§ [Relevant Documents: Seventh Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2001–02, HC 384, and the Government's response thereto, Cm 5589]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Woolas.]2.30 pm
§ Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
It gives me great pleasure to open this debate on the seventh report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, "Foreign Policy Aspects of the War Against Terrorism". It is vital that the parliamentary dimension of the subject be given high priority and it is unfortunate that a similar debate has been timetabled this afternoon in the Chamber. I understand that at least one of my colleagues intends to deliver the same speech both here and there—a speech, I understand, that he was not called to give during our party conference.
I am reminded that today's date has real significance and relevance to our topic. It was on 31 October 1971 that an IRA bomb exploded in London's Post Office tower. We in the United Kingdom have had long experience of terrorism in our cities and are well aware of the nature of the threat, the ruthlessness of the terrorist and our own vulnerability. It was, perhaps, the belated recognition of their own vulnerability that has coloured the debate in the United States since 11 September 2001 and, some would say, has had a disproportionate influence on priorities as if that date were year zero.
Clearly, terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but 11 September marked a defining moment. The world witnessed a most audacious form of terrorism on an unprecedented scale, the goal being mass destruction and casualties. There is much debate about the extent to which the world changed on 11 September, but change it did. We were awakened to new realities and a new form of threat. A new kind of response was necessary. Even today, we learn of arrests in Sydney and Perth in Australia. The Italian deputy Prime Minister told me last week of arrests in Italy. There are outbreaks in peaceful Singapore. It is a worldwide phenomenon.
The war against terrorism is unlike any previous war. Therefore, it was right that the Foreign Affairs Committee put this at the top of our agenda. Indeed, we propose that the inquiry will continue. We hope to produce another report to the House before the end of this year and thereafter to continue with different facets of the same problem. The timeliness of the debate hardly needs mentioning after the outrages in Yemen, Kuwait and Bali, the Moscow theatre disaster and the revelation in the Hamburg court in the past few days of the link between the pilots on 11 September and some of the Chechen rebels. The report provides a platform for what I hope will be a wider debate.
324WH How did the Committee carry out its inquiry? Obviously, we built on previous work in the last Parliament on weapons of mass destruction and in the first Session of this Parliament on British-US relations, which was debated here in Westminster Hall. That illustrates the importance of continuity in the work of Select Committees. We began our inquiry just after 11 September. We visited Washington and New York, where I had the privilege of laying a wreath at ground zero. The role of the Prime Minister at that time and since has been much appreciated. We made further visits to the United States in March and two weeks ago we were in New York and Washington where we met all the relevant Departments and senior members of Congress such as Senator Biden, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar, the leading Republican and Congressman Porter Goss, who heads the Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives. We also discussed the topic during meetings with the Spanish and Danish presidencies and with the Turkish Government and during informal meetings with individuals, including Mr. Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah, both of Afghanistan, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our ambassador in New York and Mr. John Bolton, arms control director in the State Department.
We heard oral evidence from academic and other experts that is set out in the report, which was published in June. As with all the reports of the Foreign Affairs Committee, it was unanimous. It is not the Committee's last word on the subject. The Government's response, which was published at the end of August, was generally positive, but issues of contention remain between the Committee and the Government, which this debate may help to resolve.
It would not be helpful for me to go step by step through the Committee's 43 recommendations and key findings as I shall cover most in the course of my speech. It may be helpful to draw attention to one or two of the more significant recommendations. For example, the report states in paragraph (hh):We recommend that the Government propose a deadline for Iraqi compliance with the UN Security Council ResolutionsIn their reply in August, the Government stated that they would be giving further consideration to that recommendation, which has now been taken up within the United Nations.
Paragraph (kk) of the report states:We recommend that the Government follow the precedent which it set in the period leading up to military action in Afghanistan, and publish the fullest possible documentation".Prior to the debate during the recall of Parliament on 24 September, a dossier relating to weapons of mass destruction was published. Paragraph (qq) ends on the following note:But to 'know thine enemy' is not enough. We also need to determine how the conditions that have contributed to the development of terrorism can be removed, or at least reduced.The answers to those questions will provide a far safer world than even the best intelligence and preparedness can provide. As the war against terrorism proceeds, this country and its coalition allies must seek out these answers and learn about and deal sensitively with the causes of terrorism—to coin a phrase, with "terrorism and the cause of terrorism."
What developments have there been since the publication of the report in June? We have continued our inquiry as a Committee. Since September we have 325WH had two meetings with the Foreign Secretary, meetings again with academics, lawyers and former diplomats and also have had a session on a related matter—the biological and toxic weapons convention.
We visited the United States from 13 to 18 October. Since then it is fair to say in the context of that war that there have been a number of setbacks and some progress. The setbacks have included the atrocities that I outlined earlier—the oil tanker in the Yemen, the attacks on US marines in Kuwait, Bali and now Moscow—all following what purported to be a call to the faithful, the extremists, from bin Laden and al-Jazeera.
So far as Indonesia is concerned, the writing had been on the wall for some time. It had been recognised that it was a failing state and many warnings had been given. It is perhaps only after Bali that the Indonesian Government have begun to take some serious action against the extremists in their midst by arresting Mr. Bashir, who is alleged to be the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and cracking down on the work of a number of those extremists. A number are Arabs who are said to have linkage with al-Qaeda, in that they harbour al-Qaeda terrorists and train with them. As we well know, the nature of al-Qaeda is such that it does not hand out membership cards.
Among the setbacks has been the continued negative attitude of the United States Administration to arms-control treaties. That was best illustrated recently by their response to the protocol on the BTWC, and it does not fit easily with the leadership of the US in the fight against terrorism.
On the side of progress, by far the best example of positive regime change in the past year and a half is Afghanistan. However, it must be fully supported, as there are still real concerns about that country. Indeed, an assassin's bullet a month or two ago might have fundamentally set back the progress that had been made. The key questions remain, such as how we can spread beyond Kabul the stabilising effect of the international security assistance force.
There is also a funding problem, in that the international community has made grand declarations, but has not been ready to follow them up with money. Writing this week in the Washington Post, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the Foreign Minister, made the plea that at least $10 billion was needed for reconstruction work in the next five years. It is hoped that, bit by bit, Afghanistan will turn into a successful model of our campaign against terrorism and extremism.
I need hardly say that the position of women in Afghanistan has been radically transformed. I welcome to the Chamber a number of my hon. Friends who have been playing a leading part in respect of the enhancement of the position of women in that country.
It is also fair to say that there has been some progress in dealing with terrorist suspects. A trial of a suspected terrorist is taking place in Hamburg, and Abu Qatada has been arrested in the United Kingdom. In addition, at least some of the Guantanamo bay prisoners have been released. Obviously, those who are responsible for the attacks must be brought to justice.
326WH The British Government's response to the threat from weapons of mass destruction has been largely positive. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced in July a commitment of up to $750 million over 10 years to the G8 global partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. We have also made an initial voluntary contribution of £250,000 to the International Atomic Energy Agency protection against nuclear terrorism fund.
The United Nations counter-terrorism committee has made significant progress. Indeed, no body other than the UN could have done this task. We have heard glowing tributes to the work of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our ambassador to the UN in New York and our permanent representative, in chairing that committee. It has already received reports from 174 member states and five others. Those that have not replied have tended to be small states, perhaps without the administrative capacity to do the work. Those deficiencies will be identified and there will be an attempt, region by region, to supply the necessary assistance in, for example, combating money laundering. The review of those that have completed their questionnaires will continue.
What happens now? Obviously, the war against terrorism is far from over. No clearly defined end is in sight. In the war against terrorism, there will be no surrender of an enemy, victory parades or peace document to be signed. This is not war in the conventional senses, but more like a war on drugs, AIDS or poverty. Some academic experts are wary of using the word "war" in this context because of the international legal implications. Professor Greenwood, for example, pointed out in an article for Chatham House that the war against terrorism is understandable in political terms, but should not be understood to refer to the concept of war in international law. For him, "armed conflict" is more apposite.
The immediate question is Iraq, which I anticipate will figure prominently in the debate. We are at a turning point, awaiting the outcome of the UN deliberations on the draft resolution. I understand that a breakthrough could occur within the next day or so. If not, it could be put back until after the mid-term congressional elections next week. Clearly, other members are deeply anxious about an easy trigger mechanism to war: hence the case for referral back to the Security Council before any decision on war is taken. Phrases such as "serious consequences" and "material breach" should be examined carefully in the light of how they have been used in the past.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has visited Washington yet again. Some members of the Security Council are concerned about the number of such visits. Did my right hon. Friend hear the former UN arms inspector, Bill Tierney, admitting, when interviewed on Radio 4 on 22 October, to working as a spy for the Pentagon intelligence wing by collecting information on suitable targets? Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that that should not happen again? We must have a genuine inspection team, free from the undue influence of the Pentagon.
§ Donald Anderson
I did not hear that particular interview. I know that the United Nations Monitoring, 327WH Verification and Inspection Commission has largely learned the lessons of the United Nations Special Commission, but UNMOVIC must have the relevant technical expertise. Sadly, and to be realistic, much of that expertise comes through the defence establishments of individual Governments. That is part of the dilemma. I have heard similar allegations in the past. I have also heard that Dr. Blix is highly respected and is no one's puppet. When he appeared before the Security Council earlier this week, he said that a new resolution would substantially help him to fulfil his task. We should take what he said seriously.
Developments over the summer include military preparations and the UN debate of 12 September. That was particularly significant because of President Bush's speech, which was positively influenced by the Prime Minister in two respects: first, the President and others were persuaded to take the UN track and, secondly, linkage, however indirect, with the middle east peace process was accepted. Progress was made in those respects.
The UK dossier was published on 24 September. It broadly came to the same conclusions as the International Institute for Strategic Studies and CIA dossiers. The international community largely agrees about the threat that Saddam Hussein poses. Disagreement rests on how imminent that threat is and how best to deal with it.
Longer-term issues include serious questions about the role of international law. If the international community is to move forward on an agreed and proper basis, it must be set fully within the parameters of international law. Complex questions are posed by the publication on 20 September of the US national security strategy. It eloquently sets out the case for pre-emptive self-defence—or, as the hon. Member for Meirionnydd N ant Conwy (Mr Llwyd) might say, borrowing from Welsh rugby, "Getting your retaliation in first."
With the development of chemical and biological weapons, must this concept of imminence and imminent threat in international law be construed in a very different way? There are worrying implications if the doctrine of pre-emptive defence were extended widely. What sort of licence would it give to China in respect of Taiwan, or to India or Pakistan in respect of their dispute over Kashmir? These and other questions raised in our report lead to the question whether international law has in some ways been left behind by current developments and needs to be revisited. In Guantanamo bay, for example, the rights under the Geneva convention had to be re-examined in terms of the non-state actors and the irregulars who are there. What is the appropriate response of international law? International law, in essence, has been the law between nations. Now, so much of the threat comes not from individual nations but from within nations and irregular groups that can be used by nations for their own ends. It is a moot question whether the current system provides an adequate framework. There is no question of scrapping it, but of seeking to re-examine it and adapting it to the changed environment. Having said that, I am, alas, sceptical about the readiness of the international community seriously to consider these questions.
328WH Another factor, of course, has been the growth in anti-western hostility. There may be no response on the street in areas such as Cairo because of the strong security system there, but it may well be on the streets of cities in western countries. There has been a rise in violence and extremism, which claims to be religiously motivated. I am talking not about the overwhelming number of moderate followers of Islam, but about the extremist groups who are bent on a jihad and for whom no serious negotiation is possible. Indeed, one of the world's most respected scholars of Islam, Professor John Esposito, who is respected equally in the west and in the Muslim world, wrote in his recently published book, "Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam", that the 21st century will be dominated by forces of globalisation and by the global encounter of two major religions, both of which will strain relations between the west and the rest of the world. We need to develop clear strategies to deal with those tensions, and it is imperative that we tackle the growing gap between rich and poor and reduce the potential for misunderstanding between different cultures and faiths as we seek to co-exist. Global engagement and co-operation are the only way forward.
It is not just war or the threat of war that is relevant to terrorism. We must also examine the Doha round, for example, as well as education in Pakistan and Indonesia. The education that madrassahs provide leaves young people wholly unprepared for the modern world.
§ Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
My right hon. Friend referred to two religions, but is it not a fact that this conflict has the potential to involve people in other religions? Even in this country, there are conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. There are also conflicts in the middle east. We must be very clear that we stand against all forms of extremism from wherever they come and from whatever religion. It is dangerous to talk about crusades, a clash of civilisations and conflict between two camps. It is much more complicated than that.
