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Westminster Hall

Thursday 4 November 2004

[Mr. Edward O'Hara in the Chair]

War against Terrorism

[Relevant documents: Seventh Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2003–04, HC 441, and the Government's response thereto, Cm. 6340.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Gillian Merron.]

2.30 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab): I am pleased to introduce for this afternoon's debate the seventh report from Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The report is the fifth in a series on foreign policy aspects of the war against terrorism produced by the Select Committee since the tragic events of 9/11. It covers   a broad range of issues, from the political and security situation in Iraq to Russia's stockpiles of chemical weapons. Indeed, we made 74 conclusions and recommendations.

I have always believed that such Select Committee reports are useful in allowing Committee members to gain expertise in the field. We produce them not only for the wider public, but for colleagues in both Houses of Parliament. I was delighted that the report was hailed in a debate in the other place in September using glowing superlatives that I would be reluctant to use myself. I am sure that the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) would underline the remark made by the then leader of his party in the House of Lords that the report was "brilliant".

As usual, as part of our inquiry, we heard oral evidence, received written evidence from a range of witnesses, and held discussions with senior officials in New York, Washington DC, Moscow, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some members of the Committee were also able to continue our series of visits to Iraq.

My aim today is first to introduce the report to the Chamber and then to update it. We should recall that the Committee drew its conclusions in the middle of July. An interesting feature of foreign affairs is that events move so speedily. Since then, there have been several key developments in this moving picture. There have been elections, as the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday, not only in Afghanistan, to which I shall refer in a moment, but in the United States. Both elections may be relevant to the matters that we are discussing. Equally, there have been events concerning key leaders such as President Musharraf, and the possibly serious illness of President Arafat, who is in intensive care.

Iraq has become a battleground for al-Qaeda, with appalling consequences for the people of that country. We state that the violence stems from several sources such as members of the former regime, local Islamists and criminal gangs, as well as al-Qaeda. The lack of law and order in some areas has been particularly damaging and has affected the credibility of the coalition. Clearly it is the aim of those who take hostages, blow up
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pipelines and attack electoral officials to make the country ungovernable and, in effect, to create anarchy. Surely it is the aim of the rest of the world community to isolate, so far as we can, those who can be brought into the tent from the fundamentalists or wreckers.

The Iraqi security forces have made significant progress, but they remain a long way from being able to maintain security. They are also being targeted. There was the appalling incident on 23 October when about 50 army recruits were killed in an apparent ambush—again, part of the campaign by the insurgents to destabilise the country. Until the Iraqi forces can maintain security, foreign forces are likely to be required. Indeed, we hope that following the elections in January, with a new legitimacy for the Government of Iraq, the outside forces will be able to move increasingly into the background and into a supportive role.

United Nations Security Council resolution 1546, adopted in June, gives the multinational force a mandate to be in Iraq

It is surely regrettable that countries other than the United States and the United Kingdom have failed to   send significant numbers of troops to Iraq, which makes the strain on our forces more intense. It would be    particularly beneficial if Islamic states could be persuaded to add their forces. What are the Government doing to encourage other states to send forces to Iraq? Perhaps the result of the election in the United States has made it more difficult for certain countries to respond, but all would be affected if there were a significant failure in Iraq.

We know that British personnel play a vital role in Iraq, and their safety is a serious concern, especially with the increase in the number of kidnappings. Thinking of the dreadful murder of Ken Bigley and the capture of Margaret Hassan, I ask again: what are the Government doing to safeguard the security of British personnel in Iraq?

On the political developments in Iraq and the role of the United Nations, the process of wide-ranging consultation overseen by the United Nations plays an important role in the formation of the Interim Government, but the work of the United Nations is being severely hindered by the security situation. That is understandable, given the tragic events of August 2003 when the then UN leader in Iraq was blown up with so many of his staff.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who like me is a Christian, is particularly shocked at the revelation that the Iraqi Christian minority is being deliberately targeted for the most vicious treatment by the terrorists. Will he say a few words to suggest what support the Foreign Office can offer so that that minority can live in freedom? I hope that the Foreign Office will then respond to that. The Christian minority had a degree of stability in their lives even under Saddam, but that stability has now been taken away.

Donald Anderson : That, alas, has been one of the unintended consequences of the invasion. I, too, have seen reports of not only the bombing of Christian churches but threats to individual Christian families.
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That is a long way from the vision of those, including ourselves, who invaded Iraq, where the Christian minority was reasonably well protected and people such as Tariq Aziz were in government at the time. I hope that our Government will take full note of what my hon. Friend has said and that they will, as far as they can, talk to the authorities in Iraq to say that we are very keen on human rights generally, and that we are concerned at the threats that have been made to minorities, including the Christian community.

On the United Nations, I ask my hon. Friend the Minister what progress has been made in creating a    force to provide security for UN personnel and    facilities. That is particularly relevant given the elections scheduled for January. It is highly desirable that those elections proceed on schedule to foster Iraqi engagement and confidence in the country's political transition. Continued violence can only hinder the validity of that process. Election registration and polling efforts will be key targets for the terrorists, so what are we as an international community doing to assist preparations for the elections? What is being done specifically to provide help and security to UN election workers? It would be a signal triumph for the forces of unreason—the wreckers—if the timetable were not to proceed as hoped for. Although it is clear that there is potential for certain no-go areas to exist—hence the current threat to Falluja—the alternative to a positive outcome in Iraq may be a failed state and regional instability. It is most important that we progress to a legitimate Government who are allowed to make their own mistakes and whom the people see as their own, via the international community.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon) (Con): I very much appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. He mentioned Falluja. Does he agree that before some kind of US-led assault on Falluja takes place, it is crucial that every effort is made to ensure that a peaceful solution is sought with the Iraqi terrorists—perhaps not with those who have come from outside—and that civilians living there have every opportunity to escape? Does he think that such efforts have been made?

Donald Anderson : I know that some efforts have been made. There has been leafleting and an attempt to warn civilians in Falluja to leave in preparation for a potential assault that will try to separate the absolute fundamentalists—the bitter-enders—from the more reasonable elements of the population, many of whom are intimidated and frightened to leave. If one can show that every effort has been made to protect, warn and safeguard the civilian population, it will be a test of   whether the Falluja onslaught—if it comes—is legitimate.

I turn to Afghanistan, where the picture is broadly positive but fragile. There has been improvement in key areas such as education, women's rights and even private investment. We welcome security and the support that was given by the United States to the electoral process. We are pleased at the news that President Karzai was officially declared the winner yesterday with 55.4 per cent. of the vote. It is clearly unfortunate that the voting was largely on tribal lines
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with the Pashtun majority supporting the President and   the Uzbeks supporting Mr. Dostum. Despite a number of reported irregularities, the election was a great success and such irregularities were not in themselves sufficient to question the result. The parliamentary elections in Afghanistan scheduled for spring 2005 will obviously pose a greater challenge because of their nature.

It is essential for the democratic process and the accountability of the President that parliamentary elections are held on schedule, so I ask the Minister what the Government are doing to assist the holding of those elections and to encourage broad assistance from the   international community. We shall examine with great care what President Karzai does. He clearly has enormous problems; he cannot wipe the slate clean in respect of those around him, but he needs to appoint those not tainted with corruption to his Cabinet. Although he initially had an understandable wish to have a large-tent approach, perhaps he should modify that to ensure that more respectable people are around him, particularly because the security forces are spreading out beyond Kabul.

The other interesting feature from the Committee's point of view is that when we were in Peshawar, we were able to speak to individuals who claimed to be moderate members of the Taliban—if that is not a contradiction in terms. Apparently, there is now an earnest debate going on in Afghanistan as to how they respond to those of the Taliban, in exile in Pakistan and elsewhere, who wish to return.

On the subject of drugs, which was part of our survey in Afghanistan, we concluded that there was little sign of the war against drugs being won and that the situation is likely to get worse, at least in the short term. That in an area in which foreign policy shades into domestic policy. We know that 95 per cent. of heroin in the United Kingdom comes from Afghanistan. We are living in the new globalised world where what happens on the streets of our constituencies is highly relevant to what happens in what in the past might have been called a "faraway place of which we know little".

I am told that our Committee's conclusion on drugs is confirmed by the report on drugs has been complied by the United Nations and which was due to be launched tomorrow, but is now to be launched in a few weeks. The report will show that progress has been much slower than had been hoped and will paint a gloomy picture. Clearly, we need to redouble the efforts, particularly because we in the United Kingdom are head of the counter-narcotics group. Our approach must incorporate eradication and interdiction.

There is also a need for alternative livelihoods that provide a living wage. Given the figures that we were shown about the yield per hectare of heroin and wheat, there is no way in which alternative crops are likely to provide farmers with anything like the income that they will get from heroin. Perhaps only the force of law can prevent farmers from producing that very tempting crop.

There is an overriding need for security and to achieve progress on that and other issues. High-level arrests must be made to demonstrate the unacceptability of links with the drugs trade. We understand that there is   also a health problem in relation to addicts in
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Afghanistan, including those who have returned from exile. What are the Government doing to reinvigorate efforts to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan? Is there any evidence that the price of heroin supplies in this country has been affected? What could provide suitable alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers and what are the Government doing in that area?

Given the gloomy conclusions of the UN report, how are we seeking to monitor the situation before the publication of the next UN report in roughly a year's time? What is being done to establish treatment centres across Afghanistan? Will the Government undertake to report regularly to Parliament on the progress or, sadly, perhaps the lack of progress?

When the Committee was in Afghanistan, it was able to meet both the UK forces in the provincial reconstruction team and the leaders of the NATO forces. We have played an important role in improving the security of the situation. We are training the Afghan army and police units so that they can assume responsibility for their own population. There is clearly an urgent need to achieve disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. We need to devote greater resources to that. We know that if adequate security resources are not provided, there will be a real danger of implosion in that fragile country.

In Istanbul in June, NATO member states agreed on a major expansion of the alliance's role in Afghanistan, particularly with regard to extending the reach of the international security assistance force beyond Kabul. However, the implementation of the NATO response has been unsatisfactory and there is also the question of national caveats, which hinder the effectiveness of NATO troops. Are the commitments made by the NATO forces sufficient? Indeed, are the commitments being made? Clearly, there is a pressing need for the Government to put pressure on countries to fulfil the undertaking that they gave in Istanbul. Although France and Germany are doing well, other countries, such as Italy and Spain, are way behind.

It is clear that Pakistan has provided invaluable assistance in the war against terrorism, such as by launching campaigns in the tribal areas along the   borders with Afghanistan. Many suspected and actual members of al-Qaeda have been arrested. The Committee received a briefing from the senior military officer in Peshawar relating to the problems in the tribal areas and was able to appreciate the real problems in that region, which, although not exactly the wild west, is difficult and turbulent.

We understand the serious domestic constraints under which President Musharraf operates. Some areas are dominated by forces sympathetic to the Taliban and   al-Qaeda; indeed, while we were there we passed   the area where two attempts were made on President Musharraf's life last December. What are the Government doing to assist Pakistan's effort to reform the education system and to encourage development efforts in the tribal areas? Dealing with the madrassahs is one way we can assist in addressing the root causes of extremism.

We also expressed, quite properly, our concerns about the state of democracy and human rights. On 1 November, Pakistan's upper House passed a Bill allowing President Musharraf to remain head of the
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army. That legislation will take effect from 31 December this year, despite his having pledged to stand down. The    human rights situation in Pakistan remains unacceptable. To turn again to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) made about the Christian minority's position, I and other colleagues have received briefings from Christian Solidarity Worldwide on the disturbing reports of attacks on Christians in recent months, including the deaths of a number of individuals. However, we recognise that the Shi'a mosques are also affected.

President Musharraf, with all the internal difficulties that he faces, has made speeches in which he has called for a law banning honour killings and recommended that the Hudood ordinances and the blasphemy laws be scrutinised to prevent further abuses. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 600 women were killed in the name of honour in Pakistan in 2003. We should all welcome the President's words, but encourage him to go further than merely scrutinising the blasphemy laws, which have had such an adverse impact on minority groups, and reform or repeal them. We have to understand the formidably difficult context within which President Musharraf operates, but the Government should do everything possible to encourage Pakistan to do more to adhere to international human rights standards and guarantee the rights of all Pakistani citizens.

