HL Deb 14 September 2001 vol 627 cc10-100

10.15 a.m.

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean) rose to move, That this House takes note of recent developments in international terrorism.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we meet today at a dark and sombre moment for America, our country and the world. Some days simply pass; some are memorable or important for the joy and sorrow that they bring, but some are indelible; imprinted for ever on the minds and memories of us all.

Tuesday 11th September 2001 was such a day. The images of what happened, the enormity of the horror, the suffering and the grief will stay with every one of us for the rest of our lives. Many have already drawn parallels with Pearl Harbour or the blitz in London in terms of the scale of the assault and the ferocity of the destruction. But for a whole generation of people across the world what happened in America on Tuesday was beyond anything they had ever experienced. Few of us can recall a time when reality was so much more terrible than the worst we could imagine.

The thoughts and prayers of this House and the whole Parliament will go out to families as they wait to hear or learn the fate of their loved ones. Thousands of Americans have died. With them, we fear, may be several hundred British casualties of these appalling terrorist outrages. These events have united people in America and Britain, Europe and the Commonwealth, Asia, Africa and Australia across the whole world in a sense of outrage.

As the Prime Minister stated, Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States, in total solidarity with our closest ally. We have deep ties of history and friendship and share a common language, but above all we share common values. We are part of the same community. Together we fought fascism and twice within the span of a generation the Americans came directly to our aid to secure freedom and democracy in Europe.

In Britain we are witnessing the courage and determination of the American people and their government in response to these terrorist atrocities. We have offered them our full backing in their efforts to hunt down the terrorists and hold to account those who harbour them, give them aid and make possible their barbaric acts.

Here, in our own country, many are waiting, perhaps with fading hope, for news of their loved ones. The Foreign Office crisis unit in London has received thousands of calls reporting people missing or, thankfully, safe. We would desperately like to be able to give friends and relatives firm news. However, we cannot. We have all witnessed the cataclysmic scenes in Manhattan and the Pentagon. It may be weeks before we know the names of all those who have perished.

The consular staff at the Foreign Office, together with the Metropolitan Police, are working round the clock to help British citizens affected by the disaster. We have two crisis centres in operation: one in London and another in our Consulate General in New York. My noble friend Lady Amos and I have both visited the London centre and spoken to staff at the New York centre. They are all doing a fantastic job. They are passing on such news that we have of British citizens. They are in touch with companies which had offices in the World Trade Centre. Our North American posts, including Washington, also have response units which are doing everything they can.

In this unprecedented crisis, the FCO, together with the Department of Health, has agreed to offer help with emergency medical costs of injured and uninsured United Kingdom citizens. We have also agreed that where people are uninsured the Government will pay for repatriation of the remains of British nationals killed in these evil attacks.

I am sure that all noble Lords will wish to join me in paying tribute to the heroic work of the emergency services in New York and in Washington. They are working day and night to try to save lives. We pay special tribute to the bravery and the selflessness of the fire-fighters and the police who have given their lives to rescue others.

I shall deal with two issues that may trouble your Lordships and about which I have heard others voice concern recently, the first being intelligence. Was there, as some have suggested, a huge failure? What intelligence was received in advance? I can tell your Lordships only one thing: there was no specific warning of this dreadful deed. I hope that your Lordships will understand that neither I nor any of my noble friends can go beyond that statement.

Secondly, others have asked what retaliation or response will be taken. The nature, the timing and the focus of any effective response are bound to be matters of the highest sensitivity and security, particularly at this stage. Some questions, although stemming from genuine and understandable concern, cannot be answered at this stage.

It is hard to put such an atrocity into an historical perspective. Comparisons have been made with Pearl Harbor, but the multiple tragedy of 11th September was very different. These attacks were not on military targets. The perpetrators knowingly and deliberately set out to kill and to maim thousands of civilians. They targeted the symbols of economic, political and military power in the United States and in the free world. They went for defenceless people. They went for a place not only where many were earning their daily living but also where many others take children and grandchildren to marvel at the New York skyline.

Of course, there have always been people who are prepared to offer excuses and apologies for acts of terror. Many in this country have experienced the effects of terrorism, but never on the scale of what happened this week in the United States. We have heard past atrocities ascribed to a sense of grievance, real or imagined—but no grievance, however real, justifies the atrocity that we witnessed on Tuesday.

A new kind of enemy has emerged: an enemy which does not have the courage to declare itself openly, but which hides its appalling deeds behind whatever cover it can find and which uses men, women and even children to try to secure by terror that which it cannot secure by open declaration, by persuasion or by democratic means. It is an enemy that does not argue in the open, that does not seek to persuade in the open and that does not even fight in the open. This enemy has no respect for our way of life, nor for our values. This enemy has no respect for human life, not even for its own. Human decency, as we have so clearly witnessed, is not an attribute of such people.

In dealing with this enemy we have to adapt to deal with a new threat. It is too soon to draw specific conclusions about the implications for world order. All we know is that Tuesday marked a watershed. The model set in place after the Second World War has sustained peace for over half a century, but the threat has changed and we need to adapt to that new reality.

NATO has quickly acknowledged that the current situation has no precedent. It has confirmed that this attack falls within the provisions of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty which states that an armed attack against one ally represents an attack against us all. In many ways the decision taken on Wednesday, in an astonishingly short time, by the United Nations Security Council was more important still. It said that those who were not only directly responsible for what happened at the World Trade Centre and at the Pentagon, but also those aiding, supporting, or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers or sponsors of those acts, will be held accountable. It expresses NATO's readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist's act and to combat all forms of terrorism. The whole of the international community is united in that resolve.

Of course, the coalition of the civilised world includes the Islamic world. We do not know who was responsible. As the Muslim Council of Britain said in its strong condemnation of the atrocities, these are senseless and evil acts that appal all people of conscience. The vast majority of the Muslim world is just as horrified by the carnage as everyone else. That is as true of the British Muslims as it is of our many Muslim friends abroad. When terrorists launch such a massive attack against civilisation they attack Islam as well. Islamophobia has absolutely no part in our reactions. We all have a responsibility to do everything that we can to ensure that this outrage is not used to drive a festering wedge between the Islamic states and the western democracies.

We also need to strengthen our defences against future terrorist attacks. It would be irresponsible not to do everything in our power to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. However, we need to think beyond that. There are scenarios in which something worse could happen, such as the use of weapons of mass destruction. It is clear that this enemy will stop at nothing, including the use of chemicals, biological agents, or even a nuclear capability. We need new tools across the full spectrum of offensive, defensive and preventive measures to defeat the new threat that we face. Efforts to tackle proliferation will be at the top of the international agenda and we shall continue to promote them vigorously.

The international community must unite in the war against terrorism and take determined, collective action to defend against terrorism from whatever source it may come. This week EU Foreign Ministers agreed to pursue new and strengthened co-operation against terrorism. EU member states are urgently considering what action we can take on issues like extradition, proscribing terrorist organisations—as we have done in the United Kingdom—thwarting the planning and funding of terrorist operations and circumscribing the rights of suspected terrorists. The days of refuge for terrorists are over. States can no longer be allowed to harbour such people.

On Tuesday, terrorists exploited the freedoms of a great democratic country and they attacked us all. They caused destruction and unimaginable tragedy in the lives of so many families. However, freedom and democracy are undamaged. We must work to bring good from evil, to draw on the revulsion of the civilised world and to carry out the United Nations Security Council resolution.

In watching a hijacked airliner being deliberately flown into a skyscraper where thousands of innocent people were going about their normal daily lives, we looked at the face of evil. But the image of a fire-fighter running up the stairs of that same stricken building, while thousands fled for their lives in the other direction, showed the infinite good of which the human spirit is capable. Astonishingly, good can come out of this terrible, inexpressible evil. The events of 11th September may well have taken the evil of terrorism to almost unfathomable depths, but through the world resolving to counter it, democracy and freedom will not be weakened, but strengthened. The world may have changed, but I hope, whatever lies ahead and however the world changes, that all peoples of goodwill will work for a world, not that those terrorists wanted—full of hatred and fear—but a world of which those young fire-fighters would have been proud.

Moved, That this House takes note of recent developments in international terrorism.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

10.30 a.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, like, I suspect, many of your Lordships, I find it hard to muster the words appropriate to this hideous calamity which has occurred and the ghastly events that we have all seen on our television screens. Obviously we associate ourselves totally with the views expressed by the Government and the condolences to the relatives of the vast number of bereaved—both our own people and all the other nationalities, including the Americans who are our brothers and sisters.

At a time like this, the burdens on our leaders are, of course, enormous. I, for one, congratulate warmly President Bush, Secretary Powell and his other colleagues in the lead they have given at this crucial moment. I think that our own Prime Minister has found the words to express all our feelings and to represent our emotions at this time. He has spoken well and true. I also think—and this will be the one and only reference to party that I shall make—that the new leader of our party on this side of your Lordships' House spoke fine and good words 'when he accepted the leadership role last night in pledging our total support and unity with the Government in all that it is necessary to do and support for the Government in the support which, in turn, they pledge for the United States, as we have heard this morning. I hope, trust and believe from all we have heard that it will be unconditional, unqualified and ungrudging

It will be a long debate and many wise and experienced people wish to speak. Therefore, I shall confine myself to two points. First, nothing in the lexicon of human affairs or in human history can possibly justify or excuse this calculated mass barbarity which has occurred. No grievance or feeling of dispossession, or quarrel between tribes, nations or ethnic groups can possibly merit what has been done. People may ask, "What about the thousands who were killed at Hiroshima, Dresden or other hideous events of the past?" But those were actions against war aggressors who had waged murder and conquest across the world and were determined to do so. America is not at war with anyone. Far from being at war, America is not a tyranny. It is a democracy and it is the home of liberty. It seeks again and again, in ways that some people criticise, to promote the values of freedom and liberty by which we live and survive today; and we have to thank America that we are here today living in freedom.

So there is no justification. I am sickened by some of the remarks we have heard: that this 'terrible thing Is in a way America's fault; or the nauseating suggestion from a senior Minister in Paris that it was all because of America's policy errors. This is not the right language or the right view. I do not accept any of that.

Nor do I accept the other weasel arguments: that somehow this is a payback for the evils of global capitalism. I believe that they are vastly outweighed by the benefits of global capitalism. Nor do share the views—I do not think that they are gloating but I hear them—that it shows how feeble the United States has become. In one particularly asinine article I read, it has been likened to the decline of Rome, the collapse of the Roman empire. On the contrary, I think that in the resolution and bravery of the American people we now see signs that they are more determined than ever to wage war—and it is a kind of war—against the new enemies and the amorphous, invisible, non-states from which the threats for the future will come.

Nor do I believe, as I have heard some suggest, that this is the end of America's thinking about revising the whole doctrine of missile defence. It may be that national missile defence has some technical problems; it may be wrongly aimed. But the thinking behind it was and is that the threats to the present and future will come not from conventional states and conventional governments but from rogue regimes and strange organisations supported by those rogue regimes which may come from anywhere out of a clear blue sky—as indeed happened on Tuesday.

The new reality which some people are beginning to face and some of us have argued about over the past five or six years since the age of information technology and the Internet began is that power has been transferred away from responsible governments or even irresponsible governments into the hands of some good but some extremely dangerous organisations. It may be said that flying airliners into skyscrapers is not new technology, but the whole organisation of this devilish plot was driven by e-mail, Internet, modern secret communication, coding and ciphering of a kind which would not have been possible 10 or even five years ago. It enabled these people simply to programme their aeroplanes, once they had seized them, to drive straight into the World Trade Centre. So technology has transferred power, and the sooner democracies and governments understand that point, the sooner we shall be able to cope with the entirely new situation.

My second point is this. There is, of course, no one-off quick response to terrorism. Perhaps we should ready ourselves for a rapid and immediate response of some kind, but that will not be the solution to the problems. We are in for the long haul. When President Bush says that it must be a sustained effort, "sustained" is the word. This will take years and years of effort and policy at all levels to begin to move the situation to better times.

I totally agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, that the response should not be to turn this into religious terms and blame Islam. This is nothing to do with Islam which, for many millions of Muslims, is a very gentle and wise creed. For Islam and for the Koran, just as much as for us, what has been done is a sin against humanity and leaves those who did it cursed for ever.

The new war—if that is what the Americans are calling it—will, of course, have many aspects: the military—which may be the most visible; the political; the economic; and the diplomatic. I think that it will operate at three levels. First, there has to be a coalition of states. I think that that is achievable. Some say that the idea that Muslim states should now co-operate with the United States is incredible. But I think that they will. Pakistan is the crucial element in this. The Americans are working hard there. Egypt is another. Muslims everywhere have expressed their horror and perhaps their words should now be followed by deeds.

I want and expect to see Russia and America working extremely closely and intimately together at all levels of security and action in dealing with the situation—I understand that American officials are in Moscow this morning and, for all I know, perhaps Russian officials are in Washington—in ways which leave the whole idea of the Cold War far behind. A coalition of states must happen and we must play our full part in working for it.

Secondly, there must be no safe havens. When we talk of safe havens, I have heard it said, perhaps unfairly, that this country of ours, the United Kingdom, may be a mite too safe for evil people planning evil deeds. The noble Baroness mentioned Omagh. As far as I know, the perpetrators of Omagh have not yet been brought to justice. That is a disgrace. As far as I know there are people in this city, let alone this kingdom, actively and openly preaching terror and ways in which to bring down aeroplanes over Heathrow or to go out and kill lots of people. That should not be allowed.

It seems also—this is more controversial—that young terrorists or young fundamentalists determined even to commit suicide in their mad cause are still coming too easily into this country. I am afraid that we shall yet again have to revisit the issue of the asylum entrants. We shall yet again have to ask whether the Schengen area can cease to be the sieve that it clearly is and to think very hard before we even contemplate the idea of joining it. No doubt my noble friend Lord Cope will say a few more words about that in a moment.

Finally, we shall have to be ready to see the training grounds of the terrorists tackled directly. That will be violent. It will be the wiping out of wasps' nests. NATO has said that we should see the events in America as an attack on all of us. The test will come when there is violence and bloodshed, as there will be, when these horrific sources of evil are wiped out.

Finally, we must dry our tears and steel our hearts. The enemy may not be visible, as the noble Baroness said in her opening remarks, and as the Prime Minister and the US President have said. But evil is clear, visible and unambiguous—by any religion, any standards and any moral criteria that exist on this planet. When good people of every race, religion and nationality come to understand that, we shall be on our way forward after the unparalleled darkness of the past few days.

10.41 a.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, we have all been affected by this catastrophic event. All of us have friends and acquaintances in New York and Washington and we were all on the telephone to discover whether they were safe. We know that British, German, Japanese and no doubt many others from other countries have lost their lives in this tragic attack. This was an attack on the civilised world and on the democratic, open societies in which we live. The towers of the World Trade Centre were symbols of western capitalism. New York, even more than London, is an open, vibrant, global city offering opportunities for people from all over the world. We recognise that this event has changed the world in which we live. The threat of trans-national terrorism will be with us for a very long time.

We must also recognise that open societies are unavoidably vulnerable to this kind of attack. In Britain over the past 30 years we have lived with the necessary security precautions to limit the risks involved. Sadly, we have grown to accept them. Until this week, the United States had not imposed such precautions within the continental USA. Sadly, it too must now do so.

The question is asked how the West as a whole—Britain, together with our partners and allies in the European Union and within NATO—should respond. We all welcome the impressive unity of the NATO meeting with senior leaders of the European Union as an organisation also present. This was solidarity in the best sense. Article 5 was appropriately invoked. Sovereignty in the old terms in which people in this country used to talk has long since gone. We have heard of the investigation of suspects in Germany, Canada and elsewhere. This was not an attack by a single state but by an international network without, so far as we are aware, strong state support.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, as we have often debated in this House, we have seen a great deal of progress within the European Union and across the Atlantic in co-operation among our police and intelligence services against trans-national crime and trans-national terrorism. One of the first points that we must note from these events is the need to strengthen that co-operation among our police forces and our intelligence and security services across Europe and across the Atlantic as a long-term response to this long-term challenge.

But we must also ask what the appropriate short-term response should be. There has been justifiable anger, fear and hatred, above all among Americans and to a lesser extent across Europe. But anger and fear are not the best basis for a response. That is what terrorists want to provoke. They thrive on the hope of an over-reaction which will deepen antagonism and bring more discontented and confused sympathisers into their camp. We discovered in Northern Ireland that heavy-handed reaction only worsens the situation. Careful, targeted responses, as far as possible within the framework of law and the system of justice, are the only way to roll back the threat that terrorism poses to our open society.

The greatest danger is in doing what the terrorists want, leading to a greater cycle of violence. I regret the over-reaction of some immediate comments in the United States and elsewhere. I welcome and applaud the measured response of the US administration over the past three days. We are not at war. Armies, air raids and invasions cannot conquer trans-national terrorism. We do not yet know whether any state or government provided significant backing for this terrorist network, although it seems highly likely that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was at least aware of many of their activities. We must welcome the support given by China as well as by Russia, Iran and Arab regimes throughout the Middle East—even that given by the insecure and closely affected government of Pakistan. We must aim in our response not to create greater anti-Western sentiment, not to destabilise fragile but friendly regimes and not to destabilise the Middle East as a whole.

Therefore, we should all applaud and support the careful and measured response of the Bush administration. That is the wisest response, and we must all hope for and urge our American allies to maintain that careful and proportionate response over the coming days, weeks and months. The United States is the world's dominant power. In conventional terms it is a military super-power without challenge. But it is also the world's leading democracy, a country that has promoted the values of democracy, law, liberty and civilisation—values which we share. It is a central dilemma for open societies that they must fight their opponents with one hand tied behind their back. We must recognise that that is part of the way in 'A which we must respond. We must maintain our own values even as we struggle to defeat those who reject those values.

That is why we on these Benches are extremely unhappy about suggestions that a move should begin towards the competitive assassination of foreign leaders, indiscriminate bombing and the collective punishment of entire populations for crimes committed by a handful of people. An over-military response is not what is needed. I suggest with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that missile de fence may also not be the right response. More conventional military spending does not answer this challenge. A military response as such can achieve relatively little.

Our response must include a reinforcement of international co-operation among police and security services. Also—as we learnt in Northern Ireland—there must be a political response, to dry up the sources of sympathy and recruits that terrorism needs in order to thrive. I therefore particularly welcome the reference in the Statement to strengthened and coordinated action against international money laundering, weapons smuggling and illicit trade in nuclear, biological and chemical materials, which in the long term may prove much more valuable than military action.

We must also discuss what is the appropriate political response—which must be co-ordinated: a European and transatlantic response, not left to any single state and not disrupted by petty concerns about national status, dignity or sovereignty. We therefore welcome the reference in the Statement to the need to pay particular attention to the situation in the Middle East as a whole, and to the Middle East peace process. It has been the rumbling resentments across the Arab world for more than a generation that has helped to provide the seedbed within which terrorism has grown—just as the rumblings of Catholic resentment at Protestant domination in Northern Ireland for several generations provided the support that underpinned the resurgence of the IRA from the 1960s onwards.

We must avoid all language about a clash of civilisations, let alone of a crusade. We must avoid the Russian hug, which says let us join Russia in a campaign against fundamentalist Islam. Our enemy is not Islam but fundamentalism, of all faiths and none. Our enemy is irrationality. It must be fought by reason, carefully and persuasively used. Now is the time, particularly, for the Israeli Government to show restraint in resisting Palestinian terrorism; and it must also resist its own fundamentalists, for sadly there are some.

In Britain we need to be sure that we maintain a measured response, in accordance with the values which we hold dear. In the previous two days there have been a number of radio phone-in programmes with some fairly sharp anti-Muslim remarks. To blame all Muslims for this crime would be as absurd as to blame all Catholics for the violence in Northern Ireland. We do not do one; we must not do the other. We all benefit in this multiracial, multi-faith society from the contributions which Muslim citizens provide to the diversity and the prosperity of our society. I am proud that my children went to a school where a quarter of the students were British Muslims. They have many Muslim friends.

We must also make sure that we do not allow the British response to target asylum seekers. At present the largest number of asylum seekers is from Afghanistan. Many of them are desperate refugees escaping from that highly authoritarian and obnoxious regime, the Taliban. Again we must make sure that our values are maintained.

This is not a single incident. Its implications will be with our governments and our societies for many years. We must, sadly, expect that other such incidents will happen in future years. It will require close and sustained co-operation among the widest possible number of governments—European, Atlantic, within and through the UN. The challenge we face is to provide an effective response which can be sustained as long as necessary without compromising the democratic values which we hold dear.

10.52 a.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, the unanimity with which noble Lords have spoken underlines the truth that the attacks in the United States on New York and Washington are crimes which transcend all political divisions. The shock waves from those attacks have reverberated around the world, not least here in London. The clergy on duty at the American Embassy, in Canary Wharf and in many schools tell harrowing stories of children still waiting for news of their parents, and of colleagues in shock in some of the business houses which unite our two countries.

This is a day of global grief. The UK American community are gathering at St Paul's this morning. My most reverend brother, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be leading the service of remembrance. Christians, Muslims, Jews and representatives of other religions will all be involved, together with public figures.

The atrocities have been described by President Bush as an act of war. But it is war of a modern kind, not between states, but waged with indiscriminate violence by terrorists seeking to destroy a whole way of life. As we have heard from the noble Baroness, the precise identity of those responsible is not yet clear, but assumptions are being made. It is at this point that the wartime adage, "Careless talk costs lives" has a fresh relevance. Any language which demonises the whole Islamic world and drives a wedge between Muslims and their neighbours makes a tragic and dangerous situation infinitely worse. The fear that this might happen is not imaginary. The Islamia School in Brent has received threats and has been forced, temporarily, to close. The school incidentally stands next to the Interfaith Centre established by the diocese of London, a space for meeting between Christians, Muslims and others with whom the school has very good relations.

In many parts of the world religion has a growing significance as a contribution to social cohesion and is therefore likely to be co-opted in any struggle that centres on the identity of particular groups or people. Folk wisdom understands how the highest ideals can be bent to the most malign purposes. As Jonathan Swift lamented: How is it that we have just enough religion to hate one another but not enough to love one another? As the noble Baroness said, the Muslim Council for Britain has issued a strong statement. A phrase from that statement is that, terror makes victims of us all". The council is right to brand this as an attack on the whole civilised world. As bishop of a city which has suffered in the past from terrorist attacks, it is good to stand shoulder to shoulder with British Muslim leaders in an unequivocal condemnation of these crimes.

As we have heard, America has promised action. Henry Kissinger talks of action that is "cool, systematic and relentless". That seems the right response. It is right that those responsible should be pursued and brought to justice but without adding to the tally of innocent victims by any hasty and indiscriminate reprisals.

There is, however, a longer-term task. We have heard of some of its aspects in terms of diplomacy and economics. This week's events have been a reminder that, important and vital as security is, no power on earth can insulate itself entirely against the murderous hatreds that exist in our modern world. That is likely to be even more the case as we move into an era of bio-terrorism. Modern societies are complex and vulnerable. They depend on a high level of international trust as well as the security guaranteed by military force. As religious convictions play a n ever larger part worldwide at the beginning of this new millennium, so relations between people of faith and those of no faith become an increasingly important component in good international relations.

The need to make some progress in this aspect of the task is urgent. The work required will inevitably take a long time. It has already started. Internationally, the Rome-based St Egidio community and, at home, Coventry Cathedral have been leaders in peace building between religious groups. In London, I am particularly grateful to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for its support in recognising the value of developing these kinds of relations.

If Europe is to find the moral courage in a sustained way to defeat terrorism, it has to rekindle conviction about the things that are worth dying and living for. An indiscriminate and indifferent tolerance for all views, which lacks clarity about what is good and true, undermines the will to resist the terrorist. At the same time, it opens up a vacuum which can easily be filled with irrational calls for violence against scapegoats.

