Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Carmichael: Our hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) made the point in

24 May 2002 : Column 547

relation to ambulance chasers. Does my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) agree that as long as we continue to underfund civil legal aid, the situation will only get worse and give rise to firms of solicitors and others operating in the fringes of compensation claims working on a no win, no fee basis, which is the driving force behind the increase in so-called ambulance chasing?

Mr. Tyler: That is true. My hon. Friend speaks from legal experience. I would add that the no win, no fee attitude discourages genuine cases that may be a little more marginal. That, too, is a problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge spoke of the increasing incidence of self-harm, particularly by young people, and the connection with both attempted suicide and suicide. It is a considerable problem and I do not know where we should start, but clearly we must address it. There is a consultation process under way; I hope that that will be truly comprehensive.

A further point made by my hon. Friend concerned the way in which the House handles European directives. That is a scandal. On our Procedure Committee and our Modernisation Committee we have made some proposals, but we have not got very far with them. My hon. Friend puts his finger on an important point. If we could apply the principle of pre-legislative scrutiny to some of the legislation coming from the European Union, we would be far more likely not only to influence that legislation, but to ensure that subsequently it was adjusted to the UK situation, and we did not have the gold-plating that went with it.

I come to the interesting contribution from the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings. So much of what he said was pure Liberal Democrat philosophy and policy that I wonder whether, as the pairing Whip, he would dare to make those comments if the House were full. Although I can assure the hon. Gentleman, especially in relation to the interesting section towards the end of his speech, that his human happiness would be greatly increased if he joined us on the Liberal Democrat Benches, although he would, unfortunately, lose his salary as the Conservative pairing Whip.

There are some issues that we should try to approach in the House on a non-party basis. One of the reasons why I so strongly agreed with the speech of the Leader of the House to which I referred earlier is that he, too, seems to have a real concept of trying to ensure that when necessary, the House can work on a consensual basis.

I shall give two illustrations. The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings referred to the case of agriculture. He and I share a strong commitment to the agriculture industry. I was my party's agriculture spokesman—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was in the House at the time—when his colleague and neighbour, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) was the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I spent hours on these Benches trying to persuade the then Government that imports into this country—particularly, because of BSE, of meat—were extremely problematic, for many reasons including those related to human health, animal health and support for our farmers.

However, and this takes me to the hon. Gentleman's second point, the Minister replied that the food industry, by which of course he meant the supermarkets, wanted to

24 May 2002 : Column 548

be able to buy as cheaply as it could from wherever it could. I find it extraordinary that successive Governments have allowed themselves to be conned by the retail sector into believing that getting good, cheap food is all about buying wherever one can. We are importing meat from a number of countries where foot and mouth is endemic, just when we think we have cleared up our own problem. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman on that issue—I am sorry to embarrass him. The connection between the role of supermarkets and the role of imports is very close. The hon. Gentleman nods in agreement.

I regret that, although in the immediate aftermath of the appalling onslaught of foot and mouth on the livestock sector no less a person than the Prime Minister said that he was going to take on the oligopolistic tendencies of the supermarkets, we heard no more. It may be significant that the chairman, or perhaps the chief executive, of Sainsbury's sat on the Curry commission. We must look again at the role of supermarkets because it is very important, and our competitor countries in Europe do not have the same problem.

As a former member of a police authority, I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about the police. I cannot follow him to the end of his speech, much as I would like to, but I appreciate the fact that he has helped me to write a speech for the annual dinner of the John Stuart Mill Society. That will save me a lot of extra reading. That great Liberal philosopher is clearly a significant stimulus and inspiration to the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that one day we can increase his human happiness by welcoming him to these Benches.

Mr. Hayes: I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I do not have a Liberal bone in my body, as my colleagues know. I am more driven by Burke than by Mill, the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know. I remind him of the simple fact that when, during the 19th century, the enlightened policies of the Conservative party were reforming our factories, and taking children out of the mines and boys from chimneys, his party rejected all those reforms. The Liberal party was the most backward, negative and reactionary force of the 19th century, and I am afraid that its descendants remain rooted in many of those faults and failures. The hon. Gentleman cannot expect to welcome me to his Benches, but I thought that I should intervene to justify my small but well-earned salary.

