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Column 1134I draw the attention of the House to early- day motion 827 which attracted considerable support. It stated :
"That this House, recalling the mysterious death in an hotel room in Santiago, Chile, in March 1990, subsequently held to be murder, of the British defence journalist Jonathan Moyle, conscious of the belief of Mr. Moyle's family that their son was murdered because of his investigations into the supply to Iraq of the Helios weapons guidance system and the Stonefish mine by Chilean arms dealers Cardoen Industries, and noting the links between Cardoen and Matrix Churchill and the Iraqi regime, calls upon Mr. Justice Scott to include in his inquiry an investigation into the circumstances of the murder of this young British journalist."
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Chilean authorities investigating the murder have reported that the British Government have been unhelpful in that investigation? The British Government should come clean about that matter. Have the British Government been unhelpful to the Chilean authorities which are investigating the murder?
Mr. Livingstone : I am able to confirm what my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) said, I shall come to that matter in a moment.
A pattern has emerged. Mark Thatcher has been linked to Dr. Carlos Cardoen. It is alleged that Mark Thatcher's Texas-based company sent arms to Iraq. Then the British journalist who was sent to investigate was murdered. After the pattern emerged, I tabled another early-day motion, which stated :
"That this House notes the belief of Mr. Moyle's family that he was murdered because of his investigation into the arms deals of Carlos Cardoen, the Chilean associate of Mr. Mark Thatcher, and calls on both men to publish full details of their business links." Once again, I was told by the Table Office that the early-day motion was repetitious, according to the previous Speaker's ruling on repetitious motions.
Yesterday, we saw Dr. Cardoen speak out in public for the first time. In the months and years that have passed, I have never seen a picture of that gentleman work its way into the press, let alone heard of his conducting an interview and being questioned by British journalists. However, in yesterday's The Independent an account of that interview was reported. That report is truly shocking. It brings a much more sinister twist to the matter and raises frightening issues.
Dr. Cardoen revealed that he briefed the British and United States Governments during most of the 1980s on Baghdad's efforts to acquire weapons. Dr. Cardoen is no longer some shady arms dealer ; he claims to have briefed our Government and the United States Government during the 1980s. The report states :
"Dr. Carlos Cardoen, who produced and procured weapons for Iraq from 1981"- -
he admits the charge that he was the main arms procurer for Iraq in the west--
"told the Independent that the British and American embassies in Santiago, as well as US Department of Defense officials, were given ample explanation' of Iraq's procurement network"--
Why should they not be given that explanation? We were supporting Iraq in its war. It should come as no surprise to the public-- "and that officials visited his arms plants on several occasions and verified the entire manufacturing process of the arms in question.' "
We are now told by Iraq's main arms procurer that British and American embassy officials visited his plants
Column 1135which made the arms for Iraq and inspected the process. We shall expect an explanation from the Minister when he replies to the debate.
Mr. Dalyell : Does not that underline the serious concern that many of us have about the ethics of officials? For many years, I never doubted the ethics of the British civil service. But the whole Ponting trial and now the information that officials were apparently party to actions which are improper in the eyes of the House of Commons raise deeply disturbing issues.
Mr. Livingstone : I certainly hope that Lord Justice Scott will interview the officials and bring them before his committee to question them on the exact details of whom they told and where the information went after they visited Dr. Cardoen's arms factories. There is also the Matrix Churchill affair. In his first interview, certainly with western media, Dr. Cardoen revealed that Matrix Churchill was allowed to export machine tools to him, even though the Foreign Office was fully aware of his relationship with Saddam Hussein. We shall want that matter to be investigated in full by Lord Justice Scott.
Dr. Cardoen said in his interview :
"On behalf of the Iraqi government, we acquired Matrix-manufactured machine tools and then re-exported them to Baghdad. All this was done in keeping with all legal documentation demanded by British law." One must ask whether, as the officials saw the trial of the Matrix Churchill Three progress--I suppose one could call them that--any of them thought to alert the people who were conducting that prosecution that, throughout that time, Dr. Cardoen had passed to the British Government all that they needed to know, as he took Matrix Churchill's weaponry and machine tools and passed them on to Iraq. How could officials be silent, knowing that all the documentation had been passed to the Government, having been briefed by Dr. Cardoen and having been allowed to see his arms factories, where the Matrix Churchill machinery was repackaged and shipped on?
