Previous SectionIndexHome Page

4.44 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): All of us who listen to him can easily understand the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), and I have considerable sympathy for his concerns about keeping together the skilled teams at Warton and elsewhere. Nevertheless, I have an unpleasant and unpalatable question. Some of the contracts to which he referred—not all, but some—are surely for systems that are as relevant to Britain's 21st century needs as a fleet of dreadnoughts.

Let us take for our example the Eurofighter. As I understand it, 232 are on order, at about £80 million apiece. We have to ask whether we should give such financial priority to a cold war interceptor. What would be the consequences of reducing the number in terms of our relations with the German, Italian and Spanish partners? Some of us wonder whether such systems are suitable for any plausible 21st-century task, but before any decision can be made, we have to know the situation regarding contracts. What contracts have been signed, and what would be the cost of undoing a contract at a later stage? Ministers face an extremely difficult problem. The same sort of argument can be made in respect of Type 42 destroyers, at £1 billion apiece. Some of us have to ask at this stage what would be the military objective of such a sophisticated weapons system in a foreseeable task that our country may be called on to perform?

Sometimes—not very often—a colleague makes a speech in this Chamber that states a problem more eloquently than one could have done oneself. As one who raised the issue of Kosovo and was granted a private notice question on the subject on Monday, I can only say that the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) should be read by all who have to make decisions on that desperately difficult problem in the Balkans. I am glad that he referred to the nickel factory.

I shall simply relate a personal experience, and I hope to be forgiven for crudity. I went to stay for four days in Kosovo with my national service regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, which was on duty there. In the presence of the then colonel, David Allfrey, and the then second in command, now colonel of the regiment, Ben Edwards, I was able to talk at length with some of the local Albanian leaders. I would not have had that conversation had not the guns of the British Army been behind me, because they were pretty rough customers. They were truculent, saying, to put it crudely, "Of course we're going to win—we have the power of the

25 Mar 2004 : Column 1127

penis." By that, they meant that they were going to use population to achieve their objective—greater Albania. Some of us who opposed involvement in Kosovo from the beginning thought that we were being taken for a ride—twisted around the little finger of people whose agenda was very different from what Britain and the United States thought they wanted. The way in which we were manipulated by the Albanians must teach us a lesson.

Last week, with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, some hon. Members had long and serious discussions with the incoming Serbian delegation. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South was present and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) chaired the meeting, and they will bear out my account. The Serbs said, among other things, that it was all very well to talk about rebuilding Belgrade, but the old buildings were constructed under the Austro-Hungarian empire, so the centre of their capital city could not be rebuilt unless every stone was taken down and construction started again. Bitterness is mounting, and my impression, which my colleagues might share, was of a highly dangerous and explosive situation. People say that it will take between $30 billion and $100 billion to improve the position.

Turning to Afghanistan, after two and a half years, it has been restored to the warlords without our achieving the stated objective of the Afghan bombing, namely the apprehension of al-Qaeda members responsible for 9/11. What exactly are our objectives, and what is the time scale? Having listened to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch), I believe that we are entitled to say that it is easier to put troops in than pull them out. I hope that in the winding-up speeches we will be told what the short and medium-term objective in Afghanistan is. Drug production has gone up 14 times since the Taliban were in power, but I do not think that was the objective of the military intervention.

As for Basra, Brigadier Nick Clark said that there is a clear attack, not on the local community but on the coalition forces. We are seen more and more as an occupying army, and our presence is regarded as an extension of the crusades, which is highly dangerous. The Whips rightly asked me to be brief, so I shall ask one final question, which is not meant to imply, "I told you so." At 5.6 am on 18 December 1979, with Jack Weatherill in the Chair, as part of the old Consolidated Fund debate, I raised at inordinate length—I spoke for three quarters of an hour—the case of a young research student in the university of Brussels who had gone to Urenco at Almelo and pinched nuclear information about centrifuges and, more to the point, addresses of locations where various parts for nuclear weapons could be found. I then tabled two questions to the Prime Minister, and in the Corridor told Mrs. Thatcher, with whom I was then on very good terms, "I hope you don't think that I'm wasting your time with my concerns about this research student." She replied, "Whatever anybody else thinks, I do not think"—the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) will know very well how she could emphasise "I" and say it in a way that no one else could—"that you're wasting time at all." I deduced that the intelligence services were going to take a proper interest in the activities of that research student, whose name was Abel Qader Khan.

25 Mar 2004 : Column 1128

The debate started off with my saying that the Rosenbergs, Alan Nunn May, Klaus Fuchs and Bruno Pontecorvo combined may not have done as much damage as that research student. That is all history, but, as I have had rather succinct answers to my parliamentary questions, I want to know, once people were told that there was a problem, what effort was made in the past 10 years to follow it up and keep tabs on it. That man, who sold information to the Iranians, North Koreans and whomsoever has created mayhem, which even the atom spies did not achieve 20 years before. My question is, was that followed up, and have any lessons been learned?

4.54 pm

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) (Lab): I, too, will try to cut my speech down and keep it brief.

We had to deploy an extra 750 troops to Kosovo last week. The entire violent episode exposed the character of the Albanian separatists, some with terrorist and criminal links, who are now in leading positions of power in that province. The Kosovo Liberation Army never disbanded. It simply became the Kosovo Protection Corps. Agim Ceku—I name him again—the man who ethnically cleansed the Krajina, is in charge of the Kosovo Protection Corps.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) that what we saw last week was a flagrant example of ethnic cleansing: 3,500 Serbs were burned out of their homes by well organised gangs and joined the 200,000 who have been expelled from the province during the past five years. Those people are scattered all around Serbia and Montenegro in camps. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) and I, as officers of the joint group on Yugoslavia, visited some of those camps. I wish other hon. Members would take the trouble to do so. I am pleased that the spotlight is again on those forgotten ethnically cleansed people. Maybe now note will be taken of them.

