi? Should not the complete lifting of all sanctions wait for the actual dismantling of the weapons of mass destruction concerned? Should not other unfinished business be completed, such as the naming and handing over of WPC Yvonne Fletcher's cold-blooded killer, before the hand of friendship is fully extended?

Was it really wise for the Prime Minister to describe as "courageous" a past provider of weapons to the Provisional IRA for use against our people, or for the Foreign Secretary to describe one of the leading backers of Mugabe and his vile regime in Zimbabwe as a "statesman"? We know that spin is endemic for this Government, but those claims are just foolish.

The Foreign Secretary went on to say that Gadafi is almost in from the cold". Has he not almost come in from the cold before, such as in 1982 when he promised President Mitterrand of France that he would stop funding the IRA, only two years later to double his support; or in 1986, when he pledged, and I use his words, his "Arab honour" to President Mubarek of Egypt that he would stop all anti-American terrorist activity, just two years before Pan Am 103 was blown out of the skies above Lockerbie? Does the Foreign Secretary really believe, with all the evidence of irrationality, dishonesty and totalitarianism, that on this occasion Gadafi can genuinely be trusted? If so, can he tell the House what has changed?

The pudding being served up today shows promise, but the proof of it should be not in the recipe, nor even in the cooking, but in the eating—and it is a pudding that should be eaten with a very long spoon.

Mr. Straw

First, I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his congratulations to people whom he described as "skilful" public servants. Indeed, they are and they were, and they worked very co-operatively with their counterparts in the United States.

I understand that, given Libya's history, there may be a degree of scepticism about the arrangements that we have made with Libya, but the Prime Minister used the word "courageous" and I used a similar word, "statesmanlike", in the statements on 19 and 20 December as a result of the best judgments that we could make following long experience, working in the strictest secrecy with the Libyans over many months, going back to a period of conduct from the late 1990s, when my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), made arrangements for the trials of the Libyan suspects to be held in The Hague and then for the restoration of diplomatic relations with that country.

Of course, everyone on each side is bound to be cautious—that applies also to the Libyans—but I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be right to be too cavilling about what has been achieved. It is a very significant development. Moreover, the reassurance lies in the extent to which Libya has accepted very intrusive inspections by the IAEA and the OPCW and, outside their remits, by the United States, the United Kingdom and, in appropriate circumstances, by the P5 of the Security Council.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about matters relating to other states. Work in relation to North Korea is well known and publicised, and on the record. He will forgive me for not going into detail about other states that we suspect may have illegal weapons programmes. The same caution applies in respect of suggestions in the newspapers about countries that allegedly acted as suppliers to the Libyans. These matters are themselves the subject of verification procedures, which will be led by the IAEA and the OPCW, within their remits.

Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston) (Lab)

May I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on a landmark agreement—without the qualifications that we have just heard from the Opposition Dispatch Box? Does he agree with me that we do not have to endorse all the foreign—or, indeed, the domestic—policies of Colonel Gadafi to recognise this as a good agreement that we should welcome, that serves our interests and that is also right for Libya? We should certainly go into this with our eyes open and without any false impression about what may be in the background or about some of Colonel Gadafi's current policies. But if we do not respond generously and openly to this good agreement, we are very unlikely to get any other such agreements from any other country in the world.

Finally, may I invite my right hon. Friend to convey the House's warm appreciation to the career diplomats in the middle east command, who have proved that patient and persistent diplomatic engagement can be as successful as any dramatic method in reaching a solution?

Mr. Straw

I thank my right hon. Friend for the very diplomatic terms in which he put that question—the season of good cheer has obviously continued into the first week of January. In turn, I should like to offer my thanks to him for the leadership that he showed some years ago. He took some rather difficult decisions, opening up relations with the Libyans to get agreements in respect of Lockerbie, and to set the ground for agreement to pay compensation to WPC Fletcher's family. However, in answer to a question from the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram)—I am sorry that I did not deal with it directly—I accept that there are still outstanding issues to be dealt with by the Libyans in respect of their co-operation in our identifying WPC Fletcher's likely murderers.

