Previous SectionIndexHome Page

11.42 am

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I was greatly moved by the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), because if there was ever an issue-cause politician, he is it. I remember his maiden speech and that of my right hon. Friend--I shall call him that--the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) when he was the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. I was moved by what he had to say also.

I shall be crisp. I have had 10 debates on Libyan sanctions, but the Minister will be relieved to know that I just want to make two new points.

First, will the Government reflect on what happened in the St. Albans Crown court in the case of Regina v. Rees and Rotheroe? Judge Colston said:

Why did Judge Colston stop an important case and describe the actions of the Department of Trade and Industry as an "affront to justice"?

How much did the case of Regina v. Rees and Rotheroe cost the public in preparation and lawyers' fees?

Lawyers told the Department of Trade and Industry of their massive concerns about inconsistencies in the application of sanctions against Libya. Will the Government disclose the relevant documents to Parliament? Do Ministers agree that there is cause for urgent public concern?

19 Mar 1997 : Column 827

Does this matter not fly in the face of the rigorous implementation claims? I refer to the answer given to me when I asked

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) replied:

    "I have been asked to reply.

    We regularly discuss UN sanctions against Libya with the US Government. Both Governments remain committed to the rigorous implementation of the sanctions until Libya has complied fully with UN Security Council Resolutions 731 and 748.

    Any contravention of the legislation implementing these sanctions in the UK is a matter for the competent prosecuting authorities."--[Official Report, 26 November 1996; Vol. 286, c. 150.]

In one sense, it seems like Matrix Churchill revisited, but I come from a different direction on the whole business of Libyan sanctions. The people who really lose are those in British industry, because Libya was one of our traditional markets.

I do not doubt that Libya did bad things in the early 1980s when it supplied arms to the IRA. It is questionable whether it was responsible for the terrible murder of Yvonne Fletcher, but I am certain, for reasons that I have endlessly outlined to the House, that it was not responsible for Lockerbie, which is the immediate cause of sanctions, which deeply harm one of our traditional markets, where most of the decision makers were educated at British universities and not at American universities. I believe that we make a mistake by following America's lead on Libyan matters.

Secondly, I want to ask about Iraq. To demonise the leadership, rightly or wrongly, is hardly a mandate to punish the whole population. Unfortunately, that has been the fate of the Iraqi people since the imposition of a draconian sanction in 1990.

I want to ask about Ambassador Ekeus's mission. The special commission was established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme. Ekeus has since expressed a reluctance to define a programme of completion, and to provide a proper framework of inspection.

Regrettably, earlier this month, Ekeus was forthright in stating without reservation or remorse that Iraq may be developing or acquiring a long-range missile capability. Paradoxically, Iraq, before and during the Gulf war, was in possession of a sizeable arsenal of chemical weapons, but failed to use them. Incidentally, the technology and materials for those lethal weapons were sold to Iraq by all the countries that are permanent members of the Security Council.

If Ekeus and his team were diligent in their task, surely they would have come up with more confirmed reports. There is no "maybe" about it. One wonders whether they are aware of the commonly known fact that Iraq's economy is mortgaged for generations to come: its whole infrastructure is in tatters. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale visited Iraq with Bishop Tom Butler, the Bishop of Leicester. He is nodding because he knows, as I do, what the terrible situation is on the ground. To embark on such a mammoth advanced technological programme, Iraq must have free access to the necessary financial and technological means.

19 Mar 1997 : Column 828

Furthermore, the weakness of this statement by Ekeus may lie in his commission team's lavish life style in a ghetto created in Iraq, totally unaffected by the tragedies evolving around them, engulfed in the unrelated pursuit of historical site visits and acquiring antiquities and valuable antiques by the advantage of the strength of the US dollar--the dollar was equal to 1,300 dinar--in other words, stripping whatever is left of Iraqi national heritage.

One of the saddest experiences in the human tragedy was to go to the famous Iraq museum in Baghdad, and see how the great treasures of Sumeria and the earliest civilisations of the Tigris and the Euphrates had been treated. I believe--I have heard the same from museum personnel who are unconnected with politics--that it is disgraceful that people who are supposedly serving the United Nations are bringing home, either for themselves or for commercial profit, treasures from ancient Iraq.