Mr. Tyler: How can I follow that? If the hon. Gentleman and I were to swap facts about 19th-century history, which was my period of particular interest as a student, we might be in trouble with the Chair, although I suspect that this is the one debate in which we could do so. I am a great fan of Mr. Gladstone, who got more radical as he got older. The hon. Gentleman may agree that that is not a bad thing, and he may become a radical in his old age and join us then.

I thank the Minister and his office because, after the last such debate before a recess, they took the trouble, uniquely in my experience, to make contact with Members who had contributed to see whether they had had satisfactory answers from the Departments concerned. As I said, I have lost count of how many of these debates I have participated in, and that had never happened before. I only point out that the letter arrived at least two months

24 May 2002 : Column 549

after the debate, so the Minister's expectations of when his colleagues would get round to responding to our points match our own experience.

May I wish you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and all our colleagues here today an appropriate recess, both for refreshing their contacts with their constituents and for refreshing themselves? If in so doing they feel that they would like to come to Cornwall, which of course is the most attractive holiday destination on the whole globe, they will be welcome.

1.14 pm

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): Today, Presidents Bush and Putin meet to sign a treaty that will reduce the number of nuclear warheads in the United States and Russia by two thirds. I am confident that I speak for all hon. Members when I congratulate them on reaching that agreement and wish them well in its implementation during the next decade.

It will not have escaped the House's sense of irony, however, that the agreement is being reached just as two other nuclear powers are squaring up to each other in preparation for what could be a terrible and devastating war. I speak, of course, of India and Pakistan. Today, the European Union External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten, is due to arrive in the region. Our own Foreign Secretary will visit both countries next week, and I believe it right that this House should make its views clear before he embarks on that trip.

I speak today on behalf of my many constituents who originate from the Indian sub-continent. I speak equally on behalf of ordinary people in Brent, North who have no connection with the sub-continent, but who recognise that a war between these two nuclear powers would be a human and political disaster the repercussions of which would be felt across the globe. I should also make it clear that I speak as the chairman of Labour Friends of India. I know that the House will accept that, although I count myself as a friend of India, that does not make me an enemy of anyone else. Indeed, I wish all India's neighbours only peace and prosperity.

The attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre on 11 September changed global politics. It turned a newly elected American President, who the world had feared would prove isolationist, into a foreign policy activist. Most critically, it enabled the United States and Russia to put behind them the rhetoric of the cold war and find common cause against international terrorism. Although that has focused the world's eye on al-Qaeda and the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the reality of international terrorism and Afghan involvement is that terrorism is nothing new. The largest democracy in the world—the state of India—has been a victim of international terrorism for more than 20 years. In that time, more than 60,000 Indians have been killed in terrorist attacks.

I do not wish to go back over the history of the Punjab in the 1980s, or the Mumbai bomb blast of the early 1990s, which killed 300 people in just one incident. However, I think it important that the House consider the relentless terrorist attacks made on India in just the past two years. In December 1999, Air India flight 814 was hijacked. Within a year, the Red Fort in Delhi was

24 May 2002 : Column 550

attacked. On 1 October last year, the state legislative assembly in Srinagar was attacked, and on 13 December, India's Parliament was itself attacked by terrorists. Any country would find that list of outrages intolerable, and all the more so given that each attack was clearly not just the work of an isolated terrorist group: the ISI, the Pakistan security force, was also actively involved.

India's democratically elected leadership are under the most enormous pressure from their own people to take decisive action to end cross-border terrorism. So what have they done? First, Prime Minister Vajpayee engaged in shuttle-bus diplomacy to Lahore. That was rebuffed by Pakistan's attack across the line of control, in Kargil. Secondly, Prime Minister Vajpayee invited General Musharraf—the very person responsible for Kargil, but by that point the new ruler of Pakistan—to talks at Agra. Those are not the acts of a bellicose leader. It should also be clear that, although both India and Pakistan are now nuclear powers, only India has committed herself to a no first use policy.

After 11 September, General Musharraf committed himself to siding with the US against international terrorism. Many saw that as a real and genuine opportunity for Pakistan to move away from the fundamentalism of the madrassahs and their involvement with terrorist training camps, and from its entanglement with the Taliban and the illegal smuggling of heroin and guns, into a new relationship with the world. We praised General Musharraf for the courage he had shown and we wanted to support him against the forces of fundamentalism within Pakistan that were ranged against him.