The last issue that I shall discuss is the Israel-Palestine conflict. The new factors include the result of the US election and what effect, if any, it will have. Will we see a conventional second term, when the US President, knowing that he does not have to face the electorate and wanting his place in history, is more ready to strike out boldly? Will President Bush be ready to intervene in the conflict as strenuously as President Clinton was and does he realise the enormous damage that is being done to the United States image in the Arab world by the perceived partisan position that the US has taken? The continued violence and suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people clearly highlight the need for a resolution of the conflict. That resolution would be an essential component of efforts to defeat terrorism and promote reform in the middle east. Whether the terrorists are using the fact of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a catalyst or excuse, we do not know.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is implicitly critical of the US Administration's position on the Israel-Palestine problem. However, have they not taken a less forward role because they have come to the conclusion that Arafat is not a partner for peace and that, after what President Clinton tried to do at Camp David and Taba, there has been no point in pursuing the issue very aggressively? Given the present circumstances perhaps that is about to change, but does the right hon. Gentleman think that we need a post-Arafat era before peace can be achieved, or should the Americans have tried to make progress while Arafat was in charge?

Donald Anderson : It is difficult to say clearly what the reasons are. Will history see President Arafat, who is, of course, now gravely ill, as the Hamlet of Palestine, who was never able to reach a decision? To what extent were the political constraints on him too intense? He has had
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several opportunities, but failed to make decisions, so one understands the hesitations of the US. Nevertheless, subject to his illness, he still holds the flag and is still a symbol of the people of Palestine. He has brought them from the refugee camps to at least the possibility of a two-state solution. He is the elected president, and we should do all that we can to work with him—assuming that he is able to resume his duties—rather than to shun him.

My hon. Friend—I think that I can call him that in this context—will know that, towards the end of his presidency, President Clinton expended enormous human and political capital at Camp David on trying to reach a solution, and he came extremely close. Yet, the incoming Bush Administration seemed to want to do anything but become involved. For a year or more, they refused to intervene, if only to be different from Clinton. I hope that there will be no such hiatus or vacuum during the second Administration.

Mr. Maples : My point was that the Bush Administration paid no attention until 11 September precisely because of President Clinton's experience at Camp David and subsequently at Taba. He came to the conclusion, which the Bush Administration presumably understood, that no deal would be reached with Arafat, so it was a waste of time devoting attention to the issue.

Donald Anderson : That is a possible reason, but the European Union, for example, did not reach the same conclusion. At the very least, let us converge by saying that there is no reason for further delays. We should remember that an earlier Administration sent Mr. Baker to the area, and that initiative led via Madrid to Oslo.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): I rather share the assessment that my hon. Friend the Member for   Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) made of the Americans' motivation. However, as someone who has visited Israel several times and who recently saw the plight of the Palestinians in the west bank and Gaza, let me reinforce the right hon. Gentleman's point by arguing that it is extraordinarily dangerous for the United States to leave a vacuum in the Arab-Israeli dispute. Now is the time for a decisive step forward, lest very ugly forces be unleashed.

Donald Anderson : I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In Prime Minister's questions yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the issue is his priority. We know from the documents leaked to The Daily Telegraph that the theme of his senior adviser two years ago was to keep the issue of Israel-Palestine high on the agenda. There is now no excuse for not seeking to address it as best we can.

The Committee noted the failure by both sides to implement the measures outlined in the road map. We reiterated our concerns about the lack of significant progress on reforming the Palestinian security sector and about the illegal settlements and the security fence. Clearly, we have to take account of the fragile nature of the coalition in Israel, where certain rabbis are urging members of the Israel defence forces to consider disloyalty or defection in relation to Gaza. That is the
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political context in which Israel operates, and the coalition will have to be much broader if there is to be progress.

The Committee concluded that the road map may be fatally stalled and that time is running out fast for a   viable two-state solution. Nevertheless, we believe that a resolution of the conflict is attainable, and the broad outlines are visible, as the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) has outlined on several occasions. Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza is a welcome development, so long as it is seen as part of the road map—as a first step, not as an end station or a prelude to de facto annexation.

It is clearly important that the international community should work to ensure that the withdrawal from Gaza is fully consistent with a durable solution to the conflict. We need to provide assistance with post-withdrawal peacekeeping, together with Egypt and other key countries. What are we doing to provide such protection in this difficult transition period in Gaza?

The report reiterates our previous conclusion that the case for building a barrier along the green line would be strong and acceptable but to build it within the west bank is not justifiable, acceptable or legal, and gives rise to fears that Israel is doing it simply to annex land. Unilateral efforts to change facts on the ground in the occupied territories have been shown to be wholly illegal under international law. Actions taken so far have failed to stop Israel's construction of the barrier in the occupied territories.

We can understand by imagining the situation transposed to our constituencies how suicide bombings will enrage, anger and frustrate the peace movement in Israel; little seems to have been done by the Palestinian Authority about the propaganda that lauds the forces in question, or to prevent the infiltration. What more are the Government doing to impress on the Israeli Government the illegality of building the barrier in the occupied territories?

I concede that I have skated over a few of the key topics, and not mentioned, for example, the Russian Federation, our reflections on international law, or the    international co-operation to tackle terrorism, including the attempt to relate more constructively to the Arab world. However, the broad range of subjects covered in our report reflects the Committee's view that the diverse threats to security posed by terrorism and failed states are or could become interconnected and therefore need to be countered as part of a coherent strategy.

The Committee will keep the matter high on our agenda and we intend to publish a further report on the war against terrorism next spring. I commend the report to the Chamber.

3.2 pm

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): Like the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), I shall focus on Iraq, but not exclusively and in a wider security context beyond that country. First, I want to make it clear that whatever differing views hon. Members in this Chamber may take about the rights or wrongs of the invasion of Iraq in the first place, I consider that we have a wholly unambiguous
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responsibility to give total support to our armed forces in Iraq in their vital work and to do our utmost to ensure their safe return to our country.

Now that weapons of mass destruction have been found not to exist following the final report of the Iraq survey group, and as the Government were clearly aware that that was the likely conclusion, the Government's justification for the war in Iraq has, of course, changed fundamentally. We have been invited on successive occasions by the Government, and not least by the Prime Minister, to support the war on the ground of the benefit to the Iraqi people from regime change—getting rid of Saddam Hussein.

Undoubtedly, the removal of Saddam Hussein has mostly been beneficial, although as has already been pointed out, the 1 million-strong Christian community in Iraq now faces a degree of virulent and indeed violent persecution in the post-Saddam Hussein era that it never experienced when he was in power. Whether or not it was beneficial to remove Saddam Hussein—I have made it clear that, on balance, I think it most definitely was—it is not the basis on which history will judge whether the invasion of Iraq was justified. In any number of countries around the world, people might have their position improved by the removal of a regime. Indeed, some of us in this Room might argue, as I most certainly would, that regime change in this country might be beneficial for the people. However, regime change is not a justification for military action, particularly if there is no threat.

The question that must be posed now and which will be answered by historians is whether the world has become a safer place as a result of the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein. I do not pretend for one moment that that fundamental question can be conclusively answered now, but some 18 months away from the invasion and the end of a short war, it is already possible to start drawing at least preliminary conclusions. The pluses and minuses that must be considered in determining whether the world has become a safer place yield initial results that look distinctly discouraging.

On the plus side, we got rid of an aggressor who was responsible for two wars. He was responsible not merely for the invasion of Kuwait, but for starting the Iran-Iraq war, which resulted in an appalling number of deaths. In addition, he had in the past possessed and used weapons of mass destruction. However, we must focus on the situation when the British and American Governments decided to invade Iraq. We now know that at that time   Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. He was being successfully contained—perhaps more successfully than we thought—by the no-fly zone policy, which was undoubtedly successful. He was also contained by the UN weapons inspectors who had been in the country since the end of the first Gulf war. We now know that, in addition to having no weapons of mass destruction, there was no production of such weapons. It has not been demonstrated that Saddam Hussein posed a direct threat to British interests such as the sovereign bases in Cyprus. At the time of the invasion, it was difficult to argue that he presented a security threat to us or the worldwide community. Most significantly, given what has happened since, it was not possible to show that he had links with al-Qaeda at the time we invaded Iraq. To all intents and purposes, Iraq was free of al-Qaeda.
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Turning to the minus side, the presence of al-Qaeda is the single greatest security change from a worldwide perspective. As was forecast accurately by the Joint Intelligence Committee and reported by the Intelligence and Security Committee before the war, an invasion of Iraq was likely to bring into Iraq an al-Qaeda presence that had not been there previously. The Prime Minister was clearly warned of that. That JIC intelligence assessment has been shown to be wholly correct, and now inside Iraq a considerable number of al-Qaeda operatives have an opportunity to hone their terrorist techniques. Having honed those terrorist techniques, the worldwide risk is that as so many of the operatives come from outside Iraq, they will in due course go back to other countries and practise them.

I was interested in reported comments made by the Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi earlier this week. He gave the information that, of those arrested in Iraq in the last two weeks, 167 were foreign fighters. They included four senior members of the al-Zarqawi terrorist group, who, interestingly, have renamed themselves "al-Qaeda in Iraq". The four senior members who were arrested were all foreigners. One was a Palestinian, another Lebanese, another Saudi and the last Egyptian. In a real and practical sense, that illustrates the extent of foreign al-Qaeda penetration in Iraq.

The security consequences are considerable. What is happening in Iraq is that, although we do not wish it, we are inadvertently providing a training area of the highest quality for al-Qaeda operatives. Any experienced military trainer will say that, for training to be first class, there are two requirements. First, the training should, as near as possible, create an operational situation. Secondly, the best training is against the best and toughest. Unhappily, that is precisely the training benefit that we are providing to al-Qaeda in Iraq. It does not have to simulate an operational environment—it has got one. That provides it with the best possible training environment. It is training against the best—British and American forces.

We are training al-Qaeda personnel across the range of potential terrorist weapons and devices. We are giving them the opportunity to use the existing range of terrorist weapons—surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, which are often remotely controlled. We are, of course, also giving them training and experience in the positioning and use of suicide bombers. They can train against the most sophisticated countermeasures that are available against terrorists—those used by American and British forces. I am afraid that I cannot exaggerate the potential benefit to al-Qaeda of being able to use and    try to deploy terrorist tactics against those countermeasures.

Those involved are getting training in infiltration—the infiltration of counter-terrorist forces, such as the Iraqi police and Iraqi armed forces. Sadly, it appears without any doubt that they are having success. Reference was made to the brutal, cold-blooded murder of about 50 Iraqi police recruits. From what one reads, all the indications are that that must have been at least in part an inside job. Lastly, they are being trained in   intimidation. As we have seen only today, they have intimidated the Christian community in Iraq by
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announcing that they intend to murder one person in every Christian household in the country if Christian women in Iraq continue not to wear headscarves.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): I am a little confused by my right hon. Friend's remarks. At the beginning of his speech, he seemed to be saying that he supported military intervention in Iraq. He now seems to be saying that we are creating training camps for al-Qaeda. Does he think that there was a method of removing Saddam Hussein using military force, which inevitably meant occupation, without creating such conditions?

Sir John Stanley : What I said at the outset was that we must give total support to our armed forces in the job that they are doing in Iraq. I am now highlighting the security downsides to the intervention.

Perhaps most chilling of all is the fact that the Iraq environment is giving al-Qaeda the ability to develop and use the terrorist weapon of kidnapping, coupled with the use of a particularly brutal form of murder—beheading. One of the most worrying features of kidnapping is its relative ease of exportability. We have already seen the terrorist weapon of kidnapping exported to Saudi Arabia and recently to Afghanistan.

It is a matter of great concern that we are giving al-Qaeda operatives inside Iraq a significant benefit in military and operational terms. It is a bitter irony that having gone to war in Afghanistan, in my view entirely rightly, to remove its Taliban and al-Qaeda training areas, we have by following that with the invasion of Iraq unwittingly created a very high-value training area for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Mr. Tyrie : I agree with my right hon. Friend, and I am grateful to him for having given way a second time. I am trying to elicit from him whether he now thinks that it was a mistake to invade Iraq, given the consequences, or whether he thinks that there might have been some other method of dealing with Saddam Hussein that would not have resulted in the creation there of training camps for al-Qaeda.