§ Donald Anderson
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Professor Esposito explicitly repudiates Samuel Huntingdon's thesis in relation to a clash of civilisations. Although it is far more complex, as my hon. Friend rightly said, the particular conflicts mentioned by the learned professor relate mostly to militant Islam throughout the world.
§ Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the call for the international community to come together to tackle international terrorism arose only after the appalling events of 11 September, when citizens of 30 sovereign states perished in that obscene attack? Until then, I was not aware of any calls, certainly not from my country, that there should be some form of attack by the international community on international terrorism, even after the appalling and equally death-creating terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, certain parts of India, and in Pakistan. I hope that it is not the case, as certain elements in our own society say, that we as a Government care more about white euro-centric deaths than any others
§ Donald Anderson
The point that my hon. Friend makes is partly true. There is, however, a fundamental 329WH difference from the terrorism that occurred in Sri Lanka, for example, the Punjab, the Basque country or Ireland, because those terrorists had limited objectives. They operated almost entirely within one regional context. The difference that emerged on 11 September was that not only were the victims from all countries, but the aims were far wider. There had been a degree of complacency and the events on 11 September were, perhaps, a wake-up call, but those events were different in kind from the previous extremism that we had faced.
§ Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)
May I take the right hon. Gentleman back to something he said a moment ago? He made the point that international law does not easily cover the detention of people in Guantanamo bay. In paragraph 144 of the report, he calls on the Government, implicitly of the United States,to uphold standards of international law and … ensure that prisoners are tried in full accordance with internationally accepted norms of justice.Is it his view, and that of his Committee, that those standards are being met, following the detention of people without trial for over a year, or are there recommendations that do not yet appear in the report, which he would make to the UK and the US Governments about their future conduct?
§ Donald Anderson
The Committee did not come to any conclusion about the current methods of detention. Certainly, there was widespread concern about the methods of transporting those individuals, and the initial means of detention, illustrated by those photographs, which were extraordinarily damaging in public relations terms. The British Government have been concentrating on the seven British subjects who are still there, to ensure that, as far as possible, they are treated humanely, that our consular officials have access to them, and that, as far as is practicable, proper legal safeguards are applied.
No one can doubt the threat that the world faces from terrorism today. Last year, more than 3,000 people were killed and in the past few weeks, more than 300 people lost their lives. We have made some progress in the past year, but there is still a long way to go. The war on terrorism may have no end, and will certainly take a long time.
If we were to jump 10 years hence, where would we be in the campaign? Will we have reduced greatly the threat from terrorism or will we be fighting a rearguard action? Can the swamp ever be totally drained? I do not believe so, but I believe that substantial progress can be made. The greatest challenges may well lie ahead, and the stakes are raised by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and particularly of biological weapons.
In some ways, we are in uncharted territory, but we can make significant progress with the existing body of international law as our starting point, and with sufficient international co-operation, focus and commitment, not just in the narrow fight against terrorism, but in poverty alleviation and in the areas that help the terrorists to thrive. Will the international community now get its act together? Many lives will depend on that.
330WH I assure those hon. Members here who are not on the Foreign Affairs Committee that we take the matter seriously and will ensure that it remains high on the agenda of that Committee.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
I commend the Committee on the breadth of its report, particularly for its justification of what the international coalition has done in Afghanistan in response to the events of 11 September. Since then, there have been more recent acts of Islamic terrorism—the atrocity in Bali, others throughout Indonesia, the Washington sniper and the Chechen hostage taking in Moscow—and they demonstrate the varieties of such terrorism.
Although the international community continues to respond with appropriate initiatives, as the Secretary of State said in the closing paragraphs of his response to the report, the roots of terrorism can be eliminated in the long term only by spreading the benefits of globalisation, eradicating poverty, improving human rights, adhering to the rule of international law and promoting democracy and good governance.
I want to make three points in response to the Committee's conclusions and recommendations. First, fully support the conclusion in paragraph (s), which isthat the Government must strive to uphold standards of international law"—to ensure that detained Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects are given a fair trial—in full accordance with internationally accepted norms of justice".That is why I appealed to the Prime Minister at Question Time earlier this year to convince President Bush that the right place to try international terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden, were he to be alive and arrested, is the International Criminal Court, and not behind closed doors in a military tribunal, as the Americans proposed.
The Rome statute of 1998 was one of the most important events of the last century. It put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. I hope that it will be amended, as soon possible, to include terrorist activity in its jurisdiction. It is a tragedy that the United States and Israel have refused to ratify the Rome statute. I applaud the Government for the opportunities that they have taken to disabuse the United States of its fears. I am particularly surprised that, of all nations, Israel has chosen not to recognise the court, the forerunner of which was the Nuremberg tribunal that brought the Nazi leaders to justice, not least for their crimes against the Jewish people.
We in the House probably meet our American and Israeli counterparts more frequently than other parliamentarians. Many of us are members of the British-American group, and of the Friends of Israel within our respective parties. I am sorry that the Committee does not recommend that British politicians do more to convince members of Congress and the Knesset of the foresight, logic and wisdom of giving full support to the International Criminal Court.
331WH Secondly, I agree with paragraph (v), which says that the threat of terrorism requires us to press even more urgently for an end to the middle east conflict. Unfortunately, the Committee does not recommend any new initiatives in that respect I have said many times that the humanitarian situation in the 49 refugee camps run by UNWRA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in Palestine—the camps are some of the principal breeding grounds for terrorism and extremism in the world—can no longer remain unresolved. That will require a United Nations-sponsored plan, and the establishment of a fund for the permanent resettlement of refugees similar to that proposed by the Council of Europe in 1998 in resolution 1156. That appears to be much the same as what President Clinton proposed at Camp David. We also require an international conference on the middle east to be held as soon as possible and the final status negotiations to be resumed by the end of the year. That is what the Prime Minister called for at the Labour party conference in Blackpool last month. However, the Government's response to the Committee's report does not mention any of that. I hope that their policy on the middle east will be clarified today.
Finally, to return to the role that democracy and human rights can play in tackling the roots of terrorism, recommendation (g) calls on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office toprovide a full statement on EU-wide co-operation and progress in countering terrorism".It has done so in its response. However, a Europe that is wider and larger than the European Union exists, and it has responded to the threat of terrorism just as assiduously. The wider Europe has the potential to be more effective by co-ordinating 44 Governments, not just the 15 of the European Union. I refer, of course, to the Council of Europe, whose expertise in human rights is pre-eminent and whose continuing work on democratic structures and procedures continues to assist those who lack experience of them. All that is very relevant in countering terrorism.
I regret that the valuable work that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe carried out in response to 11 September and that was led by its rapporteur, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis), and its Committee of Ministers, has not been considered by the Committee. It is therefore ignored in the report and in the Government's response. Yet, the document entitled "Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight Against Terrorism", which was adopted by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in July, is a key reference for all those involved in the fight against terrorism.
The Council of Europe has a unique role to play in undermining the causes of terrorism by encouraging respect for human rights and by assisting secular and pluralist democracy. It plays that role by its member states seeking to provide solutions to internal conflicts that have been used to justify terrorism, and the most topical example is the Chechen issue. Whatever bravado the Kremlin displays following the Moscow tragedy, it knows that only a political solution can bring about a resolution for Chechnya.
332WH The Council of Europe rapporteur, Lord Judd, has been working assiduously and courageously in that context. The entire European Community and the United States, which accept that Chechnya must remain a member of the Russian Federation—we are all committed to that under the Helsinki Final Act—must now give full recognition and support to the work of Lord Judd and his joint working group on Chechnya as it is the only initiative that is under way to resolve the issue peacefully.
Since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the supporters of al-Qaeda have been hitting back from the 60 countries in which they exist in forms ranging from small cells to allied terrorist organisations to guerrilla groups. As well as Pakistan, the situations in north Africa, the central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, Indonesia and the Philippines are of particular concern. Both the European Union and the Council of Europe can exercise a particular influence in north Africa and central Asia, because countries in those regions have a European past and are keen for closer ties today. Co-operation agreements with them, and the status of observer member, offer positive and practical avenues of influence.
We should give further thought to how the successes and best practices of the three European regional institutions—the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe—can be applied to the regional institutions that already exist elsewhere, such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations, to which the Philippines and Indonesia belong, and the new African Union. That regional dimension will be the subject of a two-day debate in the United Nations General Assembly on 20 and 21 November. In that debate, I expect that proposals by the Inter-Parliamentary Union to become the parliamentary dimension of the United Nations will be promoted and developed.
Following 11 September, President Bush was right to commit his country to eliminating all sources of terrorism and threat and we are right to support him, especially in those ways in which the British have particular experience. It may therefore be appropriate for the Foreign Affairs Committee, in the report on which the Chairman says it is about to embark, to consider how the regional dimension and the international parliamentary dimension, in which the British have great expertise, can be better harnessed to fight the war against terrorism.
§ 3.9 pm
§ Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)
I will not detain the Chamber long. I co-authored the report with other right hon. and hon. Members and I am pleased that it is before us. It is regrettable that our long parliamentary recess—it will be the last long recess—and the methods and rubrics of this place mean that it has taken us some time to get round to debating the report and the Government response. When one reads them, one realises how much water has flowed under the bridge since we prepared the report. Indeed, the Chairman and the Committee are about to publish a follow-up volume on the war against terrorism. Given the new disposition, I hope that the House authorities will allow us to begin our deliberations on key Select Committee reports more quickly than in the past.
333WH Before I discuss the details, I want to ask my hon. Friend the Minister to elaborate on the United Kingdom position on the 1995 terrorist outrage in Paris, for which two Algerians were sentenced to life in prison in Paris yesterday. I understand that a third member of the gang—if that is the correct term—is in the UK, but that he has not been extradited. I believe absolutely in the rule of law, and there may be good reasons why our court process has not allowed us to accede to the request from the Republic of France to extradite him. If things were the other way round, however, and we could not extradite from Paris someone wanted for an outrage in this country, Members of Parliament left, right and centre would be going up the wall, along with the press. An explanation needs to be put on the public record so that our good friends in France understand the position. If the impediment is administrative, rather than judicial, I hope that the Government will get a move on. This is not simply a matter of justice, and I well understand why some people might consider the UK rather hypocritical for expecting every Government to pull out every stop to combat terrorism and bring people to justice.
The more one thinks about the report and about current debates, the more one realises how wrong it is to merge the Iraq problem with the issue of terrorism and al-Qaeda. Both are, of course, extremely grave issues, but the first concerns the relationship between a state and the international community and is, as I shall explain in a moment, a matter of law enforcement. Terrorism, however, does not involve state boundaries or capital cities in which people can be bunkered and which one can seize. It is the biggest single threat to us all, and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who merge it with the issue of Iraq make a political, moral and legal mistake that prevents us from focusing on the matter properly.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to give us a position statement on the progress that has been made on a Security Council resolution on Iraq. I was somewhat disappointed that we did not get one from the Prime Minister yesterday, although he was not asked for one. Incidentally, one of the vacuous aspects of Prime Minister's Question Time is that no one asks the real questions, despite so much sterile, synthetic anger. Apparently, people are also pre-occupied with where hon. Members sit on such occasions; that appears to be extremely important. However, what hon. Members want are facts and answers, and I hope that my hon. Friend will give us some clarification on Iraq.
I also think that the United States—and ipso facto many other players—has made the mistake of becoming preoccupied with the debate over whether it would be lawful to invade Iraq in defence of the continent of north America. I frankly do not think that there is a legal basis. It is stretching matters and putting a construction on them that cannot be achieved in international law to justify making an armed intervention in Iraq on the basis that there is about to be an attack on the United States. I do not think that it can be justified in law, although I also think that it is bad politics.
We want to enhance the authority of the United Nations—that is what gives us the moral high ground As politicians, we should emphasise that. We want Iraqi compliance with international law. If we had been 334WH saying that earlier, there would be greater understanding and appreciation in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. If we had focused on those things—who knows?—the message might have got through to Baghdad in a different way.
I am deeply concerned about messages getting through. When we visited the committee in the United States with responsibility for foreign affairs, and when our Committee questioned witnesses, I asked whether there was a danger that Saddam Hussein had not been getting the message. I will elaborate on that. First, the issue is serious: he is threatened with armed intervention. Secondly, all the nonsense about regime change is off the agenda now. If he complies, we will not be in the business of regime change.