The Foreign Office has a wonderful response. It says "We shall await the outcome of the Scott inquiry." That has become one of the most frequently used phrases in British politics today. I half expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the Budget will have to await the outcome of the Scott inquiry. Soon, government will stop until Lord Justice Scott manages to conclude the inquiry. How can it be that the Government cannot answer our simple questions? The Government are using Lord Justice Scott to hide behind.
Mr. Dalyell : Will my hon. Friend once again reflect that not only he and I, and a few other difficult--in the eyes of some people--Members of Parliament are asking these questions? The chairman of the Bar Council has said :
"Whoever read the confidential documents would have known that it was improper to proceed with the prosecution."
Why was the prosecution then not dropped instead of it being pursued, presumably in the hope that the judge would not allow the documents to be disclosed at the trial?
That was said by Anthony Scrivener QC, the chairman of the Bar Council, not the hon. Member for Brent, East or the hon. Member for Linlithgow.
Mr. Livingstone : We are in the company of not only the chairman of the Bar Council but two junior Ministers.
What is now revealed in today's newspapers, and in The Guardian in particular, is that two junior Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry refused to sign the documents which their senior colleagues were then prepared to sign. If two junior Ministers knew that it was wrong to sign those documents, how come the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was able to overide them and sign them? There are honourable Conservative Members who realise that the Government were behind the arms sales to Iraq and were not prepared to send innocent men to gaol, but their views as junior Ministers were overridden, and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry signed in their place.
Mr. Dalyell : The Attorney-General has misled the lot of us in claiming that they had to do it. His argument has been destroyed by Anthony Bradley, professor emeritus of public and constitutional law at the university of Edinburgh and the editor of Public Law .
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : I am not sure whether I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, but I thought that he said that the Attorney-General misled someone or other. I hope that he did not, but, if he did, would he mind rephrasing that?
Mr. Dalyell : The Attorney-General has led Parliament, the press and people into great confusion on the issue of public interest immunity and has been badly advised in this matter.
Mr. Livingstone : There is going to be a lot of confusion before this matter is out of the way, I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In his interview, Dr. Cardoen refers to the murder of Jonathan Moyle, which brings me back to the point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton. He believes that the point that was raised by my hon. Friend is correct. We read
"the Chilean authorities"--
not our Government--
"announced last week that they were re-opening of the investigation into Jonathan Moyle's death. The judge co-ordinating the original inquiry, which was unable to identify Mr. Moyle's murderers, complained that his investigation was obstructed principally by the unwillingness of the British authorities to co-operate."
We are talking about embassy officials refusing to co-operate with a Chilean judge investigating the murder of a British journalist who was investigating arms deals involving the former Prime Minister's son. That is a scandal, if true, for which people should go to prison.
Who authorised British officials to refuse to co-operate with the Chilean judge investigating the murder of a British journalist ? Was the decision taken at ministerial level ? Was it taken on the advice of the security or intelligent services ? That is what we wish to know. Then we see the disinformation nonsense again. We read "Mr. Moyle died in a Santiago hotel room in March 1990, apparently after being injected in the heel. British officials alleged that he died while masturbating."
That is exactly what we would expect--disinformation, an attempt to smear someone who has been murdered, not by a Russian spy, not by Carlos Cardoen's henchmen, but by British officials. Who authorised the British officials--the responsible Minister is here ; I am sure that he will
Column 1137tell us--to brief the press that that journalist died while masturbating, when it now appears that he was injected with a lethal substance in his heel ?
What did British officials have to cover up ? Was it eight years of illegal sanctions busting and arms deals to Iraq that involved the former Prime Minister's son ? Is that worth killing for ? That is what it is beginning to look like--it is beginning to look like British officials have helped to cover up the murder of a British journalist who was getting embarrassingly close to breaking open a story about the arms dealings of the son of the former British Prime Minister. That is why the matter becomes more sinister with every day that passes.
Arms dealers--unnamed--have insisted that Jonathan Moyle was killed by the Iraqis while investigating an arms deal by Dr. Cardoen and the Iraqis. That may have centred on negotiations that Dr. Cardoen and with Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd.--another British firm--based in Hampshire, for the transfer of sophisticated mine technology. I hope that the British firm will be interviewed by Lord Justice Scott. I hope that we shall be told exactly what it was negotiating to sell the Iraqi regime via Dr. Cardoen's military and financial network. Dr. Cardoen
"denies any role in Mr. Moyle's death."