Sir John Stanley : I am happy to explain my position to my hon. Friend. I voted for the war in Iraq on 18 March 2003. I did so with the benefit of what the Prime Minister of this country said to me and the rest of the House of Commons about the threat from Saddam Hussein. We were told that Saddam Hussein had a large number of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be ready to use within 45 minutes, and that they threatened vital British interests such as the sovereign base areas in Cyprus. That was the basis on which I cast my vote. Knowing what I do now in terms of the threat, I make it clear that if I had had such knowledge at the time, there is no way in which I would have supported an invasion of Iraq.

I want now to move beyond Iraq and point to the consequences for security elsewhere of our huge commitment there. I turn first to Afghanistan. As the House knows, several members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs were able to go there earlier this year.
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There has undoubtedly been a huge consumption of military resources and finance in Iraq. However, we must ask what the impact has been on places such as Afghanistan. I welcome the fact that a successful democratic election has taken place, but the Prime Minister was not justified in seeking to convey the impression in Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday that, because Afghanistan has seen one successful election, that is the end of the country's difficulties. If he runs true to form, he may well suggest after the Iraqi elections in January next year that that will be the end of difficulties in that country. I am afraid that that will not be the case.

On security in Afghanistan, the Committee says—it is not contested—that President Karzai's writ runs in only part of the country, and arguably in a relatively small part. The warlords effectively reign supreme in their own areas. They are flush with funds. They are able to buy the weapons and recruit the militias that they want. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are far from eliminated there; indeed, they are having some success in rebuilding their positions. As the right hon. Member for Swansea, East indicated, we have far too few boots on the ground to provide credible security, yet security is fundamental to a stable democracy.

In reality, the job in Afghanistan is only half done. We have not put in the necessary resources—armed forces and finances—partly, if not largely, because of the substantial commitments made by the British and American Governments in Iraq. We are paying a heavy cost in Afghanistan.

Next is the situation in Russia, which is extraordinarily important. One justification, with which I agreed, that the Prime Minister cited for invading Iraq was the huge, long-term, worldwide danger of the al-Qaeda and extreme Islamic terrorist threat coalescing with the possession of weapons of mass destruction. I agree with him that that is the single greatest threat that the world faces, but he made those remarks about the wrong country. We now know that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but what he said is totally valid in relation to Russia and the WMD stockpile of the former Soviet Union. It is the largest stockpile in the world, and it has the potential to be a serious threat if terrorists get their hands on any portion of it.

As far as we know, that stockpile covers the full range of WMD. I shall deal first with the nuclear weapons. As a member of the defence committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I had the benefit a few months ago of being given a briefing, including pictures and photographs, on the security dimension of the nuclear materials that have been extracted from the reactors of former Soviet naval ships—submarines and surface vessels. Pictures showing the inadequacy of security surrounding those nuclear materials were deeply disturbing.

As for chemical weapons, the Foreign Affairs Committee had the benefit of being briefed in person by US Senator Richard Lugar, one of the world's leading experts on such weapons in the former Soviet Union stockpile. Inside what is now Russia, a huge stockpile of chemical weapons is still waiting to be decommissioned. There are worries about the security of those weapons.
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Finally, President Yeltsin admitted that the former Soviet Union had a biological weapons programme, in complete contravention of its signing of the biological weapons convention. There has been an eerie and worrying silence, certainly in terms of any public documentation of which I am aware, as to whether those biological weapons have been destroyed, and if not, where they are.

I hope and believe that the basic problem in Russia is not will. The Russians are keen to get rid of that huge arsenal. With the terrorist problem that they have in their country, one can understand why they should be keen. The problem is money. Huge sums are being spent in Iraq to deal with what must be faced up to as the internal security consequences of our invasion of that country, when those same sums would be of enormous value in dealing with the former Soviet Union's stockpile. In 2003, the Chancellor announced a £3 billion special reserve to cover military operations in Iraq. The US Congress has appropriated a staggering $100 billion for military operations in Iraq. If that money, or even some of it, had been used and was now being used to remove the former Soviet stockpile, that would be a huge improvement in world security.

In conclusion, we cannot reach a definitive view as yet of whether the world is a safer place as a result of the   invasion. However, there are grounds for serious worries about what will happen when the al-Qaeda elements that have now poured into Iraq get the benefit of operational experience and go back to other countries around the world. I hope that I am proved wrong, but I   fear that there may be some awesome and awful consequences once those al-Qaeda operatives who are working in Iraq, doing such appalling things, get back to other parts of the world.

3.28 pm

Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn) (Lab): I am grateful to follow the two right hon. Members who are members of the Committee.

I want first to make a point about Iraq. I supported the war; I voted for it in March last year. Unlike the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley), I think that it was the right thing to do. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. All hon. Members must have found it a difficult decision. I certainly found it difficult to decide how to vote.

Whatever we thought about the war, and whatever the rights and wrongs of going into Iraq, we can agree, and should be able to form a consensus on, our duty not to walk away from the people of Iraq now. People in the Stop the War Coalition—not all, but some—urge that British troops should pull out. We cannot leave the people of Iraq to the Ba'athist elements, to the al- Zarqawis of this world, to the al-Qaedas or to the anarchy of terrorism. We have a duty to make Iraq a stable place, to make the elections in January a success and to rebuild and reconstruct Iraq.

We can be enormously proud of the work of the British Army in Iraq. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Iraq a while ago. I spent a brief time in Baghdad with the British Office and then went to Basra to see the work that British soldiers are doing there. As a House of Commons, we can be enormously proud of the work that our soldiers are doing in some of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances imaginable, especially in the south of the country.
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It is quite likely that the Queen's Lancashire Regiment will be recalled to Iraq as part of the reconfiguration of our troops there. The regiment has already served with distinction there, and I know that if it has to go back, it will rise to the challenge and serve with distinction again, but that might be easier if it were not threatened with a merger, or abolition.

I wish to focus also on Afghanistan. I add to those of   my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and the right hon. Member for   Tonbridge and Malling my congratulations to President Karzai, whom we were fortunate enough to meet when the Committee visited Afghanistan this year. There has been remarkable success in that country, which had never had elections before. Between 9 million and 10 million people, of whom about 4 million are women, registered to vote in those elections. Women now have a say in the running of Afghanistan for the first time.

We should be proud of our contribution to making Afghanistan a more democratic nation, but that is not to say that there are not problems. There is a problem with drug production and poppy cultivation. We flew over Afghanistan into Kabul and then to Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, and somebody told us that every cultivated field that we could see out of the porthole of the RAF Hercules was a poppy field. They go on for mile after mile. If we are serious about tackling that problem, we must provide some peasant farmers with a viable and profitable alternative. It is too easy for them to fall back on poppy production, which is enormously profitable, and for us to leave them in league with certain warlords.

In south Afghanistan, there is still fighting with Taliban elements; there is fighting along the Pakistan border in the south Waziristan area. At some point, we will have to tackle the warlords. We saw the work that the British Army is doing in Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north, where a small provincial reconstruction team of perhaps 40 British soldiers is doing remarkable work. Those soldiers are winning a hearts-and-minds campaign with the people in that area; they are respected and popular, and we should be proud of them. However, if we put the issue in context, we see that there are 40 British soldiers in north Afghanistan, whereas General Dostum has about 10,000 men under arms in that area. We cannot allow that situation to continue indefinitely.

I agree that there are too few troops on the ground, but that is not necessarily our fault. I do not think that   British forces should make up the shortfall in peacekeeping troops in Kabul. We are a member of NATO, and it is about time that some of our colleagues in NATO who enjoy talking about Afghanistan started to put troops on the ground there. However, although we are talking about the extra contribution that our allies could make, we need more money. There is a danger that we are trying to rebuild Afghanistan on the cheap. If we want to see a stable, prosperous, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, that will require a lot more money than is going in.

My third area of focus is the middle east peace process. During the American presidential elections, it struck me that one name cropped up more than that of most foreigners. That was the name of our Prime Minister. I hope that when he picks up the telephone and
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congratulates President Bush on his re-election, he urges him to breathe life into the middle east peace process. During the Clinton Administration, we saw what a difference it can make if, in his second term, a President does not have to look over his shoulder and worry about a re-election campaign. Instead, he can focus on, and make a difference in, some areas of the world.

In the dying days of his presidency, President Clinton came incredibly close to doing a deal that at least offered a chance of lasting peace in the middle east. It was put   to us in Washington—the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) will remember this—by somebody who had served in the Clinton Administration that the deal that Clinton had offered to the Palestinians right at the end was not the deal of a    lifetime, but the deal of three lifetimes, but the Palestinians walked away from it.

I understand why the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon made the points that he did—it is easy to see why President Bush did not make the middle east peace process a top priority given what happened to the Clinton Administration's efforts to find a resolution to the conflict—but we must reinvigorate the process. The sickening endless cycle of helicopter-gunship attacks on Palestinians followed by the atrocities of the suicide bombers cannot possibly be allowed to continue. I am very pleased that our Prime Minister has said that it will be the top foreign policy priority. He is right—it should be.

The Committee saw an Israeli security wall when we visited the area last year. First, we went to a village near Qalqiliya. The village is on a hilltop and is surrounded by razor wire. The Israel defence forces had cut off the water supply to the village, which was slowly being strangled. I suspect that there are no Palestinians left in that village. In Qalqiliya, which is a much larger town on the west bank, the Israelis have built a wall with razor wire that entirely circles the town. People told us that it took up to two hours to go through one checkpoint—there is only one way in and out.

We met a farmer whose farm is on one side of the wall and whose land is on the other. He was sleeping outside because he could not get back through the checkpoint to go home at night. We saw children whose homes were on one side of the wall, but whose school was on the other. I never saw the Berlin wall, but I imagine that it looked like that. The wall in Qalqiliya was enormously high, had watchtowers with Israeli soldiers in them and was incredibly intimidating. There is no possible security justification for encircling entire Palestinian towns on the west bank. I have no sympathy for the suicide bombers, but one can see where the anger comes from—it fuels the suicide bombers—in the degradation, humiliation and oppression of the Palestinian people in towns such as Qalqilya. We should redouble our efforts to tell the Government of Israel that the wall is a disgrace and that such treatment of an entire people is simply unacceptable in the modern world.

I shall briefly talk about Iran, which the Committee was also fortunate enough to visit. This is beginning to sound a little like extreme tourism, as the Committee has visited a variety of places that probably few people would want to visit on holiday. A claim that is often made about British policy is that we are just a poodle of
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American foreign policy. Nothing gives the lie to that claim better than our approach to Iran. On one side, there is the American neo-con view that Iran is part of an axis of evil. On the other side—the British side—there is the very clear view that we should have constructive engagement with Tehran.

I very much welcome the announcement made this week by our Foreign Secretary, which in effect ruled out a military solution to the threat that Iran poses. That threat, however, is real and needs to be dealt with. Iran is attempting to build a civilian nuclear power programme, although it is hard to think of a country that needs a nuclear power programme less than Iran. It   is rich in all sorts of energy resources and does not need such a programme. The obvious fear that it is developing weapons-grade uranium is real. The answer, however, is not military intervention but diplomacy through the United Nations and the troika of European nations—Britain, France and Germany.

Mr. Streeter : I certainly agree that constructive engagement with Iran is very important. However, if later this month the International Atomic Energy Agency reports to the Security Council that there is no compliance and that Iran is still enriching uranium, does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it may be unwise for anyone to rule out any particular sanction, especially the sanction that the Iranians most fear?

Mr. Pope : The corollary of what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that we would leave open the option of a military assault on Iran, but I do not believe that threatening Iran is likely to have the desired effect. If the desired effect is that it should not enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapons programme—I am sure we all agree on that—I am not sure that threatening it will be the most productive way to achieve it.

One problem when considering Iran is that it is tempting simply to look at the Iranian Government and see a fairly unpleasant regime. They have a poor human rights record, they oppress their own people and they may be trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. However, they are not simply a monolith. One thing that most encouraged me when I went to Iran was what a vibrant culture it has. It is a young country—more than half Iran's population are under the age of 20, and many of those people are not happy with their Government. The best beacon of hope that they have is that brave woman, Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel peace prize winner, whom we were privileged to meet. When she flew back to Tehran, thousands of women flocked to Tehran airport flouting the laws on the wearing of the veil. We should look to people like that. I do not think that threatening the Iranians is the most constructive way of achieving our aims.