Incidentally, I think that one of the biggest political mistakes was for President Bush and others to go on about regime change, because it has no legal basis and it makes Saddam Hussein and his colleagues bunker down even more. I think that it was a bad mistake. Some witnesses have confirmed my fear that Saddam perhaps does not understand that we are after compliance and that we are not in the business of regime change as such.
If anybody thinks that that is surprising, I ask them to pause and consider the past century. The great problem for the United Kingdom was that so many of our adversaries did not understand that we meant what we said. The Kaiser to the colonels in Argentina did not understand that there would eventually have to be compliance, yet we had greater communication with them than with Saddam Hussein.
We recently marked the anniversary of the Cuba missile crisis. President Kennedy—and for that matter Chairman Khrushchev—were much more sensible than the people with whom we now have to deal in Baghdad. However, despite the megaphone rhetoric, Kennedy understood that it was necessary to send interlocutors and spell out that he meant business and that the key to unlocking the crisis without anybody being humiliated or there being massive loss of face was down a certain track. The history of how key people secretly went to Vienna and Moscow, and how lines of communications were kept open that allowed Khrushchev to climb down is now coming out. I fear that that is not happening now in relation to Saddam Hussein. True access to him is probably not being achieved, but I wonder whether that is actually being tried in the manner that I outlined.
§ Glenda Jackson
Surely the issue is that not only Saddam Hussein may be somewhat confused about the messages emanating from the present US Administration. I am as confused as everybody else. It is my perception that Iraq was originally highlighted as a terrible danger because it was one of the three nations in the axis of evil. We were then told that it had to be attacked because it flouted UN resolutions. We were then told that there had to be a regime change, on the ground of affording human rights to the citizens of Iraq. We are now being told that, in effect, there has to be a new resolution. However, the United Nations is now becoming the enemy in the frame so far as the US Administration is concerned, because it will not propose the kind of resolution that they want. One gets the impression that the US Administration want a war with 335WH Iraq, regardless of what the United Nations does. What is particularly disturbing for this Chamber is that that seems to be what the British Government want too.
§ Andrew Mackinlay
Heaven forbid that I should defend the position of the British Government, but if nobody else will, perhaps I will have a stab at it. My levity belies the serious point that the communication of this Labour Government—who are often criticised for their reputation for spin and presentation—has been parlous in the case of the big picture. They have not put over the critical issue, which is the enforcement of mandatory resolutions of the United Nations. That should have been the message over and again. I regret that some Ministers have not focused on that—but there is still time. That message, and not the nonsense about regime change that they were in the careless habit of uttering some months ago, would reassure my hon. Friend and others, not to mention my constituents and me. There has been a lack of clarity about the Government's intentions and objectives, and about what our case is.
My hon. Friend's intervention allows me to reiterate something that I said at the Labour party conference. Some people listen, but do not hear. Our greatest chance of avoiding conflict has been the result of the Prime Minister's work on the international scene. Even since the conference season, that has been demonstrated by the fact that the position of the United States has shifted weekly in favour of obtaining a further resolution in Security Council. The Foreign Affairs Committee has, from the outset, attached enormous importance to that. We have said so many times and have questioned the assertion that there will be an attack on the continent of America. Clearly, that is nonsense.
If we obtain a Security Council resolution, when the history of these times comes to be written, a lot of credit will be given to the Government of the UK, and particularly to the Prime Minister. I have been described as independent. I am actually a loyal Labour party person. Independence does not mean knocking the Prime Minister every time. When he is right, I say so. In the Foreign Affairs Committee's report, he receives all-party commendation for going round the world. One or two people have criticised him for that in order to score points, but there is no greater duty for a British Prime Minister than to be engaged on the international scene. That is his primary function and he has not aggravated the grave situation by doing so. He has been able to counsel prudence and buttress Colin Powell, who is, in relative terms, a dove in his Administration, against the Rumsfelds and the Cheneys and, to some extent, the Bush clan, which has a score to settle with Saddam Hussein.
I shall always remember having been in the US State Department when somebody said that there is more battle experience among the doves in that Department than there is in the whole Defence Department. The Prime Minister has been able to buttress the arguments of the doves while keeping up the pressure on Saddam Hussein. We need his compliance and we need him to give unimpeded, meaningful access to the inspectors and to allow any arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that he has to be destroyed. We do not seek to disarm his regular army.
336WH That is my position on Iraq. I think that al-Qaeda and comparable terrorist organisations pose a great threat. Since 11 September 2001—notwithstanding some of the tragedies that have happened elsewhere—politicians,journalists and members of the public seem to have developed a false sense of security. I do not want to be alarmist, but I think that London and other major cities are under considerable threat. It will not necessarily involve an aeroplane flying into a tall building, but it might be something much more serious, which could dwarf the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington. We should renew our vigilance.
I raised the following matter in the House yesterday, and I raise it again today. In the documents that we have from the Government, they keep going on about security at our airports. That is right, of course, but nobody ever mentions our seaports, which are largely unpoliced. I know that because I represent more Thames river frontage than any other Member. The port of Tilbury is secure and has a little, dedicated and highly professional police force, but in many other wharfs along the river and the coastline of the United Kingdom there are no Home Office immigration or Customs and Excise people and no Home Office police force or police force of any kind. People can simply come in at those points.
We must consider the wretched crime of human trafficking, and the danger that materials might be brought in that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. There are technologies for dealing with such matters, but over the summer there was an incident, which has been hushed up, when radioactive material came through the port of Felixstowe and the technology responded but the human response failed. That material travelled many miles—funnily enough, to my constituency—before all the agencies engaged to find the lorry. Apparently, it was not a criminal act, but nevertheless some potentially dangerous nuclear material travelled all that way without being intercepted.
We need to get our act together. Our ports should have a dedicated ports police force, such those in other countries. Sometimes a coastguard fulfills the function. The Ports Canada police provide a very good model, and we used to have the British transport police in our seaports, but they were withdrawn. One or two ports, such as the one in my constituency, have a dedicated police force, but there should really be a proper police force in all our seaports to protect us against terrorism and against other criminal activities that take place in ports, especially human trafficking.
The final point that I wanted to make relates to the reference in the documents to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons—the OPCW. The dismissal of Mr Bustani, who was the head of that organisation, remains unexplained, but we know that it was done at the whim of the United States, because he had in some way aggravated the US. I note, too, that the United States pays that organisation's bills; there is obviously a correlation there. I am disappointed that our Government, along with others, seemed to acquiesce in the man's dismissal. No one has been able to give a true or legitimate criticism of his conduct. In fact, he was the subject of cruel slurs and innuendo, which were found to have had no substance. His dismissal was a political act, resulting from the fact that 337WH he had aggravated the United States, and not only was it unfair to him but it set a bad precedent for other comparable international organizations
Will my hon. Friend the Minister explain why this country supported Mr. Bustani's dismissal? My hon. Friend may not give us an explanation, but he needs to be careful that such behaviour does not become habitual with international organisations funded largely by the United States. Of course, I understand its position—it was annoyed that Mr. Bustani had done something to irritate it when it was paying for the organisation.
I hope that the House found the report useful and that we will have a discussion soon on the report soon to be published.
§ Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh)
A number of issues arise from the report, and as always with Select Committee reports, it raises more questions than it provides answers. I shall address three points, on which I hope the Minister will be able to shed further light, over and above the response from the Government.
First, I refer to paragraphs 8 to 26 of the report, which refer to the period before 11 September and are entitled "Why were the attacks not foreseen and prevented?" That is a key issue. It was not as though it was a bolt from the blue, as the previous activities of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were well documented throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Attacks on American embassies in the middle east and throughout Africa left many hundreds dead and many thousands more injured, so it was not exactly a new phenomenon. The plan behind the attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993 was to topple one of the towers into the other. It failed not because the intelligence and security forces discovered the plot, but only because the terrorists had not calculated correctly the very strong structure that supported those buildings.
Perhaps the most chilling attempt at international terrorism, which should have warned us that an attack such as that on the World Trade Centre in September last year was likely, was the 1995 plot to hijack no fewer than 12 American airliners and synchronise them to crash into the Pacific ocean, with the aim of killing 4,000 passengers. That plot was foiled only because it was uncovered by accident. There happened to be a fire in a building in Manila where the bombs were being prepared before being placed on the aircraft.
Clearly, there has been a catastrophic intelligence and security failure. Our American counterparts with whom we have spoken have readily admitted that, so I am surprised that the Government's response to our report fails to acknowledge a deficiency in our intelligence work. I understand the difficulties of penetrating such terrorist groups, and the problem of compromising the personal freedoms that we hold dear with the increased security necessary to protect us from terrorists. I also understand that the intelligence services have foiled many attempted attacks in the past decade that did not see the light of day.
When we are combating the new regime of terrorism in which the death of the terrorist is part of the plan, and in which maximum lethality—killing as many citizens as possible—is the target, however, we surely cannot spare 338WH any Government effort to protect our citizens abroad and the assets of our economy overseas. I would like the Minister to confirm that it is the prime objective of the Government, services and security forces to focus on protecting our citizens and assets overseas, as that is not especially clear in the response.
The second subject with which I want to deal is the conflict in the middle east. Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Centre, the Prime Minister said:now more than ever, we have reason not to let the middle east peace process slip still further, but if at all possible to reinvigorate it".>[Official Report, 14 September 2001; Vol. 372, c. 606.]As members of our Committee will remember, the Foreign Secretary told us in evidence thatthe conflict in the Middle East has unquestionably helped create a climate in which terrorists can both hide and breed.That is not surprising, given that Osama bin Laden made it clear that one of his objectives was to end the suffering of Palestinians.
It is important to remember the causality of the issue. Militant Palestinian groups have clearly said that their main aims are to end Israeli occupation and establish a Palestinian state. At the moment, in the events leading up to the crisis in Iraq, the response of the Arab states to our concern about Iraq's failure to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions is to point to Israel's failure to comply with resolutions that affect it. At the same time, it is equally correct to point out Palestinian failures to comply with those resolutions.
The United States has made its policy clear. It is to support a Palestinian state, support Israel within secure boundaries, and support each at peace with the other. But, as a previous American President would say, "Where's the beef?" We must look to the United States to take a lead as part of our foreign policy. We want positive and firm action to end the bloodshed in Palestine and Israel. It is vital that the US takes the initiative because current perception in the middle east is that US foreign policy is one sided to the detriment of the region's Arab populations. That fuels Osama bin Laden's demand for the removal of US influence from the middle east or, as he would say, "Banishing the invading infidel from Islamic lands." That lends the matter a new urgency.
At the same time, we need to focus our efforts on improving and strengthening relations with Arab and Muslim countries that are affected by international terrorism. Saudi Arabia is a case in point, as are other countries, such as Egypt. All those countries share characteristics. They experience massive demographic growth and social change, and contain archaic institutions that impede economic growth. Those who are educated are often denied jobs and become a new class in those countries: the educated poor. The Foreign Affairs Committee heard evidence that the greatest problem in the region is unemployment, not the fear of jihad or Sharia. The high level of popular discontent among those people increases the growth of anti-western groups. If one adds in the facts that public assembly and demonstration are banned in the repressive regimes of most of the countries and that a huge spurt in population growth is creating a new generation of economically excluded, disaffected and repressed young men and women, it is not surprising that recent statistics show that there has been a major 339WH increase over the past decade in the proportion of international terrorism attacks that are linked to quasi-religious concepts, as I call them.
The Government must make every effort to help the Islamic world address the social, economic and political conditions that cause the growth of extremism. The Government, in conjunction with our allies in the United States, must press for greater awareness that our interests and US interests are best served by playing a full part in international development in its widest sense. Irrespective of the Government's recent claims about stepping up our involvement, we will have to do far more if we are to tackle the causes of international terrorism as well as protect ourselves from its effects.
Hon. Members have spoken about the situation in Iraq. There is overwhelming concern throughout not only our individual constituencies, but the country as a whole, that we will be sucked into a war with Iraq as part of a coalition of two, with the United States as our partner. Any war, whatever the circumstances, must be the last resort and launched only when all other efforts have failed. The most important thing is that a war must have the backing of international law. I hope that the Minister can help us by stating clearly the Government's objectives. Will he confirm that we will abide by the decision of the Security Council of the United Nations on the resolutions on Iraq? Will the Government respect the need to protect the United Nations' integrity as the seat of international law? Is the pursuit of a new UN Security Council resolution a legal necessity or a political necessity?
