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1.13 pm

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) on an excellent speech. His central point about the need for the Government through Parliament to be accountable to the people is desperately important at a time when we risk jeopardising some of our fundamental freedoms if we get the balance wrong. When we seek possibly to make war, those same constraints on the Government of the will of the people and accountability to the public must apply.

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Like many other Members, my constituency has a large number of Muslims. It is not only Muslims who are offended by any attempt to whip up disagreement between the Muslim community in Britain or, indeed, worldwide and humanity generally on this issue. There was an attempt to burn down a mosque in the neighbouring constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I have attended that mosque and many of my constituents go there. I suggest that Opposition Members may like to consider whether they wish formally to make it clear that they dissent from what Lady Thatcher said. Her remarks were not only offensive but incredibly damaging to society, particularly in terms of building consensus about the need for action against terrorism which will command the support of all sectors of society, Muslims and non-Muslims. I have attended mosques where it has been made clear that the actions in New York were anti-Islamic and deserve condemnation by people of any faith. We need to establish that clear understanding of where modern Britain's interests lie. It is not in division between Muslims and non-Muslims.

How do we respond to terrorism? I listened to a former senior United States diplomat who was responsible for negotiating parts of the nuclear arms control treaties among other things. He pointed out how within a short space of time it would be possible for terrorists to take possession of nuclear weaponry, not by missile delivery or even in such a way as to require missile defence to be deterred, but in a suitcase, and to destroy not 7,000 people but perhaps 700,000 or 7 million people. That is a profound point. We must make sure that our society can act firmly and destroy the capacity of terrorists to threaten every one of us.

In a remarkable speech, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) rightly reminded us that it is obscene for a four-year-old child to die as a potential perpetrator of further hatred. What nonsense—what a vile, bitter view of this world. Every state has an obligation to defend its citizens, and a prime part of that is now defence against terrorism.

I understand the need to take action to wipe out those who committed the crime in New York and those who support them, but I caution the Government. If we are to maintain this worldwide coalition that we will need not just for this one action but in the long haul, we must maintain the credibility of the coalition's actions. Therefore, we must give real meaning to the concept of proportionality—though goodness knows what it means after the events in New York. That means that when the Prime Minister and the American Administration rightly say that there is to be no attempt at revenge, they mean it.

I have a letter from the father of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing. I have come to know him over the years. He says that he has lived through terrorism and does not want to see revenge post Lockerbie or now post New York. He is right. What we seek is, of course, justice. We also seek the capacity to stop terrorists. That is very different from revenge.

We see the military mind move towards mission creep—what starts off as a neatly contained operation becomes something very different. I ask my colleagues on the Treasury Bench to think very carefully about the objectives of our campaign. Yes, the Prime Minister is entitled to support so long as we are clear about what we are trying to achieve. He in turn must be clear that he is

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accountable for ensuring that the military are not allowed to go down that seductive path which takes us way beyond a proportionate and proper response into a world not only of vengeance but one which allows discordant voices to say to moderate Arabs, for example, "You are now backing the wrong side." We have seen a little of that in our handling of other issues in the middle east, particularly in respect of Iraq, and perhaps we now need to consider fundamentally the lack of success of the policies that we have pursued there.

We must have a sense of proportion more generally. I am delighted that in this campaign against international terror we are talking about the inclusion of the Chinese and Russians. The campaign makes sense only if we bring on board such powers. We are not building an unconditional coalition. If in the desire to build a world coalition, we give up, for example, the right to raise serious issues, we fundamentally undermine the whole reason for building the coalition in the first place. Let me refer specifically to relations with President Putin, who is trying to move Russia forward. He is entitled to say to us in the west, "You never recognise the terrorist threat to my country from Chechnya." However, we would not be right to ignore the human rights abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya.

If we are building the coalition, let us build it on the basis that we know what our objectives are. Let us recognise that our response has to be proportionate—it should not be about vengeance but about taking out the terrorists to protect us all and to guarantee the safety of our citizens. Let us not lose sight of the fact that what makes us different from the terrorists is that we will not sanction everything.

I can remember when Governments who are our close friends allowed terrorists to operate in their name in places such as Nicaragua. Let us not forget that. Let us not forget that we cannot move back to a world of hypocrisy if we are to defeat terrorism. We will defeat terrorism by building a world of values. We should maintain that sense of values in everything we do.

1.21 pm

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): On behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party, I welcome the statements by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I note with gratitude that there has been an inevitable but welcome cooling of language, particularly this week with the Prime Minister's important speech to the Labour party conference and his statement to the House today. It comes on top of the cool response so far by President Bush and the United States Government. I confess that, like many other hon. Members, I have been surprised by that cool response, but I am very grateful for it and welcome it. It is a tremendous credit to the United States level of democracy and to its Government that they have been able to respond in that way, to stay their hand to date and to build an international coalition to deal with these matters.

