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This is a campaign that must be won. We must never forget that it is a campaign about peace and the threat that international terrorism poses to peace. The fight for peace and for freedom from terror can never be qualified or restrained. It cannot be pursued half-heartedly. That is why we Conservatives wholeheartedly support the fight and support the Government and the United States in their pursuit of it.
As we in Britain know only too well, terrorism threatens us all. We have to pursue it relentlessly and without compromise wherever it occurs. We must not let up until the battle against it is won. The House should know that there is a long way to go, but we Conservatives are ready and prepared to see it through.
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale): First, I pay my respects to our colleague Sir Ray Powell, who died this weekend, and send my sympathies to his family. As one who knew Ray throughout my 14 years as a Member of Parliament, I have many happy memories and many stories to tell in after-dinner speeches for the rest of my life. I send my best wishes to his family.
We all know where we were on 11 September. I was 30,000 ft up in the air flying into London Gatwick when the terrible atrocity occurred. As I walked off the flight, the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell), who was returning with me from Gibraltar, tapped me on the shoulder and told me that he had just received a teletext
That is something that lives with us all, and none of us can adequately describe it. I hear pundits, commentators and colleagues saying that we should never forget 11 September, but it is impossible for us to forget it. In my local constituency newsletter, I commented that life would never be the same after 11 September. I am sure that everyone agrees.
Are we for war, or are we against war? Surely we are all against war. To every inch of my being, I am against war. I think that it was James Connolly who said that the working man is at both ends of the bayonet. That is the view of a pacifist and a great socialist, but he was speaking at a time when wars were fought on the battlefield; the war against international terrorism is one that no one could ever have contemplated. It will be difficult for us to come to terms with the horror of it.
I have to say to many of my dear and good Friends who are opposed to the action that has been taken that, although I have regard for their genuine views, while disagreeing with them, only one thing would have been worse than taking action, and that is not taking action. We should reflect. We were worried that there would be a knee-jerk reaction from America, with military action being conducted unilaterally. We were all pleasedsome of us were surprisedwhen the involvement and leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister led to the forming of a coalition and an understanding of what we were facing. None of us understood the seriousness of the threat. The consequences of not defeating those who perpetrated such a terrible act are too horrific to contemplate.
My constituency is in the west of Scotland. It is a rural area. There is not a large Muslim communitythe Asian and Muslim community is about 5 per cent. or less of the entire community. Much has been said about Muslim communities. My experience in meeting, living with and representing Muslim families has been wonderful.
I hear that there is a debate that stems from something that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is alleged to have said about teaching immigrant families English. There is nothing more wonderful than to be in the west of Scotland and to hear a Pakistani child speaking in broad Scots. Please believe me. That is perfect English in a broad Scots accent.
We should not lecture Muslim families on how they should bring up their children. I have never met a more respectful, polite and conscientious group of people. That is my experience of Muslim communities, wherever I have met them. We should talk more about that. We have taken it for granted too often, and I should put that on record.
There are issues with which I am not comfortable. None of us can say that we support 100 per cent. everything that has been happening. I have great concern about what is happening in the middle east. Israel has many friends in the House. They are on both sides of the Chamber, and they are vocal and supportive. I support the Palestinian cause for an independent state. Given our experience of
Mr. Hood: Of course it is an excuse, but it is not an excuse from our point of view. My hon. Friend and I and many other Members have argued for a peace settlement in the middle east, and it was once within our grasp.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I assure the hon. Gentleman that I share his view that there will never be lasting peace in the middle east until both Israelis and Palestinians have their own separate states. However, is he not being unrealistic? Is not the objective of those who are carrying out the suicide bombings in Israel nothing less than the destruction of Israel?
Mr. Hood: I concede that people are perpetrating evil acts of terrorism by becoming suicide bombers and, more importantly, encouraging others to become suicide bombers. However, they are extremists who feed off the sort of response that the Israelis have made. There is no way that I could even try to justify the Israeli Government's response. I can understand their anger and the need to protect themselves against terrorism, but one cannot defeat the evil of international terrorism with state terrorism. I tell Israel and the friends of Israel who want a middle east peace settlement that we should address that issue. We should tell Prime Minister Sharon that behaving like a state terrorist is not the answer to the problem; I say that as a supporter of the present international action.
Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): Does my hon. Friend agree that the balance to the reasonable point made by the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) is that Sharon is increasingly giving the impression that his intention is the destruction of the potential state of Palestine?
Mr. Hood: That will never happen without war in the middle east. If we cannot get our minds round what happened on 11 September, believe me, a middle east war will be a lot worse. It is in everybody's interest, as well as in the interests of morality and social justice, to give the Palestinians their own state within their own lands and, along with that, to give the Israelis peace. We cannot criticise the evil of international terrorism while turning a blind eye to supposedly friendly countries that embrace state terrorism. It gives me no pleasure to tell the House that, sadly, what the Israelis are doing is wrong. How Mr. Peres can remain in that Cabinet is, frankly, beyond me.
I saw a television report today about young boys playing football in Kabul. Before the downfall of the Taliban, they could have been put in prison for wearing football shorts, let alone playing football. That says a lot about what is happening. We are seeing changes; we welcome the new interim Government that will be set up in Kabul, and we welcome the liberation of women, and their inclusion in the new Government. We should take the opportunity to get more humanitarian aid in to save the many millions of Afghans who need it.
In conclusion, I hope that in our next debate on this subject we will have many more joys to discuss. Perhaps in two or three months' time the Government will be up and running, military action will have ended in Afghanistan, and there will be an end to the terror. I see that the Secretary of State for Defence, whose position I shall not get wrong, is on the Front Bench. It is my honest viewand history will tellthat the Prime Minister performed as great a service as anyone could have done in giving support to the American Government. I commend him for doing what he did when he did, and the way in which he did it. Hawks in the State Department now want to expand military action into parts of the Sudan and Iraq, but I caution against such an extension. We should argue that what we are doing to defeat international terrorism is moral and right, but we should not allow the hawks in the State Department to take us that step further, which would undermine our moral case.
Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I propose, so far as I can, to strain neither my voice nor the patience of the House in this short debate. I hope that those two objectives are mutually consistent.
In the light of recent domestic political events, it would be right for me to restate once again Liberal Democrat support for Government policy since 11 September. Our support has never been slavish, as the Foreign Secretary knows, but I am satisfied now, as I was after 11 September, that action in Afghanistan is justified in law and is necessary for our protection. Like the Foreign Secretary, I could not have predicted that the action would be so successful so swiftly, or that a political framework would so quickly be put in place.