I put that on the record because it has been said that it would be unfair to quote part of Dr. Cardoen's interview without also quoting his denials.
"GEC-Marconi said that contacts with both Cardoen and Iraq were known in advance to the Ministry of Defence."
Isn't that interesting! Why were we not told? Why was the Ministry of Defence alerted to what was going on? Did it tell Ministers? Was the Secretary of State for Defence involved? Should not the fact that, at the height of a war, we were helping to build up one of the most unstable of dictators and to construct a vast military machine in Iraq have been reported to Cabinet? Would not members of the whole Cabinet have liked to discuss whether that was a wise policy? I do not even ask whether it was a moral one. Has there been any discussion since then about how convenient Jonathan Moyle's death has been to the British Government, and to anyone else who may be involved in the matter?
Dr. Cardoen says :
"it was wrong to cast him as the mastermind of an arms procurement network' considering the relatively small amount of business we did with that country in the face of the huge arms sales carried out by the United States and the United Kingdom."
I do not want to defend Dr. Cardoen. He has many interesting side interests : for instance, he possesses a major collection of Nazi war daggers. I suspect that he is not "one of us", as the former Prime Minister would have said I doubt that he is a socialist, that is--but what he has said is of no assistance whatever to the Government. Dr. Cardoen was educated in the United States of America and was advised to go into weapons production by General Pinochet--also not "one of us". In the early 1980s, he made his money by producing "aviation cluster bombs which kill over an area equivalent to 10 football pitches. For the duration of the war"--
the war between Iraq and Iran, that is--
"he was making $80 million a year selling the bombs to Iraq." I should have expected the Prime Minister of the day to advise her son that this was not a business associate with whom he should be involved. Can we imagine what would have happened if one of the children of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), the former
Column 1138Leader of the Opposition, had been involved with an arms dealer? We would have heard about it ; I suspect, indeed, that the Tory press would have run the story for days, until my right hon. Friend had been driven out of public life. However, there was not a peep out of the press. I should also have expected MI6 to alert the Prime Minister to what was going on.
In 1987, Dr. Cardoen built a factory outside Baghdad. This was not some small-time supplier, but the Iraqi Government's main arms supplier other than Governments. The factory was built
"for the production of artillery ammunition and cluster bombs. He brought Matrix Churchill machine tools for this plant."
I would have expected MI5 to pick up on that, and brief someone in the British Government.
With the end of the Gulf war came a crisis. How could Dr. Cardoen continue to make ends meet? He diversified.
"He went into partnership with South Africa for the production of ammunition and he was also negotiating for the transfer of modified US-made Bell helicopters to Iraq. It was rumours of this deal that drew Jonathan Moyle to Santiago."
That brings me back to the point at which I came in : the involvement of Mark Thatcher in an attempt to break United Nations sanctions and enable South African arms to be sold to Saudi Arabia. I have no evidence ; circumstantial evidence, however, can be so extensive and so cross- referenced as to build up a case that is overwhelmingly damning. I believe that The Independent, The Guardian, former Israeli intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe and many others who have investigated the matter have built up a case so overwhelming on the basis of such evidence that any jury would convict on what was put before it. It is now the Government's duty to prove their innocence. It is their duty to prove that they did not know what was going on and to convince the House that the former Prime Minister was not briefed about her son's activities. If they cannot do so, they have forfeited any moral claim to continue in office.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath) : The House will be relieved to hear that I do not need 53 minutes to put over some thoughts on the middle east. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) fired off a sheaf of allegations. His speech resembled a train with many carriages : I did not see very many passengers sitting in them, though the hon. Gentleman had his hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) stoking up the engine from time to time. Since the hon. Gentleman has been a Member of Parliament, he has enjoyed spattering these Benches with allegations. I feel rather like a tramp who is asked to look through every single street litter bin in Pimlico just in case there is one unsmoked cigar to pick out and smoke. I shall not bother. Most of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman are matters for the law courts. I am interested in the fact that he made a speech that has the protection of the House of Commons. I wonder whether he will make a similar speech outside the House this afternoon.
