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Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election to the Scottish Parliament. I think that there are many reasons why the people of Scotland rejected independence as an option last week.

I am confident that the local authorities that we invite to assist us in accommodating the Kosovar Albanians will rise to that challenge. My hon. Friend has a long record and experience of providing help to the people of Bosnia, and I am sure that both he and his constituents will rise to the challenge of helping the people of Kosovo.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): At the end of April, I and other members of the International Development Committee had the good fortune to be briefed by two British NATO generals in Albania and Macedonia. I think I speak for Committee members from both sides of the House when I say that we were very impressed by both the generals and the good humanitarian work carried out by NATO troops in those countries. However, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is a growing body of opinion to the effect that, although there is no problem with the armed forces' prosecution of the war, there is a problem with the political direction and a lack of understanding on the part of our political leaders? Is he

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aware that informed opinion in this country lacks confidence in our political leaders--indeed, there is a growing conviction that the political leadership both in Washington and in this country has no idea what it is doing?

Mr. Cook: I cannot say that I regard that contribution as immensely helpful in demonstrating to Belgrade our unity, resolve and determination. It is very easy to make that kind of open criticism. If the hon. Gentleman is genuine and serious about trying to find a way forward, and if he has thought of some approach that has escaped the 19 members of the alliance and its military command, we would be grateful if he would express his views rather than simply criticising what is being done.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): Is the Foreign Secretary aware--he must be--that no one in the House is an apologist for President Milosevic or the crimes that he has committed? Is he aware that those who know war know that it is bloody and indiscriminate? When NATO decided to make war, it knew that many innocent people would be killed--and that has happened. Is the Foreign Secretary also aware that the impression is being created that the Government have lost contact with reality? The American Senate--which, unlike the House of Commons, has some power over matters of peace and war--will not support ground troops. The air war will not succeed. Therefore, the best hope for the refugees is to take up the Russian proposal at the Security Council where there is an opportunity to find a solution. Bombing and insult, in equal proportions, are getting us nowhere. The invasion will not be allowed and the danger is that the Government are misleading the refugees into believing that this policy will enable them to return home.

Mr. Cook: With respect to my right hon. Friend, I said in my statement that we are now working with Russia in order to take forward a Security Council resolution. I hope that we may be able to produce a draft of that resolution before the end of the week. It is certainly our objective to work on it as fast as we can.

The obstacle to a resolution in the past seven weeks has not been us, but Russia and the threat of a Russian veto. I welcome the fact that we have achieved common ground upon which we can take forward the resolution. However, the House must be clear: we have secured a political agreement with Russia, and that is very different from a settlement with Belgrade. There is no evidence that if we back off and relax the military pressure, Belgrade will suddenly decide to do what it resisted doing throughout the Rambouillet peace talks. I do not, therefore, believe that we are selling the Kosovo refugees an honest prospectus if we say that there is a way forward that does not involve a military campaign.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): It is unfitting and unsuitable for the Foreign Secretary to question the Opposition's resolve and motives because they choose to question and draw attention to the monstrous and unforgivable incompetence of the bombing of the Chinese embassy. One would have hoped that if NATO truly thought that the Chinese embassy was the federal

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procurement executive, it might have taken action some time beforehand to remove the executive and troubled to find out exactly where the Chinese embassy was.

Much more work needs to be done by NATO and others involved to prepare for the reconstruction of Kosovo. What steps were taken at the G8 meeting to prepare for efforts to rebuild the houses that will be needed to shelter the hundreds of thousands of poor refugees, who will return to scenes of total devastation? I urge the Foreign Secretary, instead of posturing at the Dispatch Box, to give us straightforward answers without irrelevant criticism.

Mr. Cook: With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I could not have made clearer to the House my concern about what has happened to the Chinese embassy and the difficulties that the events have caused us all.

On the reconstruction of Kosovo, we committed ourselves at the G8 meeting to an interim administration under an international authority, which we anticipate will be achieved through United Nations endorsement and a resolution. That interim administration will need to call on all the resources of the international community, including the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union and the UN, as well as NATO. Reconstruction will be a major task.

At my meeting, after this statement, with Carl Bildt, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General, I hope to explore how he and his fellow envoy, Eduard Kukan, can work together to prepare plans for what happens after we go into Kosovo. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the preparations for that need to start now. We face the task of rebuilding a whole country.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West): I welcome the agreement with Russia, not as an alternative to NATO's military action, but as a complement to it. In planning for the eventual international peacekeeping force under the direction of the UN, are special steps being taken to widen participation as much as possible, particularly to involve the Governments of Muslim countries? Is my right hon. Friend aware, for example, that the United Arab Emirates has made substantial aid available to Albania to provide a field hospital, an airport and several camps, and would be willing to participate in an international peacekeeping force?

Mr. Cook: I welcome my hon. Friend's question. It is true that several Muslim countries are anxious to help, and some are already doing so. We have always made it plain that although any international military force must have a NATO core to be credible, it need not be exclusively NATO. I would welcome Russia's involvement in such a force, and I hope that Muslim nations will also be involved, to ensure that we demonstrate a full international presence.

Mr. Alan Clark: It was not the Royal Air Force that smashed up the Chinese embassy, and as the Foreign Secretary is speaking in the British House of Commons, why does not he say so? That action was taken by the USAF, whose general and habitual standard of inept targeting and gung-ho opportunism must have been responsible for the deaths of many hundreds of civilians. In the last war, the alliance had the habit of issuing

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communiques at the end of almost every day, saying what had happened and which units within the alliance had been tasked to take the action. Why cannot we introduce that procedure, and then at least some degree of responsibility for these repetitious outrages would be easier to attribute?

Mr. Cook: I can confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that UK aircraft were not involved in the attack on the Chinese embassy. He is the first Member to ask that specific question, and I am happy to give that specific answer. However, I stress that we are operating as an alliance. It would not help us to continue to prosecute the war together as an alliance if we were to get involved in individual recrimination, and I have no intention of doing so.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Does my right hon. Friend agree that had Labour Front Benchers during the Falklands or Gulf wars made the sort of criticisms that we have heard from Conservative Front Benchers today, there would have been howls of outrage from the then Conservative Government? Does he also agree that when the wrong target has been bombed, as happened with the Chinese embassy, the whole House is concerned, but that to try to pretend that such mistakes will not be made in a military conflict is naive in the extreme and undermines the original intention of the action?

Mr. Cook: I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend. If there is to be a military campaign of the intensity necessary to make its mark on President Milosevic, it will unavoidably, on occasions, contain errors. That is why it is so important that we rightly express our concern about such errors, seek to learn lessons from them and try to prevent them from recurring. However, that should not divert us from our central resolve to see the campaign through.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): The Foreign Secretary has told the House that a review will take place to consider the procedures that allowed the bombing of the Chinese embassy to take place. I invite him to give the House more details of that review, especially how long it will take and when any new procedures will be implemented. With the bombing proceeding every day, it is a matter of urgency to learn what lessons we can and to put new procedures in place.


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