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Column 1107move from military contracts to civil projects will be much harder for thousands of small contractors than was believed.
Let us not forget that behind all the argument revealed in the Matrix Churchill case is trade in the tools of death and chaos. In the Westminster and Whitehall scales, it is possible for jobs saved at home to balance wars fuelled abroad. That is the black art of justification, which can be persuasive, but is also profoundly sad.
I am aware of the letter to The Times by Simon Brown, the director general of the Machine Tool Technologies Association. He says :
"Certainly the government should urgently co-ordinate its respective departments in one unified voice instead of having investigated three individuals, causing the loss of almost 1,000 jobs at the Matrix Churchill site.
It is incumbent on the government to address the whole subject of export licence procedures forthwith and clarify the situation as soon as possible especially as far as dual-use technology is concerned. The Department of Trade and Industry and other government departments must ensure that such events are not repeated. Justice prevailed, but at an extremely high and unnecessary cost to all concerned."
The arms problem cannot be resolved in one country. The sad fact is that the five members of the Security Council of the United Nations are the five largest suppliers of arms in the world. Some of us are active in Labour Action for Peace and in other organisations that have addressed themselves to the problem. Surely the time has come. Good will come out of all the argument on Iraqgate, as it is generically termed, if, at long last, the attention of the House of Commons is fixed on the terrible problem of what to do about armaments. Shakespeare had the words for it when he wrote, "Now thrive the armourers". I fear that that is still the case. Unless we tackle the problem, many other unresolved problems will come to haunt us.
Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud) : Morning sittings of the House are an abomination and interfere unnecessarily with one's lifestyle. I hope that the Leader of the House does not consider that more are necessary. My comment should not be taken as a criticism of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who customarily engages the interest and the respect of the House--although that does not mean that Conservative Members share all his conclusions.
On Monday, we heard much about the Matrix Churchill case. The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a judicial review during which all the questions can be asked. My understanding is that the judge can call for any documentation if he considers it to be in the public interest to do so. I believe that we should leave it at that.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow adopted a very reasonable tone. He had researched his questions well, unlike so many of his colleagues on Monday. I am not saying that some of his colleagues were encouraged to tell lies on the subject on Monday, but I believe that it was possible that they were telling half truths. I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you find that comment half acceptable. The speech by the hon. Member for Linlithgow was something of a tour de force--I hope that my hon. Friend
Column 1108the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) will excuse my attempt at French. On Monday, we heard about the arming of Argentina by a Labour Government in the 1970s. I know that the hon. Member for Linlithgow has a particular interest in Argentina and in what I prefer to call the Falkland islands. On more than one occasion I have heard him mention a ship called, I believe, the Belgrano. It would be interesting to carry out research to find out whether the Belgrano was armed with weaponry that had been supplied by a British Labour Government. However, I have not carried out that research. Although I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's conclusions, I enjoyed his speech. With regard to Libya, I remind him that if someone lets us down once, he will let us down again. I suspect that that applies to the present leader of Libya.
Mr. Dalyell : I concede that. I do not know whether the Belgrano carried British equipment, but the escort certainly did.
Mr. Knapman : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making his position clear.
I am not sure whether I am allowed to refer to the motion standing in my name on the Order Paper today. Fortunately, some of the motions on the Order Paper have certain similarities and I hope that you will not feel that I am trespassing, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I prefer to dwell on what I believe to be a constant friend in the middle east--a country with which we have an historical friendship. In the world today, where we seem to have great visions and grand designs and a constant need for new alliances, I hope that we will remember to concentrate on the friends with whom we have had ties over many decades--the English-speaking world, the Commonwealth, the United States of American and Jordan.
At the present time, Jordan faces many problems. It is an Arab country without oil, and an Arab country without oil is like Britain without its civil service. There are just 4 million people in Jordan and of those perhaps 1 million are refugees from what I call the west bank. Can we imagine what would happen in this country if 25 per cent. of the population had arrived as refugees and had to be assimilated? Can we imagine the problems that that would cause in our schools, hospitals and infrastructure?
The ill-judged war by Saddam Hussein, to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow referred, affected Jordan far more seriously than any other country. In addition to the refugees, at the outbreak of war the markets traditionally enjoyed by Jordan in Kuwait, the Gulf states and Iraq amounted to 70 per cent of its available external trade. Seventy per cent. of its markets were lost virtually overnight.
