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Westminster Hall

Thursday 25 April 2002

[Sir Alan Haselhurst in the Chair]

British-US Relations

[Relevant documents: Second Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2001-02, HC 327, and the Government's response thereto, Cm 5372.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Stringer.]

2.30 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): It gives me great pleasure to open this debate on the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs report on British-US relations. It was published in December 2001 and we received the Government response in February. It was the first substantive report of the new Parliament. Due to the importance that we attach to transatlantic relations and to the fact that there was a new Administration in Washington—that of President Bush—we decided to focus on the subject as a matter of priority. Our decision was made last July, when we could not have envisaged the terrible events that took place only a couple of months later, which made our inquiry of even greater relevance and significance.

In the course of our inquiry, the Committee took oral evidence from senior academics, the former US Assistant Secretary of State, James Rubin, the Foreign Secretary, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. We also received a host of written evidence, which is published at the end of the report.

An important part of our inquiry was the Committee's visit to the United States in November 2001. At ground zero, I had the honour of laying a wreath in tribute to those who lost their lives, and the Committee spent some moments in sombre reflection. We were appalled by the scale of destruction and the horror of what had happened only a few weeks earlier. I repeat now the tribute paid in the Committee's report to the staff of our consulate-general in New York and other United Kingdom diplomatic posts there. We were able to meet some of the staff, who worked magnificently on and after 11 September in support of British victims and their families.

In Washington, we viewed the scene of destruction at the Pentagon. Again, it brought home to us the impact on the American people of those terrible events on 11 September. We went on to meet several senior officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, among others. We were highly impressed by the performance of our embassy in Washington DC: it is this country's most important diplomatic post, and the calibre of our diplomats there reflects that.

During our visit, we were struck by the respect shown for our diplomats by the key movers and shakers in the US political and military establishments. Ours is a most impressive operation, of which this House can be proud. Only last month, two colleagues from the Committee, both of whom are here today, and I were able to pay a further visit to New York and Washington to update our impressions.

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Some scepticism has been expressed, especially in the media, about the value of overseas visits by Select Committees. To the sceptics I say that the Foreign Affairs Committee's visits to the United States have been enormously informative; in addition, they have allowed us to act in something of a representative capacity on behalf of the House. I believe that it is of the greatest importance that the Committee undertake further such visits to report to the House on America's conduct of the war against terrorism—we will publish an interim report and, I anticipate, further reports on that subject—on developments at the United Nations, and on our countries' bilateral relationship.

If we were left with one overriding impression from our visit and our inquiry, it was that the special relationship is as strong as ever. It is founded on shared history, shared values and shared interests, and that must be my starting point. There is no more important relationship for the United Kingdom. The United States is at one and the same time our foremost political and military ally, our single greatest trading partner and our largest source and recipient of inward investment. It is, of course, also the world's sole remaining superpower.

Since 11 September, we have witnessed an extraordinary time in transatlantic relations, and the United Kingdom has stood shoulder to shoulder with the US. The spontaneity of the British reaction was evidence of the instinctive nature of our bilateral relationship. Whether in the United Nations Security Council or NATO, in the field of intelligence or in coalition building, the British Government have taken swift action to support our key ally, and the US has greatly appreciated those signs of solidarity. That was made evident when the Senate issued a resolution on 15 November last year, expressing

Yet, in recent months, many people have asked what is in it for us? What do we get out of the special relationship? People have heard that the United Kingdom has a seat at the table and that our Government's views are taken seriously, but how far and how deep does our influence really extend? Do we exert any significant influence on decision making, or does the special relationship allow the US merely to share, on its own terms, the burden of being the world's policeman? Perhaps the Minister can set out the practical benefits of the relationship and tell us what we would lose if it became less special. In practical terms, what does this country gain that is not gained by France or Germany, which have been less supportive of the US in key areas?

I know that the Minister has a special interest in the steel industry. Trade policy is obviously not his responsibility or the Committee's, but perhaps he can update us on the imposition of tariffs by the US on steel imports from the United Kingdom and other countries. Will he comment more generally on the trading relationship, including export subsidies? Will he also tell us how many US tourists are returning to this country to spend their dollars?

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On more specific issues, our inquiry focused extensively on international security, encompassing missile defence and a range of multilateral agreements. We found considerable differences between our Government and that of the United States, particularly on the range of arms control treaties.

On missile defence, the Committee met the head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation at the Pentagon, who made a strong case for the need to take counter-measures against the threat posed by what used to be called "rogue states". Whether missile defence is, as is suggested, the best counter-measure remains to be seen, but I am certain—I believe that the Committee is, too—that the United States is determined to proceed along that route. The arguments for and against have been well rehearsed in our previous debates and are based in part on the report by our predecessor Committee, so I shall not repeat them. Many key questions remain unanswered, however, and I anticipate that the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Select Committee on Defence will return to the issue.

On international arms control measures, the report of our predecessor Committee provided a solid foundation. We were concerned to establish whether the well-trailed decision of the United States Administration to give notice of their withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty, their refusal to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty, and their rejection of a verification regime for the biological and toxin weapons convention revealed a pattern of unilateralist behaviour. United States officials gave us a robust defence of their position, which might be characterised as "Good treaties yes, bad treaties no." Senior members of the Administration told us that they are prepared to sign international agreements that they believe will be effective and fair, but they are not afraid to refuse to support treaties that, in their judgment, will not work.

The Administration have also refused to sign up to the International Criminal Court: when we were in Washington, we asked about the reports that the United States will de-sign the ICC treaty. The rejection of the Kyoto protocol is another regrettable example of lack of engagement on the part of the Administration. The US Administration do not see their position as unilateralist, but seen from this side of the Atlantic it is difficult to interpret it otherwise. I certainly would welcome an update from the Minister on where we stand on those treaties and on what Ministers are doing to persuade the United States to take a more value-based and less self-interested approach to international co-operation.

Since our initial report, we have heard the speech containing the phrase "axis of evil". Commissioner Patten has suggested that the speech showed that the United States had gone into what he called "unilateralist overdrive". The speech exposed differences between European and British views of the international situation. It is as Hubert Védrine, the French Foreign Minister, said: it is simplistic to speak of an axis of evil. It is indeed difficult to perceive a key nexus between the three countries mentioned, but we should all recognise the concerns that underlay President Bush's use of that term. However, that Manichean view of the world—the world seen in absolutes—is potentially counter-

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productive, and can cause great concern among key allies. My judgment is that our European partners and we have a more nuanced view of the world.

We must accept that Iraq is indeed a threat to regional and even world peace. Knowing of the US intention to act makes it easy for other countries to stand aside, shout from the sidelines and avoid taking responsibility for that serious problem. It requires greater courage to face up to Saddam Hussein, to insist that UN inspectors must return to counter Iraq's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to stand firm against any attempt on Saddam's part to withstand the UN regime. Indeed, recent developments have assisted him—the Beirut summit and the Palestine crisis have allowed him to divert attention to some extent from the pressure to have the weapons inspectors back. Saddam's tactic has been not only to seek to divide but to play for time.

Our tough line on Iraq gives us greater credibility when urging our American allies to exercise caution and to act only with consensus and in accordance with international law. It gives us influence that we should be prepared to use. In particular, Ministers should press the United States to adopt a demonstrably more even-handed policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. The Foreign Affairs Committee has written to the Foreign Office to ask a series of questions about Iraq and the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence set out by Richard Haass of the State Department, for which I personally see no basis in international law and which suggests hesitation within the United States about the basis of international law.

In respect of Israel-Palestine, the rhetoric of our ambassador to the United Nations has been markedly different from that of the United States in the UN Security Council. For example, our ambassador stated that if the alleged massacre or gross human rights violations at Jenin were confirmed, it would reveal

That is different from the US response. That difference gives us a degree of credibility in the Security Council, and an ability to play a bridging role between the US and other states. It may in turn have brought the US further along than it would otherwise have come, enabling the unanimous Security Council resolutions—with Syria alone abstaining on resolutions 1397, 1402, 1403 and 1405—to be passed. Finally, it shows that, even with our strong alliance, we differ from the US in key areas.

Iran is a different matter. As the Committee states in its report, the Government have sought constructively to engage with Iran. Progressive forces in that country are working hard to wrest effective power from the hard-line Islamists. The question is whether engagement with Iran helps the cause of the moderates, or lends the fundamentalists a legitimacy that they do not deserve. We in the United Kingdom take one view, the US another.

From our perspective, it is difficult to say that the Iranians have an evil regime and then engage with them in matters of direct relevance to the United Kingdom, such as the drugs trade, on which we co-operate closely with Iran. A number of Iranian officials have been killed seeking to prevent the drugs trade from using routes across their country. However, the US cites the Karine

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A arms shipment and Iran's long record of support for terrorist groups in the middle east, placing Iran firmly in the so-called axis of evil. Such activities cannot be overlooked and there are real causes for concern, but the UK notes the rise of democratic and pro-western elements in Iran, and values Iran's limited but significant contribution to the coalition in the war against terrorism. Notwithstanding Iran's wholly unreasonable rejection of David Reddaway as ambassador, the UK takes a different view.

Intriguingly, the Government's response to our report states that:

with Iran. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will explain the nature of the US interest in our policy. I ask him to state clearly that the United Kingdom will continue to take a different line from the more absolutist one taken by the US Administration.

The Committee was pleased with the key role played by the UK in the war against terrorism through Sir Jeremy Greenstock's chairmanship of the counter-terrorism committee set up under UN Security Council resolution 1373. The US cannot play that role because of its difficult history in the UN, but it is a role at which Sir Jeremy and his team excel. It has given even more credibility to our delegation to the UN, which was already held in high esteem. Our delegation's work is rightly held in the highest regard, and we should be proud of that, but no one should underestimate the considerable burden that the work places on our hard-working diplomatic team at the UK mission during our period of chairmanship.

In their response to the report, the Government undertook to ensure through a Whitehall interdepartmental committee that the counter-terrorism committee receives

Can the Minister assure us that that remains the case? What plans are there for the United Kingdom to pass on its role to another member of the Security Council—or is it assumed that at the end of the six-month period, which has just been renewed, Sir Jeremy will continue, perhaps even until he retires next year?

Since the Committee produced its report, the US has opened its detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Let me express the Committee's gratitude that Ministers allowed us to see the reports made by UK officials who have visited the base but remain concerned both that the US might not be fully respecting international legal norms of behaviour towards detainees, and that the proposed military tribunals are an unacceptable way to proceed against the detainees. I hope that the Minister will bring us up to date on the situation in respect of the detainees, particularly those who are British citizens.

Finally, as the Committee report concludes, the UK response to the events of 11 September demonstrated once again the special nature of this country's relationship with the most powerful nation on earth. Those of us who have observed the relationship at close quarters recognise the considerable influence at our disposal. We can never be the economic or military equals of the United States, but we can seek to match it in terms of political credibility and moral authority. In

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my judgment, the transatlantic relationship is strong, and it is mature enough to accommodate differences such as the ones that have arisen in the United Nations Security Council on the middle east, and on the great range of arms control treaties. As James Rubin told the Foreign Affairs Committee,

and those policies go very deep. Our US allies understand and appreciate that. So should we.

