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17 Oct 2002 : Column 541—continued

5.4 pm

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): In listening to the debate, what first comes to mind is that we live in a more dangerous world than ever before. The weakened grip of the old Soviet bloc has unleashed a multitude of regional power struggles, with dictatorships and nascent democracies fighting for influence and recognition within their own continents or, as in the case of Islamic extremism, against anyone who speaks in favour of secularism, liberty and democratic values.

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Instead of rogue states spending less money on arms, more money than ever is being spent on more powerful weapons, and nuclear proliferation is now a reality of regional power building. Sanctions, for the main part, have had a laughable effect, except of course on the civilian populations of the countries concerned. Be it diamonds in Africa or oil in the middle east, these reserves are not like bank accounts, which can be frozen. Even if Saddam were to allow in the inspectors, his access to 10 per cent. of the world's oil reserves means that he can afford whatever weapons he wants, whenever he wants. Last year, for instance, it is estimated that he earned some $2 billion from oil, despite sanctions and a bad oil market. In this regard, I note how the Government always seem ever so wary of mentioning oil when discussing the possibility of war against Iraq. That, in my view, is wrong, as the effect on world trade of organised market manipulation or embargoes is clearly a significant matter of national interest.

Some people argue that a kind of post-cold war international vacuum has been created, thus undermining the now central role of the United States. Others more blatantly accuse the United States of warmongering or of getting involved only when it suits them and even isolationism. Such arguments are deeply flawed and very dangerous.

What is the ultimate weapon of defence? It is certainly not nuclear weapons or anything to do with the military. It is the growing understanding within most of the developing world of the value of individual liberty, democracy, free enterprise and the liberalisation of domestic and world trade. This message has not been lost on America's enemies, many of whom predicted that the terrible events of 11 September would lead to increased US isolationism and even the end of the world globalisation process. How wrong they have been. The process has been accelerated rather than slowed. In the face of the common terrorist defence threat, developing countries and western countries are seeing more than ever how their common defence interest lies in the development of trading relationships between them and the resulting higher living standards for their peoples. The best example of that was the agreement to move ahead on the World Trade Organisation trade round at Doha, which, prior to 11 September, was on the verge of collapse. However, within two months of 11 September, it suddenly happened because it made people think about the problem.

I mention trade because it is key to understanding the reasons behind the new worldwide, American-led resolve to counter terrorism and to deal with national defence in the new global context. States that were once blacklisted by the United States, such as India and Pakistan, are now back at the table. Relations with China are improving. It is no coincidence that, only a few months ago, China joined the World Trade Organisation and now wants to expand its commercial base.

Diplomatic ties between Russia and the west are increasingly strong, with exchanges of security information and a co-ordinated, albeit different, approach forming. Once again, trade is playing its part in that. Russia, with its significant investments in Iraq, has every interest in retaining interest and dialogue with the United States in preparation for the possibility of a post-Saddam Iraq.

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The United Kingdom can also see how, working closely with the United States, we can have an influence—for example, in encouraging the US to work with the United Nations, or having a continued involvement in the post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan.

The message is that by standing together we will defeat common threats to world security—that is the message of 11 September and, indeed, of Kuta beach. That has been the basis of our recent successes in putting Saddam Hussein on to his back foot and of NATO's successes in recent decades. Standing together without the ability and ultimate intent of using force will lead to failure. Let us suppose that we took NATO or the United States out of the picture. Consider the prospect of Europe acting alone, with France soft-pedalling on the one hand, and Germany hostile to a firm answer to Saddam on the other. Where would we be now? I would say, XNot very far". How quiet the Government have been recently on the Nice treaty's European security and defence policy—a toothless dead duck of a proposal if I ever heard one. The lesson is clear: we stick with NATO, we do not cut out our allies, such as Turkey, and we do not alienate the United States.

It is refreshing that the Government have stopped talking about a peace dividend—of course, there never was one. Now, we should stop wasting our time on European Union defence and going it alone, with its inherent risk of splitting NATO, we should stop running down our regular forces, stop decimating our reserve forces and put more money into our military so that they can cope with their ever-growing number of operations.