That was not all the bad news two years ago. Jordan has had a traditionally high standard of education. It has treated its educational system as a means of providing "the software" for economic recovery in the middle east. It has trained huge numbers of engineers, scientists and teachers. Many of them were working in the countries most closely involved in the war. As a result of the war, there were 300,000 returnees. The social consequences of that were quite devastating and the effect on remittance via pay packets back home was also very serious.
For so many years, Jordan and Israel have been negotiating over water supplies. It is ironic and perhaps a very good lesson for us that United Nations resolutions
Column 1109and international negotiations are not all about airy-fairy things. In the end, the general agreement on tariffs and trade plan did not depend on bread ; it depended on oilseed rape, something even more mundane than bread. It is quite likely that the middle eastern negotiations will depend not, I am happy to say, on oilseed rape but on water.
In addition to those problems, during and after the war that tiny country of 4 million people had 1 million refugees from Iraq in transit across its territory, mainly going to Aqaba. That surely puts our problems with Bosnia into perspective. I suggest that, at the present time, Jordan does not have a lot going for it in a material sense.
I wish now to refer to a report in The Times on 24 November because there is criticism of Jordan at the present time. That report stated :
"Jordan's prince of peace unfurls the banner of reason." The report refers to Crown Prince Hassan who last night made the annual Winston Churchill address to the English Speaking Union, I believe, although I have not yet seen a copy of his speech. The report stated :
"Some MPs tried but failed to blackball the invitation." There are no details about such a blackball, and it was obviously unsuccessful, but if the report is true, I for one would be ashamed. The Crown Prince has made it quite plain that his main great problem is that his rational approach to the 44-year Arab-Israeli conflict may fail to win over the Islamic extremists and Palestinian radicals who pose the main threat to Jordan's stability. Those are problems that we should bear in mind before we criticise. The problems that I have described would have ground the spirit of lesser countries, perhaps not so much into the mud as into the dust. As hon. Members will know, disputes in the middle east are as intractable as the problems in Northern Ireland and they date from a great deal earlier.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State tell me why, with all those problems, that tiny nation is such a key player in the middle east? Why are its views so keenly sought by its larger and more powerful neighbours? Could it be that the key to Jordan's success is that it is a stable regime in an area of turbulence? One could say that it is an oasis of sanity in an area of shifting tendencies.
A key factor in that stability is the personality of His Majesty King Hussein. Britain and Jordan share a remarkable coincidence : this year, both our monarch and the King of Jordan have celebrated the 40th anniversaries of their reigns. In the latter's case, he gained the throne when he was very young ; he has survived many assassination attempts ; and he has a daily and constant need to deploy tact and diplomacy as his rivals are larger, better armed and have more money. That has been the lot of the King of Jordan for four decades. In those circumstances, the House would agree that an occasional annus horribilis was bound to occur. However, largely as a result of his dedication and consistency, there is sometimes an annus mirabilis.
Some people blame Jordan for its part in the Iraq war two years ago. They do that partly because they do not understand the association between Jordan and Iraq. As the King has said, we must remember that the quarrel was not with the Iraqi people but with Saddam Hussein. We should remember that the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan at one time ruled both Jordan and Iraq. We must also remember that in Jordan 92 per cent. of the population are
Column 1110Sunni Muslim. Who could say how we would have reacted in those circumstances? No wonder Jordan was so frantic to negotiate a peace. Those frantic efforts to negotiate peace, which were so well reported at the time, were quickly forgotten because they were unsuccessful. They were unsuccessful because it was a case of the logical pursuing the illogical. History so often proves that one cannot reason with a dictator and we should certainly not criticise the Jordanian authorities for their failure in that respect. For those reasons, I hope that we will be sympathetic to Jordan and its people. Sympathy alone is helpful--but not very helpful. Sympathy with some practical help would be more important. Perhaps I can suggest four different ways in which sympathy, together with some practical assistance, may help. First, as I said, Jordan will play a role in peace talks out of all relation to its size. Does my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister agree that Jordan is a positive force for democracy and plurality ? I hope that that is the case. I understand that Jordan is one of the first countries to set an agenda in the middle eastern talks. Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that an agenda has been set--which is unusual in Arab-Israeli talks--under the heading "Terms of Endearment"? Let us hope that that is an appropriate heading. The draft agenda reportedly commits Israel and Jordan to seek just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the Arab states, the Palestinians and Israel based on the terms of reference contained in the invitations to the Madrid conference. Will Jordan and Israel take steps to arrive at a state of peace that is based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 ? Will Israel and Jordan refrain from actions that may adversely affect each other's security and which could pre-judge the final outcome of negotiations ?