2.52 pm

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): I am grateful for this opportunity to speak. I do so from the Back Benches; the policy of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition will be explained in some detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). I hope that there will not be too much divergence between what he and I say. I have been warned by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), the Opposition Whip, who was present for the early stages of the sitting, that on no account should I make any spending commitment.

I wanted to take part in this debate because the subject is enormously important. The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is important and has far-reaching implications. It is important particularly because it is a subset, a critical element, of the relationship between north America and Europe, and that relationship is key to the resolution of many of the most serious problems faced by the world. So long as north America and Europe remain partners, great progress can be made in dealing with those problems, but if that partnership degenerates into rivalry, or perhaps something even worse, that would not only be a very bad thing for north America and Europe, but a very bad thing for the world.

Because I believe that that relationship is under serious threat, I founded and chair an organisation called Atlantic Partnership, which exists to try to counter those threats in an entirely non-partisan way—there should be no differences between the parties on these matters—and alert people to the dangers. There are several causes for concern, some fundamental, others visible on the surface. There are some fundamental trends at work in north America which, left unchecked, will weaken and undermine the partnership.

North America's centre of gravity has shifted westward. All the centres of new technology, such as Silicon Forest and Microsoft, are found on the west coast of the United States, and California overtook New York as the most populous state in the union long ago. Even before the events of 11 September, the focus of those in the US, was shifting: people were looking towards the Pacific and beyond, to Japan, still an immensely important economic power, and even further to China, which is both a huge potential market for the US and the only potential rival superpower on the horizon. Demographic trends reinforce that tendency. There are more and more Asiatic and Hispanic Americans. The Asiatics tend to look to the east, and the Hispanics to the south, to Latin America; they do not look across the Atlantic to Europe to anything like the extent that Americans used to.

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On this side of the Atlantic, too, there are trends at work that are not entirely favourable to reinforcing the partnership. The movement towards political unity in Europe need not be an impediment to the partnership. Many of those who are in favour of greater political unity want that united Europe to be a partner of north America, but many do not, preferring a European entity that is set up as a rival centre of power to the US. It seems to me that several dangers attach to the latter view.

As well as those fundamental concerns, we see the problems that come to the surface and cause day-to-day irritation and difficulties: they include problems with trade, defence and the environment. This is not the time or the place to go into those matters in detail; the important thing—the point that I want to emphasise above all today—is that those dangers and difficulties should be managed in such a way that they do not impair, undermine or weaken the partnership as a whole. We will of course we will have disagreements with the United States on such matters from time to time, but we should take care not to allow those disagreements to threaten the relationship.

There is a real danger because people have a strong tendency to look at such problems in a compartmentalised fashion. Lots of people know what is happening in trade; to them, trade is the most important thing. The same is true of environment and defence matters. The danger is that people will not look at the picture as a whole and so will not take account of the dangers that can arise from such irritations growing.

What do I mean by saying that those problems should be managed in a way that does not impair the US-UK relationship? Let me give an example. Both parties to the current trade dispute over steel claim that they are acting within the rules of the World Trade Organisation. We are fortunate that the WTO exists, because it provides a rules-based framework for resolving such disagreements. Rather less fortunate is the fact that disputes take a long time to resolve. Although both sides say that the WTO will eventually rule, everyone knows that it will do so only in a couple of years' time. That is not an entirely happy situation.

I have a positive suggestion to make. A real effort should be made by both the European Union, which has jurisdiction in these matters, and the United States to get the WTO to streamline and accelerate its decision-making processes. Both sides to the dispute claim to be acting within the rules. If those claims are bona fide and sincere, there should be no reason for the two parties not to co-operate to shorten the time scale for WTO decisions.

Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): I am following the right hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments closely. He makes an interesting point. Which party does he believe is right? Is the US or the EU right about the tariff barriers to steel?

Mr. Howard : I certainly regret the decision that the US Administration took. There is no question about that. However, I lack the expertise to say whether they were right or the EU was right in terms of the detailed

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interpretation of the rules of the WTO. I do not know that, but I have no hesitation in saying that the decision of the US Administration is regrettable.

We must take these difficulties and dangers seriously. There is always a tendency for discussions of the transatlantic relationship to be bathed in a sea of complacency. I thought that the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee was going to fall victim to that, but he proved me wrong in the second part of his speech, even though I did not agree with everything that he said then. We pretend that everything is wonderful, that our relationship with the US is special, and that nothing much needs to be done to attend to it. That is extremely dangerous. If the relationship between north America and Europe is not nurtured, there is a danger that it will be fractured. That would do immense harm, not only to the partners in that relationship, but to the world as whole.

Can anything else be done? There is merit in the idea of setting up a standing conference comprising representatives from the EU and north America—not just the US, but Canada and perhaps even Mexico—whose expertise would span a range of activities. The conference would have the task of examining, identifying and anticipating areas in which problems might arise. Anticipating the difficulties that have arisen over steel was not beyond the realm of human wisdom. Setting up a standing conference of that sort would provide no guarantee that such frictions will not arise and cause problems, but it would help.

It would help if potential difficulties were identified early and drawn to the attention of Governments on both sides of the Atlantic, so that discussions could take place and action could be taken to stop the issue becoming a real problem. If the body that I propose achieved that result in only a few cases, it would have earned its money. I am not sure whether that amounts to a spending commitment, but I doubt that the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury would be too upset by that proposal.

Donald Anderson : The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be comforted to know that the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is aware of the problems that can be caused by friction in different sectors and seeks to set up organisations within the Assembly to boost its operations. That is a positive development. Hopefully it will be possible to anticipate and manage the problems to which he refers in that more informal atmosphere.

Mr. Howard : I am aware of the work of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, to which I pay tribute. However, those of us who are not in government must face the fact that organisations of that sort have more clout if they are Government organisations and if the representatives are selected by and report to Government. If we could thus improve on the work of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the sort of body that I am suggesting would have more clout and would be likely to have a greater impact on the problems.

My intention in speaking in today's debate was to register the dangers to a critical relationship. We should be alert to those dangers and consider ways in which to minimise them. My modest suggestions might play some part in achieving that objective.

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3.6 pm

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I am pleased to take part in this refreshing debate this afternoon. I sense that it will, unusually, be largely consensual and free of partisan point scoring, which is one of the vacuous and synthetic hallmarks of this place and diminishes it.

The debate allows us to show the broad agreement between and within the parties on several foreign policy objectives, especially on our unique relationship with the United States. I recently accompanied the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) to the United States. We were invited to a say a few words at a luncheon about the US-UK special relationship. I hope that they will bear with me as they have already heard what I am about to tell the Chamber.

I used the opportunity to show my lifelong commitment to the unique and important relationship between the United States and Britain. I describe myself as an Atlanticist and a proud European. In our chat at the lunch in Washington DC, I reminded people that during our darkest days, President Roosevelt wrote a letter of introduction to Winston Churchill for his defeated presidential election opponent—Wendell Wilkie. In it, he set out lines from Longfellow:

I will complete the picture, as it has some resonance today. In a subsequent broadcast, Winston Churchill asked:

I have rehearsed that speech many times, because it is something that I am proud of. It calls on us to remember that we should never take for granted the great debt that the United Kingdom, and civilisation as we know it, owed to the people, the Congress and the President of the United States six decades ago and in respect of subsequent conflicts, and our special bond. It is reflected even as we speak by the fact that the Royal Marines are engaged in conflict now. They are buttressed, supported and supplied by the United States—"the tools" are being provided.

I was interested in what the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said, and I agreed with much of it. We need to nurture the relationship and constantly remind ourselves not to take it for granted. Above all, we need to remind others that it is a unique relationship and, as our report stated—it was published at such an extraordinary time for British-United States relations—the United Kingdom's status as a leading European member adds rather than detracts from its role as the premier ally of the United States. Our role is pivotal between north America, especially the United States, and our colleagues in western Europe, and we have carried out that role well.

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Rightly or wrongly, I have a reputation, which I deny, of being a critic of the Prime Minister. I am pleased to be able to speak in the debate because I can show that in terms of the Prime Minister's international stewardship, especially since 11 September, I wholeheartedly endorse what he has done. I am unequivocal: I congratulate him on his skill, zeal, energy and dedication in trying to promote the best interests of the United Kingdom and in tempering what would have been the understandable but reckless hitting out by the United States in the critical hours and days following 11 September. As the Prime Minister showed, only a United Kingdom Prime Minister can have this relationship and he has dispatched his duties with considerable skill and success.

Only when the history of these times is written will we fully understand how extremely important were the initiatives of the Prime Minister and George Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO, in getting article 5 of the NATO treaty invoked. That enabled us to say to the United States, "Look, we as a world community are wholeheartedly behind you, especially those of us in NATO, but implicit in that is some co-decision making."

People say that the United States goes off and does things and we read about them the following day, but I do not wholly subscribe to that view. That we have been able to ensure some co-decision making and consultation with our principal allies is due largely to the Prime Minister's—and George Robertson's— initiative in invoking article 5, to which I have just referred, and his skill and that of other players in the European Union in helping to bring the Russian Federation and China on board. Against that backdrop I unreservedly commend the Prime Minister's work.

From time to time, people criticise the Prime Minister for being abroad and involved in summitry, but there is no greater duty or burden on a British Prime Minister than ensuring, promoting and protecting our interests internationally. That is his number one duty. A British Prime Minister is somewhat disadvantaged because, unlike a President of the United States or a Chancellor of Germany, he has to deal with many domestic matters that elsewhere state governors or the presidents of the Lander deal with. He is obliged to know about some of the most obscure places and interests in the United Kingdom—as we sometimes hear at Prime Minister's questions. The British Prime Minister has been able to do that at the same time as fulfilling his principal duty. I say without cynicism that I would accept the second deputy Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, fulfilling the role that Clem Attlee carried out between 1940 and 1945 in looking after the domestic situation, thereby allowing the Prime Minister to carry out other important tasks. However, while that might create a good relationship, it could involve a major constitutional change into which I do not want to go now.

When the tragedy of 11 September occurred, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee were not greatly surprised. While none of us could foresee the horror that unfolded on our television sets, the Committee had, in a previous Parliament, examined the threat of weapons of mass destruction and had realised how bad it was. Another reason why I support the Prime Minister is because there is a race against time to prevent the delivery of weapons of mass destruction to other

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cities of western Europe and north America. I believed that before 11 September and I believe it even more now. I am concerned by the degree of complacency and false sense of security among Members of Parliament and some journalists that somehow it cannot happen here.