In that regard, November's Prague NATO summit will be very important—not only in terms of the enlargement of NATO and the related reorganisation that that involves, but in providing us with the opportunity to disown the disastrous European defence experiment and to reaffirm our support for NATO and US involvement.

In fairness, the Government talk of supporting NATO, but can they deliver, given the way in which we are heading? While Europe is spending its time fretting about from whom its ever-smaller forces will take orders, America has been spending money on its defence. The problem is that, since 11 September alone, America has spent $48 billion more than Europe, Russia and China combined on its defence. Some people complain about the US unilateralist approach. Indeed, they say that the US has been unwilling to work within NATO in relation to Afghanistan or Iraq. The fact remains, however, that Europe's forces are now so weakened that US unilateralism is becoming increasingly inevitable, even if we say that we are going to support the US with men or indeed just with words.

To that extent, America is fully justified in saying that Europe should be paying more for its own defence—not only to up our game in absolute terms, but even if just to support a keyhole-surgery type approach of targeted rapid reaction and mobility. Let us not forget that the more that we rely on specialist forces, the more that technology comes into play. Here more than anywhere US research investment means that the US is pulling away from us so quickly that arms compatibility within NATO is becoming an ever more serious issue.

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On equipment, the Government seem concerned about maintaining competition within the arms industry. Some people believe that Europe should jealously guard its manufacturing capability. That may sound attractive, but frankly we have missed the boat, as Europe's historic unwillingness to invest in research now means that we have a great and ever growing reliance on US technology. Why waste time fighting the inevitability of market consolidation? We should actually be prioritising European and US arms compatibility—that is, if we are going to have any sort of industry in Europe at all in future.

The Government also need to be more upfront on the realities of our and Europe's weakening position. Why, for instance, have they been sitting on the fence with regard to America's national missile defence proposals? Earlier today the Secretary of State moved towards a positive position on the issue, but not quite. Surely it is in our best interests that America feels safe from attack. Why not help it to feel safe in a way that would enable us to receive the benefit of the missile shield against nuclear proliferation? Given our overall relationship with America, surely it is highly unlikely that a missile threat against America would not also pose a threat to us.

Effective defence measures do not begin and end with star wars projects. Indeed, our civil defence capability is widely seen as inadequate and underfunded. How many terror incidents must there be before we sort out our civil defence?

Finally, the Government need to appreciate that if we are to maintain our severely stretched operational capability and improve the technical capability of our military, we will simply have to increase spending on our armed forces.

5.14 pm

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North): President Bush said last week that the

That is clearly a political statement, and I believe that it is fundamentally flawed. Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda are not the same; even if there is sometimes similarity in means, there most certainly is not in nature.

This issue arose as a major point in today's debate, and the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman made much of the argument that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda are the same. However, those who say that there is a difference are not a small minority—whether in this House, in the country at large, or internationally. Last week, the Democrats in the United States Congress voted by a clear majority against the proposal to allow President Bush to do what he wanted in relation to any form of terrorism. It would be tragic and awkward for the Labour party if we were to be nearer to President Bush's position than that of the Democrats and many people in this country and the United States.

I regularly read American opinion polls, which show fluctuations in the level of support for action against Iraq. The message that is coming through is that the public do see a distinction. They sometimes forget about it, as a poll this week indicated. People were appalled at the aftermath of what happened in Bali, but when they begin to think, they see a clear distinction between what Saddam Hussein is—the threat and the theatre—and

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what the international terrorist is. Political error will generate error in military policies as well—in this country and in the United States. Once that began to show up in any conflict, the public opinion that supported dealing with the two theatres as one would melt away. Leaders in this country, the United States or elsewhere who argued that position would be seriously isolated from international public opinion.