Everyone accepts that General Musharraf has an extremely difficult task, but the key test of his resolve is, and always was, whether he would change his policy towards India. Would he stop the training camps that were sending thousands of terrorists across the line of control to kill and wreak havoc in the Kashmir valley? On 12 January, we felt real hope that he would do so. His address to the nation was bold and new. He imposed a ban on five terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. He detained a number of known terrorist leaders and rounded up 2,000 cadres of the terrorist groups. He spoke of there being "no need" to interfere in other countries.

The world was impressed and welcomed General Musharraf's speech. India said that it would judge by his deeds. Within weeks, the head of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Mr. Hafiz Sayeed, was released. The House may know that, ironically, he has just been re-arrested for his involvement in the murder of 11 French engineers in Karachi. The head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Mr. Maulana Masud Azhar, although supposedly under house arrest, has been receiving a pension from the Pakistan Government. The terrorist training camps that were closed after the speech on 12 January have been reopened. Currently, there are 75 active terrorist bases along the Pakistani side of the line of control. Al-Qaeda activists who fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan have now been transferred to those camps for cross-border infiltration into Kashmir.

Earlier this month, three terrorists dressed as Indian army soldiers boarded a bus on the Pathankot-Jammu highway and launched an attack that killed 32 people, including 11 women and 11 children. The three terrorists were Pakistan nationals, and al Mansuren—Lashkar-e-Toiba by another name—and Jamait-ul-Mujahideen have claimed

24 May 2002 : Column 551

responsibility for the outrage. Since that attack just 10 days ago, there have been 58 other attacks, in which 14 security personnel and 14 civilians have been killed. The fine words of 12 January have given way to the same sordid state-sponsored terrorism across the line of control.

Despite repeated requests and international pressure, General Musharraf has taken no action against the most wanted list of 20 terrorists whom Pakistan is harbouring. As such, Pakistan is in clear defiance of UN resolution 1373 that mandates all member countries to refrain from giving any support to terrorist groups.

In the light of those facts, when the Foreign Secretary travels to the region next week, he should do so with the clear understanding that India, whose people are under constant terrorist threat and whose very Parliament has been attacked by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, will find it strange to hear Britain and the US, who launched their own war on international terrorism, plead with India to show yet more restraint.

India has shown remarkable restraint, but the assassination of Abdul Gani Lone, the Muslim leader of the Hurriyat conference, by ISI-sponsored Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan has pushed that restrained to its limit. Abdul Gani Lone was no friend of the Indian Government; he wanted autonomy for the people of Kashmir, but he made what, for him, became two fatal commitments. He committed himself to the democratic process and wanted to contest the Kashmir state elections for the legislative assembly later this year. He also committed himself and his party to do so without foreign interference. For those two commitments, his son said that the ISI sponsored his assassination.

The snows are melting in Kashmir, but positions are hardening. When the Foreign Secretary arrives in the region, he must make it clear to General Musharraf that the words of 12 January are not enough. He must insist on the following essential actions. First, Pakistan must declare that it, too, will adopt a no first use policy in relation to its nuclear arsenal. Secondly, Pakistan must arrest and imprison or deport the 20 terrorists on India's most wanted list. Thirdly, Pakistan must close all 75 active terrorist training camps on the Kashmir border. Fourthly, Pakistan must arrest and put on trial the leaders of the terrorist groups. Fifthly, Pakistan must arrest the al-Qaeda terrorists now stationed in those camps.

Unless our Foreign Secretary makes these points clear to General Musharraf, and unless the general acts positively on each one of them, the world cannot express its surprise if its largest democracy acts to defend its Parliament, its legislative assembly and its citizens, 60,000 of whom have already lost their lives to terrorism.

I welcome Prime Minister Vajpayee's statement today that India will suspend a decision on war for a period of some weeks. During that period, I trust that General Musharraf will reflect on the foundations of his faith. After the battle of Khyber, the Prophet Mohammed—peace be to his name—stated that the jihad-e-asghar, the small jihad was over, but proclaimed that the jihad-e-akbar, the greater jihad, had begun. He meant that the military conflict was over but the most important conflict was the one against illiteracy and poverty.

Between them, India and Pakistan have more than 40 per cent. of the world's poor. We must all pray that the jihad-e-ashgar, the small war against each other, will be defused and abandoned so that the jihad-e-akbar, the great war on poverty, can be won for both of their peoples.

24 May 2002 : Column 552

Next Section

IndexHome Page