I also want to focus on the forgotten conflict in Kashmir. For too long, Kashmir has been locked in a kind of nuclear stalemate. There have been two wars between Pakistan and India, countless incursions from one side or the other and countless deaths. I welcome President Musharraf's recent diplomatic initiatives, which at least have the benefits of showing fresh thinking and moving away from the sloganising that has for so long characterised both the Pakistani and Indian positions on Kashmir. It is a little disappointing that those initiatives have not had a warmer response from
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the Indian Government, and perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister might mention anything that the British Government can do to encourage a warmer response and reciprocation from the Government of India.

I understand that it is difficult for Britain to be an honest broker in the Kashmir conflict. The legacy of empire is probably a burden too great, and we have too many ties with both countries for us to be able to play that role, but we have a duty to try. I gently say to my hon. Friend that the problems of Kashmir arose on   partition in 1947 on the watch of a Labour Government. Perhaps it falls to this Labour Government to try to do whatever they can to heal the divisions. We could try to engage the Americans further in the problem. They have played an effective role between India and Pakistan as a firefighter, and when tensions have been great, they have played an effective role in getting people together. However, perhaps they should be more than just a firefighter when times are bad. They should try to resolve the problem when times are better.

We should bear in mind a deeply held view. I   represent a large community of Kashmiri origin in my constituency, and whatever the solution is to the problem—I certainly do not know—it will require the agreement of the people of Kashmir themselves. It is not just a matter of international diplomacy that we can decide on their behalf.

I am happy to support the war on terror, and I have been a loyal supporter of the Government in that, including on the war on Iraq. However, we must not allow the war on terror to diminish our respect for human rights. It is impossible to wage war to promote human rights, as arguably we have in Afghanistan and   Iraq, while at the same time withholding the human rights of our opponents. In that context, what is happening in Guantanamo Bay undermines the credibility of the United States in particular, and also of the western nations allied to the United States when we acquiesce in that. We should be far more robust in telling the Americans that the human rights situation in Guantanamo Bay is unacceptable.

I fear that several nations are using the war on terror as a cloak to repress their own people. China, for example, is ruthlessly repressing people in various provinces, claiming that it is doing so because they are terrorists. Frankly—I say this as a critical friend—the response of the British Government to China's abuses has been supine. We should reassess our policy towards China and be far more robust.

Uzbekistan has been a steadfast ally in the war on terror. Its bases and airstrips have been incredibly useful, and we are grateful for them, as are the Americans. The country, however, has arguably the worst human rights record in the world. It has been said that it boils its opponents, and we ought to say to countries such as Uzbekistan, "If you want to be an ally of ours, you cannot behave in this fashion. It is completely unacceptable." It might be helpful if our ambassador in Tashkent were able to raise those issues with the Government there, but we do not have an ambassador in Tashkent. That is a matter of great concern to hon. Members on the Committee and across all parties.
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It is not enough just to tackle terrorism. We are rightly robust in facing down the terrorist threat worldwide. One of the most encouraging developments recently was Osama bin Laden's attempted intervention in the American elections. If he is reduced to sending messages by video because he cannot carry out the atrocities that he would undoubtedly love to carry out against us, the Americans and other western nations, we are succeeding in the war on terrorism. That is a good thing, but we must also accept that it is not enough just to be tough on terrorism; we must drain the swamp in which terrorism grows and divide the peoples of areas such as the middle east from the terrorists. To corrupt the Prime Minister's phrase, we need to be tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism.

3.47 pm

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): I follow a couple of outstanding speeches from which I have picked up a lot. I particularly agree with the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) about Guantanamo Bay, which deeply concerns me and to which I shall return in a moment. I also strongly agree with the lion's share of the extremely thoughtful and well-researched speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) and, in particular, with his allusion to the threat from lack of control and potential loss of control over weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union and, specifically, Russia. I gave quite a lot of thought to that issue during the years in which I worked in that part of the world.

Most people agree that things have not gone according to plan in this war. Most would agree that the price of the invasion of Iraq is considerable. It is worth listing what that price is. We have a western alliance that is divided and seen to be divided by those who resent western and American ascendancy. Our moral authority, to which the hon. Member for Hyndburn alluded, has been badly damaged by Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Just as importantly, the limits to western power and to the United States' power in particular have been brutally exposed by Iraq; the US is militarily strong, but that does not appear to be the right or best form of strength to deal with this threat. It looks as if Iraq will be the limit to even the most enthusiastic neo-conservatives' ambitions of rolling out the new foreign policy invented by their Washington think-tanks in the 1990s.

Even now, after 18 months, there is serious insurgency in Iraq, and few of us know how it will be brought to an end. We can hope, but that is all we can rely on. A military solution looks extremely difficult to find. The border, particularly with Iran, is poorly policed where it is policed at all, and the scope for further penetration of Iraq and the building up of what were described as al-Qaeda training camps will certainly continue unless there is some radical change of policy.

A middle east settlement is further away than it has been in many years. Far from accelerating the process, the invasion of Iraq has made it much worse. Far from acting as a deterrent against nuclear proliferation, which is probably the biggest threat to our security, the invasion of Iraq seems to be spurring several countries to maintain or enhance their weapons programmes, the most prominent of which are Iran and North Korea.
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Far from winning over moderates in the middle east who yearn for a more western and democratic style of government, the invasion seems to have succeeded only in alienating large sections of the populations there. The effect of the invasion has been to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism, including militant fundamentalism, and weaken a number of secular Islamic states, some of    which are now internally under threat from fundamentalism. There also seems to be a dangerous binding together of Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism. That would worry me deeply, and it is reminiscent of what happened after Suez, which enabled Nasser to bind his breed of nationalism with socialism and anti-colonialism, which all but expelled the west from influencing much of the middle east for more than 20 years.

Finally, there is Iraq itself, to which I have hardly referred in my litany of things that seem to have gone wrong. We are told that up to 100,000 Iraqi casualties may have been sustained, although that may be huge exaggeration; I have no way of knowing. I remain extremely concerned that our action has been deeply detrimental to western interests. We have performed a humanitarian act by removing a brutal dictator, but I can think of few other benefits that we have derived from our military action. Indeed, the Prime Minister seems to admit as much from time to time, when he says that he will apologise for the intelligence on the possible threat that led to the war, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling alluded, but not for removing Saddam Hussein. By implication, that seems to be saying, "Well, I got rid of Saddam Hussein; he was an evil man, and I will not apologise for having done that good for the world."

A number of hon. Members may think that I have overcooked the down side, but even if they do not agree with all my points, most people would agree that we are in a mess. I want to explain why we are in that mess, and in so doing to make some suggestions on how to get out of it. We are not in the mess because we failed to do adequate post-war planning or did not send in enough troops, or because not enough thought was given to policing the Syrian or Iranian borders or the diplomacy before the invasion with a number of key middle east countries was poor, which it certainly was. Neither are we in a mess because we underestimated the Ba'athist capacity to plan for our occupation and make life difficult once we arrived, or because of al-Qaeda, about which the hon. Member for Hyndburn spoke. Those reasons fall into the category of second-order issues.

We are in a mess because the justification for military action given by George Bush and the Prime Minister has had dramatic repercussions in how foreign policy is being conducted in the world. I am referring, of course, to regime change and pre-emption. Regime change and pre-emptive military action can never become the basis for orderly relations between states, and neither can attempts to impose western values at the barrel of a gun. The weak resent such doctrines, which creates the conditions for harbouring terrorists in otherwise moderate Muslim populations. Meanwhile, those strong enough to seek to protect themselves from such policies will do so. It has not been lost on small states that do not share western values that North Korea—a
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nuclear power and a far more serious rogue state—did not get the same treatment just after it expelled inspectors, while Iraq was invaded just after letting them in.

The plain fact is that the doctrines used to supply the intellectual support for the military action that we have taken are deeply dangerous and destabilising. They further neither America's nor Britain's national interests. They erode the things that keep order in the world, such as the principle of non-interference—"Don't invade my house and I won't invade yours."

I would be less worried if I felt that we could heap all the blame on ideological zealotry in Washington and particularly on a small group of neo-conservatives. Unfortunately, however, I do not take that view, because my Prime Minister is in the vanguard on such issues and my country has been articulating the rhetoric. He has been arguing for several years that we should use military force to overthrow regimes that do not share western interests. What is more, he has been a vigorous advocate of such intervention even where broad-based support for it could not be obtained in the international community. He has made that clear in several important speeches.

If we persist with such a policy, anarchy ultimately beckons. Larger states that know that they are immune from the regime change treatment will use the same justification for their own actions, adopting the language of George Bush and of the Prime Minister to buttress their foreign policy interests. China has recently used the language of regime change in reference to Taiwan. North Korean spokesmen have been saying for two years that they may need to launch a pre-emptive strike on South Korea.

However, this is not just about language; it is about action, too. Putin has used the same logic to justify military action in Georgia. He is doing so not only to suppress terrorism, but to justify what he says is pre-emptive military action to secure his frontiers. The truth is that that is not what he is doing: he has deep interests in the Caucasus, which go way beyond trying to suppress the insurgency in Chechnya and have much more to do with ensuring that Russia maintains a tourniquet on oil supplies out of the Caspian sea. That is his aim, but he has found a new form of justification for it.

I have given only a hint of what lies in the Pandora's box that we have opened with our new policies. What we are dealing with—we must be clear about this, and I am very frustrated that so many people seem not to be—is a revolution in the foreign policy of the world's leading power, which our country is actively supporting. That revolution is deeply inimical to British interests.

I may be extremely and accidentally selective in the people whom I talk to in the foreign policy world—I talk to quite a few in this country and, indeed, in Washington, where I have a number of links—but I have the impression that the majority of people accept much of what I have said. That includes officials on the policy-making side; they might not put it quite the same way, but they basically accept what I have said. In fact, aside from small cliques and a diminishing number of people in think-tanks, it is difficult to find many supporters in London and Washington for these new doctrines and this new approach to foreign policy. Even
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the neo-conservatives in Washington are now arguing bitterly among themselves about whether they got things right.

I think that George Bush knows—many of his advisers certainly do—that the new US policy is derived from a number of misconceptions that gained ground after the cold war, and I can summarise them in three   sentences. The first is the belief that the US preponderance after the cold war could be harnessed to impose a new world order. The second is the belief that the peoples, if not leaderships, of most countries share a deep-down yearning for American values. The third is   that we can make the world a more secure, safe and peaceful place by spreading democracy around the world, even if we initially do so by force.

The first of those suppositions is simply wrong. It is not possible for America to impose a new world order, and I have tried to explain why. Indeed, it will create only a new world disorder. The second and third suppositions—that most countries want western values and that a democratic world inevitably means a more peaceful one—both need heavy qualification. On the second supposition, the truth is that, if anything, the   world is becoming more heterogeneous and not more homogeneous in its values. That is a paradox of   globalisation. The values that lie behind many communities are diverging, and communities are also becoming more local. Politics in all countries, whether democratic or not, is becoming more deeply local, while at the same time economic forces are pushing countries to become much more interdependent and creating a tension. Managing that tension will be a major challenge for policy makers in the 21st century.

As for the third supposition—the idea that if we make the whole world democratic, peace will break out everywhere—a huge amount of ink has been spilt on this subject. I will not try to launch into a lengthy debate; I   shall only point out that the first world war was probably the most popular war in history. Asquith was jeered by a jingoistic crowd just outside this Hall, and the experience apparently had a deep influence on him and led him to change his mind about whether to take Britain into the war in 1914. He was sitting on the fence for a long time. If there had been referendums in Europe on whether to go to war in 1914, I am sure that there would have been three-to-one or four-to-one support in    all countries. Indeed, a good number of the countries   that participated were democracies or quasi-democracies. The mobilisation of jingoistic populism in democracies can be a source of conflict, just as much as a democratic country's wish to remain prosperous and peaceful can be.

Mr. Streeter : My hon. Friend is making a typically thoughtful speech. I certainly agree that trying to export a Westminster or even US-style democracy to all parts of the world is a huge mistake, but does he not think that some basic democratic principles—rule of law, freedom of speech, some kind of representative governance—are important, and that if they were to take hold in other parts of the word by whatever means, the world would be a better place?

Mr. Tyrie : I think that the world would be better, and I want it to go in that direction. When it comes to a clash of fundamental ideologies between dictatorship and
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democracy, I am not neutral. I have clear and strong views about the direction in which I want to go, but I am cautious about believing that we will necessarily solve all our problems by going down the democratic road.