We shall not make our proper contribution to the struggle that is in progress unless we are robust about our own faith and convictions. We also need to be urgent in the task of finding allies in all faith communities and among all people of good will for a common defence of the values and laws which make civilised life together possible.

[The House observed a three-minute silence.]

11.3 a.m.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

My Lords, it is indeed a very great pleasure for me to be in your Lordships' House and to have the opportunity to speak here today—even though I do so at what is self-evidently a rather sombre moment. However, perhaps I may use this opportunity for a moment to express a personal debt of gratitude for the many acts of personal kindness that I have received from colleagues right around the House—and of course from those who serve us in this House as well. They have made me feel most welcome, and I am very grateful for that.

I think that I shall find the atmosphere of debate in this House rather more congenial than that of the other place which I used to attend and which, frankly, from time to time I found rather irksome. I have listened to the speeches already made today with a great deal of admiration. My noble friends who sit on the Benches with me here inform me that by convention nobody is allowed to walk out while I am speaking. As a former party leader, I must tell that your Lordships that I find that a most attractive convention which I hope will gain wider currency.

There is little I can say that will add to the sentiments expressed so powerfully today. It is almost impossible to consider the events of last Tuesday and comment on them without repeating clichés. One cliché that is widely used is nevertheless deeply true: the world is never going to be the same again. What we witnessed in those cataclysmic events of last Tuesday was the end of an era of a super-power that could by its invincibility be inviolate and, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, the beginning of the era of globalisation.

Globalisation has many good aspects such as global trade and global information, but it has many dark aspects too—global criminality, global drugs and global terrorism. What we saw in those appalling events was the attack of global terrorism on the centres of global power and the heart of global capitalism, at least in one sense. I suspect that the extent to which we are able to act appropriately and to set in place mechanisms to prevent that from happening again will depend on the extent to which we are able to construct the global mechanisms—the multilateral rather than unilateral mechanisms—that will enable us, in the first instance, to catch the perpetrators of those evils and, in the second, to ensure that they do not happen again.

The images that we saw on Tuesday last. which will be etched on the retina of every one of us for all our lives, will, I suspect, also be replayed time and again down the years of this century as an icon of a new age, in much the same way as the images of Pearl Harbour were played down the years of the last century. President Bush and our Prime Minister have said that this was an attack not on New York or the United States but on all of us. That seems to me absolutely right. But it follows from that that the actions that we now take must be ones to which all of us—or at least the vast majority of us—can subscribe. It is for that reason that I believe that President Bush today is in a real sense—perhaps in a sense that has never occurred before—the leader not just of the United States but of all those in the world who wish the survival, against a terrible threat, of civilised values and, above all, the values of freedom and the rule of law.

There are those who have asked me on many occasions whether the solidarity that we have expressed means that we must support anything and everything that the United States does. Well, we are a sovereign nation, we will make our own decisions, and nothing can detract from that. But what is true is that the United States is and has been the first power upon which we have depended in the defence of our values of freedom and the rule of law—time and time again. When I say "we", I mean not just we in Britain but we in Europe and we who hold those values across the world. It is therefore perfectly right and proper that the United States should look to us for support at a time of pain, and right and proper too that we should provide it.

However—and here is the point—it seems to me that the extent to which we attack this evil will depend wholly on the extent to which we can gather the consensus that exists now and use it to find the perpetrators and to set in train the mechanisms that will tackle this evil in future. In a way, the role of President Bush is the same as that of his father at the time of the Gulf war: to create that coalition and to hold it together through action.

The right process for us to take now falls into four distinct phases: to rally, to investigate, to identify and to act. The rallying of world opinion that has occurred is vital. It is right that NATO should have invoked Article 5. There was a danger at the start that the United States might be tempted in its pain to reach for isolationism, to reach for unilateral action. By our Prime Minister's statement and the adoption of that article, we showed that there was another way—that we could stand together.

Let us remember that there are two principles upon which both Article 5 and the procedures of NATO are founded: one is solidarity and the other is consultation. A consensus is already emerging well beyond NATO—indeed, well beyond the natural allies of the United States—a consensus of revulsion across the world, with some remarkable and very admirable adherents. I propose that that is our greatest asset. It is the holding together of that consensus in any action that we take that will enable us to ensure not only that we bring the perpetrators to justice but that we do so in a way that is safest in an unstable world and that gives us the best capacity afterwards to create the institutions to tackle the matter in the longer term.

There is a great deal at stake, both as regards the up-side and the down-side. If we get it wrong—and I am bound to say that I am greatly reassured by the actions of the American presidency in this matter—it is not impossible to see last Tuesday as the beginning of a chain of events which could lead to a war between nations, some of which in the region most affected already have nuclear weapons. But if we get it right we can establish the precedents upon which we can build through international law a genuine multilateral international structure in order to be able to tackle such situations and prevent them happening again.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, is right in saying that the investigation phase will take time. We must be patient and we must encourage people to realise that we shall not be hasty. We must put together the evidence, and I submit that in doing so we need to come as near as possible to producing the kind of evidence which is acceptable in a court of law. We may not be able to do so, but the closer we get to evidence of such quality and nature the more we shall be able to ensure that the world will support the action which must then be taken. Provided that we are not inhibited in the action we must take, we must identify those responsible and then we must act.

If we follow that procedure and hold together international consensus, I do not believe it is necessarily impossible that the action will be the arraigning of the culprits of this appalling deed before a court of law and the eyes of the world. Let us at least recognise that that is a possibility, and if it were to arise it would make sure that the action was the most powerful and the most safe to take. But we cannot and must not exclude direct military action, provided that it is limited, focused and proportionate.

In the few moments left to me, perhaps I may talk about the action we must take beyond this. Here is a truth of our time. There is no defence against terrorists who are determined enough to destroy their own lives. Once a terrorist leaves a camp armed with the will to die and the weapons able to deliver mass destruction— and that is what we saw—stopping him is no more than a matter of luck. There is only one way we can deal with that situation; that is, to make it impossible—perhaps under international law illegal—for any nation to give haven and succour to terrorists who seek to overturn democracy. If we were to do that, is it impossible to imagine a Geneva convention against terrorism at the end of the process?

We should have to put our own house in order. There could be no more "contras"; no more tolerating cells of Sikh extremism perhaps here in the United Kingdom. We would have to define the difference between a freedom fighter—perhaps a person who fights for democracy against tyranny—and a terrorist—a person who uses the weapons of extreme terror to bring down democracy. There would be great difficulties to overcome, but of this I am convinced: if we are able at last to put together under international law the multilateral global institutions which can combat terrorism, the extent to which we do that and act together on a multilateral and not a unilateral basis will determine the extent to which we are successful in bringing the perpetrators to justice and setting in place the mechanisms afterwards to ensure that such events will never happen again.

11.13 a.m.

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, the duty falls to me on behalf of the whole House to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, on his remarkable contribution to our debate. I do so with great pleasure. He comes with a formidable reputation as leader of his party for more than a decade; a leader whose success might arouse even envy in some other quarters of the political scene. He comes also with a notable record first in the Armed Services and thereafter in political quarters in promoting the causes about which he has spoken so eloquently today. We listened to as attractive and as mature a maiden speech as we are ever likely to hear and we greatly look forward to hearing his contributions on many future occasions.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, others have already expressed shock and horror at this week's barbarism in New York and Washington. I join in extending deepest sympathy to the people and the President of the United States. I express my admiration for the courage of their emergency services and my recognition of the key role of the United States as the bulwark of freedom and democracy around the world. Like everyone else, I welcome most sincerely the clarity of our own Prime Minister's swift commitment to support our American friends and partners. I admire the quality, tone and substance of the Statement which the Leader of the House read to us today.

Likewise, I warmly commend the robust speed and clarity of NATO's matching commitment, so plainly expounded to the world by one of our colleagues, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. As the Leader of the House rightly pointed out, that commitment of NATO arises squarely from Article 5, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations". That concept of "self-defence" is the critical foundation on which we must achieve the objectives so plainly outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown.

It brings to mind—if I may weary the House—the way in which the concept of self-defence was critical during a comparable episode during my time as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have in mind of course the decision of this country in 1986 to support the United States' plans to bomb Libya after the shocking murder committed by Libyan-inspired terrorists in Berlin. It must be said that the case for such action at that time did not seem as clear as it does today. Indeed, the case for the actions we took was criticised in the House of Commons by a number of distinguished Members of this House. I will not trouble to name them, although I see the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in his place and we discussed it earlier. I had total sympathy with the anxieties they expressed because the circumstances were extremely difficult. Those of us in Cabinet, including the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, took time to analyse how we should react.

Then, as now, one distracting feature was the tendency of some spokesmen on these issues to justify the necessary action as an act of retaliation; a response which is justified as revenge in its own right. We were all worried about that and in the end we made it crystal clear to the United States Administration—and it was equally clearly acknowledged—that we were prepared to support their action because it could and properly should be justified as a legitimate act of self-defence.

I expounded that case to the other place. on 16th April 1986, as the, plain right of states to defend themselves and their citizens against attacks and sustained threat of attacks". Make no mistake about it; I am not here defending a weak, feeble or second-degree commitment to this cause because I went on to say—and forgive me for again quoting myself—that the right of self-defence is not an entirely passive right". That is of crucial importance in today's crisis. I continued: It plainly includes the right to destroy or weaken the capacity of one's assailant, to reduce his resources, and to weaken his will so as to discourage and prevent further violence".—[Official Report, Commons, 16/4/86; col, 954.] That is the basis on which action can and should be justified and it includes, if we can achieve it, the right and the duty to identify, try, convict and punish.

The remarkable thing is that in 1986 that argument was seen to grow in strength because as the months and years went by Gaddafi increasingly behaved like a man who had been taught a lesson. Eventually critics found it impossible to continue criticising an act of deterrence, sincerely and convincingly undertaken in self-defence, that was actually seen to have deterred. That is the basis upon which we justify our approach today.

In today's circumstances three other conditions need to be fulfilled for robust action in self-defence to be justified and effective. First, before any such robust counter strike is authorised, it is essential to be sure, or as sure as one can be, that the evidence of guilt is equally robust. The second condition will not be fulfilled without that for it is to sustain the unflagging long-term unity of international support that will be essential to success in what is bound to be a long and detailed campaign. I have attended too many international summits, at which I have seen that kind of bold and brave initial commitment wasting away, to have any doubts about the difficulty of maintaining what is necessary: long-term unity spread as widely round the world as can possibly be achieved.

The third condition is that such robust action must be accompanied by a renewed commitment to tackle even- handedly both sides of the Middle East conflict, which fuels and exacerbates the hostility towards the United States, however unjustified, and which lies in the background to the tragedies of this week. It is not possible for the United States, with her power and authority as the principal guarantor of the state of Israel's very existence, to be disengaged from that process. Nor should anyone for a moment seek that. But for that very reason, the United States—and not only the United States—needs to be seen as equally committed to support for the legitimate rights and expectations of the Palestinian people whose world has been disrupted for such a long time.

The recent efforts of Senator George Mitchell, who has played such a distinguished part in helping us to tackle our own problems, show the nature of commitment to an even-handed policy that we have come to expect and for which we respect him. We all need, above all perhaps the members of the European Union—including ourselves—to commit ourselves in the same way.

I close with a quotation, perhaps remarkably from Thucydides, which was first brought to my notice by the present American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in his valedictory address as he left the Pentagon, having completed his term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said: Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most". That is the spirit which, thankfully and mercifully, has been inspiring the response of the President and the Secretary of State. It is the spirit that should inspire united international action against this week's brutality. It is—and it must be—restrained but relentless, targeted but tenacious, united and unflagging.

11.27 a.m.

Lord Owen

My Lords, the horror felt in this country about what has happened in the United States reflects the debt and the bonds of steel that bind our two countries together. My wife is a New Yorker, my daughter is working in New York, and our family lost a very close friend in the World Trade Centre, with whom we were sailing round the Isle of Wight only a few weeks ago, commemorating the America's Cup.

Much has been said about the responsibility that now lies on the new President, George Bush. He is fortunate to have guidance from an extremely experienced Vice-President, Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He can also call on an experienced former Secretary of State in James Baker, one of the few American Secretaries of State in recent years who has won the support of the Muslim and Arab world in dealing with the Palestinian problem. I hope that he will find a way of utilising that experience and of sending out a message that he understands that America has to go further in tackling this problem from a viewpoint that understands both the Israeli and Palestinian positions.

We all thank God that although this disaster was terrible, it did not involve nuclear or biological weapons, or gas. All three could easily have been involved. Let us not forget that, especially when we hear all the criticism of the policy towards Iraq. Of course that policy has not been successful, but what other policy would be more successful? Let us not forget that when Saddam Hussein was threatened and told that if he used nuclear weapons they would be used against him, it acted as a deterrent. Even so, when we looked at the tips of some of the missiles that the United Nations inspection team were able to get hold of, there was evidence that he was prepared to use other weapons of mass destruction. Gas was used in the Iran-Iraq war, and also against the Iraqi people. We face very dangerous times. Although we cannot cover too many aspects in this short debate, we do know that deterrence works.

I was glad of the remarks made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe. He is right. The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, virtually single-handedly showed immense courage in accepting that we should allow the US and President Reagan to fly aircraft from this country's bases. He is right to say that I criticised it. I was wrong to criticise it. We must learn from mistakes that we made then. I did not expect Gaddafi to act in the way that he did.

Many people criticise the Israelis for taking out, in 1981, the supposedly civilian nuclear reactor in Iraq. There can now be no doubt that that action was correct and has hopefully prevented that country from having nuclear weapons.

I hope that the House will allow me to talk about Afghanistan and the surrounding area, as I love that country. I spent time there as a student. I have driven through it, been over its mountains, and have even slept out in tents with Afghan tribal leaders. It is a fine country with wonderful Muslim people. In those days, the women were treated equally, with honour and distinction. I was strongly in favour of action to get the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. But we must now all accept that the world is different. We cannot deal with Afghanistan by ourselves. We need Russia's support.

We must also pay more attention to Pakistan. The new Foreign Secretary has a real opportunity to change the tone of our dialogue with that country. It is not an easy issue for us. We have a real depth of understanding with India, and a long-held friendship, and holding the balance between those two great countries is difficult. But the Kashmir dispute is in many senses as important now as the Arab-Israeli dispute. It must be thought of in that context. It was immensely encouraging to hear Pakistan's military leader speaking so forthrightly yesterday about terrorism. But we must remember how fragile his hold on that country is, and how, if the wrong decisions are taken, that country could easily be pushed towards fundamentalism. We must not make impossible demands on him or on other military or political leaders in Pakistan. They have some choices, and we must try to help them deal with that.

The Taleban leaders are devout people. For complex reasons that include that of solidarity, they look back at their history. The person on everyone's tongue, bin Laden, was helpful to many in ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan. He was supported by many people. He has now switched over to a form of fundamentalism which makes it extremely difficult for some of those people who owe him debts for what has previously been done. We have to understand the complexity of this issue. We also have to understand that organisations such as that which bin Laden heads have very serious links into other terrorist organisations in the Middle East—in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, the Gulf States—and even in the Indian Sub-Continent. It is a difficult issue for anyone to tackle, but it has to be tackled. We all have to learn.

The response authorised by President Clinton in 1998 did not work and arguably made the position worse. Cruise missiles coming into the Khost valley and scattering lots of little bombs did not hit the target but inflamed the situation and may, we may later see, have sown the seed for what happened in New York. Firm action may not necessarily be successful action. The question is what kind of action should be taken. When I saw the Chief of Defense Staff—that tall bemedalled figure, General Shelton—dealing with the horror that had happened in the Pentagon, I said to myself, "I don't think that man will ever support another response like the Cruise missile response of 1998". That is the big shift.

In the past decade and more many of us have found it difficult to handle the Americans because of the so-called fear of body bags. The American military have felt extremely inhibited. That has now changed. The United States is slow to anger. It is not a militant country. I resent bitterly the talk about cowboys. Remember how much this country urged and had a responsive president in Roosevelt in 1940–41 but could not get the Americans to respond. But when they did respond, they responded with courage, bravery and persistence. No one should underestimate that country. It is a great country. As one of its first Secretaries of State said, America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy". It is a calumny on that country to think that it is in any way an instinctively aggressive nation.

But now it will respond and must respond. The challenge to us in NATO has already been well responded to by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson—and well he spoke for us in saying that an attack on one is an attack on all. In the European Union now we must have the resolve to stick with this throughout. There can be none of the past record of refusing overflying rights, of members distancing themselves from difficult policies and of not being prepared to step up to the plate when dealing with Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. There has to be much greater resolve.

My next point is not a partisan one, but let us be very glad that we in this country, under successive governments, have so far retained control of our own borders. In the present world it is a national right, a national duty and a national necessity to control one's borders. But as has been pointed out, some of the people who will want to come to Britain as genuine political refugees will come from countries such as Afghanistan. We cannot have blanket bans on genuine amnesty seekers. They cannot be banned because they are Muslim or because of the colour of their skin or the country from which they come.

It will pose very difficult challenges. But a liberal world, a civilised world, can exist only if it has courage and strength, if it is prepared to ask its armed services to take casualties and if it is prepared to challenge its own wish for liberty and accept things like security checks, telephone tapping and interventions in our personal liberty. These are difficult balances. Let us be truthful. We have had the balance wrong over the past two decades and quite a number of us—I include myself—are responsible for that. We have not taken a determined enough stance against international terrorism. If we are truthful, we have not taken a determined enough stance about terrorism in our own country. 'We must learn from our mistakes; and I am very happy to learn from mine.

11.35 a.m.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney is still in hospital. He very much wanted to be present but on medical advice is not able to be so. However, he has asked me to say that he wanted to take part in the debate and that he wanted to be associated with expressions of sympathy for those who were injured and for the families and friends of the many victims of the tragedy in the United States.

I shall be very brief because most of the arguments I had wanted to make have already been put much more eloquently by preceding speakers. However, I do believe that every person will be haunted to their dying day by the images they saw on television last Tuesday. Those memories will stay with us and will affect every one of us for many years to come. Whenever there has been a tragedy of this kind, whenever there has been a terrorist atrocity, I have asked myself, "How is it that there is so much hatred?" How is it that at Omagh and Lockerbie there was so much hatred that innocent people could be destroyed? Indeed, on every continent in the world we have seen that hatred, but never has it been manifested on such an enormous and horrible scale as in the United States earlier this week. We are much more affected because of television. We have seen the events in our living rooms. We saw the horror of what happened as it took place.

What action can we take, in concert with our allies and friends? We shall have to take tough measures and we shall have to be careful as to the constraints under which we operate. I suppose that every democracy will have to balance its respect for civil liberties with the need to defend itself and to defend its people. For example, I am quite certain that air travel will be much more difficult. We shall have to put up with far more constraints when we seek to board planes, when we pack our luggage and when we go through the checks. That will be universal. The people of the United States will have to come to accept much tougher security measures when they board planes than they have done hitherto. We shall also have to do that.

My key point has already been referred to once or twice in the debate. Terrorists can operate only when they have havens from which they can do so. We shall have to take much tougher action against any state in the world providing sanctuary and safety for terrorists in order for them to plan and train for their deadly activities. If anything comes out of the events of this week I hope it will be a widespread international agreement—the Security Council has pointed the way—that will last not only for this week but will continue so that we can take steps in concert with our allies against any country which harbours terrorists and flaunts the fact that it is doing so.

The new United States Administration is faced with enormous difficulties so early in its life. However, we all acknowledge that the United States is a mature democracy. Our Government will support the US Administration in actions that it takes, knowing that those will be mature and responsible actions.

I should like to make two further points. First, I believe that we must redouble our efforts to provide an impetus for the Middle East peace process. That has been a running sore for many countries as well as a tragedy for all the people of the region, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli. I hope very much that the United States Administration, supported by ourselves and other governments, will bring more pressure to bear on the countries of the Middle East to secure a peace process which operates successfully.

Secondly, I turn to the Muslim community in this country. I hope that its members will continue to be respected as people who dislike and detest what they have seen taking place as much as everyone else. I hope too that they will not be victimised or treated as scapegoats for the dreadful events of recent days. Everyone should respect the Muslim community, the overwhelming majority of whose members wish to see an end to terrorism. I hope that the tolerance which we must demonstrate to the Muslim community will be fully extended to asylum seekers, in particular those from Muslim countries, because they are the victims of some of the rogue regimes and should be treated with tolerance and respect.

11.41 a.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, I shall not attempt to dwell on the poignancy and the horror of what we have seen this week. For my own part, I feel that any words of mine can now only seem banal. However, like other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, I cannot forbear to express with all humility my immense admiration for the extraordinary courage that these events have called forth in so many people in America.

In facing what has happened, all of us wish to help as best we can, both individually and nationally. I shall mention only two matters in my remarks, which I hope will not be considered too minor to be worthy of inclusion in the debate. These are, first, the concept of national self-defence and, secondly, the concept of national retaliation. These concepts have already been touched on by my noble friend Lord Howe of Aberavon and so I shall be able to keep my remarks brief.

I shall preface what I wish to say by referring to the fact that the Prime Minister, rightly, admirably and at once, has placed our country to stand side by side with our American friends in their cruel adversity and, as he put it, to aid in the fight to eradicate terrorism from our world. Unhappily, in this country we have long experience of that fight, and in that regard I warmly endorse the words of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde in his speech earlier in the debate. I hold the view, already strongly expressed, that terrorism within a free society can nowhere claim immunity based either on nationality or on one particular view of history.

Today we must all hope that the pledge of support given by the Prime Minister will help to sustain President Bush in some measure. His responsibilities in deciding what steps America should now take, in consultation with her allies, are truly awesome. Inevitably, those steps will be momentous. I wish only to express the hope that, in fulfilling that pledge of support, Her Majesty's Government will think it right earnestly to counsel our American friends in the relatively young Administration to base their actions, whatever form they may take, firmly on the concept of national self-defence and not on that of retaliation. My noble friend Lord Howe pointed out that the concept of self-defence is far reaching and wholly sufficient in these circumstances.

I offer two reasons for those remarks. First, in international law a state will be justified in striking with focused and proportionate force if that is necessary to forestall an attack on it from elsewhere. That is only common sense. No state should be required to wait until an attack has in fact been launched and only then to try to parry the blow. There are good reasons for that: some blows and attacks simply cannot be parried. Tuesday's attack was such an event. Furthermore, no state is required is give an assailant which has already launched an attack the benefit of any possible doubt as to whether it will attack again. In all the circumstances, it will be enough to expect that a further devastating attack will be mounted. Again, once the perpetrators behind Tuesday's attack have been identified, they will become lawful targets against which America could deploy force proportionate to the risk and to prevent a recurrence of such events; the risk is very high. That can be done lawfully within the doctrine of national self-defence. No other justification would be needed, even if one were available.

That is the first reason why I believe that we should support America not only with warm, compassionate and sympathetic understanding, but also with conviction to urge them to base their actions on self-defence.

The second reason reinforces the first. International law simply does not recognise any doctrine of lawful retaliation as distinct from self-defence. No state may lawfully employ force simply and exclusively in pursuit of retaliation for a wrong already committed against it. In law, a state cannot punch back in order to punish, but it can do so in order to protect. Thus, I believe that it would be a great mistake to speak of retaliation. Surely it is wiser not to give any unintended forensic advantage to those who deserve none at all, but who would certainly exploit any advantage that they may be given, as would their friends and hangers-on, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, referred in her earlier remarks.

I do not expect a comment from the Government Front Bench today. Counsel to our American friends must be conducted in private. However, I hope that these thoughts, which I fear may have been expressed rather too simplistically, will find favour with the Government. Similarly, I am sure that each one of us hopes fervently for the full and lasting success of the response made by America and her allies to an infinitely evil and most devastating attack.

11.47 a.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, I too should like to start my brief remarks by expressing my deepest sympathy and condolences for the tragic loss of life in the events of Tuesday. I am very glad that the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House has agreed to the admirable suggestion that a message should be sent to Congress on behalf of us all.