Another part of the agenda is that Jordan and Israel should combat threats to security that result from all sorts of terrorism. They should renounce the use of force and the use of conventional or non-conventional weapons of mass destruction against each other. There is much more on the agenda. If we can help Jordan, a stable and committed small country, that may encourage other countries in due course also to reach agreement with Israel. If Jordan is a friend, we should tell it so now.
My second point relates to refugees. I have already said that there are about 1 million refugees from the west bank and 300,000 returnees, as well as 1 million refugees in transit across Jordan as a result of the recent middle eastern war. That is a huge drain on the economy. If Jordan had not seen fit to cope well with all the difficulties, they would have created the most horrendous problem for the United Nations. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will agree that we should do nothing to prejudice the efforts of Jordan and Israel.
I turn to my third point. Can my right hon. and learned Friend comment on press reports about the proposed canal which Israel and Jordan are reported to be discussing? Israel and Jordan propose to construct a $2 billion canal to run along the common border from the Gulf of Eilat, or the Gulf of Aqaba, to the Dead sea. The canal would generate hydro-electric power for both countries and be hugely beneficial to them. Have Israel and Jordan sought financial assistance for the proposed canal? Can my right hon. and learned Friend acquaint the House with the present position of the talks?
Column 1111My fourth point concerns rescheduling of debt, which is a common problem throughout the world these days. As a result of the problems, largely with refugees, that I have described, Jordan now has a debt of some $7 billion. That is a large amount of money for 4 million people. I understand that Great Britain has helped with the rescheduling of some of that debt. Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House the latest position of the talks on rescheduling the debt ? If the talks are not successful and we are suddenly obliged through the United Nations to contribute in some way in solving the refugee problem in the middle east, we shall find that that is a much more expensive way to deal with the problem. As I said, we live in an age of changing alliances and new structures. Some people think that those alliances and structures are federal ; some think that they are not. The thread of the speech of the hon. Member for Linlithgow was that we must not forget our friends. Despite the fact that our friends have often been educated in this country and despite our historical ties, they tend to be somewhat overlooked. Perhaps we take them for granted--and we should not.
I know from my research of the position in Jordan that my right hon. and learned Friend is highly respected in middle eastern countries as a politician and almost invariably as a diplomat. I hope that he will use his undoubted talents to further our interests throughout the middle east, especially in a traditional ally such as Jordan.
Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham) : I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for giving the House the opportunity to debate this matter. The House has debated foreign affairs on far too few occasions, and I certainly welcome this opportunity for debate. My hon. Friend has been steadfast in his efforts to seek justice for the middle east. The meticulous work that he has done certainly needs congratulations.
I am glad that we have a new Opposition spokesman on our Front Bench. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) will do something that the Labour Front-Bench team has not done recently--take an independent view of foreign affairs, especially on middle east matters. I believe that in Parliament, and certainly outside, the Labour party tends to follow on the coat-tails of the Government without having an independent view. I know that my hon. Friend will do what my hon. Friends have not done previously and ensure that he meets representatives from Governments such as those of Libya and Iraq. There is nothing better than meeting those people face to face to understand what is happening in the middle east and in foreign affairs generally.
As we know, there was a terrible tragedy at Lockerbie in December 1988. More than 200 people died on Pan Am flight 103, which was bound for New York. It was a terrible crime. Everyone with whom I have been involved is keen to get to the bottom of the tragedy and the truth of it. People whom I have met in Libya--I have been to Libya five or six times--have also said that they want the truth about Lockerbie to come out. They want the guilty parties to be punished. At the outset, we should say that we do not support terrorism. We want the issues of Lockerbie to be sorted out and the perpetrators brought to justice.
