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Mr. Robathan: The hon. Gentleman is being uncharacteristically unreasonable, if I might put it that way as a compliment. In the absence of the person who said, "Guthrie must go"--I did not necessarily agree with my hon. Friend--the hon. Gentleman should note that those of us who have at any stage, as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has, served in the armed forces, tend to be cautious before we say, "Let us get in there, boys." I do not state this expecting any praise, but it is part of being in the armed forces that one's life is possibly at risk and the lives of the soldiers under one are at risk. We know what happens when people are killed, and we care about that. The hon. Gentleman has been

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reasonable, but he should realise that most people of military background do not want to see war for that very reason.

Mr. McNulty: I am grateful for that intervention, and broadly I accept it, but it does not exonerate the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), who said half way through a military action that the commander-in-chief should go. If people have legitimate doubts in a democracy, they can express them, but in their role as politicians rather than in the military, they must accept that with their democratic freedoms come real responsibilities.

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary, or perhaps the 10th--it may be even longer; I cannot remember--of the introduction of broadcasting of the Chamber on television. [Interruption.] Radio broadcasting was probably 10 or 15 years ago. It is a train-spotting thing that I read birthday columns and anniversary dates, but I do not remember.

The rights and responsibilities of politicians in a democracy are writ large. We have heard of the strength of the internet. The strength of mass broadcasting is phenomenal. We all know that a word out of place here goes straight down to Belgrade state television. People should make their comments within that context with some tolerance of other opinions and some caution. I contend that no one in the Chamber is a warmonger. No one wanted to run gung-ho to bomb Serbia or its people to hell and back. No one glories in military action.

I defer to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan); I have no military service. I had throughout my life no intention of going into the military in any capacity. That is not to deprecate people who do; we owe a hell of a lot to them. It has been glib in the past 75 days for people to say on their behalf what should and should not happen. I deprecate that, but equally I deprecate those who oppose military action, saying, "There is any number of gung-ho armchair generals here", or, "There are plenty of Biggles here. They do not need me." It was suggested that, if one were in favour of the military action, one could not care less about the lives of the individuals on the front line or their families back at home, and that we regarded it all as some elaborate computer game. I do not take that position. I merely say that those who opposed, and will continue to oppose, what we tried to do through international action in Kosovo should speak with responsibility in a democracy.

It is not right for people to say, as was said at the start of the action, that it was a profound political mistake to suppose that Milosevic was not supported by the mass of patriotic Serbian people, who form one of the great fighting nations of Europe. When we read those words now, 75 days on, half of them sound like a party political broadcast for Milosevic's socialist nationalist party--or whatever it is called. Such words were spoken by grown-up, serious politicians. The words that I noted were spoken by someone who has served for decades in this Chamber. One has to believe that, for some Members on both sides of the House, partisan preferences prevailed rather than the good of our military, the interests of our country and the success of the action. That is reprehensible.

The words that I quoted were spoken by a Conservative Member, but all hon. Members will be aware that I could find equivalent words spoken by Labour Members, which

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I should condemn equally. However, when one condemns such words or seeks to engage with them, intolerance creeps in. During the first Adjournment debate on the conflict, I said to one of my right hon. Friends, "What you are saying is all very interesting, but it is not going to do anything for the people of Kosovo. If not this route, what is your alternative?" The best that he could say--and, being practically the Father of the House, he had one up on me--was that perhaps I did not get into the Chamber that often.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have listened to what the hon. Gentleman has to say. If he wants to personalise his contributions in the way that he has done, he ought to satisfy the House that he has notified all the right hon. and hon. Members to whom he refers before making those remarks.

Mr. McNulty: I fully accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When I began my speech I said that I was deliberately not going to make such remarks and then I strayed. I shall not do so in future.

Last night, when one of my hon. Friends made some points in relation to the statement on Kosovo--the happy statement that we are at the beginning of a resolution, at least of the military aspects of the situation, although I accept that there is much to do on the peacekeeping and political side--another of my hon. Friends described him as "tired and emotional". As we all know, that is the Private Eye code for being less than sober. I do not think that that was appropriate.

My key point is that, in peacetime or during military action, when the House discusses--as is right and proper--defence or military issues, we should be aware that we have a cherished, democratic Chamber, and that brings responsibilities. During the debates on Kosovo, I think that those responsibilities have been abused, and systematically abused, by some hon. Members, although happily by only a few. None the less, that is to be deprecated.

