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Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk, West): In peacetime, during the latter part of the last century, people in this country gave less thought to national and international security than to the contents of their weekly shopping. In wartime, during the first half of the last century, the reverse tended to be the case. That pattern always seemed not only understandable but as it should be, as freedom from fear and insecurity were two of the immediate aims of the two great wars of that century.
While no one in their right mind ever desired either of those great wars, both brought unquestionable benefits which extended well beyond the defeat of fascism. Those benefits, which included universal suffrage and the national health service, came as post-war expressions of the collective endeavour and sense of higher national and international purpose engendered by those terrible wars. In wartime 20th century Britain, there was most certainly such a place as society.
Those who came through one of those warswe are still blessed in our constituencies with many who came through bothare perhaps the only people who truly know what national wartime spirit really felt like. Others can empathise, through endeavour or conflict in their own lives or through studying war and society in the 20th century. I believe that in the years following 11 September 2001, our nation, alongside our allies, needs to rediscover important aspects of what has in the past been called wartime spirit.
Certainly, times have changed, and that spirit may manifest itself in new ways. Society is far richer and more diverse, and old-fashioned jingoism is most certainly not the order of the day, but it is fair to say that today many people recognise the need for a renewed collective spirit. That will be reflected in their attitudes to a host of issues, from military deployment to national investment in public services and international partnerships within and outwith the European Union. In that respect, ordinary citizens need to understand something that those who have written the doctrine of the British armed services have known for some years: in the 21st century, it no longer makes sense to speak of war and peace as though there is a clear delineation between them.
Through our televisions, many of us will have begun to learn the early language that goes with casting aside those old certainties. Each day we hear the term "asymmetrical warfare"we have heard it several times todayand we know that, if nothing else, it means that the conflict that we face is entirely unlike the symmetrical conflict of the similarly configured armies, navies and air forces that faced each other during most 20th century wars.
We have long lived with the reality of low-intensity conflict, such as that in Northern Ireland, as opposed to the high-intensity conflict of what used to be called total war. The reality is that terms such as low-intensity and high-intensity warfare and asymmetrical and symmetrical warfare now have the main public purpose of indicating that a spectrum of violence and military action exists and that during the 21st century our armed forces, and more generally we as a society, must be prepared to act and live along that entire spectrum. In turn, therefore, the very language of peacetime and wartime will need to change. For example, considering whether or not we as a nation are at war will become more a matter of language and perception than one of Governments making a categorical decision about whether or not we are at war.
A most important thing is that the people of this country adopt permanently a number of assumptions and attitudes that have been associated until now with periods of armed conflict, one of which is that the fundamental right to life will, from time to time, require all of us to accept temporary constraints, or perhaps more permanent ones, on certain personal freedoms and higher standards of security than those that we may have been used to recently. Such measures will, of course, be balanced against the need to maintain an open, democratic society, but other assumptions will include the need to make personal sacrifices from time to time, the need to show resolve when others, including those in the armed services, make such sacrifices, and the need to grasp the importance of information flows towards and away from our enemies.
Perhaps above all, the British people must continuously look beyond the day-to-day events of the coming months and years to see the greater democratic and humanitarian significance of our efforts across the world. Of course, the imperative now lies with reducing the risk of terrorist attack wherever possible. That will naturally focus our attention on particular geographical areas in the short term, but it is impossible to understate the potential effect of the emerging new world consensus on regions that need our help more than ever before.
We know that humanitarian aid of a high order will need to accompany any military action in Afghanistan, for example, and I hope that wherever a specific threat of worldwide-reach terrorism rears its head, a combination of incisive military action and comprehensive humanitarian relief will yield the results that we all seek. However, we will need to keep our eye on those areas where conflict is endemic, yet where the immediate risk to us is perhaps lower, and I am thinking of Africa in particular.