Column 1112That is what the families want. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow mentioned Dr. Jim Swire and his work. We all pay tribute to Dr. Jim Swire and to the Lockerbie families because their tragedy has been great. The way in which those families, particularly the British families, have conducted themselves is a tremendous credit to them in the face of the difficulties that they have suffered. In April 1986, there was another tragedy when the Americans bombed Tripoli and Benghazi and more than 100 people died. The planes that bombed Tripoli and Benghazi took off from British air bases. Therefore, the British have some responsibility for what was a terrible crime, perpetrated against the people of Libya. The reason for that bombing was that the Libyans were responsible for the La Belle discotheque bombing in Germany. Since then, most independent observers have shown that Libya was not responsible for that. To this day, neither the British Government nor the American Government have apologised to the Libyan people for that bombing or for the deaths that occurred as a result of it. To help relations, the Minister could say that, on behalf of the British Government, he is prepared to apologise to the Libyan people for that bombing.
Bearing in mind the bad blood that has existed between Libya, Britain and the United States, it is incumbent on us to examine what has happend . The British and American Governments have been demonstrating double standards in respect of Libya. For example, if we look at the United Nations resolutions, we find a very strange thing. We find that Britain, the United States and France voted for the resolution to impose sanctions on Libya. As I understand it--the Minister will correct me if I am wrong--a party that is involved in a dispute that goes before the United Nations Security Council does not take part in the vote. Britain, France and the United States voted on the resolution to impose sanctions on Libya. Of course, if they had not voted, they would not have had the required majority to pass the sanctions resolution.
We are told that the British and American Governments are concerned about human rights. I put to the Minister the human rights of the two suspects involved. Warrants were issued and the men were arrested by the Libyan Government and kept under house arrest. That is a problem. When our parliamentary delegation and others visied Libya in September, we met the men's lawyers. We were told that the men are being paid their salaries and that they are under tremendous pressure. The Libyan courts are unable to resolve the issue because no evidence is forthcoming and there have been no proper discussions or negotiations with the Libyan Government. One lawyer said that if that carries on for much longer, the men will have to be released from house arrest because their human rights are being transgressed. One of the points that the lawyer, Mr. Legwill, made to us was that the Libyan authorities could not extradite the men because, according to Libyan law, there is no extradition treaty with Britain or the United States of America. He told me that if Colonel Gaddafi tried to get the men out of Libya, he would immediately apply to a judge in Libya and stop them being removed because Colonel Gaddafi does not have that power. That is an important point. The British and the Americans are claiming that they are acting legally, but they are trying to make Colonel Gaddafi break his own laws in Libya to meet their requirements. I want the Minister to exlain that. If everything is operating on a proper legal basis, why does
Column 1113he expect a country that does not have an extradition treaty to extradite its citizens to this country and break its own laws?
Mr. Dalyell : That point greatly concerned the Minister's former colleague, Ivor Stanbrook, the previous Member for Orpington and a serious lawyer. We should respect Arab law in the same way as we hope that Arabs will respect our law.
Mr. Grant : I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is absolutely correct. Double standards are being applied by the Americans and British in this matter.
The British and the Americans have done other things. They have ignored the Montreal convention relating to terrorism on aeroplanes and so on. It categorically states that if citizens of one country are suspected of committing such a crime, they should be tried in their own country. To get around the Montreal convention, it was necessary for the British, the Americans and the French to move the resolution in the Security Council which overrode international law. Before the resolution was passed, international law stated that the Montreal convention would apply in such cases.
The Libyans took out the equivalent of an injunction to try to have the matter resolved. Each judge seemed to have a different perspective on the matter. They did not allow the injunction, but they have still to make a full determination. We look forward to what the International Court of Justice has to say.
By no means could we say that the British and Americans have been acting legally--certainly not according to what was international law in such matters. The sanctions imposed on Libya have been very severe.
The House will remember that the French Government were directly responsible for the blowing up and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. In doing so, they killed a New Zealand citizen. New Zealand asked France to extradite the responsible citizens. It was clearly state terrorism by the French Government, because the persons who were responsible were members of the French secret service. The French refused to extradite their citizens, stating point blank that French law did not allow them to do so. That was the end of the matter. France is now to sign a motion demanding that another country extradite its citizens to Britain, the United States and other nations, which is an example of its double standards.
The United States has carried out acts of state terrorism for a long time, especially in that region itself. It invaded Grenada, breaking international law ; it mined the Nicaraguan harbours, and took no notice when the International Court of Justice ruled that that had been an illegal action. It recently kidnapped General Noriega in Panama, on the pretext that he was involved in the drug trade.
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) : He was.