If the hon. Gentleman and I sat in the Tea Room for an hour discussing politics, we would disagree on 99 points out of 100. I want to refer to the one issue on which I think we do agree ; I believe it to be at the heart of our debate.
Column 1139I think we both agree that the core issue in the troubled middle east concerns the rights and the freedom of the Palestinian people. Before I address that issue, I intend to say something about our troubled relationships with Libya, the main subject of the first motion on the Order Paper. It is curious that three of us independently approach the middle east from different angles. Those of my colleagues who are anxious to have lunch can read the synopsis of my remarks in the third motion on the Order Paper and rejoin us, having had their lunch.
We have diplomatic relations with all the 21 Arab countries in the middle east except Libya and Iraq. We had problems with Syria ; but when British troops were serving alongside Syrian soldiers it was agreed that it would be wise to allow British and Syrian diplomats to meet one another. Thus, we restored relations with Syria. It is not in the interests of this country to have no relations with Libya. Before Colonel Gaddafi arrived on the scene, we had rather good relations with Libya, from which both sides benefited. There is a great deal of trade to be had with Libya, to the mutual benefit of both countries. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow knows, no doubt, in my capacity as chairman of the Conservative middle east council, I was invited to meet a senior member of the Libyan Government recently to talk about the possibility of restoring relations with Libya.
I shall be blunt with the House. There are many members of the Metropolitan police living in my constituency. If I talk to my constituents about restoring relations with Libya, the first thing they mention is the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. Secondly, they refer to the shipment of arms to the IRA. It is a grim thought that, however successful the authorities may be in the north and the south of Ireland in finding arms caches, there are enough arms available to the IRA to last well into the next century, and perhaps to the year 2020.
Therefore, people regard Colonel Gaddafi, if not the Libyan people, with a jaundiced eye. The Lockerbie explosion was a disgrace. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State described it as the worst civilian massacre in Europe since the end of the second world war, or words to that effect. I believe that that is true. Two hundred and seventy innocent people died in the explosion. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and could not help thinking that Colonel Gaddafi might be well advised to extradite the two individuals in question and then we would see whether legal action followed in Libya.
The hon. Gentleman made a genuine point about the Montreal convention. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister is well qualified to talk about that later.
What emerges is that we need an international court to try criminal cases. I know that it has been suggested that Libya would be happy to hold the trial in Malta, and I believe that Germany has been mentioned recently, but there is no precedent for it. I hope that the Government will raise in the Security Council--it has been raised previously--the possibility of setting up an international criminal court to try those responsible for terrorist crimes and crimes against humanity.
I want to move on to the middle east peace process. Let me begin by paying tribute to President Bush and
Column 1140Secretary of State Baker, who have painstakingly got the talks under way. It was a considerable achievement, but I cannot honestly regard the United States of America as a neutral between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Are the Palestinians in receipt of more than $3 billion, paid in advance every year? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that the United States has used Israel as a client state, and in the cold war Israel was seen as an aircraft carrier permanently moored in a strategic part of the world. That was an absurd idea, but I met many people in the United States who saw Israel in those terms. Israel has now become a liability to the United States. I cannot believe, although I pay tribute to the United States, that it is in a good position to push the talks to a peaceful conclusion unless the European Community puts its weight behind the wheel to an extent that I have not yet seen.
The European Community is more involved in the middle east than is the United States. We share a border with the middle east. We have unique responsibilities for the creation of the problem in the first place, and I agree with the hon. Member for Brent, East that we promised Palestine to two different people, which was one of the biggest blunders of British diplomacy this century.
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will tell us that when Community leaders meet at Edinburgh--goodness knows, the problems hovering around the Edinburgh summit must be like the ravens hovering around Edinburgh castle--there will be a strong statement supporting what we said in Venice and in Lisbon, and backing the Palestinian people and the need to get a peaceful long-term settlement to this vexed problem.
I now turn to a related matter--the position of Israel in the Lebanon. My right hon. and learned Friend and I had a quick go at this at a late hour last night. It is monstrous that one middle eastern country is occupying 10 per cent. of an independent and sovereign Arab state. Worse, it has set up a surrogate army--the south Lebanese army--to hold down the people living in the area. It is a hornets' nest. I draw the House's attention to a splendid quote by the late Lord Caradon, who wrote some time ago :
"To imagine that security comes from repression, grabbing and holding territory, from creeping colonisation in Arab lands or from a concrete encirclement in Jerusalem, from domination by forts and outposts, is a most dangerous deception."
