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Mr. Campbell: If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I am subject, like everyone else, to the 10-minute limit. The hon. Lady may have some sympathy with my next point. Israel has an unequivocal legal right to peaceful existence within secure borders, free from attack or the threat of attack.
What I am about to say next may not please the hon. Lady. Among Palestinians, the scepticism to which I have referred is made all the more acute by the Israeli Government's continuing policy of the expansion of settlements. The Prime Minister says that the Palestinians are entitled to justice, land and a viable state, but how can that be if the policy of settlements is allowed to proceed unhindered? The settlements are illegal at international law. No one in the House denies it. Successive Foreign Secretaries have said so outside the House and at the Dispatch Box.
We assert the primacy of international law as the justification for our military action in Afghanistan. Is it any wonder that we have mountains to climb in persuading many in the middle east of the justice of our cause when they look round at the daily breach of that same law in the occupied territories?
May I suggest two immediate stepstwo initiatives that the Government could take? First, we should call upon the Israeli Government, when Mr. Sharon comes to this country in a week or two's time, to freeze the settlements. There would be absolutely no prejudice to the security of Israel if that policy were adopted.
Secondly, we should say to Governments such as the Syrian Government, with whom the Prime Minister spent a rather uncomfortable period yesterday, "We call on you to give no support to any organisation which opposes by the use of the gun or the bullet a peaceful settlement in the middle east." No prejudice whatever would attach to those countries claiming to favour the Palestinian cause if they were to adopt such a policy.
It is overwhelmingly clear that there is a need to break the logjam. There is a need for courage. As I was reflecting before I began these few remarks, we have seen that courage in the middle east already: Begin, Sadat, Rabin, King Hussein, Mubarak. Some of them paid for their courage with their lives, but it has been demonstrated, on so many frustrating occasions, that there is the opportunity for progress, if only the circumstances are favourable and courage is available.
We need that courage again, but on this occasion, when there is a burden and an obligation on the United States in particular, there must be a sense of commitment that will ensure that the courage of those in the communities will be supported by a guaranteeif not in legal or military terms, at least in political termson any settlement that may be reached.
Mr. Sharon said that there was a risk that we might treat Israel like Czechoslovakia. If Czechoslovakia had had a patron of quite such power and influence and such financial capability as Israel has in the United States, I very much doubt that Czechoslovakia would have disappeared in 1938.
We have a huge opportunity to rise from the extraordinary circumstances of 11 September. If we raise expectation and do not fulfil it, things will be worse than they were before. We have a huge chance, but a huge obligation to go with it. Let us hope that we have the courage to make sure that we exercise both.
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South): I do not seek to patronise the many Members who have already spoken, but I have never heard so many thoughtful and well-researched speeches. Dangerous precedents are being created in the House. I do not propose to follow those speeches in either their preparation or their thoughtfulness.
I agreed with much that was said, although not with the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie), who criticised the Prime Minister for daring to have a vision. Frankly, the status quo is a bloody awful place. We are witnessing an awful thing and, given my right hon. Friend's knowledge of the first world war and the disaster of expecting people to return to the same slums that they had fought to eliminate, surely it is right that a conflict such as this should raise the vision of the participants. If at the end of this conflict we still have the same world as when we entered it, we shall perhaps have failed miserably.
The 11 September seems an agemany lifetimesaway. Much has changed during a short period. After the near universal sadness at the catastrophe there has been some peeling away of support, yet those who argue for homogeneity in the legislature ignore history. If we read the debates that were held in this place during the American war of independence, we find that they were riven by difference. That was true of debates on many 19th century warsalthough some of those wars were
In the first world war, the second world war, Suez, the Falklands, the Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, and even in the limited deployment to Sierra Leone, dissent did not reign supreme, but it existed. That is why ours is a democratic legislature. I cannot say that I agree with those who have dissented from what the Government are doing, because I believe that the Government and the American Government have behaved and acted correctly, with the support of international law, the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council and under the Washington treaty of 1949. The response has been proportionate and, despite the mistakes that have clearly been made, the Government deserve support. The fact that some people are not prepared to offer that support is regrettable, but it is inevitable and in no way to be condemned, and I would never do so.
This debate is well informed. Some hon. Members may not yet have seen the Library briefing paper that was produced this morningthe second edition of its report on Operation Enduring Freedomand I invite my colleagues to read it very quickly.
The Prime Minister has tirelessly endeavoured to seek to sustain if not consensus, then substantial support in the House. We meet regularly, and an enormous amount of information is available to usnot the full amount. I would not want all the information because someone would be on his mobile phone to Pakistan pretty damn quickly and that would not necessarily be in the interests of our armed forces.
I understand that the Prime Minister is meeting the consultative assembly in Saudi Arabia, which probably has about as much power as we do, so I hope that he finds the experience useful. In fact, the Consultative Assembly in Kuwait has more power than we do, so perhaps we should seek advice on the way in which it operates.
Only time will tell whether the Prime Minister was well advised to go to Syria, but he certainly could not be accused of ducking a difficult fight. It must have been infinitely worse than the worst of all Prime Minister's Question Times, which he must now look forward to with some relish in the light of what he experienced yesterday. However, it must have been deeply galling to be lectured to by a state that the United States considers a terrorist state, and galling to be lectured to by someone in whose nation the traditions of democracy are at best shallow and recenteven that is not an adequate description.
For the Prime Minister to go to Israela country to which he has said some rather harsh wordsshows how courageous he has been, but it will be an uphill task to convince many in the Arab world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has said, many Muslims are in total denial. All the evidence has not been presented to us, but what has should be sufficient for most people to determine the source of the terrorist acts and that of potential terrorist acts.
I do not regard what the Leader of the Opposition wrote yesterday as being substantial dissent; it was dissent on the margins of the argument. Frankly, the support that the Opposition have given to the Government in this conflict is rather greater than the support it ostensibly gave in the Kosovan crisis, which was initially all rhetoric and then almost all criticism. I support and applaud what the Leader of the Opposition is seeking to do and, generally speaking, has done.
It is critical that we sustain, if not consensus, which is not possible, at least substantial support. Some people will read Hansard. There will be people watching this debate elsewhere than in the Public Gallery and looking to see whether there is a vote this evening. Although I repeat that people have the right to go into a different Lobby from the overwhelming majority of Members of Parliament, people will notice and draw conclusions that hon. Members who dissent from the Government's view may not wish them to draw.
I have the privilege of representing a large number of Muslims: Pakistanis, Kashmiris who are Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis. The overwhelming majority areI will not say supporting what the Government are doingkeeping their heads down, which is sensible because race relations are in some form of balance at the moment, if not stability. I fear that things could happen that could be damaging and set race relations back for many years, if not a generation.
I am not trying to be apocalyptic. People will dissent. People can march, write to their Members of Parliament and talk among themselves, but I hope that the elders, if they have any influenceI suspect that it is declining, just like that of the Whips in this placewill express their views to younger members who are subject to influence. Going off and fighting a war against fellow Brits will not earn the respect or enthusiasm of the rest of the population. If they come back limbless, not everyone will be happy if they claim industrial injury benefit. They have a choice to make. I would not expect them to be so incorporated in British society that they are not able to wear any clothes they wish to wear and follow any religion they wish to follow, but there are some obligations, and I think that the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population are more than aware of that.
There are two elements to what Parliament is doing. One is what we are doing here in plenary, making powerful speeches, but more important is what is being done, or should be being done, in Select Committee. The Select Committee on Defence, which I am proud at long last to chair, is doing a lot.