I hope that I will continue to be proved wrong about that, but we have to regard the situation as extraordinarily grave. It is serious because we know that weapons of mass destruction exist and that despots and wicked people around the world have the capacity to deliver or develop these weapons of mass destruction. We look back almost with nostalgia to the days of mutually assured destruction, which worked, in a perilous way. The Soviet Union was not going to invade western Europe and the United States was not going to invade the Soviet Union and that terrible balance was relatively safe, compared with the dangerous situation now. We therefore need to engage with our United States partners in trying to prevent further outrages and in working doubly hard in our fragile and dangerous world.

Our report alludes to a number of points on which the Government should be engaged. Will the Minister amplify the reference on page 5 of the Government response in respect of the convention on biological and toxin weapons? The United States was unhappy about the draft protocol, which seems to have reached a deadlock. Can the Minister explain why, and tell us whether he sees any way around the problem? Will he also comment on the Government's undertaking to issue a detailed paper on containing the threat from biological weapons?

What further energies have the Government brought to bear in trying to reduce the volume of nuclear material languishing in the old Soviet Union? To what extent are the Government satisfied that that material is being audited, controlled and held? Also, what further measures would assist the Russian Federation in disposing of some of those dangerous materials?

The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee has rightly referred to the skill and dedication of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our ambassador to the United Nations and his staff, and the work of our colleagues in the British embassy in Washington DC. I wholeheartedly associate myself with those remarks and express the hope that when Sir Jeremy moves on in his career, the United Kingdom can hold on to the chairmanship of the counter-terrorism committee of the United Nations. We have a special capacity to fulfil that role. It would take a successor from another country some time to acquire the skill, expertise, knowledge and relationships that have been built up under Sir Jeremy's stewardship. It would therefore be in the interest of the whole if the chairmanship remained with the UK ambassador.

I have a couple of points that express some reserve or disappointment. I regret that the US still fails to sign up to the International Criminal Court. None of us has any illusions that we are not at the beginning of an embryonic system of international law that may fail and have many deficiencies, and that many people will not recognise it. However, that is a case for trying harder rather than for not trying. I hope that we continue to

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press the US Administration and our contacts on the Hill to persuade them that the US really should sign up, if only on a conditional basis.

One contributing factor to the dreadful position in the middle east was the policy paralysis immediately after the change of Administration in the US. While a mood of disengagement and lack of interest in the middle east was not the cause of the problems in that region, it certainly did not help to minimise the dangers. I welcome the fuller engagement of the US today.

The middle east is also relevant in the context of international war crimes. We have seen what happened in Jenin and, on the face of it, action way beyond proportionality was taken, which could amount to war crimes. What happened should be investigated. When the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), recently faced the Select Committee, he made it clear that the UK Government had expressed grave concern that the Israeli Government were not allowing UN inspectors and other agencies into Jenin. He hoped that access would be granted later, but after the Select Committee hearing finished, I understand that the Israeli Government continued to be stubborn, which I greatly deprecate. I should be pleased if the Minister would amplify on the current position.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the State Department and the National Security Council in Washington had watched the enormous effort that President Clinton had put into the middle east peace process, and that after Camp David and Taba, they came to the conclusion that Arafat had no intention of doing a deal, so they decided not waste so much time on it?

Andrew Mackinlay : I go along with the hon. Gentleman's recollection of the views expressed to us in Washington, but I depart from the conclusion that the US should not waste more time on it. We simply have to persist on the issue. The more difficult the problem, the more resolution is needed. That has been borne out by events and is accepted by the US, which is now demonstrably involved.

Mr. Chidgey : On that very point, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is strange that America feels that it has no influence on events in Israel, when Israel is the largest recipient of American aid? About a third of American aid goes to Israel. If that is not a lever of influence, what is?

Andrew Mackinlay : I do not want to digress from the debate's main subject matter. I do not mean it discourteously, as I too was tempted down the same road. Seeing my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) is a constant reminder of what we should be discussing elsewhere. However, we are debating UK-US relations, so I did not want to depart from the subject, other than to refer to the US hiccup in using its good offices in the middle east.

Two days ago in the Select Committee I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member

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for Exeter, about the director-general of the chemical weapons inspectorate, whom the UK Govt had not supported. Indeed, we voted against him and he was dispatched. In the public hearing, the Minister could not be candid about why the UK had taken the view that it held, so it became a tetchy area between myself, mainly supported by the rest of the Committee, and the Minister. It was inconclusive.

I still think that that matter needs to be resolved. I am concerned because my wife telephoned me earlier and said that there was a briefing note on the issue in the Labour party resource centre at Westminster. I said that it must be a blank sheet of paper, because the Minister had refused to tell the Committee why we voted against that man. However, I have discovered that the paper consists of two pages of A4. I do not want to labour the point, but if the Minister's special advisers can produce a note for Labour MPs on the issue, they should as a courtesy have ensured that members of the Foreign Affairs Committee were written to first. I think that the Minister will take the point.

Donald Anderson : The reply was received today, and the greater part of it will be put in the public domain.

Andrew Mackinlay : I would not pursue the point except for the fact that some see this as evidence of our being prepared to do the bidding of the US State Department. I also regret that the Minister did not feel that he could be more candid with Parliament through the machinery of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

That brings me to my final point, which involves an acknowledgement or credit. When the Foreign Affairs Committee goes to Washington, I find the remarkable candour of our colleagues in the US extraordinarily refreshing. That is the case whether there is a Democrat or Republican Administration and whoever speaks to us on the Hill. I only wish that they could export that candour to Ministers and officials in the UK. I do not say that flippantly. We might hear what we do not want to hear, or we might disagree with it, but our colleagues in the US tell it the way it is. When they say, "We're going to get this guy and cut his head off," I get the drift, and I find that refreshing.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Has the hon. Gentleman ever thought of offering "teach yourself" classes in candour to his Labour colleagues?

Andrew Mackinlay : I might have to find another job one day, so who knows?

Our relationship with the US is, to me, a sacred issue. I have referred to the events of five decades ago, and although I cannot recite it precisely, word for word, I, like others, find it profoundly moving to recall the words of Winston Churchill when Roosevelt died. He said that there was no greater friend that Britain had ever had and no greater champion of justice and freedom, whose arms had stretched across the oceans, than the President of the United States.

When we talk about the President, we also include the people and Congress of the United States. It is essential that we maintain that relationship. I am proud to be associated with it, and I believe that the UK Government's prosecution of foreign policy is in the spirit of and in line with that objective.

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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Nicholas Winterton): Before I call the official Opposition spokesman, I give notice that I intend to call the Liberal Democrat spokesman afterwards. I hope that those hon. Members who wish to catch my eye—all of whom are experienced and distinguished, and many of whom are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee—will apply some self-discipline so that everyone can speak. I intend to call the Minister at five minutes past 5, to enable him to respond to the debate fully. I call Mr. Alan Duncan.

3.28 pm

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): I approach the debate with what some might describe as uncharacteristic diffidence, following as I do the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson)—who is proving such a distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee—and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). He has devoted an immense amount of time and energy to this topic over the past few years and, I am pleased to say, shares my views exactly.

I am also rather diffident because, although I am sometimes thought to be a bit of a mimic, I am afraid that I can hardly compete with the Churchillian tones of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). I shall have to go off and brush up my Napoleon.

We welcome the report, and I am pleased that the Committee focused on our relationship with the United States, which is such an important aspect of foreign policy. I am impressed that the Committee remained undaunted by the scale of its task. The detail and content of its report is testimony to the hard work of its members, and I pay tribute to them for that. I am only sorry that the time allowed does not permit us to consider all the Committee's conclusions, so I shall focus on those that I consider to be especially important.

Much has changed in the world since 11 September, but it is as much a recognition of the process of change that began with the end of the cold war as a sea change in itself. The end of the cold war and the collapse of the bloc mentality, when two superpowers balanced one another, has led to a more fluid international situation. The threat is now the rogue state, or a terrorist organisation, rather than a state intent on waging a conventional war on its neighbour. Such new threats require new flexibility.

The ability to meet those challenges requires a recognition of the unique place that America occupies in the world today. America is the most powerful nation on the planet. It possesses unprecedented military, economic, technological and academic might, unrivalled by others, and we must recognise the exceptional nature of its position. That is the reality, and it is a reality that we must work with.

The contribution that America, often in partnership with Britain, has made to freedom and stability during the past century cannot be exaggerated. The second world war is merely the most obvious example—among many. Too frequently, however, we are asked to choose between two polarised views of America and its foreign policy. We are asked either to condemn and criticise its power and policy as arrogant and aggressive, or to take the view that, because of the special relationship—and

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it is special—we must offer unquestioning and uncritical support. However—let me be clear about this—neither view is correct, or helpful, and I am pleased that the Committee did not feel tempted to fall into the trap of choosing between one and the other.

The reality is that we are the United States' closest ally, with a unique place in American thinking and a unique influence on its policy making. Most of the time, our interests coincide, and we co-operate on the basis of shared culture, outlook and interests—and intelligence. Our affinity with the US is greater than with any other country. However, there are, and there will be, times when our national interests or our perceptions do not precisely coincide. It is important that we recognise that being a true friend means being honest with each other. America deserves the truth from her closest ally, and Britain deserves to have its national interest put first. It is one of the great strengths of our relationship that we can be candid with one another and on occasion disagree, and agree to disagree, without undermining the basic strength and integrity of our relationship. That is the mark of true friendship.

I am pleased to see that recommendations 28 and 29 recognise the fact that Britain's relationship with the US is especially strong and useful because of our position as an active European nation, and because of our special transatlantic links. However, it is a shame that the Government should seem intent on choosing between US links and EU links, which suggests, through their policy of greater involvement in a European common foreign policy, that it is a case of either Europe or America, when in fact it should be both. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that. That, in essence, was the main point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe. Essentially, the view of those favouring closer integration through a common EU foreign policy seems to be that we must forge European nations into a bloc in order to compete with or balance America in some way. We should focus on co-operation with both, not competition. In that context, flexibility is the key. I am glad that the Committee has recognised the value of all our partners.

We share the Government's, and the Committee's, support for our diplomatic staff in the United States and at the United Nations, and we pay tribute to their hard work in furthering British interests, trade and diplomatic links, and for their hard work in the aftermath of 11 September, as expressed in recommendations 24 to 26.

On questions of defence policy, raised in recommendations 3 to 9 and 17, we fully support the Committee's view of the importance of NATO. We recognise the need for reform of NATO, with the question of enlargement featuring highly, and we welcome the Government's support for NATO in their response to the Committee, hoping very much that they will heed our warnings and not continue to press for a European common foreign and security policy, which would risk undermining an excellent organisation that they otherwise fully support.

Our stance on missile defence has always been clear. We fully support the right of the US to take measures to protect itself from the threat of missile attack. Noting Committee conclusions 3 to 7, we hope that the British

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and US Governments will continue to talk to all concerned parties, particularly Russia and China, and work to find a way forward that will lead to multilateral cuts in nuclear weapon stockpiles and a tightening of non-proliferation treaties and procedures.

