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21 Oct 2002 : Column 34—continued

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend is right to point out that indigenous Balinese people lost their lives; I mentioned that at the beginning of my statement. On his second point, were I someone who had been injured in this atrocity or the relative of someone who had been killed, I would be asking all these questions. It seems to me entirely reasonable that they should be asked. I think, however, that those of us who are or have been responsible for dealing with intelligence must also be responsible for ensuring that all the intelligence available is properly scrutinised—which it will be, in this case, by the ISC—and, in addition, provide reassurance about the nature of intelligence. Would that we had had intelligence that could have warned us of this atrocity, because we would then have issued a warning within seconds; but we did not, and responsibility for the atrocity is that of the terrorists and the terrorists alone.

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): To what extent are the Indonesian authorities co-operating with Australian and British police investigations?

Mr. Straw: My understanding is that they are co-operating thoroughly. That was a point made by President Megawati when she saw my noble Friend Baroness Amos, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, at her meeting earlier today.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): Does not this terrible, savage, barbaric terrorist tragedy show us once again just how difficult it is to get at the al-Qaeda network, or whoever else may have been involved in the bomb attack on Bali? If the only warnings we in the west had of the tragedy were generic, is it not even more difficult for the Indonesian Government? We tend to forget that they are only a three-year-old democracy, still emerging from the tragedy of Suharto's dictatorship and trying to establish democracy and human rights. If they had rounded up all who we have been told were involved in this particular tragedy, half the Indonesian population would have been in jail and human rights organisations everywhere would have been shouting about them.

Mr. Straw: Yes, it is difficult to get at such networks. As with criminal organisations, the first priority of terrorist organisations is to ensure that what they are doing does not come to the attention of law enforcers. They do not telephone the intelligence services and announce when their next atrocity will take place. That is why penetrating those organisations and gaining intelligence that can be relied on is inherently difficult. I believe that our agencies do it better than any other agency in the world, and they are joined in that high standard by a number of others; but it is still intrinsically difficult.

My hon. Friend speaks about Indonesia and its new democracy on the basis of considerable experience. We have a responsibility to help support the forces of democracy and of law enforcement in Indonesia, and we are seeking to do just that.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): As the Foreign Secretary will know, there have been a number of bomb

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outrages in Indonesia over the past year, including the bombing of the Jakarta stock exchange. Can he confirm reports that the bomb was not made from professional explosives such as C4, but from fertiliser and oil? If so, what comfort does he have that the bomb outrage was linked with al-Qaeda, and was not part of a continuing internal war of terror in Indonesia?

Mr. Straw: I cannot confirm those reports publicly.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Experience has taught us that the best way of reducing the number of acts of terrorism of this kind is to win over the hearts and minds of supporters and potential supporters of terrorism. Does my right hon. Friend agree that among Muslims in this country and throughout the world there is a wholly misplaced but deep sense of grievance against the west and against Christian countries? While that does not excuse these terrible acts in any way, how does my right hon. Friend expect a land invasion of Iraq, before there is a settlement of the Palestine question, to affect that sense of grievance and the likelihood of more terrorist acts?

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not go all the way in the direction in which he entices me. I will say, however, that nothing justifies this kind of atrocity. Yes, there is a separate issue. On the three occasions on which the west has intervened with military action on any scale during the last 12 years, we have saved hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions, of people who happened to be Muslims. That is what we should be saying. We should remind people that the last time we had to take military action against Iraq was because it had gratuitously invaded the law-abiding sovereign state of Kuwait, which is Muslim.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I shall first take the Standing Order No. 24 application.

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Fire Brigades Union

4.25 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to debate a specific and important matter that requires urgent consideration, namely,

In this brief submission, I am well aware that I am not allowed to go into the details of the subject. All I would say is that if any subject meets the three criteria listed in Standing Order No. 24 it is this one. Our emergency services are on the brink of being disrupted, and it is not just the fire service that will suffer if the fire brigade strike goes ahead. There will be repercussions for the railways, the underground and for many other parts of our national life. The matter is specific because the strike is due to take place next week, and no one could suggest for a moment that this is not a matter of grave public importance.

Mr. Speaker, you have at your discretion the opportunity to allow the House to debate this matter. Whatever one's views on the merits of the FBU's case, everyone in the House must feel that this subject should take precedence over other business before us, and that we should be able to debate it. Outside the House, people frequently say that we do not debate what is most relevant and pertinent in their lives: we are all accosted with that accusation. I submit that people who are likely to be affected by the strike will view with some incomprehension a House of Commons that does not debate it. I submit my application to you, Sir.

Mr. Speaker: I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member has said, and I have to give my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24. Therefore, I cannot submit the application to the House.

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Points of Order

4.26 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had a request from the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement clarifying the press reports that have created great anxiety among a number of people whose lives may be affected and who have to make preparations for a call-up of reservists? Surely there should be a statement in good time because, if that is to happen, people who have jobs as doctors, engineers or teachers will have to make some preparation and should be given maximum warning.

Mr. Speaker: I have had no approach from the Minister.

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the problems outlined so clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), the risk to the public and to the economy, and the difficulties faced in the Fire Brigades Union dispute, yesterday I contacted the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to ask whether he would make a statement to the House. Have you heard anything from his Office to indicate that he will make a statement later today or tomorrow?

Mr. Speaker: I have not heard from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the Deputy Prime Minister is not to make a statement, have you received an indication that any Minister is likely to make a statement on the important issue of the firefighters' strike?

Mr. Speaker: All I can say is that Ministers do not seem to be contacting me.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following the various points of order that we have heard from Conservative Members, have you had any notification from the Leader of the Opposition or from the Liberal Democrats that they want to use the Opposition day debate on Wednesday afternoon on the Government's mismanagement of the national lottery to pursue this subject?

Mr. Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) made a compelling case on a matter in respect of which the Prime Minister—belatedly, and astonishingly belatedly—has called the Cobra committee together only today. Do you recall, in your long years in the House, a Minister not coming to the House of Commons to make a statement on such a matter of the gravest and most fundamental national importance? If

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no Minister has burnt the wires to you over the weekend, will you ensure that Ministers learn from you that you think they ought to do so?

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