We accept that there is a natural right to self-defence for any country and also a right under the United Nations charter, but I think it is fair to say that the actions being discussed go beyond that. The talk is about war, about international action against other countries. I make it clear that we would not support or condone the United Kingdom going to war against the Afghan people.

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Both our parties accept that military action may form part of the dismantling of al-Qaeda and the network that has supported terrorist atrocities. We accept the evidence of bin Laden's guilt in previous atrocities, which in themselves would justify the taking apart of his network. We accept that, following the New York and Washington horrors, there is an implication that would demand that bin Laden and his associates be brought to international justice, but in trying to achieve that we must remember that the shedding of blood would be the fertiliser for further terrorism. The new world order that has been talked about so much recently cannot be built on blood. That is not bleeding heart liberalism. There is no example of terrorism or a terrorist movement being defeated by military action alone.

I think that the Government accept that in the way they have talked so much about the wide coalition of states that need to take action. Now that we are talking more seriously and directly about how to bring bin Laden to justice, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, we must ask what the objectives of that action are. The first question that I put to the Secretary of State for Defence is whether all negotiations have been exhausted, particularly in the light of some recent movements coming out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am not clear whether the Government's aims still rest just with al-Qaeda as a movement, whether we are extending our military aims to the Taliban themselves, which I accept is a horrendous regime, or indeed whether the Government will listen to the siren voices who want us to extend military action to Iraq and even Iran, Libya and other countries that have undoubtedly sponsored international terrorism in the past.

This then must be the opportunity for the United Nations. Any world order needs to be based on global governance and global policing. We already have that establishment: it is the UN. We have already had an important UN resolution on terrorism, but how much more powerful would it be if we could get a UN resolution supporting the military steps that the Government and the United States Government are discussing? That would surely bring on board other countries that are wavering over that action.

It is worth recalling in that context that in allowing self-defence the UN charter also demands that countries going to war or considering going to war seek redress first in the International Court of Justice. Those international institutions have been under-used and undervalued in the past, particularly by some of those who are talking about a new world order, so the lesson must be that we must work with those institutions and international agreements such as that on Kyoto and the International Criminal Court and desist whenever we can from unilateral action. Of course, it is possible to have unilateral action that includes more than one partner.

We accept that the difficulty is that the Taliban are not the recognised Government of Afghanistan. They are a usurping Government. Indeed, Pakistan hardly has a legitimate Government. Again I ask the Secretary of State whether there are discussions and thoughts to create a UN mandate for Afghanistan and possibly a UN protectorate to deal with the huge humanitarian problems that will flow from whatever action is taken.

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Finally with regard to the United Nations, a vital question that was raised by the leader of the Liberal Democrats is why the evidence against bin Laden cannot be shared with the Security Council. It would send a clear message to the Arab countries about the way in which the Government seek to work. Is there any country on the Security Council that we do not trust to see the evidence on international terrorism? If we do not trust any country on the Security Council to see that evidence, our fight against international terrorism is over before it has begun.

I have tremendous admiration for those who may be about to lay their lives down for this country and for international justice. I want their efforts and the risks that they are taking to be effective and to bring results. That is why I believe that United Nations involvement will be vital in the long-term aim that the Prime Minister set out in his speech to the Labour party conference. If we are to commit our forces in that way to settle conflicts and to fight terrorism, we must do everything at home to minimise the dangers to our own forces.

On the day of the horrors in New York, an arms trade fair took place in London sponsored by the Government, at which arms were being sold to both sides in the civil war in Uganda, a war which we may now want to get involved in following the Prime Minister's new vision. There are obvious things that we must learn about our way of dealing with international conflict and the arms trade.

As many hon. Members have said, it is not a conflict between civilisation and barbarism, between east and west. We have much more in common: our common humanity. We need to take the opportunity to condemn and ensure the elimination of attacks on Muslims, which I regret to say have occurred both in Wales and Scotland over the past three weeks. In looking at the legislation that the Government will introduce on such matters, both our parties will be totally open-minded on the way forward.

I add only one warning, of which the Government must be aware. Despotic Governments have used accusations of terrorism against their opponents. Those opponents often come to our shores seeking asylum. We must be careful that we do not exclude such people who have been targets of state-sponsored terrorism.

We need to recognise that only bread and dignity bring peace. Dignity may be restored if the outstanding issues surrounding Palestine are resolved. There has been a welcome move in that regard by the Government. The bread that we need to bring forth is the increase in spending on international and overseas aid. We still do not spend 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product on such aid, which we agreed to 25 years ago and reaffirmed in an international agreement in Rio in 1992. We need to uphold those international agreements. The £25 million announced today for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, although welcome, will not, I suspect, be enough. In all our actions, let us feed bodies and minds, not hatred.

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