In conclusions 19 and 20, the Committee comments on policy towards the Arab-Israel dispute and towards Iran. We fully support the Committee in its encouragement of the US to take an active role in the middle east. As we have said in other debates, that is crucial to any progress. We believe that the Americans have a vital role to play in bringing influence to bear on both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government to achieve a peaceful settlement recognising legitimate Israeli security needs and the need for an independent, viable Palestinian state that is equally secure in its own borders.

The issue, of course, is wider than that, and includes the whole middle east. We share the Committee's support for a policy of constructive engagement with Iran, although, as the report states, we should not proceed at the cost of existing friends. As the Government response states, we must be robust in discussions relating to areas of concern such as Iran's link to Hezbollah, but it is vital that we recognise the moves that Iran is making towards economic and social liberalisation and reform. Those moves are, necessarily, hesitant and slow, but we should not misinterpret them or adopt a shallow stance that might undermine the process of change. Such changes, hopefully leading to Iran's constructive participation in regional politics, and in a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, are as much in Britain's and America's interest as they are in those of countries in the region.

Both Britain and the US must adopt a subtle and regionally sensitive approach to diplomacy, aware of the nuances, and the fact that one basic policy cannot suit all circumstances and countries in this sensitive region. I am pleased to say that when I visited Washington with my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), last December we found US decision makers engaged in a mature, careful and wide-ranging analysis of all possible options for action and policy in Iraq, Israel, and the wider middle east.

We welcome the tenor of the report, emphasising as it does the closeness and importance of our relations with the US and with the nations of Europe. We very much hope that the Government will recognise, as they appear to in their response, that the most appropriate course is to adopt a stance that encompasses both Europe and America, rather than a Euro-integrationist approach. I welcome the fact that the Government, in their response, appear so much in agreement with the policy of flexibility and co-operation with America that we have been advocating for so long. I only hope that it is supported by their actions in the future.

3.38 pm

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): This is a very important and useful debate. Like the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), I pay tribute to the contributions that have been made this afternoon. It was very helpful of you to set out the guidelines for who would be called at what point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that you

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might have to make special arrangements for an encore for the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) after a particularly fine contribution, which I will not seek to emulate in terms of drama or poetic value.

As the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton said, the Foreign Affairs Committee is to be congratulated on an important piece of work. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and his colleagues on their wide-ranging report, which deals comprehensively with fundamental issues that affect the world and lie at the heart of the British-US relationship. Given the timing of the evidence gathering and of the drafting of the report, its tenor could easily have been absolutely dominated by the events of 11 September. It is particularly commendable that the Committee took a broader view and focused on the whole US-UK relationship.

Hon. Members' contributions so far have shown how that relationship works, and we have heard about everything from 11 September to steel. In his valuable contribution, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) rightly warned us of the dangers of being complacent about our relationship with the US.

I shall not go through the report line by line, or recommendation by recommendation, but focus on a couple of themes. We live in a fast-changing world—that is certainly true of the past few months—and it is a great credit to the Committee that much of the report remains valid.

The report characterises the US-UK relationship by saying:

That is a wonderful example of British understatement, of which the diplomats who feature prominently in the inquiry would be justly proud. It is also undoubtedly true of the relationship after 11 September, given the woes of the middle east and the uncertainty over Iraq.

Elsewhere, the report makes appropriate mention of the enduring special relationship between our two countries. Although I endorse that description, I would add another adjective—peculiar. Our relationship is peculiar not only because its form is exclusive to the United States and Britain, but because it is odd. On the one hand, historic ties, a common language and an overlap of culture have given rise to strong bilateral arrangements: the economy is an obvious example, and the current military action in response to 11 September also demonstrates the point. On the other hand, however, the relationship is not always as robust as we might like at the multilateral level of international organisations, treaties or conventions. Indeed, complex currents run between the US and the UK at all levels, which gives rise, as the Chairman of the Committee said, to an increasingly unilateral drift within the relationship. That is not in the interests of the United Kingdom or the United States of America.

At the heart of the report is 11 September. Although it features other issues, it rightly pays much attention to the appalling events of that day and to the response to them, which Parliament has discussed on many occasions. The international war against terrorism and the coalition behind it have enjoyed firm UK support from the outset, and the Liberal Democrats have been happy to back it. It is an enduring and ongoing joint

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commitment, and we support its aims, not least now that our troops are spending more time in Afghanistan. Even as we demonstrate our closest ties with America, however, as a previous speaker highlighted, there are difficult issues for us, and I hope that the Minister can update us on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The recent tensions over Iraq postdate those developments, but Iraq has been a feature of relations between the UK and the US for a decade or more. As that develops during the next few months, it will be a real test of our relationship. The war against terrorism has been very successfully founded on multilateralism. We receive regular signals from our Government that Britain may back US moves to deal with Iraq—which are currently unspecified—perhaps indicating that the bilateral involvement will continue. If not, will the United States act unilaterally? Does Britain count?

There is a confusion of issues here. Evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement in the events of 11 September has not been provided. There has been a long-running and very real dispute over Iraqi development of weapons of mass destruction. We would be fools to underestimate the dangers. In dealing with that difficulty, we must consider the global context. Any action taken in Iraq must be based on incontrovertible evidence. It must be backed by a United Nations mandate, and for our own purposes, a House of Commons debate and vote. If we do not follow those steps, any action will carry no favour in this country and, more importantly, will corrode the strong links forged internationally in the war against terrorism. The dangers of a spillover into the ever sensitive events in the middle east is perhaps too horrific to contemplate.

Mr. Maples : The hon. Gentleman has set out what he thinks should happen before there could be any intervention in Iraq. However, if there were incontrovertible evidence of the development of weapons of mass destruction, does he, unlike the Chairman of the Committee, think that there is a pre-emptive right of self-defence, or does he think that we would have to wait until Saddam Hussein actually launched one of those weapons at us or one of our allies before we took any action?

Mr. Moore : I doubt that the hon. Gentleman will care for my reply, but I would say that we should wait and follow the process through much more thoroughly. I would certainly not—as I hope I have conveyed—support pre-emptive action without having seen the evidence. He argues that if we have it, we should go ahead, but I believe that the nature of the action should be determined through and legitimised by the United Nations and the weapons inspectors. I do not believe that we have developed the evidence or the arguments sufficiently to be able to follow the course that he suggests. Instinctively, I would not wish us to follow that course.

The middle east cocktail is explosive and provides a key test for the special relationship. Like the hon. Member for Thurrock, I commend the Prime Minister for the close personal links that he has developed with President Bush. There has been much talk—the clichés are rife—of standing shoulder to shoulder and the need for us to support America. I hope that that means that

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we have the right to a candid word in the President's ear. The principle of "My ally, right or wrong" is flawed. If the special relationship means anything, it must allow the United Kingdom's caution to influence the United States.

I would like briefly to highlight a number of international conventions and agreements over which there is some difficulty between America and us. This is not a uniquely British phenomenon—sometimes it occurs in a European Union context. I do not share the confidence of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton about the development of national missile defence. Such are the long-standing positions of our respective parties. Regardless of that development, the American decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty without putting alternative mechanisms in place to police any missile defence systems that might be developed or allow people to have some confidence about them is worrying. In the meantime, the potential developments in China and Russia in reaction to missile defence are a cause for concern to us all.

The comprehensive test ban treaty, which was signed by the United States in 1996, was rejected by Congress in 1999, as the report reminds us. We have been told that it is unverifiable and incompatible with American security and that there are no plans to submit the treaty to Congress. I argue that those two factors—the development of national missile defence and the failure to ratify that treaty—will have a serious impact on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The Committee was right to emphasise the weakening of the treaty and the contribution of US action or inaction to that.

The hon. Member for Thurrock briefly referred to the issue of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. While not party or witness to the recent discussions in the Foreign Affairs Committee, I share the concerns of those who wondered at the motivation for the removal of Mr. Bustani, who was the leader of that organisation. Some have suggested that he did not fulfil his obligations and that the organisation was weakly led. Part of the reason for that may be that the US is not up to date with its payment dues to the organisation. Will the Minister offer us a perspective on the suggestion that the prospect of inspections in the US made it reluctant to continue to support the leadership of that organisation?

Hon. Members have referred to the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto protocol, which are part of a catalogue of issues that tend to be influenced by the growing unilateralism of the US, as the Chairman said. An encouraging sign is the fact that the US is prepared to pay past dues to the UN. We must hope, therefore, that that spirit begins to infuse its other international diplomatic efforts.

I support the Committee's recommendation that the Government must do all they can to resolve outstanding trade issues between our countries. Trade has become not simply a matter of occasional dispute between the two countries but a problem that may affect the core of our future relationship. The EU-US disputes over steel, over the foreign sales corporation tax treatment, which gave rise to huge potential retaliation from the EU, and over bananas are all examples of the increasingly large and frequent trade disputes between the two blocs.

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The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe made some welcome comments. We have a different philosophical approach and I would rather see an enhanced WTO than the streamlined WTO that he proposed. Anyone who has visited the organisation, as I was lucky enough to do in Geneva, will see that there are some talented and hard-working individuals there who are completely swamped by their work load. Unless they are geared up to cope with the legal power of the US Government, the EU Commission and the various corporations that are often behind the corporate challenges, the organisation cannot succeed. It is important for America and Britain to show some leadership and help the WTO to develop the skills, expertise and capability to cope with increasing technical and important trade disputes.

The report is wide-ranging and welcome and highlights the complexity of the our relationship with the US. We are crucial to each other, and the relationship itself is crucial to the wider world. Not to put too fine a point on it, our prosperity and security depend on our continuing relationship, so we must do all we can on this side of the Atlantic to ensure that it is fostered and grows.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Before I call Sir John Stanley, I ask colleagues to use self-discipline. This is an important debate and many distinguished right hon. and hon. Members want to participate, but we must give the Minister time to reply fully.

3.54 pm

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): Having done a quick division sum with the number of those who are seeking to catch your eye, I shall observe your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Paragraph 168 of the Foreign Affairs Committee's report says:

that is, in the middle east. I wish to devote my remarks to US-UK policy on Iraq. Statements by the American President that the policy of his Government is to achieve a regime change in Iraq have been greeted with much negative comment and predictions of military disaster. I remind the House that similar negative predictions were made when the British and American Governments made earlier commitments to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait, to take Milosevic's forces out of Kosovo, and to remove the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

On each of those three occasions, the predictions were not fulfilled. The removal of the Iraqi forces from Kuwait was achieved with, happily, very few casualties; if I remember correctly, the removal of Milosevic's forces from Kosovo involved not a single battlefield casualty in the period of the conflict; and relatively few battlefield casualties resulted from the operation to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan. I acknowledge that on each of those occasions there were, regrettably, a number of innocent civilian casualties, but the predictions of military disaster were wholly unfulfilled.