He went on :
"every schoolboy knows that forts in enemy territory are not a guarantee of security, they are a guarantee of insecurity, an invitation to resistance and harassment and attack."
I suggest to the House that that is exactly what has happened in southern Lebanon in recent months.
A United Nations spokesman was quoted the other day as saying : "The Israelis send their soldiers to occupy someone else's country and get bombed"--
it was after the recent incident involving Hezbollah.
"They then say they are being attacked by terrorists and blame us for not protecting them."
Mr. Sumberg : My hon. Friend said of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) that there were 99 issues on which he would disagree with him and one on which he would agree with him. I imagine that my hon. Friend and I are in much the same position.
Will my hon. Friend consider the state of the Lebanon? It is not a country or a state, but a piece of land, parceled up by warlords, including the Syrian army. To pretend
Column 1141that Lebanon is a united nation, with all the structures of a modern state, is unrealistic. Israel is in Lebanon to protect its borders and its people from terrorist attacks, which have taken place year in and year out. To ignore that factor is to ignore the problems facing the Israeli Government.
Mr. Townsend : I am in danger of following the hon. Member for Brent, East in making a rather longer speech than I had intended to make. I am particularly interested in the Lebanon. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) does not suggest that because one country is in a shambles--which I hope that it is emerging from--another country should be allowed to seal off 10 per cent. of it, and send a surrogate army in to repress the local people. That is an impossible international concept. Following the TAIF agreement and international support, the new Government in Lebanon are seeking to establish law and order in that troubled and divided country. We should wish them well. Law and order will not be established as long as the Israelis are allowed to maraud in other people's territory.
When I raised the subject of Lebanon some years ago, one of the Minister's predecessors spoke strongly on the subject, saying : "In common with our European Community partners and others, we remain committed to UNIFIL as a force of stability in southern Lebanon. We deplore the recent increase in fighting and all attacks on UNIFIL. Shooting at UNIFIL is completely unjustified. We condemn punitive expulsions--despite UNIFIL protests--of old men, women and children from their houses in Israel's self-declared security zone. The continued Israeli military presence in the Lebanon is provocative, destabilising and against Israel's own long-term interests."-- [ Official Report, 23 March 1992 ; Vol. 149,
c. 133-34. ]
I challenge my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to be sufficiently robust to match that when he winds up. The plight of the marsh Arabs in southern Iraq has troubled me for some time. I welcome the setting up of a no-fly zone there. One of the reasons behind that decision of the United Nations Security Council was to deal with the plight of the Shiia people in the bottom of Iraq. There are two good books on the Arab world which I recommend to my hon. Friends for their holiday reading--Lawrence of Arabia's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", and Wilfred Thesiger's, "The Marsh Arabs". Thesiger writes charmingly of the community that he lived with in the marshes and points out that Iraq's civilisation was founded on the edge of the marshes.
To bring us up to date, my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) recently visited the marsh Arabs. To give the flavour, she told the House that just inside Iraq she found :
"There are great black, smoking areas, stretching into the water where one or more missiles landed, perhaps an hour earlier. The black zones are 300 metres long : if the missiles had landed in the town they would have demolished 20,000 homes Food stocks have been removed The farms have been burnt, including the small rice farms in the marshes"
She was also told by the villagers that Iraqi troops were stationed 30 km outside the marshes. Those soldiers returned daily by assault boats, which carry some 35 armed men, to burn, shoot and kill defenceless people and destroy their towns and villages. Whole areas are being emptied of their inhabitants.
Column 1142We have stopped Saddam Hussein using his aircraft to attack the marsh Arabs, but, of course, he has the military might to move into those villages by assault boat and to use his artillery to destroy them. Although it is true that marsh Arabs are fleeing daily into Iran, where there are already more than 3 million refugees, those who remain behind are captured, tortured and killed. Just maintaining a no-fly zone is insufficient.
I believe that the Government line--it is not my job to speak for them--is that they are greatly concerned about this, but, bearing in mind the trouble they had with the Arab world in setting up that no-fly zone, they do not believe that a further step is possible. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will make it absolutely clear that we will not sit idly by and that we will raise this matter in the Security Council.
