|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): On behalf of my party and my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party, I wish to associate myself fully with the condolences expressed to the Bigley family.
Today's statement has done nothing to justify the attack on Iraq. The Foreign Secretary referred to an intention to reconstitute weapons of mass destruction and intentions to resume a chemical weapons effort. As an upholder of international law, will he now lobby the United Nations to legitimise any further attack on a state based on its perceived future intentions, as revealed ex post facto?
That has never been the basis for action. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that chapter 7 of the UN charter sets out the circumstances in which the Security Council can declare a threat to international peace and security and authorise military action in that respect. I do not wish to detain the House, but I could do so with an account of the negotiating history that led to the operative paragraphs in resolution 1441 in November 2002. The hon. Gentleman and others need to look again at the motion that we put before the House, with Opposition support, on 18 March 2003. We invited the House to agree to military action overwhelmingly because of Saddam's failure to comply
12 Oct 2004 : Column 168
with Security Council resolutions. It was not to do with intelligence but with his failure to comply. That was the case then, and not a single word of the ISG report or any other confounds the conclusion that the House rightly reached on 18 March.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I feel a great sense of outrage that the UN was corrupted by Saddam Hussein's regime. I cannot believe that any hon. Member believes that Saddam worked so hard, using money and influence, to corrupt the UN into deciding to lift the sanctions because he wanted to improve the welfare of his people. Anybody who believes that is living in a fool's paradise. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether we can we examine the role of France and Russia on the Security Council. It would not have been possible to obtain a second or third resolution by the Security Council, because whatever Iraq did, France and Russia would have blocked the resolution. The corruption by members of the Security Council, by officials of the UN and by the regime deserves the fullest investigation. For example, when will the oil-for-food programme investigation reach a conclusion?
Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend makes some important points. She is right to say that an element of naivety existed in attitudes to Saddam. It would not have been okay if we had simply walked away, but that was the only alternative. We sought rigorous inspections, backed by the threat of military force and a clear ultimatum to use it unless Saddam complied. That is what Franceleaving aside Russiasaid that it would veto in any circumstances, and that meant that Saddam thought that he was off the hook, as he would have been. France and other countries would have rued the day that they allowed that to happen, because he would have emerged much stronger as a result of his degradation of the UN by beating the resolutions.
Several inquiries are taking place, including one by the UN itself. It is important that we do not prejudge that, but on the basis of the evidence in the 1,000 pages provided by Duelfer, several individuals have a big case to answer.
12 Oct 2004 : Column 167
12 Oct 2004 : Column 169
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that thousands of jobs depend on air bases at Kinloss and Lossiemouth in my Moray constituency, and that grave concern is felt about potential cuts or closure under the ongoing airfield review by the Ministry of Defence. Since last night, the media have been tipped off that an announcement was set to be made about the review process. In fact, several media representatives called me at 11.20 this morning, quoting from a letter by the Minister of State about the bases in my constituency. I only received a faxed copy of that letter an hour later and the hard copy has still to arrive on the board. Is that an appropriate way for a Department to deal with important constituency concerns, especially when hundreds if not thousands of jobs are at stake? What remedy is available to Members to ensure that such cynical media management does not continue?
Mr. Speaker: I am deeply concerned about that situation if it is true. Men and women in the hon. Gentleman's constituency are genuinely worried about their future. He and the House should be the first to know. If the media want to know, we provide passes and the facilities of the Press Gallery to them so that they can hear what Ministers have to say. I would hope that the hon. Gentleman will go to the Table Office and inquire into the situation. I hope that it is noted that I expect statements to be made to the House, not elements in the media to be tipped off, especially about matters as serious as job losses.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con):
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the House will have welcomed your strong stand and your admonishment of the Government. May I draw to your
12 Oct 2004 : Column 170
attention the fact that the Ministry of Defence is scheduled to make several ministerial statements on the Order Paper today, but there is no reference to the future of Lossiemouth, Kinloss or any other Royal Air Force airfield?
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance on whether we will have a statement on the breaches of security that took place in this House during the demonstrations by the Countryside Alliance? Are we in a position to understand precisely how members of the public were able to get into this Chamber?
Mr. Speaker: This matter is being considered by the Joint Committee on Security. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate the difficulty that I have, because security matters should not be openly discussed on the Floor of the House. The matter is being considered and I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear with me.
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During the statement, you will have heard my question to the Foreign Secretary about an apology to the House from the Prime Minister for a statement that proved invalid. The Foreign Secretary's response, which you will also have heard, was that the Prime Minister apologised to the Labour party conference. Is it your view, Mr. Speaker, that the House and the Labour party conference are synonymous?
As the right hon. Lady knows, when I became Speaker the Labour party and I parted companyon perfectly good terms of course, but we parted company.
12 Oct 2004 : Column 169
12 Oct 2004 : Column 171
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish Civil Welcoming Ceremonies, Responsibility to Children Agreements and Coming of Age Ceremonies; to make provision as to their conduct; and for connected purposes.