I fully share the view that we and our other allies must help our American friends to track down those who can be proven to have been behind these terrorist outrages. But it is not only NATO and the European Union which should be involved; I hope that we also build on the expressions of sympathy and support which this week have come from what many of us would regard as unlikely quarters to ensure that the fight against terrorism is truly multilateral, universal and secular; namely, a campaign conducted against those who can plan and perpetrate a disaster of this magnitude.

The campaign must not be, nor must it appear to be, a war against Islam. I warmly welcome the words of the Minister on this point. Still less must it appear to be a war against the Arab world or the people of Palestine, many of whom, let us remember, are not Muslims. All of us, but perhaps most particularly the United States Administration, need to pause and examine the reasons for those shocking pictures of jubilant Palestinians which appeared on our television screens this week. They should have revealed to Washington what many of us have become disturbingly aware of for a long time; namely, the deep feelings of despair, anger and resentment in Palestine and across the whole Arab world at the extent to which the genuine grievances and suffering of the Palestinian people appear to be ignored by the West.

I am not arguing that any of that can excuse the blind and callous hatred that must have motivated those celebrations. However, unless the United States is prepared to re-examine its Middle East policies and to engage actively in a determined and even-handed effort to restore the peace process, any blanket retaliation for the attack against New York risks exacerbating precisely those feelings of resentment and anger, and encouraging more fanatics to join the ranks of suicide bombers and assassins.

I urge Ministers to accept that we must not allow our support for the United States, in its present fully understandable determination for quick revenge, to turn, or to be seen to turn, the so-called war against terrorism into a war against Islam or against those regimes in the Arab world and elsewhere of 'whose systems of government we disapprove. If we do, that clash of civilisations, which has been foreseen by Professor Huntington and others for many years, will become a reality. The implications of that, not only for our own foreign policy and interests, but for our large and growing Muslim population in this country, will be catastrophic. For Israel, the implications could literally be fatal.

11.51 a.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, this is a most moving occasion. I have two points to make before I speak of my chief concern. First, one of the most important forms of help that we can offer is good intelligence. Are the services getting the money to pay for it? I doubt it. Defence and intelligence are the first things that governments cut. We must reverse that trend if we hope to be a truly valuable partner in the fight against terrorism. Secondly, we should review our policy on our own terrorists.

I fear that the temptation to argue for jaw-jaw instead of war-war will work with governments, but it does not with terrorists. The IRA has taken and taken, but given nothing. Canary Wharf was the IRA's version of the attack in the US. I beg the Government to stop weakening the forces that defend us—the RUC Special Branch for one—for the sake of being able to demonstrate that Sinn Fein/IRA is negotiating. It never has. All that it offered the last time that we were told of a significant breakthrough was to think how it might, some day, yield up arms, but never when. At that very moment, the IRA was working with terrorists in Colombia.

Like everyone else in the House, I have American friends who are dear to me. We were comrades in war and again in such countries as the Congo and Vietnam, as well as in Moscow. I love and admire them. I was moved to hear it reported on the radio yesterday that an American outside the embassy said, "If I had to be in any country other than America today, it would be England".

We will all rejoice that our Government have spoken so splendidly for the people in offering all the support that we can and that NATO has made its deeply significant commitment by invoking Article 5.

One area in which I have no doubt that we are helping is in the provision of any relevant intelligence that we may have. However, those resources will have been severely threatened and endangered by the recent action of the former head of the Security Service, and will be again when David Shayler comes to court.

Operations of the kind that brought down the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon are conducted by men and women. Technical intelligence and satellite coverage are no substitute for knowledge of intentions. That knowledge can come only from an agent among or close to those who are planning and conducting the operation. How many men and women with such access who might once have been willing to risk their lives and those of their families to tell us about such a threat will do so now that a former head of our Security Service is prepared to break the promise of silence that we all make, after years of rightly warning others not to do so? It is demeaning enough that she should have spoken as she is reported to have done—I hope that this is not true—of, the fun it was to listen to people's telephones and to read their mail and stuff". I doubt whether that attitude is shared by the other members of her service. It was certainly not shared by those with whom I worked for many years.

We cannot afford to have the media accusing the American security and intelligence services of failing to identify the threat in time. If we continue to allow former members of our security and intelligence services to write books about their lives, we shall pay the price in lost access to the intentions of terrorists. It takes a very brave man working with or close to such groups to take the risk of working for us. They have done so in the past because they trusted the services to preserve their anonymity. Good intelligence depends on trust between the agent and the service and between the service and Ministers. Trust, not treachery, is the key—trust and operational skills.

I have dealt in the past with some of those agents who have worked in terrorist groups. They are amazingly, unbelievably courageous. We shall need such agents badly in the coming months and years. I strongly urge that meretricious ideas about the freedom to write and speak at whatever cost to the interests of the nation and of those brave, unknown men and women should not be allowed to prevail. We must never forget that first-class intelligence of the enemy's intentions could be and has been as valuable in preventing wars as in fighting them. It is thoroughly disingenuous to argue that no one has been explicitly named and no operation has been revealed. There are always clues that will be correctly interpreted and related by the enemy, particularly in a book that gives examples of so-called fictitious cases and of trade craft.

We have a choice to make. If we wish to serve the interests of the free world, we have to offer protection to those who take the risk of telling us what the intentions of our enemies are.

11.57 a.m.

Lord Watson of Richmond

My Lords, it has been my privilege for a long time to be much engaged in the work of the English Speaking Union. Within hours of the terrible events earlier this week in New York and Washington, we lowered to half mast the two flags flown at the ESU's international headquarters in London at Dartmouth House—the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. We did so not only as a mark of sorrow and respect, which was clear, but as a gesture of solidarity.

Yesterday morning, I wrote a letter to my opposite number in New York, the chairman of the ESU of the United States, saying: This is an appalling tragedy and attack on freedom and the values of democracy and respect for human life which underlie and underpin the ESU". We seek to promote global understanding among peoples by using the unique global reach of the English language. The organisation was founded in 1917 by Americans and Englishmen traumatised by the slaughter of the First World War. Their determination was to link the English-speaking countries in such a way that a second such catastrophe would prove impossible. In that ambition, of course, they failed.

We are now confronted by what the American President yesterday called: The first war of the 21st century". However, the imperative of communication to prevent catastrophe remains. If we do not seek to communicate and understand and if we do not try to comprehend the incomprehensible, we hand the terrorists a singular and deadly victory.

The editorial in yesterday's Evening Standard in London expressed the matter very well: What the terrorists want is to reduce us to thinking like themselves—in a single dimension; namely, indiscriminate violence". I, together with the House, do not believe that America's response will be indiscriminate; nor, clearly, will the actions that must be taken come only from the Americans. Clause 5 of the NATO treaty that has been referred to was written for the world of superpower confrontation. It is ironic, as well as tragic, that the first time that it was invoked should have been to meet such a very different situation.

Tuesday's horrors have outraged not only the United States and the NATO powers but people of other alliances and none and people of no faith and many faiths. I do not know how many of your Lordships managed to hear on Radio 4 yesterday the "Thought for the Day" given by Dr Zaki Badawi, the head of the Muslim College in London. He said: The reaction of the Muslim community in the mosques was to pay homage to the dead with prayer and silence. Many were dazed, worrying for their relations living in America, some working in the building burning before their eyes. For the World Trade Centre was populated by people of all colours, nationalities and faiths. Thousands of Muslim bankers and financiers operated there. The World Trade Centre was a world trade centre". In a real sense, this attack was against both the vision and the logistics of one world. It confronts the idea of a global village—born not only of technology but also of the global experience of two world wars and the world-wide economic recession that occurred between those wars—with another and very different idea. The terrorists' intent is never-ending conflict between incompatible causes fuelled by unquenchable hate. Our response must be the internationalisation of democracy. As suggested in earlier speeches today, this tragedy must mark the start of an unprecedented degree of co-operation between the world's democracies.

In recent years there has been much talk—some of it in this House—of Europe and America drifting apart or even drifting into and on to a collision course. The foundation of unprecedented co-operation between democracies must be that between the two sides of the Atlantic—the American Union and the European Union. The 21st century promises mayhem for us all if the vision of utterly opposed worlds replaces the vision of one world.

One world can develop only if Europe and the United States come together to a degree that they have never done previously. In that, our country—the United Kingdom—has a very special and vital role to play. We are clearly at the starting point of a new relationship between states. In order to meet that challenge there must be between democracies a degree of co-operation which so far we have not experienced. In the role that we play it is vital that not only do we think of security and the logistics of defence and response but that we ourselves are willing to contribute to joint decision-taking and to share sovereignty not against the threats of the Cold War but against the threat of an entirely new dimension.

12.4 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I join every other noble Lord in trying to express a sympathy, which must be beyond words, for the American people in the enormity of their suffering and to pay tribute to their dignity and heroism. In my contribution I wish to turn attention from the United States to the implications of the terrorist activities there for our own country.

In a debate in your Lordships' House on 12th January last year on the international situation, I recollect that I was the only speaker to raise the complex, sensitive issue of international Islamist terrorism. I wish that the concerns that I expressed then had been unfounded. I began then, and do so again today, by emphasising a distinction between Islamism and the religion of Islam. It is crucial that we do so.

The term "Islamism" is widely used to denote the violent, terrorist and militaristic ideology associated with many of the conflicts in the world today, such as those in Sudan and Chechnya. In highlighting the terrorist implications of Islamism, I am not in any way promoting Islamophobia; rather, the reverse. I am trying to avert it. Unless the distinction is made clearly between the adherents of violent Islamism and the vast majority of peaceable Muslims who live in our midst, there is a real danger of a backlash against the latter based on ignorance, confusion and emotional reactions to Islamist terrorism.

It has been emphasised rightly that there is as yet no definitive proof of the identity of the terrorists who perpetrated the atrocities on Tuesday. However, expert opinion and emerging evidence seem to point to groups operating under the sphere and influence of the Islamist leader, Osama bin Laden. But even if that connection is not found, the danger of Islamist terrorism at home and abroad remains.

Therefore, I recapitulate briefly some of the concerns that I raised previously. They were triggered by a Muslim friend, who gave me a video showing an Islamist training school in Sudan. I have seen the video. It shows very young boys and adult men being trained in the ideological and military aspects of jihad, or holy war, in its most militaristic form. It also shows a British businessman dispensing money in the jihad training school. It culminates in a call to international sympathisers to give their support to the international Islamist jihad. At the end of the video are details of an address in Leicester, here in England.

Investigative journalists subsequently visited that address. They gained the confidence of the person whom they met, who gave them the names and contact addresses of Islamist training centres and camps in this country. They attended and filmed some of the proceedings. Part of their footage has been shown on the television "Dispatches" programme. Among the scenes are sequences of the Afghan veteran Abu Hamza and Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the fundamentalist group Al-Muhajiroun. They are encouraging young men in Britain not to obey the laws of this land but only to obey the laws of Allah. They claim that a jihad is being fought in this country and that they will not waste bullets on us, the kaffirs. Instead, they will whip out our intestines and crush our heads.

They are also shown teaching a large group of young men how to carry out terrorist tactics; for example, they show how to bring down an aircraft coming into an airport such as Heathrow. The film switches to a weapons expert, who confirms that their proposed method is feasible. Then the recruits are told that that particular measure is not important; what is important is for each of them to go away and to devise their own terrorist activities. It is a question of "kill or be killed".

The film also shows ways in which fear is being promoted among Muslims in this country, likening their predicament to that of Jews in Nazi Germany, with them becoming victims of another holocaust. with wholesale slaughter on a genocidal scale, including the use of gas ovens. That fear, and the consequent emotive reaction, is then used to underpin the call to prepare for combat. The film portrays a training camp near Slough. It also describes how young men are being encouraged to go abroad to fight injihads, where they will obtain military experience. I shall place a copy of that video in your Lordships' House.

We all know and deeply deplore the fact that racist attacks, which we all condemn, have taken place in this country. Muslims, as well as members of other communities, have suffered in those attacks. The Muslim community, together, indeed, with every citizen in this land, must be protected from racism and race-related violence.

There is also concern—indeed, it is held by many Muslims—that some who have an interest in violence may exacerbate the fear of racist attacks to such a level that justifies training for violence in the name of self-defence. Such training for violence might be deployed in ways that threaten peace and democracy because, as has already been said, democracy is inherently vulnerable to those who would destroy it; it is vulnerable to those who use the freedoms it enshrines to exploit and destroy those very freedoms. We know that that has been the case with groups committed to totalitarian ideologies on the far right and far left. We may be seeing a similar threat from Islamist terrorists.

I shall give five brief examples of causes for concern. First, the jihad for Chechnya, against Russia, was declared, ironically, in Friends' Meeting House in Euston Road. A colleague who attended that meeting described the warmongering and intimidating atmosphere; there were films of jihad warriors and repeated calls for money for war, for men to fight and for women to encourage their menfolk to fight against Russia. Not surprisingly, the Russian Federation was not best pleased that that took place in London.

Secondly, the Islamist terrorists arrested in Yemen on a terrorist mission had come from Britain. It is said that they were identified before carrying out their terrorist act because, coming from Britain, they had temporarily forgotten not to drive on the left-hand side of the road and were involved in a traffic incident.

Thirdly, two members of the Islamic Armed Group who were arrested in Birmingham came into this country with false passports to recruit and train supporters of Osama bin Laden. Fourthly, this week's Sunday Express reported concerns that refugees from Iraq may have been pressured by Saddam Hussein's security police to smuggle lethal pathogens into Britain. A senior intelligence officer is reported to have said: Biological weapons are very easy to carry. A small bottle of water could contain sufficient anthrax to create havoc. Short of checking every bottle coming through every air or sea port there is no real way to intercept". Finally, Muslim friends and colleagues of mine from the Middle East endorsed what was said in yesterday's Daily Telegraph—they were unequivocal in describing Britain as being such a soft touch that we are viewed as the Islamist terrorist capital of the world.

The purpose of drawing attention to those issues is not to be a scaremonger; in contrast, it is to defuse fear by urging Her Majesty's Government to be seen to be taking such concerns with the utmost seriousness. The anti-terrorism legislation has resulted in much less overt activity, such as raising money for militant groups. I believe—I am sure that everyone agrees with this—that the Government should be congratulated on those aspects of that legislation. However, another possible result has been to drive activities underground. Committed activists such as Abu Hamza and Sheikh Bakri Mohammed are, I believe, still in this country. There is no indication that they have changed their ideological commitment and there is a fear that they are continuing their terrorist recruitment and training programmes, albeit more discreetly and underground. That is referred to in a large article in The Times today.

Any search of the websites associated with Al-Muhajiroun and the various link sites reveals many continuing activities that are designed to keep Britain actively involved in international jihad movements. Moreover, members of organisations such as Al-Muhajiroun have accompanied demonstrations with public incitements to hatred and violence. Characteristic cries include, "Death to America" and "Death to America the great Satan". To my knowledge, not one such member has been convicted. I therefore ask the Minister whether that is the case and, if so, why? Will the Government reassure the House that in future those found guilty of incitement to violence and of hatred offences will be prosecuted? Will they also assure the House that every effort will be made to ensure that there will be an end to the recruitment and training of terrorists in this country? As I said, articles in today's edition of The Times suggests that much more needs to be done, and to be seen to be done, on this issue.

Before concluding, I turn briefly to relevant international aspects of Islamist terrorism. In particular, I refer to Sudan, where the National Islamic Front took power by a military coup and holds it by the ruthless oppression of its own people. That Islamist regime represents no more than between 5 per cent and 7 per cent of the Sudanese people and is deeply loathed by the vast majority. It is waging jihad in its most brutal form against all who oppose it, including Muslims as well as Christians and traditional believers. It has created a toll of suffering—more than 2 million are dead and more than 5 million have been displaced. The sheer scale of that toll of tragedy exceeds that in Rwanda, Somalia and the former Republic of Yugoslavia put together.

The NIF regime has been condemned by the United Nations Security Council for complicity with terrorism and for its vast catalogue of violations against human rights. Since beginning to exploit the huge oil reserves that have recently come on line, it has used the oil revenue to purchase even more sophisticated weapons, including helicopter gunships. There have recently been reports about it using missiles against its own people in the south. It is also carrying out a brutal, systematic and comprehensive clearance of the African peoples who live around the oil fields to an extent that must be regarded as involving ethnic cleansing. Moreover, it is committed to extending its influence and ideology beyond the borders of Sudan.

When the subject of Sudan has been discussed in your Lordships' House the Government have tended to equate the violations of human rights committed by the NIF with those committed by the opposition forces. In any war, parties to the conflict are likely to violate human rights and groups such as the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement and Army, which is trying to defend the people, are no exception. However, that group's record of violations is a world away from the systematic and wholesale slaughter that is being carried out by the NIF. Moreover, the SPLM/A is working hard to establish civil society and to bring to account those who violate human rights. I therefore suggest that when Her Majesty's Government repeatedly imply that there is a symmetry between the NIF and the forces representing the opposition, they are seriously misrepresenting reality.

Oil seems to have bought friends and the British Government's policy of so-called "critical dialogue" with the Islamist NIF has become so long on dialogue and so short on effective criticism that it is seen by most of the Sudanese people as being shamefully complicit. For example, last year the Government violated the spirit of UN Security Council sanctions by inviting the NIF Foreign Minister to Britain on an official visit, when they gave him the red carpet treatment. The booklet published by the DTI provides implicit, if not explicit, encouragement to British businesses to invest, which thereby assists that Islamist terrorist regime to stay in power.

Britain's very soft approach to the Islamist NIF regime persists despite a compendium of recent news reports, which consistently shows links between Sudan, the terrorist Islamist leader Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organisation Al'Qaeda. It is also claimed that Sudan has not fully complied with UN Security Council resolutions demanding it to end assistance to terrorists.

I therefore ask the Government whether they will reconsider their policy towards Sudan, which involves doing business with this Islamist pro-terrorist regime. That helps it to stay in power and to become entrenched in the heart of Africa. Should not Her Majesty's Government consider joining the United States, which has adopted much more robust measures that call the regime to account, and condemn its leaders for crimes against humanity?

I conclude with a quotation from an article by Daniel Pipes in the Wall Street Journal of 12th September. There is another very good article by Daniel Pipes in today's Daily Telegraph, which says much more eloquently what I have been trying to say. I take the liberty of changing his words slightly to apply them to the United Kingdom. He wrote: If there is any good to come out of yesterday's death and trauma"— he was writing on Wednesday— it will prompt an urgent and dramatic change in government policy: one that looks at the threat to our country as a military one, that comprehends the terrorist mentality and that closes down the domestic network of terror. An easy assumption has pervaded the airwaves that Tuesday's horrors will have the effect of waking us up to the threat in our midst. We owe it to the many victims to do so. We also owe it to ourselves, for I suspect that yesterday's events are just a foretaste of what the future holds in store. Future attacks arc likely to be biological, spreading germs that could potentially threaten the whole country. When that day comes, this country will truly know what devastation terrorism can cause. Now is the time to prepare for that danger and make sure it never happens".

12.9 p.m.

Lord Brennan

My Lords, the attack on America will take its place in history for two reasons. The first is the event itself; the barbaric killing and destruction, the wiping out within an hour or so, of thousands of innocent people. Until Tuesday last, such events were beyond our contemplation. They are now a reality. This is terrorism in a new dimension. To meet such new terrorism. new action and different ideas must be pursued.

The second reason will be the response of America, its allies and the democratic world. Response there must be. This was organised mass murder. The response to that crime must be strong. Pascal said, and rightly so, that force without justice is tyranny; justice without force is impotent. To combat the tyranny of terror, justice must be exercised with strength.

How is justice to be exercised? First, I refer to the responsibility of the United States and its allies. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, pointed out, it is a well-established principle of international law, enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, that a nation may defend itself if it is the subject of armed attack. Self-defence is not only a right; on occasions it may be a duty, for example, self-defence exercised against terrorists and those states which assist and harbour terrorists.

That principle has already been recognised both by politicians and the law. In Security Council Resolution 748 of 1992, the countries then present adopted the following statement of principle: Every state has the duty to refrain from organising, instigating, assisting or participating in terrorist acts in another state or", I emphasise the following words, acquiescing in organised terrorist activities within its own territory directed at international terrorism". That wonderful principle of the responsibility of nations was echoed by the resolution of the Security Council last Wednesday evening. Bearing that principle in mind and taking into account the right and duty of self-defence, can anyone reasonably argue that the United States and its allies should not take action to defend themselves?

However, the critical question in the days and months to come will not be that of self-defence but whether the steps taken accord with the principles of law. They must be what is necessary and proportionate.

What of necessity? I refer to the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993, the bombing of the American embassies of East Africa in 1998, the declaration of war, so called, by its author, Osama bin Laden of 1996, calling for the liberation of Saudi Arabia from Americans and for that to be achieved by killing Americans, by which acts the killer will enter paradise. That is the reality which America faces and which had such terrible results on Tuesday last. Is there any reasonable person who would say that that will not happen again? The chilling word used by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London was "bio-terrorism", the appalling shock, perhaps, of an aircraft hitting a nuclear reactor. This form of terrorism will happen again unless we fight to stop it. Nobody can doubt the requirement of necessity.

What is proportionate? Proportionality in this context does not simply mean responding to the event one has suffered in equal measure. It is much more than that. Proportionate response in self-defence entitles one to take such steps as will control or seek to prevent this form of terrorism being committed against democratic nations. That may involve much greater measures than even the events of last Tuesday would at first sight justify, and all within the law.

If force has to be exercised, are not the appropriate standards by which to test it, first, in the words of the Prime Minister this morning, hard evidence, and, secondly, a rational assessment of what is needed? Thirdly, it must be reasonable force. Fourthly, it must be clinically directed at the terrorists and those organs of the state materially assisting the terrorists. And fifthly, lamentably but nevertheless appropriately, it should be relentless, for months if not years to come. All that is within the rule of law. That is what America and its allies must fulfil if they are to show responsibility to their people and protect them against terrorism.

Above and beyond that, what is the responsibility of the international community? No democracy is safe against terrorism. Action against it must be global. It must embrace nations, religions and communities. The time is right for action. As my noble friend Lady Symons said, what we need now is determined, collective action by the states of the world.

I must reassure the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that vehicles for such action are in place. In 1994 the General Assembly of the United Nations made a declaration condemning international terrorism in all its forms. There are numerous conventions in existence and in draft form against terrorist bombing and the financing of terrorism. All that is required is that they be signed. Let us not waste time on the detail of how to implement such agreements internationally. Let us seize this moment to implement them. Such agreements have three objectives: first, to condemn terrorism from whatever source and in whatever form; secondly, to make states responsible for what happens within their country, and thirdly, to make states co-operate.

There must be no hiding place for the terrorists. Without a safe haven it is much more difficult for them to wage their war against us. Is not the time right when countries we have previously condemned, such as Libya and Iran, join the condemnation of such terrorist acts? Let us persuade them to join us in making these international agreements law now.

In conclusion, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London most wisely reminded us that we exist as nations to represent our people and that now, more than at any other time, we should rekindle, nurture and expand our convictions in goodness and democratic standards. Beyond that, as nations we should serve that requirement by co-operating together to fight terrorism. Terrorism must be defeated and it will be defeated through freedom and the rule of law.

12.30 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, what happened on Tuesday was an act of gross barbarity, beyond all belief and beyond all understanding. It was a day of infamy and no words of mine are adequate to describe it. Your Lordships' House is united in its sense of revulsion and utter condemnation, a sentiment that I share. Tuesday 11th September will be for ever etched in our memories as the day that the forces of destruction and terror sought to strike at the very heart of free and democratic society and to undermine the foundations of civilisation itself.

