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12.40 pm

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip–Northwood): We have a duty to express on behalf of our constituents our very personal sense of sorrow, shock and outrage at the aerial

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terrorism that has hit the United States of America. As the representative of an outer London constituency, I feel that my constituents, who daily get on the train to go to inner London to work in the financial centres of the City, or go to Heathrow airport to work as flight crew or security personnel or to fly about their business around the world, have in a sense been replicated by the very many victims of the atrocities which we are commemorating and debating.

I do not believe that my constituents will feel in any sense let down by our proceedings. On the contrary, the Foreign Secretary's speech was to the point, constructive and wise, and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was a formidable expression of his clarity of mind and determination in a difficult baptism of fire.

Like so many in this country, my constituents who work at Heathrow airport depend for their livelihood on air transport. We have seen how vulnerable air transport has become—in my opinion, somewhat unnecessarily so. A range of practical measures can and no doubt will be taken, and I trust that they will be taken quickly. First, there is no need for hand luggage to be taken into cabins. Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) pointed out, flight attendants should be trained not only to be courteous but to be capable of dealing with in-flight emergencies and crises using appropriate methods, although I am not sure that firearms would be appropriate in aircraft. That could be done relatively easily. There must be a much more active process of scrutiny and security clearance of all those who work as baggage handlers, ground crew, engineers and security personnel.

This scrutiny process must also be considered in a national context. Our constituents rightly demand that we control our borders effectively. They do not believe it to be the case at present. With our European partners, we should at the very least ensure that the Dublin convention on the influx of refugees is made to work properly so that would-be refugees or people posing as refugees have their applications processed properly at the first EU country at which they arrive.

We need a second line of defence, do we not? We need effective border controls of our own. We still do not have those, and the scenes on our television screens of events in the channel tunnel for many weeks past are evidence of that fact. Thirdly, we need to know that those who are in our country are people with whom we can feel at ease and who pose no security threat to us. My hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) gave us wise advice: the need for identity cards is manifest, and the measure should be implemented as a matter of national urgency. Furthermore, those who are proved to be illegal immigrants should be returned to their country of origin. There is no sense in having people in this country who have not gone through our processes of scrutiny and immigration control, which are instituted for the protection of our citizens.

Those are basic matters, but if the worst comes to the worst—as the representative of a London constituency, I can, like all of us, imagine a variety of hideous targets, such as Canary wharf and elsewhere—we need, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) so sensibly pointed out, the reintroduction of proper civil defence. In my borough of Hillingdon, the civic centre has been turned into a reception centre for stranded passengers from Heathrow airport. Camp beds have been put in the corridors and elsewhere to accommodate people who

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wanted to go home. Those resources are part of our civil defence preparations, but they are not effectively co-ordinated nationwide, or even throughout London.

We also need to know that our armed forces have the powers to act in support of the civil power. My hon. Friend cited the example of the national guard which has been on the streets of New York and, I imagine, in Washington, too, helping with the emergency work in the aftermath of those hideous terrorist atrocities. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force could immediately be called up to fulfil just such operations?

In conclusion, in looking at the international dimensions of the response, let us always act together with our friends overseas. When I was in south America, I read—with shock, but not surprise—that three members of Sinn Fein had been apprehended at Bogota airport on their return from a part of Colombia that is under the control of revolutionary forces—an armed band of guerrillas who have caused great loss of life in that country. The courts have yet to decide whether their activities were illegal, but we all know that the drugs trade finances the activities of the FARC in Colombia and of the terrorists who plague Pakistan and elsewhere in the middle east—originating in that case from Afghanistan. In the west, we need to impose the strictest measures on drug abuse, to try to eliminate the trade in western Europe and in the United States. It is no good merely eliminating the crops in countries where there are few alternative sources of livelihood for the peasantry, we have to eliminate the problem here. In our response, we have to be precise; we have to be intelligent and we have to be imaginative. The terrorists always want to be one step ahead. In our response, the very last thing we wish is to provoke a jihad against the west.

12.48 pm

Jean Corston (Bristol, East): First, I thank Mr. Speaker for allowing Parliament to reconvene within three days of the indiscriminate genocide in the United States, to enable us to give public voice to the disgust, revulsion and bewilderment that we all feel. Indeed, the sense of the vulnerability of human life has spread far, far beyond the bounds of Manhattan, Pittsburgh and Washington. I know of small children in south London who have been frightened to go outside during the past few days and who have been terrified at the sight of an aeroplane. That reinforces some of the things that have been said by hon. Members today about the way in which our globe has shrunk. Of course, thousands of personal tragedies are represented—evidenced by mobile phone messages left for loved ones and in personal stories of survival, heroism and death.

We are, however, on a journey without maps now. We, of all countries, have had experience of terrorism, but this is terrorism on a scale that we have never had to contemplate. It represents an attack on the international community.

Much has been made of the fact that the terrorist attack in New York is likely to have caused more British casualties than has any terrorist attack in the United Kingdom. The attack did not take place on British soil, and as it was an attack on the international community, the response must be international. Therefore I was gratified to hear the Prime Minister refer to the need to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. The emphasis on

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justice and on the need for evidence and better intelligence is crucial if we are to ensure that we do not just recruit more people to a cause that we do not understand and which disgusts us.

It is also important to have an international response because we know that there is no point in indulging in behaviour or sanctioning action that reinforces the notion that might is right. We know that that does not work.

I echo the words of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and United States Defence Secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Earlier in the week, Mr. McNamara said that we must act internationally, support the United States and ensure that we do not push it further into isolationism.

I also wish to question the language that we have all used to describe the people responsible for these terrible crimes. To preface descriptions of them with the word "Islamic" is very mistaken. The debate is on "International Terrorism", and that is what we are talking about. To preface the words terrorist or fundamentalist with the word "Islamic" is as mistaken as describing the holocaust as "Christian" genocide or what happens in other parts of the world as "Jewish" fundamentalism. Terrorism is criminal, international and conspiratorial by nature. We have to deal with it in those terms.

Using the word "Islamic" in the way that I have described stigmatises people who follow a religion whose basic tenets are those of peace. They recognise that an attack on an innocent person is a crime in itself and they feel the revulsion that we all feel. We must be careful about the language that we use because of the offence that it might cause.

I represent a multicultural constituency with a large Muslim population, and the people in the Muslim community in Bristol, East have been just as appalled as anyone else. They feel their Britishness just as strongly as many of us and they have been horrified at what has happened. I urge everyone to think carefully about how we describe these people whose deeds were unimaginably terrible.

We send our condolences and sympathy to the people of the United States who understandably thought that, living as they do in a vast country surrounded by ocean, such a thing would never happen to them. We sympathise with their grief, bewilderment and the sense of loss that they must feel. The British people are no stranger to civilian casualties and offer their deepest sympathy to the people of the United States.

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