Given Saddam Hussein's track record, do the Government really believe that the permanent destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stocks and its ability to manufacture them can be achieved without regime change? We only have to remember Saddam Hussein's record. When he was asked shortly after the Gulf war what mistakes he made in getting involved in the conflict, he said that his only mistake was to invade Kuwait before he had acquired nuclear weapons. That gives us a good insight into his mind. If we recognise, therefore, that Hussein's strategy is for regional dominance preserved by having weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against international intervention, we can start to understand the seriousness of the problem. What faith can the Government have that a new inspection regime will find all Iraq's WMD stocks, dismantle and destroy its manufacturing capabilities and ensure that WMD programmes are not restarted as soon as the inspectors tick the right boxes and leave the country? I do not suggest that there is an easy answer to the question. Nevertheless, I believe that, in the interests of the citizens of this country, the Government are responsible for giving us some answers to those questions.
Finally, I should like to deal with the war against terrorism. That key issue will be a problem for us for decades to come. We in the west must understand that we can no longer live by our own interests and promote our commerce, industry and foreign policy solely in our own interests. Unless we recognise that, the responsibilities that we have for the world at large, and the frustration and, often, humiliation that other cultures feel when they are left behind in the globalisation process, I am afraid that we will never find a satisfactory rapport with the wider world.
§ Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
About six years ago in this Room I launched a campaign called Indict, which was set up by several Iraqi opposition figures—now leading figures—and various other people who were interested in Iraq. That campaign was launched with the backing of all the great and the good: John Major, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, everybody hon. Members can think of throughout the world.
We had no money. A year went by, however, and the US Congress voted us money under the Iraq Liberation Act 1998. I found it rather interesting that Jesse Helms was one of the people behind that Act. That vote allotted a sum of money to Indict and that has come to us from the US Congress every year since then, although the control of the organisation rested firmly here. I want to make that quite clear, because yesterday in the Washington Post, there was a headline: "US would seek to try Hussein for war crimes."
"The article continued:The Bush administration is building cases against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and more than a dozen members of his inner circle who could be charged with crimes against humanity if the Iraqi government is toppled, according to U.S. officials.That shows the difference between the attitude of we who run Indict and the US Administration who fund us. We want to see Iraqi officials indicted before there is any regime change, because afterwards, if that ever takes place, I suspect that most of the people who we would have indicted would already have disappeared, in one way or another, from the surface of the earth.
I notice that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has recommended that the Government work with the United States to ensure that any action taken against Iraq, or any other state, in the war against terrorism conforms to internationl law. The Government say that they are happy to confirm their commitment to ensure that any action they take is in accordance with international law.
The United States press has, during the past few weeks and months, continually mentioned the possibility of indicting leading members of the Iraqi regime." An article appeared a few weeks ago in the New York Times, which said:The United States should launch an effort to prosecute Saddam for crimes against humanity. This would destabilize his regime at home, encourage more defections of Iraqi officials and military officers and increase the prospect of a coup that, in the best-case scenario, would render an invasion unnecessary.That idea is referred toin books by Richard Butlerand Kanan Makiya. Those who follow Iraqi history closely will know that Kanan Makiya is one of the leading Iraqi academics writing about Iraq. The article continues:Mr Makiya writes that the best way to topple an Iraqi leader is to make him lose face. As an example, he cites the Ottoman-era practice of the people of Takrit (Saddam's hometown) of seizing the governor for the area, humiliating him … and then releasing him unharmed.The Bush administration is interested in the idea of prosecuting Saddam,as were the Clinton Administration before them.
The Clinton Administration made life very difficult for our organisation; there was a difference of opinion in the State Department, with one group of officials pulling 341WH one way and one group pulling another. Mainly, the idea was to contain Saddam and not cause any upsets. Causing an upset would, of course, include indicting leading members of the regime. The US thinking, now as then, is that the prosecution should begin when Saddam is in custody, rather than before that. Why? I suspect that that thinking also applies to our Government, although I hope that the Minister has other information for me.
A US Administration official acknowledged that there might be an advantage in a pre-emptive indictment, and expressed the concern that a legal effort might detract from the task of regime change. That is one of the fundamental differences between the attitude of our Government and that of the US Government. That is a fair concern, but I am sure that we do not need reminding that in Yugoslavia, Milosevic was indicted when he was still in power, in 1999. The indictment was a factor that helped to result in his being ousted from power in 2000. In 2001, he was sent to The Hague for trial.
Firing lawyers at the regime would bolster, not weaken, our military options. It is a third option, and I think that it is one that will appeal to many in this country who are opposed to war but would like something to be done about the regime. Let me say what has been happening behind the scenes. One of our difficulties at Indict was due to our contract with the US, which did not want us to—in fact prohibited us from—publicise what we were doing in the US. That has not stopped us from publicising our actions in the United Kingdom.
Indict has presented evidence all of which was checked for quality by a leading British human rights lawyer—to the Attorney-General and prosecutors in five countries, including Norway. More than two years ago. I took the evidence to the Attorney-General of this country. Our Queen's counsel said that it would be possible, under the Taking of Hostages Act 1982, to prosecute leading members of the regime, including Tariq Aziz and others, for taking British nationals hostage during the build-up to the Gulf war in 1991.
We have located former hostages, acquired signed statements, and detailed the significant psychological damage done both to hostages and their families. We have documentation sent by Saddam Hussein to the UN. We have videotapes of Saddam Hussein meeting hostages and assuring them that they would be released when the attitude of their Government changed. We have testimony from politicians and senior Government officials from several countries who were present during negotiations, when it was made clear that the fate of those hostages depended on the actions of their Governments and that Tariq Aziz was a full participant in the policy of hostage taking.
Our QC says that our researchers at Indict have built up a formidable case. Under a judgment of the International Court of Justice in February this year, heads of state and Foreign Ministers are immune from prosecution while they remain in those positions. Tariq Aziz is no longer a Foreign Minister. Our QC believes that he should bemade to answer on charges of hostage taking contrary to section 1 of the Taking of Hostages Act 1982.342WH She says that there ismore than sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.Her opinion concludes:I consider there is more than enough evidence to justify the issue of a warrant of arrest should … Tariq Aziz enter the United Kingdom or any country in which the United Kingdom warrant for arrest could form the basis for a request for extradition.Saddam Hussein does not travel and, for the moment, we must take it that he may be immune from prosecution. Tariq Aziz does travel, and so do other leading members of the regime. Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was responsible for the chemical attack on the Kurds, and various others travel.
As I said, evidence was provided to the Attorney-General in September 2000. In March 2001, the Attorney-General refused an arrest warrant but referred the evidence to the Metropolitan Police because he thought that Tariq Aziz might have a case to answer. The police were also referred to Operation Sandcastle. People do not seem to want to talk about Operation Sandcastle too much. It was set up in 1991 to establish an investigation and inquiry team to collect and collate evidence of war crimes that had been committed by Iraqis against British citizens or that had been witnessed by British citizens in the Gulf from August 1990 until the cessation of hostilities. The operation found—although this was never published—considerable evidence of systematic and continuous grave breaches of the fourth Geneva convention by the Iraqi authorities and by members of the Iraqi armed forces and their collaborators, against the personal and property rights of British subjects.
In December last year, the new Attorney General said that the police investigation had not altered the evidential position and referred to the war against terror taking priority. We were not told whether any hostages had been interviewed by the police. Our legal advisers challenge that judgment. They believe that an indictment can be made. I hope that the Minister will not give me the same reply that the Secretary of State gave me in September, because one does not physically have to have hold of the people whom one wants to indict. They can be indicted in their absence. It is wrong to suggest that indictment is a silly idea because one can never get hold of people.
The case in support of the hostages involves a wide coalition of nations. There are former hostages in many countries, including Muslim countries. One successful case in the United Kingdom could lead to copycat cases around the world, helping to isolate and de-legitimise Iraq's leaders and make it more difficult for them to repair relations that could, in the longer term, help them to re-arm and develop weapons of mass destruction. The war on terror is a priority. The issuing of arrest warrants could be presented as part of a multidimensional campaign against terror. That idea could be attractive to those who are against war; it could be a non-violent alternative to military action against Iraq. It could be attractive to others as a device to unsettle the regime and further de-legitimise its leaders. Lack of action encourages others to perpetrate such acts of terrorism in future.
The hostages are British citizens and MPs' constituents who suffered and continue to suffer. I assure hon. Members that it is very difficult to interview 343WH some of the victims of the regime. Even the victims in this country are still fearful of talking about their experiences.
The United Kingdom has already paid for an investigation into hostage taking—Operation Sandcastle, which answers much of the argument about police resources and public expenditure. Action would help to combat criticism that, at the time, the Ministry of Defence wasted taxpayers' money on an operation that appears not to have been followed through.
Hostage taking is also a grave breach of the Geneva convention 1949. In such cases, all state signatories, including the UK. have not only a right, but an obligation under international law to prosecute or extradite offenders. If Tariq Aziz visited a country that signed the Geneva convention, that country would have an obligation to arrest or extradite him if a UK arrest warrant had been sent there. If there is a war on terror, why would the UK not wish to arrest a war criminal, or at least send a message to the world that war criminals and those who perpetrate acts of terror should not be allowed free international movement?
We have taken cases to five European countries. The Americans cannot do what we are doing, which was why they gave us the money in the first place. Under the statute of limitations, they have run out of time. European countries, however, can do what we propose. We have taken cases to Norway, Switzerland and Belgium, and one of those other countries may well act before the UK, but we are running out of time. If we want to show what we think of the Iraqi regime, short of waging war against that country, the UK should pursue the option that I propose.
§ Miss Anne Begg (in the Chair)
I should like the summing up to begin at 4.40 pm. If the five hon. Members who have indicated that they would like to speak confine their remarks to approximately 10 minutes each, they will all get a chance to contribute. As for my nomenclature, Miss Begg or Madam Chairman will do.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I want to concentrate on the intelligence aspects of the report from the standpoint of the Intelligence and Security Committee on which I serve. Last week, we were in Australia, where the impact of the Bali incident cannot be underestimated. The effect was devastating on people and communities. Entire football teams on their annual excursions were caught up in the horror of Bali.
In some areas of Australia, it is easier to get to Bali than to Sydney, so the impact cannot be underestimated; nor, indeed, can the commitment of the people and Government of Australia to play their full part in tackling terrorism. They look at Indonesia, a country with a population of 200 million that is significantly unstable; there are more unstable countries in the region. Australia's population is 20 million and its people are conscious of the dangers that they face. Our co-operation with them is, rightly, very close.
While we were in Australia, the Foreign Secretary asked us to begin the process of examining the intelligence evidence available prior to the Bali attack. He wants us to assess whether the Government gave the 344WH right travel advice or whether they should have altered it, or whether any other action should have flowed from that intelligence. We will shortly embark on that task.
Our work is different from, and complementary to, that of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is our job to ensure that the intelligence and security services have the resources that they need and use them effectively, appropriately and lawfully to fulfil their role of defending our free and democratic society. For that purpose, we have access to intelligence material and assessments to which the Foreign Affairs Committee does not have access. Our job is different. Conversely, it is not our job to make judgments about or examine the wider foreign policy issues that the Foreign Affairs Committee has so helpfully explored in the extremely useful report that we are discussing. There are a number of points where our paths cross and it would be helpful to refer to them. The first concerns resources. The first recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Committee report states:We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government state whether or not the British intelligence agencies on which the security of the United Kingdom depends have the human, financial and other resources they require to offer the best possible protection against terrorist attacks on the United Kingdom or on British posts and facilities overseas (paragraph 26).We drew attention to that in our report when we said:The Committee believes that reductions in the Agencies' funding during the 1990s, together with staff shortages that were being addressed after the SR2000 settlement, meant that the Agencies were resource limited and operating under financial pressures prior to the 11 September attacks.
§ Mr. Chidgey
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there was a massive intelligence failure leading up to the events of 11 September? Does he not find it strange that the United States agencies accept that and yet our own Government do not appear to do so?
§ Mr. Beith
Much as I would like to agree with my hon. Friend. I do not agree with his proposition. First, this was much more a security failure than an intelligence failure. There is an important distinction between the two. That distinction is drawn by most of those with whom I have discussed the matter in the United States. Secondly, the report relates specifically to the UK's involvement, although there is a significant overlap in the relationship between the two. On other grounds too, I will argue that to describe what happened as a massive intelligence failure is significantly misleading and might lead one to draw the wrong conclusions about what to do next.
§ Donald Anderson
It might interest the right hon. Gentleman to know that Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, said this morning that in his view the British Government's response to Bali was wholly appropriate.