I have two points to make. The first concerns the fragility of our modern democratic society. On Tuesday the very tools of our sophisticated democratic society were cruelly turned against us. Commercial passenger aeroplanes, the symbols of our amazing ability to traverse the globe in a matter of hours, became crude guided missiles. Skyscrapers, the symbols of our ability to build seemingly gravity-defying structures and to occupy not just the earth but the sky with our presence, caved in like towers of cards. Anyone who tried to get through to New York or Washington on that day or the next found that for hours all telecommunications, the bedrock of the information technology revolution, were jammed and useless. Paradoxically, we discovered that the more sophisticated our civilisation, the more vulnerable it is. Our advanced democracy is not only the greatest strength of modern society but its greatness weakness too and our goal must be its protection.

Four years ago in my maiden speech I spoke on this very point. I said that, democracy has deep and strong roots. Its fruits may be delicate, but they are well worth protecting because they feed all people with hope and opportunity. They are the fruits of representation, liberty and the rule of law. They nurture freedom for the individual. They protect the inalienable rights of all of us and they must be defended against external aggression as against internal subversion and anarchy".—[Official Report, 15/5/97; col. 53.] I believe that those words ring truer than ever today. The new agenda of defending democracy must be at the heart of this debate.

My second point concerns the questions, who, why and what now. Literally, as the dust settles, as the full horror of the events of Tuesday slowly begin to sink in and as numb disbelief hardens to bitter anger at the appalling and senseless loss of life, four questions are being asked above the cacophony of confusion: how, who, why, and what now?

President Bush has vowed that the culprits will be hunted down and punished. Of course, America will consider her options and take whatever immediate action she deems necessary. I am sure that all responses, but particularly military responses, will be considered and proportionate, and they must take place within a framework of the new nature of conflict. The need for vengeance is an all too understandable human emotion, particularly in these extreme circumstances, but vengeance without justice brings no relief at all.

From our experience of terrorism in this country we know how difficult it is to bring justice to the victims of terrorism. It is even more difficult when the perpetrators are, as yet, unknown and unnamed. We have seen only the face of evil and not the face of the enemy. Today the world is gripped by a state of heightened tension, fear and foreboding. Before this atrocity the situation in the Middle East was precarious and in turmoil. The scenes of revelry and elation in some parts of the Arab world—stomach churning though they were—nevertheless point to the legitimate concerns of an Arab backlash, which, in turn, could send the world into a further destabilising spiral. An ill-judged act of retribution—tit-for-tat terrorism—could serve only to spawn a whole new generation of suicide bombers, willing to martyr themselves for their cause.

To the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I say that this is a war, although not a conventional one. It is of a kind that the West has never fought before. Any city, any building, any body is a target. It is a war between the forces of civilisation and of terrorism, between the forces of progress and of regress; between the forces of democracy and of tyranny. It is a grey war and it is one that must be fought on many fronts: economic, diplomatic, political, intelligence-gathering and law enforcement. The US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, has spoken of a long-term conflict that will not be solved by a single counterattack against an individual. He is right. Understandably, the American people want to see decisive leadership and robust action, and I would not be surprised by a decision to launch a measured military strike.

However, beyond that, on Tuesday we were brutally thrust into a new era for our security that goes right to the core of the freedoms and values that many of us take for granted. Suddenly everyday life is fraught with danger in a way that it never was before. Today's debate is understandably couched in the language of the 20th century, but it is a language that is becoming as outdated as the conventional warfare that it describes. Increasingly, that language jars with the new global realities of the 21st century. As rapidly as we can, we must arm ourselves both with the strategies and the lexicon to address those realities.

The threat of the suicide bomber is one that we have not faced before on this scale, but we must now come to terms with it. For the security of our cities and towns, our friends and our families, we must pool all our resources to establish a co-ordinated, unified and above all international response against terror and the tactics of terror. As the Prime Minister has pledged, our mission must be to root out state-sponsored terrorism and by doing so reinforce President Bush's message that we make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbour them.

We can start by targeting the support networks of terrorists. No terrorist can act in isolation. Terrorists need shelter and they need finance. Osama bin Laden and his associates do not sit counting bank notes. He and other terrorist groups have sophisticated networks of bank accounts, financing and money laundering. It is bitterly ironic that Osama bin Laden is supported by the very global capitalism that he so despises. Only with a sustained international collaborative effort can we dry up the financial lifeblood that sustains him. The building of a broad-based coalition of Gulf states and allies, which could work to establish the identity of those responsible and to bring them to justice, is essential.

In conclusion, this outrage has struck at the core of who we are, how we define ourselves as a society and the freedoms and values that we take for granted. Our duty and our responsibility are clear. We have no choice but to face and to defeat the evil of mass terrorism. In the days ahead our actions will be the measure of our humanity, just as the terrorists' actions were a measure of their inhumanity.

12.40 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

My Lords, the apocalyptic nature of Tuesday's horrific events in New York and Washington will have left an indelible mark on us all. Many speakers have referred to that. The 11th September 2001 was a defining moment in human history. Our global village will never be quite the same again.

On this national and international day of mourning, we stand in solidarity with the United States of America, remembering, too, that many of our own citizens are grieving the loss of loved ones. In the prayers earlier this morning, we heard the words from Psalm 46 which instil comfort and courage in the darkness that has engulfed the lives of thousands of people during these days: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way". At a meeting yesterday of Church leaders from Essex and part of east London, we sat in the round. In the centre the two-page spread of The Times presented to us that mind-numbing picture of the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre; and on that picture, which none of us will forget, had been placed the millennium cross: a reminder as we worked through our agenda during the course of the day of the presence of a suffering, vulnerable God amidst a 11 that appalling carnage.

The "why", "how" and "what" questions will continue to be asked. As we all recognise, one of the searching questions focuses on how to grapple with the intense and shattering sense of vulnerability and powerlessness that these barbarous acts of terrorism have created. If the world's superpower can be attacked so easily, who or what is safe elsewhere?

Such naked vulnerability and powerlessness can lead, as we know so well, not only to anger but also to intense fear coupled with the desire for revenge and retaliation. Evil acts have to be resisted. The perpetrators of these terrorist atrocities cannot be allowed to go unpunished. This has been a consistent theme today. But another consistent theme has been the recognition of the need for much wisdom, caution and restraint. That needs to be paramount; otherwise the lives of thousands more innocent people could well be sacrificed.

Furthermore, within this country every possible way and means must be found to ensure that: in our community the fear of the mindless backlash that could happen—inevitably, that fear exists among many of our citizens who are from other ethnic and religious, especially Muslim, backgrounds—is countered with firmness right from the start.

That is why the statement issued by our national religious leaders, Christian, Jew and Muslim, will be widely welcomed. I remind noble Lords of it: We and all people of good faith and goodwill—whatever their religious, ethnic or racial background—are appalled by these terrible attacks on American cities. Such evil deeds have no place in the world we seek to build and share. Our hearts go out to the people of America and all those who grieve and mourn. We pray for them and with them. We remember the dead, the bereaved, the injured, and the missing, and all those working to save life. As Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, we believe that it is vital amid so much anguish and suffering to nourish all that we hold in common and to resist all that would drive us, apart. We share a belief in God's compassionate love and a commitment to cherish and respect our common humanity. We pray that at this time of tragedy, we may be worthy of that gift and that challenge". A number of speakers have today referred to Colin Powell. Towards the end of his stirring autobiography, he expresses some of his own convictions about leadership. One is succinctly put: "It can be done". As we face some of the greatest tasks with which we are confronted in our global world, those words can be taken afresh as we look ahead in solidarity with all who have that vision for a free and just world: "It can be done".

12.46 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, it is clear that the whole House welcomes the opportunity given by the return today of Parliament, first, to express our deepest sympathy to the thousands of families in so many different countries [...] this moment are waiting anxiously and agonisingly for news of their loved ones; and, secondly, to praise the heroism and sacrifice of the brave men and women of the US emergency services who have been toiling in conditions of enormous danger to try to rescue survivors in New York and Washington.

As details of what happened on each hijacked plane unfolds, it is clear that there were some extraordinary acts of bravery in attempting to save life on those flights before they crashed. We should pay tribute to those passengers who did their best.

The debate also gives us the chance to make it clear that as friends and military allies we stand alongside the United States in our determination to defeat world terrorism. Every speech in the debate so far has been very much in accord with that theme. We have to be clear what the purpose of the retaliation is to be when it comes. Its aim must be to deter and prevent future outrages. It must be proportionate, as so many speakers have already said. "Proportionality" was defined clearly and well by my noble friend Lord Brennan. To mount military attacks on the civilian population of any country solely or mainly to satisfy a demand for retribution would be understandable but it would be neither right nor effective. It would dangerously increase world tension and add huge numbers of recruits to the causes of extremism and terrorism. I am sure that our Ministers in Her Majesty's Government, along with all our allies, will continue to make that point clear to our American friends while at the same time continuing to demonstrate that we share their grief and determination not to allow democracy to be extinguished by acts of this kind.

The debate also allows the House to express its full support for the emergency precautions taken across this country in response to this week's event. We have heard that security measures at United Kingdom airports have been stepped up; that additional checks are being carried out on passengers before they board aircraft; and a ban imposed on flight paths over London, now shortly to be lifted. Such prompt and decisive action is very welcome. It offers reassurance to people in this country and to those flying within and from the United Kingdom that everything possible is being done to safeguard their safety. But I think that it is right to ask my noble friend Lord Bach whether he will be able to give any indication of how long those additional measures will remain in force. It is important that the right balance is struck between security and freedom, so that we can return to normality as swiftly as possible. We must not allow terrorists to frighten us or to prevent us flying. We cannot let them ground our airlines, cut off our trade links or restrict our freedom of movement.

Standards of security at Britain's airports are already the highest in the world. There are no differences, for example, between the level of security screening for passengers and their luggage on domestic flights and that for passengers on international flights departing from this country. So while the imposition of extra security measures is the right response to Tuesday's terrible events, I hope the House will agree that to persist with them for too long could create the false impression that there is some underlying problem with UK airport security when there manifestly is not.

We may have complete confidence in the security arrangements for aircraft departing from this country, but can we be as confident that the same standards apply to all aircraft bound for the UK or crossing UK airspace, particularly those arriving from the Middle East or from other troubled areas of the world? Aircraft entering British airspace and landing at British airports are required to pass standards of airworthiness: the CAA is the regulatory authority that enforces standards in this country and other countries have similar bodies. It is done by means of international treaties and protocols. But should there not be equivalent air-worthiness certificates as regards security arrangements at all international airports? Is there no international convention that can insist on the proper standards and procedures being followed?

Finally, in his reply will my noble friend give an assurance that security on board aircraft is being reviewed and strengthened? There have been horrific examples of deranged and drunken people gaining access to the cockpits of passenger aircraft. Until this week, such incidents had hardly ever led to catastrophe. However, we are bound to wonder how it is possible for relatively lightly armed individuals to gain complete control of four aircraft. Would the outcome on Tuesday have been different had the cockpit doors been secure and had some form of panic alarm been available to the crew in the passenger section? I realise that these are questions for consideration later, but it is vital to address them.

Meanwhile, I welcome the opportunity for those of us in this House to show our American friends how much we care and are thinking about them at the end of this terrible week. Perhaps I may share with the House the contents of an e-mail that I received from two friends of my wife and myself living in New England. We were due to fly out to visit them on Sunday; obviously, that is not now possible. They wrote: These two Americans would like to thank the Queen for ordering the Troops to play The Stars and Stripes Forever and The Star Spangled Banner at the Changing of the Guard yesterday. We were deeply moved. If it is within your power to do so, please thank her personally, and tell her that we hope her Mum is doing well".

12.53 p.m.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, perhaps I may begin by referring to the theme introduced by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London; namely, the need to reduce the reservoir of hatred on which terrorism feeds. I want to refer to two countries in that respect, the first being Israel.

I yield to no one in my acceptance and support for the state of Israel and its right to exist. Equally, I believe that Israel is justified in pursuing those individual terrorists who have attacked and killed its citizens. However, Israeli policies on the West Bank have for years provoked, goaded and tormented Palestinians beyond the level of human endurance. We saw as much in the terrible scenes of spontaneous rejoicing that resulted from what had happened in America. I hope, therefore, that a longer-term objective may flow from the events of 11th September; namely, the securing of a withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank. Only the United States has the power and authority to ensure that.

I now turn to Iraq. I do not believe that the weird, fanatical figure lurking in the mountains of Afghanistan, filled with remorseless hatred though he may be, would be capable of orchestrating—although he may have inspired—the attack on the United States. It is much more probable that Saddam Hussein is the one behind it. He could well have set up a shadow organisation, allegedly speaking and acting on behalf of bin Laden, whose members would have recruited the fanatical fundamentalist terrorists, planned their operation and sent them into action.

The sanctions of the past 10 years have failed. They have merely enabled Saddam to continue to suppress and torment the mass of his people while indulging his own henchmen. I remember Sir Stephen Egerton, one of our best known diplomatists, telling me only two weeks after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait that two things must be remembered about him: first, he is a Samson who will pull everything down with him; secondly, he will never be toppled from within. Therefore, assuming that my earlier hypothesis is proved even partly right, we may have reached the stage where it is necessary to launch a final phase of Desert Storm to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and his family. The sanctions have merely caused one of the reservoirs of hatred to which the right reverend Prelate referred.

I also mention Syria and Iran. There are signs that those two countries are seeking to come in from the dark and to rejoin the civilised world to which they have made so notable a contribution throughout history.

An important economic factor has not so far been mentioned in the debate. The economic consequences of 11th September could be severe. They could trigger a downward spiral in economic activity. Therefore, I believe that, as part of the international coalition, OPEC should be told to sell oil massively into the futures market and to increase production so as to reduce the price of oil to 20 dollars a barrel from its present level of 29 dollars. That would give an immediate tax cut to the rest of the world and would help to prevent the world recession which I believe now looms.

I make four points about fighting terrorism. First, I echo and underline the comment by my noble friend Lady Park about the need to sustain our intelligence capability. The nature of what happened on 11th September may suggest that the time has come at least to consider the amalgamation of MI6 and MI5 in this country.

Secondly, I believe that in the fight against terrorism lateral thought is an essential tool. I give one small but significant example. Your Lordships will remember that at the time Lord Mountbatten was murdered by IRA, it was customary every day for the Garda to search his car. It never looked at his boat. It was of course his boat 'which was blown up with him and his Family on board.

Thirdly—this is a simple point—I refer to the need to accept outside advice; the need for those responsible for security not necessarily to think that they know it all. I tell two very small stories. In about 1978, when I was the parliamentary lobby correspondent for the Economist, with some horror I noticed the apparent total lack of security in the underground car park in the House of Commons. I wrote to the then Serjeantat-Arms to point that out. The result was that my editor received a letter from him complaining of my impertinence in inquiring into something which did not concern me.

I remember very well a conversation I had in that car park with my friend Airey Neave a short time before his tragic death. I said to him, "I hope, Airey, that the police are looking after you properly". He replied, "Oh, in the country they take good care of me"

Fourthly, we need to reassess the necessity for national identity numbers and, possibly, identity cards. I emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in his remarkable speech when he spoke of the right that we have to safeguard our own borders. We are one of the relatively few countries that do not even have national identity numbers. Various governments have considered the issue. They have rejected it either because it is not in accordance with human rights or because it is unduly expensive. Of course the expense argument goes out of the window with the scale of the matters at which we are now looking.

With regard to civil rights, frankly, I have always seen the identity card as something of equality. It means that everyone has it: civis "whatever" sum. It puts everyone on an equal standing. It makes it less likely that certain people might be unduly persecuted or interviewed. Therefore, I hope that the Government will look again at the matter. This morning on Radio 4 I was pleased to hear the Home Secretary indicating that the Government would once again be looking at the matter.

In conclusion, there is one point on which I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire: this is likely to happen again. I believe that fighting terrorism, perhaps like war itself, is to some extent dependent on the skills of the chess board: it is by hypothecating the moves of the enemy that one can make moves to frustrate them.

1.3 p.m.

Lord Newby

My Lords, I wish to concentrate my remarks in this debate on the economic consequences of Tuesday's events. I doubt whether there is a single Member of your Lordships' House who believes that the battle against terrorism will be won exclusively, or even predominantly, on the battlefield. Diplomacy and law enforcement will also play their part. But, in this war against terrorism, I would argue that economics will also play a crucial role.

The terrorism which we have seen this week—assuming that it has emanated from bin Laden or some combination of similarly-motivated groups—is motivated by a desire not only to damage America's self-confidence, but also to strike a blow against the most visible manifestations of US-style capitalism.

If this analysis is correct, and, in any event, it is crucial that the world acts in the short term to ensure that the global economy, which is already at a fragile point of the economic cycle, is not plunged into global recession. It must also examine why globalisation, which many of us believe brings many benefits, has become a focus of increasing anger and indeed violence.

The possibility of recession has been brought nearer by Tuesday's events. Some sectors—insurance, airlines and tourism—will be particularly hard hit. The financial services sector, paradoxically, although literally taking the largest immediate hit, will be severely disrupted, but I suspect that it will bounce back fairly quickly.

However, more importantly, this week's events could have a severe downward impact on consumer and business confidence. As far as concerns consumers, there is likely to be a severe short term reduction in expenditure in the US, at least. Quite simply, when you are grieving, you do not go out shopping. Also the uncertainties and fear for what might happen next is quite likely to result in many consumers drawing in their horns and postponing expenditure decisions well beyond the US.

In business many decision-makers considering whether to embark on expanding production or undertake new investment, will be equally tempted to delay such decisions until the international outlook becomes clearer. Furthermore, if US military action takes place, in part at least in the Middle East, and oil producers are affected, rising oil prices will increase the degree of uncertainty further. This combination of events is quite likely to make investors very nervous and less willing to invest in anything but the most blue chip equities or government debt. They will certainly not be prepared to provide funds for many high risk enterprises, including many of the small and medium sized businesses which have provided the bulk of new jobs in recent times, and which will be crucially important if the economy is to move forward rather than to move into recession.

If a serious recession occurs, it would not just affect the US, Europe and Japan but would damage all other economies, rich and poor alike, and undermine both the arguments for and perceived benefits of an increasingly open and free international trading and economic environment.

What then should be done in the short term by the world's leading economies and the world economic community? There have been welcome statements by the Fed, the ECB and other central banks that they will provide whatever liquidity is needed to keep the economic wheels moving. However, I believe that, as is happening on the military front, a major co-ordinated, international economic initiative is now required. The G8 must take the lead. Within the next few days I suggest that the G8 finance ministers should meet for this purpose. The meeting should commit itself to using whatever tools are at the disposal of the G8 members to shore up confidence and minimise the scale of any recession. As ever, confidence will be the key. However, that will only be restored by concerted action.

I was rather alarmed to read the statement on Wednesday by Wim Duisenberg to the European Parliament which baldly stated: There will be no recession". As the president of an institution which has resolutely refused to cut interest rates, at a time when that was needed in Europe even before Tuesday's events, that is an extremely worrying statement. I would hope that if G8 finance ministers do meet they will make it clear that further cuts in interest rates in the US, UK and the EU will almost certainly be necessary in the face of falling business and consumer confidence and expectations.

A statement by G8 that an active interest rate policy should now be entertained is the crucial first step which it should take. To pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, it should also recommit itself to a more rigorous regulatory framework for dealing with money laundering. At the moment the framework is not adequate to deal with the kind of group which we appear to be dealing with. A commitment at the highest level is needed, and top down from the world's greatest economy, to see what further action is needed.

However, beyond those areas of concerted action, it will also be for individual G8 members to take specific action that is uniquely appropriate for them. In the case of the United States, there are now probably good arguments for the Bush tax cuts to be brought forward. There is also an argument—although I suspect that it appeals more to me than to President Bush—that, at a time of unparalleled national unity, there is a very strong case indeed for those tax cuts to benefit all Americans equally, rather than being concentrated at the top end of the income scale.

In the case of Japan, the need for more rapid restructuring and measures to expand demand is paramount—it was in any event but is even more so now. Here, the other G8 members must surely cajole and, indeed, reassure Prime Minister Koizumi that they will give him not only strong vocal but any practical support that they are able to bring about those changes.

In respect of oil prices, about which a number of noble Lords have spoken, pressure should be brought to bear, especially on Saudi Arabia—here the United States obviously has an especially important part to play—to stand prepared to step up oil production to keep prices down. It has been a slight surprise to me that having increased somewhat, oil prices have not remained at that high level and have now fallen, but we should not assume that that will be the case in future. Maintaining high levels of oil production should be within the grasp of the coalition that is now fighting terrorism.

Those measures, taken together and undertaken under the aegis of a G8 agreement, are vital in themselves, but could also be a defining moment for the G8 to demonstrate that it can be an effective international institution and not just an expensive and elegant talking shop.

However, even if all those measures were taken and were successful, a longer term economic challenge to the developed world has been cast into stark light by Tuesday's events. It is an unfortunate fact that an increasing number of individuals and groups, especially in the poorer south, have drawn and are drawing the conclusion that the only way out of poverty and to achieve greater global equality and sustainability is through violence. Those groups are not exclusively or even predominantly Islamic. They have supporters in mainstream environmental groups, especially in Latin America but also elsewhere. They include middle-class European graduates.

I have no more sympathy with their methods than with those of the perpetrators of Tuesday's disaster, and I believe that the changes in the world economic order that fall under the term globalisation can in many cases be extremely beneficial to economies and individuals in all parts of the world. Globalisation is not necessarily a process that benefits only the rich. However, current levels of global inequality in terms of income, social provision and environmental conditions are unsustainable. That must be more urgently addressed by the world economic community of both states and companies operating internationally.

Next year's Earth Summit in South Africa is the next major global opportunity effectively to come to grips with those issues. It is essential that all of us—but especially America, which will find it especially difficult—play a full part in the preparations for that conference and show a new determination to reach agreements and then to stick to them.

The battle against poverty and environmental degradation should be a high priority for all those concerned about the future of our civilisation and our planet, but, crucially, it should also be seen as a key component in the long-term battle against terrorism.

1.14 p.m.

Lord Bridges

My Lords, I venture to speak in this debate realising that I cannot hope to match the knowledge and experience of two of my colleagues on the Cross Benches—first, my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond who has already spoken and, secondly, my noble friend Lord Hannay of Chiswick from whom we look forward to hearing shortly. However, I feel personally involved in the subject, partly because I spent four years in the embassy in Washington in the 1970s dealing with some of the matters being discussed here. I frequently visit the United States. Indeed, only four weeks ago I took a flight from Logan airport on a United Airlines plane that, I suppose, could have been involved in what happened on Tuesday. I also have a daughter who is resident in Massachusetts who is a United States citizen. So for all those reasons I feel personally involved and share the sense of revulsion and out rage at what has happened and the determination to help to form some appropriate early response.

However, there are some disquieting elements in the public response that we have seen and heard up to now. Perhaps, understandably, some in the United States speak of an act of war. I know what they mean, and the United States as a state has certainly been the object of external aggression. But the aggressor has not yet been certainly identified, and we should perhaps not speak of belligerence as a response until we know more certainly with whom we are dealing. I doubt whether a formal invocation of the North Atlantic Treaty is appropriate. Of course, we must come together and support our American friends and allies. I understand the strong feelings that exist about that, but the circumstances are not analogous with those of the entry of the United States into the Second World War, as has been suggested in the United States.

I am especially interested in the effect of what has happened in America on public opinion there about the International Criminal Court. It is not impossible that the United States Government will change their attitude on that matter, in which case the establishment of the court as an effective worldwide body would fit well into the comprehensive programme so impressively outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, in his maiden speech.

I should like to illustrate one danger that arises in such situations by referring to the case of Chechnya. We all know that Moscow made the decision to restore—as it saw it—public order in Chechnya, for which it felt that it had responsibility, and it acted with vigour and military might in defence of its perceived security duties. What followed is known to us all and will leave a legacy of hatred and distrust that will last for a long time. Of course, the parallel is by no means exact, but it clearly illustrates the dangers of acting on the spur of the moment in response to strong pressure from public opinion. The long-term consequences were not fully appreciated or taken into account.

