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The Prime Minister: To answer the hon. Gentleman plainly, I am not in a position now to give him assurances on that; the armed forces Minister is beside me and I have no doubt that he has heard what was said. We currently have, I think, one of the largest naval programmes ever. However, I shall have to leave the hon. Gentleman's specific representation to my right hon. Friend the Minister.
Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): Would my right hon. Friend agree that the problems of victory, however great, are infinitely preferable to the problems caused by defeat? As we turn from the speed of the military advance to the political track, could he give the House an update on the draft resolution that is now being debated at the United Nations? What will it say, for example, about security? Could he also be a little more clear about the
The Prime Minister: The difficulty is that we have not yet decided the precise nature of the command because we have not yet finalised not only what our troops but what other troops will do. Obviously, I hope that the House will understand that the situation has moved very fast in the past 48 hours. The requirements, too, are moving very fast. We may now be able to go to parts of the country that we could not go to before, and we may no longer need to go to other parts of the country where we thought that we might be required. Very many issues still have to be decided.
As for the United Nations resolution, it is obviously important that we get the most broad-based regime possible and that the international communitywhich has been remarkably solid in the action that has been undertakenremains solid. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) is entirely right in saying that the problems of having been effective in Afghanistan are far more welcome than the problems that we might have had otherwise. I think that, if we do this in the right way, it opens up the possibility of making real progress not only in Afghanistan but in many difficult areas of the world.
Since I have been in the Chamber, I have received the good news that at Doha a new round of World Trade Organisation negotiations has been launched, which is a very important development. I understand that the agenda for the trade round has been agreed. It would have been difficult to foresee that success even a short time ago. However, immense work has been done and there is far greater will in the international community to try to solve some of the problems facing us. That trade round will be important to world trade and to our economy, even though it may seem very distant to jobs and living standards here on the streets of Britain, because if we manage to get the trade round under way, it will open up new prospects for our business and for investment. It will also hugely help some of the poorest countries in the world.
Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): Although I greatly welcome the military progress that is being made, does the Prime Minister agree that the collapse of the Taliban in itself does not necessarily constitute any reduction in the terrorist threat? Will he therefore assure the House that there will be absolutely no let-up in the intensity of the efforts being made both nationally and at the United Nations, under the British ambassador's chairmanship, to strengthen our national defences against terrorism and deal with those individuals who may be conspiring to commit the next act of terrorism before they are able to engage in another act of mass murder?
The Prime Minister: I agree with that. It is important that we recognise that the closing down of that terrorist network is not complete. We do not know, for example, what planning it had put in place even before 11 September. Although I doubt that it is able to plan much at the moment because of the position it is in, we simply do not know what it may have done prior to 11 September or immediately
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments on the progress that has been made in the past 48 hours and his emphasis on aid and the need to ensure that Afghanistan has a Government in whom all the people of Afghanistan have a stake. I also welcome his comments on the suspicions about the west that sometimes exist in parts of the developing world. That was why he was right to go to the middle east. Does he agree that, if our words are to be taken seriously, we must redouble our commitment to bring a just peace to the middle east and show that our commitment to United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 is no less than our commitment to other United Nations resolutions relating to other parts of the world?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right to say that it is important, if we possibly can, to restart the processthe search for a durable peace in the middle east. I have no doubt at all that that is important. I also have no doubt at all that the process should be based on the two fixed points of principle that we have talked about over the past few weeks. One is the state of Israelsecure and confident in its own borders, accepted by its Arab neighbours and accepted in its right to exist by its Arab neighbours. The second is a viable Palestinian state where the people can live together, side by side, in justice and equality.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Will the Prime Minister find time today to pay tribute again to Squadron 39, the reconnaissance squadron based at RAF Marham? Is he aware that it is currently based in Oman, and experiencing extremely tough, gruelling conditions in the desert there? Day in day out, they are flying over theatre, taking aerial photographs and risking their lives. They are very, very brave men.
The Prime Minister: I am delighted to pay tribute to the work of Squadron 39, and indeed to all others that have been involved in the action. Reconnaissance in these circumstances has of course been a dangerous and difficult mission.
As for defence spending more generally, the hon. Gentleman will know that we have now had the first real-terms rise for many years. What this conflict has shown, once again, is not just the strength of our armed forces in terms of what they can do by way of defending our country, but that they are an enormously important part of Britain's standing in the world and of what we can do. As I have often said, I think that our defence forces
Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr): Will the Prime Minister confirm that the supply of humanitarian aid and the deployment of the United Nations force will continue even after the formation of the next Afghan Government, on a long-term, structured basis and not just as a short-term answer to the current situation, to allow the people of Afghanistan to lead a normal life?
I read my hon. Friend's article recentlyI think it was in The Observer. I thought that his argument constituted the best defence of why we are taking this action, and why it was important and right, irrespective of one's faithChristian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindufor the action to be supported. I thought that the article was one of the best things I had read throughout the entirety of the conflict.
It is important always to realise that under the Taliban, way back, there was going to be a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. Can the Prime Minister assure us that, long after the television cameras and the journalists have disappeared from Afghanistan, the United Kingdom will continue to provide humanitarian and development aid for the restructuring of that country?
The Prime Minister: I totally agree that that is the test of our commitment. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct to point out that this is a humanitarian crisis that was going on long before 11 September, partly for natural reasons but partly because of the appalling nature of the Taliban regime. It is important that we stay with the commitments we have made, and recognise that helping Afghanistan to become a stable and secure partner in the region is not merely in the interests of people in Afghanistan butas we can see from what happened as we let Afghanistan decline and descend into chaosin our own interests too.