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4.31 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I take the view that there should be some time sharing among us when colleagues have been waiting all day to speak, so I hope to be succinct and shall put my speech in the form of questions.

The first question arises out of the speech of the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). I listened extremely carefully to what he said about air power, and this question is perhaps less to him than to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. Is it true that air power was decisive? As I understand it, the attacks round Mount Pastic by the KLA guerrillas early last week threatened to split the Yugoslav forces by capturing the road linking Prizren and Pec. At that point, they had to come out from bunkers and from their positions to deal with what were, in effect, land forces.

The KLA fighters were land forces at the time and, in those circumstances, the Yugoslavs took serious casualties--they had to deploy large units and therefore became relatively easy targets, for the American Warthogs in particular. If that is considered accurate by the Ministry of Defence, does it not suggest that land forces were indeed decisive in persuading the leadership in Belgrade to act as it did?

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Secondly, I was asked--in rather strident terms at business questions and far more courteously by the Secretary of State for Defence--to apologise. There will perhaps be an apology from me, but it will not come until five years have elapsed. I think that Pandora's box has been opened and the horrors that have been unleashed by the bombing are almost unimaginable.

I say that partly out of experience of Bosnia. As one of those who never wanted us to go into Bosnia in the first place, I have to agree with the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock): how on earth and--this question has to be asked at an early stage--in what circumstances will we ever get out of Kosovo? I do not think that we will do so in my lifetime and I rather doubt whether we will do so in the lifetime of the youngest among us.

My third question is, how exactly do the Government think that the Russians fit into this picture? What is to be the Russian chain of command? Is it not true that the war ended earlier than it would have done because of remarkable Russian good will? That is ironic, because the Russians were sidelined by the United States and the United Kingdom for at least a fortnight at the beginning of the conflict. When we found that immediate bombing did not work, we realised that we needed the Russians.

I shall quote briefly my friend Paul Wilkinson, who is a professor at St. Andrews university. He says:

I have a particular question about the Russians, which has been eloquently put in a letter from a man I do not know, Albert McFall, to The Independent. He says:

    "If a Nato and Russian peace-keeping force does eventually enter Kosovo, there could be problems in the future.

    If as seems very likely the Serb government breaks agreements and resumes ethnic cleansing, Nato would presumably withdraw its peace-keeping troops. The air attacks would start again and Nato would then be bombing Serb and Russian troops who would remain. Would Nato also attack Russian lines of communication such as ships and transport aeroplanes?"

That question needs at least a comment.

The military advisers to Mr. Chernomyrdin, as I understand it, were insistent that there should be an autonomous Russian chain of command and it is reported that there was some conflict between him and his military staff officers. He had to say rather sharply that he alone had President Yeltsin's authority to negotiate, but those people are still there in Moscow and we should take notice of that. What is the Government's understanding in respect of the treatment of Russian troops who may be in Kosovo for a long time?

My fourth question refers to the Kosovars. They think that they are to go back to Kosovo and will get independence, although they also think that we may have gone back on that. Have we inherited another Balkan protectorate? The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South raised very powerfully the question of the KLA, which is now a tough little guerrilla army. Those partisans are unlikely to welcome the transition from beneficiaries of NATO close air support to disarmed wards of NATO peacekeepers now serving as the outriders of Serb sovereignty, if it be the case that Serb sovereignty is to remain.

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I think that disarming the KLA is an horrendous prospect, partly because I am sufficiently old to remember my contemporaries going to Malaya when I was in the Rhine Army. One of the problems in Malaya was that we could not tell the difference between a civilian and a guerrilla. It would be the easiest thing in the world for the KLA fighters to melt away, pretend to be civilians and then--unless there is a rigorous chain of command, which I gather does not exist in such a form--simply reappear.

It is difficult to be sanguine, and how on earth will we make sure that the KLA surrenders arms? I am afraid that my question of Tuesday to the Prime Minister remains: is there any evidence that the KLA will be any more willing to give up its arms than the IRA? If NATO troops enter Kosovo, the peacekeepers may find themselves having to protect Serb civilians from the KLA. It is undoubtedly true that Agin Ceku--who, incidentally, is a Croat--and Hashem Thaqi, who is one of the political leaders, are among a whole group who are absolutely determined on revenge. It seems that we will be in Kosovo for a very long time.

On 8 June, in The Independent, Timothy Garton Ash wrote:

They are determined to do so. How will we prevent them? It will be a mightily difficult job.

Yesterday I asked about war crimes, which, I understand, are not mentioned in the peace proposals. I also understand that the Russian Parliament is unwilling to accept a draft resolution calling on all concerned to help in the investigation of atrocities.

Fifthly, the Prime Minister urges the Serb people to overthrow their ruler, and says that there will be no money while he remains. Some of us think it more likely that, if left to themselves, the Serb people will deal with President Milosevic. If we try to insist, even at this stage, that they chose a ruler on our terms, is it not more probable that President Milosevic's power and grip will be strengthened? As the policy towards President Milosevic and war crimes was left out of the formal document, I now ask what it is.

Sixthly, may we have some facts about the massacres? The Albanians have repeatedly said that all these people have been massacred. The fact is that, although they are in a terrible state, many seem to have emerged. In war, all sorts of things are exaggerated, and one does not know what to believe. Undoubtedly appalling atrocities have taken place, but it would be helpful to know the scale of those atrocities, and in particular to know about rape. Serbs have vehemently denied that rape has taken place on a large scale. No doubt it has happened from time to time, but they deny it, and I think that it is now up to us to produce evidence relating to what is, after all, an emotive subject--and rightly so.

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Seventhly, may we have some information about the attitude to depleted uranium? A survey should be carried out as quickly as possible, especially in respect of those removing tanks that have been hit by armour-piercing shells. I may be in a slightly different position from Ministers in this regard, but in Iraq I saw the results of depleted uranium--used in the Gulf war by, I think, the Americans rather than us. There is every evidence that these appallingly emaciated infants are victims of that kind of shelling, and we really do need to conduct a survey as soon as possible.

When I asked about that last night, the Secretary of State for Defence replied:

That is certainly true, but the scale of the environmental catastrophe affects all of Europe: environmental catastrophe knows no boundaries.

My eighth question is this. What is the assessment of the number of soldiers who will return in the next few months to find that they have no jobs, because their factories have been knocked out? It is a classic problem: a returning army finds that there is unemployment, and inability to work. Therein lies huge mischief.

Ninthly, I want to ask about the clearing of cluster bombs and other armaments. Kosovo is littered with unexploded cluster bombs--dropped by us, I understand. They are not very different from land mines. The Ministry of Defence can take great credit from the land mines treaty, but, although the seriousness of that problem has been recognised, we have not been told who will clear up the cluster bombs.

General Sir Michael Rose has said:

My final point is this. What will be done about conflict prevention? In particular, what will be done about the Carnegie report, which has been with the MOD for two years, and about the crisis management unit proposed by the Finns?

I promised to share the allotted time, and I will stick to that promise.

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