We have good reason to be careful and selective in any measures that may be directed against an Islamic or Arab state. The world of Islam itself is not united, and we should not ourselves create a unity in the Islamic world that is directed against the West. After all, we have a substantial number of Muslims living among us as members of our society, and I should like to thank the Prime Minister for the very wise words that he addressed to them. I believe that he struck exactly the right note.

I also commend to the House a comment reported in yesterday's Financial Times made by a former Pentagon official during President Clinton's Administration. Mr. Michele Flournoy said: If it becomes perceived as a battle between the Islamic, and non-Islamic world, we will have lost the battle. There is much truth in that; it puts the whole problem in a nutshell. We must retain our many friends, allies and trading partners in the world of Islam, and policy must be directed to that end, among the other objectives.

I have one more detailed comment on a point raised most recently in the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, about civil aviation. No doubt civil aviation authorities around the world will be considering what happened and examining some of the questions that he raised; no doubt our own authorities will do the same. The point I want to make relates to the particular vulnerability of London. The geographical situation of our main civil international airport and the fact that the prevailing wind comes mostly from the west means that the large majority of international flights arriving in this country travel directly over our heads here at Westminster and the most inhabited parts of central London. That situation needs to be considered. As the Government have begun an inquiry into the future of airports in the South East, the matter could well be examined in that context.

I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, who is kindly listening to what I say, that a change has come about in the possibility of re-examining Foulness as an airport. That had previously been agreed but for reasons of public finance it was cancelled by a previous government. However, the Channel Tunnel rail link has since been settled and its line would form a convenient point of access to Foulness from central London. I hope that that proposal can be embraced in the current inquiry, given the renewed anxiety about security in international civil aviation.

In conclusion, I emphasise that the principal danger is the need to balance the urgent pressures resulting from public opinion, which are entirely sensible and understood, and their long-term effects. That is the ultimate challenge which faces the Government and I commend the approach which they are adopting.

1.21 p.m.

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, what I have to say will not take long. I appreciate that the sentiments I express will be the same as those of many others who have already spoken, most of whom, because of their wide experience, will have expressed them better. Nevertheless, the horror suffered by the United States of America, and particularly the people of New York, Washington and Pittsburgh, has moved me to make my feelings and views known in the debate.

Watching the scene unfold repeatedly on television since Tuesday 11th September has been virtually unbelievable. It appeared to me more like the making of a blockbuster film than reality. But it was reality and the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children was reality. That we must not for one moment forget.

We are all rightly outraged by the obscene and unforgivable acts of terrorism to which the United States of America has been so tragically subjected. Our feeling of outrage is without limit and this feeling stretches throughout the whole of the free democratic and civilised world. That comes as no surprise. Now the civilised worldmust make absolutely sure that this catastrophe must never, never happen again.

As has been said so often in the past few days, this vicious form of terrorism, using suicidal terrorist assassins, is an attack not only on the United States of America but an attack on the whole of the civilised world, the democratic free world. And what has been so very sickening for me is the expression of joy demonstrated by Palestinians in the West Bank and the reports of statements made on Iraqi television.

There is no doubt in my mind, and I suspect in everyone's mind, that this atrocity has been perpetrated by fanatical Arab terrorists with Islamic fundamentalist connections. Many may not believe that we are at war but, make no mistake, these terrorists certainly believe they are at war. And this act of enormous cruelty is certainly an act of war.

Of course a response must come from the whole of the democratic world and we must unequivocally stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans in their hour of great sorrow and great need. I share the view that has been expressed that there must be no distinction between those who are the terrorists and the countries which harbour them. Without the protection of such countries, this terrorist atrocity could not have been planned, programmed and cruelly executed.

The democratic world is a free world and if we want this freedom for our children and our grandchildren, we must protect it. Our united intelligence sources throughout the whole of the civilised world must be coordinated to a much greater extent in the future. This tragedy must focus all our attention. The world will never be the same.

Many Arab nations have expressed horror and condemnation at this atrocity and this is to be welcomed. But it is my view that these nations should do more. These nations should clearly demonstrate by their actions that they will not tolerate these Islamic fundamentalist fanatics who are prepared to kill thousands of innocent people by suicidal means. If we are to have any hope of protecting and preserving our way of life—and we have a priority duty to the people we represent to do just that—we must demonstrate it to the world.

We have so often not been prepared to act against such outrages because we are not terrorists and we are often afraid to act in retaliation because it would be seen as a betrayal of the way we live and a betrayal of what we believe. I have been wholly in sympathy with that view. But this holocaust has stretched our political correctness and our tolerance beyond reasonable and rational limits. The horror of New York on 11th September 2001 means we have now been pushed further than ever before and this evil must now be punished and stamped out.

These suicidal fundamentalist fanatics have but one objective—that is to destroy utterly the existence of the free democratic and civilised world that we cherish. As is said so often, for evil to triumph it takes only good men to do nothing. For the cheek to be turned once more will, in my view, lead only to this atrocity occurring again and again and again and next time it may be a plane targeted on a nuclear power station.

Yes, now is the time to be cool and calculating but also committed and determined to rid the world of these indescribable people who have taken "man's inhumanity to man" to new depths of evil.

1.27 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I cannot find the words adequately to express the depth of my dismay at Tuesday's events in America or of my sympathy for the families of those who have lost their lives.

Like other noble Lords, too, I believe it is gravely important that western democracy now makes a clear and unshakeable distinction between the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims who live in our midst and the violent Islamists who. whether or not they committed these atrocities in America, certainly embody the greatest threat of international terrorism today.

If I have an interest to declare it is that of chairman of an international business. I have many friends in the peace-loving Muslim community throughout the world and I have many friends in Israel, too. I know that they all stand united and aghast at what happened in America. They would all agree with noble Lords who fervently hope that the inevitable retaliation from the United States, when it comes, will be so targeted and just that it will not strengthen the violent Islamists' cause at the expense of the peace-loving Muslim community. So I join with others in congratulating the President and his Administration in Washington who have shown that they are well aware of this. We can but pray that their hand will be guided by the forces of good against the forces of evil when the time comes.

There are three aspects of the violent Islamist phenomenon which are perhaps still generally underestimated in the West. The first is that we do not appear to know just how widespread the violent Islamist creed has become or how fast it may be growing. My noble friend Lady Cox referred to some of the activities going on right here in the UK and no doubt the Government will take the appropriate action in respect of those. At least, I hope they will, because I gather that the Home Secretary Mr Blunkett was less than gracious towards my noble friend on the "Today" programme this morning when he apparently said that she should use her mind before her mouth and put any evidence she might have about violent Islamists training in this country on his desk. That is very unfair. No one has done more than my noble friend to alert the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to the dangers that we all now know we face. I trust that she and the Home Secretary can meet for a fruitful discussion soon.

In returning to the subject of the widespread nature of violent Islamism, I cannot but help remember a chilling private conversation I had some five years ago with one of the rulers of a peace-loving Muslim country in the Middle East at a conference which was considering the growing threat of terrorism in the area. In response to my question, he confirmed forcefully that he was indeed very worried about the growth of violent Islamism in the teacher-training colleges throughout much of Islam, and that this was already spreading into many of the schools. I have no idea how this part of the problem has developed since then, but I fear it may not have gone away; indeed it has probably gone on growing.

As to what we might do in this country about what may be happening here, I suggest that Ofsted could be invited to keep any eye open for any indoctrination or incitement to violence which may be taking place in our schools. I feel that I have a little authority to make that suggestion since for nearly 10 years I have supported in this House the creation of Muslim schools, starting with a debate on 4th March 1991, at cols. 1277 to 1279 of the Official Report.

Another aspect of violent Islamism that has been generally underestimated, although it has now been made horribly clear, is the religious fanaticism with which its adherents believe in it—to the point of suicide in its cause. If violent Islamism (and other terrorism too, of course) represents the new evil in the world, as the Prime Minister has so rightly said that it does, it will have one powerful advantage which was not enjoyed by the last great evil on the planet, now largely defeated; that of communism. Very few people who lived under communism seem to have believed in it for many years before the Wall came down, They were subjugated largely by fear of the brutality meted out to those who dared to seek the freedom of democracy. This is, of course, the mechanism used by most Fascist regimes to stay in power.

But with violent Islamists, it is and will be different. They do believe in it; they believe in it totally. I fear that this also gives them a rather worrying edge over most of us who have the great privilege to live in western democracies and who have come to take our freedoms so much for granted that we no longer realise how fortunate we are. Most of us have lost our spiritual roots.

The third aspect is the quality of the people who have been converted and are converting to violent Islamism, many of them in this country. They are not just uneducated denizens of the desert who are easily misled. They can fly aeroplanes, as we now know, and doubtless are also capable of other sophisticated activity. These and other aspects of the growing violent Islamist phenomenon obviously call for a new level of awareness in all of us.

In that respect, I should put on the record in this debate an incident in this House which indicates that our authorities have been somewhat complacent recently about the threat from violent Islamism to a Member of this House, and indeed to the Palace of Westminster. I refer to the jamming of the speech made by my noble friend Lady Cox on 12th January 2000 when she raised with great courage and clarity the global implications of Islamic terrorism. The undisputed fact is that a different voice, speaking in French, was played through the microphone system over my noble friend's voice for the precise duration of her comments on the violent Islamist situation. As far as I know, that is the only time that anything similar has occurred in this House or in the other place. Several of us, who had followed my noble friend's activities, were convinced that this was a warning—

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting but it is inappropriate to raise that issue today. We need to focus on the terrible tragedy that has occurred in America this week. As far as I can remember, the incident was investigated by the security services and the Metropolitan Police and nothing untoward was found.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I was about to refer to the investigation and to explain why it was inadequate and why the inquiry should be re-opened.

A French voice was overplayed on the microphone system for the precise duration of the comments made by my noble friend Lady Cox on this issue of international terrorism. Several of us who followed her activities were convinced that this was a warning from the violent Islamists to show that they had penetrated the sound systems, and therefore the security, of this House. It was also, of course, a warning to my noble friend. It was the sort of warning with which those of us who used to support the dissidents before the Wall came down were all too familiar.

Our conviction was based on our knowledge of my noble friend's extraordinarily courageous human rights activities, which had brought her into conflict with the fundamentalist regimes in the Sudan, Azerbaijan and elsewhere. These experiences had allowed her to be one of the first people, and certainly the best-known person, in this country to piece together much of the violent Islamist network being assembled by Osama bin Laden and his associates. We checked our conclusion with friends in Washington, who were working officially on the bin Laden case, and they had no doubt that our fears were well founded. So my noble friend raised these concerns with the Palace authorities, with the Intelligence and Security Committee in the other place, and with our national intelligence agencies, but she was given the brush off. She was told that it had just been a fault with the microphone, although they could not explain what the fault was or how it worked. Our friends in Washington, however, could tell us exactly how the effect could have been achieved.

Some time later, on 30th July, an article appeared in the Sunday Times, alleging that an associate of bin Laden, Mr Salah Idris, was a major shareholder in a British company which provided security systems to the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Courts of Justice, New Scotland Yard and several leading British companies. When my noble friend and I tried to discover whether there might have been any connection between those allegations and the jamming of her speech, we were again given the brush off. My noble friend was told that she could relax, because Mr Idris had, no day-to-day involvement in the running of the company concerned". I was advised that I could not ask the Government questions about the security of the Palace of Westminster because this Palace was not the Government's responsibility.

I agree that this is not the time to dwell in great detail on those events, but it is appropriate to put them on the record and to ask the Government to re-open their inquiry into them. Perhaps they could be put on the agenda for the meeting between my noble friend and the Home Secretary which, let us hope, will take place as a result of his remarks on this morning's "Today" programme.

I finish where I started. It is the duty of all of us to support our peace-loving Muslim friends, and to encourage them to join with us in identifying and bringing to justice all those violent Islamists who are just as much their enemy as they are ours, perhaps more so. As we embark upon this journey of collaboration and fellowship, I trust that we may be fortified by a verse from the Koran which shows how far the violent Islamists have strayed from what should be their true creed. Chapter 3, verse 84, reads as follows: We believe in God and what is revealed to us in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmail, to Isaac and Jacob and the tribes of Israel, and that which the Lord gave to Moses and to Jesus and the Prophets. We discriminate against none of them. To Him we have surrendered ourselves". Let us do just that, my Lords. Let us do it firmly, and let us do it with our true Muslim friends.

1.39 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

My Lords, in the American Book of Common Prayer appear these words: You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day … though a thousand shall fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, the deadly pestilence shall not come near you". Those are words from Psalm 91. The deadly plague of hate has come very near to all of us in the full sight of God and of our television cameras; and the world has reeled this week; and our words crumble in the face of it.

The global community is, for Christians, nothing new. Across the street from what was the World Trade Centre stands the first Church of England parish church, St Paul's Broadway, built in 1722. It is the mirror image of St Martin-in-the-Fields. On 11th September the graveyard of St Paul's Broadway was extended by several acres.

St Paul's church, and the surrounding land on which the towers of the World Trade Centre were built and have now fallen, was a farm owned by Queen Anne. It was given, as part of her bounty, to sustain the life of that church in a small colonial port town. In other words, this evil has been perpetrated on hallowed ground.

How times change. Yet of the things that matter most—human virtue and evil—nothing changes. Yet again, as the pastor of the American Church in Surrey, who gathered with us at the cathedral vigil in Guildford on Wednesday night, reminded us, the senseless death of one man ages ago and far away affects even the senseless deaths of the thousands of people this week.

It is in the nature of evil to seek to create chaos, to attack the innocent and to feed bitterness and hatred destroying all that makes our life truly human. We must not allow such to bring down our values and reduce them to rubble. Those who are responsible for these deeds must be brought to justice—justice allied to freedom, impartial, measured and effective.

Many noble Lords have spoken of the extraordinary and moving courage of those who worked and continue to work in the emergency services in the United States. Extraordinary levels of human energy have risen to the surface in their lives. Have not many of us felt this week an unshakeable bond of affection with our American friends? Are not these things the first signs of resistance to terror and the making of a new start? Life and hope and renewed commitment to liberty and justice must spring forth from this death. The roots of American liberty and of our freedom as represented in our Parliament are joined together as one in the deepest of places—in the culture, the values and the faith of our people over many centuries of struggle. If that is our good fortune and if it is that which has come under attack from the forces of oppression and fanaticism, let us see it as a gift to be shared with the whole human community.

We ought not to forget that our Parliament is to be the voice of the people, defending their freedom and their dignity and enabling their duty and citizenship. As the forces of terror have this week struck deep into the heart of our free world, we must ensure that the forces of freedom and justice strike deep into the heart of oppression and the gross abuse of power in the modern world. That is the war we must win.

I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, for his remarks on Afghanistan. Many noble Lords will have heard on the "Today" programme this morning the director of Christian Aid speaking about the dilemma of the people of Afghanistan. Millions of them are displaced and starving. They live and suffer under the regime that presently holds power in Kabul. What we do must in the end is to offer them hope of a different future. I especially welcome the Prime Minister's comments about the Middle East. The Bishop of Jerusalem sent an important message to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. It spoke of the monstrous evil that has taken place and reaffirmed the commitment of Christian people in the Holy Land to peace and freedom. It is worth reminding ourselves that the vast majority of Christian Palestinians now live in the United States of America and that Christian Palestinians continue to leave the Holy Land to do so.

Now is not the time for us to consider the detail of all that needs to be done to our politics and our security. What matters at this moment are our convictions and what holds us together. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, spoke movingly of Her Majesty's decision to have the United States national anthem played at the changing of the guard. That was a generous and powerful symbol of what we all stand for. But it has an added poignancy. The British national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key while the British bombarded Baltimore from within the harbour. Dare we think of a moment in the future when the United States Marine Band will play in a free, peaceful and just Kabul?

On Monday afternoon my wife and I were on an internal flight in the United States from Jacksonville in Florida to Washington. We were on our way home. Noble Lords can imagine the shock we felt when on arriving home we put on our television and saw a plane of a rather similar design to that on which we had just been carried being flown into the World Trade Centre. It reminds us all of the fragility and vulnerability of human life. Freedom is vulnerable if we do not defend it. It easily crumbles. We have a duty as a free society, and as a society rooted in faith and conviction, to put in that energy and effort with fresh commitment to ensure that freedom and peace, hope and life, are offered to our world. Every English parish church stands as a sign of hope and life in the midst of its graveyard. Out of the sea of this death, let us bring life and hope to our world.

1.48 p.m.

Lord Hoyle

My Lords, I pondered for a long time about putting down my name to speak in the debate. My reason for doing so is that I represented Warrington in another place when we were subjected to terrorist attack in 1993. I felt it right to speak today and to express sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives. They were just going about their ordinary business. They were going to work. Yet they never returned to their loved ones. They never again saw their husbands or wives, their sons and daughters. That is the tragedy of the situation. It is at times, like these that both Houses unite to give a common message. We speak for the whole of the nation. We join the Prime Minister in giving our full support to the American people.

At the same time, I wish to draw attention to one or two lessons that could be learnt from these events. I have never believed that what is called the "Son of Star Wars" missile defence system would defend America. I have always felt that a greater danger was presented by someone perhaps bringing in a suitcase full of biological or chemical weapons. However, what I never anticipated—I do not believe that anyone did—was that suicidal zealots would destroy parts of New York and the Pentagon by using such deadly methods, as well as taking another airliner which then crashed in Pittsburgh. It is very difficult indeed to put in place an effective defence against such actions.

One of the dangers that will be have to be faced in the United States—one that comes about as a natural reaction because people are angry and need to avoid a knee-jerk response—is that it may turn to isolationism. One can understand such a response. After all, only around 7 per cent of United States citizens hold a passport. Many do not ever leave their own state. I could understand Americans responding by saying, "Why should we get involved in world affairs if this is the result?". But that is no defence. Indeed, it would not mean that America would never be subject to further attacks. Rather, I believe that President Bush and his Administration should be encouraged to become more involved in the problems facing the world.

We would miss the wise counsel and intervention of America in areas such as Israel and the peace process with the Palestinians, in the Middle East generally and in particular in Ireland, where again the situation is grave. At the same time, we should never forget the problems of Africa. There is a tendency to concentrate to a great degree on the problems of Europe and the developed world, but there will never be lasting peace if one half of the world prospers while the other half suffers and starves. Grave problems must be faced and all the nations of the world must come together to resolve them.

Perhaps I may make one further point here. Earlier in my remarks I spoke of Warrington, although equally I could have mentioned Manchester or Canary Wharf. We must unite against all terrorists. I share the belief of many Americans that we should see a united Ireland, but to that end some have given their support to terrorists. I hope that recent events will make such people reconsider their position. A terrorist is a terrorist, no matter which country he comes from.

I believe that only by coming together and uniting all nations in a common cause against terrorists everywhere will we achieve the result that all desire to see. There is no easy answer; certainly there is no military solution. That has been pointed out in this House and I should like to repeat it. The way to defeat terrorism is for people in every country, along with their governments, to unite in the effort to stamp it out and to ensure that there are no hiding places anywhere in the world for terrorists. Only then will we have a saner and safer world.

1.54 p.m.

Lord Naseby

My Lords, so much has been said in the debate today, and in such a moving manner, that I wish to be associated with all the words that have been spoken—and none more so than those uttered a few moments ago by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. I add my condolences to the American people. They have paid a very heavy price for being the leaders of the free world. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all Americans, in particular the thousands of families that have been affected. Furthermore, I think of the hundreds of families in the United Kingdom that have been similarly affected by this disaster, one which has brought the free world up with a jolt.

I do not intend to speak at length but I wish to make a few points. My daughter has a close friend. Mr Simon Turner, who is missing. He was attending the Risk Waters conference being held on the 106th floor of the north tower. On Wednesday evening I rang the emergency service, whose number is 0207 008 0000. I should like publicly to thank those who are manning that service. They were efficient, cool, understanding and very helpful. I suspect that I speak for hundreds of other United Kingdom families who have used that telephone service. I am sure that they too would like to place on record their thanks.

Sadly, I have to contrast that with the response of the medical services. I do not say that the problem is universal, but too many comments have been made to me regarding the difficulty of securing an NHS appointment with a specialist service. I have also heard of difficulties in the private sector in securing a quick response from BUPA, as well as difficulties with the BMA, which has not responded to certain complaints that were lodged yesterday. I should have thought that every single medical person in this country would have been on red alert from Tuesday onwards. Sadly, that is not the case.

I shall make a final comment on the subject. I wish to thank the noble Baroness for her reassuring announcement as regards those who are uninsured and whose remains will need to be repatriated.

This debate goes slightly wider than the events which took place on Tuesday and covers international terrorism. Suicide is not sanctioned by Islam. Unfortunately, however, certain scholars of Islam do sanction it. That dimension—namely, the re-education of such scholars—must rest with the leaders of the Islamic faith and is not something that we in the West should attempt to do.

Noble Lords will know that for well over 20 years I have spoken in depth both in this House and in the other place about the problems in Sri Lanka. I know the country well and I am the joint chairman of the all-party Sri Lanka parliamentary group. Over those 20 years, that country has suffered from terrorism. Some 60,000 people have died.

The hijackers of the four aircraft last Tuesday were suicide bombers. I believe that some research work has been carried out on acts carried out by suicide bombers over the past 20 years at the University of St Andrews. It has been estimated that the number of such acts is around 250, but as many as 160 of those have taken place in Sri Lanka. The president has gone, ministers have gone and individuals have gone. Many of those senior people have been in my home here in the United Kingdom; they were close friends. Now they are all gone.

I have campaigned hard to have the LTTE proscribed. Thankfully, earlier this year the Government responded to that campaign. But an Act of Parliament is not enough, as other speakers have pointed out. Only last week the chief spokesman for the LTTE, Anton Balasingham, chose London as the venue for his international statement that his organisation would have nothing to do with a cease-fire and nothing to do with a peace conference. I ask this question of Her Majesty's Government: if the LTTE is a proscribed organisation, as are a number of the fundamental organisations, why is such an individual over here and why is he allowed to make such a statement? Why are such organisations still allowed to operate? I raise this because I suggest that they ought to be rooted out. Following on the experience of last Tuesday, I hope that a lesson will have been learnt and the issue taken even more seriously.

I conclude by reflecting that the British who died in New York will not thank the BBC for changing the Last Night of the Proms. I also conclude with the thought that their lives cannot be restored, but others can be saved if all the democracies co-operate in rooting out terrorism. This summer I read Ian Kershaw's book about Hitler between 1889 and 1936, called Hubris. There is no better blueprint of what happens to democracy if people are not vigilant and if they hope that a problem will go away. Problems such as Hitler and fundamentalism will never go away. They will be removed only if they are eradicated and if we are strong.

2.1 p.m.

Lord Ackner

My Lords, I put my name down to speak, not on this occasion to make a speech. Mine is essentially a probing operation. I am anxious to obtain certain vital information.

In this ghastly, horrendous attack there are many assumed facts and many theories, some inherently probable, some not. I hope that the Minister may be able to assure the House on certain facts and assumptions that relate to the security aspects of this deeply sad affair—aspects that I believe to be of the utmost importance.

Clearly, the passengers were infiltrated by the terrorists. That is how they managed to get on board the plane. It is generally assumed to be highly probable that, having got on board, they forced their way on to the flight deck and took over the flying of the plane by first killing the pilots and other relevant crew staff. That would explain the deadly accuracy of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the. Pentagon. The major question is how those terrorists managed to get on to the flight deck and what security precautions existed to prevent their entry.

I may be wrong—I often am—but I understand that only on Israeli airlines is the door leading to the flight deck locked before the flight takes off and remains consistently locked until the plane lands and is evacuated. Food is supplied to the crew via a small hatch. If one or more terrorists reach the door leading to the flight deck and threaten to blow up the plane or take some other violent action if the door to the flight deck is not opened, those threats are ignored.

