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Does my hon. Friend agree that while we welcome and support the personal commitment by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to fighting poverty in Africa and the poorest countries, that campaign should not be conducted at the expense of middle income countries that are our traditional allies and friends? In particular, unless the push towards free markets and liberalisation and the removal of protection from traditional Caribbean agricultural products such as sugar and bananas are carefully managed, countries such as Jamaica and the Leeward and Windward islands will be plunged into poverty. If agricultural labourers are displaced from the traditional crops of sugar and bananas, they will diversify not into computer programming, but into the drugs trade and
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criminality. We must give careful thought to the process of liberalisation so that we do not make poor people poorer.
Jeremy Corbyn: As my hon. Friend knows, I too am a member of the all-party Caribbean group, and the best years of my life were spent in Jamaica, so I hope that I have some understanding of the problems that are faced by economies that developed around sugar and bananas and other fruit for export to Europe through the colonial system. If we remove that avenue for sale, as we are doing at present, impoverishment will follow, followed by the drugs trade and criminal elements. Tourism cannot solve all problems within the Caribbean; there has to be an indigenous agricultural system there, and we should be supportive of that.
John Bercow: I agree very much with what the hon. Gentleman said about the emerging consensus on trade policy; I focused extensively on it in my election literature. As trade distorting subsidies to western agricultural production are the knowing, deliberate and calculated policies of the richest Governments on earth to make the richest people on earth richer and to exacerbate the plight of the poor, how does the hon. Gentleman think, in practical terms in a multilateral context, it will be possible to get agreement in the EU and with the United States at the World Trade Organisation to get rid of those subsidies, given that we will have to take on powerful political lobbies who want to do nothing of the kind?
Jeremy Corbyn: I am astonished and welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I agree that we will have to take on very powerful lobbies, and in the United States the federal Government's heavy subsidising of powerful interests to dump food on Africa and other parts of the world, but particularly on Africa, amounts to an investment by the US in the wealthiest to impoverish the very poorest in Africa. That is the effect of it, and likewise the dumping of genetically modified crops.
The last WTO round collapsed, essentially because of a degree of unity that developed between Brazil, India and China, which led the poorest countries in the world, and that was a good thing, because had a deal been reached on the agenda that had been put down, it would have been very damaging to the poorest people around the globe. If we want to conquer poverty, we must make changes, and that means ending this subsidy of food dumping by Europe and the United States, supporting and promoting industrial development and job creation in the poorest countries in the world, and allowing a degree of protection of agricultural industries to continue in Africa, the Caribbean and other places so that they can develop themselves and eliminate their own poverty. It is not a simple process, but it requires a clear commitment by us. Therefore, if we go to the WTO linking arms with the worst elements of the EU and the United States, we will only set our faces against the poorest in the poorest countries of the world. If we are serious about conquering poverty, we must be prepared to pay the price for it as well. I hope that the Government are prepared to do that.
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I want to conclude with a point that I made during an intervention on the Minister, and that is the issue of the non-proliferation treaty review conference that is going on in New York at present. That was a landmark treaty achieved during the cold war in which we talked clearly about the long-term proposal for the five declared nuclear weapon states to disarm. It has to be welcome; it has to be a good thing. That was its long-term objective. Because of the existence of that treaty, it has been possible to say firmly to other countries that were thinking of developing nuclear weapons that they should not do so. It has had considerable effect. There are some estimates that as many as 25 countries would have developed nuclear weapons by now had it not been for that treaty. But to achieve success requires a clear statement by the Government. I welcome the fact that the Queen's Speech said nothing about developing a new generation of nuclear weapons. I wish that it had said that there would be no new generation of nuclear weapons, but at least by not saying the opposite it gives that possibility.
I have received reports about the NPT conferenceI must declare that I am a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and that I have been a member of CND for as long as I have been a member of the Labour party, which is since the age of 16and I shall quote from the comprehensive overview of the situation released by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed el-Baradei:
"The US has refused to accept the inclusion of any reference to both the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conference. This means reneging on a significant step made at the 2000 Conference when the UK and the four other declared nuclear weapons states gave an 'unequivocal undertaking to work toward the total elimination of their nuclear weapons' and the 13-point practical step agreement to achieve that goal".
When the BBC's "Newsnight" programme interviewed the Prime Minister, I was disturbed to hear him say that we must retain our nuclear deterrent and that we have had an independent nuclear deterrent for a long time. I question the use of the word, "independent", in respect of the British nuclear deterrent, but we clearly possess nuclear weapons. We should strongly support the NPT process and recognise that Trident must not be replaced by a new generation of nuclear weapons. As Trident ceases to be operational, we should stop living with nuclear weapons. Nuclear
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weapons have not brought peace to the world, because they take up a lot of resources and present the danger of proliferation.
