Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab): It was a bold assertion of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr.   Soames) that the British Government and the British Government alone appear responsible for the lack of post-war planning in Iraq and for the growth in poppy production in Afghanistan. I was interested in what he had to say about Bosnia. Clearly, that can be paraded by the Opposition with their anti-EU credentials but, over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of discussing that very problem with both General Leakey, who will take up his position on 2 December, and his American opposite number, the commander of KFOR, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that neither of them sees the problems that he mentioned.

I should also like to make the interesting observation that the hon. Gentleman criticised my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for not leading this debate, but that that was entirely in the hands of the Opposition in terms of the day that they chose for it. Yes, his points were interesting and fortissimo, but wholly irrelevant to the issues facing our country.
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 129
 

I found the Gracious Speech very challenging. It set out a programme that would probably take at least 18 months to implement. Perhaps on this occasion, the pregnant phrase,

has special significance, in that, if there is a settlement in Northern Ireland—as we desperately hope that there will be; we give today's talks on that matter every good wish—at least six more Bills will be brought before the House. There would then be even more on the table than there is now. Perhaps we should regard the Queen's Speech as a shop window of aspirations rather than as having the serious expectation that all, or at least part, of it will become law by Maundy Thursday, when the House may adjourn and we shall face elections.

Turning to foreign policy, we have a crowded agenda before us—perhaps more crowded than any that I can recall in all my years in Parliament. The starting point is that the old distinctions between foreign and domestic policy are less clear than they were in the past. I join the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex in his views on the problems of Afghanistan today and the drug problems that we face on our streets. As he rightly said, the United Nations report published on 18 November states that Afghanistan now supplies 87 per cent. of the world's opium. In 2003, the trade was worth $2.8 billion—more than 60 per cent. of the country's gross domestic product—and one in 10 Afghans are estimated to be involved in the business. A farmer can earn more than 10 times as much by growing poppies as he can by cultivating wheat, so when we talk airily about alternatives to poppies, such as onions or wheat, we must remember that nothing can give the ordinary farmer nearly the same returns as poppies, particularly if the gangs are holding a gun to his head to make him produce them. Opium cultivation has increased by 64 per cent. compared with 2003.

Linked to that is what I see in my local newspaper, the South Wales Evening Post, which on 13 November carried photographs of 20 local people who had been imprisoned for a total of about 60 years. They are ordinary folk who were involved in the business of selling hard drugs on the streets of my city and devastating the lives of so many young people there. The trail that begins in the poppy fields of Afghanistan leads inexorably to those people who are now, quite properly, in prison for destroying my constituent's lives.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that other elements in the Queen's Speech that might address the demand side of the drugs trade are likely to be far more effective than trying to address the supply side in Afghanistan or elsewhere?

Donald Anderson: We have to attack the problem at each link of the chain, from production in Afghanistan—where 95 per cent. of the heroin on our streets comes from—through each country on the trail from Afghanistan to the UK, to the criminal penalties, education and the range of other measures relevant to our country that are within the direct responsibility of our Government and civil society here. My point is to highlight the clear nexus between foreign and domestic
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 130
 
policy, which is illustrated particularly dramatically by the drugs problem. One could also identify that nexus in regard to terrorism.

Clearly we need not only the range of measures to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) alluded, but a most serious effort by the international community. The United Kingdom has a particular role to play in that, because of our leadership in the Afghan national drugs control strategy. For those colleagues who might be interested, that is detailed in paragraphs 193 to 204 of the Foreign Affairs Committee report on the war on terrorism, which we published last July. Links are identified in the Queen's Speech between drugs, crime and security that involve international problems that cut across our borders and that require international co-operation to tackle them.

The war against terrorism is also partly international and partly domestic. It might seem remote at one level, but we saw the newspaper headlines over the weekend suggesting that a number of those people released from Guantanamo Bay were still involved in terrorism and had reoffended. Yesterday's headline in The Independent said that the Government were seeking to create the politics of fear. On the same day, in an interesting juxtaposition, the Daily Mail reported a story about Canary wharf. In the mid-1990s, we let into this country several hundred Algerian refugees, who were members of the FIS, after the election there. Many of them have gone to ground. However, it is from Pakistan that the greatest terrorist threat arises, and I pay tribute to President Musharraf for the courageous way in which he is dealing with that issue at home.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I am sure that the Government are sincere in saying that they are not trying to create a climate of fear, but does the right hon. Gentleman believe that it was entirely coincidental that that two-year-old story should emerge only a couple of days before the Queen's Speech?

Donald Anderson: I do not know whether it was a coincidence. All I know is that, if the Government had not shown themselves ready to tackle that issue, they would quite properly have been accused of complacency by many hon. Members. From the briefings that I have received, I have no problem in acknowledging the enormous threat to this country and the security of our people that international terrorism presents, especially those involved in international terrorism who are seeking to gain weapons of mass destruction. At the moment, there is no evidence that they have done so, but the threat is appalling, and the Government would be failing our own people if they did not seek to alert the public to it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that moral and political problems arise over the conflict between the civil liberties that we value and the threat from international terrorism.

