Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). Although we differ on how to define national interest in the context in which he implied it, he certainly struck me as a convert to the cause advocated by the former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook): the ethical foreign policy, which came to such an unhappy end during the first Labour Government after 1997. However, I want to speak about something rather different.
Commentators have characterised the Queen's Speech as being set in a context of fear and insecurity and I agree with those on both sides of that argument, believe it or not. Certainly in respect of domestic policy, many of those fears and insecurities are alive and well, particularly in the poorer parts of the country where crime is a very real pandemic, but it is not necessarily the case that we can extrapolate from those specific areas to other parts of the country and make the same case. We must distinguish between the legitimate fears of crime and antisocial behaviour in many forms and the fact that the fear of crime often overtakes the reality. I would argue that the converse is true in respect of foreign and
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defence policies. We are working in a climate of fear and much of it is misplaced. That is not to deny that there are real dangers and challenges, but to deny the all-pervading sense that, down the road, some cataclysm will be foisted on the people of the United Kingdom. That is just not the case, and I see no objective evidence to suggest that it is; neither do I see the merit in stoking up people's fears in the way in which they often are.
Where the effect of crime on domestic issues and foreign and defence policy most recently came to a conjunction was in Afghanistan. The Secretary of State for Defence referred to the drug trade in Afghanistan. Many figures have been bandied about in the House this afternoon, but they do not illuminate much. I hope that what would illuminate the point is a simple figure that we tend to forget: the year before the overthrow of the Taliban, for all their many and manifest failings as some kind of administration in Afghanistan, they reduced the export of heroin to 80 tonnes a year. They waged a war on heroin, so the price went up in western European cities, because Afghanistan is the main source for our drugs. I may have the figures slightly awry, but I understand that 3,600 tonnes were produced in Afghanistan last year, and one of the principal operators in the trade is Dostum, one of the chiefs of the Northern Alliance.
I happen to know that Dostum met one of the big heroin importers into this country, who told me from prisonwhere, happily, he is locked up for many yearsthat his contact in importing heroin into this country was, through his Turkish intermediaries, Dostum. It was a great success to put such a man in a position of responsibility in post-war Afghanistan. No one takes issue with the need to get at the viper's nest of al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, but the failure to operate effectively afterwards meant that that man was able to ply his pernicious trade once more. Under the Taliban, he could not do so to the same extent.
David Cairns: May I correct my hon. Friend's figures slightly? The figure was 185 and not 80 tonnes. He is right about the figure of 3,600 but the peak, under the Taliban, was 4,600 tonnes. They stopped production in only one year and still had the stockpiles in which they proceeded to trade. We must not allow the myth to emerge that the Taliban were somehow cracking down on opium production. They were not; it was a tactical manoeuvre in one year and they continued to profit from it. That does not take anything away from what my hon. Friend said subsequently, but we must not allow the impression to be given that the Taliban were getting tough on this trade.
Mr. Kilfoyle: I defer to my hon. Friend's detailed knowledge of the figures. However, as he said, that does not take away from the argument that the people now in power can ply a pernicious trade that thoroughly infects the west.
I also want to refer to the so-called special relationship. Everything that has been said in the debate so far is, in one way or another, predicated on the special relationship. I have heard speaker after speaker say how important the transatlantic alliance is to them personally and, by that, they mean the special relationship. The transatlantic alliance is important to me, and it has been important to us for generations and
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will be for generations to come. It is not without end, but we should try to define what it means and how, to return to a point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham, it affects our national interests.
The issue is how we interpret our national interest and whether it is often subordinated to that of the United States. I take no issue with the United States for pursuing its national interest. When our national interest is not at one with theirs, it is up to us to decide whether we go with their interest or our own. To do that, we have to take a wee historical look at what the special relationship means and, as I said, we must define it.
Whenever I have mentioned the special relationshipfrom the Back Benches or from the Front Bench, in private or in publicI have asked what the quid pro quo is from the British perspective. I was told that it was intelligence, and I will come to that subject in a moment. I could no see no other overriding factor that suggested that we should have a special relationship ad aeternam because all sorts of goodies accrued to the British people as a result. As I see it, as part of the special relationship, we hand over the use of places such as Diego Garcia, Fylingdales and Menwith Hill and, in return, we receive intelligence.