Mr. Grant : He may well have been, but many people are involved in drug trafficking. The Americans thought that that was sufficient reason to enter a sovereign country, kidnap the head of that country and bring him to justice.
Why has the United States not sent a task force to arrest the Colombian drug barons who could not be kept in Colombian prisons because the army was too weak and the Medellin cartel too strong? Having adopted a policing
Column 1114role, as it seems to have done, the United States should now kidnap all those who are directly responsible for the arrival of the crack, cocaine and heroin trade in that country and in Britain. We must view what is happening to Libya in the context of the actions of the Americans and the French--and the British Government have coat-tailed the Americans in this regard.
Sanctions have had a dramatic effect on Libya. In September, I led a delegation of parliamentarians, trade unionists and church and community leaders on a fact-finding mission. We were especially concerned about health matters, and our report--entitled "Report of a fact finding delegation to investigate the effects of the sanctions imposed on Libya by United Nations Security Council Resolution 748"--paid particular attention to those matters. Earlier in this Session of Parliament, the Minister made a number of statements about sanctions to European Standing Committee B ; he said, among other things, that sanctions were intended to hurt. It seems that he is quite happy for innocent Libyans to be maimed and killed as a result of them and feels that that is what the Libyan Government should expect.
We were told that the United States' deployment of sanctions against Libya was intended to make the Libyan Government hand over the two accused men, either to Britain or to the United States itself, and was certainly not intended to affect the lives of innocent people. Has the Minister changed his view, or does he still feel that the deaths of innocent people are nothing to do with him? Our delegation met a number of people in Tripoli, including Dr. Al Zaidi of the Tripoli burns unit. He told us that dozens of people had died, partly because the special antibiotics that were used to treat burns could not be imported by road or by sea ; they had to be flown in. Children, housewives and other burns cases were dying because the drugs were not available. Moreover, the air ambulance that brought patients to the unit could not operate : it had no spare parts, because sanctions had been levied against all air transport. If an accident occurred in Benghazi, which is hundreds of miles from Tripoli, the best way to deal with it would be to fly the victims to Tripoli for treatment, but, because the air ambulance was out of service, people were having to be transported hundreds of miles by road, and a number of them would die during the journey.
The doctor told us that, earlier in the year, there had been an explosion in a Tripoli factory. A number of people had died because they could not be flown out of the country for treatment. Up to 60 per cent. of the unit's staff were expatriates, and 90 per cent. of them had left since April because of the uncertainty surrounding sanctions. President Bush had threatened not only sanctions but, following sanctions, military action, and that had forced a number of medical staff to leave. They could not be replaced.
The sanctions had also prevented consultants from flying into Libya from Switzerland, Britain and other countries to mark medical students' examination papers. As a result, the number of medical staff was becoming smaller and smaller. More than 150 people had died on the way to Tunisia or Egypt, because they had been forced to travel by road. Those are all serious problems, on which the Minister should comment.
The Minister told the European Standing Committee that Libya had not applied for special dispensation for the air ambulance. Obtaining such exemptions, however,
Column 1115takes a minimum of 12 hours, and can take 48 hours--a special United Nations committee, headed by Hungary, has to call all parties together and ask them whether they will give permission for an exemption on medical grounds. When a British expatriate who worked in the Libyan oil fields needed medical attention urgently, the British Government tried to get an air ambulance into Libya ; we understand that it took a minimum of 12 hours--possibly longer--for permission to be obtained. Fortunately, the person concerned recovered during that period, but that person could easily have died in the process. Britain is a signatory to United Nations resolution 748, and is a permanent member of the Security Council. If it took Britain 12 hours to obtain permission for one of its own citizens to leave Libya, one can imagine how long it would take for Libyans to obtain permission to leave Libya. I suggested to the Minister during the European Standing Committee debate that if Libya wanted to fly its citizens out of the country, air clearance should be granted, wherever they landed--in Switzerland, Holland, Germany, or wherever--and that in Egypt there should be a United Nations team of doctors to examine patients to establish whether they are genuinely ill. They could then be taken to hospital and treated humanely. To set up a United Nations bureaucracy to scrutinise any application for exemption is an atrocious abuse of the United Nations Security Council resolution.