David Winnick: Whatever differences there might be over identity cards—my views on that are known to some hon. Members—is it not a fact that those who want to inflict the gravest damage on western democracies have not changed their minds in any way
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 131
 
whatever? If terrorists could inflict an atrocity on Britain, they would certainly do so without the slightest hesitation.

Donald Anderson: I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, but the kind of issues that I am thinking of include Uzbekistan, for example, and how we should respond to evidence that has been obtained by torture or to countries whose support we need in other areas. How should we deal with the Russian Federation over Chechnya, for example? How should we deal with Belmarsh? These important issues challenge us as democrats as we seek to face the problems of international terrorism. In terms of dealing with the Arab world, this involves a major task of public diplomacy, as the Foreign Office seeks to bring the various elements together. The United States has the so-called greater middle east initiative. I am somewhat sceptical about that, first because it is so comprehensive and, secondly, because it seeks to take a top-down position and has not taken the countries involved fully into the discussion. However, it is most important that we encourage good governance in the Arab countries and seek to build every possible bridge of understanding there.

What are the prospects, broadly, of those areas covered in the Gracious Speech in terms of foreign affairs? On transatlantic relations, we have to accept that the election is over and that President Bush is there for another four years. Perhaps some in the United States Administration are confident that the election confirmed popular support for their international relations policies.

We will have to work with the Administration for the next four years. The new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is, happily, well known to this country and has a very close working relationship with Sir David Manning, our ambassador. Indeed, the change from Mr. Colin Powell could be positive in that it is clear that he was somewhat marginalised over his latter years in office and that Ms Rice is clearly an insider and has more clout in the White House, where it matters.

We face strains between a number of our key European allies and the United States, particularly over Iraq, although it is significant that, in yesterday's talks at Sharm el-Sheikh, the French leader, Michel Barnier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and other French officials were apparently far more conciliatory and started off far more co-operatively over Iraq. That emphasises the role of the United Kingdom, for which we are often criticised, of seeking to build a bridge between the United States and Europe. There will be key areas where we take a very different view from our US allies, such as Kyoto, the World Trade Organisation and Iran, but is important that we have this special relationship while trying to ensure that the US learns multilateralism and that the sheriff, reluctant or not, needs allies and accepts that he cannot manage on his own.

Another such example is the western Balkans, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex. That relatively small part of Europe is manageable and it should be managed by the European Union, so it is
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 132
 
wholly proper that the US, which two years or so ago was highly sceptical of an EU military presence following the initiative taken by Britain and France, is now totally supportive of a Berlin-plus initiative with the European Union force—EUFOR—taking over in the western Balkans on 2 December. That is important in showing not only the transformation in US policies, but what we as Europeans must do in an area that so much affects our own interests and security. Equally, with our US partners, we have to get over those stereotypes of Mars and Venus—hard power and soft power, with the US doing the cooking and the Europeans doing the washing up.

I turn to what the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex said—he said it rather well, I thought—about the middle east peace process. The role of the US is vital if there is to be progress. I recall the point made by President Bush in Belfast when he undertook to give the same commitment to the middle east peace process as the Prime Minister had given to Northern Ireland. We have seen that commitment from the Prime Minister—indeed, it may be one of the great achievements of this Administration, although I conceded that it is built on many foundations that John Major laid earlier—but we have not seen that same commitment from the US. We may have seen at least the start of it with Monday's visit by Colin Powell, but the key aspect is that such a visit by the US Secretary of State had not taken place for 18 months, which hardly shows the promised commitment and engagement.

It is clearly very important that the US should appoint a senior envoy—which, I say in passing, was recommended by the Foreign Affairs Committee and has been so recommended on a number of occasions—analogous to the James Baker initiative during the early '90s. The points of movement have been set out already—ensuring that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza goes ahead and seeking to assure the Israelis on the security issue, because it is absolutely clear that the Palestinians could do more on the security side to prevent suicide attacks on Israel—but we can only hope that there is now a moment of opportunity because of the Palestinian elections and because the US has a President who does not face re-election due to the assurance of a second four-year term. Also, we have the elections in Iraq on 30 January, so the new leadership gives an opportunity that should not be missed.

Turning to Iran and Iraq, we were unaware of the extent of Iran's development of a nuclear capability. By contrast, there was a massive exaggeration of the weapons of mass destruction available to Iraq, whereas we were unaware of the extent of Libya's development arising from the A.Q. Khan network. Libya, however, has proved a model case in co-operation and non-proliferation since last October. On Iran, we know of the EU 3 agreement in October last year, that the International Atomic Energy Agency will discuss Iran tomorrow and that there have been last-minute hitches in terms of the nature of the suspension and the monitoring of Iran's compliance with its undertakings to the EU 3.

Who is right: the US to be very sceptical or Europe to be perhaps a little too naive about the development? History will tell.
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 133
 


Next Section IndexHome Page