In the light of that experience, and given the fact that the American people and Administration are still scarred—indeed, traumatised—by the recollection of

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the American miscalculation over Vietnam, I would expect the American Government to proceed with great care, responsibility and calculation in relation to the Iraqi regime before embarking on further military activities.

I want to put some important policy points to the Minister. There appears to be a significant difference in policy between the American and British Governments about regime change in Iraq. One does not need to read between the lines, but merely to read the lines. I am referring to the words spoken at the joint press conference that President Bush and our Prime Minister gave in Texas on 6 April. President Bush said:

The British Prime Minister replied immediately with these words:

There is a substantial difference between what President Bush said, which was a statement of American Government policy, and what the Prime Minister said, which is a posture or attitude. It is not a policy commitment. I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that it remains the posture of the British Government that a change of regime in Iraq would be desirable but that as of now it is not a policy commitment of the British Government that the Iraqi regime should be changed.

My next point, which also raises a big issue of policy, arises out of the leaking of the nuclear posture review document that the Pentagon submitted to Congress, as it was required to do. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, confirmed in an interview on CNN on 10 March that it was a Pentagon policy document about future US nuclear weapons policy. That document postulates as an option the first use of nuclear weapons against seven named countries: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Of those seven countries, only two are declared nuclear weapon states: China and Russia. The significance of the document lies in relation to the position of the British Government on first use of nuclear weapons.

The British Government set out their policy in the strategic defence review of 1998. The carefully worded key sentence in paragraph 31 of chapter 5 states:

The Defence Secretary was questioned on the subject in the Defence Committee on March 20. At paragraph 234, in reply to the hon. Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight), he said:

At paragraph 237, referring to what he described as "states of concern", with which he coupled Iraq, he concluded:

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The key point that I want to put to the Minister is that the US Government appear to have widened their nuclear policy posture to the possibility of nuclear weapon use, not only against nuclear weapon states but against states that hold weapons of mass destruction: in other words, chemical and biological weapons. Such a state might not possess a nuclear capability. As the Minister knows, there has been some speculation in the press about the key issue of whether the Government are also altering their first use policy, as stated in the 1998 strategic defence review. There has been particular speculation about whether the Government are widening the policy to encompass not only states that possess nuclear weapons but those that possess any weapon of mass destruction.

There may be a compelling case for such a change of policy, but the change would be significant. It should be announced and debated, and the Government would need to justify it fully.

Mr. Maples : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is an important matter if the Government have changed their policy in such a way? I presume that part of the purpose would be to deter a non-nuclear state in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Such a state has to know about it, if it is going to be deterred by it.

Sir John Stanley : I agree. As deterrence is so important, I was concerned about the answer that the Secretary of State for Defence gave to the hon. Member for South Dorset in a public forum:

A binding obligation on Defence Ministers is to say nothing that would weaken the deterrence posture of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): Does not that also undermine the negative security assurance that all the nuclear weapons states gave in the 1995 nuclear non-proliferation treaty? On the Dimbleby programme, the Defence Secretary also spoke about the possibility of pre-emptive strike, as well as first use.

Sir John Stanley : I will leave the hon. Gentleman to develop his argument if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The substantial reduction of tactical nuclear weapons is one of the most significant arms control achievements that have been secured since the end of the cold war. The Conservative Government began that process in this country, and the Government have continued it. There are now no tactical nuclear delivery systems, as far as the British Government are concerned. However, the House will have seen that the United States Government appear to be contemplating a reversal of that policy as part of the nuclear posture review. On 19 March, The Independent published an article under the headline, "US starts work on nuclear bunker buster bomb", which said that the United States was developing a new

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generation of smaller super-hardened and nuclear weapons to smash through rock and concrete and attack underground bunkers where enemy states could build weapons of mass destruction.

It is for the United States Government to argue the defence case for changing their policy. If they have concluded that they need to develop a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, what is the British Government's view? Are they participating in the American programme? The Minister works in the Department responsible for arms control, so what is the British Government's view of the arms control implications of major nuclear powers developing a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons? Those weapons will all require testing, with obvious implications for the nuclear test ban.

4.10 pm

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): I join the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) in commending the report. Once again, the Foreign Affairs Committee has produced an admirably balanced report. It balances two key elements. First, there is the special relationship with the United States, which has been movingly apparent since 11 September and was ably invoked in the Chairman's introductory remarks. Secondly, that has to be balanced with aspects of the Bush Administration's policies—either adopted or advocated from within—that are a matter of grave concern to many people across the political spectrum in Britain.

As the report states, after 11 September our support for the US was unconditional—and rightly so. We did not expect any payback. It was an international obligation to contend against terrorism and we recognised that that might mean a cost to our armed forces, and perhaps even to our civilian population if it led to terrorist attacks on the mainland.

The Prime Minister adopted a high profile in consolidating global support and has been widely seen as exerting a moderating influence when certain people in the Bush Administration—the hawks—had advocated major military actions against a range of countries not necessarily associated with 11 September. The Prime Minister has said that he wants to be a bridge between Europe and the United States. It is important that part of being that bridge consists in expressing the concerns of Europe and the rest of the world to the Bush Administration.

The Leader of the Opposition has been strongly bipartisan in his support for the Government. However, he has always had a close relationship with the hard right in the United States, and I am worried that the preoccupation of both leaders with maintaining close relations with the US might end up with a Dutch auction that could sell out British interests, or even British lives and moral principles, to the whims of the more ideological wing of the current US Administration.

Mr. Alan Duncan : I understand what the hon. Gentleman says, but will he confirm what is evident in everything that the Leader of the Opposition, and indeed all Front-Bench foreign affairs spokesmen, have

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said in debates on the middle east and Iraq: that we are adopting a balanced and thoughtful view? Will he confirm that we have not realised the fears that he identifies?

Mr. Savidge : Yes. I carefully worded my comments with reassurance about a bipartisan approach. However, I still believe that we should be conscious of the potential risk that I identified, and my comment was intended as a warning to both party leaders.

Support for the US after 11 September was rightly unconditional, but that does not mean that we should give unconditional support to all aspects of the Bush Administration's policies. Similarly, our support for the campaign against terror in response to 11 September should not imply unconditional support for unrelated military adventures, which could endanger the lives of our forces abroad or, through terrorism, our civilians at home. We should recognise that counteracting terror involves many forms of operation, and not only the full-scale military operations that were right for Afghanistan. I want to concentrate on matters of concern between ourselves and the US, which will obviously require careful diplomacy. Whereas before 11 September President Bush was regarded as a controversially elected president by many people in US, they have naturally tended to unite behind him and are particularly sensitive to criticism at present, whether domestic or international. These matters need to be treated with caution.

Several hon. Members have mentioned treaties and multilateralism. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale spoke of the range of issues on which we are concerned about where the US is going, such as the International Criminal Court, small arms, land mines and Kyoto. We are concerned about the US moving away from the anti-ballistic missile treaty, its attitude to the biological weapons convention and the comprehensive test ban treaty, and the nuclear posture review referred to by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John. Stanley). There is concern about the effects that that review document could have on the most basic treaty of all, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I was at the preparatory committee meeting for that treaty—PrepCom—a fortnight ago. I am relieved that it ended up better than was feared but there is still grave danger to the treaty.

There is a section within the US hard right that is so concerned to protect national sovereignty that at times it sounds awfully like a desire for complete national supremacy. All parties in the UK have always backed the concept of multilateralism. It is important that we should unitedly express our concern that the voices of moderation and multilateralism should prevail over what in some areas of the US is now being called the imperial view. In that context, I should like briefly to express concern about missile defence, which in the view of some in the US has been associated with seeking full spectrum dominance. I notice that the report says that it was argued by some that 11 September made a greater justification for missile defence.

It is interesting to note that the national intelligence estimate to the Senate from the 14 intelligence agencies of the US came to an opposite conclusion. It said that if

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states or terrorists wished to attack the US with weapons of mass destruction, they were more likely to use a smuggled weapon because that would be less expensive. It could be covertly developed and employed and the source could be masked to avoid retaliation. I would add that it could also be used more accurately and more devastatingly because it could be used without warning. That is the far more major threat on which we should concentrate.

It worries me that with many of these things I get the feeling that ideology, rather than intelligence in either sense, has tended to be the driving force in the US. It is noticeable that the recommendation for missile defence came from a commission chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, who, as the person who had been advocating it for the previous 20 years, would not be an obvious choice as the chair of a committee if one wanted a totally neutral opinion.

The Committee expresses the concern that missile defence could lead to a greater increase in China's nuclear arsenal. That certainly seems to be in line with what the Chinese Government themselves state. There must obviously be a concern that that could lead to an increase in weapons production by India and Pakistan. The report is utterly right to say that the worries over Kashmir and the relations between India and Pakistan need to be stressed. It looked as if there was a tendency for the present Administration to disengage from that, and we should totally encourage the actions of Colin Powell and others in trying to reduce the risks of a conflict there, which could end in disaster. The Administration has also been disengaging in Israel and Palestine.

We must give our full support to what Colin Powell is trying to do. I wish that I could have felt that the US Administration, too, were giving more support to what he is trying to do. I support what the United States has done from the start in trying to advance the Saudi peace proposals, and I recognise the problems in US domestic politics. There is pressure not just from people such as Netanyahu working with the Jewish lobby, but, especially in the Republican party, influence from another fundamentalist wing—the fundamentalist Christian right, whose adherents have a range of curious views about the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation, and are very strongly pro-Israel. I hope that they never bring about armageddon as a result.

We recognise the stresses that the US is under, but it should consider whether this President can follow his father's example in using financial pressure on Sharon if necessary. He should, for example, avoid describing Sharon as "a man of peace" when Jenin is being investigated. That is not helpful to our relations with the Islamic world.

The US must play a vital role in the peace process but because it is in such a partisan position it must involve other players such as the European Union, Russia or the United Nations if Palestine is to have confidence that mediation is even and fair.

The Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), also mentioned the "axis of evil" speech, which caused some anxiety that there is almost a political fundamentalism in some of the United States thinking. Iraq, especially, is at present a focus of its concern. A related concern was mentioned

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by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) and by the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale: the dismissal of Mr. Bustani from his post as director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

I am aware of some of the criticisms put out by the Government and by other European Governments to justify their decisions, and I am worried about the dismissal of the chair of the climate change discussions when he did not suit the United States. There is evidence, too, that Paul Wolfowitz has been busily trying to undermine Hans Blix as head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission—UNMOVIC. That causes concern about whether international diplomats will be subject to United States bullying and whether the US will accept chemical weapons inspectors being free to inspect in all countries, including the United States itself. After what has been happening with anthrax, it is in its own interests to have such inspections. Whatever happens, there should be an inspection regime for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to try to achieve a peaceful resolution in Iraq, if that is possible.