During my time in Birkenhead, my constituents have almost refashioned the way in which they see my role. Twenty-five years ago, when they first elected me to represent them in the House, most of the agenda was class politics. My constituents were concerned about whether I could help them achieve a new house, gain a welfare benefit or protect their job. That agenda has been transformed, almost beyond recognition.
Increasingly, in place of that class politics, my constituents ask whether I can help them to stop people behaving in an uncivilised way towards them, their families and their local communities. In the 25 years I have been the Member for Birkenhead, I have witnessed the replacement of class politics by the politics of behaviour.
There was no one point when it was clear that that transition had taken place. At first, I tried to justify gross incidents of incivility as exceptions, but I can remember the occasion 10 years ago when a group of decent working-class pensioners came to see me and I realised that politics had changed for the worse and, certainly in the short term, for good. They explained the nightmare they were living through: young lads who ran across their bungalow roofs, banged on their windows, peed through their letter boxes and jumped out of the shadows to try to give them heart attacks. They explained that the police were powerless to act to give them the sort of life that they expected. Those pensioners were the bedrock of our country. They had always worked hard and added more than they ever expected to take out, yet they found that the world in which they believed they would end their days was fast crumbling before them.
Both the last and the current Governments have attempted to respond to that changed situationthe politics of behaviour. Almost all of us welcomed the measures that the previous Conservative Government and this Labour Government have taken. The Government are rightly concerned as to whether we can hold the line more effectively against uncivilised behaviour.
The Bill begins to redress the balance. As well as holding the line even more effectively, we need to look at the root causes and to consider why we are increasingly surrounded by constituents who make pleas to which we can only partly respond. The very nature of politics is changing because the agenda has changed.
In the past, we took it for granted that people's behaviour had nothing to do with politicians. We had a peaceable kingdom because families, largely, functioned to ensure that although each of their members thought they were the most important person in the world, they realised that there were three or four other people in the household who thought that, too, and that an agreement had to be struck. In coming to those
12 Oct 2004 : Column 172
agreements in our families, we were all taught the social skills that enabled us to go into the wider community and behave in almost as civilised a fashion as in our families.
During my time as a Member, we have witnessed first a small but now, sadly, an increasing number of families who have no idea that their duty is to teach their offspring those common virtues. We have never had to deal with the issue, but now because families, supported by trade unions, Churches, friendly societies and mutual aid societies, all singing from the same hymn sheet, sadly, do not carry the weight they once did, we as politicians have to turn to that most difficult task.
Although any politician who thinks there is a panacea for such a fundamental issue should be led quietly away, put in a dark room, given a high dosage of pills and asked to recover, that does not mean that we should not attempt to build up a more effective programme. In the next parliamentary Session, the Home Office will give us another Bill on antisocial behaviour, and I hope that my Bill gives a flavour of some of the measures that we should like to see in that Bill.
I accept that, sadly, there is a slow walking away in this country from the role that organised religion played in the way we govern our behaviour. I do not believe that, as individuals, we have much chance of reversing that, but the Bill takes what were religious ceremonies and secularises and universalises them. It accepts that although those ceremonies were religious in intent, they also had a civic value in binding people to the wider community where they were treasured as individuals but to which they had responsibilities.
Part of the Bill takes the idea of baptism and secularises it, not to replace baptism where it occurs but to have a ceremony that adds to it. When the British Expeditionary Force went to France in the first world war, more than 99 per cent. of our soldiers were baptised. When we sent our forces to Iraq, fewer than four in 10 were baptised.
The Bill would provide for a ceremony that was once universal, to remind children and families that there is a wider community beyond the importance of the family. It would universalise that idea in a welcoming ceremony. In place of a hurried and unimportant entry in the registry of births, there would be a public ceremony in which we would welcome the child into the community. We would say what we want the child to achieve and set out the resources that we want, to ensure that parents can bring out the best in their child.
Likewise, the Bill would universalise the Jewish coming of age ceremony, the Bar Mitzvahalthough without the presents. It is important that all our children know that there is a point when they begin to move from childhood to adulthood, and that as they make that move, so we expect their behaviour to change from the innocencewe hopeof childhood to an awareness of the greater responsibilities of adulthood.
No one would pretend that the Bill, even if it is embraced as enthusiastically as I hope it will be by the House, presents the panacea. However, I hope that it will do two things. First, I hope that it will give some idea of the positive measures that the Government will include in the new antisocial behaviour Bill, so that while we are more effectively holding the line against uncivilised behaviour we also look at its deep-seated root causes and prepare to deal with them.
12 Oct 2004 : Column 173
Secondly, to help concentrate the Government's mind on their task, I hope that, before they publish their Bill, a number of like-minded Members will introduce a much more comprehensive measure than mine, which will both hold the line, because that is what our constituents most want us to do, and look at those root causes, because they want us to do that, too. Where families have failed, politics might achieve, so I commend the Bill to the House.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|