Mr. Dalyell : I drew the Hansard record of the debate in European Standing Committee B to the attention of a number of expatriate workers and their families. They are ferociously angry with some of the attitudes adopted by the British Government. While working with their Libyan colleagues, they are earning money for this country, but they feel that they are greatly impeded in all sorts of ways by the strong attitude of the British Foreign Office.
Mr. Grant : I thank my hon. Friend. We, too, spoke to British expatriates. About 5,000 of them are working in Libya. They are very concerned about their position. Many of them have left Libya because they fear that, should they fall seriously ill, they would be unable to leave the country. Many of them earn large sums of money, much of which is sent back to Britain and helps our economy.
Libya acts as a magnet for workers from the whole of north Africa and even further afield. The economies of Morocco, Egypt and a number of other countries are supported by the work done in Libya by expatriate workers from those countries. More than 1 million people in the region go to work in Libya and send money back home. Libya runs a free health service for the Libyan people and for people who enter Libya from surrounding countries. Their free medical treatment is being impeded by sanctions.
The result of sanctions, in particular the sanctions against air flights, is that many Libyan projects have had to close. The Libyans have frozen all new developments. That has created a problem for Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow knows that Brown and Root is the main consultant for the great man-made river project, which employs tens of thousands of workers, including 5,000 from Britain and other countries. Because certain parts cannot reach Libya quickly as a result of
Column 1116sanctions, real difficulties have been created. A number of sub-contracts that should have been awarded to British companies are now going to Korean companies and companies in other countries. Therefore, sanctions are hurting the British economy.
Mr. Dalyell : Last night, I was on the same platform as the Minister for Energy and Sir Richard Morris, the ex-chairman of Brown and Root, who is extremely concerned that those who work for Brown and Root are being put at a disadvantage because Libya is having to place contracts with South Korea and others on account of the political situation. That has very serious implications for employment in this country. That is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of Gordon Law, the managing director of Babcock and Wilcox. The injury done to British industry cannot be underestimated.
Mr. Grant : Once again I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am glad that he has given me this opportunity to make these points. I know that he could have made them in his own speech, but he has now provided us with additional information. I was unaware of the fact that he had had that conversation, but the effect of sanctions on our economy is such that the Foreign Office must answer these points.
Mr. Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford) : To widen slightly what the hon. Gentleman has said about the sanctions against Libya, does he not agree that history has demonstrated that wherever sanctions are applied, they invariably fail to resolve the problem in that territory and that, as a general rule, Governments should avoid sanctions and employ other policies to bring about co-operation with other Governments, thereby involving them in a more humane environment?
Mr. Grant : I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point. He is absolutely correct. I made the same point during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow with regard to Iraq. Sanctions do not resolve problems, as those who impose them claim. It is about time that the British and American Governments changed their policy. It is not working. It is hurting the innocent people. We ought, in 1992, to be going down an alternative road.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : The hon. Gentleman makes a general case against sanctions. Does he also oppose the sanctions that the United Nations has imposed on Serbia?
Mr. Grant : If we are to talk about Serbia, we shall be going down a different road. I believe that the United Nations should go down a different road in relation to Serbia. If the United Nations believes that ethnic cleansing should not take place, but that we should not allow refugees to come into this and other countries and that they should stay in their own areas, it is incumbent on the United Nations to go into the former Yugoslavia, to create safe havens for those people and to do so by means of military force. I am not a pacifist. I do not oppose the use of military force. Sanctions are not working there. Arms are being smuggled across the Bulgarian and other borders, so
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not continue down that path. A passing reference is one thing, but to make a long speech on that subject is not in order.
Mr. Grant : Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was only responding to the Minister's question.
Mr. Duncan : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not like to add to his list of exceptions when discussing how sanctions work, but does he agree that sanctions against South Africa have been totally ineffective and that they, too, should be abolished?
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Member must not tempt another hon. Member down the wrong path.
Mr. Grant : I agree with you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that we should not go down that path.
Mr. John Marshall : To return to the middle east, via Serbia and South Africa, the hon. Gentleman said that he did not believe in sanctions. Will he therefore make a categorical condemnation of the Arab boycott and ask the Government to stop their sanctions against Israel and agree to sell them arms and oil?
Mr. Grant: I am saying that sactions against Iraq and Libya should be lifted and that, generally, sanctions do not work. I am not prepared to widen my statement because I am not as au fait with the points that the hon. Gentleman makes as he probably is.
Mr. Marshall : The hon. Gentleman should be.
