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12 Mar 2003 : Column 285—continued


Q6. [102271] Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): What plans he has to visit Indonesia to discuss with the President of Indonesia the campaign against international terrorism.

The Prime Minister: I have no plans at present to visit Indonesia but I have been in contact with President Megawati. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed counter-terrorism with President Megawati when he visited Indonesia in January.

Mr. Griffiths: I recognise my right hon. Friend's desire for a peaceful outcome to Iraq's compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, so will he accept that Indonesia—the largest Muslim nation in the world and emerging from dictatorship to take on the virtues of democracy and tolerance, but the victim of extremist Islamic international terrorism in Bali last October—desperately needs a peaceful outcome to the present

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Iraqi crisis, and support from the United Kingdom Government for its reform programme and in combating extremist Islamic terrorists?

The Prime Minister: First, I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done in this area and to the inter-faith work that he has carried out to promote greater understanding between the Muslim and Christian religions. I agree entirely with what he says about Indonesia. We are funding, to the tune of several million pounds, the transition of Indonesia to full democracy, helping it to develop the institutions that it needs and making sure that democratic participation in Indonesia is as full as it possibly can be. I agree with him entirely. Indonesia is a very important country for all sorts of reasons, not least because it has such a large Muslim population. It is important that we in the western world work closely with Indonesia to assist its progress.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): I echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). Will the Prime Minister accept that the key to stability and moderation in Indonesia and other similar Islamic states lies in the west—in particular, America and Britain—being seen to be even-handed in those situations in which Muslims are oppressed, especially those in Palestine and Kashmir?

The Prime Minister: I agree that the even-handedness of our approach is essential. That is why we have worked as far as we can—it is obviously a bilateral dispute—to assist the parties to reach agreement in Kashmir. I can only repeat what I said earlier about the middle east process. The plight of the Palestinians—and, indeed, the plight of innocent Israelis blown up in terrorist attacks—is dire and requires our attention. It would be the best signal of even-handedness that we could give right across the Muslim world if we were prepared to show the right energy and commitment to the middle east peace process. I will do everything that I can to ensure that we and others do that.


Q7. [102272] Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): May I thank my right hon. Friend for taking two days last week out of his very busy schedule to spend in Northern Ireland? Does he agree that it is important that, when dealing with terrorism, we do not operate with double standards? Can he give me and the people of Northern Ireland an assurance that he will not allow any deal to be entered into with the Irish Republican Army that allows terrorists on the run to evade the criminal justice system?

The Prime Minister: We have said that the issue of so-called on-the-runs has to be dealt with, and we have said that it should not be dealt with by way of an amnesty. We are looking at the right way of doing that. I hope that my hon. Friend will also agree that, for all the difficulties, the Northern Ireland peace process over the past few years has yielded enormous benefits. The fact that we are actually talking about a situation in which

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we can have a permanent end to violence in Northern Ireland is a huge tribute to everyone who has been involved in the process since 1997.

Q8. [102273] Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): Is the Prime Minister aware that, yesterday, the American Government issued invitations to five American corporations led by Mr. Cheney's Halliburton group to bid for the reconstruction of post-war Iraq and pointedly excluded British and foreign firms? Is the Prime Minister not embarrassed to have given such unstinting loyalty to an American President who regards international co-operation with such contempt and war as an opportunity to dish out contracts to his cronies?

The Prime Minister: I do not agree at all with the hon. Gentleman in relation to that. In respect of the American President and international co-operation, I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was as a result of many requests made to the US President that he went through the United Nations last year. I think that it is right, now, that the will of the UN is upheld. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree with that.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South): The contract for the aircraft carriers has been placed—the first stage—and offers great investment opportunities for our manufacturing industry. What advice would my right hon. Friend give to all involved so that we see maximum benefit from this contract in terms of new products and new markets and not just excellent employment opportunities but greater employment opportunities?

The Prime Minister: What my hon. Friend says is right. There is an additional point to consider, too. As a result of what is happening in, for example, the shipbuilding industry generally, skills and technology are being developed in this country. The order has had an enormously beneficial productive impact on our manufacturing base, and I congratulate all my hon. Friend's constituents who have been involved in it.

Q9. [102274] Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): The Prime Minister still commands majority support in his Cabinet, but does he feel that he needs support from the parliamentary Labour party, this House or, perhaps, the country as a whole before he commits us to war?

