Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving us the opportunity to speak on this matter. On behalf of the official Opposition, I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. He is to be congratulated on responding to this crisis quickly and resolutely, and on giving a lead to other nations that value freedom and democracy.
We are party politicians in a stable democracy, and we are used to the cut and thrust of political debate, here and outside, yet we are also, as the Prime Minister said, the guardians of a set of values that are underpinned by that democracy and the rule of law. It is those values that were attacked with such callous and brutal ferocity, and contempt for human life, in New York and Washington on Tuesday. That is why we are united in the House in our determination not only to extend our genuine and heartfelt sympathy to the United States but to defend civilised values against those who seek to bring them down by violence.
The people of the United Kingdom, who have themselves stood firmly against terrorism for so many years, will expect nothing less of us than to rise above party politics. I have absolutely no hesitation in giving the Prime Minister my party's full support for his immediate pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with our strongest friends and allies in the United States. Together, we must ensure that the perpetrators are hunted down and brought to justice, as he said.
Over the coming days and weeks, there may be some who counsel caution over the full measure of support that the Prime Minister has already declared. By contrast, I assure him that he will have our total backing throughout in maintaining his position of unflinching support for the United States in its search for the perpetrators and its subsequent actions.
The NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, rightly said that an attack on one is an attack on all. I want to put on record how strongly I congratulate him on invoking article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty. We now have an opportunity to support the United States in the defence of freedom and democracy, as it has supported us in the past.
I join the Prime Minister in sending our heartfelt condolences to the American people, and specifically those whose loved ones have been killed or injured in this terrible and sickening series of atrocities. The thoughts and prayers of the entire House and, I believe, the entire nation, are with all those who are suffering.
The sheer horror of what took place on Tuesday is virtually impossible to comprehend, as is the evil of people who would commit such acts against fellow human beingsindeed, against humanity itself. For me, that was brought starkly home when I learned that not only those in the planes and buildings had perished but hundreds of emergency workers, as they selflessly sought to save the lives of others.
One of the most moving and poignant images in today's press is of a fireman running up the stairs as others were running in the opposite direction, fleeing for their lives. Sadly, it seems that he may well have lost his life, but nothing better illustrates the courage and unfailing sense of duty that he and so many others showed on that day.
Let me also say how much we admire the response of the American people, who have shown a steely determination to carry on with their everyday lives. As the Prime Minister said, by their example they will have demonstrated to the world once again why such cowardly acts of evil will never succeed.
What has been highlighted in the most graphic and awful way possible is the changing nature of the threat to freedom and democracy that we face. I agree with the Prime Minister that we need urgently to assess how we respond, individually and collectively, and I welcome his commitment to review the laws against terrorism, taking account also of the worrying links with organised crime.
Furthermore, have not Tuesday's attacks also shattered the dangerous notion that, after the end of the cold war, the United Kingdom and others would no longer face any direct threats? Tuesday's events showed that, whether rogue states or terrorists, there is no limit to what those who are prepared to carry out such threats will do. There are no weapons they will not use and no life they will not sacrifice. For them, terror has become an end in itself.
For the rest of us, as one leading British Muslim said, the loss of one innocent life is the equivalent of the loss of humanity. I want to take this opportunity to associate myself with the Prime Minister's assertion that Islam is not responsible for this barbarism.
Some have said that Tuesday changed the world for ever, but what should not have changed is our way of life, based on our cherished freedom and democracy and the strength of our resolve to defeat those who seek to destroy it.
Tuesday's terrorist outrages have shaken the entire world. It is now the responsibility of civilised countries everywhere to do whatever is necessary to prevent such attacks from ever happening again. On many occasions in the past, Britain and the United States have stood resolutely together in the defence of freedom and democracy. That is testimony to the shared values and friendship between our two countries. We stand by the people of the United States not because of article 5 but because they are our allies and our friends.
President Bush described Tuesday's outrage as an act of war. He was right. The message needs to go out loud and clear: those Governments who harbour terrorists will have to learn to live with the consequences of their actions. Today, sombre yet determined, we affirm once again our solidarity and our unity of purpose. Terrorism, wherever it rears its evil head, will never succeed, and democracy must always prevail.
The Prime Minister: I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the position that he has attained in his party, and welcome him to the Dispatch Box. I think that, like me, he would have preferred that this had not been the first occasion on which we faced each other here, but I sincerely congratulate him. I thank him unequivocally for the support that he has given us today. It is both important and immensely welcome.
We are fully in agreement on the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised. What is important now is to see the issue in two parts, the first of which is the immediate response to the act of terrorism that has been carried out
It is important that we as a countrynot only the Government but people of all political persuasionswork together on that agenda so that we can provide the necessary details on matters such as extradition, financing, money laundering and so on. We are well aware that there is a network of complicity in the work of terrorism around the world. Quite apart from the immediate response, it is necessary now to use the outrage to devise the right agenda to tackle terrorism, wherever it is in the world. The hon. Gentleman's support today is much appreciated in that respect.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I wholly associate the Liberal Democrats with the proper sentiments that have been expressed so well by the Prime Minister and by the new leader of the Conservative partywhom I congratulate despite the sad circumstances that coincide with his electionabout the breathtaking nature of the savagery that we have witnessed in the United States. Many of our constituents and communities throughout our land, never mind the United States and the wider international community, will have been affected.
We all have a heavy heart today. As I listened to the Prime Minister, I thought back into history. Speaking in the House of Commons in very different circumstances, John Bright spoke of the sense that the angel of death was floating above the Chamber. There is no doubt that the angel of death is very much with us today.
I spent one of the happiest years of my life as a student in the mid-west of the United States, in Indiana, and I have been a fairly regular visitor back and forth to New York in the 20 years since then. Until I became a student in the United States, I did not understand how mid-west America feels divorced from east coast and west coast America. Speaking to friendsincluding one who once worked in one of the buildings that were attacked but who, just before the summer, was transferred further down Wall street and was therefore not afflicted by this terrible tragedyI was struck by the remarkable extent to which middle America, east coast America and west coast America have become united as never before. We, a country on the other side of the Atlantic, must not underestimate that. We have to understand the scale of the shock and the unity that it has brought about in that great country and on that great continent.
Yesterday afternoon, in common with the Conservative party leader, the Prime Minister, the former Conservative party leader and other Members of Parliament, I went to sign the condolence book in Grosvenor square. It was remarkable to read the sentiments expressed there. There was a bouquet of flowers from a Polish ex-service man in the second world war, now domiciled in London. A family from Dagenham who had no connections with the United States wanted to say how sorry they were. American tourists here in London are bereft because they do not know what has happened to people they know, family or loved ones: they are without information.
I strongly underscore the comments of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative party about the importance of all of us sending the correct and legitimate signal to the Muslim community in Britain. There is no argument to be had here, and woe betide anyone in a position to influence public opinion who tries to suggest that there is. Over the past couple of days, I have become concerned about the emergence of a strand of comment and sentiment that mixes those horrific acts with legitimate differences between the parties and so on about asylum seekers, immigration and the position of various ethnic communities within our countries. It is not about that. The House of Commons must send that signal defiantly.
It seems almost inevitable that there will be some sort of military response at some pointalthough at the moment we do not know where, when, or against whom. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he does not rule out a further recall of Parliament, especially if, as I imagine they will be, British service people are to be involved in such action?
An American writer once observed that the terrorist attempts to wash an impure world clean with the blood of innocent victims. The impurity here is the dreadful deed of the terrorist. On that, this House stands shoulder to shoulder in full support of our American cousins.