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10.26 pm

Mr. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): I am grateful to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker as I had the privilege to speak in last week's debate. So tonight I shall address only one issue.

In the thoughtful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) he said that Osama bin Laden did not represent the views of the Muslim world and he was absolutely right. However, this morning we learned that Osama bin Laden is winning the propaganda battle throughout the Arab world, particularly and dangerously in Saudi Arabia.

The Secretary of State for Defence, in his well-reasoned speech, spoke of the obligation imposed on all states to suppress terrorism which is mentioned in United Nations resolution 1373. To my mind, that obligation should include the withdrawal of the oxygen of publicity from the terrorists themselves. I am picking up on a point made by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) when he spoke about the media. I am thinking in particular about the Al-Jazeera TV channel based in the state of Qatar. I would urge the Government most strongly to use whatever influence they have at the United Nations and elsewhere to ask the Government of Qatar and all media organisations to deny the terrorists the oxygen of publicity.

I fully accept the need for the events in Afghanistan and elsewhere to be reported by the media, but it is of a wholly different order to give publicity directly to the terrorists and to have Osama bin Laden broadcasting to the whole of the Arab world. We are entitled to ask, in the words of the President of the United States, whether the state of Qatar is with us or against us on this particular issue.

10.28 pm

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) claimed that he was no military expert, and by his comments this evening he proved his entitlement to that description. By seeking somehow to link these awful and perilous matters to the future creation of some absurd, bizarre, galaxy spanning, nuclear missile defence scheme, the twisted thoughts of some Dr. Strangelove, he did the House a grave disservice. If there is to be a child of this conflict, let it not be some further extension of militarisation, but rather the new

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world order, the recognition of interdependence and community that has been spoken about so powerfully and so much.

Mr. George Osborne: I think that ballistic missile defence has more to do with the events of 11 September than the scout movement does.

Mr. Pound: I am unused to right hon. and hon. Members sneering at and criticising the scout and guide movement of this country. The fact that there are those who do so is a fact to be deplored.

I shall return to the rather more impressive contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart). She spoke of a just war. I am at one, odd though the picture might seem, with her, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine because this clearly is a just war. The fact that it is a war that aims at justice, does not mean that there is anything less than a determination in this nation to pursue it. The fact that we have no appetite for war does not mean that we will not pursue it, and the absence of hunger does not mean that we do not have a stomach for it.

When the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) referred to the conversations in the drawing rooms of his constituency, I thought of those in my constituency, where sadly we do not have drawing rooms, with whom I have discussed these issues. This morning I spoke to a group of Muslim constituents whom I am proud and honoured to represent. They are part of the multiracial, multicultural and multi-faith community which is in so many ways the glory and strength of this nation. They told me that their fears were as mine. They said that they do not see any commonality of interest between their Muslim faith and what they have heard on the airwaves, and which has been mentioned already today. They do not see a war against the west. They desire to live in peace in a decent and civil society.

I spoke to the pupils of Viking primary school in my constituency where 50 per cent. of those attending are of the Muslim faith. Those Muslim children told me that they saw the enemy clearly and that it is terrorism, not Islam or some foreign demon. If a primary school child can see that so clearly, is it not depressing that there are still those voices around us, and occasionally within the House, who seek to demonise a peaceful religion and somehow subvert it to their own agenda?

At my surgery this morning I spoke to a 30-year-old man from Afghanistan. He has been in this country for three years and his application for asylum is supported by a testimony from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. His physical torture was so horrific and barbaric that I would not bring the details of it to the Floor of the House. He told me that he wept for his nation, the nation that he loved. He also wept tears of gratitude that those of us in the west are finally realising that we are our brother's keeper, that we have to act and that we cannot allow this barbarity and assault on civilisation to continue unchallenged. That greatest challenge was supported by that young man from Afghanistan, whose family still live in that country.

Like many hon. Members I have had letters from constituents saying that we should do nothing. They say that we should stand back and allow the internal contradictions of the Taliban regime to somehow collapse

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the system in on itself, let the lonely watchtowers of the Khyber crumble to dust or, as we have heard today, let an official of the court, accompanied by a tipstaff, prowl the echoing alleys of Kandahar and Kabul and take Mr. bin Laden into the care of the court and haul him before some British system of justice. That is a good idea, but is it practicable?

I have had letters from constituents equally practically asking what is to happen to the many Mrs. bin Ladens and their numerous progeny. At the end of the day, however, the one question that I would ask them is, "If not this action, what action should be taken?"

In the 21st century, at the dawning of what must be a century of hope in which we can finally show that there is a better way of living, can we really justify inaction and dream that somehow the world will become a better place without our doing anything?

There will be sacrifices. There must be. We are already suffering. Our service men and women may already have suffered far more than we in the House can imagine. We owe a duty, however, not only to our people and those of the coalition but to humanity, to find a better way of living.

On 11 September we saw the ghost of the past, which still has the power to haunt us. We saw the way that things should not be done. Now we have the opportunity to show how they might be done. The unanimity that I have heard expressed by almost everyone in the House will send a message of such strength and power beyond the walls of this Chamber that there will be no doubt anywhere in the world of the determination of this nation, this coalition and ultimately, I hope, this planet to live together in peace. That is the future. Bin Laden and his murderous crew are the past. The sooner that they are consigned to that past the better.

10.36 pm

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): I join the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) in adding my thanks and praise to those service men and women who are serving us in Afghanistan to bring the terrorists to justice. I also add my thanks to those who serve us at home in the intelligence service. We have not heard much about them this evening, but they are working day and night to thwart terrorist attacks throughout the world. We may never hear about their sacrifice but I am sure that we all thank and praise them.

Many hon. Members mentioned the Gulf war. Several commented that we should not have stopped when we did, but carried on and put an end to Saddam Hussein and his evil regime. I agree, but that is history. We did not do so. To say that we did not do it then, so we should not do it now does not follow. It is dangerous for people to try to make up for the mistakes of the past by making a mistake today. That is not the way to go.

I ask those who do not recall or know much about military history to remember some of the basics of warfare. One has to keep one's eye on the target. Those who are distracted and leave the field in hot pursuit of some small detachment or who go off to fight their own small battles, return to the battlefield to find that they have lost not only the battle but the war.

Much work has been done by President Bush and by our Prime Minister in particular to bring about a coalition of many countries throughout the world. Many people are

8 Oct 2001 : Column 881

trying to undermine that coalition. Many are working through the media in the middle east. Many are trying to do so through riots in Pakistan. There are Palestinians fighting in the occupied territories. In the coming days and weeks, we will hear about more riots and about attacks on embassies—possibly those of the United States or our own. All those people want to destabilise the coalition, but in doing so they would be giving victory to the enemy.

Iraq would love the alliance to attack it. I am fairly certain that there will be activity at the edge of the southern and the northern no-fly zones to provoke alliance forces to drop bombs and missiles to destroy targets. I would not be surprised if missiles were placed close to civilian targets. The Iraqis have done it in the past; they did it in the Gulf war. They claimed when the missile was attacked that civilians had died there. They want to undermine the coalition in seeking a victory in a struggle that they lost many years ago.

I urge hon. Members who wish to appear to be bold and upstanding—to be bigger and more macho than anyone else—that they are like the elephant walking towards the elephant trap. Those who enter the elephant trap are bound to give Osama bin Laden victory, and that we must resist.

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