Can the Minister confirm that my information is substantially correct? If so, why have not similar vital security measures been taken on other airlines, including our own? Is it likely that all the hijacking attempts on the American planes would have been successful if the security measures had been similar to those on Israeli planes?

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, spoke earlier of the "massive failure of security" in relation to these ghastly events. Is this an example of one of the failures of security? If so, what do the Government propose to do about it?

2.6 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, no words can describe the shock and horror that we all felt on hearing the dreadful news on Tuesday, nor convey the sympathy that we feel for the victims and their families or our admiration for the rescue workers. Those feelings are widely shared throughout the world. In most Muslim countries, there is revulsion at what has happened and enormous sympathy for the victims and their families. I hope that there will be no knee-jerk reaction to alienate that sympathy. Earlier this week, some speeches were made suggesting that there might be such a reaction. I am glad that that now seems less likely.

Of course, some people will want retaliation or revenge. They would not be human if they did not. Under similar circumstances, many of us would. There may be heavy pressure on President Bush to find scapegoats, who may not necessarily be the culprits, and to attack them, or those suspected of harbouring them, regardless of injury to innocent parties. I hope and believe that he will resist it. Cruise missiles on Kabul, Islamabad or Baghdad will only relieve feelings, not solve anything. There is enough evil in the world without adding to it by revenge.

This is a very dangerous situation—perhaps more dangerous than June 1914 or 1938–39. I hope that we have not seen the first shots of the Third World War fired. Surely this is a time to pause, take a deep breath and count to 10 slowly before taking any action. It is a time to consider very carefully the consequences of any action. I was glad to hear wise counsel from the lips of Henry Kissinger and Sir Michael Rose this morning on the radio and from Colin Powell earlier in the week. May they be heeded.

The United Nations, the United States, this country and NATO need to look back at history and consider very carefully what has led to the intense hatred with which the United States is regarded in Palestine and some other Muslim countries. Why was it America that was attacked? It is not at war with anyone, but it has been paying for Israel's war against Palestine. Incidentally, if it were possible to find a way to stop Sinn Fein carrying a begging bowl around the United States, that would also be very helpful.

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was perhaps not a very wise move. The Palestinians were never going to be happy about it. Which of us would at having our country partitioned? It is only fair to say that quite a lot of leading Jews were not happy about the whole concept of a nation state for their people. But their wise counsels, and that of many others at that time who could see further ahead than the week which is such a long time in politics, were washed away in the tidal wave of emotional Zionism, which, understandably in the aftermath of the Holocaust, swept across the western world. What led up to all that? The answer is centuries of persecution in the wake of the diaspora in many European countries, largely orchestrated by the Catholic Church.

Now we are entering a damage-limitation situation. We must try to limit the damage and not do anything in haste which will serve only to make bad worse. Some kind of modus vivendi for Israel and Palestine must be found, and compromise and restraint on both sides will be necessary if that is ever to happen.

The Statement of the Prime Minister and the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, as well as most of the speeches in this House to which I have listened today, have given me hope. I believe that I shall leave here happier than when I arrived.

2.11 p.m.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas

My Lords, like other speakers before me, I wish to express my sympathies to the countless families whose relatives have been killed in these cowardly and murderous attacks. They were crimes against humanity. For my part, I have a nephew working in Manhattan nearby and I was much relieved that he was unscathed by this nightmare.

I am President of the International Rescue Corps. Seventeen of its experts were on standby for immediate action should their services have been required. Such help was on offer through the Department for International Development. As it happened, on this occasion its offer of help to the United States was not taken up. However, it provided evidence of the will in Britain to give as much assistance as lay within our power.

On two occasions, the Scottish Parliament, in which I serve, has considered this issue. On the first occasion it expressed condolences and yesterday, in the Prime Minister's words, the desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States after what were acts of war against the US.

It was not only the First Minister, Henry McLeish, who gave wholehearted support to the United States but also David McLetchie, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. There was the will to see that countries sponsoring or harbouring terrorists should be held to account for their actions. After all, the contrast between the fanatics who perpetrated these crimes against humanity and the representatives of the democratic nation they attacked could not be more substantial. New York represents peoples from all races, religions and cultures. It is a free and open society, in contrast to the narrow, rigid fanaticism of the criminals who perpetrated these outrages.

In particular, David McLetchie stressed, first, that our support extends right across Scotland's communities, including its Muslim communities, who are appalled that their faith has been hijacked and abused by the terrorists suspected of these atrocities. Secondly, he stressed that the national unity of purpose, which the Prime Minister has exemplified, needs to be matched by international unity of purpose. It is therefore vital that NATO countries and the democracies of the world stand together in giving support to the United States.

It was Justice Hastie who said that: Democracy is a process, not a static condition. It is becoming rather than being. It can be easily lost, but never is fully won. Its essence is eternal struggle". Those words were not so different from those of Thomas Jefferson, who said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That vigilance must be strengthened and renewed.

At this sombre time it is worth recalling the words of Sir Winston Churchill in his last great speech in the House of Commons on 1st March 1955. These were his words: We must [also] never allow, above all, I hold, the growing sense of unity and brotherhood between the United Kingdom and the United States … to be injured or retarded. Its maintenance, its stimulation and its fortifying is one of the first duties of every person who wishes to see peace in the world, and wishes to see the survival of this country … The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair".—[Official Report, Commons, 1/3/55; col. 1905.] His last message to the United Kingdom Parliament is as relevant today as when he made it nearly 50 years ago.

We and the other democracies must be prepared to defend the freedoms which underpin our way of life—those democratic freedoms which maniacal fanaticism seeks to destroy. The best way that we can ensure that our countrymen and countrywomen, along with many Americans and members of other nationalities, including Muslims, did not lose their lives in vain is to stand together with other democracies and with the civilised world absolutely determined to act in self-defence and to defeat the dark curse of terrorism.

2.16 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I propose to be brief. On Tuesday, I noticed that President Bush said that this was the start of a war. I then recalled the 27 years during which I served in the Commons. Throughout that period, young men from my constituency served in Northern Ireland. Several were killed. For the whole of that period large numbers of families felt acute anxiety. The first young man from that constituency to be killed by terrorists was killed by a booby-trapped bicycle. It is a far cry from a booby-trapped bicycle to four airliners being used as instruments of terror. I make that point not because I wish to criticise President Bush but because his comment demonstrates that the scale of terror has risen enormously. Certainly, the resources of terror have risen vastly.

My second point is that approximately a decade ago I served as chairman of the sub-committee on terrorism in the Council of Europe. I would not enthuse about the recommendations that I made because too many people were eager that I should not offer criticism where I felt that a degree of criticism was due. However, I welcomed enormously the stand taken by NATO. But it means that the member states of NATO should ensure that any deficiencies which existed a decade ago in the security and intelligence services are remedied very quickly.

President Bush said that there should be no shelter for the terrorist and no shelter for those who support the terrorist. With the development of information technology, I should have thought that before long it would become possible to ensure that there is no shelter for the financial resources and bank accounts of organisations which sustain terror. That is one approach which requires urgent pursuit and action.

I do not need to say more. One grieves about the fact that the number killed in New York on Tuesday exceeds the number of people killed during all the years of terrorism in Northern Ireland. That does not in any way diminish the ground for concern, and I hope that the resolve expressed by the leaders in America will persuade those who still wish to support terrorism in Ireland or anywhere else to stop that folly. If that is the case, we shall see a stride forward.

I support the whole approach adopted thus far by both Washington and NATO. I would be happy to see determined and resolute action once those responsible have been accurately identified. We cannot afford action before that identification is established. However, it will not be enough merely to act with firm resolve unless there is also wisdom. The awful ululations of triumphant women in east Jerusalem on Tuesday and Wednesday was distasteful. I should think that that worried the more moderate Palestinian leaders and others. There has to be wisdom.

The pursuit of land for peace is necessary if hate in the Middle East is to be diminished. It is all very well saying that the early years of the 21st century saw the development of terrorist technology. If we do not act with firmness and wisdom—if hate is not diminished—God knows what condition humanity will be in at the end of this century.

2.20 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, I have many reasons for wishing to speak today. In accordance with the new high standards of disclosure, I should disclose my interests up front and perhaps during the course of my speech. Some of my interests have been disclosed previously.

I am eternally grateful to the United States. It looked after me from the age of two, at the start of the war. My sister is married to an American, having just returned from a year serving with the Peace Corps in Senegal. The last job that my eldest nephew had was to get his boss, Senator Glenn, back into space; my nephew worked for the Senate but, unfortunately, with the wrong party. Another nephew, from a relatively difficult background, went to West Point, joined the Rangers and went to fight for his country abroad. Yet another nephew went to Annapolis and has just retired from leading a hostage team with the SEALs. That is part of the background. I had the privilege of discussing the situation with them—they are in Washington or New York and have many friends who will have suffered or been lost in these circumstances.

At the other end of the scale, I find myself, by an accident of birth, in this place. By an accident of employment, I found myself actively involved in the Middle East from 1974 onwards, and I had great mentors such as the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. I am sandwiched between him and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, who will speak near the end of our debate.

I shall try to pin down the matter. We have disasters, persecution and tribalism around the world. We are today discussing the enemy—or potential enemy—of the state. Are we talking about terrorism or war? What are we seeking to define and who is the enemy? I shall try to put myself in the position of those people who may regard the United Kingdom and the United States as their enemy. They are, regrettably, from some of the countries in which I have spent much time as a banker. Banking often exceeds or is above politics. One has the right to go to people, and to do so when there are no diplomatic relations.

I had the difficult job of discussing terrorism with the Libyans. Unfortunately, my family used to own Galloway House. In Dumfries and Galloway, that was a matter of discussion. I shall not go into that in great detail but we had 150,000 people—I believe that they were all British subjects—working in Libya at one time. We were good friends with them. I do not want to explain why Libya suddenly determined that the United States was an enemy, but it did so; it also decided that Britain was its friend. However, Libya provided large amounts of money to fund the IRA. In discussions, Libyans asked me why it was wrong for them to fund the IRA when the United States provided 75 per cent of the IRA's financial resources through NORAID.

I could go on to discuss Algeria, where I have been, or Iran, but I shall turn to Iraq. The British were the only people who fully observed the sanctions against Saddam Hussein. We could not go to Baghdad without a permission to speak that was signed by a higher authority and written on a piece of paper that looked like a banknote. I had the privilege of going there—in fact, it was not a privilege; it was a pain. However, I found, to my amazement, that virtually every other country in the world was sanction busting. The French were there trying to win oil concessions, as were certain other people, but it would be wrong for me to name them. I had long discussions about why we would not speak to the Iraqis. We were, after all, the old colonial power.

I turn to Iran. It so happened that at one point everyone was denied a visa. I was asked whether I could go to Iran to solve the problem of a person whose name we could not mention under the agreement that we signed in Isfahan; I referred to him as, "That man". That matter was based on insulting a religion. I worked with a committee of mullahs and legal advisers. As Lords temporal and spiritual, we sat in the palace in Isfahan discussing what we could do and why a criminal offence or blasphemy against the Church of England but not against the Muslim religion was involved. I found that interesting.

Everywhere I went, I sat with Syrians and others—with people who were fanatical. I call many of them the non-blinking brigade. As a child I used to try to stare people out. I was quite good at it but I could not stare these people out because there was a deep passion within them. I sought to find out what many of them were. They were highly sophisticated, intelligent men—doctors, engineers and professors; they were not simple fundamentalist terrorists. They held the passionate and genuine belief that they had a role to play in the world and they were looking for an enemy.

In many of those countries, the British, who were once a friend and partner, were for a long time treated as an enemy. I shall give a couple of the stupid sort of jokes that were heard. "Why does the sun never set on the British Empire?" "Because the Arabs do not trust the British after dark." "What is wrong with the Middle East?" "Hashish, baksheesh, malish (meaning, 'tomorrow') and the British; and the worst is the British because they invented the rest." We were somehow regarded as a corrupt, foreign, colonial power that had exploited the resources of a country and brought it no benefit.

Suddenly came the new enemy. Before I turn to that, I point out that there is a strange attitude in life—not quite a philosophy—that involves believing that in order to unite or control a nation one has to create fear of the regime. In order to unite a nation, one has to create a bogeyman or enemy. In my discussions over the period—the noble Lord, Lord Owen, reminded me that 20 years or more may be involved—a movement has developed that regards the United States as an enemy. It does not want to be an enemy of anyone; it wishes to be a friend. The United Kingdom is to be found somewhere between the United States and those countries.

Noble Lords will remember the hostage crisis in Iran. Its resolution involved the government of Algeria and the Bank of England combining in order to make a pay off. I find myself in a difficult situation when discussing terrorism or war. I look back and consider the human tragedies that have occurred throughout the history of the world and its natural disasters.

I return to my banking background and the financial aspects of this matter. The biggest disaster to hit Lloyd's was, I suppose, hurricane Andrew, in 1992, which cost 11 billion dollars. It was a natural disaster, like flood, pestilence, famine and rushing mighty winds. Before that, if I recall correctly, there was Piper Alpha, which cost approximately 3 billion dollars. An early disaster occurred in 1906—the San Francisco earthquake. I happen to have worked for the insurance group, Barings—although not at that time—which was the first group to pay out after the disaster, through the fireman's fund.

The human tragedy of this event has already been described. It was pointed out earlier that for the first time we, the British, are no longer in the first place with regard to the number of deaths caused by terrorism; we are, however, in second place.

The problem with all of that is insurance. It is estimated—the estimates are, in general, broad—that insurance claims will be in the order of 20 billion dollars. That is more than twice the figure associated with hurricane Andrew. I am assured that, in the same way that the Government have offered to provide substantial insurance support if necessary, underwriters in the City of London and elsewhere will be very tolerant and will not necessarily stick to the strict letter of the law. There are arguments about whether the event involves terrorism or war. At the moment, it is regarded as war—it has been stated by NATO and the United States that war is involved. In some of the countries in which I have worked people have felt that they have already been at war with the United States in one way or another but are powerless to act other than through the back door.

This particular act of aggression is so devious and cunning because it did not involve any armaments of war; it involved two missiles that were loaded with aviation fuel to the maximum limit—that needed by long-range aeroplanes. It involved perhaps no more than three people on board who were supposedly armed with knives that one might take on to an aeroplane. But this is perhaps only the first wave. From discussions with such people my understanding is that those attitudes are not short term. They are not a revolt; they are a long-term attack and plan and, unfortunately, the enemy of the United States.

The United States has helped us in the past and is fortunate because the United Kingdom is probably the most reliable ally upon earth. We stick to the rules and honour our agreements. It is that ability which I believe will stand the rest of the world in good stead at this time.

Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Baroness the Minister that we should also play the Commonwealth card. We should seek to deliver the wholehearted support of all members of the Commonwealth in this particular era because it has 40 votes in the United Nations. That is something which we can offer.

During the First World War my grandfather was director of restriction of enemy supplies. We should consider restriction of supplies to the enemy. That does not necessarily mean military weapons. I believe that the real restriction lies in financial resources and the ability to travel or communicate. I should declare another interest as president of the Anglo-Swiss Society. Yesterday, I met the Swiss Ambassador. We discussed the question of bank accounts which could be traced not to money laundering but to those whose countries might directly or indirectly be associated with harbouring or having relationships with those perceived to be of terrorist mentality, and how such bank accounts might be controlled. A phrase used in the banking world is "know thy customer". It is the duty of every banker to know the people for whom they hold a bank account.

It is perfectly acceptable for someone of Islamic faith under a fatwa to take an aggressive action which could supposedly take him to the promised land, but there is one quote from Islam which I like: "He who kills shall surely himself be killed".

2.32 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, I begin on a personal note. Having lived for five years in New York during the 1990s, I came to know and to count as my friends a good number of New Yorkers. I came to admire the city, one of the most beautiful and vibrant in the world, as it pulled itself, by its own efforts, out of the economic doldrums and problems with crime that characterised it at the beginning of the decade.

As I have watched the images of ordinary New Yorkers this week grappling and coming to terms with the unspeakable horrors that have been visited on them, I have been filled with admiration and sympathy. They have set us a wonderful example of grace under pressure. I hope that this House might find some way of sending a message to New York's courageous mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, as a mark of our support for him and his fellow citizens in their hour of trial.

Faced with a crime of such enormity, it is not easy to know where to begin. Denunciation is certainly not enough. No mere words can adequately describe the depravity of the perpetrators of these crimes and those who have helped them. I shall concentrate on a few simple points. First, let us make no mistake; this is an attack on us every bit as much as it is an attack on the United States. Many of our fellow citizens are among its innocent victims. Its aim can only have been to destabilise and paralyse the world's leading democracy and our principal partner in the western alliance,

If it were to succeed in those aims—I believe it will not—we would suffer every bit as much as the Americans. Our state in a world which encourages democracy and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means would be crucially depreciated. I believe that the Government were absolutely right, along with our other NATO partners, to state that this outrage was effectively an attack on us all, to which we must respond collectively and in solidarity with the immediate victim. Let us not delude ourselves that if we were in some way to distance ourselves from the United States as it sets out to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book and that there is no repetition of these crimes we would increase our security and be less at risk. The contrary is the case.

Secondly, there has been much loose talk about how all this was an inevitable consequence of America's role in the Middle East and the support which it has traditionally given to Israel. One does not have to be a supporter of the Government of Mr Sharon, nor does one have to believe that the policies the Israeli Government are currently pursuing are the right ones, to argue that that analysis is fundamentally flawed. I do not believe that the policies of the Sharon government have any prospect of succeeding, let alone bringing peace to the Middle East, and I am ready to criticise many of the actions currently pursued by Israel. But none of that can begin to excuse, let alone justify, acts of barbarism of the sort we saw earlier this week. It was tragic to see some Palestinians acting as if they believed that that would further their cause, when the opposite is likely to be the case.

Thirdly, as has been mentioned by many speakers in this House, it is no secret that the finger of suspicion is pointing at various Islamic terrorist groups. Should that suspicion be substantiated, there is a real risk of a wave of what has been called, and I would call too, "Islamaphobia". That would be deplorable. More than that, it would be against our interests if our objective is, as I believe it needs to be, to build a wide-ranging coalition against international terrorism, which would necessarily include, if it is to be fully effective, many Muslim countries.

In any case, it is not Islam which is at issue but rather fundamentalism in any shape or form. It is fundamentalism, whether it be Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or even Christian, whose intolerance and readiness to resort to violence and atrocities, whose belief that the end justifies the use of any means, which is the enemy of our democratic societies. After all, it was a Jewish fundamentalist who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin and so extinguished what was probably the best chance there has ever been of achieving a just peace in the Middle East.

We should be clear that the struggle in which we are engaged is against fundamentalism, and the use of terrorism by fundamentalists behind their cloak of religious zeal, not those who practise their religion, whatever it may be, in peace and in tolerance of others.

Fourthly and finally, the effort to achieve as wide a coalition as possible against international terrorism must be the top priority. We must try to ensure that such an effort does not get bogged down, as it has so often in the past, in futile attempts to define terrorism in a restrictive or tendentious way. Surely what defines terrorism is the method employed—the deliberate murder of innocent civilians, the taking of hostages, the hijacking of civilian aircraft and ships—not the artfully crafted political objective which is prayed in aid as a cloak for the commission of such crimes.

It is only if a wide-ranging coalition can be mustered and harnessed in a sustainable way through a fully effective range of practical measures that the perpetrators of this crime will be brought to book and any recurrence of it will be averted. Those surely must be the principal objectives to be pursued and the yardsticks against which we measure any steps to be taken along the way. Simple retribution, richly deserved though it may be, is not enough. The use of force, which may well prove necessary—I believe that it will—should not become an end in itself.

It is already clear that the response of the United States and its allies to this challenge will shape the international scene in the period ahead. There had been friction between the two sides of the Atlantic in the early months or President Bush's administration. Now it is important to resolve or play down those differences and unite in the common cause of ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism.

2.40 p.m.

Baroness Uddin

My Lords, I follow all noble Lords in offering my prayers and condolences to the families of the thousands of innocent victims of this most sorrowful catastrophe. It is right that today all nations demonstrate their solidarity with the American people. Our thoughts are with all those families who mourn their loved ones. The fact that such terror could unfold before the eyes of the world is beyond all our comprehension. It is true that the world will never be the same again, knowing that there are individuals among us who are capable of such hatred for humanity.

Today I can add nothing to what has already been said by many more experienced and more eloquent noble Lords than I. Having heard the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I was tempted to withdraw my name. I have never felt more comfortable about allowing others to speak about Islamophobia than I do today.

I am deeply honoured and proud to be a Member of this House and to be involved in the procedures of this House of Parliament. Who could have failed to be affected by the sight of families beside themselves with grief and fear? However, much hope exists. Equally stark is the fact that countries and communities have been made to feel fear as a consequence of their faith.

I agree with noble Lords who have said that we cannot have retribution at any price; nor must we become less vigilant on the infringements about liberty and human rights. There is no doubt that if innocence is allowed to die, democracy dies.

I apologise that I had to take a break from the debate today in order to attend a meeting in the Home Office to discuss what is happening in the North of England. We were to discuss what to do and how to encourage communities to work together. However, nothing except what happened in America was discussed. Everyone was deeply concerned about the impact on our society.

Rising out of the ashes of the atrocities in America have come attacks on individuals and groups of British citizens. A significant number of women who wear hijabs have called me, wanting to take them off. Young people have reported being harassed, mosques have been attacked and the list goes on.

Every single organisation, whether led by Muslims or not—the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Muslim News, the Q News, and FAIR, the list of groups is endless—has, like all of us today, condemned these attacks unequivocally, and has asked for a calm response and for some of our media to be more responsible in their choice of words and in their choice of guests.

All our prayers are with the American people and with the innocent victims. I know that our American friends will do all that is possible to ensure that we do not do what we condemn. The perpetrators must be brought to justice and we must fight for justice. However, we cannot be angry for the sake of it. There are genuine reasons for us all to be concerned when we speak in this House that we do not identify ourselves with those who do not bravely condemn these attacks. We must also be brave enough not to identify ourselves with Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu when they say that, there should be an apocalyptic escalation of violence targeted against Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East and beyond". We in Britain cannot afford to side with Israel's definition of world order, for it has defied UN resolutions time and again.

There is also, as I have said, anxiety about the media. Individuals who have been brought forward to represent the Muslim communities have been totally irresponsible, and not surprisingly, have displayed extreme views. I wonder where they come from. I have been involved in politics in Muslim communities and with Muslim leaders and Muslim religious leaders, and none of those views represents mine or those of my children. I hope that the House will ask those who hold the media in their hands to show more courteousness, and, with the courage of their convictions, not side with dangerous views.

We should all show a profound consensus of sadness and sympathy. I have consulted the Muslim community and every Muslim parent to whom I have spoken not only fears the implications in relation to their children, but, first, they say that this is a most horrendous attack on all human beings. Also, I do not remember one of those people saying, "But they were American". Much more importantly, we have to remember that those lying under the rubble of American buildings are probably Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all other faiths who we should preserve, protect, love, take care of, and honour. Associating "civilised societies" and "democracy" purely with western countries is not at all helpful at this time.

I am proud of our Government's call for a strategic, measured, purposeful and proportionate response against the perpetrators of these attacks. Like all noble Lords, I believe that they must be brought to justice in whichever way. After many years of hard graft, the Muslim community in Britain has finally found a solid foundation of negotiating institutional acceptance. I believe that our community is stronger than the fragility and the division portrayed by much of the media.

All our prayers and condolences go to the American people and the innocent victims. I know that our American friends will do the right thing, as we all will. The perpetrators must be brought to justice for the sake of our civilisation, for the sake of justice and for the sake of the whole world order.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I want to say how glad I am about what she has said. Is she aware that in the century after the gunpowder plot English Roman Catholics went through everything that she has described as happening to British Muslims? I express the hope that her co-religionists will benefit from our learning from that experience and come out of these difficulties a great deal faster than did the Roman Catholics.