Mr. Grant : Perhaps I should be, but one cannot do everything. The Government allowed the sale of machine tools for arms to Iraq yet stopped the sale of trucks to Libya because, according to the Minister, they could be used for military purposes. It is amazing that the export of trucks was stopped because they could be used for military purposes, yet machine tools, which could clearly be used to make arms, were allowed to be exported. Perhaps the Minister will comment on the Government's apparent diverse policy.
Where do we go from here? There is a new President in America--thank God, some might say--so perhaps we will get a new policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said that Mr. Clinton has stated that he will examine matters ruled out by President Bush and the British Government on the involvement of Iran and Syria. Let us hope that those matters are given fresh and impartial consideration. We know that the Government are involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Libyans. I believe that the negotiations should be open and that hon. Members should debate what is going on to try to resolve the matter. If the British and American Governments have nothing to be afraid of, they should welcome the Arab League's proposed international inquiry, as it will break the deadlock. The Libyans and a number of other countries favour a third country trial, which is reasonable. The Maltese, for example, have offered to try the two Libyans who have been accused of planting the Lockerbie bomb. As the American and British Governments have stated that the crime started when the suitcase was put on the plane in Malta, I see no reason why both refuse to
Column 1118allow the Maltese to try the Libyans. Libyan lawyers have told me that their system is based on that used in France and the majority of countries on the continent. They are happy to come to an arrangement whereby the men are tried in a country with a similar legal system.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The hon. Gentleman has already spoken of the extradition difficulties standing in the way of the Libyan authorities, to which I shall refer in my speech. Is he saying that these two men would voluntarily surrender themselves to the courts of Malta or that the Libyan Government should extradite them?
Mr. Grant : That is a fair point. Lawyers for the men have stated that they would be quite prepared to allow the men to be tried in a third country. They are not prepared to allow Britain and America to dictate where their clients should be tried. That offer, which was made by Mr. Legwill, the principal lawyer concerned, should be pursued further. If discussions were held, we might see a breakthrough. Mr. Legwill made it clear that arrangements could be made for his clients to be tried outside Libya, not in Britain or the United States but in a third country.
With the new world situation and the new President of the United States, we should make progress. I know that the Security Council is due to discuss the matter in December, and I hope that the British Government will at least accept a suspension of sanctions to allow discussions on how to resolve the matter.
The north African region--Algeria, Tunisia and so on--is very volatile at the moment. One of the only stable countries is Libya. On its way to Libya, our delegation passed through Tunisia. Every half a mile our bus was stopped and searched by armed soldiers, despite arrangements having been made to allow us to pass. Libya was different : people were moving freely, there were no major military exercises and there was no hostility. I urge hon. Members to join an all-party delegation that I have been asked to put together by the General People's Congress in Libya in order to visit Libya next spring and hold discussions with the assembly, the congress, the Foreign Minister and the leader of Libya. If they do so, as a number of my hon. Friends and I did, they will find that Libyans are reasonable and cultured people. Libya was very peaceful. I certainly did not see any guns, apart from those worn by a few police officers, which were well obscured. We were treated very well, despite the pressure that Libya is under from the British Government. If the Government do not want to resolve the matter, parliamentarians in this country and in Libya should be able to speak because--who knows?--we might be able to achieve a solution that the Government have not been able to find so far.
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) : I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words on the motion. I believe that the House will be aware of my continuing interest in the oil industry, inasmuch as I purchase oil from the middle east and supply it to surrounding countries that are not oil producers.
I hope that the House will accept my apologies for not being able to remain until the end of the debate, but I have a speaking engagement in my constituency. I hope that the Minister, in particular, will accept my apologies.
Column 1119I intend to take a slightly broader sweep of the region than the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I do not possess his remarkable forensic qualities. There are moments when his extraordinarily close focus on such issues distorts his view. There are times when he sees the pigment but not the full picture. I am happy to refer to the main arguments of the hon. Member for Linlithgow about Libya. I feel strongly about the subject, as one of my close friends in the oil business was on Pan Am flight 103, and I have vivid memories of that day. Some of the first transactions that I conducted in the oil business were in Libya. The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that Korean companies have a major share of the construction business in Libya. They used to be paid in crude oil, which I purchased, sold in the market and converted to dollars to pay them. That is an example of how trade between two countries can extend far beyond the regions that are apparently involved. I accept much of what the hon. Member for Linlithgow said about apportioning blame, and that one should not focus only on Libya as being responsible for the Lockerbie crime but should include Iran and Syria.