The Prime Minister: I have said all the way through that it is important, as I said a moment or two ago, to have a vote in the House, subject to the caveat I have always entered. I hope that the hon. Gentleman also understands, however, that it is important that I set out, as Prime Minister, what I believe to be right in this country's national interest. I have tried to do that over the past few months and believe that I have set out my position. I think there is a real threat to this country from the twin sources of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and if we do not deal with them, our world and our country will be a less secure and more dangerous place. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members will join us in that endeavour.

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Alan Howarth (Newport, East): Does my right hon. Friend agree that divisions in the UN, NATO, the European Union and, indeed, this House only give comfort and opportunity to Saddam? Does he also agree that a deadline receding into the summer heat haze is not a serious interpretation of "serious consequences" for incomplete compliance which were unanimously resolved by the Security Council last November? Given that Saddam has both motive and capacity to equip terrorists with chemical and biological weapons, does he further agree that it is an urgent necessity to disarm him whether or not there is another UN resolution?

The Prime Minister: I think the point that my right hon. Friend makes is absolutely right and he sets out precisely why we need to take action. The idea that we could leave British and American troops down there for months on an indefinite time scale, without insisting clearly that Saddam disarms, would send not only a message of weakness out to Saddam, but a message of weakness right across the world. That is why it is important that it is dealt with. I hope that even now those countries that are saying they would use their veto no matter what the circumstances will reconsider and realise that by doing so they put at risk not just the disarmament of Saddam, but the unity of the United Nations.

Q10. [102275] Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): Does the Prime Minister accept that I, and many of my constituents, would like to be convinced of and to believe his stance on Iraq? Does he also accept that it would greatly assist us if he published the legal advice that his Government have received?

The Prime Minister: It is not the convention to publish legal advice, but it is the convention to state clearly that we have a legal base for whatever action we take, and of course we must have such a legal base. I understand the concern and the strong arguments on the other side, but the argument for the hon. Gentleman's constituents and others is surely this: in circumstances in which we believe Saddam is a threat—I think most people believe that—and in circumstances in which we demanded that he co-operate fully with the United Nations and he has not—and everyone accepts that—unless we act and enforce that co-operation, we are setting the will of the United Nations at naught and are also saying to Saddam, "You can carry on building these weapons of mass destruction and we will do nothing about it." If we send the message to Saddam that he can carry on and that we do not have the will to stop him, I ask the hon. Gentleman and his constituents what credibility the will of the United Nations will have the next time either he or another tyrant or dictator tries to arm themselves with such weapons? That is why we have to act.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland): In these momentous times, by his heroic efforts to seek a second resolution in the United Nations, I believe that the Prime Minister has the overwhelming support of

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Members on both sides of the House. Are there not two great prizes for all his activities? The first is the credibility of the United Nations in seeking to enforce its resolutions because without that it will lose all credibility. The second is the ability to continue to persuade the President of the USA to go down the multilateralist route.

The Prime Minister: The point that my right hon. Friend made at the end is very important. We all agreed to take the multilateral route last November. Let us be clear, not everyone in every part of every Administration may have wanted to take the multilateral route, but we did so, and on the basis that Saddam had a final opportunity to disarm and that if he did not comply fully, unconditionally and immediately with UN inspectors, he would be in breach and serious consequences would follow. Not a single person—not a single person in Europe; not a single person in the rest of the world—believes that he is co-operating either fully or unconditionally, and certainly not immediately. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. What is at

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stake is the integrity of the multilateral process. Unless we uphold it now, we are never going to be able to uphold it in future times.

Q11. [102276] Andrew George (St. Ives): On a domestic matter, the Prime Minister's chosen rural tsar, Lord Haskins, has said that it is a good thing that small farmers are having to leave the industry. Last year, 15,000 farmers left or were forced out of the industry. Was that a cause for concern or celebration in Downing street?

The Prime Minister: I am afraid I have not caught up with Lord Haskins's comments, but of course not. The reason why we have tried to increase the amount of money going into agriculture is to support our farming industry, but it would be cruel to pretend to people in that industry that there does not also need to be change and reform. For that reason, we set up the commission headed by Don Curry, which has had immense support in the farming community. We are providing the funding to implement it, and I would hope that the hon. Gentleman would support us in doing so.

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