Saddam Hussein is a vile dictator who has developed chemical and biological weapons, and used them against his own people. He has denied his people human rights in many terrible ways. As the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling said, in a typically trenchant and thoughtful speech, a change of regime is desirable. However, as the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said in a debate on the middle east last week, what exactly is new? Why should we be talking about having a war now, rather than a year or two ago, or when some of the US hawks who now advocate war were selling weapons to Saddam Hussein?

On weapons of mass destruction, the US National Academy of Sciences is absolutely right: we should be careful to distinguish between nuclear weapons, which are of a totally different qualitative power, and others. What is the position on nuclear weapons? We are simply told that if all controls were off Saddam Hussein, he might develop them in five years. No one is proposing that the controls be taken off him. He does not have missiles that could reach anywhere near the United States or even the United Kingdom. It was suggested that he might be providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The CIA was asked to investigate, but said that it found no evidence of any such involvement. Once again, one worries that the information that we are receiving tends to come not so much from intelligence sources as from the ideologues in the United States. One understands that the Pentagon's military advice is that war against Iraq could be dangerous. However, it claims that the politicians are not listening to it.

According to the almost religious theory of missile defence, Saddam Hussein is so insane that he is impervious to nuclear deterrence. I do not believe that. He has a murderous obsession with his own preservation. With someone as evil as him, however, if we had a war whose sole purpose was his destruction, we would be withdrawing the only block against his decision to use biological and chemical weapons against Israel. If he were to use them, what is the danger that a Prime Minister such as Sharon would respond with nuclear weapons, and what disaster could that cause? I

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leave aside the bizarre suggestions of the nuclear posture review, and the comments made by our own Defence Secretary to the Defence Committee and on the Dimbleby programme that seemed to imply the possibility of considering pre-emptive nuclear first strikes against non-nuclear weapons states. I admit that I found his comments slightly incoherent, so I am not certain what he meant. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling made those points well.

There is a grave danger in believing that gung-ho militarism can give simple Rambo-style solutions in our relations with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya or other countries. There is a graver danger that such solutions could lead to disaster. The US hawks tend to hold Sharon up as an example. It is worth remembering what Sharon has actually achieved, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out. In the year in which he came to power, the number of deaths of Israeli citizens was four times what it was in the previous year, and the number of deaths of Palestinians four times as great again. We must learn from all that—which was before this month's terrible carnage.

In this month's issue of the New Yorker, someone said that the hawks, imperialists and unilateralists tend to win their way with the US Administration through determination and persistence. We must work together with diplomacy, subtlety and firmness to encourage the more cautious and multilateralist counsels in the United States to prevail.

4.28 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I will endeavour to obey your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that my colleague on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) can also address the Chamber. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. However, this is my maiden speech here, and I still have grave misgivings about this forum. It is a pity that the authorities who decide such matters have allowed a debate on international development to take place on the Floor of the House at the same time. Many of us here would also like to have taken part in that debate. I remain unpersuaded that having this Chamber and putting on debates of this importance in it is the best way to serve the House. That is not criticism of anyone who has spoken, and still less of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it was something I needed to say.

I will discuss two of the report's recommendations. The report was unanimous, and I was pleased to be part of it. Our visit to Washington and New York was fascinating, and we shall all remember it. The Chairman referred to ground zero; no one could forget that experience, which was moving and sombre in the extreme. I felt a sense of solidarity such as I have never felt with any other people at any time. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), in his inimitable way, spoke most movingly of the special relationship, quoting Longfellow and Churchill—indeed, he not only quoted but acted Churchill. I hope that he never approaches my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) when he is asleep, or he will think that he is being haunted.

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We enjoyed a wonderful visit and were extremely well received. Not only was the experience of ground zero moving, it was extremely moving to be approached spontaneously by so many Americans who wanted to shake our hands and say how much they appreciated what Britain was doing. While we were there, the Prime Minister paid one of his flying visits, and we all basked in reflected glory. It would be churlish to deny that he is held in the highest regard by Americans of all political persuasions for the way in which he spoke out so uncompromisingly and bravely immediately after 11 September. One felt a sense not only of solidarity with the American people, but of bipartisanship within the Committee. It is the done thing to support one's Government when one is abroad, regardless of who is in government, but on this occasion it was not difficult, and I was glad of that.

I want to talk about recommendations 19 and 23. A great deal has happened in the middle east since we visited the US. A desperate situation has gone from bad to worse and the middle east is on the brink of what could be the greatest conflagration that the world has seen since the second world war. I hope that our American friends and allies carefully consider their approach to the middle east. In that spirit of candour which was so refreshingly extolled by my hon. Friend—if I may call him that—the Member for Thurrock, one has to say that the Americans have not displayed the acumen and even-handedness that one would expect of a superpower that is seeking to bring peace to a troubled area of the world.

I regret having to say that, but I regret even more the enormous power that the Jewish lobby has in the US. I do not say that as one who is in any sense anti-Jewish. I am proud to have worked for Jewish causes—for example, I was the first chairman of the Campaign for the Release of Soviet Jewry. When I look back on my 30 or more years in this House, that is one of the things of which I am most proud. I yield to no one in my admiration of those who have run the state of Israel for most of its history, but I am deeply troubled by the actions of the present regime. It is important that the US adopt a policy that is more demonstrably and visibly even-handed.

No one can condone the acts of terrorism and ghastly atrocities perpetrated by suicide bombers in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel. They are dastardly acts and deserve to be condemned, although the desperation that drives a 16-year-old girl to blow herself up and take many fellow human beings with her is something on which one has to reflect.

I spoke briefly of those things in the House last week, but I will repeat one point. The Committee refers, in another recommendation, to the UK having relationships in certain parts of the world that are perhaps complementary to those that the Americans enjoy. Just as British Prime Ministers did not consider it wrong to use the services of former Senator Mitchell in Northern Ireland, I hope that the Americans would not disparage the notion of using those who are not American to help to bring peace to the middle east.

I have already put forward the name of John Major, who has some time on his hands and has a wonderful record as a negotiator. He laid the foundations, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, for the settlement in Northern Ireland which, although not perfect, is a great

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achievement. Furthermore, at Maastricht he negotiated a most skilful series of deals. As a travelling envoy, John Major could bring the sides that are now so far apart at least close enough together to talk again. Any sensible person accepts that the conflict can be resolved only by negotiation. We do not want there to be nothing but destruction and more destruction before a proper attempt is made to achieve peace.

As there is now an international consensus that the conflict will be resolved only when there is both an independent Israel and an independent Palestine within mutually agreed and internationally guaranteed borders, we need someone who can take the parties towards the point at which both readily accept that. It is a tragedy that after coming so close at Camp David and Taba, everything all fell apart, but it did. Although we cannot live in the past, we have to try to recreate the former basis for negotiation, and I can think of no one better able to do that than John Major. Were he to play such a role, that would underline the bipartisan nature of this country's politics in respect of international affairs in general, and the middle east in particular.

Recommendation 23 is very important. It states:

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said, a special relationship is a multi-faceted relationship. It is not merely a question of being close together on issues of foreign policy and defence; a true special relationship must run deep, and of course it does with our American friends and allies. However, it was, to put it mildly, insensitive of the Americans to do what they did or to threaten what they threatened in respect of steel.

When I raised this point in the House, the Secretary of State said rightly that we would never be so petty as to retaliate by withdrawing our support in the war on international terrorism—that would be imbecilic. Nevertheless, the Americans ought to realise that with a staunch and true ally one should behave in all departments as a staunch and true ally. I hope that they will realise that—and something else, too. I have some experience of dealing with companies seeking to sell in the United States; it is not an easy task. I hope that the US will realise that trade, in its widest sense, must always be reciprocal and free between great nations.

That brings me to the second part of the recommendation, to

They still are being deterred. I spoke recently to a great friend who owns a hotel in London. It is a good hotel—not enormous, but small and special—that has been patronised over the years by many American visitors. However, its American bookings have almost completely dried up. I have many friends and a son who are involved peripherally in the tourist industry. We find it sad that many Americans seem to confuse "over here" with anywhere that might be bombed, and they are not willing to travel here to enjoy what we can offer.

I hope that one of the messages to go out from this debate—it will be a test of the efficacy of Westminster Hall if Americans read the reports of it—is that we

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welcome them here; we want them here. Just as it is right to encourage British citizens to travel in the United States and enjoy their vacations there, so we want American visitors to come here in the same numbers as before the dreadful events of 11 September. By being together, we can increase our friendship and strengthen it. Travel is a great educator and a great builder of friendships. Let us hope that that message will strike home.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock—I call him my hon. Friend deliberately—talked about candour. I have tried to be candid about friends whom I hold in the highest affection and regard. There is no country in which I would rather travel than the United States, and no people in whose company I would rather relax than Americans. However, they must bear in mind that we too have feelings and sensitivities. We rate them by how they rate us, and we assess that to some degree by whether they come to this country and how they behave here—and by whether they are frightened away. This year, summer in this country will be wonderful—the summer of the golden jubilee.

I am going to obey your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if necessary by ensuring that the hon. Member for Eastleigh has even longer to speak than I have had. This has been a useful debate on a good report, and I am delighted that the Government have responded so positively to it. However, there are more matters on which to reflect, and I would welcome the Minister's comments on my points about the two recommendations.

4.43 pm

Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): I would not want you to think that I had become stuck to my seat in weary anticipation of contributing to the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On the contrary, I was reflecting on the points made by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) and almost—but not quite—lost my concentration. Mine will probably be the last speech before the Minister either responds or sums up—both would be good.

Let me take us back a couple of hours. When the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee introduced his report, he mentioned that it was the second report on British-US relations within quite a short period, mainly because of the change of Administration. I was privileged to serve on both of the Committees and, therefore, to take part in both investigations. It is a terrible act of fate that, between the two investigations, the appalling events of 11 September took place. However, that allowed us to witness the impact of those events on relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. It was clear to me that there was a step change between our previous relationship and that post-11 September. Colleagues who shared the experience found that too.

Throughout our long history, our relationship with the United States has invariably been good. However, it appeared from our meetings to have become remarkably more influential in the sphere of military strategy and action, particularly with regard to the war against terrorism, as well as in terms of intelligence gathering, diplomacy and foreign policy. I should like to dwell briefly on each of those areas.

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In military terms, one of the most fascinating aspects of our investigation was to discover that in the war against terrorism, particularly immediately following 11 September, the United States—the great superpower the like of which has never before been seen—needed help from the United Kingdom's resources, not only in terms of bodies on the ground, but in terms of our ability at the highest and middle levels of military service to integrate with its strategic command operations. We were an integral part of the United States' response to terrorism in the early days. Furthermore, unlike almost every other western country, we had the ability to operate globally in the military sense. France, too, has a global capability, but France does not have the relationship that we have with the United States, and consequently could not build on it at that stage.