I shall of course pass on my right hon. Friend's thanks to the career diplomats, and to the others—they are well known to him—who worked so hard on this dossier. I endorse the point that he makes: this is a sensible agreement that is right for the international community, but is also right for Libya. Over the years, it has become apparent inside Libya that its future security would not be assured in any way by its developing unlawful weapons programmes in the nuclear, chemical and biological fields, and that it is far more likely to be assured—as I am sure it will be—by its coming fully into the international fold.

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD)

The Foreign Secretary's statement is extremely welcome. In respect of Libya, we must never forget the atrocities committed at Lockerbie or the callous murder of WPC Fletcher. However, at a time of enormous worldwide uncertainty and danger, Libya's new willingness to comply with international obligations represents a major breakthrough. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister deserve full credit for their part in securing that. To the warm thanks already offered in this Chamber, I add my own warm thanks to the civil servants and diplomats involved, both here and in America.

According to the Foreign Secretary's statement, Libya had succeeded in enriching uranium, yet according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the programme was still at a very early stage in its development. Can he clarify his understanding of the progress made by Libya? What does he expect the international inspection regime's timetable to be and what role will the UK play in it?

Putting this development into its wider context, does the Foreign Secretary agree that, as the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said, patient multilateral diplomacy offers the best way of removing the worldwide threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction? Building on the recent successes in Iran and Libya, can he assure us that the Government will use this newly created momentum to intensify the effort for diplomatic solutions in other potential flashpoints, such as North Korea?

Mr. Straw

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. He is right to say that we must never forget either the poor souls who lost their lives on the day of the Lockerbie atrocity or the outrageous murder of WPC Fletcher. We do not intend to do so.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the timetable. What is now happening—this partly answers his question about uranium enrichment—is the beginning of a programme of inspection and verification by the IAEA and the OPCW. The remit is wide but has limits. Parallel discussions are also taking place between Libya and the United States and the United Kingdom in respect of other matters. A report will be presented to the March meeting of the IAEA board of governors, though what it will contain remains to be seen. The IAEA's inspectors and our own experts are still actively investigating issues about the extent of the uranium enrichment facilities.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about patient multilateral diplomacy. I have always been in favour of it, as have the whole Government. However, we must bear in mind that any sort of diplomacy can have effect only if there is a willing interlocutor. That applied in Iran and Libya, and I hope that the relative early success of those two engagements will encourage the forces of light in countries that still harbour unlawful weapons programmes to engage in similar diplomatic activity. That will require them, as much as us, to engage with the process.

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries) (Lab)

The whole House will welcome today's announcement and developments over recent weeks. My right hon. Friend mentioned Lockerbie, and compensation is still very much on the agenda. However, I am sure that he and other hon. Members will agree that compensation can never make up for the loss of loved ones—all 270 of them. It has been said recently that because the US is not lifting sanctions—necessary by 12 May—Libya will withhold the compensation payments. Will the Foreign Secretary do everything in his power to ensure that his colleagues in the US lift those sanctions? Can he provide a simple answer to a simple question—and will he put it to Colonel Gadafi—that Lockerbie families still ask? Why was Pan Am flight 103 targeted in the first place?

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend speaks with special poignancy and authority, because Lockerbie is in his constituency. He is right that no amount of compensation, apologies or trial processes can ever make up for the loss of innocent lives on that dreadful December day in 1988. That said, it is better for compensation and apologies to be offered and for trial processes to be in place than not.

On the issue of lifting US sanctions and its link with the payment of compensation under Security Council resolution 1506, I am in regular contact with US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and I will be happy to raise the issue with him. I propose to have a brief meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) immediately after the statement.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con)

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is desperately important for world peace that we make a positive and meaningful response to this concession by Libya, and indeed the similar concessions of Iran? Will he make real endeavours to persuade the United States to lift trade sanctions? Will the resumption of normality lead to an invitation to Colonel Gadafi to visit the United Kingdom?

