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2.16 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): It has just been reported on Ceefax that a Russian aircraft flying from Israel to Siberia has been destroyed by a terrorist bomb with the loss of 66 passengers and 10 crew. I refer to that to bring home to the House that it seems that some people—probably, I guess, those who perpetrated similar atrocities elsewhere recently—are already carrying out the further strand of their attacks.

We must send our sympathy to the people of Israel, to the Russians and to India for terrorist actions that took place earlier this week. Further atrocities will clearly bring home to us the realities of the situation. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we must prepare for further atrocities. I speak as a Co-operative Member. Three years ago, in August 1998, nearly 200 employees of the International Co-operative Alliance—they were mainly Kenyan citizens—were killed by Osama bin Laden in his attack on the American embassy in Nairobi. What sort of crime could development workers perpetrate to justify such an act? They were working to try to help co-operative development in Africa. Some of them were Muslims.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said that there was no basis for the policy of bin Laden and his organisation. He argued that it had no objective. I must disagree. His objective, in his own words, is to destroy the Zionist crusader alliance and its international collaborators. That objective probably covers all or most of us in this place and many hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. In these circumstances we must recognise that this is a conflict that will continue for a long time and be prepared for the consequences.

I am pleased that the Russians are involved in the coalition. I am pleased also that the Prime Minister is going to Russia today to cement the relationship.

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However, we should praise also President Bush and the American Administration, and those words do not come easily to me. The attack in Kenya in 1998 led to an almost instant, punitive and controversial response by President Clinton against the alleged chemical plants in Sudan. We have not seen such a reaction from the current American Administration, and we should all welcome that. That shows a level of maturity and seriousness, which I hope will be continued in future.

We must take action against bin Laden, his organisation and his allies. Those are not just the people whom he has directly under his control. There are sister terrorist organisations, some of them on the list that our Government published in the schedule to the Terrorism Act 2000—organisations directed against the Government of Egypt and other Arab Governments, not just against the Americans and the Israelis.

We must recognise that in the conflict there will be voices, some of which we have heard in this country, saying, "Yes, but what about this?" or "Yes, but what about that?" My position is that there can be no excuse, no qualification and no justification—no what-aboutery—to justify the crimes on 11 September or the crimes carried out today.

Sometimes people claim that there is a problem with the definition of terrorism, freedom fighters and resistance movements. We should examine the tactics pursued by an organisation to realise its aspirations and achieve its goal, however legitimate. The goal may be legitimate, but the tactics unacceptable. Mass murder, the killing of children, placing bombs in discotheques, blowing up aircraft and machine-gunning buses are not acceptable tactics in any struggle. We need to say that. That is why we are right to call for an end to all terrorism, as well as dealing with the wider issues and conflicts.

Bin Laden is not carrying out terrorism because he was poor. Many of the idealistic young men recruited to his organisation, including a few misguided British people, had wealthy backgrounds and went to public schools. They did not join the organisation because they personally were oppressed. They adopted a particular ideological position and followed the logic to the terrible situation in which we find ourselves.

We must be clear that even if we eradicated all the poverty in the middle east and even if the Palestinians had a state, it would not satisfy the aspirations of Osama bin Laden and what he stands for, because his agenda is wider than that. For those reasons, the House is right to unite behind the Government and the international coalition and to send out a forceful message that when action is taken to free the people of Afghanistan, to free the women of Afghanistan and to defeat international terrorism, we are all in it together.

2.22 pm

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): I entirely agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) about what motives these terrorists have. I shall deal with that in a moment.

There cannot be many constituencies that have not been affected in some way by the appallingly barbaric outrage. Relations of victims, the victims themselves or members of the armed forces who are currently in the middle east may live in those constituencies. In west Norfolk we have

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the largest Tornado base in the country at RAF Marham. Many constituents of mine will be involved in the RAF in the weeks ahead, if military action is contemplated.

I join many other hon. Members in congratulating the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their response and the work that they have done to react cautiously and build a wide coalition. Partly as a result of that approach, the recent United Nations resolution on terrorism was a positive move which will go a long way towards cutting off the funds of the various terrorist organisations.