Most of the time, we unquestioningly acquiesce in a whole variety of policies that emanate from within the beltway in Washington. They are not necessarily well thought out or in our national interest, but the acquiescence is there. In return, we have the British Prime Minister's totemic right to a hearing in Washington. What do we actually get out of that?
To understand the answer, we must look at what we have achieved over the past 50 years as a result of the special relationship. Let us dispose of some of myths while not, in any way, decrying the enormous efforts made for five or six decades by the United States under various Governments. They have determined western progress and western advancement. Let us consider the situation immediately after world war two. I know that it rankles with many old soldiers to talk about the wartime and who won the warwe have this in every Remembrance servicebut the truth is that it was won due to a combination of factors. Within that crucible, however, our special relationship with the United States was forged. Historically, that was mostly due to family contacts, and especially Churchill and Roosevelt, the then leaders of the two great western democracies standing against fascism.
The relationship has moved on since that time, but that has not happened without a price. I remember going with my ration book to the shops when I was a young ladI was a young lad once. One reason that rationing continued in this country for so long was the enormous cost of repaying the United States for the fantastic help and support that it lent us during and after the war. However, such help and support came at a tremendous cost to this country.
It has been said that the special relationship was not brought to bear at Suez because that did not suit the national interests of the United States. However, we must also consider smaller matters on the global scale, such as the invasion of Grenada, when we were not even informed that a Commonwealth country was to be invaded. I thought that the notion that the United Kingdom was always the prime base in Europe for
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American interests was laid to rest during the latter stages of the cold war, when Germany was far more important to the United States than the United Kingdom was. That does not diminish our relationship with the United States, but shows that it is in a state of flux. The United States will do whatever is in its interestslong may that be, if one is an American. I happen to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, so I sometimes take issue with that.
The situation has never been more obvious than during the illegal and immoral war against IraqI and many outside the Chamber maintain that that remains the case. We must consider the cost of the war to us. We have been associated with not only the prosecution of such a war, but with attempts at making peace that have included such phenomena as Abu Ghraib and the levelling of Falluja. I want no association with such peace making; it is not peace making at all because, as many hon. Members have eloquently said, it adds to the fires of extremism and terrorism not only in Iraq, but throughout the world.
We have become politically estranged from many of our older reliable allies throughout the world. Emerging countries in which we invested much political capital say that we are perhaps nothing more than a satrapy of the United States and, as such, should not be trusted. Our forces have been overstretched and put into such a situation that ex-Chiefs of the Defence Staff repeatedly advised the Government, as did the then Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Michael Boyce, that we should have had an acceptable exit strategy, although we still do not have one. The country will pay an economic cost not only now, but down the years, although we all know that America is advancing its economic interests in Iraq. The huge investment by the Foreign Office in good will throughout the whole of the middle east and the Arab world has been damaged considerably. We have paid those costs for our part in the special relationship, because no reason can explain why we joined the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, except advocating the special relationship.
I, like the Prime Minister and any sensible person, recognise that we must move onthe whole world wants to move on. However, what will we move on to? We must remember that we are moving towards a world in which there will not be only one superpower, because the emerging superpowers of China and India are making rapid strides. We do not know how the European Union will evolve and what that will mean for the United Kingdom's foreign and defence policy.
I know that the overwhelming opinion of the Government and, I assume, the House, is that we will continue to cherish the special relationship for many more years, even if people such as me think that it is something of a myth. We must accept that that is the majority view, but what sort of world will it lead us to? Let us consider what the present American Administration advocate. They are an Administration who instinctively reject diplomacy, multilateralism, collectivism and want to go it alone. They have kyboshed international treaties, not least the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which allows them to begin the first steps towards national missile defence. That approach extends into other areas, Kyoto being the obvious example. They are an Administration who are anti-United Nations. No matter what those with a
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different view might say, all the evidence has stacked up to suggest that there is a visceral antagonism towards the United Nations on the part of the Administration and their intellectual supporters among the neo-conservatives.