It remains the case that the benefactors of this human tragedy are the western arms manufacturers. Democracy, human rights and Arab nationhood are a mirage on occasions, used by politicians to delude public opinion. Many advocate concern about the humanitarian situation in Iraq, but the harsh practicality is totally different. One cannot set aside recent replies by Madeleine Albright--

on the sanctions-related death of 500,000 Iraqi children.

Having visited a children's hospital in Baghdad, I know that, whatever the politics involved, to see those infants expiring in one's presence is a dreadful thing. God knows what that is laying up for future generations. It will affect the attitude of a whole section of the Arab world towards the west. That is a disaster, which ought to be looked into by the incoming Government, whoever that will be.

11.51 am

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) for initiating the debate. Having heard so many valedictory speeches today, I should make it clear that, although mine is also a valedictory speech, it is valedictory only in terms of the current Parliament: I intend to strive, might and main, to be in the next.

In that context, I take considerable heart from the experiences of Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. A few months ago, before the Israeli general election, all the pollsters and pundits were forecasting that he had not a hope of victory. I remember watching a television broadcast on the world network on election day, in which the Israeli Labour party proudly proclaimed, as the results were coming in, that it was back in power and that there would be a Labour Government. Indeed, a victory party was already in progress. In the end, of course, Mr. Netanyahu won the election, and he is Prime Minister today. I think that there is a lesson in that for members of all parties in the House.

Speaking as a Conservative, I am proud to describe the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) as my friend. He is retiring from the House in a few days' time. I have had the privilege of serving with him for part of his long career, and have seen him put up a real fight. Of course, he has fought on behalf of his constituents; that is his primary duty. As a member of the Jewish community in this country, however, and as one whose constituency contains a sizeable section of that community, let me say that the Jewish community has

19 Mar 1997 : Column 829

been extremely proud of the hon. and learned Gentleman, in good times and, more important, in bad. He has risked unpopularity and criticism, and I dare say he has forfeited benefits in his party as a result of his determination to stand up for the causes in which he believes.

Those causes have ranged widely: he has spoken up not just for the state of Israel, but for many other causes involving human rights for the Jewish people and others throughout the world. I pay public tribute to that tremendous record of service. Let me echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack): I hope that we shall not miss the hon. and learned Gentleman's voice, views, work and actions in years to come.

As I said a moment ago, my constituency contains, in Manchester, a sizeable Jewish community. It is a proud community, because the area was the home of modern British Zionism. It is where Weizman came to work at the university, and where he went on to persuade the British Government to grant the first recognition of the possibility of a Jewish home in Israel. I am proud of that connection.

I must say to some of my colleagues on both sides of the House--who, of course, accept the need for Israel to have security--that the issue is real, and will not go away easily. The state of Israel has lived with the threat of extinction for 50 years, and the people know that, at the end of the day, only they themselves will stand with it. They cannot rely on outside forces to come to their rescue if their freedom and security are threatened. That has been their history for 50 years, and they know it well.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin, as well as Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Rabin, contributed to the peace process. It should be remembered that he was the first to bring the Egyptians into that process. I remember when he sent Israeli bombers to Iraq to extinguish its nuclear capacity; as a result, many years later, our own forces were free from that threat in the Gulf. There was much criticism of what Begin did from all over the world and all sides of politics, but he did it to preserve Israel's security and, ultimately, ours.

I remind the House that there will be difficult times in the years to come. We all want peace in the middle east--that is the wish of everyone who lives there, not least those in Israel who have seen their sons and daughters killed and wounded for far too long--but that must be balanced by the knowledge that, whatever happens in the future, Israel is not facing extinction. It does not face a threat to its existence, or the end of what was and always has been a great dream. I hope that that will not be forgotten in the Parliaments of the future, of which I hope to be a part.

Theodore Hertzl, the founder of modern Zionism, said of the creation of the state of Israel, "If you will it, it is not a dream." I think that, if there are men and women of good will throughout the middle east who will it, peace too should not be a dream.

Next Section

IndexHome Page