The violent attacks against the Serbs and other minorities have gone on under the UN, KFOR and so-called protection force administration since the military campaign ended. It is inconceivable to me and many others in the House that thousands of troops from 30 countries are unable to protect the Serbs and other minorities living in the province. Between June 1999 and last week there were 6,923 attacks on the minorities by the Albanian separatists. I make a distinction between them, and people like Dr. Rugova and the men and women of peace in the Albanian community, but the separatists are in charge and they want an ethnically pure state and a greater Albania. Why else would they destroy 154 churches and monasteries? Why else would they want to wipe out a whole culture and eliminate diversity? Their aim is a greater Albania. I am old enough to remember another regime in Europe that sought to eliminate other races and cultures. The consequences for Europe and the world were disastrous.

The latest outbreak of ethnic cleansing was well organised. The Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, accused the Kosovo Albanians and said:

25 Mar 2004 : Column 1129

The UN spokesman said that more than 50,000 people took part in the violence. Only 163 have been arrested. The mob also turned against KFOR and the UN. We know, too, of the tragic killing of two UN policemen.

KFOR must take immediate steps to provide effective protection for the minority communities living under siege. The war criminals such as Agim Ceku and Hashim Thaci who give the Albanian community such a bad name should be arrested and taken to The Hague. UNMIK, which on several occasions has tried to overturn warrants and criminal proceedings against Ceku, should stop doing that.

Let me say something about the links between the separatists and other extremist Islamic groups. On 15 October 2003, a GIS/Defence and Foreign Affairs report—there have been regular reports since the 1970s—indicated that Ceku was directly engaged in support of Albanian-trained Islamic terrorists, and noted:

From visits to Interpol as a representative on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I know that some extremists in Albania and the Kosovo Liberation Army have links with al-Qaeda. Kosovo is in the hands of mafia extremists, organised crime is the main economic activity, and the sinister link to terrorism is definite. I agree with my hon. Friends, and, in particular, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short), that we must have a serious discussion about the final settlement in Kosovo, because the issue will not go away.

I shall turn briefly to the most pressing and dangerous situation facing our armed forces today—Iraq. I wish the Secretary of State had updated us on the horrific pictures that we saw yesterday, in which our soldiers were fighting people who were throwing petrol bombs at them. I hope that the Minister will address that point when he sums up. I deeply regret that, just more than one year ago, we were unable to stop what I consider to be an illegal, immoral and extremely dangerous invasion of Iraq.

We know that 600 coalition troops, including 60 British troops, have been killed, and thousands have been injured. It is deeply shaming to the Bush Administration that they take their dead and injured back to America in secret, and I congratulate our Government on honouring our dead, on making sure that the injured get the best possible treatment and on not trying to keep the public away.

I want to say something about the civilians who have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war, because most of the people who have been killed are civilians and their deaths are rarely reported. Dr. John Sloboda, an academic with the Oxford Research Group, has set up a body called, "Iraq Body Count", which is an independent count of media-reported civilian deaths as

25 Mar 2004 : Column 1130

a result of coalition military action and the occupation. His sources are published and are easily available on the internet for anyone to check or dispute, but, to the best of my knowledge, no one has done so up to now.

Dr. Sloboda and his team should be congratulated, and I shall quote from "Iraq Body Count", because, as part of the occupying force, my Government have a responsibility towards Iraqi civilians, and, at the very least, we should report and record the dead and injured:

The mother in that family kept saying this over and over again to the media:

Similarly, we were responsible for civilian deaths when we hit the wrong targets. At about 6 am, one family sheltering in a bunker, which had been constructed when the last American bombs fell, lost 10 members as the house collapsed around them. How can one compensate for that kind of tragedy?

Killings are still taking place under the occupation, and even in UK-controlled areas such as Basra, public security is inadequate. We now know that up to 10,600 civilians have died since we invaded in March 2003, and the civilian death toll is the worst from a war waged by either the United States or the United Kingdom since the Vietnam war. We should all reflect on that point: we should certainly not try to hide from it, and we should record the figures. The US-UK coalition has repeatedly said that it will not record the figures, and now the US-appointed Baghdad authorities have refused to recognise the need and the duty to account for those civilian deaths. As Dr. John Slobodo says, Iraqi civilians are now relegated to the status of "non-people."

Decisions have to be made about Iraq. With the death toll of American soldiers mounting and a presidential election in the offing, the United States is desperate to transfer powers by the end of June and wants to step back from the bubbling cauldron that it helped to create. That strategy of bringing democracy to Iraq stands little chance of success unless certain things happen. The temporary governing council, its ministers and their advisers all owe their allegiance to Mr. Bremer and the United States, and the Iraqi people know that. Many people in the interim Government are still based outside the country and show no signs of returning with their families to settle in Iraq, so they do not command much public confidence.

The intercession of the United Nations is welcome, but we want it to be done in a proper manner, and only if Kofi Annan is able, and is seen to be able, to act as a genuinely independent element in resolving the impasse. If Iraqis perceive him as providing a fig leaf for United States intentions, he, too, will be rejected. The situation in Iraq is desperate, and requires much more discussion.

Next Section

IndexHome Page