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The Prime Minister: I do, but if the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Northern Alliance, it was necessary to support it in the way that we did.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley): In the hourly changes in Afghanistan, is not it easy to forget that the purpose of being there is to pursue the guilty? Does my right hon. Friend know that Justice Scrivener QC has said that he would not convict a shoplifter on the evidence that we have shown so far? I thank my right hon. Friend for the evidence that he has placed in the Library, but does he believe that my constituents, who have also complained to me about the quality of evidence, will be convinced? On the day of reckoning when we are all held to account in a democracy, is my right hon. Friend convinced that we can say that we pursued the guilty?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend's point deserves an answer. I have not seen the comments to which she

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referred. Let us leave aside the intelligence evidence—people may say that we are simply providing whatever evidence we want, although I believe that anyone who examined it would be convinced. Two other things are important. First, we have now traced the majority of the hijackers to the al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan. That is where they were trained, where they came out of, and where they were connected to. One would have thought that that was hardly a coincidence.

Secondly, the best evidence since 11 September has increasingly come from what bin Laden and his spokesmen have said. People can read the full transcript of the video recordings of interviews that he has given. One might have thought that, if he was innocent, he would have been proclaiming his innocence and condemning the outrage. However, he has not done any of those things. On the contrary, he has said that it was absolutely the right thing to do, that he welcomed it, that the people who did it were heroes and, what is more, that he wants a lot more of it to happen. With the greatest respect to whoever it was who made the comment about the shoplifter, I think that although there is no convincing those who will not be convinced, if people study this matter, the evidence is clear and plain.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): It may well be necessary to deploy United States and United Kingdom troops as a stabilisation force in Afghanistan, and I will support that. None the less, should not that be a temporary measure, bearing in mind that the United States and the United Kingdom have been engaged in a conflict with the Taliban and are likely to continue to be so engaged? I will support that engagement, too. However, is it not necessary for a degree of even- handedness to be perceived to exist in, for example, the Pushtun areas? We have given support in concert with the Northern Alliance. In those circumstances, should we not try to engage, as rapidly as possible, in the stabilisation force troops from countries that have not so far been engaged in the conflict, so that we do not put ourselves in an apparently divided role?

The Prime Minister: That is a perfectly reasonable point. We do not want UK troops to remain there in the long term. They are there simply to perform certain duties that they may be called on to perform, and they may be the only ones who can do that at the moment. There will be not only US and UK troops, but troops from other countries which have been part of the coalition; for example, France and other countries that have been involved already.

In the medium term—while the United Nations exercise is, hopefully, taking increasing control—it is entirely sensible that we involve other countries as well. Obviously, discussions are going on about what type of force could help in this situation. As I said in my statement, we need to be able to work alongside the Afghan military commanders to ensure that stability is restored to the country. We are well aware of the sensitivities there, and it is important that we take account of them.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley): As a Member of Parliament who has been to Afghanistan and seen the

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way in which the people there are repressed, may I ask my right hon. Friend, his coalition and the United Nations to make sure that it is not only the Afghanis who are liberated, but the women, too?

The Prime Minister: What my hon. Friend says is right. Some of the people who are rejoicing most visibly today are the Afghan women who will no longer have to suffer quite appalling repression. Under the Taliban regime, they had no proper education and were excluded from many walks of life. Also, as I know from talking to women who have been in Afghanistan, they suffered the most brutal repression, including physical beatings for anyone who did not obey rules that are, on any basis, grossly unreasonable and wrong.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): I wholeheartedly endorse what was said earlier about the United Nations. What does the Prime Minister envisage in terms of the United Nations intervention? Is it to involve a form of protectorate or trusteeship while the building of a broad-based representative Government goes ahead in Afghanistan? I also fully share the right hon. Gentleman's hope that there will now be a huge increase in the amount of humanitarian aid going into the country.

The Prime Minister: It is envisaged that the UN will help to facilitate the coming together of the new Afghan Government. That is the sensible limit of its ambition there. We shall, of course, try to step up the humanitarian aid now—although, in my view, it is only because of the military action that we are able to get the humanitarian aid into the country.

Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. Will he work with his coalition partners to try to ensure that, under any post-Taliban regime, the drugs trade does not start up again? Will he also update the House on the important financial measures needed to tackle the flow of funds to terrorists, particularly given that the Taliban received such large sums from terrorist sources?

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend has raised two important points. On the drugs trade, what we shall do in helping with the reconstruction of Afghanistan is make it clear that we want Afghanistan to develop farming—of proper agricultural produce, not produce for the drugs trade—and business, so that they can grow again in a legitimate way. That will take some time, but as I was told when I was in Pakistan a few weeks ago, Pakistan used to have a very active drugs trade but it closed it down with the help of measures taken with the international community. So it is not impossible for a country that has been involved in drugs to shut down its drugs trade, and we must work to ensure that Afghanistan does that.

In respect of financial measures, we need first to make it clear to countries that have been somewhat lax in enforcing their laws on financing terrorists that we shall not tolerate that. Secondly, we must tighten up provisions on money laundering and the disclosure of information. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been working on that and there has been international agreement at an EU level and, I am sure, at other international levels.

Patrick Mercer (Newark): I congratulate the Prime Minister and our armed forces on the efforts made and

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the successes enjoyed. However, may I enjoin him to look carefully at the specialist reservists? More than a month ago, 150 were called for, but so far only 13 have volunteered. Can measures be taken to encourage and protect them further with legislation?

The Prime Minister: We shall do what we can in that regard. I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is immensely important that we do everything possible to acknowledge the contribution that has been made. There are practical issues that we need to get right, but I am sure that with good will and discussion we can do that.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): The Prime Minister has rightly condemned excesses by the Northern Alliance in retribution, which is now going on in Kabul and other cities. What influence and pressure are being put on the Northern Alliance to cease those activities? How quickly can the UN command take over, so that it is clear that the Northern Alliance is not running the show, but somebody else is? In analysing the whole situation, will he encourage the US Administration to sign up to the International Criminal Court convention so that we have a future based on law rather than solely on the use of military force?

The Prime Minister: This country's position on the International Criminal Court is clear; America's position is up to it. Irrespective of any court's existence, the military action would still have been right. We have made it clear to the Northern Alliance that we want no reprisals or revenge killings against the civilian population. In many ways, that has happened to a lesser degree than people might have expected. Of course we want to ensure that the UN is as effective as possible in the interventions that it makes.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): Events in Afghanistan, and over many years, have emphasised the importance to this country of British forces' expeditionary capacity. I agree with the Prime Minister that our armed forces are second to none and that, furthermore, they must have the best and sufficient equipment and ships. Currently, we have two assault ships and only one helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, which is in refit. Will the Prime Minister consider urgently the ordering of a second helicopter carrier so that one is always available?

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