Previous SectionIndexHome Page

15 Oct 2002 : Column 182—continued

The Prime Minister: Let me emphasise that we will offer the relatives of those who have died in this terrorist outrage all the help that we can. When they are facing a very difficult and uncertain time and are travelling to a faraway country, we must ensure that we provide absolutely every form of assistance that we can, and we will do so. Essentially, we are providing exactly the same help as we provided for relatives in the aftermath of 11 September.

In respect of Indonesia, we will work with whatever part of the Government we can and whatever forces there are in Indonesia to try to help them combat this terrorism. The right hon. Gentleman will know that I have argued long and hard—and I continue to do so—for a broader international agenda that deals with some of the issues of poverty and development in the world. However, it is important at this point and on this day in particular to make one thing clear: the terrorists carrying out these appalling acts are doing terrible damage to Muslims the world over and are killing many

15 Oct 2002 : Column 183

innocent Muslims. As for poverty, quite apart from the terrible loss of life in Indonesia, we can only reflect on how much poverty will be caused by the destruction of the tourism industry, certainly for the near future in Bali and possibly beyond. The situation is therefore very serious for the poorest people in Indonesia. We know from the way in which al-Qaeda operates that the people involved are not necessarily poor at all; they are often extremely well funded, but have a particular type of fanaticism that I think we must confront.

As for the issue of weapons of mass destruction or Iraq, I shall not repeat what I have already said, but I refer the right hon. Gentleman to what the Danish Prime Minister, the President of the European Union, said a moment ago in our press conference. He said that both the issues were threats and had to be tackled, and that we should show the same firmness of will in respect of both.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): Will my right hon. Friend share in the sympathy for the family and friends of Mr. Ian Findley of my constituency? He was one of those who tragically lost their lives in Bali. I want to put on record my thanks and those of the family for the support that they have received from the Foreign Office. At such a difficult time for them, will my right hon. Friend give them at least the comfort that should they need financial support to return Ian's body to the United Kingdom, it will be forthcoming?

The Prime Minister: I join my hon. Friend in sending deep sympathy and condolences to Mr. Findley's family. I assure him and them that we shall give every assistance in returning his body to this country for a proper funeral. Mr. Findley's family are among many who, unfortunately, are grieving, and we shall do everything that we can to help them, as we did after 11 September.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Will the Prime Minister suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should hold discussions with the insurance industry, for which he has overall responsibility, about holiday insurance? Many people take out no insurance; more take out insurance that is almost useless, and some take out expensive insurance and find that the exclusions are burdensome. That will have a huge impact on not only the British insurance industry but tourism, on which so many poor people in the world depend.

The Prime Minister: I am not sure whether there is an easy answer to such questions, but I shall raise with the Chancellor the issues that the hon. Gentleman mentions.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): At the beginning of August, I led an inter-faith delegation from Parliament to Indonesia under the auspices of the Foreign Office. We specifically examined some of the problems that relate to Muslim-Christian conflict, but we also considered the wider scene. We must remember that Indonesia is a three-year-old, fledgling democracy. It is throwing off a corrupt and repressive regime and trying to establish a tolerant and just society while also dealing

15 Oct 2002 : Column 184

with unorthodox Islamic extremists. In addition to any help in finding the barbaric perpetrators of the bomb massacre in Bali, will my right hon. Friend ensure that our Government continue with the much-appreciated programmes of help and support to develop good governance, justice and inter-faith harmony, especially in places such as central Sulawesi and Maluku, where serious violence has occurred? The Bali massacre has tragically thrown all that into the spotlight.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. Indonesia has escaped military rule and, as he said, is a fledgling democracy. It is tragic if its democratic stability faces another threat. We shall continue with our programmes to develop good governance. We specifically discussed inter-faith dialogue when I met the President of Indonesia in June. It is an important, long-term part of the solution.

Mr. Michael Portillo (Kensington and Chelsea): My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made a powerful point when he drew attention to the number of Britons who have been killed in the incident and others. However, the specific incident that we are discussing constituted a day of infamy especially for Australia; it is Australia's equivalent of 11 September. Will the Prime Minister be as supportive of Australia in the coming months as he rightly was of the United States after 11 September?

I have heard some people in this country argue that if Britain remained apart from the war against terrorism and from that against weapons of mass destruction, we might somehow be spared the aggression of terrorists. Does not the incident underline what many of us knew: no one will be spared in the war of aggression by terrorists, and the only answer is therefore for the world community to join the fight against terrorism?

The Prime Minister: I agree entirely. On the first point, I phoned Prime Minister John Howard immediately after the incident and we not only expressed our condolences but discussed what we could to do to help. I also spoke to the Premier of Western Australia because many victims came from there. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that we will do all that we can to support Australia at this very difficult time. Australians realise, as do the British, that, in the end, there is no secure sanctuary from international terrorism, and that the only option available to us that we can possibly take with our heads held high is to be part of the coalition against international terrorism. Australia has played a magnificent part in that over the past year or so, and we must continue to be with them in that fight.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): May I join the Prime Minister in condemning the outrageous and barbaric act perpetrated against the young people in Bali and offer my sympathy to those left behind? In the light of this latest outrage, however, should we not be targeting all our resources and energies on fighting terrorism, rather than starting another war in the middle east? Surely the Prime Minister will agree that to start such a war would fan the flames of fundamentalism across the whole area and make matters much worse. Our priorities must be to

15 Oct 2002 : Column 185

get the weapons inspectors back and to concentrate on getting rid of al-Qaeda. That is the way in which to protect all our citizens.

The Prime Minister: Obviously, my hon. Friend and I will not agree on all aspects of the Iraq issue, but I do agree with what she said a moment ago about our priority being to ensure that we root out terrorism wherever it is, and, through the United Nations, to achieve the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction through a proper inspections regime. That is what we are working towards. As I said in my statement, however, this is not an either/or, and we really need to tackle both these issues, as both are threats to the stability and order of the world.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): While everybody utterly deplores this wicked, cruel act of terrorism, I would like to pursue a point made by the Leader of the Liberal Democratic party, which is that it will not be sufficient for us to continue to denounce terrorism in general terms. If we are really going to grapple with the problem, we must of course use military and intelligence means, but we must also tackle its sources. They are not simply religious ones, and these acts are not organised solely by one small terrorist group. After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Indonesia was left to wallow in chaos without the international financial organisations making any serious attempt to help, while the rest of the world humiliated Indonesia in East Timor. In those circumstances—in a country of 200 million people with a Government who are not in effective control—it is not surprising that chaos is breaking out all over that vast archipelago, and this may be only the first of many disasters.

The Prime Minister: I am afraid that I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman on East Timor; I think that the Government took a brave and correct decision in what they did there. I do not disagree that we need a broad agenda at an international level; indeed, I have often argued for that. At this moment, however, we must be careful of saying, in effect, that these people are carrying out these attacks because of the real problems of poverty or underdevelopment in Indonesia. They are not. They are fanatics and extremists whose very acts will have brought more poverty and more underdevelopment to Indonesia. I do not disagree that it is important for the international community to give Indonesia the chance to get on its feet economically. Indeed, this country has been trying to do so; that was another thing that we discussed with the Indonesian President in June. At this moment, however, we should not mix our messages about what has happened. It is wrong and wicked, and has nothing to do with advancing any cause that any of us recognise as justified.

Next Section

IndexHome Page