§ Mr. Beith
That is a wise comment, as I would expect from a former student of mine whom I am glad to see doing such a good job. Indeed, we had useful discussions with him while we were in Australia. I will return to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) shortly. I wanted to make the point that in their response the Government quite 345WH rightly referred to the increase in resources made available to the intelligence and security services since 11 September. The increases are enumerated in the Government's response. They are necessary and they are welcome.
It remains the case that capacity has been diverted from other intelligence requirements and it will take time to restore that capacity. Even if the money is sufficient to do so, it takes time to develop the facilities or to train and recruit the personnel that may be necessary to fill gaps that are created by moving resources into an area of such urgent need. The longer-term funding of the agencies has to be maintained at levels that will meet the threat and avoid the situation that we think existed before 11 September. Our Committee did not go so far as to conclude that had the agencies had no financial problems at all prior to 11 September, the outcome in this instance would necessarily have been different, even with hindsight. It is impossible to draw that conclusion.
Was there an intelligence failure in the UK? I was interested in what the Foreign Affairs Committee said on that. The key point in paragraph 23 is:It would appear that before 11 September, both the US and the United Kingdom failed to gather or share good intelligence, or they failed to interpret it correctly, or they failed to act on it. We are not in a position to judge which was the case".I have the utmost respect for the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), but that is a rather curious wording. It implies that at least one of them was the case. We had failed to gather or share good intelligence, failed to interpret it correctly or failed to act upon it. It is not entirely clear that any of those three things was the case. I refer instead to the judgment that we made, having looked at all the relevant material. That took some time. Not all the material arrived in the first instance, but it had by the time we reached our final judgment and so we made our judgment with hindsight.
We referred in paragraph 65 of our report to the Joint Intelligence Committee paper published in July 2001, which is essentially what Ministers were looking at when they considered, at that stage, prior to September 11, whether any significant further or different action was required by the mounting threat posed by bin Laden and his associates.
The July 2001 JIC paper concluded thatplans for attacks were in their final stages but that the timings, targets and methods of attack were not known. This assessment was not a stark warning of immediate danger to the UK. The shortage of specific intelligence and UBL's record could have warned all concerned that more urgent action was needed to counter this threat. Whether this could have forestalled any of UBL's actions can only be a matter for conjecture. The Committee concludes, with hindsight, that the scale of the threat and the vulnerability of Western states to terrorists with this degree of sophistication and a total disregard for their own lives was not understood.That judgment was toiled over very carefully and was a unanimous judgment by the Committee. It reflects a broader failure by the community at large, and the political community, to recognise what was going wrong in Afghanistan and the power that al-Qaeda was exercising there. The issue could not have been dealt with in terms of its intelligence consequences by the 346WH sudden rapid deployment of massive resources into intelligence in the area. Had Ministers read that report as suggesting that that were so—they cannot be criticised for not doing so—I do not believe that the sudden rapid deployment of intelligence resources would have been at all likely to gain the intelligence needed to forestall that attack. The danger was more generally seen to be to American assets and, potentially, to British interests scattered around the world, which is where a number of the more recent incidents had taken place.
There was undoubtedly a security failure, which is apparent from the most basic things, such as the lack of airport security at United States airports on domestic flights. But for it to be a massive intelligence failure there would have to have been a failure to use available intelligence—we did not conclude that that had happened—or a failure to use available means of gaining intelligence effectively. That was not so as far as the UK was concerned. The jury is still out; indeed, some of the bodies that are considering the matter are still out in the United States, particularly in respect of the sharing of information between the FBI and the CIA and the extent to which the American system compartmentalises information that, if shared, might conceivably have led to different conclusions.
One of the lessons we had to learn was the broader failure that was summed up by the Foreign Secretary when he told our Committee that the west had walked away from Afghanistan. We had failed to appreciate the significance of Afghanistan being a failed state and the Taliban's consequent control of it. I refer to paragraph 58 of our report, where we refer to the effort that had been going on in dealing with the drugs problem in Afghanistan, which had been the major United Kingdom priority of interest in Afghanistan; it was the source of a very significant drugs traffic. Paragraph 58 states:However, the now publicly known links, particularly in funding, between UBL and the Taliban. The Taliban taxed the flow of drugs from Afghanistan and this, together with direct funding from Osama bin Laden as payment for allowing him to operate on their territory, represented the majority of their income.Basically, Osama bin Laden had bought the Taliban; that, combined with their drugs income, was how they ran the country, insofar as they did run it. We should perhaps have been more aware of the political consequences of that situation. It is arguable that the west could have done more in a variety of ways to tackle it, although it is not an easy task nor one that could be dealt with by military intervention, regime change policy or anything like that. However, there might have been ways in which it could have been addressed.
The developing anxieties were noted at the Weston Park conference in July 2001. Prior to that, there had been agreement at the JIC to raise the order of priority for Afghanistan, so it cannot be said that either British Ministers or British intelligence agencies were unaware of the significance of work in Afghanistan, but perhaps not in that wider sense.
Another issue in which the paths of the two Committees cross is in paragraph 191 of the Foreign 347WH Affairs Committee report, which refers to weapons of mass destruction and the threat posed by them. It states:We recommend that the FCO, through GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service ensure that the highest priority is given to identification and prevention of attack on the United Kingdom or on British interests overseas by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction.I entirely agree with that. It is reflected in present priorities and it also reflects what we said in the 1998–99 report, paragraph 57 of which stated:The threat to our armed forced deployed overseas from these weapons is very real, and we believe that the Agencies play a vital role in establishing the threat to our service personnel.That is fully reflected in the agencies' work.
Finally, I happily endorse the view of the Foreign Affairs Committee that, if we are to protect our citizens from the terrible threats that have come to fruition in the twin towers, the Pentagon and in Bali,priority must be given to the gathering, assessment and use of high-grade intelligence information".The United Kingdom is achieving that in a way that is generally respected and admired by the intelligence communities and political leaderships of some of our key allies. Indeed, one of the results of 11 September is a renewed interest in the manner in which the United Kingdom organises and assesses intelligence and communicates it to Ministers and political leaders. Definite advantages are acknowledged in the way in which our system operates, despite the small resources at our disposal in comparison with the United States. The fact that we achieve so much from limited resources is widely respected.
To inflict death and destruction, the terrorist needs to succeed only once. To prevent acts of death and destruction, the intelligence and security forces have to succeed every time; a well nigh impossible task. It is right that the Foreign Affairs Committee challenges the political and intelligence community from its standpoint of examining the foreign policy implications of having good intelligence. We seek to complement that work. Sometimes we can make a more accurate judgment about what happens, but much of what the Foreign Affairs Committee says and what the Intelligence and Security Committee says on the same subject is complementary.
§ Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
I began preparing this speech for a debate in September. In that sense, it is the single transferable speech to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) referred. I promise that I will not go too far.
I am delighted to have the opportunity at last to speak on this international crisis. It is a tribute to the new system at Westminster Hall; those who are not Privy Councillors, ex-Ministers or current members of any Select Committee at last have a chance to make a speech.
I speak the day after the fall of the Israeli Government. I do not accept the facile argument that events in Israel and Palestine somehow justify crimes and terrorism in other parts of the world. However, all who care, as I do, for a secure state of Israel while wanting a viable Palestinian state living alongside it in peace will view the possibility of change in Israeli politics with some apprehension, but perhaps more 348WH optimism. In the short term, it probably sets back the prospects of a middle east conference. If an election is called within 90 days, we shall face difficulties until at least February or March, or whenever a new coalition finally comes together after the election. A potential Palestinian election may be in the offing, which also complicates the possibilities of a comprehensive middle east peace settlement.
I want to put on record—largely because of misrepresentations by some people in my constituency—that because I chose not to vote against a motion for the Adjournment of the House, or to take part in mere gesture politics, that does not mean that I am a warmonger, that I support war or that I should be the target of abuse by people in my constituency who are planning demonstrations today to protest against the war. It does not mean that those of us who have not gone along with glib slogans are somehow in favour of war. I place that on the record in the strongest possible way.
I support the United Nations; in fact, I am vice-chair of the UN parliamentary group after several years of chairing it. We need a UN Security Council resolution to ensure that the obligations placed on the Iraqi Government under mandatory chapter VII sections of the UN charter are fulfilled. The international community faces the problem that there has been systematic leakage on the sanctions front, and that for a long time the Iraqi regime has been receiving money for smuggled oil. It has not been sold though the oil programme sanctioned by the UN, but has gone out through Turkey, Iran or other means, including Syria.
Is containment working? We do not know. No-fly zones are one part of containment. When I visited the UN monitors on the border in 2000, the operation was a combination of Bangladeshi, Irish, Argentinian, Canadian, American, Chinese, Russian and British people working together. It has protected Kuwait from a further invasion, but has not succeeded in returning the 603 disappeared Kuwaitis to their families. Nor can it—that is, if they are still alive; no one knows whether they are. The operation has not succeeded—combined with the no-fly operation, it is not designed to do so—in assisting in the democratisation and the liberation of the people of Iraq from the tyranny that is Saddam.
My constituency is very mixed. Among my constituents are British Muslims who were held hostage when they went on a pilgrimage in 1991. I helped to make representations about them at that time. In fact, one was not released until after I was elected to Parliament in 1992. Iraqi Kurds who have been tortured and whose families have been gassed and Iraqi Shias live in my constituency, as well as people who believe that we should take no action against Iraq, because it is a Muslim state and launching an attack would constitute colonialist imperialism.
An Iraqi Kurd came to my advice surgery a few months ago. He said—I have no way of knowing whether this is true—that once the Iraqi people began to understand that, this time, the international community was serious, it would be only three or four days before we had a Ceausescu scenario in Iraq. The people would take matters into their own hands with regard to members of the regime. I suspect that, in that sense, it might be easier for regime members to be indicted than to be strung up, but I do not know whether that view is 349WH right, and I do not believe that anyone else can. People in opposition often make exaggerated claims about internal situations in countries.
Let us be clear that we are talking about a despicable regime. The question is what the international community will do to enforce the resolutions that we have adopted over the years. In an interesting article in The Guardian on 18 September, a former UN weapons inspector, Tim Trevan, described the cat-and-mouse, cheat-and-retreat policy operated by Saddam's regime for a number of years. He said that the real question was not inspections, but disarmament.
The real test is in the resolution that I hope the UN Security Council will adopt this week, because I am against United States unilateral action. I hope that we can have a robust UN Security Council resolution. However, the real test is not the wording of the resolution, but what will happen in a few weeks or months when the cheat and retreat happens again. At that point, in January, February or March, will the Security Council be prepared to grasp the nettle of enforcement of its decisions?
I do not believe that we are imminently about to go to war in Iraq, but we are facing a real test of the credibility of the international community. We face a problem, in living in a world with one superpower. Since the end of the cold war, one state has global military capabilities, intelligence and surveillance, along with a defence budget equivalent to that of the next-ranked 15 countries in the world added together; it has increased its defence expenditure for one year by an amount equivalent to the whole Russian military spend.
In the days of the cold war we used to go on about the rouble and the dollar exchange rate, and we believed that there was great equivalence. It was clearly not true; not then and certainly not today. That will get worse, not better, because the technological drive in the United States will go on and on. In Britain and in NATO we have a choice. Will we work to use what influence we can, as I believe the Prime Minister has done?
The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) was correct. If the United States Administration had followed the line put forward by the hawks, we would not be at the United Nations now. The United States would not have paid its debts after 11 September, and would not have rejoined UNESCO. Let us just think about that. In 1985, Reagan and Bush took the Americans out of UNESCO. Clinton did not get them back in. Bush junior got them back in, reversing a policy that his father's Administration had adopted 17 years previously. That is quite significant, yet it has not had the publicity it deserves.
I was for several years on the committee of the campaign to get Britain back into UNESCO. I am proud that one of the first acts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) as Secretary of State for International Development was to make that visit to Paris in 1997. Now the American Administration are back, too, and they are not unilateralist now. They are confused and divided and things are changing.
As a permanent member of the Security Council and a close ally of the United States, we must strengthen the process and the involvement. We must avoid a situation 350WH in which the United States cherry-picks allies on particular issues or acts independently to the detriment of the world. That approach will require sensitivity and careful management. The Government are following the right course, which will make us much stronger in fighting the global terrorist threats that have arisen in recent years.
In conclusion, I have something to say that is probably pessimistic; I do not believe that it is possible to win wars against terrorism. I do not believe that terrorism can ever be defeated. It can be managed, minimised and, in certain circumstances, obviated by political action. However, if we are dealing with people who are campaigning to destroy what Osama bin Laden in September 2001 termed the "Zionist crusader alliance" and all its allies, we are in for a very long haul. It does not matter whether we are dealing with people in Karachi, Bali, Moscow, Jordan, Tunisia, India, Kashmir, Yemen or London; I strongly agree with what has been said about the dangers to this city.
