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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Common Fisheries Policy

4 Mar 2002 : Column 123

Question agreed to.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): For the convenience of the House, we shall take motions 3, 4 and 5 together.


Public Administration


Trade and Industry


Disabled Facilities

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Mobile Phone Antennae

10.14 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point): Residents of Silverpoint Marine on Canvey Island are deeply concerned about the proposed positioning of a mobile phone antenna in their small community. They are particularly worried about the longer-term health implications for the children who live and play in the vicinity of the proposed antenna site. Although they accept that there is no evidence at the moment of such antennae causing significant damage to children, they believe that there is no evidence that there will be no such damage in the longer term. They also believe, therefore, that a safety-first approach is appropriate.

This small community's petition was compiled by Jayne Gough, Samantha Duffield, Nicola Dowsett and others. It states:

To lie upon the Table.

4 Mar 2002 : Column 123

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International Terrorism

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. McNulty.]

10.16 pm

Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood): Everyone in the House will agree that this debate on Government policy towards countries providing support for terrorist organisations takes place at a heartbreaking moment. Lives are still being lost in Afghanistan in the ongoing effort to rid that nation and the region of the terror of al-Qaeda and on both sides in the continuing tragedy that is the middle east conflict. I am delighted to introduce the debate, but I regret having to seek it.

I want not simply another debate on the middle east peace process, but a much wider discussion. I believe absolutely that there will be a lasting peace in the middle east, but events of recent weeks and months have made me uncertain as to whether that peace will be delivered by this generation of politicians. I also have absolute faith that there will indeed be a viable Palestinian state, and so there should be, that lives in security and peace alongside a secure neighbour, the state of Israel.

The tragedy is that so many innocent people on both sides have died so needlessly over recent months when peace seemed such a realistic prospect under the prime ministerial leadership of Ehud Barak and his partner in peace at the time, Chairman Arafat. Now it appears that both sides are looking up from an abyss. I hope that at least one or two steps forward result from the most recent suggestions emanating from Saudi Arabia. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will comment on the Government's position in respect of the latest reported Saudi effort.

I shall concentrate on the terror organisations that so undermine that drive for peace and three states—Iraq, Syria and Iran—that do so much to support and give succour to those terror organisations. In respect of Iraq, there is a history that everyone acknowledges of support for terror organisations within its borders and the use of domestic terror as a means to carry out low or occasionally medium-level conflict with regional opponents, Iran in particular and, of course, Israel.

More recently, Iraq has again assumed a high profile, taking centre stage in world politics. It is now absolutely clear in the wider sense of global and regional security that Iraq must act. Saddam Hussein, newly armed with an improved weapons of mass destruction capability, is a threat not only to his own people and his neighbours, but to international security. The United Kingdom, along with its allies, is rightly considering action, but I firmly believe that we must also publish whatever evidence we can, notwithstanding the lack of observers on the ground.

There is evidence of the increased viability and range of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and we need to persuade not only the House but the British public and world opinion—especially Arab opinion—that, because of the threat posed by Saddam to his neighbours and to world security, we may, unfortunately, be left with no alternative as an international community but to act, in more than a diplomatic sense. That gives me no sense of enjoyment—it gives me a considerable sense of foreboding.

I believe firmly that the Prime Minister was right to go to Syria following 11 September, to try to impress on the Syrian leadership that it should step back from support for

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terror organisations. He was absolutely right to stress that terrorism in all its forms must end. I am not aware, however—the Minister may have evidence to the contrary—of lasting or meaningful efforts being made by the Syrian Government since that visit to clamp down on the terror organisations that operate within its borders.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): Does my hon. Friend think that there is sufficient international appreciation of the threat from the terrorism that he describes to there ever being a successful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Mr. Murphy: Personally, I do not believe that there is a widespread understanding of the role played by these terror organisations. Their very raison d'être is the destruction of the state of Israel, not an accommodation or peace with it. We must do all that we can to ensure that people understand that, while we hope that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can be resolved in the foreseeable future, it is very difficult to envisage an accommodation between Israel and Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and others. The international community must understand the lack of any desire on the part of those terror organisations to recognise the state of Israel's right to exist.

Of the 28 foreign terrorist organisations that the co-ordinator of counter-terrorism in the United States State Department listed in October last year, about three and a half weeks after the horrific events of 11 September, seven operate from Syria. The Syrian Government provide succour, support and sponsorship for those organisations in many different ways. The organisations include Hamas, which continues to cause such devastation; Hezbollah; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which I had the misfortune of meeting in Ramallah in 1994, just as the Oslo peace accord was published. The disappointment among its leadership that a compromise and a lasting settlement could be viable was palpable. I am sure that it is much happier with events as they stand today.

Syria directly also supports other terror organisations, including the Palestine Liberation Front, allowing them to have headquarters, training camps and political and propaganda offices throughout the nation, including in and around Damascus. As if that were not enough, some of the leading international terrorists live in Syria, with the full knowledge of the Syrian state. The general secretary of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and his deputy live there, as do the head of the Hamas political bureau and his deputy. The chairman of the Hamas interior committee and the leadership of the PFLP also live there.

Two days after the Prime Minister's visit, an event took place in Damascus that underlined the degree of co-operation between the Syrian regime and the panoply of terrorist organisations in that country. A gathering took place in Damascus to pay tribute to the secretary general of the Islamic Jihad. Such events cannot take place without the full support of the tightly controlled political elite that runs Syria. The gathering was attended by the Iranian ambassador, and representatives of the Syrian Ba'ath party, Hezbollah and others. Such a commemoration of a leading terrorist could take place only with the Syrian Government's support. Some of those individuals appear on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "most wanted" list of terrorists, which was published just after 11 September.

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It is because of those individuals, organisations and events that I find it very difficult to see Syria in any sense as a partner in peace. Indeed, the opposite is true. Syria plays a festering role in undermining any middle east peace process. Although I entirely support the Prime Minister's visit to that country, and any Government effort to convince the Syrian regime to join the family of nations in enforcing international law and order on terror organisations, I do not perceive any great movement in that regard. Indeed, the Jordanian media reported security officials' attempts to undermine Syrian attacks on Israel and the embassies of Jordan, Britain and the United States. By comparison with Syria, Jordan is playing an entirely mature and constructive role in the campaign against terror and for peace in the middle east.

The third and final nation on which I seek ministerial comment is Iran. I publicly pay tribute to Iran's courageous efforts to control trafficking in the opium poppy. Many hundreds of Iranian border guards have been killed in their strenuous efforts to prevent opium poppy from leaving Afghanistan and, tragically, coming to this country. I understand the need for closer relationships with Iran, but despite internal political and cultural conflict in that country, as yet I see no detente with its partners in the middle east, or support for a lasting and meaningful middle east peace process. Iran continues to arm terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, which causes such strife and bloodshed in the region, and supports Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

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