Mr. Straw

As I said in my statement, we recognise that in response to the important series of measures announced and taken by Libya, including its acceptance of proper verification and inspection, we now have corresponding responsibilities to enable Libya fully to enter the mainstream of the international community. There will be a phased programme that will, among other things, involve the lifting of sanctions and other restrictions placed on the country. That applies not only to United Nations sanctions, which were formally lifted on 12 September by resolution 1506, but to those restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States, whose Government are properly seized of the fact that there are obligations on them.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)

As someone who has long advocated unilateral steps to multilateral disarmament, may I add my congratulations to the Libyan authorities and, particularly, to the British Government for their role? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the progress that is being made in Libya, and indeed in Iran, is to be continued and sustained, Israel too must surely be brought within the ambit of international disarmament agreements?

Mr. Straw

I thank my hon. Friend for the congratulations. As far as Israel is concerned, the UK Government have long had a policy of seeking a nuclear-free area in the whole of the middle east. The fact that efforts in which we have been heavily involved have greatly reduced the threat of unlawful weapons programmes in Iran, Libya and Iraq should provide significant food for thought for those in Israel. At the same time, what would also greatly ease the security situation would be for the Arab and Islamic states to recognise Israel's right to exist within international borders and to cease to threaten its very existence. That, frankly, is what places Israel in a different security category from any other country in the world. If other Arab countries were to follow the example of Egypt, Jordan and some other states in recognising Israel's right to exist within accepted international borders—they do not have to recognise the line of the fence or issues about refugee return and other complex matters that are bound up in a long-term peace settlement—it would make a huge difference to the climate of insecurity in Israel and enable us to pursue an active dialogue with Israel much more effectively.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

Does the Foreign Secretary believe that the bombing of Pan Am 103 was done with the prior approval of Gadafi?

Mr. Straw

I have no direct information to that effect.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab)

It struck me, as I heard about this welcome agreement, that we have to deal with states in which there are individual differences. Libya was moving, and it was right that we encouraged it to continue to do so, as is the case in Iran and, possibly, Syria. The problem is with countries such as Iraq, where, in spite of numerous United Nations resolutions, there is no sign of movement whatsoever. One lesson we must learn is that the UN should not again pass resolutions without the least intention of acting on them. If there is pressure for reform and reform is taking place, we should support it. If there is none, we have to take other and firmer action.

Mr. Straw

I entirely agree with those sentiments. Active, peaceful diplomacy is always to be preferred, but it is sometimes possible only if there is the possibility of an alternative approach with a harder edge to its diplomacy. After 12 years, that was the situation and choice that we faced in Iraq. There is great food for thought for the whole international community and those committed to the United Nations in how it should change its future approach to deal with the modern threats that affect our security, which were simply absent, and therefore not considered, at the time when the UN charter was developed in the mid-1940s.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con)

May I say that Mr. William Ehrman and the other Foreign Office officials who so brilliantly conducted the negotiations may not be entirely happy with the Foreign Secretary associating them with a "dossier"?

By implication, in his answer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), the Foreign Secretary said that Pakistan's involvement was now the subject of verification procedures? Will there be any consequences for Pakistan if its reported involvement is verified? What assurance can the Foreign Secretary give the House that he is absolutely confident that elements of the Pakistani Administration are not continuing with proliferation?

Mr. Straw

When I used the word "dossier", it was in the French sense of an "active file". I will pass on the hon. Gentleman's compliments to my excellent team of officials. I have already replied to his question about other countries alleged to have been associated with Libya. Such matters are being carefully investigated by the IAEA, within its remit, and we will wait to see what it says.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab)

In the light of the fact that Mr. Eddie MacKechnie, the distinguished Glasgow solicitor and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's lawyer, is appealing on his client's behalf through the Scottish criminal procedure in the belief that he is innocent of the Pan Am 103 crime, could my right hon. Friend ask the Libyans—in the new atmosphere—if Mr. al-Megrahi was guilty, what did he do, in detail, in Malta in the first three weeks of December 1988? Would my right hon. Friend accept—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows the rules—only one supplementary question.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for prior notice of his detailed question. As he mentioned, a further attempt at appeal is being made on behalf of Mr. al-Megrahi. Our judgment is that his trial and appeal were conducted with fairness, thoroughness and dignity under Scots law. The judges concluded that the conception, planning and execution of the bombing were of Libyan origin. The Libyan Government have subsequently accepted responsibility for the actions of their officials, in accordance with Security Council resolutions. As a result, United Nations sanctions were lifted. That is the position of the Libyan Government and it is one that we support.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con)

