Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): As my right hon. and learned Friend will know, Sergeant Roberts was one of my constituents, and I had the privilege on Remembrance day of placing a commemorative flag on a war memorial. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the Ministry of Defence has an obligation to the families of those who served us, not just those who lost their lives, and that the lack of clarity and lack of dispatch with which information has been made available is a sad reflection on the Ministry of Defence's responsibilities in that matter?

Mr. Campbell: If there is an inquiry, I hope that it will meet the criticisms that my hon. Friend has made. Since he raises the question of dealing with the families, we note with interest the proposals in the Gracious Speech to deal better with compensation and pensions, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) has been particularly assiduous as a result of a tragic case involving one of his constituents. If there is to be enhanced provision, we should clearly welcome it.

We are told in the Gracious Speech that there is to be a defence White Paper. The last defence White Paper was the result of extensive consultation and it was a document that could legitimately be described as having been drawn up with considerable intellectual rigour. It enjoyed considerable support on both sides of the House and indeed outside it. I express the hope that the same sort of intellectual rigour will be evident on this occasion. If we are looking at the sort of extended engagements of British troops that might be necessary in Iraq, I hope that when it comes to the retention of regiments, there will be no exercise in cost-cutting for the sake of cost-cutting.

To make a personal plea, one of the regiments thought to be under threat is the Black Watch, a distinguished Scottish regiment that happens to recruit in my constituency and nearby. From the point of view of recruitment in Scotland, if any such famous regiments were to be further amalgamated or disbanded, the Army might find it difficult to draw from Scotland the sort of quality and numbers that it has been able to call on in the past.

27 Nov 2003 : Column 170

I shall now deal with the campaign against terrorism. One could argue, even putting Iraq in such a prominent position as I have, that that must be the No. 1 priority for British foreign policy. I have some anxieties about the more evangelical rhetoric that the Prime Minister and President Bush used last week. Far be it for Liberal Democrats to object to something approaching a Gladstonian vision, but one has to be more pragmatic about the way in which one tries to bring about, for example, the spread of democracy in the middle east. There is a risk that talking in evangelical terms makes it sound like a crusade, which tends to suggest the Christian west against the Muslim east. Using the right language in these matters is extremely important, and sensitivity to different traditions is essential.

We must try to deal robustly—if necessary by military means—with direct signs of terrorism, but we must also try to deal with the factors that allow terrorism to exist and to flourish. I am not so naive—nor is anyone in the House so naive—as to believe that a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would induce terrorists throughout the world to lay down their weapons and declare that the reason for their existence had been removed. However, it is important to find mechanisms that undermine the popular support that terrorist organisations enjoy, particularly in the middle east, and there is no doubt whatever that making progress on the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians would go far in that direction.

I have been critical of the United States and President Bush, but we have to recognise that information is now available that certain credits have been held back. We should acknowledge and be grateful for that, because any knowledge of the American political system and the onset of a presidential election year makes one understand that such steps, which may have an effect on the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, may be difficult for any presidential candidate to take. The move contains echoes of that taken by the President's father who similarly held back credits to Israel because of the settlements policy. His father was also responsible for driving forward the Madrid conference that ultimately led to the Oslo accords that, unhappily, did not reach the fruition for which we all hoped. However, we should acknowledge—particularly those of us who have been critical in the past—that the US Administration have taken a step that we hope will have some influence on the policies of Mr. Sharon.

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): The right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks with great authority and much common sense. However, will he say whether he agrees with the argument that the terrorists themselves have made it clear by their actions against the Muslim populations in Indonesia and Turkey that this issue is not about a clash of religious ideologies? Many Muslims have been the victims of terrorist outrages.

Mr. Campbell: The issue may be more complicated than the hon. Gentleman and I have put it. Among those in Iraq are those who have come through the porous borders in exercise of some kind of jihad. In the terrorist activities that have taken place, they have been wholly indiscriminate about the consequences of

27 Nov 2003 : Column 171

what they do. To that extent, I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, it is not difficult to discern, not least from the rhetoric, that the view of some of these terrorist groups is that they are concerned with what they perceive in their rather perverted way to be a robust exposition and implementation of a code of Islam. As we have already heard in the debate, such views have been roundly condemned by many leading scholars and imams. The issue is a little more complicated than the hon. Gentleman and I have acknowledged, but I am certain that we must not let the argument descend to the terms that it is about such a clash. It is essential that the response that we think is right does not assume the aspect of a crusade or something of the like.