Baroness Uddin

My Lords, I am always humbled by the knowledge of the noble Earl.

2.47 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, on 11th April 1988 the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, made a remarkable speech in the City Hall in Oxford. He was addressing a global survival conference of spiritual and political leaders from all around the world and from all faiths. His first sentences were: Global survival has ceased to be an easy, natural assumption. It has become something that can only be maintained by constant awareness and struggle. We have lived for a generation with the knowledge that for the first time in history the world could destroy itself He was speaking of the unleashing of a nuclear exchange, and that is only one step away from what we saw a few days ago.

The conference was a most extraordinary occasion. On entering the hall the first thing one saw was an enormous photograph, faultlessly accurate, beautifully colour-correct, of the world suspended in space, taken from space. During that conference I heard from one astronaut, as I have heard from another subsequently—one was American and the other Russian, speaking before the end of the Cold War—saying that once one is up there one cannot understand the difficulties or what the fighting is about. In fact, one cannot see the Great Wall of China, let alone the Berlin Wall, from space. Seeing that photograph made one realise that, beautiful and substantial though it is, we live on a frail raft capable of sustaining human life in an incalculably enormous void entirely hostile to life. Our common interest is to keep the raft afloat. That is so constantly lost sight of.

People see this photograph more and more in newspapers. They discuss space. They recognise that we are together on one finite and fragile place. I do not know about noble Lords or the great mass of the public, as we like to call them, but I find it extraordinarily difficult to think of myself as a member of the human race. I can think of myself as a Briton, a European and a Christian. My nationality is clear. My loyalty is to my country; or is it to my community or to the human race?

If we are living on a fragile raft in an immensity of hostile space, then surely our first loyalty must be to humanity. From space one can see it; and it is not doing very well. Humanity is occupying itself in deliberately destroying each other—and its environment, as it were, unintentionally. The two problems are linked. But in today's debate it is political and economic issues rather than the environmental issue which should concern us.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked: how can there be so much hate in the world? It is not enough to recognise the hatred. One has to understand it and its causes. It seems to me that there are two sets of causes. There is the prime cause which I think we shall never entirely understand of those who perpetrate atrocities of the kind we debate. Then there is the political, social and economic context in which they are perpetrated. Even the roost dangerous bacterium cannot survive in a healthy body which is hostile to it. But terrorism flourishes world-wide. One must look to a reason. Indeed, one must fear what I think the noble Lord, Lord Owen, referred to—it may have been my noble friend—as a justifiable Arab backlash.

If we look at ourselves from outside we see very well-fed, well-housed, very comfortably off people suddenly very frightened by an attack on a central institution. If you happen to be one of a nation of which two-thirds is below the poverty line and a half is actually starving, that looks somewhat different. If you are in an underdeveloped country which has earlier imported a television system from America, as many did and as a cheap add-on got their soap operas, their long-running social dramas, about fat people in comfortable houses distressed about what to do about what look like quite incalculably small difficulties when considering the alternatives the viewers face of starvation or total oppression, you then begin to see America, which we recognise from inside the western group as being the standard bearer of independence and freedom, as being at the centre of an engine which is feeding, clothing and comforting very large numbers of people who have turned their backs on us except when you are prepared to pay for something.

If that is how we look, to some extent it roust be how we are. Therefore, I go back to the global survival conference and select one of the paragraphs in its final statement which says: Three areas of present critical concern stall receive our special attention … elimination of the perils of nuclear and other armaments"— we have spoken of that; we have not done it and I doubt whether we can. The next area is, the realization of appropriate balances between resources and populations". That is a political and economic question. We cannot sit on the same raft with some people in one corner being destitute and others in other corners being billionaires. I am sorry if that upsets some members of my party; it sounds like a socialist statement. But it is a realist statement, that a stable society is not a totally unequal society. That goes for the world as well as for our country.

Therefore, one of the issues which must be addressed by the alliance is a new approach to the world economy as well as to the world deployment of military and political force. This is like one of those stars which has two centres. That is the economic centre. The political and spiritual centre is that there has to be an understanding of each other's faiths and a living of them. As numbers of noble Lords have said, Allah is described as the compassionate and the merciful. There is no more to fear from Allah than there is to fear from God for those who are just. That reflects again on the distribution in the world.

When one has theological polarity, to coin a phrase, as we have seen in Ireland and as we are now seeing between East and West, one gives to the terrorists, the extremists on either side, the ability to produce a caricature of those to whom they are opposed. Fat Uncle Sam, with his cigar, standing on the sweated slaves of industry is a caricature of a country which is also seen as the standard bearer of liberty. But for the Taliban the ability to do that is a godsend. When that interpretation of reality reaches television screens in other Muslim countries it recruits sympathy to the cause of fundamentalist extremism. That is the context in which it can flourish. The only answer is to prove that it is false, just as many false images have been generated about the religious communities in Northern Ireland.

I do not wish to speak longer than anyone else. I believe that this is a moment of quite exceptional historical criticality. We must recognise that we have to step outside our existing concepts of who we are and what our economies are and look at them from the outside, seeking once more to become one world as well as one nation. If we are not one world we shall soon be no world at all.

Lord Grenfell

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he accept from a humble Back-Bencher on this side that he has introduced into this debate a dimension which I hope will not be lost on those who will be making world-shaking decisions in the days to come? I thank him very much for his speech.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I can think of no permission that it would give me greater pleasure to give.

2.59 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords, this is one debate where repetition is essential. Like every noble Lord, I express condolences, in words which are inadequate, to the American public and the tens of thousands who have been directly and indirectly affected.

I wish to say a word about the reference made by the Prime Minister in his Statement to the House of Commons this morning, concerning the City of London and the insurance world. Reference was made to it by my noble friend Lord Wallace and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. Yesterday I attended a board meeting of a major Lloyd's underwriter, Faraday, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, at which the issues referred to by the Prime Minister were discussed.

I want to make two points on the matter. First, the insurance world is confident that, despite the unprecedented levels of claims in this ghastly case, it can and will meet all of them. There may be some failures on the part of minor secondary insurers, but there is no doubt but that the markets will sustain the massive losses incurred. What is more, I believe that the "can do" spirit that has marked New York since 11th September is also present in the City of London, albeit from a distance.

My second point, to which the Government may wish to give some thought, is that there is a major problem as regards the terms on which a great deal of the relevant insurance has been written; namely, whether or not this series of events constituted an act of war. If so, a great deal, if not the majority, of the insurance will be vitiated. I need hardly state the consequences of that. Although I have no mandate for this, I suggest to the Government that, rather than leave these extremely difficult but profoundly important issues to be dealt with ad hoc by many lawyers acting for many different players in the marketplace, some concerted effort might be made both in London and in New York to have the most authoritative ruling possible on these central issues which are present in virtually every insurance policy written that will be in play as a result of the events of 11th September. I suspect that 11th September will be written on the consciousness of America just as 5th November is on ours.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to the three dominant components of the situation: military, legal and political. My concern is that we should not overload our expectations of the military response. In the first place, a war against a state is a simple matter compared with a war against an unknown adversary operating from an unknown place entirely covertly. I cannot imagine anything that will tax the wisdom and perseverance of military leaders as well as politicians more than the circumstances prevailing here. A further point is that the zealot is always more ruthless than the lawful soldier and security officer. One of the problems in considering a security response to what happened on 11th September will be just that.

My third point, made by many speakers, relates to the security problems that will be caused in future by modern mobility. Many of the hopes expressed—for example, as regards stopping money laundering—are apt to be futile. I say that with deep regret, but realism forces us to the conclusion that no amount of security, vigilance, law or regulation will be able, in this global village, to stop the covert, determined operator from going about his or her deadly work. That is partly for the reason mentioned by my noble friend Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. My noble friend rightly said that a man armed not only with explosives but with the determination to die is effectively unstoppable.

I believe that we have overloaded our expectations of the law in this situation. Again, it was my noble friend Lord Ashdown who suggested a new Geneva convention that can distinguish between the terrorist and the freedom fighter, between the democratic state and the undemocratic state. As a long-in-the-tooth practising lawyer whose firm does a great deal of immigration and asylum work, I must tell the House that these hopes are apt to be confounded. One reason that we have the immigration and asylum problem that we do is precisely because of the interminable and intractable problem of deciding who is a genuine asylum seeker and who is not. The notion that we can, let alone tomorrow but today, tell from among the many Afghan refugees who is a terrorist or potential terrorist and who is not is sheer cloud cuckoo-land.

That brings me to the political dimension. It strikes me that, above and beyond anything else, unless we get the politics right, nothing else can be right. If we get the politics more or less right, then anything benign could follow. The events of 11th September took place within a political context—a complicated one, but political nevertheless. The people whose hearts were tilled with pitiless hatred were driven by political as well as religious considerations.

I hope noble Lords will not think it presumptuous of me to suggest that the fundamental natural right termed by lawyers "audi alteram partem"—"hear both sides"—is not one that we have applied by and large in this country and in the western world. I do not believe that present considerations in the Middle East have been fully, impartially and equally heard in this country, and certainly not in the United States of America.

If the politics are to be got right, we must influence hearts and minds not merely the hearts and minds—of all of us who agree anyhow, but those of people who, as was described by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, live in totally different circumstances and who have different mindsets. We must influence them, or we shall fail.

Perhaps I may use a phrase coined either by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, or by the Prime Minister. Yes, we must be "tough on terrorism", but also "on the causes of terrorism"—which is not so easy. Every speaker has rightly referred to the devastation of 11th September in terms of an attack on democracy, freedom and justice. However, we need to understand that there are parts of the world where none of those cherished virtues exists and where, therefore, our plea for solidarity in defence of them is not only irrelevant but scorned as western hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, because of course in some places where democracy, freedom and justice are absent those denied them believe that the West is partly, if not principally, implicated in the denial.

My whole stance on this matter was radically altered by a trip I made in February to Syria and Lebanon. I put my hand up to confess a pathetic lack of comprehensive understanding of the facts and circumstances. I went into the Sabra-Shatila camp for an afternoon. I have also been to the Favelas of Brazil and in the townships of Africa during the clays of apartheid. I have to tell your Lordships that that camp and the 58 others that at this moment exist are filled with Palestinian refugees who have been there since 1948. The camps are indescribable. It is not that they do not have food, some kind of shelter, medical help or schools, but the despondency and the degradation there cannot be described. It cannot be imagined.

When one realises that there are 3.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN agency responsible for looking after them—3:7 million, the population of Wales—and 1.2 million of them in those 59 dreadful camps spread among Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, how can we seriously pretend that more laws, co-operation, arms or better intelligence will touch the root of the problem?

The camps are a breeding ground for the very hatred and the very zealotry which, as other noble Lords have said, cannot be stopped militarily. So, without attempting at this hour of night to go further, I just urge the House and the Government, however painful and difficult it is, to look again at the underlay to all this, because, frankly, unless we understand better and appeal much more effectively to the hearts and minds of not least those 3.7 million, but many millions beyond, this problem will not just continue but intensify.

3.10 p.m.

Viscount Slim

My Lords, I see that I am last on the list although I understand that other noble Lords may wish to speak in the gap. Naturally we thank the House for allowing that. Always by the end people have said what you wanted to say. Therefore, I always think that the last person up is really rather tested.

Those of us who have an interest in revolution and in terrorism and have seen something of it have known for some time that the scale of terrorist activity and terrorism would escalate. We have rather been waiting for it. I know that many noble Lords are of the same opinion. The sophistication, the skill, the planning, the operation and the daring, and actually the bravery and the courage, have all escalated and we find ourselves in some problem.

I do not know if any noble Lord has turned the matter the other way around and wondered what an international terrorist thinks of the United Kingdom. I think that he starts off on a fairly good wicket. He can say to himself, "Well, in Britain, terrorism has succeeded. It has succeeded quite well. It has had a few glitches. The people of Britain have stopped some very nasty incidents and reacted quickly to terrible scenes within their land."

But what would slightly excite him is the fact that he would say, "Well, it is funny because across the water the British seem to have given in to most if not all the demands of the terrorist. What are these people of Britain today? Are they weak? Are they wet? Are they lax? What has happened to them? Are they easy meat?" Then he will look how to get here. He will discover that anyone can come. There seems to be no stoppage on the rate of people. Everyone is welcome. One can arrive by many means. One can melt in and join the many thousands who have already melted into the community. One can start up a business or whatever one wants. Actually, if one wants to obey the rules, one will be housed, lodged and given coupons and probably some money too. One can still get on with one's nefarious business.

Then, as a terrorist, one wants to discover what goes on in a country—what is the thing to do to really knock for six the people of Britain. They will see that they are all talking about having no secrets anymore—everyone must be told everything; equality of information for everybody.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. Was he in the Chamber regularly during the debates on the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 or the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999?

Viscount Slim

My Lords, the noble Earl generally catches me out, and, frankly, after 30 years in your Lordships' House, I cannot remember off the top of my head—I am getting nearly as old as he is now—when I was here and for which particular debate. When he asks me to remember what I did in 1996, I am at a slight loss.

The other factor is that the terrorist knows that he does not have to bring any weapons into this country. We are very good at taking weapons from those who are licensed properly and correctly. But there are 250,000 or 500,000 illegal weapons already here which people can get. It takes about a day to get a weapon in Britain today if people have the money. So there is no need to do that. There is a bit of a problem with explosives, of course. But if people can get drugs in, they can get explosives in. And there are ways to bring even more nasty paraphernalia to harm us today. So terrorists, I think, would say that Britain is rather an inviting place to come to set about their business. We have been so mesmerised by what is going on over the water that many of us have forgotten the international terrorism at our doorstep.

It is time that we stiffened the sinews. All we do is defend against terrorism—we are a very defensive nation. Of course, we have to defend; we must have the tightest possible security, and we are not bad at that. But we could be better. We need further resolve. We do not need spin talk. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, rightly said in his excellent maiden speech, we want to rally the people. That is hard-hitting straight talk, and it must come, as it has, from our Prime Minister, and from all Ministers. This is a long haul and Ministers must be able to hack it. There must be no fear; there must be resolve, resilience, a bit of cunning and subtle work. Secrets must be secrets. Then we have a chance. If we defend, we never win—or hardly ever. We must attack, in the ways that other noble Lords have described, on the economic, political and coalition fronts. There is no need for me to go into all those different ways, because noble Lords have spoken most eloquently about them.

The Government must let the proper agencies off the leash. Our intelligence and security institutions have been pared down in pennies and manpower, and they need to be supported and let off the leash. Policemen and the military, who are invariably used with one hand tied behind their back, if not two, must be let loose at the right moment. It is an awful thing to say, but we must have no pity, no remorse and no fear when the time comes for action. I hope that our Government and the people will hack it. We will not succeed if we are besotted by the immovable attitude of defence; we will not win if we are besotted by political correctness; we will not win if we are stuck with an ethical foreign policy.

3.20 p.m.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

My Lords, on Monday of this week, in my capacity as vice chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Defence and Security Policy, I had the honour to listen to a number of expert spokesmen and women on the US proposed national missile defence shield, which we discussed at length. We reached the conclusion, guided by our Russian witness, that however wonderful that might be, nonetheless old-fashioned methods used by terrorists still had to be guarded against. On Tuesday a catastrophe occurred.

We met again and the foreign affairs committee immediately issued a statement saying that we learnt with shock and sorrow of the atrocious terrorist attack in the USA and that We join our colleagues in the US Congress and all American people in their deep sorrow and stand united with them in solidarity". We went on to say that this terrorist act was directed against the entire international community of democracies and their citizens and that we stood together with the USA in its fight against international terrorism. We concluded by stating the clear and most obvious remark; that We should develop a joint policy of all democracies against any state hiding or supporting terrorism and should aim to overcome together the most burning conflicts in the world". The background to that statement is important and powerful. All of this year and for some of the preceding year we have been discussing the development of the common foreign policy of the European Union and the development of the common defence and security policy. Developing a common foreign policy in any area of the world for the European Union depends not on a single government statement and not even on a majority vote such as we witness so often in this House and in another place. The common foreign policy of the European Union depends on 15 member states coming together and developing a common position.

Your Lordships are aware that on the Middle East process, on Iraq, on Libya and on all of today's burning topics the European Union has as yet no common position and therefore we have no policy. This House made it intensely difficult for us to do what we had been required to do by so many key players in the Middle East process; for example, to step in and take a position. We cannot do so. We are the single biggest donor in the Middle East, as we are the single biggest donor in so many areas of our troubled world today, but we still have no common position. When I visited the then Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister, now the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr Moussa, and he demanded that we counterbalance the USA from the European Union, I had to say that we could not do that; we had no common position and it was not our task.

Common foreign policies take some time to develop in the unique democracy of 350 million citizens which today's European Union reflects. And it will become even harder with the enlargement process when we have 170 million more citizens as our European Union citizens. That is not too far away. We hope for a big bang of enlargement in 2002 when 10 new member states will enter. We hope to have two more by 2007 and beyond that yet more. Our target headline goal within the next two decades will be a total of 700 million citizens and I believe that we will reach that. Therefore, common foreign policies will be slow to develop.

However, the common defence and security policy has been even more complex to develop perhaps than a common foreign policy for any area of the world. Perhaps I may take as an example a common foreign policy. I am the rapporteur for Iraq so for the first time we have an initiative of mine coming forward on Iraq. It is extremely difficult to reach a common position on Iraq despite the fact that Iraq has the single most powerful dictator and repressive regime in the world today. It is still difficult to reach a common foreign policy.

However, within our midst we have had great difficulties in pushing forward the common defence and security policy; difficulties which have troubled me deeply and difficulties I have found it extremely hard to accept. One difficulty has been that in the United Kingdom we have not been able to come together to support a common defence and security policy. Today is not the day, and now is not the time for party political hassles. Let us not go into that. But I urge colleagues on all sides of the House to come together and to recognise the need for the European Union to have a common defence and security policy, and not to pull against it any longer. We must have it. It is essential in the world today.

Perhaps one little thing to come out of Tuesday's tragedy is the statement by the 15 member states of the European Union and Nato together, which came almost immediately after our statement which followed the foreign affairs committee meeting, which happened to take place first. The joint statement from the European Union and Nato involved a clarion call from our own Lord Robertson, Secretary-General of Nato, showing that these were two institutions with just one voice, and that that one voice was willing to stand up and be counted together with the USA and all democracies world-wide. That is the first time that that has happened.

I applaud the French, their government, and French members of the European Parliament from all political groupings, because it has been so hard for them to accept that Nato is the shield of the world. The French and some of our other colleagues such as the Germans seem to have been intent on developing a unique, freestanding common defence and security policy that would have meant investing in our own security, intelligence gathering and so on, as if Nato did not exist. I think that in my fight against that I tabled 47 amendments, which were turned down. I wanted complementariness with Nato to be accepted as a key critical and fundamental element of a common defence and security policy. Now at last we have come together, and that is wonderful.

Of course, it is not enough to come together in the European Union or in Nato. A key issue is how we reflect our common position in a way that protects and supports other democracies that are in more fragile geographical or political situations. I think of India, the largest democracy on the globe, which lies next door to Pakistan, close to Afghanistan and very close to Iraq. The situation is fragile. We must come together to support and strengthen those democracies in the months ahead, because terrorism has a horrible knock-on effect: copy, copy, copy. Those democracies are just as important as ours, and we must protect them.

It is vital that we should take up the thankless task of United Nations reform. We are the USA's allies, and the USA is our ally. She has been our greatest shield ever. But unless we manage to reform the United Nations in such a way that the USA feels comfortable to belong again, we shall have failed. At the end of the day, there is just one United Nations. There will never be a different form of it. We must come together at one table somewhere. The United Nations is that table and offers us that forum. Yet we at one point withdrew from certain elements of the United Nations. We should not have done so. The empty chair policy does no-one any favours, except the enemy. We must now work intensely hard with all our allies to make the United Nations a body that is acceptable to the USA and to bring the USA right back into the heart of the United Nations.

It is also important to look again at intelligence gathering globally. There is a feeling in the European Union that perhaps some elements of even American intelligence have been diverted from military intelligence gathering to supporting competitive, economic, market-oriented goals. Peace, surely, is more important than even enhanced prosperity. It is essential to think hard and long about intelligence gathering. Perhaps we should have supported the FBI. I was drawn that way. with the desire to de-encrypt every code that is used globally. I would rather have the FBI on my side than some of the enemies of whom we are now aware.

Finally, the enlargement of NATO will doubtless be a slower effort than before. We have to reassure those countries that were seeking to join NATO. Their applications might not go through in the autumn of 2002 for the obvious reason that we have to be more cautious. But that does not mean that they are outside the frame. We must also reassure Turkey, which has been so suspicious and concerned about its own security with the enlargement of NATO and the development of the EU common defence and security policy. We must reassure Turkey, a critical member of NATO, about how much its security matters to us. Article 5 of the NATO convention is critical for all the members, for the European Union members who do not belong and also for those applying to become members of the European Union who are not yet members either.

In conclusion, peace is a unique possession of any generation. Our peace has been rudely shattered. Our political leaders must square the impossible circle. They must make it possible to give our citizens and the world security, peace of mind and peace at home. Yet they must allow us to walk down the street without the obligation to suspect every stranger who passes by. We must be friends.

3.31 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

My Lords, I thank the House for this opportunity to speak in the gap. I should like to join other noble Lords in expressing sympathy to the families of the victims of the attacks on Tuesday. I think particularly of the thousands of children who will grow up missing one parent or both parents. I find that deeply disturbing. I am sure that all noble Lords would wish to communicate sympathy for their position. They will not be able to play games with those parents or learn all those joyous things one can share with parents. They will never know them in maturity. I think of the father who is lost whose wife is seven months pregnant with their child. I think of the father of two who is lost and I think of that loss to his children.

I have recently returned from an expedition to Angola sponsored by UNICEF. I should like to ask the Government whether they have considered the importance of education as a means of choking the flow of terrorism in the future. When I arrived in Angola, the head of the UNICEF mission there commented to me, "Education is the key to improving life for the children of Angola in the future". I spoke to a teacher in one of the schools for street children. She was desperate to get to university so that she could continue studying but no funding was available for her. When I arrived back from Angola, the first message I received was from Henrique George, a school boy in Angola, who asked, "How do I get a scholarship to study in the UK?"

With education there is the possibility of hope. There is an alternative to the road of violence if one believes that one can improve one's lot and the lot of one's family. Education also helps the development of the critical faculty so that one can begin to challenge the precepts of fundamentalism. Of course it can be argued that education may simply produce more educated and more sophisticated terrorists. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, referred to the intelligent and educated fanatics whom he has met. It is a complex matter, but as we try to think of a long-term solution to the problem of terrorism, I hope that we shall think about redoubling our efforts to support developing countries and their education systems.

3.35 p.m.

Lord Rogan

My Lords, we meet today under a heavy cloud to express our sympathy and to show solidarity with the United States and its people. On Tuesday we witnessed what were easily the most obscene and barbaric acts of terrorism in the history of the modern world. The impact has been global. So many people from different countries and of different nationalities have been affected.

The world has been stunned by the scale of the devastation and the carnage. In all my years of living in Northern Ireland, unfortunately I have witnessed many atrocities and many attacks on innocent people. While we in Northern Ireland have a special understanding of the suffering of the people of the United States at this time, we are still deeply saddened.

The Foreign Secretary has talked about the number of United Kingdom citizens who are missing in New York. The figure may run into hundreds. People from Northern Ireland have been caught up in the nightmare. Many are feared lost, but some have been lucky.

My party colleague and Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, Michael McGimpsey, has a nephew who was one of the first New York firemen to enter the World Trade Centre. John McGimpsey was on the 19th floor of the north tower when the south tower was attacked. Injured while trying to rescue a civilian, he was carried out of the tower in time. Thank God for that. Most of his brave friends and colleagues are missing.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families, to the American community living here in the United Kingdom and to the many friends of Northern Ireland, in particular those in New York and in Washington. It is hard to comprehend what could motivate anyone to cause such misery, destruction and deliberate loss of human life.