I am clear that, in trying to win more of the world round to our values, military coercion is likely to have the opposite effect to the one intended. We won the cold war largely by arguing our case without recourse to military means. It is true that the Afghan war was a proxy war, some of which we are now paying for. Some say that, to some degree, that is where al-Qaeda and certainly the Taliban got going. However, the key ingredients that led to collapse of the former Soviet Union, which was an evil empire, lay in the increasing exposure of the satellite countries of eastern Europe to western values, which finally meant that they were prepared to take a risk and rebel. The velvet revolution, the bringing down of the Berlin wall and the vast migration out of East Germany through Hungary and Czechoslovakia were triggered after a debate—in a sense, it was a vigorous ideological struggle—between east and west that took place over 40 years.

I have taken a moment or two to respond to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), but perhaps I can return to the subject under discussion. I should not have raised the issue of democracy, because it is such a difficult and sensitive subject, but it is important not to have simplistic notions in one's mind or to think that going down one particular route will solve all our problems. It will not.

I said that I would also talk a little about what we should do, bearing in mind the seriousness of the situation. I have half a dozen or so suggestions to make. First, I wish the Government to acknowledge that the muscular nation-building strategy that the Prime Minister articulated in his party conference speech in Brighton and which he also developed in a speech in Chicago in 1999 is a little more difficult than he supposes. That would at least help to change the mood.

Secondly, I hope that the Prime Minister will be more robust during the second presidential term than he was during the first in challenging George Bush's unilateralism. If necessary, he may have to do that publicly. We should have known what was coming. After all, in 2000 Condoleezza Rice wrote in Foreign Affairs that

Donald Rumsfeld called for a coalition of the willing, the clearest possible statement of unilateralism. We should have been left in no doubt about the limits of British influence in backing the President publicly and hoping at the same time to bend his ear in private.

More than one person in a position to know has given me a vivid description of briefings of the Prime Minister before his meetings with the President at Camp David. I was told that beforehand the Prime Minister would be given a thorough and detailed briefing on each area in which our policy differed from American policy and told how important it was that we got our points across. Apparently, at the subsequent meetings—two were described to me, one of them in starker terms than I shall give now—after the Prime Minister had been wound up
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to make certain points, George Bush made suggestions of his own to which the Prime Minister replied, "Yes, yes, yes."

I am not at all convinced that the Prime Minister is using our alleged influence even to bend George Bush's ear in private, and I am not even sure that the Americans, now that they feel that they have done their bit for us by pushing unsuccessfully for a second UN resolution, are listening to us any more than to other countries. That worries me deeply.

Of course, it has been said that we should keep trying none the less and that we should not speak up in public, but keep our differences private, because we will at least have a seat at the table or influence equivalent to that of Colin Powell. When I put that thought—it is not great, but it is something—last year to a pro-British American acquaintance of mine who works in the Pentagon, he laughed and said that we were getting about as much influence as Colin Powell's secretary. We must bear in mind that reality when we talk about how much we gain by keeping completely mum and not allowing a cigarette paper to get between our view of the direction of western foreign policy and the American view. I said that I    would make half a dozen suggestions, but I am thinking of more as I go along. I promise not to make this speech too long.

Thirdly, we must be much clearer than we have been so far about the threats to stability and the means of making the world more orderly. On the threat, in what is perhaps a vain effort to justify the invasion of Iraq, the Prime Minister and George Bush have sought to bind together nuclear weapons and chemical and biological weapons in the omnibus phrase, "weapons of mass destruction". The truth is that the threat from nuclear weapons is of a completely different order from that of chemical and biological weapons. It was and continues to be a mistake to give the wider public the impression that they basically represent the same level of threat.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling said, the twin challenges that we face are terrorism and nuclear proliferation. A policy based on the primacy of nation states is the best security against both. There is such a thing as international society, and America and Britain both have a huge interest in fostering it and in rendering it less anarchic. What we desperately need is the broadest possible coalition of states against terrorists, even if some do not share our values. Such a coalition may include states in the former Soviet Union, whose values we certainly do not share. Shouting at states that may not be going in the direction that we want them to take will certainly not help. Many states will be ready allies even if they do not share our values, for it will not be lost on them that terrorism in one form or another could also be a threat to their regimes. Several middle eastern states and several in former Soviet Asia come to mind.

Fourthly, we need to remind America—I think we should do so publicly—that terrorists thrive on overreaction, which is exactly what we got from the United States after 11 September. Inadvertently, it became a recruiting sergeant for bin Laden. The key to the suppression of most Islamic terrorism lies in winning
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over the hearts and minds of moderate Muslim opinion at home and abroad. The Government need to stress that view time and time again and to act on it.

Fifthly, it is unlikely that we will be able to prevent nuclear proliferation by coercion, and certainly not the coercion implied by regime change and pre-emption. On the contrary, coercion is likely to lead countries to redouble their efforts to obtain weapons as a protection against it. To discourage proliferation, we need to make countries that might seek nuclear weapons feel more secure, not less so. We need to create by treaty or negotiation conditions in which they do not need those weapons. I am not suggesting that that is an easy or certain route, but I believe it to be, on the whole, a better route than coercion.

Sixthly, I return to moral authority. We need to rebuild the west's moral authority, which has been extremely badly damaged by the events of the past two years. The abuses of human rights in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have a lasting resonance in the middle east that we should not underestimate. To a large degree, that problem is created by the Americans, but it is also our problem, because, among other reasons, we handed more than 300 prisoners of war to the Americans. We have an enduring legal and moral responsibility to take care of those people's welfare even after we have handed them over.

It took me a long time to find out what happened to   those people. Even now I have been unable to obtain   a good deal of the information that I have been seeking. The Government have sought to avoid my parliamentary questions on the issue for months, and I wrote a letter to the Foreign Secretary that has not been answered. I will have another go on a couple of questions now. Will the Minister, now or later, tell me whether any of those 341 prisoners of war were held in Abu Ghraib? Will he tell me whether we have inquired subsequently about whether any of them were mistreated in Abu Ghraib? Will he tell me whether we made any inquiry about the welfare of the POWs while they were held, as was required, agreed and accepted in a protocol that we signed with the United States about the handling of POWs? Did we use the terms of the protocol to visit them, as we had a right to do, to see whether their welfare had been harmed? I raise these points partly as an illustration of the extent to which we have tacitly found ourselves to be participants. To that extent, what went on in Abu Ghraib and what is still going on in Guantanamo Bay is diminishing all of us.

Perhaps most controversially, I want to discuss the handling of policy in Iraq itself. We need to be clear about our motives and to deal with the deep mistrust that now exists in the middle east about western motives. We need to reassure western Muslim opinion about what we are trying to do and to make it clear that we are not bent on suzerainty in the area, and still less on occupation. Perhaps we are moving to the point at which we may gain more by setting a date for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and trying to persuade the Americans to do the same than by staying there.

That judgment is not easy. We badly need legitimacy to flow from the elections; there is no legitimacy for the current regime. If we were to say that, after a certain period and given certain conditions, we would withdraw our troops after the elections, would those elections be
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able to confer greater legitimacy on the regime in Baghdad? I cannot say, but the time has come to consider that question.

I realise that, as well as being very long, my speech has been quite pessimistic. I have argued that the world is a less safe and more disorderly place than it was before the Iraq invasion. The war was not only morally wrong, but not in our national interest. However, I want to end on a more positive note. The threats that the world faces are far less than those that we faced at times during the cold war, when miscalculation, accident or malign leadership in the Soviet Union could have resulted in a nuclear exchange and obliteration and when the superpowers were fighting proxy wars around the world much of the time. The challenges that we now face are far more manageable. If the US provides the leadership, they can and will be tackled, just as they were after the second world war, when for half a century America worked as part of the international community and helped to build it.

Unfortunately, we are not being given such leadership by the current American Administration, but as a fervent Atlanticist I am optimistic. Most of Washington opinion knows that much of what I have said today contains at least a grain of truth and that it is not possible to form by command a new international society in America's image. Most of Washington opinion knows that we are all much stronger in alliance than we are working separately. We must work with the Administration, but we must do so with much greater frankness than we have so far shown about what mistakes we think they are making.

4.18 pm

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) has made a typically thoughtful and all-encompassing speech about aspects of foreign affairs. I agree with much of what he said, and what he said about Iraq is almost entirely true. I have a long and substantial speech of my own brewing about Iraq; hon. Members will he happy that I am not going to make it today, but it is coming along.

I do not want to follow my hon. Friend down this route, but I must pick him up on a couple of points. First, force—and certainly the threat of force—has a part to play in international affairs. It cannot always be ruled out. The terrorist attacks were brought to the United States, and an Administration who, at the time, were heavily criticised by many people in Europe for not being interested in international affairs were forced to become interested in them. Although I think that the invasion of Iraq may turn out to have been a terrible mistake, the invasion of Afghanistan was entirely justified. If failed states and rogue states allow international terrorism to brew within their borders and exert its malign effects outside them, we are entitled to interfere in those states by force if necessary. My second criticism is that, although in the end, we won the battle of ideas across the iron curtain, I am not sure that we would have had the necessary 45 years in which to achieve that effect without being prepared to make a substantial military commitment to the defence of western Europe in that time.

I shall touch on a couple of minor themes in the report. One is political reform in the middle east, which covers some points made by my hon. Friend, and the
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other is the Arab-Israel dispute. We consistently say in the report that we think that political reform in middle-eastern countries is highly desirable. Why, when we see democracy breaking out in Latin America and, to some extent, in the former Soviet Union, does the Arab world seem, almost uniquely, to be immune to it?

I know that people will say that there is a bit of progress in Oman and Yemen. However, the main Arab countries in which reform is needed are Saudi Arabia and Egypt—one has the money and the other has the intellectual clout in the Arab world—but we have not seen much reform in either and both are feeding grounds for terrorism. Although I agree with those, including my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester, who say that we cannot impose our version of democracy by force, we need to encourage something to take root in such places—perhaps the rule of law, a little more openness, a little more distinction between ruling families and the state, or local elections. I do not suggest that those countries move straight to full-blown western-European-style democracy overnight. However, more progress is needed.

In fact, 15 or 16 of the 19 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia—its money is financing the madrassahs, not only at home but in Pakistan. It is not encouraging malign influences, but it is allowing them to have an effect around the world. So far as I can see, Egypt survives entirely on United States aid, without which its economy would collapse, but it publishes the most appalling libels in its newspapers. I would have thought that one of the advantages of running a dictatorship was that one could stop people doing things like that. If it were a democracy, presumably there would be a plurality of opinions of which those would be some.

Reform is needed. I was disappointed in the Government's response to our report, bearing it in mind that it is three years since 11 September 2001. They say:

and that the UK's G8 presidency in the second half of next year would be a very good opportunity to ensure that there was some progress. We need to do things a lot faster and more purposefully than that. We have   programmes for promoting greater openness, democracy and the rule of law in the middle east, particularly in those two countries, as do the United States and the European Union. I do not know why the Government do not mention them. I should like the Minister to tell us what the Government feel that they have achieved in that respect, and what we in the west have achieved collectively.

It is not just in our interests to see reform—and, perhaps, circumstances in which terrorism is less likely to be bred or to take root—in those countries; it is in their interests. Saudi Arabia's GDP per head has halved in the past 20 years. Egypt's has not halved, but it was nowhere to start with. Most of the countries in that area are disastrous for their own populations; any prosperity that they enjoy is a result of oil revenues. That is a bit like a child living off a trust fund; it is not very good for building an economy. Unless they have better and less corrupt government, the rule of law and more openness, those countries will not benefit from investment or the
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establishment of the liberal economic forces that lead to the rising standards of living that can be seen in many other parts of the world, including some countries of eastern Europe. Reform is in their interests and ours.

I take slight issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester in that if such foundations are laid in many Arab countries and their economies start to grow, people will find that they are usefully occupied in running their own businesses or making a living for their families. They will not have time to go to radical clerics and become stirred up into becoming suicide bombers. There is a long way between there and here, but we need to take definite steps in that direction. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what the Government think that they are doing, and what they have achieved. I am not really interested in the second half of our G8 presidency; I should like to know what we have achieved in the past three years.