As for the European Union, the draft constitution is not perfect. On subsidiarity and proportionality, it is too weak. There is provision for a so-called yellow card, but there should be a red card if a sufficient number of Parliaments object to proposals. It is technically true that we could have enlargement without a fresh treaty—the provisions of the Nice treaty allow for that—but it would be a pretty peculiar European Union if we were to proceed not just on the basis of Nice, but on the basis of Rome, Maastricht and Amsterdam as well. The purpose of a constitution is to try as far as possible to introduce clarity into an institution that has developed and grown—of that there can be no doubt—but whose powers and competences are often very difficult to ascertain. Such powers and competences often appear on the face of it to contradict one another.

I do not believe that the Government will make any concessions on defence, tax, social security, own resources or, despite Mr. Berlusconi's best efforts in Naples, even on foreign policy, either now or in a fortnight. In that regard, the Government obviously have the support of the whole House.

The constitution is an exercise that is well worth conducting and I hope that it will produce, after the intergovernmental conference, a document that can fulfil the objectives that I have described. I dismiss the views attributed to the Foreign Secretary last week as an effort to set up a negotiating position or something of that kind. I cannot really believe that he thinks that we could live with an enlarged EU that is based on existing treaties with all the defects in them that, I hope, I have outlined.

I shall refer briefly to the United Nations. In 60 years, the UN has increased its membership from 51 countries in a world population of 2.5 billion to 188 countries in a world population of about 6 billion. In that time, the institution of the UN has barely changed. That is why reform of the Security Council is certainly desirable. This is not the occasion to discuss the details, but we should have a Security Council that better reflects the world in 2003 and 2004 rather than one that reflects the peace settlement of 1945.

The UN must direct its attention to one issue, and I hope that it falls within the scope of the group established by the Secretary-General and of which Lord Hannay is to be a distinguished member. I refer to the speech made by the Prime Minister in Chicago on 22 April 1999 in which he quite rightly said that the

27 Nov 2003 : Column 172

In September of the same year, the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in his annual address to the General Assembly that

He is further on record as saying that, although we should recognise the sovereignty of states by all means, we must recognise the sovereignty of individuals as well.

If we are to give any credence to a doctrine of intervention, it must have a clear framework and be defined and qualified by formal criteria and principles. That doctrine must also be endorsed by the UN as a whole. I will not try to give an exhaustive list of what it should contain, but it must certainly contain the proposition that all diplomatic and political methods have been tried and have failed. It should also contain the proposition that intervention is likely to result in a better state of peace and that those who intervene will be willing to commit themselves not only to peace enforcement but to peacekeeping and, if necessary, to the provision of substantial economic resources in the long term once stability has been restored.

A final issue is Guantanamo bay. Although in some respects it is a Home Office matter, it is a foreign policy matter as well. The proposed military tribunals are unsatisfactory and do not constitute fair trial or due process. They most certainly do not meet the standards of the domestic law of the states of the United States. As I have said before in the House, if we were keeping people on the Isle of Wight in similar circumstances with similar intentions, every Senator worth his salt would be over here knocking on the door of the Foreign Office and saying, "This will not do." No doubt, they would be accompanied by every Congressman as well.

We now understand that Guantanamo bay is an affront to the Law Lords and it is certainly an affront to legal academics, to many people in the United States and to public opinion. I discern that it is an affront to the British Government. We must continue to press the United States to ensure that there is a proper and fair trial that is consistent with the recognised principles of criminal law, that allows people the representation that they want and that allows them to see all the evidence that may be used to convict them. The Government have an overwhelming obligation to do that. Both sides of the House and, no doubt, Labour Back Benchers too will hold the Government to their obligation to ensure that, no matter how heinous the allegations may be against any British citizen, he or she is entitled to due process and a fair trial.

For us, foreign affairs involve the application of the principles of internationalism, liberal values and a respect for human rights. We shall judge the Government by those principles in the forthcoming year. When Government policy adheres to those principles, they can look forward to our support. However, if we are not satisfied that those principles lie at the very heart of their foreign policy, we shall take every opportunity to criticise them and to remind them of their failures.

27 Nov 2003 : Column 173

Next Section

IndexHome Page