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Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): May I reassure my right hon. Friend that, in addition to the relief and apprehension that we all must feel, as expressed by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, there was joy in my heart and that of many others on Friday evening to hear that there had been movement on the ground to signal the beginnings of the end of the Taliban? I feel really happy that, so far, the movement has been very positive in getting rid of the Taliban and setting the scene for the delivery of aid and the development of a future far better than anything that Afghanistan has had over the past 30 years.
Will the agenda that my right hon. Friend laid out so persuasively at the Labour party conference and here in London this week now become a focus for the United Nations, to deal with the major problems not only of the middle east but of many other areas in the world, such as, to mention only two, Zimbabwe and Sudan?
The Prime Minister: I am sure that my hon. Friend is right in saying that most people will have welcomed what has happened in the past few days. The military success on the ground allows the political and humanitarian work to proceed in a much more coherent way. That is important and we must build on it. The challenge, however, is still formidable on both frontspolitical and humanitarianand there is no point in disguising that.
On the broader global agenda, I hope that we can make progress. We are working very hard with African countries on the new Africa initiative. It is very important to ensure that, by the time of the G7/G8 summit next year, we have a viable plan for economic and political development in Africa, led by Africa itself. The concept of partnership is there, and it should be seized on. I hope that, today more than ever before, people understand that international issues can be domestic issues, too.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): Following the answer to the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), does the Prime Minister agree that those who have been crying out for humanitarian aid should be leading the van of thanksgiving for the successes that have happened, because if the Taliban had remained in power, the people who really needed help would not have got it?
Is the Prime Minister convinced that the al-Qaeda network has not moved out? What about the suggestion that bin Laden himself may have moved on to Somalia? Can we have an assurance that there will be no pulling back and that international forces will continue to pursue him until they bring him to justice?
We believe that Osama bin Laden and the main al-Qaeda network are still in Afghanistan. It is true that, prior to 11 September, various parts of the organisation and terrorists connected with it were in different parts of the world. That is why it is important that we ensure that, wherever they are, they are hunted down. They have shown by their acts how dangerous they are.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): I thank the Prime Minister for his timely statement. In the light of what he has said, will he reconsider, even at this late stage, the perceived necessity for clauses 21 to 27 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, which we are to debate next week, which allow for imprisonment with neither charge nor trial? Precisely why is it thought necessary to preclude any appeal to any court on matters of fact, by way of either habeas corpus or judicial review?
We must present evidence to the appointed commission, which will be headed by experienced peoplelawyersand we will have to present it in private, because of its confidential nature. It will be a small number of cases, presented in circumstances in which we genuinely believe that our national interest is at risk or that of other countries. There is no alternative, other than saying, "That's fine, they are going to be let out, can stay here and do what they wish to do." There is no alternative to that.
The second reason why it is important that we take this action is that the one question I have found impossible to answer when having conversations with other world leaders is when they say to me, "You want us to join this great coalition against international terrorism, but you have people in your country who want to commit acts of terrorism in our country, and you are doing nothing about it." I have not yet found a convincing answer to that and I genuinely believe that it is right, in very specific circumstances, to take exceptional action. If we do not do that, we will put our own people at risk. The people who would abuse our laws and hospitality would put many more people at risk, because they have no compunction about what they do. Secondly, if that small group of people get away with being here and plotting their acts of terrorism, with nothing being done about them, they make life a lot more uncomfortable for the vast majority of asylum seekers who come in through the proper immigration procedures and who deserve to be treated well and with respect.
Mr. Michael Weir (Angus): The Prime Minister said in his statement that part of the troops that may be deployed in 48 hours is 45 Commando, which is based in my constituency. I am pleased to see that the mission will be, at least initially, a humanitarian one, but is the Prime Minister aware of reports this morning that both the former president and former king of Afghanistan are travelling to Kabul, possibly to vie for power? I noted that the Prime Minister said in his statement that he had links at all levels with the Northern Alliance and although I do not expect him to give me any details of discussions, can he assure me that discussions with the Northern Alliance have been held and that it agrees with the need to deploy troops, whether from the UK or the UN, in those areas that it has recently seized from the Taliban, so that there will be no problem once the troops have been sent to Afghanistan?
The Prime Minister: I pay tribute to 45 Commando Royal Marines and the work they do, which is very important. I do not think that any one can give guarantees in this situation, but it is correct that we are in discussion with all the different parties in Afghanistan and the work
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know better than anyone in the House that it is one of Parliament's sacred duties to defend the freedoms that are enjoyedfreedom of speech, of association and of religionincluding the freedom to be tried before being detained. You will be aware that on Monday an order will be discussed, probably after 10.30 pm, that pertains to that last precious freedom. Unless the procedures of the House are adjustedand it is within the Government's power to do sothat order will be debated next Monday but will not be voted on until Wednesday. It will be subject to a deferred vote.
Many of us feel that deferred votes are important, particularly after the way in which the business of the House was abused last year. None the less, there must be certain items that the House feels are of the utmost importance and deserve a vote immediately after the debate. Will you use your usual channels to find out whether appropriate means of reaching a decision on this matter can be found and a vote taken immediately after the debate on Monday?
There can be no hon. Member who has not at some time witnessed someone at the wheel of a motor vehicle who is at the same time conducting a conversation on a hand-held mobile telephone. Indeed, there may be hon. Members who have committed what is already technically an offence under sections 2 and 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. I am pretty sure that I am one of them. Historically, the Government have argued that the legislation is wide-ranging enough to include mobile phones as the highway code already contains in paragraph 127 advice on driving and using the phone. It states:
In New South Wales too, there is now a law that states quite explicitly that the driver of a vehicle must not use a hand-held mobile phone while the vehicle is moving. Korea has now followed suit and I understand that the Government of the Irish Republic are considering doing the same.
Some may argue that our present laws are sufficient to deal with this problem, but I believe that we know from our daily experiences that they are not. As recently as July this year the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents called for a specific offence to ban the use of mobile phones while driving. It called for new legislation to make it crystal clear that mobile phones should be switched off while drivers are at the wheel.
ROSPA estimates that there have now been at least 16 deaths on British roads in which a mobile phone has been implicated, and that this could be the tip of the iceberg. It is only when someone is killed that the problems associated with mobile phones and driving are highlighted as there is no specific offence related to mobile phones and driving. It is therefore impossible to keep track of how often they are a major factor in accidents. It is possible that hundreds of accidents may be
New York has had enough and has outlawed the practice. I believe that it is high time we did the same because no one, regardless of how competent a driver someone claims to be, can hold a phone, dial a number, conduct a conversation and be in complete control of a car or lorry. It is simply not the same as having a conversation with a passenger or listening to a tape or the radio. It takes less than a split second for a lapse in concentration to result in an accident. It must therefore be made crystal clear to drivers who insist on behaving in this way that they endanger the safety of the public generally, and their own safety too.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Janet Anderson, Mr. John McFall, Ms Bridget Prentice, Mrs. Betty Williams, Jim Dowd, Mr. Paul Keetch, Sir Sydney Chapman, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Mr. Siôn Simon, Andy Burnham, Lawrie Quinn and Barbara Follett.