On the Arab-Israeli conflict, nobody could have tried harder than President Clinton to broker a solution to the problem at Camp David and subsequently at Taba. A deal was very nearly reached. In fact, one Palestinian negotiator said:

I do not think that anybody can blame President Bush for not doing more—certainly in the first part of his presidency before 11 September. He saw what had happened to President Clinton. Arafat was not a partner for peace; he was never prepared to say yes, or to take yes for an answer. There are understandable reasons for that. He has waved the banner for Palestinian nationalism and a Palestinian state for nearly 50 years and perhaps he does not want to be the person who agrees to make a deal that gives up the Palestinian claim to all Palestine and settles for half of it. In that case, we need to wait until we have moved into a post-Arafat era. We have moved halfway into that era with the appointment of various Prime Ministers, but he will never really give them the authority that they need to negotiate a deal.

It remains to be seen during the coming days whether we are likely to move into a post-Arafat era. I cannot help feeling that if we are—whatever one's feelings about Mr. Arafat—the prospects would be better than during the past few years. An example of how disastrous his leadership has been for the Palestinians is that after Taba, where he effectively succeeded in delivering the Israeli electorate to Sharon rather than aiding the re-election of Barak, he completely misguidedly and self-destructively launched the second round of the intifada. Unlike the first intifada, it involved not chucking rocks at Israeli tanks, but letting off suicide bombs in Tel Aviv cafes and Jerusalem pizza parlours.

That has provoked what one could argue is a complete overreaction from the Israelis—it has certainly been a brutal reaction—but if there were no suicide bombers, there would be no fence and no Israeli tanks in Gaza or west bank settlements. Arafat has led them into that; it is an absolute disaster for the Palestinians. There are many questions that the Israelis have to answer about how they have reacted, but there is no question in my mind as to what started the latest round of violence.
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To end on a positive note, I would like to suggest a positive way out. We all know what the settlement will be, if it is ever reached. It was very nearly done at Camp David and Taba. It will involve a roughly Palestinian state with its boundaries along the green line as they were set by the UN resolutions in 1948, with its capital in Jerusalem, almost all the Israeli settlements removed from the west bank and a limited right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. There will probably need to be a few territorial adjustments. Where there are Israeli settlements right on the border that can be compensated for in some other way, those adjustments should probably take place. A great many of those details were negotiated and discussed at Camp David and Taba.

A formula over the return of refugees was effectively agreed at Taba, where the principle was conceded that the numbers who returned should be controlled by Israel and would be extremely limited. Those who did not come back would be offered alternatives including significant financial compensation. Taba would have allowed the Palestinians to situate the capital of the state of Palestine in Jerusalem.

The parties were very close to a settlement and one cannot help feeling that if Abu Mazen or Abu Ala had been the head of the Palestinian state at Camp David or Taba, a deal would have been reached. I very much doubt whether Sharon and Arafat can ever reach a deal, but Barak and a more moderate Palestinian leader could have done. My point is that we know what the settlement will be. The problem is not identifying the deal, but getting both sides to accept it. Whenever one side is ready to accept it, the other has the kind of Government who are not ready to do so. We are now in a situation in which neither side is ready, but the Palestinians sound keener on a deal than the Israelis.

The road map is completely dead. Any idea that withdrawing from Gaza or that my suggestions could be a way of restarting the road map is whistling in the wind. It was dead from day one. There were two primary things that the opposing sides had to do: the Israelis had to stop building new settlements or expanding old ones, and the Palestinians had to stop the terrorist bombings. As far as I can see, neither side has taken any steps to make even the first move in those directions.

We need to start from a different point of view. The dispute causes externalities—to use an economist's phrase—out of all proportion to the intrinsic problems that it represents. There are other disputes, such as Cyprus. It is self-contained dispute that is similar, but much less violent, and it does not really affect many people outside Cyprus. However, the dispute in the middle east poisons our relations with the Arab world and is one of the causes that bin Laden goes on about—although it was not one of the original causes underlying al-Qaeda's existence and activities. It is desperately in our interests to solve it because it would remove one of the main avowed causes of hatred of the west and of fundamental Islamic terrorism. There is a huge incentive for us to solve it, not just because of the violence that is happening to both sides and the awful lives people have to live, but because of the weight that it would take off our shoulders in dealing with the Arab world.

Because the stakes are so high, it is time to say, "This is the deal," and we should seek to impose it. We could talk to both sides and try to adjust the proposals to take
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account of any lingering doubts and little problems, but   I believe that we and the United States should take   the proposed solution to the United Nations Security Council and seek to have it implemented. As a mandatory resolution, it would become international law.

We should tell Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat or their successors that that is the deal and that, if they so wished, we would help them to implement it. However, we should make it plain that issues such as the position of the border or whether refugees can return are no longer up for discussion. When both sides do not want to make progress, they always use such matters to trip up the talks; they say that they cannot accept little details here and there. We know what the deal is going to be. In the interests of the international community as well as those of the Palestinians and the Israelis, we should seek to impose it. I see no other way forward.

4.31 pm

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): It is a privilege to participate in the debate.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) invited me to echo the comments of Baroness    Williams, who described the report as brilliant. I am happy to do so. It clearly makes a substantial contribution. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, it is the fifth report in the series on the foreign policy aspects of the war on terrorism.

Once again, the Committee has served the House extremely well. The report should be read by all who have an interest in international affairs. As ever, the breadth of the Committee's work is impressive. The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) should not worry about a charge of political tourism being levelled at the Committee; the return achieved through the visits and the resulting report more than justifies the effort.

We are at an extremely important juncture in connection with the war on terrorism, with the re-election of President Bush helping to define the context in which international problems will now be tackled. It   is not new for the Liberal Democrats to highlight differences with the US Administration's policies. Indeed, yesterday in this Chamber, we had the opportunity to debate that very subject. I repeat today that our principal hope is, as the hon. Member for Hyndburn suggested, that the President will take the opportunity in his second term to broaden his international focus and to widen the coalition of interests that seek to combat the threat of international terrorism.

As many right hon. and hon. Members have said, this is a key moment also for the Government. If ever there was a time to exert the influence that we have gained through our unique and strong relationship with the United States, it is now. With the imminent presidency of the G8, and in 2005 of the European Union, the Government have the opportunity to stamp their mark on all those pressing international issues.

The Committee's report highlights the scale of the challenges and the range of issues that fall under the foreign policy agenda in the war on terrorism. That conflict clearly has a military aspect, but it is far too simplistic to paint the picture of what needs to be done
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in khaki only. The series of reports of which this is the latest lays that fact bare. It goes without saying that we need to defend ourselves: we need to tackle those who, explicitly or by default, would give aid to international terrorists. However, we need also to tackle the underlying conditions that fuel the terrorists' many and complex causes. We must not lose sight of the need to tackle those causes—the poverty that leads to conflict, which breeds further conflict, which lays the grounds for the growth of terrorism. The Committee has been right in interpreting its remit to look at a broad range of countries across the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the middle east generally and the Russian Federation, while also re-examining the suitability of our international laws and organisations to address those matters. It is good that some of today's   contributions have highlighted the particular importance of human rights in this policy area.

It is hard to do justice to the Committee's brief in the time available. Given our other recent opportunities to debate issues in the report, I shall focus my remarks on just a few key matters.

I draw attention to Russia, which has featured in the debate already. The Committee's focus on Russia has been absolutely right and it paints an alarming picture. It shows in more than one way the importance of Russia to the whole war on terror. Parts of the report, and the evidence supplied in the compilation of it, show that there are many in Russia who are suspicious of the west's terminology and think that the war on terror is simply a cover for spreading western influence through the regions of the world where it is not seen to be strong enough. Others have pointed out that it is a handy cover for some activities into which Russia itself wishes to extend its influence. Certainly, the conflict in Chechnya, in terms of how Russia has pursued and justified it,   echoes many of the debates that we have in the west.   Since the Committee's report was compiled, we have had the horrors in Beslan—unimaginable, terrible events. Sadly, the response to that from the Russian authorities has been almost exclusively in terms of that event's being part of international terrorism and the need to respond to it robustly. That is a mistaken analysis, and we must do everything to persuade the Russians to resist it.

The Committee has drawn particular attention to the existence of nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons. The situation in Russia is fundamentally alarming. The scale of the problems that remain since the end of the Soviet Union is beyond belief. Some good practical steps have been taken, which I do not want to decry. In particular, the Committee draws attention to the American initiative—the co-operative threat reduction programme—and Senator Lugar and others are prayed in aid. Their expertise has undoubtedly been useful in focusing attention on that matter.

The report is critical of the European Union and its contribution. I hope that the Minister can clarify the position. It is important, as the report highlights, that we make a contribution to ending the nuclear threat from old weapons, missile material and nuclear material at a level commensurate with our economic size in the world.
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There is a danger in how Russia has been assisting Iran. I appreciate that both sides would maintain that that is an entirely civil programme, and we debated that specific issue here in Westminster Hall recently. However, it is important, as we reach the denouement of the situation in Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency in the coming weeks, that we can persuade Russia of the importance and dangers of the programme and persuade Iran that it is folly to pursue that path.

Another area where Russia plays an important role is Ukraine. Because of the inconclusive results of the presidential election at the weekend—again, that is something to have arisen since the Committee's report—the process will run to a second round. On that issue we see an overlap between the war on terrorism, and old-fashioned political land grab and the desire of the respective blocs, such as Russia, and the United States and the west, to gain as much influence as possible. We shall have to watch the process with great care, because for all our preoccupation, rightly, with the war on terror, we must not lose sight of other geopolitical concerns.

A common thread of today's contributions and a serious thrust of the report is concern about nuclear proliferation. The case study of Pakistan is one that should alarm us all. The report colourfully depicts the   A. Q. Khan network as offering almost tailored packages of nuclear expertise to anybody able to provide the funds to buy them. Indeed, the report quotes someone talking about a "nuclear Wal-Mart" having existed in Pakistan.

I appreciate the sensitivity of our dealings with Pakistan, not least because it has been an important ally in the military battles that we have been fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Equally, Pakistan is not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and for that reason some regular sanctions that we might hope to use through the IAEA do not exist. In dealing with President Musharraf and his allies in the regime, however, we must be clear that we cannot accept the way in which they have behaved in recent years, whether in the nuclear field or, as has been mentioned, on human rights.

Probably our most important debate in the House and elsewhere in the last couple of years has been about   international law. The report makes a major contribution to that debate. We live in a changed world. Do we therefore need changed responses? I will not enter into the debate that the hon. Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) and for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) began. They set out cogent arguments that illustrate the complexities of the issue. However, there is no doubt that there is more dispute about how we legitimise interventions and maintain peace and security in the world than there has been for a generation or more.

There are serious international initiatives seeking to tackle the issue, the most important of which is perhaps the high-level panel that the Secretary-General of the United Nations set up. That panel is due to report soon. As I have mentioned in recent debates, I hope that we will have an opportunity to debate its conclusions in the House and come to our own views on the way forward for the international community.
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As the report sets out, whether we are talking about self-defence, anticipatory self-defence and how that interleaves with the US pre-emption doctrine, or the grey area of humanitarian intervention, we must be careful in altering our ideas to reflect a changed world situation not to provide arguments that will justify a Chinese intervention in Taiwan or a North Korean strike against South Korea or some other part of the world. That will be a finely balanced set of arguments, and we in this country must be alive to it.

We debated the reform of the United Nations this time last week in the Chamber. I hope that in responding to the Committee's work the Minister might say something about the United Nations counter-terrorism committee. In our Committee's previous reports, the UN committee, originally chaired by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, has been highlighted as a significant development. I support the initiative, which is a very important part of the UN machinery. However, the report expresses real concerns that it has lost its way, although I accept that there have been attempts to update it and to provide it with proper support and political clout in recent months. Will the Minister give us his perspective on that? That is an example of a broader issue: we must collectively modernise the legal and institutional frameworks for our interventions and maintenance of peace in the world. We must not lose sight of that.

I shall comment briefly on situation in the middle east. I echo the comments made by hon. and right hon. Members about the depressing spectacle that it makes. Our pessimism is made more acute by the political weakness of Ariel Sharon and the political and sad physical frailty of President Arafat. Like the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, I worry that the road map is dead and that we have been going through the motions for too long. Now is the time for the Quartet to have its bluff called. We will have to find a new solution if the new term for President Bush means that we cannot make progress. As I said, I am not entirely convinced that the policy proposed by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon would be effective, but it is an alternative view, and to make progress we certainly need something dramatic.

