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11.28 am

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): When I glanced at the Order Paper this morning and noted that my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) had secured this debate, I little thought that I would have the great privilege, largely thanks to my hon. Friend's self denial in making a short speech, of taking up the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who represents what I call the border trinity, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel).

The right hon. Gentleman has been a distinguished Member of the House for a very long time--indeed, 32 years. There is no Member of this place who has more justly deserved the title of right hon. Member. It is fitting that a number of his Liberal party colleagues, a party which he led with great distinction, should be in their places this morning to hear his short but wise speech. Although this Chamber will be deprived of his wisdom and counsel in future, I hope that I will not be accused of being too provocative if I express the hope that Parliament will not be so deprived--

Sir David Steel: Is that an offer?

Sir Patrick Cormack: I can express a hope; I cannot, alas, bestow a gift. I believe that he still has an enormous amount to offer, and although he will want to spend more time enjoying the border solitudes that he so rightly loves, Westminster needs his contributions. I trust that we shall continue to get them even if they are from another place.

I understand, from his rather frenetic activity, that the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) is likely to seek to catch your eye in the near future,

19 Mar 1997 : Column 824

Mr. Deputy Speaker. He, too, is due to make his dowager speech--I suppose that that is the opposite of a maiden speech. I know that the House will look forward to hearing him.

I did not know who would seek to take part in the debate, but I was anxious to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it is fitting, in the closing hours of this Parliament, for the House to turn its attention, in a bi-partisan capacity, towards the middle east. Although all the topics touched on by my hon. Friend in his admirable and lucid speech are important, what is surely uppermost in all our minds today are the events taking place in Jerusalem at the moment.

I am proud to call myself a friend of Israel, and I wish to see Israel with recognised secure borders, as my hon. Friend said, but if I am a friend to Israel, I am a friend to peace first, and what is happening in Jerusalem at the moment is jeopardising the chances of peace in the middle east. I appeal--carrying, I hope, the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House--to the Prime Minister of Israel to think again. In his high office, Mr. Netanyahu carries with him the hopes and fears of people all over the world.

I appreciate that it is not easy to hold together an uneasy coalition. Indeed, in recent years some in Israel have paid with their lives for their political courage, in particular Prime Minister Rabin. No price is too high to pay for peace. Mr. Rabin knew that: he paid it. His successor worthily donned his mantle and fought for peace in the middle east, recognising that when one fights for peace it is always necessary to compromise, and when one compromises, no one is wholly satisfied. There is, however, a goal that is above personal satisfaction, and it is crucial that Mr. Netanyahu recognises that.

What happened at Oslo was of crucial importance. It set in train a series of events that brought, for the first time, true hope of lasting peace to the middle east. That hope is now at risk. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister, and the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who speaks for the Opposition, will link themselves with my remarks and will appeal to Mr. Netanyahu to recognise that, if he persists with what he seeks to do, not only will he be unleashing bulldozers on a hill in Jerusalem, but he will be putting a metaphorical bulldozer through the prospects for peace. He has a duty to the country of which he is the Head of Government; he also has a wider duty to everyone in the middle east.

In an intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) referred to the yearning for peace. Mr. Netanyahu has a duty to everyone beyond the middle east who sees it as a potential cauldron from which world conflict could still erupt to try to ensure that the peace process is put back on track. Only this week, he was given a lead and an example by His Majesty the King of Jordan who, in the wake of that appalling tragedy, which brought back memories of Dunblane--almost on the anniversary of Dunblane--went and grieved with the grieving and mourned with the mourning. He went not only as a Head of State but as a human being, saying, "These things are more important. Let us, for goodness sake, sit down and work together."

If Mr. Netanyahu persists with his ambitions for the building project in Jerusalem, he is, whether he intends it or not, spurning the gesture of peace from the King of

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Jordan. If Mr. Netanyahu does that and persists with a narrow nationalism, he will jeopardise the future of his country far more than he will jeopardise the future of his Government by ceasing to appease the more nationalist members of it and those who support it.

In what I suppose will be my last speech in this Parliament--I trust that I might be able to make one or two in the next--perhaps I might be allowed to say this to Mr. Netanyahu: "The eyes of the world are upon you, and although the British Parliament is moving towards dissolution and begins to focus on a general election, nevertheless we do not neglect our responsibility as British legislators wanting to play our part in creating a true and lasting peace. We appeal to you to make that task possible by backing off from the course on which you have embarked, the end of which can be only disaster for you and your people."

11.37 am

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) for initiating the debate. I intended to intervene in his speech but could not find anything much with which to disagree. It was the first time that he has spoken in the House and I have agreed with him. I thank him for that, and thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to say a few final words.

My first words in the House were some 27 years ago, in defence of the rights of the people of Leicester, North-West--which has now become Leicester, West--following my father, who served that seat for 25 years. It is the first hereditary Labour seat in this House, and it will maintain its right to vote to the last breath. I am so sorry that there will be no Janner available for the people of Leicester in the future. I thank them so very much for their kindness to me, for voting for me and for allowing me to serve them for so long.

This is another subject with which I have been deeply connected, both as a proud Member of the House and as a proud Jewish leader. I am glad to be able to speak immediately after my hon. Friend--he is both honourable and my friend--the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), with whom I have fought many human rights battles. I pay tribute to him for his service in the House.

When listening to the debate, I wondered just how much people understood of the pressures that are on Mr. Netanyahu. I have spent the past 18 years trying, unsuccessfully, to get rid of the Conservative Government, and I am not very good at getting rid of the Governments of other countries. I did not vote for this lot in here and would not have voted for that lot over there, but we have to understand what Prime Minister Netanyahu has achieved. He went into an election saying, "No land for peace," and he broke his election manifesto promise. Conservative Members should understand that--although he did it for good reasons. He did so at a price: alas, the price is now being paid to members of his unruly Cabinet concerning matters in Jerusalem. I do not disagree with the points that have been made, but we must understand the political balance in a vibrant, vehement and difficult democracy. In that part of the world, it is almost alone in that.

I have been privileged to visit almost all the Arab countries that are happy to accept a Jewish visitor, and one or two that usually are not, such as Saudi Arabia. I have

19 Mar 1997 : Column 826

been received with great courtesy, and I hope that I have played some part in the continuing peace process. The greatest moment of this aspect of my life was when I attended Oslo, not for the agreement, but when Prime Minister Rabin, Foreign Minister Peres and President Arafat jointly received the Nobel peace prize. Rabin was my friend, and he was a great man. Shimon Peres is my friend, and I value him and am deeply attached to him, his philosophy and his person. Arafat I have become friends with, and I hope so much that the peace process will continue.

I am one of only two or three people in the House who speak Arabic. I am the only one who speaks both Hebrew and Arabic, unless the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) has been learning to speak them in his long periods away from the House during this Session. What matters to me is that we can converse, communicate and understand each other. I am not sure how much good it does to lecture Prime Ministers of other countries about how they should do their job, when we are so desperately unsuccessful in getting the Prime Minister of own country to do his as we want him to, but it is the privilege of democratic friends to try. It is a privilege that we have exercised to its full.

It is a privilege to serve in this House. It is a privilege that I shall miss dreadfully. I am grateful to hon. Members, to Ministers and to members of the Foreign Office team, with whom I have often disagreed, but who have done so much for me so courteously. I thank them all, and I bid farewell by saying how deeply appreciative I am of the privilege that I have enjoyed for so very long thanks to the good people of Leicester, West.

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