I was privileged to spend a short while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently as part of the all-party group on the African Great Lakes region, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King). My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has noted elsewhere that the developed nations could have responded far better to the Rwandan genocide of 1993 and 1994. Although the current situation in the Congo is in some ways quite different, we should be in no doubt about the misery caused there by years of civil, and rather less than civil, war. We have a responsibility to act there, too, in whatever way we can, and the people of the region must not become invisible casualties of our own struggle against terrorism for our own security.
As has already been mentioned, it is also time for us to consider the relationship between sound governance and democracy. It seems to me that our aim must always be to drive democracy forward in those parts of the world where it is not currently practised. At the same time, however, it is impossible for democracy to operate in a collapsed state. In such situations it is essential for us to encourage administrations to adopt high standards of governance, to invest in infrastructure and to encourage civil society and human rights without demanding impossibly short time horizons for our standards of democracy before, for example, even the most rudimentary internal communications are in place. In short, we must recognise that there are leaders in non-democratic societies who strive for better for their people while at the same time driving home to them in unambiguous terms that democratic structures must be the eventual aim everywhere.
Just days after the grim events of Tuesday 11 September, Plymouth was set to be the venue for the ceremony marking the change of command for the NATO Standing Naval Force Mediterranean. The passing of the command from the Italian flag officer to the United Kingdom was scheduled to take place at the same time as our previous debate. As things turned out, the service personnel involved had more pressing matters than the planned ceremony and the social celebration attached to it. In the wake of the attack on New York it would have been quite unthinkable.
Plymouth's links with America go wider than its role as a key defence city through the 50-year-old alliance of NATO. The vast majority of the 46 places in the world named after Plymouth, England, are in the United States. Many American firms have operations in Plymouth. Some of them recently joined other firms through the chamber of commerce to make something more of our historic Mayflower steps, which for far too long were a disappointing commemoration of the departure of the pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 to establish a new home in what has become Plymouth, Massachusetts, ironically to escape religious intolerance in this country.
Searching for some tangible means of expressing their shared grief, many Plymothians and tourists have made their way to the steps with flowers and candles. Samantha Ravell, a 12-year-old student at Lipson college, summed it up rather well when lighting her candle. She is quoted by the local evening paper as saying:
This has to stop.
Brendan & other children of the 21st century."
I urge my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to follow through in respect of the role of drugs in financing international terrorism. Earlier this year he undertook to make Britain the hardest country in the western world for drug dealers to operate in. No doubt he did not imagine that we would need to address the issue in quite such a context.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure us that a key goal in removing the tools of terrorism will be to destroy the fields of death where the drugs cycle starts. If they are a key part of funding a network that can commit such heinous acts as those of 11 September, that is justification enough for their destruction, but drugs do far more than that, as hundreds of my constituents know to their cost having witnessed the lives of children and people close to them ruined by drugs. There are more than 1,000 addicts in Plymouth alone, but they are not the only victims: it is estimated that in Plymouth goods worth £1 million are stolen each week to feed drug habits. Those who are the victims of the vicious cycle that starts in the poppy fields of Afghanistan extend far beyond those who died on 11 September.
The Royal Navy has been building up experience working alongside international agencies: earlier this year, drugs worth £70 million were seized off South America. I hope that as part of our long-term determination to tackle the roots of terrorism, that experience will be built on and deployed with even greater effect. Our armed services are among the finest. As we speak, 14,000 are on exercise in Oman, together with a similar number of Omani troops. We hope that our service personnel will return home by Christmas.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown) who asked the Prime Minister not to allow under-18s to be deployed. I believe that that should be their choice. It is a choice that 17-year-old Heather Woolger, a west country Wren serving on HMS Cornwall, a type 22 frigate, wants to be able to make for herself. Her mother is proud of what she has achieved, but is understandably concerned: if it were left to her mother, Heather would, no doubt, be home by now. However, like her family, I feel that at 17 she is capable of making her own choices in such matters.
At the beginning of the 21st century, we have the tools to find creative solutions to the world's great challengesnot only the terrible events of last month, but the many other problems that scar the planet. We have a tremendous responsibility to the children of the 21st century to use those tools well.