In the realm of gathering and analysing intelligence, our special relationship enabled us to contribute to the war against terrorism in a major way in the days immediately following the terrorist attack. A strange result of the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the ensuing peace dividend, was that the US decided, as a matter of policy, dramatically to reduce the number of CIA field officers around the world. However, it is apparent that the UK's network remained almost intact; I have no knowledge of the reasons for that. Immediately after the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, the United States found itself relying on the United Kingdom's assets to help it to launch the war against terrorism.

In the sphere of diplomacy and foreign policy, we discovered in our discussions in New York that the United States relied to a marked extent on the formidable expertise of the United Kingdom mission to the United Nations. When the United States was drafting resolutions for approval by the UN Security Council, it used our mission to play devil's advocate with its draftspeople; our wisdom and expertise helped it to agree the text that had the best chance of gaining the Security Council's support. Furthermore, our delegation used its best endeavours and was instrumental in securing the agreement of the other members—something that, because of the unfortunate situation in which America finds itself vis-à-vis the UN, the US could not do.

I, too, pay tribute to Sir Jeremy Greenstock for the work that he and his mission have done, especially in the counter-terrorism committee, of which Sir Jeremy is chairman. Excellent progress has been made under his stewardship. As other hon. Members have said, Sir Jeremy and his team have played a vital role during the past six months in making the committee work. Is it not vital, and in Britain's interests, that we continue to provide the resources to make the committee a powerful voice for introducing anti-terrorism measures? That is what I want, and I would like the Minister to respond to that point. There is undoubtedly a great will and a great desire in the Security Council to ensure that we continue to chair the committee and that our mission has sufficient resources to do so effectively. That is the desire of Security Council members around the world, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we can make that contribution.

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Since 11 September, we have been in a unique position in our relations with America. It is as though we have a unique window of influence on how the United States pursues its strategy and policy in international affairs. That interesting fact is well appreciated by our allies and enemies alike. It is recognised on the world stage that following the strange and appalling acts of fate of 11 September, Britain has developed the special relationship to a degree never before seen, and that has put us in a special place in terms of our influence on world affairs. Those events have given us a massively enhanced role, and we have a window of opportunity, but we cannot guarantee that it will remain open for the foreseeable future. The challenge for our Government is to grasp and build on that opportunity and pursue Britain's interests in the present climate of the special UK-US relationship.

Hon. Members have mentioned key issues, including rogue states such as Iraq and Iran. Britain must not stand back just because America is the superpower; we must reflect on and understand what is happening in the United States. It is obvious from our investigations and from discussions with hawks in the Bush Administration that they still bear the scars of previous policy failures. We should not forget that some advisers served in the Administration of George Bush Sr., and consider Iraq to be unfinished business. Some were involved in even earlier American Administrations, such as that of Jimmy Carter, which met with disaster in Iran. That, too, is unfinished business. Those influential politicians and political advisers are determined to ensure that the debt of honour is repaid.

At a Foreign Affairs Committee sitting earlier this week, a Foreign Office Minister who was giving evidence made it very clear that he had seen nothing to link Iraq to 11 September. The Government need a strong voice if they are to rein in the right wing in the Senate and in Congress.

A pre-emptive strike on Iraq could well cause the collapse of the coalition against terrorism, which we have worked hard to build through Government offices and diplomatic channels. A strike could threaten the stability of Turkey, which is our strongest ally in the region. It hopes to become a member of the European Union: if it were, we would be talking about a regional war on Europe's doorstep, not in another part of the world. We must understand the importance of such a strike and what its results could be.

To refer again to this week's sitting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Minister who was giving evidence said that in some circumstances, a pre-emptive strike in self-defence could be carried out within international law. As a Government representative, the Minister here today has a duty to tell this Chamber what those circumstances are. It is not good enough to pursue British foreign policy—to launch a war against a country that has made no attack on us—on the basis that it would be legal in some circumstances. We have a right to know. We should bear in mind that it was made clear during our investigations that the United States takes the view that it will act first with a pre-emptive strike and compile its legal justification afterwards. Is that also the UK Government's policy? I would like the Minister to respond to that question.

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It is clear to me that any action against Iraq or any other rogue state must be sanctioned by international law and come under the auspices of the United Nations, and it must be appropriate and proportionate. In that context, the excellent work that our mission has done at the United Nations under Sir Jeremy Greenstock has been recognised throughout the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly. Our team's success has brought the burden of extra work, but we should build on our good work and make absolutely sure that that mission has all the resources that are needed to keep Britain's voice and influence at the centre of international affairs in the war against terrorism.

Several hon. Members have talked about America's policy on missile defence—star wars 2. I want to make a few comments about that. I am conscious of the time, but with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, four minutes should see me out. Your nod of approval is gratefully received.

Let us be realistic about star wars 2. It is all very well for us to pontificate, on a sunny Thursday afternoon, about how right or wrong it is of America to pursue a policy of missile defence. The bald fact is that it is doing so. British influence, British foreign policy and the way we use our special relationship should reflect the facts. The fact is that the Americans are spending billions of dollars on getting the technology right. To allow themselves to carry out tests that are essential to their development work, they have already agreed—at least, they told Mr. Putin in advance—that they are going to abandon the ABM treaty. Unless some unforeseen technical glitch occurs, that is what will happen.

Surely, therefore, it is time for the Government to come off the fence. When they are questioned about their policy, the Government can no longer get away with saying, "We don't have a view, because we haven't yet been asked to take part." I am sorry; that just will not do. Within the next six to 18 months, these things will happen, and we in Parliament have a right to know what our Government's view is on that American policy, which has ramifications for foreign policy, diplomacy and military strategy throughout the world, not just our little corner of it.

I turn to the middle east. One of the most interesting things to emerge from our investigations and subsequent discussions is that many Arab nations, which are the nations most directly affected by and concerned about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, innately distrust the United States, presumably because of its history of unquestioning support for Israel. It is also interesting to discover that many Arab nations, especially the Gulf states, are well aware of the special relationship that we have with the United States, and they hope that we have some influence in that respect. They seem to acknowledge the long history and involvement of the United Kingdom in the Gulf region. Perhaps based on the principle "better the devil you know", they are pressing us to take a more active involvement in leading the search for peace in the middle east, helping organise emergency aid, seeking reparations for the destruction that has taken place under the Israeli incursions, rebuilding the shattered infrastructure, and bringing America in with us. That is an interesting point to which I hope the Minister will respond.

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It was a kick in the teeth for many people in this country—not least people in the Minister's constituency—when the United States introduced the tariff affecting the steel industry. The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) made an interesting point about having a standing conference composed of members from the European Union and the Americas to anticipate such eventualities. How is it that even with our enhanced relationship with the United States, the Government did not anticipate the steel tariff and the embargo? How is it that we could not use our influence to deflect or mitigate those actions? Did the Government not get any advice or advance notice, or was it just a matter of failing to act? There are many facets to a special relationship, of which trading terms are one. We seek answers to those questions.

5.1 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane) : This has been an enjoyable debate, particularly because it has allowed a wide range of comments on our most important relationship, with the United States. Mention was made of the venue for our proceedings. We would all rather have the debate in the Chamber, but the Liaison Committee decides these matters and allocates the dates. We are having more debates on foreign policy because of Westminster Hall and, as I shall announce shortly, we will have another debate on the United Nations, which may allow right hon. and hon. Members to develop some themes that have been raised in this debate. Many subjects have been covered and speeches have ranged far and wide—well beyond the report, which is our ostensible subject. I shall try to address most of the points raised. If I fail to do so in the course of my speech, I shall be happy to write to hon. Members.

The Government welcome the Committee's careful and considered examination of the major multilateral issues that dominate the UK-US relationship. The Foreign Affairs Committee's visits to the United States played their part in demonstrating Britain's willingness to work closely with the United States at a unique time. The Government appreciate the Committee's recognition of the work and the role of our diplomatic posts in the US, and in particular their words of congratulation to the staff in New York for their exemplary action on behalf of the victims of the terrorist atrocities of 11 September.

A few weeks ago, I answered a question in the House on whether the Government would raise the question of oil drilling in Alaska with the US Administration. I said no, because the matter was one for the US Congress. I also said that parliamentarians needed to engage with all the sources of policy making in the United States, including the elected members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, whose decisions, laws or reaction to international treaties weigh heavily in deciding US policy. Our media—and some hon. Members in their remarks in our debate—tend to focus exclusively on the White House and the Administration, but the United States is a vigorous, debating and self-correcting democracy. We need to increase our parliamentary contacts with the lawmakers of the US as well as engaging with the influential pressure groups—

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such as the labour unions, which played a big role in President Bush's decision on steel, and the Churches, which wield a great deal of influence in deciding US policy and interventions.

I welcome the report and the comments that have been made in the debate. I also urge all my fellow Members of Parliament to go west regularly and engage with our friends and fellow legislators not only in Washington, but in the powerful regional political networks that make up the state assemblies.

Each year, 4 million to 5 million visitors go both ways across the Atlantic. Obviously, I regret any drop-off in the number of visitors from the US. Quite a lot were influenced by the slightly over-excited political debate that surrounded foot and mouth. We knew that we had an epidemic and that it would last for a certain period. On the basis of experience, we also knew that it would be contained and dealt with, yet international reporting made it appear as if Britain was closed. We all bear some responsibility for presenting to the rest of the world the calm and welcoming nature of our country.

In this debate, and in other discussions about the US and the UK since 11 September and in articles in our newspapers, we seem to be engaged in our own private discussion with ourselves, as well as in a public debate about the meaning of America. Almost all the speeches in this debate have been pro-America, but given some of the recent speeches in this Hall on aspects of US policy, I have been rather surprised at the support for the US that hon. Members have expressed.

Whatever position we start from, we all want more, not less, engagement with and by the US. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier this month in Crawford, Texas, the way forward must be based on engagement, not isolationism. We need to engage with America.

Of course we all have a certain idea of the US, and mine is the America that saved freedom on this continent twice in the last century. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) was very eloquent in his wholly inimitable contribution. In the words of the ancient Greeks, young Americans gave their tomorrow so that Europe could enjoy its today.

My America is the one that stood up to communist tyranny when many sought to do business with the Stalins, Brezhnevs and other dictators. It is the America that stopped its own war in Vietnam because the people said no to the elite. It is the America that, from President Truman through to John F. Kennedy and President Bush the first, has always supported the construction and unity of Europe and, in the last case, the creation of the single currency.

My America imposed sanctions on South Africa in the 1980s and sent an African-American to be ambassador in Pretoria at a time when some political leaders—I mention no names—were rolling out the red carpet for the white supremacists of apartheid. It is the America that each year opens its doors to millions of legal and what are called undocumented immigrants, who immensely enrich that nation, in contrast to the fear and loathing of the anti-foreigner political class in Europe and our rabid and racial press campaigns against immigrants. Some 20 million legal immigrants,

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and as many, if not more, undocumented immigrants, have entered the US since 1980, each of whom has found a new life and new hope for their families and children.