We will face atrocities. They will happen. People will die. The reason is asymmetric warfare and the fact that there are totally ruthless people who are prepared to commit suicide because of their belief that they will go on to some greater life. Those things will be with us for the foreseeable future. We will never eradicate them totally, so we must be vigilant and work together politically and intelligently. Foreign policy, diplomacy, the intelligence services and our civil society must all work hand in hand.
§ Miss Anne Begg (in the Chair)
I repeat my plea to hon. Members to be considerate to those hon. Members who are still to speak.
§ Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
I was one of the hon. Members who voted against the Adjournment motion of the House, but I certainly did not regard others who did not as warmongers. That is a very strange construction to put on not voting. I therefore fully support the remarks made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes).
Today is, of course, "Don't attack Iraq" day, a day of protest organised by the Stop the War Coalition. Its resolution states thatany war will simply add to the numbers of innocent dead, cause untold suffering, political and economic instability on a global scale, increase racism and result in attacks on civil liberties.I agree with that statement.
Hon. Members have already raised concerns about the possible, and possibly unilateral, action against Iraq. It is important to stress that hostile action against Iraq would undoubtedly be a war against the people of Iraq, not against the despicable tyrant, Saddam Hussein.
§ Donald Anderson
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that in no conceivable circumstances could war be justified, whatever Saddam Hussein did, whatever an affront his actions were to the United Nations, whatever was known about weapons of mass destruction or whatever his defiance?
§ Mr. Llwyd
351WH We cannot and should not underestimate how the terrorist attacks of 11 September have changed defence, foreign affairs and home affairs policies of Governments throughout the world. No one could disagree that Saddam Hussein leads a brutal and callous regime with a total disregard for human beings. The cult of personality that he manifests is designed to protect only him, and is a facsimile of almost every other tyrant in the previous century. However, that does not give us the right to demand regime change. I support the Select Committee's recommendation in paragraphs 204 to 209 for a further definition of the Government's position on "regime change."
In the immediate aftermath of 11 September, when the eyes of the world were on military action in Afghanistan, the President of the United States made his intentions clear, at least inasmuch as they appertain to Iraq. He wanted to see Saddam Hussein removed from power and was ready to use unilateral military action to remove him from power if necessary. I share the belief that Saddam Hussein heads an evil regime and leads murderous attacks on his own people. However, that was not the view until very recently. Things seemed to change when the United States' economic interests were threatened, and perhaps Iraq must now become an enemy. I do not know. I am not an appeaser, and my single-word answer to the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) was not meant to be curt; I am merely limited by time.
There is a danger that the world could be heading towards adopting a totally different approach to security, with the notion of the pre-emptive strike replacing the old doctrines of deterrence and containment, and thereby flouting what appears now to be international law. That in turn undermines the authority of the United Nations, and calls into question the very credibility of that body. President Bush signalled that change of approach in a speech in June last year at the United States military academy. He said that the doctrines of deterrence and containment would no longer hold true in all circumstances in today's world. It is most worrying that he now feels entitled to promote a new doctrine; the pre-emptive strike.
I wholeheartedly endorse the recommendation in paragraph 224 of the report, which again calls on the Government to set out its view on the circumstances in which pre-emptive strikes could be justified. What is alarming about the notion of a pre-emptive strike is that it was introduced without any debate or discussion in the international community. I am afraid that President Bush believes that because the United States has substantial military might, it may simply change the rules as a matter of course. That is a dangerous concept, and there has been an international outcry against President Bush's plans to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. Worries were compounded when the Prime Minister made it clear that he backed the President, and said that Britain was ready to pay a "blood price" to maintain its relationship with the USA. That phrase is most disturbing.
Over the past century, many dictators have posed a specific and direct threat to both the UK and the USA. However, from all the evidence provided so far, my party, Plaid Cymru, believes that Iraq poses no direct threat to either UK or US interests.
Based on the threadbare dossier published by the UK Government last month, to which hon. Members have referred, I fail to see that there is currently a justification for war against Iraq. We were treated to that long-awaited dossier on 24 September. It was probably the most unconvincing 352WH document in recent political history. It is full of suppositions and ifs and buts, but it did not inform the debate, and certainly did not provide any justification for urgent military action.
I do not know whether Mr. Bush wants to settle old scores for his father, or to make a mark in the history books, or whether, perhaps, he is motivated by the economic downturn and his re-election chances. However, we do need to know about the "special relationship" that binds the UK Government to Mr. Bush's stand, about which there is great concern. If the USA wants to go it alone, that is all well and good. However, I do not want to see young people from these islands losing their lives in what I perceive to be an unjustifiable war, thousands of miles away, which could be protracted and without boundaries.
We know that a dubious justification for a full-scale military assault has been given. It will be necessary to persuade the hearts and minds of the people of the UK and the USA, and that has signally not yet happened. Recent polls showed that 58 per cent. of the people of Britain opposed a war on Iraq, and there is a similar groundswell of disapproval in the United States. Last week, there were protests in Washington, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome and Tokyo, as well as in London, Cardiff and elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of people were opposing an unjustifiable war, many waving banners saying, "Drop Bush, not bombs."
Not only are individuals opposing the war, but entire Governments are also opposed to the attack. That is evident in the UN's current failure to agree on a new resolution. I hope that such a resolution will be forthcoming shortly, and that it will be robust.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien)
I have listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman has said. He condemned Saddam Hussein, and seems to accept that there has been some development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, although he does not take the view that that is a direct threat. The hon. Gentleman accepts that Saddam has committed massive human rights abuses and has breached UN resolutions, so he cannot seriously argue that Saddam is complying with international law. I wait to hear what he wants to do about that. So far, we have heard that he wants to do absolutely nothing.
§ Mr. Llwyd
I was coming to that. I did not say half of what the Minister claimed. I did not mention the breaches of UN resolutions, nor several other points. The Minister seemed fairly excited in intervening.
My suggestion goes along with the French way of looking at the situation. They want a robust, belt-and-braces resolution, and I fully agree with that. We urgently need a robust and strongly worded resolution. There should be a return to the Security Council in, say, six months' time, to see what has happened and whether Iraq has been playing cat and mouse, or whether it has fully complied with the resolution. At that stage, we should re-examine the situation. That is my direct answer to the Minister.
It seems strange that Iraq is currently perceived as a threat to the United States, when Iraq has 10 per cent. of the military strength that it had prior to the Gulf war of 1990, and we are told that its range of attack is 650 353WH km. I am not an appeaser for Iraq, but we should not rush into something until all the other options have been carefully explored. It is obvious, however, that they have not, since the Security Council is now discussing what I hope will he another option. I fully support that action; there should be a strong, robust resolution, and I hope to heaven that it will be observed. If not, the matter will have to be revisited.
I do not want to be unfair to other hon. Members who wish to speak, but I shall make another brief point about war with Iraq. The Oxford research group says that at least 10,000 innocent Iraqi citizens would be killed in a conventional war. That could escalate, which would create further problems worldwide. These are matters that we need constantly to bear in mind.
The former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, said that an attack on Iraq to overthrow its Government would bea flagrant violation of the UN charter, the Nuremberg charter and international law.I am no expert on international law, but we live in a world that is unsettled by many international disputes, and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives are being lost. The United States is the world's greatest superpower, and it should be fighting for peace and justice. The Israel-Palestine situation has been referred to, and the India-Pakistan conflict is another; there are plenty more. We all know about the problems caused by the arrogance of imperialism. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush has yet to learn the lessons of history.
§ Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)
I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and the members of the Committee on the report, with which I wholeheartedly agree. My right hon. Friend introduced the debate by quoting from the report's final paragraph, which stated:To 'know thine enemy' is not enough. We also need to determine how the conditions that have contributed to the development of terrorism can be removed".My right hon. Friend will also be familiar, as I am, with the Government's response, which I wholeheartedly endorse. All the Government's recommendations need to be put into the international arena to attempt to prevent terrorism recurring and to remove it where it exists. However, I believe that we need to pay a little more attention to the situation in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was and is a failed state. Terrorism took hold there and has since flourished. We believe that we have defeated it, in that al-Qaeda has been dispersed, but there is plenty of evidence that this is in no sense a final solution for that country or the end of the al-Qaeda network. I believe that the reconstruction of Afghanistan is in every sense a test of the new world order of which the Prime Minister has spoken.
I was in Kabul last month, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) was there even more recently. When I arrived, it was only a matter of days since the attempted assassination of President Karzai—an attempt that he escaped only narrowly—and a bomb in Kabul had killed 26 people. I was there 354WH on 9 September, the anniversary of Masood's death, and on 11 September, so it was a particularly tense and difficult time.
While there, I talked to many ordinary people to find out how they felt about what was going on. They were fulsome in their praise of the ISA F, and they accepted that the situation in the city was so much better. None the less, people in the city had a constant sense of insecurity; but said that was much more so in other parts of the country, where 80 per cent. of the population lives.
The insecurity among those who lived in the city resulted, for example, from the fact that when people were blown up by the bomb in Kabul, no significant medical aid was immediately available. People had to go to one ill-equipped hospital, because the emergency services do not exist as we know them. Everyone who might be involved in an incident feels incredibly insecure and worried about what could happen to them.
Outside Kabul, it is acknowledged that warlords are still active. There is the drugs trade, which our Government are attempting to assist in eradicating, but in many ways people admit that the security situation outside the capital is worse than on 11 September. We have a huge job to do there, and I believe that security is a prerequisite for rebuilding the state. Without it, we will have no hope of reconstructing—or constructing for the first time—a viable state with the Afghans.
To examine the difficulties with security further, we must consider what is happening to women. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East spoke optimistically about the gains that women had made, and they are indeed great. Women can work, girls can go to school and the burqa need not be worn on the streets. However, the situation is still difficult. Many women still wear the burqa because they suffer harassment on the street, and I have talked to such women. There is also considerable violence against women. Furthermore, if women are present in cars that are being searched, the occupants will be asked whether there are cassettes in the car. Women are seeing the old Taliban mentality again on the streets, probably because the people in uniform—they are called the police and may or may not be Taliban—are untrained and have power without responsibility.
I have enormous concerns about the position of women. In the past four days, four girls' schools in Wardak province, near Kabul, have been burned down. What is the significance of those attacks? Were they initiated by al-Qaeda or the Taliban? They send a serious signal, which we cannot ignore if we are to ensure that there is no resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special representative for Afghanistan, spoke to the Security Council yesterday. He said that security remained a priority concern and that sporadic fighting continued to erupt from time to time, particularly in the north and the south-east and, to a lesser extent, in the west. The limited means of the Government and of United Nations interventions allowed them only to put out, rather than prevent local fires. He said that there would be no long-term solutions until a well-trained, well-equipped and regularly paid national army and police force were put in place, and that international support was needed in the meantime to provide security.
355WH Mr. Brahimi has called repeatedly for the expansion of ISAF, and the issue is raised in paragraph 117 of the report. The Government response states:The key will be security sector reform and the development of Afghanistan's own security structures.The Minister and I have debated the issue before, and he knows that that reform and the building of security structures by the Afghans are proceeding very slowly. Training is being offered only to a few elite police officers, and regular police personnel on the streets have had none. The formation of the Afghan army is proceeding in several ways, but I am concerned about the lack of cohesion. It will take five years before a fully fledged army is available. We must consider the issue of security outside the capital and the possibility of expanding ISAF.
I want the Minister to make clear what is meant by the reference in the Government response to the ISAF effect. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, in an interview at the BBC, spoke of new arrangements as regards the ISAF effect, saying that they would be based on coalition forces. However, those forces are engaged in war fighting, and there could be a conflict between that role, which I have supported, and a role that might drift into humanitarian activities. We need to know what is meant in the Government response and what the Secretary of State meant in yesterday's interview.
The Minister may know of the concerns of non-governmental organisations and UN delivery services about the difficulties that they may face if they approach a community at the same time as coalition forces. Those forces might be searching people or, in other cases, handing out assistance. That needs to be clarified. What are we up to? What is going on?
Finally, I want to refer to Mr. Brahimi's suggestion that long-term security will require a well-equipped and regularly paid national army and police force. My hon. Friend the Minister knows that, unless things have changed in the last few days, the police in Kabul have not been paid for the past three months. That is no way to guarantee a trustworthy police service. If one is burgled and stabbed in one's home— as a woman whom I know in Kabul was recently— one does not call the police because it is thought that they might be involved in such criminal activities. The police are not trusted; how can they be when they have had no training, they do not have a code of conduct and they are not being paid? How do they live and provide for their families?