It is always instructive and a pleasure to participate in debates instigated by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Once again, its members have brought a sharp focus to bear on the most pressing of international issues, and its work on this debate shows us that the war against terrorism, however defined, is not simply a military matter. I join others in commending this fine report and in encouraging the Committee to continue its excellent work.

4.47 pm

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon) (Con): I concur with the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) that this has been a debate of the highest quality. It has been a pleasure to listen to robust and thoughtful contributions from both sides of the Chamber. Many questions have been asked and many suggestions made, and it has been a privilege to take part.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and his Committee for a very impressive report that is weighty both in kilograms and
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in substance. It is a very fine tribute to the hard work done by the right hon. Gentleman, his Committee and the team that supports and advises them.

I also state firmly for the record—I did so slightly yesterday morning, although we were not then entirely sure during our fine debate on US-UK relations of the precise outcome of the presidential election—that I strongly support the re-election of President George Bush, which gives us new opportunities in international affairs. It is obviously thrilling for us to see our sister party do so well in both Houses in the US, and to see a man with such personal convictions succeed. I am all for   the result, which is thoroughly commendable. [Interruption.] I know that the Minister will reciprocate with equally sincere warm personal wishes and a warm welcome, as, I am sure, will his colleagues.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin) : It was some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues I was wondering about.

Mr. Streeter : The Minister can wonder about his own colleagues and leave us to wonder about ours.

Mr. Maples : The Minister may not have been entirely clear whether my hon. Friend was speaking for the full   Conservative party or for his colleagues when he endorsed President Bush's victory. That was all.

Mr. Streeter : It is very rare indeed for me to speak for the whole Conservative party.

The opportunities are first to see through the job that has been started in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must get those interventions right before anyone starts to think about any more interventions around the globe. I shall say a little more about that in a moment.

Secondly, it is crucial that the US re-engage with the United Nations. The hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale talked about the United Nations reform proposals, which return to us shortly, and I hope that we can debate them. It is crucial that the US engage fully in those proposals, and that future interventions are multilateral and supported by the Security Council with formal resolutions.

Thirdly, as President Bush enters his second term and with all that he has learned in the past four years, he has the opportunity to exercise more soft power rather than hard military power in various parts of the world. I hope that the Minister will agree and confirm in his winding-up speech—he will have almost half an hour, so he will have the opportunity to answer fully the many questions that have been asked today—that the United Kingdom has the opportunity to become more assertive in our relationship with the US. Perhaps in some quarters there will be a new enthusiasm for all kinds of activity, so we must ensure it is tempered by good old-fashioned British common sense and responsibility. The Prime Minister is well placed to become more assertive.

I will mention the main focus of the report, and start as others have done on the war against terror being fought in Iraq. We have seen many external insurgents,
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such as al-Zarqawi, pouring into Iraq, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) made a powerful and chilling speech about the possibility of Iraq becoming a training ground for al-Qaeda, That is of immense concern and even more reason why we must see the work through and succeed. I do not think that my right hon. Friend or I would have necessarily started from where we are today, but we must see it through.

We have seen distressing acts of savagery—kidnapping and beheading. We think very much still of the family of Kenneth Bigley, and of Margaret Hassan, who is still captive and in our thoughts and prayers. The Minister needs to know that we will stand firmly with him to see the work through and the January elections take place. I have not heard much about engaging the United Nations in that process. The Minister was asked about security for United Nations officials, but what about monitors and support for those vital elections? Will he say more about that? We must also see reconstruction moving on apace, more jobs created for Iraqis and services re-established.

As is well known, we supported the recent deployment of the Black Watch in Iraq because Major-General Rollo confirmed that it was for operational purposes. Will the Minister say any more—we will understand if he cannot—about the proposed action on Falluja? I am concerned about whether we have done everything to reach a peaceful outcome—not with the external insurgents, as that is probably unrealistic, but with the various Iraqi factions. I am concerned also about the 50,000 or so civilians who remain in Falluja. I have no idea what military action is contemplated if any, but what about them? What opportunity is being given to them? Are we really going that extra mile to ensure that collateral damage, or the killing of innocent people, is not part of the story over the next few weeks?

Who will replace the Black Watch, given the firm commitment that it will be involved only for 30 days? Will it be the Scots Guards, as has been mentioned? My daughter has married into the military, and I have recently realised that maximum clarity about what is required of all our armed forces is a very good thing. It was the uncertainty that beset the Black Watch that caused so much distress; once it got its marching orders, things were fine. If the Minister can say any more about what will happen next, it will be most welcome.

On Afghanistan, we must, again, see the situation all   the way through. There are some causes for hope, such as the election result. President Karzai is very impressive, but, as has been said by others, his writ runs only in and around Kabul, and that situation must be improved. Will the Minister confirm that President Karzai will be provided with adequate resources to clamp down on the warlords and on terrorist groups, which are raising their ugly heads again?

We are concerned about opium production; we have taken responsibility to deal with it. When the Taliban were in   control, opium yield slumped almost to nothing: 185 metric tonnes were produced in 2001, zooming to 3,400 in 2002 and 3,600 in 2003. We expect the figure to be even higher in 2004.
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Mr. Mullin : The hon. Gentleman said that the Black Watch was going to be deployed for only 30 days. My understanding is that the only commitment given is that it will be for a limited period, lasting weeks rather than months.

Mr. Streeter : I thought I heard a senior Army officer in Iraq say that it was a 30-day deployment. However, I agree that the Prime Minister made the commitment that the Black Watch would be home by Christmas. I do not seek to challenge that; the Minister has given the answer that he has, and I am sure that is fine.

To return to opium production, it is likely that this year's yield will be even higher than last year's when the    next United Nations report comes out. The Government are committed to spend £70 million on the issue over three years. Given the scale of the impact of the yield on the United Kingdom, is that really sufficient spend to try to stamp out that vile trade?

I understand that the Americans put forward a proposal that the poppy fields should be destroyed using strimmers—they call them weed whackers, in their quaint American way—but that we said that that was not the right way forward. Why did we do that and what other ideas do we have to try to destroy those crops?

I want to make a couple of comments and ask a couple of questions about Iran. We certainly agree with and support the Government in their constructive engagement. We want to see the issue of uranium enrichment brought to a successful and harmonious conclusion. How do our Government intend to bridge   the gap between the approach taken by the EU,   particularly France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and the rather hard-line approach taken by the United States of America? What proposals are there to try to bridge that gap?

What will the United Kingdom say and do if the IAEA reports on 24 November that Iran is still intent on producing enriched uranium? After all, on Sunday the Iranian Parliament passed a law allowing them to continue to do that. Where are we going on that issue? When will we get the military equipment back that the Iranians stole from us when they wrongly captured some of our troops a few weeks ago? They are still holding British military equipment.

I want to touch briefly on the Russian Federation, because some important points have been made. Since the report was produced, we have had the sickening scenes from the Beslan siege, which was an awful outrage. What do the Government make of regular Human Rights Watch reports of Russian heavy-handedness and of the involvement of senior Russian parliamentarians and Government officials in the oil for food scandal? Does the Minister think that that impacted on how they responded to the crucial UN security resolution that they would not support?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling asked some important questions about weapons of mass destruction stockpiled throughout the former Soviet Union. What is our policy to try to do all we can to see that those stockpiles are removed?

I also want to focus briefly on the middle east peace process. President Bush's re-election, as others have said, gives a fresh opportunity. He can be more relaxed about the Jewish lobby and the strong Christian
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evangelical lobby in the USA, which has a very zealous view of the state of Israel. We welcomed the Prime Minister's commitment at the Labour party conference to re-engage vigorously in the proposal. Can the Minister confirm that he meant it and that he will take that forward over the next few days and weeks?

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), who asked whether the road map exists any longer or whether it has been blown to pieces. What is the strategy either to get the road map back on track or to introduce a new way to bring both sides together? I want the Minister to know that any action that the Government take to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back to the table so that they can negotiate and finally settle the outstanding issues between them will have our full support.

What role is the Government playing as regards security operations to help the Palestinians in Gaza enjoy security during the withdrawal? What is the status of the current Quartet engagement with the road map? Finally, what is the United Kingdom's strategy for taking the matter forward?

Other issues were mentioned. During his sparkling, thoughtful and insightful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) spoke about exporting democracy, and I absolutely agreed with him in my equally sparkling intervention. No one plans to   export our style of democracy anywhere—certainly not with hob-nailed boots on—but it is important to underpin and encourage a local expression of democracy in the right way. We should encourage the rule of law, freedom of speech and some kind of representative governance in every country we can, because that is the framework in which people can enjoy freedom.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon that the Government's response to one paragraph in the report was over modest. I have been involved in some work being done by the global opportunities fund in Bahrain. There has been a new Parliament for the past two years, and I   hope   to return there in a couple of weeks to help   parliamentarians learn more about holding a Government to account—something that we do excellently in this country, of course. The Foreign Office is doing some very good work on such issues, and it is important that we know about it and spread it to other countries. It is long-term, often invisible work, but it is important and I strongly support it.

I was recently in Saudi Arabia, where people are holding municipal elections at the end of this year and the beginning of next. While I was there, a raging debate was under way about whether women should be given the right to stand for election and to vote. I did not know whether to be depressed or jubilant about the fact that they were having that debate. None the less, something is moving there.

In a very enjoyable speech, the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) spoke of not allowing countries to use the war against terror as an excuse for human rights abuses, and I think, in particular, of Uzbekistan. Will the Minister confirm that our man in Tashkent was not recalled simply because he was robust on the issue of
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human rights and expressed his strong view to the Foreign Office that we should not extract evidence under torture?

Mr. Mullin : Yes, I can confirm that.

Mr. Streeter : I had not finished the questions yet, but that is very welcome. Who took the decision to recall him? Hon. Members have tabled questions about the issue, but we have not really had full replies. Why did the case arise? Why were so many charges of misconduct levied last year but then mysteriously withdrawn? I do not want to be overly accusatory or to overcook this, but there is just a faint whiff of something being not quite right. I hope that the Minister, in his winding-up speech, rather than in an intervention now—

Mr. Mullin rose—

Mr. Streeter : Oh, go on then.

Mr. Mullin : If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I   cannot go into details about the case, because it is liable to be the subject of employment or legal proceedings, and we must obviously await their outcome.

Mr. Streeter : I would like to finish where I started by thanking the Foreign Affairs Committee for its excellent work. The United Kingdom has a significant role to play in international affairs and the war against terror, and the Committee's excellent work is very much part and parcel of that.

5.4 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin) : Hon. Members will be grateful to the Committee for its   comprehensive and thoughtful report. They will have seen the Government's detailed response, which was published in September. It addresses some questions that I have been asked, and I commend it to hon. Members. We have heard some wide-ranging and impressive speeches, and I shall do my best to address all the points that have been raised. If I cannot respond to some of them, or do not get round to doing so, I shall write to hon. Members.

The report underlines not only the enormous challenges facing the international community but the extent of the international effort to deal with the terrorist threat and its causes. In recent years, 60 nations on five continents have been affected by terrorist acts. In the past five years as many as 4,000 people have died in such attacks—the majority carried out by al-Qaeda-related groups.

International terrorism and the potential of terrorists to acquire and use weapons that kill on a massive scale, to which some hon. Members have referred, present the greatest threat to our security. That is why fighting terrorism and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction have become our No. 1 priority. That means not just military action to hunt down terrorists, but   dealing with the causes of terrorism—injustice,
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oppression and poverty, which contribute to the helplessness and despair that, as several hon. Members have mentioned, all too often fuel extreme reactions.

While we continue to strengthen international action to thwart terrorists we must redouble our efforts to strengthen the rule of law, help democracy take root and alleviate the suffering of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. That is the focus of our efforts to support the modernisation of political and economic structures in the broader middle east region.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), who referred to the work of the Government's global opportunities fund. Part of my portfolio is the Chevening scholarships, which draw those whom we regard as potential movers and shakers in many parts of the world to this country in an attempt to teach them something about our culture and democratic culture in the hope that they will take it back to their countries.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) asked what we are going to do to change the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt—I think that that is the gist of what he said. He is right—those are two key countries for progress in the middle east. Where, as in the case of Egypt in particular, Governments are heavily dependent on large amounts of foreign aid, there is some leverage, but I would not want to pretend—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want me to—that it is in our gift to change those regimes or impose reform on them.