My America runs a massive deficit in trade and services with the rest of the world—$750 billion of imports each year. Economists roll their eyes at that deficit, so I am delighted that the shadow Chancellor has joined us at the end of the debate. However, each import represents a job in a poorer country, not least our own. It is up to us in Europe to discover the same capacity for job creation, productivity and economic dynamism. It is an America where a black man born in poverty in the Bronx can hold the mightiest office in the greatest democracy, although he has to sit in the State Department and listen to patronising and simplistic attacks from the all-white technocrats of a European elite. It is an America that launched civil rights and women's rights as great campaigns that changed our continent.

There is another America, whose policies the Government do not agree with, and I shall outline some of those disagreements. However, as hon. Members from all sides have pointed out, we want a better America that engages with the world, and the policy of the Government and of our partners in Europe seeks to lead us in that direction.

We agree too that our relationship with the United States should remain forward-looking, and that it is just as important—if not more—in the 21st century as in the 20th century. The relationship will continue to be strong, particularly now, when our national interests coincide as much as they ever did. Britain's strategic partnership with the United States remains fundamental to the national security of this country. Yet, as the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) pointed out, we are part of Europe and our role in the European Union enhances rather than detracts from our relationship with the US. The anti-Americanism of some on the European left—I speak as a man of the left—is as tiresome as the anti-Europeanism of many on the British right. We can play a pivotal role, but by no means an exclusive one, in drawing the US and our European partners closer together and in helping to articulate their views to each other.

We should not be arrogant. Yesterday I was in Sweden, where I found a determination to support Israel's right to exist and an understanding from the Swedish Government of the threat that Iraq poses that would not be out of place in Washington. It was Le Monde that headlined its front page editorial a few days after 11 September with the words "Nous sommes tous americains"—we are all Americans—and Chancellor Schröder who wrote an article last year in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung under the heading "Germany: America's Best Friend in Europe". The peoples and Governments of the Netherlands or Poland, to name but two European nations—one could add others—are as proud of their friendship with the United States as we are. When Britain speaks to America we are part of the Europe, which I believe forms the majority of the continent, that wants more engagement with and by America.

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The international coalition against terrorism has demonstrated what can be achieved when we and our European partners work with the US. The Prime Minister and President Bush are committed to taking forward the fight against terrorism in a measured, calm way that has been carefully thought through. The debate between the Governments is an intense one and it does not help to portray it in hysterical language—we have not heard any in the debate but one encounters it in some of our press and in speeches by other hon. Members. Since the tragic events of 11 September, the value of our relationship to each other has been reinforced. It was an attack on us all, with more than 67 British citizens murdered by the terrorist atrocities. It was an attack on our shared values and a test of our integrity. Together we have met the challenge.

We are not always in agreement with the United States, but we engage as close friends and allies in an open, frank and positive manner. The US is in no doubt of our position on areas where we do not agree. Today's debate has shown many examples of that. We shall always fight for Britain's interests and beliefs and so we will, for example, continue to make clear our opposition to the use of the death penalty, which hon. Members have not mentioned but which is an issue of concern to British people, lobbying on it with our EU partners or bilaterally at state and federal level.

The trading relationship between the US and the EU is the biggest in the world—it represented about a fifth of all world trade in 2000. Some of that two-way trade is subject to disputes.

Mr. Howard : Why is the death penalty in the United States a matter on which the Government and the European Union intervene, while oil in Alaska is not? The Minister said that oil in Alaska is a matter for the Americans, so why is not an appropriate punishment in their own judicial system?

Mr. MacShane : The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not mix up an economic decision with what many people around the world regard as a cruel and inhuman punishment. It is right to raise our concerns about such moral issues.

Some disputes over trade are inevitable, but the rule-based WTO system offers the best mechanism for dealing with such disputes and, through our membership of the EU, it is the forum in which to settle our trade differences. Real progress has been made on the trade agenda between Europe and the US—for example, the resolution of the banana dispute last April and the launch of a new WTO round in Doha last November. However, big differences still exist and President Bush' s recent announcement on steel import restrictions came as a great disappointment.

I can inform the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) that, having been alerted to it more than a year ago by US steel union comments, I raised my concern about that matter with the US trade representative, Mr. Zelig, last August. My noble Friend, Baroness Symons, the Minister for Trade and Investment, also raised it, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. We believe that the US action breaches WTO rules and has no economic justification. The Prime Minister,

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addressing UK steelworkers in an article in the current issue of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation journal, said:

As a constituency Member, I know that those remarks were warmly appreciated in the steel communities of the UK, as were statements made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in south Yorkshire last Friday in an effort to get the US to change its mind on UK steel exports. That discussion is continuing.

Climate change, or more commonly the Kyoto protocol, is another area where we do not share the US policy approach. We believe that the Kyoto protocol, with its legally binding targets and timetables, is the most effective way of reducing emissions and tackling climate change. The agreement reached on the protocol in Bonn and Marrakesh last year demonstrated the international community's commitment to Kyoto. As a result, Kyoto is alive and well and I am delighted to hear the news that Russia has initiated its ratification procedure.

Sir Patrick Cormack : I hate to introduce an acrimonious note into a constructive afternoon, but the Minister is reading a prepared speech and not dealing with the issues raised in the debate.

Mr. MacShane : I do not have the ability of other hon. Members to speak spontaneously for hour after hour without a note in my hand. After many more years service in the House I may reach that nirvana. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall attempt to deal with all the specific points that have been raised. If I fail to do so, I shall happily write to hon. Members.

We hope to complete ratification procedures for Kyoto and to allow the protocol to come into force before the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg. We also believe that we should continue a discussion with the US in order to benefit from each other's experiences and continue to seek opportunities to share information.

The International Criminal Court was mentioned. We worked hard to get the International Criminal Court Acts of 2001 through Westminster and Edinburgh in good time for ours to be among the first six ratifications. We want other countries to sign up to the ICC. It is disappointing that the US has been impervious to persuasion that its objections to the International Criminal Court are unfounded. We do not see much chance of a change of heart under the present Administration. We hope that the US—a nation based on the rule of law, not of men—will understand in time that creating the court will help human rights and democracy.

A Green Paper will be published next week on the biological and toxin weapons convention, about which we have also have disagreements with the US, as hon. Members mentioned.

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Hon. Members discussed the middle east in some depth. We had a full debate last week, and I do not propose to repeat those arguments. We welcome President Bush's statement, "Enough is enough," and the efforts made by Secretary of State Colin Powell in person to show US engagement. In his Mansion House speech a fortnight ago, the Foreign Secretary said:

Mr. Chidgey : Will the Minister respond to my comments about the interesting reaction from Gulf and other middle east states calling for more direct involvement by the British Government in the middle east peace process?

Mr. MacShane : If the hon. Gentleman checks the visits, statements and interventions made by Ministers and Members about British involvement, we shall not be found wanting. We must decide that the way forward should be based on a viable Palestinian state, the end to illegal settlements and a guarantee that Israel will have normal, peaceful, state-to-state relations in the region. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) suggested the deployment of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Major, as a peace envoy—a suggestion, which I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

There has been considerable speculation about military action against Iraq, which I have read with interest. However, I can assure the House that no decision has yet been taken, and no military action is imminent. We are looking at Iraq from the wrong end of the telescope. Instead of focusing on Washington, we should surely be mobilising public opinion to support the UN, and uniting to apply pressure on Saddam Hussein to get him to comply with UN resolutions. He can help to solve the problem tomorrow by agreeing to let in an effective team of weapons inspectors. However, we should be clear that the Iraqi regime has these weapons of mass destruction, and it has shown on several occasions that it is prepared to use them. Faced with that threat, the international community's most pressing demand is that the weapons inspectors be allowed to return and finish their work.

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) sought to find some difference between President Bush and the Prime Minister on the desirability of a regime change. I have the full text of the press conference from which the hon. Gentleman quoted. The Prime Minister said that the world and the Iraqi people would be better off without the regime of Saddam Hussein, and that doing nothing in these circumstances is not an option. It is clear that we identify with the United States' view.

Sir John Stanley : Is it the British Government's policy to bring about a regime change in Iraq?

Mr. MacShane : The Prime Minister made it clear that it is the will of the British Government to see a regime

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change in Iraq. I also made that clear in the House of Commons in answer to a similar question in Foreign Office questions earlier in this Session. I am not sure whether I declare policy—I am too modest and novice a Minister to do so—but we are splitting hairs. The Prime Minister's statement in Texas is perfectly clear.

Mr. Savidge : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. MacShane : I want to make progress, as there are other issues that hon. Members want me to deal with. I will give way to my hon. Friend, but the price is that in six minutes' time, at the end of the debate, we will not have discussed all the issues that have been raised.

Mr. Savidge : We may think that there are many countries in the world where a change of regime would be desirable, but I trust that we would not consider war in every case in order to effect it.

Mr. MacShane : Iraq represents a threat to regional peace, as many hon. Members have pointed out. It has used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and it is next to a member state of the United Nations. To debate whether a change of regime is desirable in Iraq—it certainly is, in my view—is a mistake. Our discussion on Iraq should focus on trying to press, and if necessary force Saddam Hussein to comply with the United Nations resolutions on weapons inspections. The Foreign Affairs Committee endorsed the Government's policy of engagement with the Iranians based on supporting the reformers in Iran while maintaining a robust dialogue on issues of concern.

I shall now deal with some of the specific issues raised by hon. Members, and thus avoid having to write to them. Reference was made to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and its change of director. The decision was taken this week by a vote of 48:7 that the gentleman in question had not shown sufficient drive in management or policy to deliver the organisation that the international community wanted. The votes deciding his removal from office came from Asia, Africa and nearly all the east and west European countries. We must be careful not to allow every decision taken around the world to be refracted into the issue of Iraq.

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling asked about the nuclear posture review paper in the United States. As statements about that leak made clear at the time—I echo the right hon. Gentleman's words—it was not a new policy but a contribution to a debate, part of which we welcomed. It was an affirmation of scaling down the level of nuclear warheads that the United States holds, and at the time a commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons. I will refresh my memory on the matter and write to the right hon. Gentleman if he wants.

Other hon. Members have debated whether any nation is able to use any of the weapons that it possesses in the manner best designed to maintain its security. I am not going to announce that Britain, faced with what it would perceive to be a direct threat, would not use all the necessary means at its disposal to maintain the nation's security. That would be of the highest irresponsibility and I am surprised that I was asked to comment on it.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) asked about help for Russia in disposing of nuclear weapons and material. The Government have taken an active lead in that matter and I will be happy to write to him about it.

I was asked about Guantanamo Bay and the status of the British citizens who are prisoners there. They have had visits—the most recent was last month—and we are seeking another. We have been assured that their

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treatment is in accordance with international humanitarian norms. The International Committee of the Red Cross has a permanent presence there. The United States and all countries that have citizens there are still discussing their legal status. It is a conundrum and it is right that we engage with the United States on the matter. If—

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