That is also a consideration when it comes to the national army. People are still being recruited through the Afghans— rather than through the French and American operation— and I believe that these raw recruits are not paid and cannot support their families. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to all my concerns. If we are to reduce, contain and tackle international terrorism, we must at the very least demonstrate to the world and to the Afghans that this time we will not walk away; we will assist in every way properly to reconstruct that country.
§ Miss Anne Begg (in the Chair)
I inform Members that I wish to start the summing up speeches at 4.50 pm.
§ Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)
Once again, the Committee is to be congratulated on an excellent and well-balanced report, and this has been an excellent and well-balanced debate.
There has been a positive verdict on the basic response to 11 September, and—as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) has said— on the role of the Prime Minister in bringing about restraint and multilateralism in the campaign. There has also been a positive response to the military campaign in Afghanistan and I acknowledge the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock). However, we have to recognise that al-Qaeda has been massively damaged; it has not been destroyed. We do not know the fate of Osama bin Laden and I hope that our concentration on the campaign against terrorism will not be diverted too much by the prior agenda of the hard right in the United States.
While the report rightly commends Britain for having accepted and advocated the International Criminal Court, there has been concern about Britain's role in the European Union with regard to bilateral deals relating to US exemptions. Can the Minister explain Britain's position? The report raised the issue of nuclear weapons first-use, which we have discussed before. It is reassuring that the Government recognise that negative security assurances under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty should be observed.
However, I am slightly concerned about what is meant by the remarks of Ambassador Broucher, to the effect that the negative security assurances would not be applicable if any beneficiary were in material breach of its non-proliferation obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I hope that it does not mean that if we believed a state to be seeking nuclear weapons, although it had not obtained them, we would be justified in a nuclear weapons first-use. That would not be consistent with some of the Government's statements. I should be grateful for clarification from the Minister.
Weapons of mass destruction and terrorism are the major threats of this century, yet there is a danger— not in the report, but elsewhere— of vague language leading to imprecise thinking. There is talk of problems of weapons of mass destruction as if the situation can be resolved by dealing with one or two so-called rogue states and as if the situation were not as complex as it really is. The term "weapons of mass destruction" dangerously confuses the different threats posed by biological and chemical weapons and by nuclear weapons, the most dangerous of all.
We need to distinguish between unconditional terrorism and what might be called politically targeted terrorism. There is a difference between groups like al-Qaeda, which might be inclined to use weapons of mass destruction because such groups are unconditional and, say, paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, who would not be interested in such weapons. That is important when we consider the terms used by the United States in referring to states that have weapons of mass destruction and relations with terrorism.
The United States itself has weapons of mass destruction and undoubtedly has had relations with organisations such as the Contras and even al-Qaeda. However, not even the wildest anti-Americans would 357WH suggest that the United States would be likely to supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organisations. There is a danger that the United States has been arbitrary in the way in which it has assigned threats.
The threat must be dealt with by multilateral arms control and non-proliferation, and the Government have recently done some excellent work on the biological and toxic weapons convention. The threat should not be dealt with by unilateral counter-proliferation pre-emptive attacks. Pre-emption should only be considered in the most exceptional circumstances and not as policy, as suggested by the national security strategy. It can be justified against terrorists, against a state supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists or when there was a real intent to attack.
The implications of any precedents are so worrying, however, that action must be taken multilaterally not unilaterally. It must not result from paranoid delusions. President Bush said in Cincinnati that Iraq might send unmanned aerial vehicles to attack the United States with biological weapons; as if those aircraft had the range even to reach the Atlantic ocean, let alone cross it, as if they could not be shot down, and as if that were really Saddam's intention.
I do not know what United Nations resolution we shall have, but I hope that we shall go by what we said, which was that we regard war as a last resort. War should be multilateral and not unilateral, or "unilateral plus posse". Otherwise, it could increase terrorist threats and reduce the strength and unity of the international coalition, which we will need if we are to achieve what the Committee Chairman said must be our major objective; to be tough on terrorism and the causes of terrorism.
§ Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
The introduction to the report states:The war against terrorism has changed the priorities of the United Kingdom's foreign policy.As the report notes, that is true of many other states in the United Nations and the European Union and, above all, of the United States.
The events of 11 September 2001 are seared on the memories of us all. Recent events in Bali have widened our concerns, and recent estimates suggest that more than 50 people have been killed in terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Tunisia and other countries in recent months. In all parts of the globe, the new realities of terrorism are being confronted.
The Committee recognises the fluidity of the situation, and refers to a continuing inquiry. As we heard from the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), another report will be published, and we look forward to that publication. This report is comprehensive and offers a broad sweep, and today many of the issues have been thoroughly debated.
The Committee, rightly, began its work in Afghanistan. It is important for us to recall and reflect on the fact that the campaign carried out in that country was by and large successful. There is some unfinished 358WH business, notably the uncertainty about the fate of Osama bin Laden and the ongoing requirement to complete the work against al-Qaeda. It is also important that the new regime in Kabul is given full support. Will the Minister say something about the future of ISAF? Will it be continued, and could its remit be increased beyond the narrow areas around the capital, over which it has some authority? Afghanistan needs financial assistance and, for many years. there will be an ongoing international obligation and responsibility to that country. The United Kingdom must be commended for playing a central role in that regard, but we must not lose sight of that priority as events move on.
The report covers the issue of terrorism more widely. Undermining the causes of terrorism is a vital theme in the report, and those causes must be tackled as broadly as possible, perhaps in terms of conflict resolution.
Frequent mention has been made of the situation in the middle east, and I agree that we must continue to seek a solution that offers a secure Israel and a viable Palestine. The only way for us to do that is through dialogue. We must not lose sight of the prospects of a middle east peace conference, which perhaps have been lessened by the collapse of the Israeli Government in the past 24 hours.
If we are to undermine the causes of terrorism, we must focus not only on conflict resolution, but on continuing to examine how we offer development assistance to different countries. The European Union as a whole has a central role to play in that, and I hope that the Government will be part of such efforts.
Coping with terrorism in a technical sense is important. We have heard about the intelligence and security services. It is worth stressing the importance of the counter-terrorism committee of the United Nations. I especially commend the work of the United Kingdom ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, and his team, which is central to that committee. The committee is another drain on UN resources, and it is important that it be fully supported.
An important and recurring theme of the debate has been the role of international law, on respect for which much of our moral authority depends. Our political credibility would be impossible without it. The right hon. Member for Swansea, East was right to highlight the change in the nature of terrorism, the fact that there might be a need to review the legal mechanisms and ways of combating terrorism, and the shortcomings that doing so might reveal in international law. Our international law must be upheld and supported. We must be absolutely clear about that. The depressing failure of the United States to support the International Criminal Court does not help in that regard.
We have had frequent and proper mentions of Iraq. Since the "axis of evil" speech, it has been a major factor in the international political scene. The link between weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and terrorism can or cannot be made, depending on one's point of view. Regardless of how we got here, the situation in Iraq is now serious. We all must want weapons of mass destruction removed, and we certainly do not want to see them in the hands of terrorists. We must also not be squeamish about pointing out the evil nature of Saddam Hussein and his regime.
359WH The UN and international law must be at the heart of the solution to the serious situation in which we find ourselves. The return of weapons inspectors must be the objective. The US and UK attitude on that has at times appeared at variance with a United Nations approach. The new US doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, which has been commented on this afternoon, sits ill at ease with the UN. There has been a "Will they, won't they?" saga in recent weeks, and threats that action will be taken regardless if the UN does not pull its finger out. That is a dangerous doctrine. Too often, Britain has appeared closer to the United States than to those who support the United Nations and its approach. I hope that the Minister will give us further assurance that we will not lose sight of the importance of international law as the dangerous situation progresses.
We cannot allow double standards to apply. The response to North Korea has been in stark contrast to the rhetoric on how the UK and US seek to deal with Iraq. North Korea is another country listed in the "axis of evil", and one that has now admitted to having nuclear weapons capability.
The world is still coming to terms with the impact of 11 September and the subsequent events. As many have pointed out, the war is not a normal war. The nature of the responses will continue to evolve. The Committee has properly focused on the political, legal and other aspects of the Government's actions. It is absolutely right in its conclusion that we must also determine how the conditions that have contributed to the development of terrorism can be removed, or at least reduced. In the world community, understanding each other and working with one another is crucial. The coalition after 11 September was absolutely right, and that approach is vital to the future of our actions against Iraq. We have frequently heard that the United Kingdom can be the bridge between Europe and the United States of America. We must not forget the span that goes from Britain across to Europe.
In building the largest possible coalition in the war against terrorism or efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, we must ensure that international law is our starting point. The belief that the UN must be the centrepiece and not a sideline must underpin any coalition. To be effective and to retain our moral authority, we must keep those principles at the forefront at all times. Likewise, we must also ensure that Parliament is allowed a proper role in deciding what part the UK plays in the ongoing war against terrorism.
§ 5.1 pm
§ Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)
The report is excellent and a credit to the workings of the Select Committee system. It is thorough and has brought the sides of the House together in a broad measure of agreement. A unanimous report is always a more powerful one.
I will take a rapid canter through some of the observations that the Conservative party has on the report in order to give the Minister at least 20 minutes in which to give some answers.
Everyone agrees that rather than simply glorying with the benefit of hindsight, we must learn the lesson of the need for better intelligence for the future. Intelligence should not simply be electronic, but, increasingly, 360WH involve people with knowledge of local languages and contacts on the ground. Our intelligence services received a much-needed injection of funds after 11 September. As I said in the debate on the Intelligence and Security Committee's report, that is welcome.
The men and women of our intelligence services are much more on the front line than many people realise. I hope that they and the Minister appreciate that in addition to the world of defence and politics, the world of commerce is an important source for many of the facts that they need to learn. As such, I think that everyone here will want to pay tribute to the Joint Intelligence Committee for co-ordinating all our intelligence services under the able chairmanship of John Scarlett. We must make sure that those people will have the tools to do an ever more difficult job for many years to come.
I do not want to dwell on the events in Bali, but I want to make one point to the Minister that he can perhaps answer. It is not a criticism of the Government. I think that there are lessons be learned about the nature of advisories. Clearly, some advice given to British citizens was different from that given to Americans. Does the Minister think that there should be a greater measure of international consistency in the advice given, so that confusion can be minimised and the direction can be as clear as possible? Can the Minister likewise assure the House that in the aftermath of an atrocity like that in Bali, henceforth there might be better efforts to make sure that those who are bereaved can claim the bodies and get them home with the sort of direct assistance on the ground that may have been lacking in Bali? I am aware that there have been some private meetings on that matter. No one is to blame, but there are lessons to be learned.
During the period between 11 September and the fall of the Taliban on 14 November, it was important to set out clear objectives, as the report has noted. Informing the public is crucial in a democracy, and is something that we are fighting to preserve. Paragraph 46 of the report, and paragraph (c) of the Government's response, set out the steps taken to build the international coalition. The Conservative party has always been clear in its support for the Prime Minister in seeing that an international coalition was the only way forward that offered the required flexibility, speed and international legitimacy.
I take slight issue with the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) in that the European Union's cohesion in that respect has been lacking. It has shown that the common foreign and security policy has been extremely lacking, and has shown itself unable to respond in practical terms to such a challenge, except in the most dilute and watered-down form. Again, it has been largely Britain, hand in hand with America, that has proved sufficiently effective in coming to terms with such a threat.
Paragraph 55 of the report and paragraph (f) of the Government's response are about NATO. The invocation of article 5 was important in bringing together the international coalition, but we must take a long-term view of how we would like NATO to operate in future conflicts of this sort. In that context, the Prague summit next month will prove very important. I hope that the Minister will assure us that due thought has been given to the need to expand NATO's membership 361WH eastwards, and to the need to modernise its structures and role so as to meet the strategic requirements of the changing world. I hope that he will reassure us that he still thinks of NATO as an important weapon, and that he will not for any reason be diverted further towards the CFSP, which is a much less effective mechanism for facing our challenges.
We all pay tribute to the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff on the ground. A big effort was made to persuade the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden voluntarily. Sadly, it did not work, but in many circumstances that kind of effort can prove to be of enormous value, and time spent on diplomacy is never wasted.