Turning now to extradition. I believe that our law is inadequate. Rightly or wrongly, Britain is seen as a safe haven for terrorism. We have been used as a communications centre for the al-Qaeda movement. At least 10 of the 19 hijackers passed through London. If we are serious about combating international terrorism, we must urgently examine our extradition laws. We have rightly demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden or face the consequences. We have often complained when the United States has failed to extradite swiftly suspected IRA terrorists to this country.

The case of Lotfi Raissi brings the matter into sharp focus. He is the 27-year-old Algerian pilot who helped a number of the hijackers to train as pilots. He is wanted in the USA in connection with the outrage. I welcome the fact that FBI agents have been to interview him, but unless our law is changed and an amendment is made to the European convention on human rights, particularly article 3, which is now incorporated into our own law, the extradition process may go on for two to three years. That is simply not good enough.

MI5 should not have to lobby for the reform of the convention. I despaired the other day when I read of the remarks of Lord Chief Justice Woolf. In normal times, yes, basic freedoms should take second place to the fight against terrorism, but we are not living in normal times, as various other cases show, such as the case of Adel Bary and Ibrahim Eidarous, who were both arrested in London in connection with the 1999 US embassy bombings. They face extradition to the US.

Extradition proceedings against Khalid al Fawwaz, a well-known fund-raiser for al-Qaeda, have been going on for two and a half years and have cost well over half a million pounds. He is on benefit in this country, and there is no prospect of that extradition being brought to a swift conclusion. Finally, there is the case of Sheikh Omar Abu Omar, a close ally of bin Laden. He has been sentenced in absentia in the Jordanian courts. He is living in the United Kingdom on benefit and is fighting extradition.

I do not believe that it is beyond the best legal brains in this country to devise a new framework for extradition that protects many of those who face extradition, but which can deal specifically with known and suspected terrorists—

Mr. Galloway: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bellingham: I will not, as I do not have much time left. I am sorry about that.

Mr. Galloway: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for live cases which are before the British courts to be referred to in the way that the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) is

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referring to them—declaring people guilty whose cases are still being considered by the British judicial system? Is not the hon. Gentleman making a terrifically irresponsible speech?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Certainly, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) is correct to say that details of cases currently under jurisdiction should not be referred to. I personally did not hear the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) say that the person to whom he was referring was guilty.

Mr. Bellingham: No, Madam Deputy Speaker, I did not in any way suggest that the people whom I mentioned were guilty. I referred to the system. Everything that I said is on the wider public record. It has been in the newspapers, on the radio and elsewhere in the media.

The European convention on human rights will have to be amended and new primary legislation will be required in this country. The attack against terrorism that will take place throughout the western world must also involve the IRA and the other terrorist organisations operating in Northern Ireland. When President George W. Bush speaks of cutting off the finances of terrorist organisations and introducing legislation to that effect in Congress, I hope that he will bear in mind Noraid, the fund-raising arm of the IRA, which has been raising large sums of money in America.

We must consider the background to the appalling atrocities. We must examine the mindset that drives the self-sacrifice terrorists to the deeds that they committed. One of the most striking aspects of the attacks, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South pointed out, is that we are not speaking about people brought up in the slums of Cairo or Tripoli. We are speaking about people who had a university education, were highly intelligent and had much to look forward to in their lives. What drove them to commit those atrocities? They have a mindset that is completely alien to our culture and way of life.

I feel strongly that until we deal with the two issues in the middle east that are creating festering sores in which this type of terrorism breeds, we will not solve the problem. I am referring to the Palestinian question. Without going into great detail, I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) said. Until we sort out the Palestinian problem and the Palestinians have their own sovereign state this problem will not go away. That may not be the policy of my party, but it is my firm view.

I also strongly believe that until we deal with the plight of the Iraqi people such a breeding ground in that country will continue to fester. Iraqis of my generation—those in their 30s and 40s—are very pro-British. They always have been—we have many friends in Iraq. The new generation, however, feels unbelievably bitter about the sanctions, which have not had one iota of effect on Saddam Hussein. After the war we all believed that the Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Kurds would unite to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but that was wishful thinking.

Until we tackle the plight of the Iraqi people—look at what is going on in that country and deal with the anger and hatred that is building up—and the Palestinian question, we will not solve the problem of international terrorism.

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2.31 pm

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