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this progressive development shows that those people who anticipated a uniting of the Arab nations against the United Kingdom as a result of military action against Iraq have been proven wrong? Does he agree that we could go further and say that despite the long-term diplomatic moves, it was firm military action that had something to do with the outcome in Libya and a possible future outcome in Iraq?

Mr. Straw

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. All kinds of dire predictions were made about what would happen if military action were taken against Iraq. Although the casualty figures in Iraq for coalition forces and for Iraqis have been higher than we anticipated, the negative regional consequences have not occurred. In fact, the regional consequences have been benign. As for the effect of the military action against Iraq on the Libyan discussions, we should remember that the discussions started four years before. It will be for historians to judge the exact effect of the invasion of Iraq, but the removal of Saddam Hussein removed the threat that he posed to the region. Those unfamiliar with the Arab world do not properly understand the focus for instability that Saddam provided, and to that extent his removal helped to improve the climate so that the leaders with whom we have been dealing have felt more secure about actively continuing negotiations.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but the renunciation of terrorism by Libya has been met with scepticism in certain parts of my constituency, especially given that on 22 December the Libyan Prime Minister said on the "Today" programme that Libya had never supported terrorism, only freedom fighters—a euphemistic term, as usual—and that on 4 November Colonel Gadafi made a speech that apparently encouraged women to engage in suicide bombing. What assurances have been given by Libya, especially in the context of its support for middle-east terrorism?

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend will be aware that many people—some in this country but certainly in the middle east—continue to draw a distinction between freedom fighters and terrorists. That distinction is not recognised by the United Nations, nor indeed by anybody in the House, but it exists and it is argued about. Libya has made considerable progress in its practical renunciation of support for terrorism. It cannot change its history, but it has clearly renounced violence, terrorism and the use of weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation. It is taking active and verifiable steps to meet its promises, and that is good progress. Of course, all of us are right to be cautious and to ensure that progress will continue in the future, but equally we must recognise our responsibilities to Libya.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con)

In his statement the Foreign Secretary gave us the welcome news that the Libyan Government are to reimburse the Export Credits Guarantee Department to the tune of £20 million that was presumably paid out to British exporters on whose payments the Libyans defaulted. Can he tell us whether there have been significant discussions of the new business climate with Libya? Is not British business eager to seize any opportunities that may exist in the new atmosphere in Libya? For example, will the Libyans allow the repatriation of profits and capital of British businesses that may ultimately invest in Libya? Is not business the best way to cement a nascent relationship?

Mr. Straw

There has not been detailed discussion of business relations in the context of these discussions. That would not have been appropriate. However, the shift by Libya towards meeting its obligations to the Export Credits Guarantee Department on 30 December is, I think, an indication that Libya wants not only to normalise business relations with the United Kingdom but to see them flourish—as we do—in the new climate.

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab)

I welcome the decision made by Libya; undoubtedly, Iraq has concentrated quite a few minds. Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether there is any intention to press the Libyan Government on improvements in the human rights situation in that country? The country remains a dictatorship and a state where any criticism of the colonel means persecution and worse. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, before there is any question of the colonel being invited to this country, as has been suggested by the Opposition—I hope that does not occur—there will have to be real and substantial improvements in human rights?

Mr. Straw

Plainly, human rights will be one of the many issues that I shall seek to discuss with Foreign Minister Shalgam when he visits the United Kingdom—I hope, in the next three or four weeks. That is the case in respect of any country with which we have productive bilateral relationships.

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)

I welcome the move towards decommissioning but as I am mindful of the litany of broken promises from Colonel Gadafi over the years, will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the opening of the door to increased relations with Libya, whether in business or otherwise, will be commensurate with the rate at which the Libyans decommission?