The work done to support the Afghan Administration after the fall of the Taliban was important and is to be commended. However, I should like to hear the Minister's assessment of the stability of the Afghan regime in light of the assassination of the Vice-President and the attempted assassination of President Karzai earlier this summer. On an issue raised by two other hon. Members, what on-going efforts are the Government making to help the Afghan Administration ensure their long-term stability and order, not just in Kabul but in outlying areas? Could the Minister let me know—in writing if necessary—about the staffing levels of the dedicated Foreign and Commonwealth Office Afghanistan unit referred to in the report, with its knowledge of local languages and customs? The unit is something that many of us would want to advertise, and we would be interested to know about it.
I welcome paragraph 137 of the report, which is about Guantanamo bay, and the Government's response to it. I hope that the Minister will reassure me on a number of points relating to the prisoners held there, particularly those who are British. Will the Minister outline the position regarding the on-going detention of British prisoners held there without any charges being laid? What is the Government's policy on the continued detention of those prisoners, more than one year on, with no deadline for charges having been set? Will the Minister reaffirm the Government's commitment to due process for all detainees? May I ask the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]—Not yet, perhaps. May I ask the Minister what provisions are being made for the trial of those who may in due course be charged? That is an important point, and I sense that many hon. Members would like to hear a definitive and more specific answer than any we have heard so far on the Floor of the House.
I was particularly interested to read paragraph 161 of the report, which comments on the perceived link in many middle east countries between the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and terrorism, or attacks against western countries, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) mentioned. I do not think that there is any disagreement among hon. Members present about the continuing link between the two. We are all agreed—it seems to be cross-party policy—that there must be a secure Israel living alongside a viable Palestinian state.
It has always been clear that we are engaged in a war against terrorism, not Islam, and it is important to develop our understanding of, and relationships with, 362WH Arab states throughout the Gulf. I spend a lot of time travelling, as do many other hon. Members present. It is only by visiting countries and speaking to people that one gets a feel for what is going on and truly understand it. I hope that the Minister will allow me one gripe; it is a minor disgrace that during six years of the Labour Government, there has not been a serious ministerial visit to Yemen, where we have had consular problems that are a potential flashpoint. People there are increasingly resentful of what they perceive as Britain's neglect of a long-standing and genuine friendship between our countries. I hope that the Minister will visit Yemen as soon as possible and that he will alert the House to tell us that he is going.
I shall canter on quickly. We are in favour of continuing dialogue with Iran and we welcome the reforms that President Khatami is trying to implement against much opposition. I think that all of us would wish to encourage that, without making his life more difficult.
The main issue that looms is Iraq. Our policy is simply to rid the world of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and the development programmes for them. We support the Government's assessment of the threat posed by the weapons and the need to tackle that. It is vital that any action is in accordance with the principles of international law, and I welcome the Government's commitment to that in their response to the report. We should pursue a mandate through clear UN Security Council resolutions.
The Prime Minister has done an enormous amount of good since 11 September. I have congratulated him on much that he has done, which I imagine has upset Labour Members more than me. [Interruption.]—Only because of the source of the praise.
Paragraph 242 of the report and paragraph (qq) of the Government's response sum up the scale of the challenge that we face. If we are to eradicate the scourge of terrorism, action that works politically, economically and diplomatically must be taken. We need to understand with sensitivity the root causes of terrorism, whether they are poverty, international conflicts and disputes, internal instability, a disregard for human rights or the rule or law, or a combination of all those things. We can avoid more terrorist outrages only by addressing and understanding those underlying issues.
While pursuing the war against terrorism with vigour, we must pursue a dialogue of civilisations with vigour, avoiding, as the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) said, the clash of civilisations, which is an ill-conceived concept to which I hope none of us adhere. We can begin to build a safer world and tackle the root causes of terrorism only by increasing our understanding of other cultures and countries and building the tolerance that comes from greater knowledge.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien)
The report before us is excellent, as the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) said. It is well balanced, well argued and shows good judgment throughout. I congratulate members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on the report and I offer 363WH special congratulations to the Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who has led the Committee to a standing in the House that is higher than ever. He deserves enormous credit for the Committee's work.
Many questions were raised during the debate. I cannot hope to answer them all, but if I cannot respond to Back Bencher's points in the time available, I shall try to write to them.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East and the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) praised Sir Jeremy Greenstock's chairmanship of the United Nations counter-terrorism committee. I agree with that and I intend to pass on the congratulations to him. Certainly, that work is enormously important and we must ensure that it continues. Some countries have not had the opportunity to develop the systems of intelligence and counter-terrorism that they need for protection. The work of auditing and looking at what is available and determining what information is required by those countries is important.
Recent terrorist acts are a tragic confirmation that the war against terrorism must continue. In Bali we saw how the indiscriminate targeting of tourists and the ruthless tactics of the terrorists led to the deaths of large numbers of people. We do not yet know whether al-Qaeda was involved in that atrocity, but there are strong historical links between its members and extremist groups in south-east Asia. In Moscow, we had a reminder of the life-and-death dilemma posed by brutal terrorists who threaten to massacre hundreds of people for their cause.
The shooting of an American diplomat in Amman and an American marine in Kuwait are reminders of the vulnerability of individuals, who, in both cases, were working to safeguard and enhance Arab and Muslim interests. That is important, because I agree with the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton that we should reject the notion put forward by Samuel Huntington that there is a clash of cultures. However, we must stress the need to find a vocabulary in which we can distinguish the vast majority of Muslims in the world who have no truck with terrorism and hate it. Muslims are often victims of terrorism—as many were on 11 September—and despise those who commit terrorist acts.
There is a threat that al-Qaeda seeks to pose as a group with a Muslim identity. We must find a vocabulary to distinguish those militant extremists who should be no part of any religious set of values—the terrorists—from the vast majority who do not agree with them. We must develop that vocabulary in the months to come.
We must expect terrorists to continue their attacks and recognise the evolving nature of the threat if we are to meet it over the long as well as short term. The terrorists that we now face are targeting our values—political and social—as well as our economic systems. They will attack any of us, anywhere and at any time. They will kill thousands or pick off individuals. They have no interest in negotiation or accommodation. Their objective is total destruction. Their own deaths often seem to be part of their achievements.
364WH The means of destruction available to terrorists are varied. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) said, they can turn modern implements to their advantage. They can turn planes, boats, trucks or cars into missiles and themselves into bombs. They sometimes use against us technology that we have developed. They are prepared to use chemical and biological products as weapons. They use our own modern electronic communications and financial systems to plan and support their terrorist acts.
If we do not respond, we face al-Qaeda-inspired networks across the Islamic and non-Islamic world; al-Qaeda operatives working within our societies and intent on destroying them. Disaffected youth provides foot soldiers and public support for the terrorists. Our objectives remain as we have consistently set out over the past year. First and foremost, our priority is to protect the United Kingdom, its overseas territories and its citizens overseas.
The campaign was and is about eliminating terrorism as a force in international affairs. We have not acted alone. Tackling these challenges has required the closest co-operation with our international partners. We have made progress. However, the challenges are huge and, to meet them, we must be prepared to take steps that are as daring as those of the terrorists. Our security services must be alive to the threat that faces us.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton praised our intelligence services and the Joint Intelligence Committee under John Scarlett; I endorse his praise. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) asked why we had not foreseen the events of 11 September. He could also have asked, although he did not, why we had not foreseen the events in Bali. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. No one predicted the scale and nature of the events of 11 September. No one had specific warning, and no one had specific warning of the atrocity in Bali. It is entirely fair to ask such questions after events such as those of 11 September or Bali. It is right that we should ask whether there was an intelligence failure. In my view, there was not an intelligence failure in either case.
I will try to be brief, but I want to say something about these points because they are important. In the world, in any month, 300 to 400 pieces of information may raise the possibility of a threat. It is very difficult for professionals to assess the quality of those pieces of information. Most of them lead to no terrorist event. In other words, in any month, one could receive 300 to 400 pieces of information that could lead one to think that something was about to happen, but nothing then happens. However, sometimes something does happen. Assessing the information is a very difficult task indeed.
In both the cases that I have mentioned, I do not believe that there was an intelligence failure. Assessing the available information is difficult and I cannot say that somebody will not make a misjudgment in future. The advice that Ministers receive therefore may not be as clear as we would all hope. However, we must bear in mind the difficulty of intelligence operations and not create a culture of blame in which people in the intelligence community are constantly worried that, if they make a misjudgment, they will be blamed for the deaths of large numbers of people. If a misjudgment is culpable then, yes, there may be a need to deal with it, 365WH but people are not infallible. They may not always get it right, and we must be careful about seeking recriminations.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton referred to advisories. Advisories are important. The United States tends to issue a different kind of advisory to that which we issue. The US issues general worldwide advisories, or advisories for wide regions, to their tourists; our advisories tend to be much more country-specific. As I say, no specific warning was given for the incident in Bali. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are lessons to be learned, especially to do with consulates. We are considering those lessons and I will be happy to discuss them with the hon. Gentleman in more detail later.
In what I thought was an excellent contribution, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) asked whether the intelligence services were adequately financed. A well-resourced intelligence service is important. From 2002–03 to 2005–06, there will be an average real-terms increase of 7.1 per cent. each year, which will bring total spending up by £291 million from 2002–03 to 2005–06. That increase is considerable. One can always do more with more, but we believe that the intelligence services are funded to meet the objectives that we have set them.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed that an issue has arisen over security failures in some areas. Those failures are being addressed. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I do not accept that there was culpability on the part of our intelligence services. The Americans will have to speak for themselves.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton asked about Afghanistan. Let me say briefly, I have just come back from Afghanistan and my assessment is that the situation there is still precarious. The international community is working very well with the new Afghan Government. Several Afghan Ministers are quite impressive and we are lucky that they have found their way into senior positions. I would not endorse all of them, but many are very capable people. The Afghan Government are serious and they are seeking to address the relevant issues.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East asked whether the international community was paying to Afghanistan all the money that was promised at Tokyo. Our view is that the money is coming, but slowly. We think that countries will pay, but we wish that some of them would pay a little more quickly. We have sought to achieve that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) raised the matter of extending ISAF from Kabul. It will not take five years to have an army capability to deal with some of the threat. Several battalions of the Afghan army are already trained and we hope that some of them will be deployed outside Kabul this year. We will have to wait to see how that training goes and how the authority of the Afghan Government can be extended. My hon. Friend knows that my view is that it is better if the Afghan army is seen to be establishing the authority of the Afghan 366WH Government in the country at large, rather than troops from outside. That is better in the long term for the authority of the Afghan Government.
I want to turn to Iraq, because fighting terrorism does not excuse us from our responsibilities and challenges elsewhere. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock said, it is important that we deal with the threat of terrorism as well as the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The Security Council is working intensively on a new draft resolution on Iraq. Our objective is the complete disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means; ensuring that that takes place lies in the hands of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
In 1991, following the Gulf War, the Security Council set out the conditions governing the ceasefire. More than 11 years later, Iraq remains in breach of its obligations. Iraq's unrelenting efforts to frustrate inspections and intimidate inspectors are well known. Those efforts are underlined by the testimony in August 1998 of the then head of the United Nations Special Commission, in which he said that he found it impossible to do his job, by Iraq's succession of increasingly implausible and supposedly final declarations after inspectors discovered some new incriminating fact, or evidence, by the unaccounted-for weapons of mass destruction and by the multiple warnings that have been sent to Iraq by the Security Council in successive resolutions and statements.
Iraq could, at any time, have invited the inspectors back without conditions attached. Sanctions could have been lifted and Iraq would have been restored to normal. It is only Baghdad's insistence on retaining its weapons of mass destruction that has blocked that. It was only under intense diplomatic pressure and, particularly, the threat of military action that Iraq offered, on 16 September, to readmit the inspectors. That offer, while necessary, is not enough.
Even now, Iraq believes that it can hide its weapons of mass destruction, rather than declare them, and that it can fool the inspectors again. Our dossier on Iraq spells out that it still possesses chemical and biological materials, continues to produce them, has sought to weaponise them and has active plans for their deployment. Iraq has, in recent years, tried to buy multiple components that are relevant to the production of a nuclear bomb, retained extended-range missiles and employed hundreds of people to develop missiles with a range of more than 1000 km.
It would be an abdication of responsibility to ignore Iraq's defiance of the international community and international law. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the problem does not exist. We cannot accept Saddam's word at face value, knowing what we know. We are, therefore, working to ensure that the Security Council expresses very clearly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock said, a strong message that Saddam cannot continue to develop weapons of mass destruction. Saddam must comply with international law and we must ensure that we have a resolution that sends the clear message to him that the development of weapons of mass destruction must stop.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at half-past Five o'clock.