I cannot recall a time since I entered the House--I came here in 1974--when we have all known from official reports produced in this country and abroad that 50,000 people are being exterminated like a plague of locusts. That is happening, and unless action is taken, frankly, by the turn of the year, those people who Wilfred Thesiger so ably described in his book will no longer be on the face of the earth. Surely there is something that we, a permanent member of the Security Council, can do about that.
Before I conclude, I should like to refer briefly to the Atlantic coast of the Arab world. In common with many of my hon. Friends, I enjoyed meeting the head of the Polisario, who was in London a few days ago. The Secretary- General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, faces an appalling dilemma that requires the wisdom of Solomon. We have promised a referendum on the western Sahara. The Polisario believes that those who are entitled to vote should be those on the Spanish census in 1974. The Moroccans believe that there are good grounds for adding names to the list- -they have produced a lot of names that they want to be added. A journalist said that that was rather like asking the Irish in Boston to be allowed to have a vote in the Irish general election.
It is not for Britain to take sides, but it is for Britain to give all the help that it can, to strain the sinews, to help the United Nations Secretary-General over this particular hurdle. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will find time to comment on that.
Mr. Knapman : I take it that my hon. Friend is making the point that a referendum is a good thing where constitutional issues are involved. If that is the case, may I take the opportunity of reminding him of that in forthcoming weeks?
Mr. Townsend : My hon. Friend has shared an office with me for many years and I think that he knows my views on that rather well. They are not entirely to his liking.
The moment has come for me to conclude, and I shall do so by reverting to my opening remarks. The peace process has made limited progress in the past year. Inevitably the wilder men in the Palestinian camp say that it is a waste of time and that they must go back to violence. The moderates in the Palestinian camp, including the PLO, are saying, "We must remain stuck into the talks, painful though that may be. Hopefully, Rabin and the new Labour Government in Israel will in time make concessions."
Column 1143If progress is not made in the talks, and if they finally collapse, the death and destruction that might follow among Palestinians and Israelis is beyond our imagination. I do not see how another war between Jews and Arabs could be avoided in the middle east if the talks finally run into the sand.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) on making a good speech. I agreed with much of it ; indeed, I agreed with more of it than the 1 per cent. to which he referred in his opening remarks. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on choosing this subject for debate.
The House has not had an opportunity for a long time to discuss the Arab world in general and relations with Libya and Iraq in particular. Hon. Members have not had a chance to air their views on that important issue, despite its importance to many people in that part of the world and here.
I will not follow the route taken by the hon. Member for Bexleyheath, or by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) in his excellent speech. I shall not dwell on the monstrous Iraqgate scandal. In due course, that whole issue will have to be explained, and not just as a result of Lord Justice Scott's inquiry. It would be wrong for the Government to hide behind such a report. If they tried to do that, the issue would not go away, because innocent people nearly went to prison because of a Government cover-up.
Let us not forget that British and allied troops risked their lives because, out of greed, the Government promoted arms sales to the unstable Iraqi regime. British troops risked their lives by facing those very arms. The issue will not go away even after the Scott report is published. I suspect that it will have a prominent place at the next general election ; perhaps it should have been raised more prominently at the last election. If the Government do not answer the Iraqgate questions now, they will have to do so at the next election.
I echo the comments of my neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) in calling for the early release of his constituent, Paul Ride, who is in prison in Iraq. I endorse everything that he said and hope that Mr. Ride will be back with his family at the earliest opportunity.
Several hon. Members have referred to the need to improve relations with Libya. I agree that such an improvement would be beneficial for all concerned. The Lockerbie bombing was montrous and disgusting, but it has not been proved conclusively, at any rate to my satisfaction, that the Libyans were solely responsible. While the blame has been heaped on Libya, Syria and Iran have been forgotten. At other times, when those countries were the be tes noirs of this country's foreign policy, the blame was heaped onto them. That is not a satisfactory way of getting to the truth.
Not long after that event, an Iranian civilian aircraft was shot down by American forces ; I throw that fact out to the House because it could just as easily have been the case that Iran was seeking revenge by attacking American aircraft. It is therefore wrong to put all the blame on Libya