Perhaps the most disturbing fact about the events of the past two days is that the passage of time has served only to heighten awareness of the enormity of what has taken place. The catastrophic scenes have not lessened as time has elapsed; rather, they have become more horrific and more traumatic.

It is worth noting that while we in Northern Ireland were coming to terms with the news from the United States on Wednesday morning, the same terrorists who bombed and murdered innocent civilians in Omagh were trying to murder young policemen in Londonderry. Terrorism, no matter where it emanates from, is terribly wrong.

In moral terms the IRA bomb attacks on the Baltic Exchange and Canary Wharf are no different from the attacks on the World Trade Centre. They differ only in scale. I am greatly heartened by the determination and resolve of world leaders to support America at this difficult time.

It is worth recalling the words of the United States Secretary of State, General Colin Powell: We are building a strong coalition to go after the perpetrators, but more broadly to go after terrorism wherever we find it in the world". I am sure that this House stands behind those remarks. Make no mistake about it; Tuesday's attacks were a direct assault on western freedoms and western values.

My party has worked very hard in Northern Ireland to promote a way forward that takes us out of terrorism and towards peace and stability. We will always stand against terrorism. Just as the Americans need help to defeat terrorism, so we in Northern Ireland need help from the rest of the world. Today, we have remembered our American friends as they try to come to terms with their loss. Today, we stand beside President Bush and the American people. Today, we stand defiant against those who would threaten the basic freedoms and principles of the democratic world.

Our friends have called to us for help. In the name of freedom, we will stand by them, on the side that is right and just.

3.41 p.m.

Lord Roper

My Lords, today's six hours of debate have enabled us to express our horror and condemnation of the terrifying crimes that occurred on Tuesday in the United States and to express our sympathy with the United States authorities and with those families in the United States and, in particular, in this country who suffered so much in that attack.

The debate has also shown the shared analysis of these horrific events in all parts of the House. Like the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, I leave slightly hopeful, because it is clear that we have a widely shared approach across the House to the aspects of policy that we need to take forward if we are to deal with these terrifying events.

As very often in debates in this House, I have particularly appreciated a number of interventions on points of law that I would not have thought of. I found the interventions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, on points of law extremely valuable. The technical point on insurance law that my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury made was also of great importance. I hope that the Government will find a way to reply to him, even if it is not today.

I am glad to have come to that hope, because the past 72 hours have been some of the most depressing of my life. I was alive in 1939, but I cannot remember it. I cannot remember any event in international affairs in the past 50 years that has been as depressing and as serious for the future environment of the world in which we are going to operate. If we wanted a glib phrase, this was, "The end of the end of history".

I pay tribute to the remarkable maiden speech by my noble friend Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. As we expected, he made a particularly valuable contribution to the debate. I know that his remarks were welcomed in all parts of the House. We look forward to hearing his contributions on many future occasions, although we hope not on such serious matters. He referred to the importance of developing international mechanisms and international cooperation. I shall return to that.

Like many on these Benches and elsewhere in the House, I was fortunate to spend some of my postgraduate education 40 years ago studying in the United States. During those two years, I learnt about the generosity and decency of the American people, which, like so many students from all over the world who have had an opportunity to study there, I have never forgotten. I was horrified to think that others have gone there to study and learn from the United States and then used their skills in the way that those who learnt to fly there used them this week. That was a further reason why, like so many who have spoken, I stood in shared sadness with our colleagues from America and from throughout Europe this morning, thinking about what happened.

I believe that this event comes as a shock of a very particular kind for the United States. It has been said that not since 1814, when, owing to a little local difficulty, we attacked Washington, has the United States been directly attacked in this manner. Indeed, I believe that the effect of these events on the psyche of the American people will take some time to absorb, both for them and for the rest of us. The effect 'will be most serious.

Today, most comments have been made about the attacks on New York. I have visited, and have friends and colleagues who work in, the Pentagon. I want to say something about those who work in government service in that building. I have been there many times. I never imagined that the Pentagon, of any building in the world, could be on fire day after day, and that those who serve there—they are criticised frequently but they serve their country valuably—could be put at risk. I am sure that the Ministry of Defence has conveyed sympathy on behalf of this country to its colleagues in the United States. I hope that it will also be possible to convey from this House that we are concerned that American public servants have been put in that position.

We must have enormous sympathy for President Bush and those who serve in his relatively new administration, along with those in government in this country and elsewhere who hold the responsibility of office at this critical time. It is essential that we go forward together to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism which has struck this week. As I believe is important, we have already seen the international structures begin to respond.

The meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers, which preceded the meeting of the North Atlantic Council on Wednesday, ensured a common response, bringing together the two institutions which are sometimes said to be "against 'together'". It was important. This morning the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, referred to how quickly the resolution was carried at the United Nations Security Council. We know how long it can take to pass resolutions. On this occasion, it was carried very quickly and with remarkably strong terms, as indicated by those quoted by the noble Baroness.

We must rebuild international order. It is only through having an international order that we can outlaw international disorder. We must work to prevent access to funds or to weapons by those who would have them. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said this morning, that will require us to consider further counter and anti-proliferation policies and, as the Prime Minister said in his speech, mechanisms of access to such funds or weapons. In the 21st century we must try to achieve at the global level what the European Union was able to achieve in the last half of the 20th century; that is, the elimination of conflict and dissent among peoples.

I want to make one point about the references to the intelligence services. I remember visiting Washington in the 1980s and talking to a professor from a New England university. Later, I discovered that he was also a consultant to the CIA. He said, "You know, your cuts in public expenditure in Britain are having a terrible effect". I believed that he was referring to the cuts in universities. Therefore, I commented that there was perhaps a certain amount of fat. I am not sure that that would have been appreciated by all my noble friends. He continued, "Oh no, it's not that. It's what you're doing to HUMINT that matters". I replied, "Of course, in the UK only about four or five people know what the budget is for HUMINT. I am afraid that I do not". So far as our American colleagues could see, at that time our cuts in public expenditure were already beginning to have an effect. I am afraid that we are beginning to see the dividends of that in what has occurred this week in Washington. We must look at this matter again.

As we teach our students, much in international relations is based on perceptions rather than on reality. Today, in almost every speech that has been made we have made clear that we are trying to deal with the problem of international terrorism. It is not a matter of being against Islam. That was made clear in the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Minister, and it was particularly powerfully put by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. The point was also made by many others—in particular, by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, who discussed her concern about the way in which the media were quoting unrepresentative members of the Muslim community in this country and building up misperceptions. We need to attend to that.

We know what the reality is; we know that the enemy is international terrorism. Unfortunately, the perception—this is true not only in the Muslim world but also in much of our country—is that the conflict involves something other than that. We have a real responsibility to ensure that such false perceptions are destroyed. Otherwise, what is already a serious problem could become a problem of enormous gravity.

Just before these events a United Nations conference was held in Durban, at which the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, played an important part in eventually finding satisfactory language. It was important to find a satisfactory framework; otherwise, it would have appeared that there was a distinction between the North and the South or the rich and the poor. That would have reinforced false perceptions, which could have done much to harm international relations.

This week's events may well have been as dramatic a change in the international environment as was the end of the Cold War little more than a decade ago. That was a benign change, for which, admittedly, we were not particularly well prepared. However, because it was benign that did not matter too much. This week's change was a terrifyingly malign change, for which our preparations were far from satisfactory.

The Prime Minister's Statement in another place and many of the contributions to our debate show that we need to have a co-ordinated, long-term approach or strategy. That will create the structure that we need in international order to remove this evil. We also need carefully prepared and targeted self-defence measures, which will represent a deterrent against similar action. If such measures can be found, they will receive support from these Benches.

3.52 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, this has been an exceptional and moving debate in response to appalling acts of terrorism. One of the many speeches that we shall remember for a long time was the notable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. Some of us have read in newspapers in recent days his accounts of his dealings with the Government; but more of that on another day. Today, we welcome his very thoughtful maiden speech and look forward to his future contributions.

So many wise speeches have been made that the task of responding is daunting. I am very conscious of the risk of turning wise thoughts and important principles into clichés by repeating them through poorer words than were used by the original speakers. We have all been touched by these events.

Some noble Lords may have heard a young Englishman speaking on Radio 4 this morning. He was on the 70th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Centre when the first plane hit the north tower. He succeeded in escaping. His name is Mike Shilaker; he and his family are close friends of our family. Many work colleagues who were with him at the time have not survived; we are delighted that he did.

It seems that there were many more British casualties in this incident than in any one of the Northern Ireland terrorist incidents of the past 30 years. As the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, reminded us, casualties in Northern Ireland over those 30 years amounted to over 3,000. There are more—people of many nations—on the New York casualty list. That is not accident or collateral. The main chosen target was not an institution of the United States Government but the World Trade Centre where people of many nations are present every day.

I hope that the coming together of parties and faiths in this debate will be mirrored by a coming together of the nations and faiths in the world to tackle the problem. From some of the reactions around the world, there is good reason to believe that that might be so. It may prove important, too, that these incidents happened in New York where the United Nations meets. Leading diplomats of every country serving at the United Nations, like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for our country, saw what happened. They shared at first hand a few blocks down Manhattan the shock and horror but also the wonderful spirit shown by the firemen and ordinary people in response to the events.

In this international context our own Government will support the United States in every way they can, particularly in the vital intelligence field, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Park. We have been on the receiving end of terrorism and have valued the support we have had in our own struggle to preserve the democratic decision-making process. However, as has emerged from the debate, the difficulty is to know what to do: whether to fight terrorism while preserving freedom; to fight it while preserving our values, not just using greater force; and whether to do so in a way which will not simply create more martyrs and more hatred. Therefore, we should not speak or act without clear evidence to show to the world who was responsible. We should certainly not brand whole nations because of the acts of a few, even if those few are in power in those countries.

From our own experience in the Second World War and numerous examples since, including IRA attacks and other terrorist incidents, we know that bombing does not weaken the resolve of the bombed people. On the contrary, it increases it. We must bear that in mind when considering the incidents and our response to them. We can see from the recent experience of other nations that the attempt to crush people by overwhelming disproportionate force breeds more hatred and more suicide bombers. We need to win the hearts and minds of the people of these countries if we are to win this war.

Several noble Lords have mentioned hatred of the Americans. I hope that the scale and horror of these attacks will help us to gain sympathy for the Americans. A week ago, who would have thought that we would see Yasser Arafat giving blood for wounded Americans? I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Marlesford and others about Palestine. Giving blood has not proved as necessary as it might have been because a special feature of this tragedy is that there are relatively few wounded in comparison to the number of dead.

Above all, we must remember, as many have said, that suicide and the killing of civilians in war are against the teachings of Islam. Blaming all Muslims or all Arabs is no more sensible than blaming all Catholics or all Irish people for the IRA. However, we know how hard we have had to struggle to avoid that after various violent incidents that we have suffered. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, reminded us of the situation in the 17th century.

Most Muslims condemn these attacks and many Muslims will be among the dead. More than ever, we need the support of the Muslim people and Muslim governments to identify and to deal with these terrorists. I welcome what the Prime Minister said in his Statement and what many noble Lords have said about Muslims in the course of the debate.

I also commend the speech of my noble friend Lord Elton. He and other noble Lords have shown how difficult it will be to drain the reservoir of hatred. It will involve difficult decisions and cool judgment. Like others, I am encouraged by the measured statements of President Bush and Secretary of State Powell. I believe that they have been wise in what they have said and in their approach.

Of course, suicide attacks are the most difficult type of terrorism with which to deal. Much of our current defence against terrorism rests on deterrent. It is based on the proposition, "If you shoot at us we will shoot back" or "We will bring you to justice and lock you up for a long time". Neither approach works against suicide bombers. By definition, when suicide bombers kill, the murderers cannot be brought to justice because they are dead. We all know how much more difficult it is to identify and convict the planners, the backers and the godfathers behind the terrorists. We also know of the difficulties of the legal definition of terrorism and of the support of terrorism. We discussed all those matters at some length not so long ago when debating the Terrorism Bill, which is now the Terrorism Act.

Today it is easy to set out principles but to put them into practice will be a long job. We in this country are already accused of harbouring terrorists. Listening to the speech of my noble friend Lady Cox, it is clear exactly why. She set out the matter in detail. The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, spoke of that too.

We were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, of the difficulties of controlling immigration, asylum seekers and so on, while keeping our cherished freedoms and sticking to our international agreements. The same kind of considerations apply in every country. Each country has to deal with them in the light of its geography and its heritage.

We shall have to face difficult decisions over a long time because this will be a long, hard process. Today, we must resolve to stick with it, to build up the maximum number of allies in the world and to fight for democracy by methods that preserve and reinforce our values so that this new century does not continue as it has begun with such horror and destruction.

4.4 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

My Lords, it falls to me to close this debate on the tragic events of this extraordinary week that all of us who have lived through them will not forget for a very long time. I begin by thanking all noble Lords who have spoken today. All of them bring to the debate their own expertise, their own backgrounds and their own experience. A number of noble Lords have held the highest offices of state and others have been extremely senior diplomats and civil servants. Many have some kind of military experience and others have none but have their own experiences of life in the round. It is that combination of expertise and experience that makes such debates in this House so compelling. This debate has been no exception.

Perhaps I may immediately mention the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. We all knew that when he came to this House he would bring a unique combination of practical defence, political and parliamentary experience going back over many years. We looked forward to his contribution. I am quite certain that he did not wish to make his maiden speech in a debate of this kind; no one wished for such a debate. But I am sure that I speak for the whole of the House in saying that it was absolutely appropriate that with his background he made a speech in this sombre debate. His speech was memorable; all noble Lords who heard it know that. We look forward to hearing him speak in this House on many occasions and on many subjects.

However fine they are, words are unequal to the task of conveying the sense of shock and sorrow which was felt by so many people across the world. The whole House has expressed its unanimous view. Its thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed and injured by these acts of barbarism.

I know that many in the House have already followed the Leader of the House and my noble friend Lady Symons in describing in the most moving terms their sense of personal revulsion at these inhuman acts. I identify myself with those sentiments in the strongest of terms. They are the view of the House. It is only right that the first response of the House has been to comfort the injured and share the burden of the people grieving for those lost in this disaster and of the many, on both sides of the Atlantic, who still do not know what has become of lost ones.

The closeness of our links with the United States—the interchange of people and commerce, the commonality of values and ideas—has meant that the sense of shared pain has been particularly keen in this country. For those in the defence community, this has been especially so following the attack on the Pentagon, about which the noble Lord, Lord Roper, spoke a few moments ago. Every member of the Armed Forces of this country must have been thinking constantly about friends and colleagues in Washington. The Armed Forces of our two countries have trained together, exercised together and over the past 60 years and more have repeatedly fought alongside each other. That is a shared experience which is unique and a source of immense pride on both sides—and on ours in particular today.

Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that the Secretary of State for Defence has spoken to his counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, to express his solidarity and support and to offer whatever help we can, along with our NATO allies. We are united, of course, in our determination to bring those responsible to justice. I am aware, and the House would like to know, that the Chief of Defence Staff and other senior military personnel have spoken to their counterparts to express their shock and sympathy. The Ministry of Defence has offered to provide a wide-ranging package of assistance, including specialist search personnel, equipment and forensic experts.

I should like to join with others—it cannot be said too often—in paying tribute to the dedication, professionalism and self-sacrifice of all those men and women in America's emergency services, of whom we have seen and heard so much this week. Their response has been nothing less than heroic in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. I am sure that the House believes that they represent the best qualities of the American people: courage, humanity and compassion. They can be summed up in the phrase "plain humanity"—which is quite beyond the comprehension of the petty, stunted minds of those who organised and executed this indiscriminate and brutal attack.

This was no natural disaster, no event of nature beyond the control of man. This was cold-blooded, calculated murder. It was a vicious attack on the United States by a tiny but determined group of fanatics. It was in a very real sense an attack on the whole civilised world and on our most preciously won values, which cost us so many lives in the previous century; namely, freedom, peace, democracy and justice. The response of the American people to the disaster offers the best possible evidence that they will not surrender those ideals. Their anger and bewilderment are only natural; but what has come over to all of us is their courage and their huge determination to see that justice will win through.

I am sure that the message sent today by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary is supported by everyone here. It is that we shall stand resolutely behind our friends and allies. We can and will defend our people and our values against acts of terror, in whatever form they take.

This was not a debate in which many questions were asked of the Front Bench. I am grateful for that, because it would not have been appropriate. It was appropriate, however, to raise some questions and I shall attempt briefly to answer one or two of them.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, for his specific questions about airlines. I choose my words carefully. On the specific point, Israeli airlines indeed operate a policy of locking the flight deck door and not opening it during the flight, irrespective of threats. As to other airlines, I shall write to the noble and learned Lord and place a copy of my letter in the Library. Whatever the policy, it may be that in those terrible minutes leading up to the fatal crashes appalling incidents were taking place in the aircraft. Not until a full inquiry by the United States' authorities has taken place shall we be able to piece the picture together. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be patient. I shall write to him in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, raised the question of insurance policies. The Government are, of course, well aware of the issue. The noble Lord will understand that it is one of many complex legal issues arising from this outrage that will need to be resolved. We have it very much in mind.

We in this country have had extensive experience of terrorism over many years. We have developed some of the world's best counter-terrorist expertise and capabilities. Our preparations include a raft of robust contingency plans for responding to a wide range of terrorist threats. These plans are well prepared, regularly exercised, tested, reviewed and refined in the light of changing domestic and international circumstances.

I heard with interest the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Her points have been taken on board and she will forgive me if I do not attempt to deal with them now. I shall write to the noble Baroness in due course. It would not be appropriate to go into detail on such plans now and I am sure that the House would not want me to do so. That would run all kinds of risks in relation to potential enemies and might restrain our future freedom to act appropriately to developing situations. However, I assure the House that, should this country be threatened in any way and at any time, we shall not hesitate to defend ourselves, and we have the means to do so.

Many parts of government are devoted to monitoring and responding to the potential terrorist threat. Of course there is military expertise, but there are also security and intelligence agencies, police, and scientific and other specialist advisers. We continue to learn from our own experience and that of our friends and allies abroad. Everything that can be learnt from this latest attack and added to the substantial base of expertise from which we work, will be.

Naturally, events in America triggered a precautionary response in this country which I should like to outline. I want to emphasise, as my noble friend Lady Symons did this morning, that at no time prior to the attack on America did we have any indication that a specific threat to the United Kingdom existed. Nevertheless, our response was immediate. The police, who quite rightly take the lead in responding to any such incident, have been, as the House would expect, prompt, thorough and effective. Over the past few days they have provided advice and reassurance to many people concerned about the threat of direct action in this country. However, I must reinforce the message which the police have given, that while we should all be vigilant, we should not allow the events of the past week to damage or undermine our day-to-day way of life. That would really be to give some kind of victory—even substantial victory—to the terrorists. It must be business as usual.

Police patrols have been intensified on the streets of London and all police forces have been put on full alert. This heightened level of alertness will continue throughout the weekend and for as long as is considered necessary.

I was extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for his remarks about his experience relating to the information centre. The noble Lord's speech was extremely moving. We are particularly grateful for his compliments about the information service. We are grateful to the noble Lord for saying publicly that it is doing a very good job.

Other government departments, notably the Home Office and the Department of Health, have also been active in the joint effort to increase preparedness. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions co-ordinated the National Air Traffic Service to facilitate the return of aircraft to airports following the closure of the United States' airspace.

The Ministry of Defence, as one would expect, has also been heavily involved. We offered the civil authorities access to our unique assets and capabilities. A number of military airfields and their facilities were prepared in case of emergency landings. Military personnel were also put on standby in case they were needed to assist in the guarding of airports alongside the police. Similarly, ground-based air defence assets were also placed at a higher readiness state should they be required to guard economic, governmental and strategic assets.

Throughout the United Kingdom, air defence aircraft of the Royal Air Force are constantly at a state of high readiness. Their role is to deter, deflect, and, in the last resort, to destroy any threat from the skies.

As we have heard, on Wednesday NATO invoked Article 5. The crucial part of that article was read to the House this afternoon. The NATO allies of the United States therefore stand ready to provide whatever assistance may be required. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to pay a tribute to our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who really, in some ways, by his leadership of NATO in these difficult days has done no harm at all to the reputation of this House. I believe that the House would want a tribute to be paid to him.

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said earlier, the murder of British people in New York is no different from their murder here at home. Murder is murder. The United Kingdom has both an interest and an obligation to provide assistance to the United States, to help bring those responsible to account and to remove the threat that terrorists pose to the whole international community. That assistance has begun. There has been close contact between relevant government agencies in both countries. The Metropolitan Police are in close touch with their colleagues in the New York Police Department. The Treasury and the Bank of England have been in close contact with the Federal Reserve. We are already sharing information that may be useful to the United States' authorities in their search for those responsible.

The House has heard what we are doing on a diplomatic front. We are also examining the military contribution that the UK could make in the event of any requests from the United States to assist in bringing to account those who have organised, abetted and incited these acts. However, as I know the House will appreciate, it would not be appropriate t o provide any details of such options at this time.

It is now three long days since the events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and we must continue to live with their impact. We are not complacent; we have taken sensible precautions, but we will not be deflected from our purpose. We will continue to pursue our normal lives and fulfil our full responsibilities at home and overseas. We must not forget that, with our allies, we act as a real force for good around the world, and we must continue to do so.

That is why, for example, our Armed Forces will continue their important work in Macedonia, which, as elsewhere in the Balkans, is aimed at bringing peace and stability to that region. The arms collection work is a vital part of the peace agreement between the Macedonian political parties. The National Liberation Army has handed in a significant number of weapons to Task Force Harvest, and the Macedonian Parliament has passed a first vote in favour of the settlement. I can tell the House that the second phase of weapons collections has now been completed. It went well, and it is vital that all sides maintain the positive approach to the process that we have seen so far.

We remain committed to enhancing our close relationship with friends in the Islamic world. The House will be aware that we are preparing to undertake exercise Saif Sareea in Oman—the largest exercise of British Armed Forces in the Gulf for many years. We have no plans to call off that exercise. We will not be deflected from maintaining the effectiveness of our Armed Forces at the highest possible level; nor will we be deflected from demonstrating our solidarity with our many friends in the Islamic world. I pay tribute to the steadfastness of all those in the Gulf region who have expressed their sympathy and outrage following the events of Tuesday. Now is clearly the time for all nations to show where they stand.

We know that the attacks on our American friends were an attack on our values, and those are values that are shared across the civilised world. Those attacks simply cannot be tolerated, even by a tolerant society. Those values are not divided by religion, creed or race—let alone by political party—and they will not be overcome by barbarism, arrogance or tyranny. The depth and breadth of the condemnation and disgust that has been expressed by nations all round the world—and which, if I may say so, has been demonstrated by the unanimity of view in this House—is an indication of the level of the evil and horror of what we witnessed. It should also have brought home—let us hope that it has—to the perpetrators of this crime, and to those who give them active or passive support, the world's resolve and determination to bring them to justice. Our message—the House's message and the Government's message—is that those who carry out such acts of evil will not deter us from what is just and right.

Before the debate closes, perhaps I may read the letter that my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House has written to the President of the Senate, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives—a letter that was referred to this morning, and which has now been written. To those two eminent Congressmen, he writes: I am writing, at the unanimous wish of the House of Lords, to express to the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America the grief we all feel at your great loss. There was universal condemnation of the pitiless cruelty visited upon you; but also a deep well of affection and admiration for the people and institutions of the United States. I am enclosing a copy of the Lords Hansard recording our debate on 14 September on the occasion of the emergency recall of Parliament".

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may express the gratitude of this side of the House for the Leader of the House's agreement to the suggestion of my noble friend, and for the excellent terms of the letter. We expected no less, but they are excellent.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes past four o'clock.