The global terrorist is a relatively new phenomenon. In the past, there have been national terrorists and even international terrorists, as has already been alluded to, but the global terrorist is a reflection of the politically and economically global society that we now live in. The global terrorist is well informed, well trained, well equipped, determined, works under the cover of urban or rural society, and is often prepared to give his life. It might be cowardly to coerce a young militant into giving his life, but it is fanatical and brave and the ultimate sacrifice to be that young militant and to give one's life. My fear is that, by dealing with the two threats as one and further isolating the young Muslim international community from the rest of the world, we will create a breeding ground for more fanatics and more young men who are prepared to be brave and threaten democracy in a much wider forum.

Defending democracy and maintaining a stable society needs a completely different approach from that used in the cold war and post-cold war eras to deal with a conventional threat. We might as well recognise that now in our foreign policy and defence policy, and in the way we allocate public expenditure. If we do not do so, we will be back here again after further atrocities and a further failure to deal with the global terrorist. We will then have to commit ever-increasing resources to deal with an ever-growing situation.

To counter the global terrorist, we primarily need better intelligence. We need a dramatic increase in the existing intelligence provided by the various intelligence agencies, and perhaps we should bring such agencies together in a more co-ordinated way. I give credit to the Government for increasing expenditure on intelligence services. However, #15 million extra out of a combined Foreign Office and defence budget of about #24 billion will be shown to be inadequate. Some members of the Government will probably feel that too, and those who do must fight for better resources for that capacity and for a reallocation of existing resources.

Of course, we also need political association and political understanding, without which there is no point in having more intelligence. We will never be prepared to exchange 100 per cent. of our intelligence information—and we never should—but we need to be prepared to exchange intelligence to tackle a situation, whether in Indonesia, Afghanistan or wherever. We will not be able to share that intelligence, however, unless we share more of a common political platform. We must be able to have a relationship with the moderate states in the middle east, in the far east and in the area around Malaysia and Indonesia. If we do not have a common political cause, there is no way that our intelligence services will be able to share intelligence to track down the terrorist, who is as much of a threat to those societies as he is to the western societies that we inhabit.

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We need a completely different approach to Saddam Hussein. If he is a threat, and if his arms are about to be used, the measures that I would advocate for countering the individual terrorist and the small terrorist group will not work—more conventional forces, including tanks, air power and so on, will be needed, and we must retain that capacity. At the moment, however, I do not believe that Saddam Hussein is as serious a threat as he is made out to be. One might have thought, listening to the Front-Bench spokesmen in the debate that we had on the matter two or three weeks ago, that the Government really had evidence, apart from the dossier, that convinced them that he was a threat. At that time, I began to think that perhaps they had such evidence, as they displayed such determination and unity. I was in the United States last week, however, and one sometimes gets a different picture. The perspective there is different—apart from the situation with the Democrats, to which I have referred—and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency is saying in his advice to Congress, XThis guy is not an immediate threat, but he will be a threat if you guys let him believe that you are going to attack him." That is a serious flaw in the doctrine of pre-emptive strike. I believe that any pre-emptive strike would be extreme folly.

I do not know what will happen at the United Nations in the debates that follow. I hope that the debate today with members outside the Security Council is informed, and that it takes the United Nations down a route that will allow the situation in Iraq to be resolved, which means the return of the inspectors. It would be wrong, at this stage, to pre-determine what the United Nations reaction should be if the inspectors fail. Let us give them a chance. When they come back, if they say, XWe've been obstructed," or XWe've failed," it is incumbent on the United Nations to come forward with a further response. However, to argue—as has been argued by people such as President Bush—that our response should be pre-determined, and that everybody should know that Saddam will be attacked whatever happens, is a completely wrong strategy.

That kind of strategy, combined with a failure to understand the distinction between Saddam Hussein and the international terrorist, will lead many young Muslims worldwide into the hands of those who are prepared to commit atrocities. I do not believe that such people want to commit atrocities; I do not believe that they are any different from us as human beings. I believe that their political system has driven them into a situation in which it becomes honourable, as it was in the crusades, to commit one's life for a cause. That is highly dangerous for the developed world and for the world that wants to be based on democracy. That is why we must counter it.

I wanted to make one or two further comments, but I am mindful that other colleagues also want to speak. I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

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