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1.23 pm

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): We have heard some powerful speeches today, but I should like to single out the speech by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) as especially powerful. He reminded us all that the acts of terror committed in the name of Islam have absolutely nothing to do with Islam.

I should like to quote an e-mail that I received from a good friend who lives in New York and whose husband works for Morgan Stanley. It is believed that the bank has lost 500 employees, but last night I learned that my friend's husband was alive. She writes:

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It is sad, too, to be here today talking about the worst act of terrorism that the world and, in particular, the United States have ever seen. It is also the worst act of terrorism to be perpetrated against our country. It seems almost indecent to talk about the consequences of that act of terror and the lessons to be learned while thousands of bodies remain buried and people may be alive under the rubble, but we owe a duty to those people who have lost their lives to do that thinking and to learn the lessons.

I have some brief observations to make about the new phenomenon of mass terrorism that is perpetrated by fanatical suicide bombers whose capacity for killing and destruction is far beyond anything that we have seen even in this country. First, on airlines and airport security, my constituency takes in part of Manchester airport. I know from my constituents that one of the great unspoken but widely held fears of all people who live around airports is of a hijacking, an accident or an incident like the one that occurred this week.

I flew out of Boston's Logan airport the night before the two planes were hijacked. My wife and I actually remarked to each other as we went through security how lax it was. I was able to push a metal trolley through the metal detector and no one bothered to check me even though it went off. There are clearly lessons for the Americans to learn about security at their airports, but we must learn lessons too. We have much tighter security at, for example, Manchester airport, but security on board aeroplanes is also important. I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) said. Gone perhaps for ever are the days when cockpits are open and little children are led up to the flight deck as I was as a child. That is sad and is another infringement of our freedom, but it is a price that we have to pay.

Secondly, we must consider how we support President George Bush. I welcome everything that the Prime Minister said about working with the new President. He and his Administration face a test that is perhaps as great as any faced by an American Government. I have had the privilege of meeting George Bush a couple of times, both in Texas when he was the governor and during his recent visit to London as President. I shall be blunt: he is not the fool, the redneck or the coward that some people imply. He is an intelligent and thoughtful politician and is surrounded by some of the wisest advisers ever to be assembled in an American Administration. It is difficult for us and even the Government to imagine the awesome responsibility and expectation that rest on his shoulders today. President Bush must feel very lonely in the Oval Office. We all owe a duty to support him. We must show him that he does not act alone and that he has the full support of Britain in his deeds and actions.

My third and final point relates to the regimes that harbour evil killers. I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). It is often said that terrorists are cowards, but the regimes that support them are also cowards. They are run by Governments who never have the courage to face general elections, to be open with their people or to try to win their arguments with words instead of bullets. Like all cowards, they often back down when their bluff is called. I am not an expert in international terrorism, but Libya's bluff was called when Tripoli was bombed. It stopped its overt support of terrorism and even handed over the Lockerbie bombers. Syria's bluff was called when it tried to bomb

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the El Al jet. If the reports are correct, the Taliban Government's bluff may also have been called and they may have taken action against bin Laden.

We can act against terrorists as we act against all cowards. We too often excuse the behaviour of evil regimes as a product of a different culture. We are told that we should not judge Iraqi attitudes towards human rights by our own western standards. We are told that we should not judge Taliban fundamentalists by Judaeo-Christian ethics. I say that murder is murder in any culture. Torture is torture in any language. We have an opportunity to bring terrorists and the regimes that harbour them to account, and we should take that chance.

1.30 pm

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): As the House has heard, the United Kingdom section of the British-American parliamentary group was on Capitol Hill in Washington when the Pentagon was attacked at 9.30 am United States time and 2.30 pm British time. I was a member of the delegation, as were the hon. Members for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), for Cheadle (Patsy Calton) and for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Lyons) and for Midlothian (David Hamilton).

When we were told to run, we ran, along with thousands of others. We did not need simulation, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) suggested, to let us know that what was happening was real. We could see the Pentagon burning as we ran. I thank the Royal Air Force for allowing us to fly home on a transport plane yesterday evening. We flew over New York—the only plane allowed to do so yesterday, I believe—and could see the centre of that great city burning. We did not need a simulation to see the destruction. Anyone who has seen Manhattan burning will know that it is a symbol of terror and of a challenge to free and democratic society.

The delegation put out a statement on behalf of the all-party group, which would, I am sure, be endorsed by all Back-Bench Members, many of whom will not be called to speak. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to put a few points from it on the record.

We expressed our deepest sympathy for the American people at this time of tragedy and sent heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and communities who have lost loved ones. We unreservedly condemned those cowardly acts of terror against innocent people. The delegation stood united behind the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in offering solidarity and help in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

On a personal level, the delegation thanked the State Department officials who had shown such concern for our safety and welfare when we found ourselves in the Capitol during the attack on the Pentagon. We were impressed by the bravery and resolve of the American people and their representatives and Government. We are certain that they will prevail.

Two officials, Deborah Underhill and Paul Engelstad, have been involved in government for a long time, but even as they took telephone calls from friends and colleagues in the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, their concern was for our safety. They went so far as to take us out of the city in the evening and cook us a meal.

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We met elected representatives on Wednesday and were invited to Congress to hear the debate. We met Senator White, and Congressman Jim McDermott of Seattle. I was impressed by the balanced view that they took of what should happen now in the international policy of the United States. Jim McDermott is a noted liberal within the Democratic party and he was not far off in an analysis that impressed us all.

I was impressed, too, by a woman member of Congress from New York who had lost her own husband to a terrorist who attacked people in the New York subway three years ago. She spoke with great poise and determination.

We shared, as would anyone who had been there, the shock of the American people. We felt their bewilderment. The last time someone attacked a building in the capital city with such ferocity, it was the British during the war of independence, who burned down the White House. That was much on people's minds.

We heard and understood their anger. On that first day after the deed, there was a lot of anger against the perpetrators. We tried to reach out to people, to help in any way that we could with their pain and to console those whom we were with. They were clearly in confusion as they tried to find friends or to come to terms with what was happening while still looking after us.

The House must not underestimate the effect of the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, which were shown repeatedly on United States television. America sees us not just as an ally and a part of America's foreign policy baggage. Americans look to us as friends and brothers, sisters and cousins. In a sense, we are the people from whom they feel they came. I hope that we will continue to repeat the assurances that we will stand by them. We must show support and solidarity, but also offer wise counsel.

I echo the Congressman who bravely said in the debate in Congress that there must be fairness for all in the middle east. These terrible acts must not blind people to the need for justice for all sides. Justice must not be swept aside by the fear of accusations of appeasement. I hope that that will guide our policy and our advice from our Government and our representatives to our American friends, who must be aware—as was pointed out to me by a distinguished former Member of this House—of the fragility of Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Jordan as well as the problems in Iran, Libya and Iraq.

There is merit in the analysis of the right hon. and learned Member for North–East Fife (Mr. Campbell), and I hope that the Government will consider the comments made by the Father of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), and by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin, had he the time, would have taken longer to analyse, and empathise with, the suffering of the people of America and those who wish to see democracy and justice throughout the world. His comments were pertinent and relevant and should be considered.

I urge the implementation of a fair peace in Palestine and Israel—where I have been many times since the first intifada in 1988—based upon UN resolutions. It would be

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a symbol of democratic conflict resolution. That would be a negation of terrorism and a triumph of good international corporate governance. I urge our Government to pursue that option.

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