Also to be deprecated is the scant regard for any intellectual depth or rigour in the analysis pursued by some hon. Members. From some Members on the Labour Benches, we hear what might be best described as Mickey Mouse Trot analysis, in which the reality was not how to stop such a brutal tyrant, end ethnic cleansing and stop this madness in Europe at the tail end of the 20th century. Instead, we heard of some elaborate plot--no doubt, an imperialist one--by NATO, in support of economic interests. Stripped bare, that had nothing to do with the military integrity of south-east Europe or Europe, or with British defence and military interests therein; it was all some woeful American ploy to colonise south-east Europe, along with the rest of Europe on an imperialist basis. In the middle of a military action, the House and the people of this country deserved far more than that sort of Mickey Mouse analysis.

We also deserved far more from those Conservative Members--none of whom are in the Chamber at present, I am happy to say--who, half way through the process, did not merely make passing comments about the way in which we should carry out the action, but gave real succour and support to those who opposed us and who might have been firing at our troops, if we were not at the stage that we reached last night. Those Members gave our

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opponents succour by totally undermining the way that we were going. If they were here, I would happily name them. I think that my analysis will stand.

We need to return to such issues to ensure that all Members of the House conduct themselves properly at all times, but especially at times of military action. Given that our proceedings are recorded and broadcast, it is not appropriate for hon. Members simply to dismiss those with opposing views. I was not elected to bomb other nations or to impose sanctions on them--I am not a warmonger, nor is any Minister. It is outrageous that any hon. Member on either side of the House should show such scant regard for their responsibilities in a democracy as to suggest that anyone who supports action such as that taken in Kosovo is some sort of Biggles or warmonger.

It is crass to believe that, had we followed the suggestions of those who criticised and carped from the sidelines but who offered no alternatives for action--they proposed that we should do nothing while atrocities were committed--we would have reached the stage that we reached last night, of having hope that there will be a lasting settlement. That is nonsense.

Some people now tell us that, had we spoken to the Russians 75 days ago, we would have got to where we are now. They are wrong. Others ask why Kofi Annan was not brought in some time over the past 75 days and why he and the United Nations were not allowed to sort things out. What were they doing during the 10 months prior to our reaching the unfortunate stage of having to take military action?

I hope that all those who, from their comfortable armchairs, attempted to undermine our military action of the past 75 days will look to their laurels and reflect on the sequence of events that has brought us to the unfolding of the peace process. That process will take a long time. Even if an international presence has to stay in the Balkans for a long time to police the area after the return of the refugees to Kosovo, that will be far preferable to our action of the past 75 days, because it may lead to lasting peace and stability.

Finally, I turn to the fairly complex matter of two significant programmes that are crucial to the future of military procurement over the next couple of years. The first is the ASTOR programme--the airborne stand-off radar programme. On behalf of my constituency, I happily recommend that we accept the Lockheed Martin bid, which fortunately includes Raytheon and Marconi, both of which are located in my constituency. Together with Back Benchers on both sides of the House who have similar constituency interests, I hope to persuade Ministers that that is the right way to go.

I have greater difficulty with the other programme, but Members of Parliament have to make decisions regardless of their constituency interests. The programme concerned is BVRAAM--the beyond visual range air-to-air missile programme--which is also essential in terms of smart procurement. My difficulty is that, on the one hand, there is an American-led bid that includes Raytheon, whose headquarters are in my constituency; and, on the other, there is a European bid centred on the Meteor programme, which is led by Alenia Marconi Systems and Matra British Aerospace.

Even though I have two profound and competing constituency interests, I am bound to say that, on balance, I recommend the European bid, not least because it carries

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an air-to-air capability that the Raytheon bid does not have. I have met and discussed the issue with representatives of Raytheon and Marconi and, despite my dual interests, I have concluded that the European and Marconi Meteor programme is preferable.

I shall conclude where I began--I apologise for speaking for longer than even I had anticipated--and stress that defence and military interests are crucial. I wish that hon. Members would take more interest in those issues: they should not constitute the undignified and untrendy wing of international or foreign affairs. The defence industry is a significant employer. When we embark upon military action--I hope that we will not do so again during my term in this place--[Hon. Members: "Four years."] Please let me finish. I hope that that means there will be peace for 20, rather than three, years.

As and when there is military action, those of us in democracies must act in a grown-up and responsible fashion. I fear that, in debating this action over 75 days, some hon. Members have demonstrated a far from grown-up and responsible attitude. That is to their discredit, and I hope that they will reflect on their actions long and hard in the coming weeks and months.

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