I confess that I am saddened and perplexed by the way in which Libya has behaved. I should love to find a solution to the problem of our diplomatic relations with that country. I should like nothing more than for our two cultures to be harmonious again, trading openly and with the two peoples speaking warmly of one another. However, we must be realistic and understand that that country has a particularly maverick Administration. Any Foreign Office Minister or official who seeks some sort of accord faces the utmost difficulty in conducting a rational conversation to try to reach some sort of solution. Furthermore--
Mr. Dalyell rose--
Mr. Duncan : I shall give way in a moment. When the hon. Gentleman rises to his feet, will he admit that Libya undoubtedly supplied Semtex explosives to the IRA, and has attempted to undermine our Government?
Mr. Dalyell : Bad things have been done since the early 1980s. Conservative Members would be welcome to stay to listen to the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor)--I hope that the House will be able to hear his speech. He will speak for himself, but his mission to Libya was extremely important and it was a tragedy that that initiative was not taken up by the Foreign Office.
Mr. Duncan : I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I hope that I shall be able to stay to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who is familiar with Libya. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Linlithgow for his views on the matter. He referred to the Matrix Churchill problems and the sale of weapons to Iraq. The fact that there was a queue for breakfast at the Rashid hotel does not necessarily prove that it was full of arms salesmen. In my experience, there is always a queue for breakfast there. It would be as well to play for time and to appreciate that a judicial inquiry will consider the matter in detail.
Our constituents often question the defence of the invasion of Kuwait. Some people accuse the Government of being interested in repelling that invasion because of oil
Column 1120--they say that if there had been no oil they would not have done so. I do not accept that. Unlike Yugoslavia, where Islamic people face severe torture, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq was a clear case of aggressive invasion, although it was admittedly in a sensitive part of the world in which we have interests.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow, applying his remarkable forensic skills, made certain allegations about Mark Thatcher's behaviour and said that the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was in Aspen, Colorado when the invasion took place. He studied the matter in such detail that he almost seemed to imply that the Thatcher family was responsible for the invasion of Kuwait. Great danger lies in apportioning blame in that way. Saddam Hussein was to blame for the invasion of Kuwait. It is somewhat specious to suggest that Lady Thatcher was to blame because she was in Aspen--albeit she was there to stiffen the resolve of the then President of the United States. Of course we have legitimate interests in the middle east. The flow of oil is important to world security. If one is kicked in the shins, one may react mildly, but if one is kicked in a more sensitive part of the anatomy, one is likely to react more acutely.
The market for oil supplies is fairly stable. Oil is flowing freely, at a reasonable price. Since the last oil shock in 1978-79, sources of oil have been discovered in many parts of the world, diluting the concentration on oil supplies in the middle east. None the less, the middle east and the Gulf remain critical to the stable supply of crude oil. If the Straits of Hormuz were shut, the price of oil would suddenly and dramatically increase and it would cut the flow of the major share of the world's consumed and exported oil.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan-Smith) referred to embargoes. I agree with him that if there is a lesson to be learnt from the past 20 years, it is that embargoes--especially of oil--do not work unless they are supported by a military blockade. It is simply a fact of trading life that such embargoes are always circumvented. Even though ships are large objects, and cargoes of oil are supplied in hundreds of thousands of tonnes, there are ways and means to circumvent embargoes. They are an ineffective diplomatic device and cannot be applied effectively without military and intelligence support to monitor and enforce them.
That begs the question whether the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries is dead. In many respects it is dormant. It can no longer control the price of oil as it did in the early 1970s, but if it were to disband one might find that the lack of its psychological influence, which affects and underpins the market, would lead to a dramatic further collapse in the price of oil. The second question that I must study briefly is the nature of likely future Governments in the Gulf region. May I be allowed to include Pakistan in the Arab world as it is an Islamic country? It has a fragile democracy. I hope that it will survive, but it is in a perilous state. I was saddened to read a leader in The Times earlier this week denigrating Benazir Bhutto and saying that her attempt to rally popular opinion was almost an illegitimate activity. Rallying popular opinion strikes me as perfectly legitimate. It is remarkable that her leadership of the opposition is witnessing such a speedy and dramatic comeback.