Mr. Straw

It will not be arithmetically commensurate but we shall of course be taking account of progress and continuing good faith on the Libyan side, just as they will be taking account of progress and good faith on the United States, United Kingdom and international organisation side.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op)

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this agreement between the west and a formerly hostile Muslim country helps to undermine the terror network of Osama bin Laden? Does he further agree that it indicates that those who felt that the liberation of Iraq would make the world more dangerous have been proved wrong? May I warn him, however, not to expect to be showered with compliments from the usual suspects, none of whom, of course, are in the Chamber today?

Mr. Straw

May I say to my right hon. Friend that one compliment from him is worth a thousand from the usual suspects?

There is no direct, obvious link between what has happened in respect of Libya's weapons programmes and active terrorism, but what we have been doing in Libya, separately in respect of Iran and Iraq and, for example, with the very good progress that, thank God, is now being made in India and Pakistan is to help to create an environment in which terrorists will find it much more difficult to operate. That will not produce immediate dividends, but it will over time, for sure, help to stabilise those countries and those environments, and therefore reduce the scope for international terrorism.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con)

In addition to the Lockerbie bombing and the murder of WPC Fletcher, the Libyan Government were known to be a substantial supplier of arms to the IRA throughout the 1980s. Given that the type and quantity of those arms is still unknown and that they remain a considerable obstacle to the Northern Ireland peace process, have the Libyan Government indicated to the British Government that they will give them a full and frank inventory of all those arms supplied?

Mr. Straw

There are and have been discussions on that matter, but I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not going into too much detail about it.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op)

Does the Foreign Secretary think that one of the factors leading to the Libyan decision could have been the fact that Libya itself has experienced some terrorism from organisations linked to bin Laden? In that context, does he think that the alleged bin Laden statement is partly directed at Libya, as well as at the other Arab regimes that have taken a more responsible position over recent years?

Mr. Straw

I am in no doubt at all that there is an increasing realisation across the Arab and Islamic world that the greatest victims of so-called Islamic terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaeda and its associates are members of the Islamic faith and that if people are not for such vicious perverted people whose creed has nothing whatever to do with Islam, they are against them and they are more likely to be a victim of their terrorism than those of us in the west.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)

I, too, pay tribute to the British diplomats and also the unsung heroes of the Secret Intelligence Service who have played a very important role in reaching this agreement, but may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether, as a result of the rapprochement with the United Kingdom and the United States, Colonel Gadafi, who remains a dictator and tyrant at home, is more or less secure in that position?

Mr. Straw

Frankly, that is for Colonel Gadafi to judge, but it is hard to take such decisions in terms of a country's external relations without those decisions also having a beneficial and positive impact on relations within a country and in respect of how his government—with a small "g"—operates.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)

Do we know whether Libya intends to continue its work on the nuclear cycle for peaceful purposes?

Mr. Straw

That is a matter for Libya to disclose, but my understanding is that it does not intend to do so.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con)

Does the Foreign Secretary remember that some hon. Members argued that action against Iraq would encourage proliferation, as rogue states sought a nuclear guarantee against American and British intervention? Has not Libya's action and indeed the willingness of Iran and North Korea to engage in dialogue demolished yet another anti-war argument?

Mr. Straw


Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab)

What encouragement does my right hon. Friend think that these welcome developments will have on disarmament and peace-building elsewhere in Africa? Of course, those important objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development are essential if the continent is to develop economically.

Mr. Straw

I do not know whether there will be direct effects on peace processes in sub-Saharan Africa, not least because the economies of countries there are in a very different state of development, and there is no suggestion that any country in sub-Saharan Africa has developed a nuclear or chemical weapons programme.

Mr. George Osborne

South Africa.

Mr. Straw

Apart, of course, from South Africa, which, as I was about to say, is the one country in the world that voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons programme without any external pressure and has been the subject of full verification by the IAEA. That said, important peace processes are taking place in respect of the Great Lakes region and in Burundi, Sudan, Somalia and west Africa, and I am clear that the example of negotiated solutions to problems faced by states on the continent of Africa as a whole will be a good one.