All that we can do is hope, where local initiatives are occurring, to exert influence—especially to press the   role of women, to which the hon. Member for South-West Devon referred—and to lead by example. However, we have enough on our hands at the moment in Iraq and Afghanistan without opening a new front, if hon. Members will forgive me for putting it so.

The report states, and I agree, that it is important not to impose reform but to encourage and support domestic initiatives where appropriate. That is the basis of the Government's approach.

In passing, I want to touch on an area not covered by the report—Africa. Already, failed states such as Somalia have become a breeding ground for terrorists who have been responsible for atrocities in several African countries, and we must not allow that virus to spread. That is why support for good governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights is the focus of our work in Africa.

Despite serious incidents in Nairobi, Mombassa and Dar es Salaam, Africa has not yet become a hotbed of terrorism, but it will if we neglect it. That is one reason why the Prime Minister has established the Commission for Africa; it is to take a fresh look at the huge challenges facing that continent. That is also one of the reasons why we already have a huge development programme targeted on Africa.

Donald Anderson : In fact, the Committee dealt with that in a report on bilateral relations with South Africa and in an earlier report in the series.

Mr. Mullin : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that information.
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As the Committee makes clear, 2005 will also be a critical year for Iraq. There is, as we all appreciate, a growing appetite among the Iraqi people for elections. As the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) said, the legitimacy of any Government in Iraq will flow from those elections. The Iraqis want to be able to determine their own future, and we attach great importance, therefore, to the January elections, which will be a milestone in the   transition toward achieving a constitution-based Government by the end of next year.

Several Members have asked about UN involvement. A United Nations team, under the Secretary-General's special representative Ashraf Qazi, is helping the Iraqi independent election commission to prepare for the elections. Political parties and electoral laws have been agreed, a provisional voter registration database, which contains about 14 million names, has been completed and tested, and a public information campaign has started, for which 2 million leaflets are ready for distribution.

The UK and the US are working closely with the UN to ensure that UN personnel get the protection that they need to operate effectively. I assure the House that we take every possible measure to ensure the safety of our personnel. Travel outside secure zones and bases must be in armoured vehicles with close-protection teams, and is limited to essential journeys.

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) asked whether the world is a safer place as a result of the invasion of Iraq. He said, I think, that that is a matter future historians will discuss. It has, though, been debated in the House many times, and will be debated many more times. If he will forgive me, I   shall not go down that road now, interesting as it is. I will, however, make two points. First, the Iraq survey group report of 6 October confirmed that there were no weapons of mass destruction, but it also made it clear that Saddam intended to resume his WMD programmes after sanctions were lifted.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that al-Qaeda is now present in Iraq, but most of the attacks have been carried out by former members of the Ba'athist regime.

Mr. Tyrie : Is it the Minister's view that an intention to start a programme to create a weapon can constitute a justification for war?

Mr. Mullin : I did not say that. I merely pointed out a sentence or two that were missing from the account that the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling gave of the 6 October report.

Terrorists and insurgents are stepping up their attacks, but Prime Minister Allawi is determined that as many Iraqis as possible should be able to take part in the elections. Iraqis will able to register to vote in any polling station in Iraq. They do not need to vote in the polling station nearest their home. Prime Minister Allawi has said that he wants the political process to be as inclusive as possible. He has made major efforts to encourage Sunni and Shi'a leaders to join the political process and create the secure, stable conditions needed
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for the elections to take place. We are giving him, the Iraqi Interim Government and the Iraqi security forces all the support we can.

Security is vital. Already, there are more than 220,000 Iraqi security personnel on the streets. We continue to equip and train the Iraqi security forces, and the multinational force is helping the Iraqis to protect the infrastructure and provide security for key Iraqi personnel.

I note that the Committee expressed disappointment at the number of countries that have so far been prepared to contribute to the multinational force—as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East, today—and urges the Government to encourage more countries to do so. We shall indeed do so, but I remind the Chamber that the multinational force is drawn from   30 nations, including 14 European countries. Italy, Poland and the Netherlands are major troop contributors along with South Korea and Ukraine. It is a concerted effort, and we will continue to encourage other nations to join us.

I pay tribute to the courage and determination of UK armed forces, and all the military and civilian personnel from around the world who are putting their lives at risk to help the people of Iraq.

Despite the difficult security situation, reconstruction continues. The hon. Member for South-West Devon asked me for details of that. I have a long list that I can hand to him but, if he will forgive me, I will not read it out.

Electricity distribution is now more equitable across the country and 45 km of water pipes have been laid in Basra alone. In early September, the Secretary of State for International Development announced that the UK would contribute an additional £50 million to help to create jobs and to provide training for Iraqis. That is in addition to the £252 million disbursed in the financial year 2003–04 from the UK's overall commitment of £544 million in the three years to 2006. As the report makes clear, we cannot afford to let Iraq fail. We will continue to urge the international community to support Iraq's rehabilitation, and we will continue to help the Iraqi authorities to create a safe and stable country so that Iraqis can live in peace and rebuild their lives.

We are also working towards that in Afghanistan, where 10.5 million people, including 4 million women, registered to vote in the recent presidential elections. Those were the first democratic elections ever in Afghanistan, and there was a turnout of more than 80   per cent. The next step in the political process is parliamentary elections, which are due to take place next spring. The Afghan people sense a new hope and a new beginning, but I think that we all agree that much needs to be done to improve security across the country.

As the Committee said in its report, the provincial reconstruction teams are one of the success stories of the international engagement in Afghanistan. The report notes, however, that there are differences in the approaches adopted by different PRTs and suggests that they all be brought under the control of the international security assistance force. Unfortunately that is, for the time being, not possible because ISAF's writ does not yet extend throughout Afghanistan. However, as ISAF expands, more PRTs will be
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brought under its command. The two UK-led PRTs, in Maimana and in Mazar-e-Sharif, were transferred to ISAF on 1 July.

As hon. Members will know, the UK led the way in deploying a PRT and was instrumental in generating the resources necessary to expand ISAF beyond Kabul in the north. By the end of October, ISAF was deploying 9,500 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO countries. ISAF's contribution to the security of the recent elections—a commitment made at the Istanbul summit—was crucial. ISAF now needs to move to the next stage of expansion, which is to the west. The UK is working with potential contributors and with the NATO authorities to tie down the different offers of resources.

Long-term stability is vital for Afghanistan's economic development. Stability is also the key to tackling the hugely complex problem of opium cultivation. I am grateful to the Committee for its recognition that there are no instant solutions to the problem. Eradication of the opium poppy is a campaign that demands perseverance and long-term commitment. The hon. Member for South-West Devon asked me about the scale of poppy growth. I understand that the    results of the UN survey will be published on 18 November. That will provide us with the most up-to-date figures.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about a programme involving strimming. I do not pretend to know the details, but I am told that there are no plans for such a programme. If I find out anything different, I will get back to him. As the lead country in co-ordinating counter-narcotics activity in Afghanistan, the UK will continue to provide substantial support to help the Afghan Government to implement their national drug control strategy. We have, as the hon. Gentleman noted, committed more than £70 million in three years for counter-narcotics activity and at least £20 million for developing alternative livelihoods.

To encourage Afghans to develop a viable economy, we are funding research on alternatives. We are also considering innovative ways to fund the significant income gap between opium poppy and other crop cultivation and the crippling opium debt that many Afghan farmers have accumulated. We are working with the Afghans and with our international partners on improving law enforcement, eradication, judicial reform and the Afghan public's awareness of the illegality of the opium industry. Winning the war on drugs is central to winning the war on terror, as drug money supports the insurgents and funds weapons. We must tackle the issue not just inside Afghanistan but, as we are already doing, with Afghanistan's neighbours.

I turn now to Pakistan, which is a key ally in the fight    against terrorism. We welcome the Select Committee's conclusion that Pakistan is making a meaningful contribution to the war against terrorism. We welcome President Musharraf's support. He has taken considerable personal and political risks to confront the extremist groups operating in Pakistan and   to stop the spread of nuclear weapons-building capability. We will continue to support him in his efforts and to work with the Pakistani authorities to promote sustainable development, greater democracy and respect for human rights.
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Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope), who has had to leave the Chamber, we warmly welcome the improved relationship with India and continue to encourage India and Pakistan to resolve their differences over Kashmir. However, as my hon. Friend noted, our advice is not always welcomed by either party, so we must tread carefully when proffering it.

Russia is also a key partner in our efforts to combat terrorism, as the Select Committee's report underlines. We will continue to work with Russia, both bilaterally through our joint working group on terrorism and military co-operation, and multilaterally in the UN, the    G8—in particular, the important global partnership programme—and the NATO-Russia Council. Although, as the Select Committee says, the war in Chechnya is not purely a terrorist insurgency, it is important to recognise that Russia faces genuine and serious security problems in the north Caucasus. Several Members referred to the horrific tragedy at Beslan, which is only the most recent example.

Finally, I turn to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which, as we all recognise, has done more than anything else to fan the flames of hatred and terrorism that threaten the stability of the entire middle east, if not the world. The Prime Minister has said that reviving the middle east process is one of his personal priorities. We shall continue to work with the new US Administration, our EU partners and members of the Quartet to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to move forward. Both sides must deliver their commitments under the road map. We continue to think that that is the best way to achieve a lasting political settlement. I believe that hon. Members will agree that much depends on the extent to which the new American Government are willing to become engaged, and we shall encourage them to do so.

Prime Minister Sharon's plan to withdraw all settlements from Gaza and some from the west bank is an opportunity for progress. We have made it clear, however, that such withdrawals should be a first step rather than an end in themselves. Despite what the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, we continue to believe that the road map is the best way to achieve a comprehensive and lasting settlement. I am sure that I speak for the Government—I hope I do—when I say that we are unconvinced that we could impose a solution on the parties.

We are also urging the Palestinians to deliver on their security responsibilities, which include serious action against terrorists, especially those who organise suicide bombings. We provide technical assistance and training to the Palestinian security forces to help them to take more   effective action against those who plan suicide bombings, and we are urging the Israelis to curb heavy-handed action by their defence forces. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, progress in the middle east, along with democracy in Afghanistan and in Iraq,

Sir John Stanley : I assure the Minister that this is not tit for tat in return for his comments about my being less than comprehensive in reporting on the Iraq survey group, but will he and the Foreign Secretary reflect on how advisable it is to go on referring to the withdrawal
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of Israeli settlements from the west bank without making it clear what is involved? Is it not the case that we are talking about the removal of just four out of 138 settlements in the west bank, that the population of those four is less than 1 per cent. of the total number of   settlers on the west bank and that, at the same time   as that withdrawal was announced, the Sharon Government announced a significant new house-building programme inside the existing settlements?

Mr. Mullin : The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to draw attention to that, and I am sure that it is an issue that we will discuss with the Israelis.

At an international level, we hope that the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General's high-level panel—that may be what the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) was referring to—will encourage greater consensus on action to strengthen international security, including tackling emerging threats at an earlier stage. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Chichester that the key to defeating terrorism is to win over moderate Muslims. I think that every sensible person would accept that and that must be the approach that all sensible countries follow. It is certainly a large part of our strategy.

We must also continue to promote greater understanding between peoples of different faiths, cultures and traditions. I take this opportunity to
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acknowledge the often unsung work of those working in   non-governmental organisations and voluntary organisations around the world to teach and promote learning through educational and cultural exchange. For our part, through the work of the Department for International Development, the Foreign Office and the British Council, we will continue to support political, economic and cultural development in those parts of the world riven by strife.

Mr. Tyrie : Before the Minister finishes, will he return to the questions that I asked about British responsibility for the detainees who may have been held in Abu Ghraib? I refer to the 341 detainees we passed to the United States. Did we check up on what was happening to them while they were detained? Were any of them in Abu Ghraib? Have we checked up on them since they left or made any effort to contact them?

Mr. Mullin : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me. I understand that that is the issue on which he wrote to the Foreign Secretary. He said that he had not had a reply, but I understand that one is in the post, so he will hear shortly.

We all appreciate that greater understanding brings tolerance and with tolerance comes peace. That is our goal and I am sure that it is the goal of us all.

Question put and agreed to.

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