The Government's approach to Iran, which involves a troika talking to the Iranian regime, is welcome and helpful, and I hope that it continues. If we transmit positive signals through our participation in the NPT review conference, it will help to bring about the possibility of wider nuclear disarmament, which we all want to achieve. Many tens of thousands died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the only use of nuclear weapons in wartime. Surely we can take a step forward on the 60th anniversary of those events by saying that we will get rid of nuclear weapons world wide and by setting the example of getting rid of ours.
This debate comes at a very important time. We live in a world in which serious wars, which are currently occurring in Iraq, Colombia and the Congo, are a danger. Wars occur because of competition for resources, poverty, nationalism and other reasons. We cannot say that we live in a world of peace, when, as I have said, so many people live in desperate poverty. We live in one of the richest countries in the world, and surely it is up to us to do all that we can to eliminate poverty around the world, to promote peace through disarmament and to recognise the need for justice. We should bequeath those changes to future generations, rather than bringing up a new generation on a diet of weapons of mass destruction, war and conflict.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): These occasions inevitably assume some of the characteristics of a tour d'horizon, but since we all have our own pairs of binoculars, we sometimes see the horizon in different ways. That is why I apologise to the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) for not following him in focusing on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and on international development, which he discussed with telling force and commitment. I have no doubt that we shall have opportunities to return to those topics on other occasions.
The hon. Member for Islington, North struck a chord when he said that our foreign policy would play out against the backdrop of Iraq, which is inevitable so long as 8,000 British forces are still deployed there. In the course of the general election, at least one tragic event showed that those 8,000 forces are at daily risk of their lives, and, although we have deep divisions of principle and of view about Iraq itself and how Iraq should be managed, all hon. Members unstintingly admire their professionalism and commitment.
Events during the general election campaign made it clear beyond any question that the objective from the start was to support the United States in achieving regime change in Iraq. The alleged threat of weapons of mass destruction, about which little or no evidence existed, and the existence of which has now been disproved, and the breach of United Nations resolutions, which was determined solely by the alliesthe Attorney-General himself made it clear in his published opinion that he did not support that approachprovided a cloak of legality for an act that was plainly in violation of international law.
I do not shrink from saying that in supporting regime change, the Government adopted an approach to foreign policy in which the ends sought were used to
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justify the means. Indeed, that is the justification to which the Prime Minister immediately resorts when he is asked about those matters. The doctrineif it can be described as suchthat the end justifies the means is very dangerous in international affairs, and it has been used throughout history to justify oppressive practices that have later been the subject of outright condemnation.
In his comprehensive introduction to those issues, the Minister for Europe implied that human rights, peace, security and the control of weapons proliferation rest on an adherence to international rules and standards, which is a point that the hon. Member for Islington, North underlined. How can the United Kingdom insist on respect for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by Iran, or respect for human rights in China, if we appear to have abandoned the very rule of law on which those calls are based?
On the lifting of the European Union arms embargo against China, I will not rehearse all the arguments, but I will say this: it is wrong on human rights grounds, political grounds, strategic grounds and industrial grounds. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not support it.
I shall turn to the current situation in Iraq, because we are constantly enjoined to consider not how we got there, but what happens now. The situation is clearly far from what was predicted. The UN development programme has carried out the most detailed survey of living conditions in Iraq since the invasion, and its report, which was published last week, refers to major social and economic problems such as 18 per cent. unemployment. Among the thousands who were surveyed, more than eight out of 10 households suffer power shortages, only half have clean water and only one third are connected to a sewage network.
The report identifies a significant deterioration in standards of health care and education. Doctors, nurses, medical equipment and medicines are in short supply, and a staggering 23 per cent. of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Schools lack adequate resources and levels of youth illiteracy are high. Household incomes have plummeted, and it has been estimated that as many as six in 10 people in Iraq now live on food handouts. That is a long way short of the promised brave new world.
Tragically, the security situation has deteriorated to the point at which the ordinary tasks of life are both difficult and dangerous for many Iraqis. The head of the American forces in Iraq reports that coalition and Iraqi forces are subject to more than 50 attacks a day. Since the formation of the new Government, more than 500 killings have occurred. It is a measure of how commonplace such killings have become that even in the broadsheet newspapers that opposed military action, one must read pages five, six or seven to find the details of what has occurred. The fear instilled under Saddam Hussein's systematic repression has been replaced by the fear of indiscriminate attacks.
This is all becausehere I recognise the point that the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), whom I welcome to his new responsibilities, made in advance of the war and has
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made sincethere was a wholly inexcusable failure to plan for the stabilisation and reconstruction of post-war Iraq. The complete abandonment of Iraqi security forces and the determined de-Ba'athification of Iraqi institutions was of itself profoundly destabilising. That situation has not been helped by heavy-handed military operations on the part of the United States, particularly in Sunni areas. Abu Ghraib, which is once again in the news today, is a constant reminder of unacceptable behaviour with deeply damaging consequences not only in Iraq but throughout the whole middle east region.
It is necessary to recognise that the open-ended presence of 150,000 foreign troops in Iraq fuels the insurgency. The common enemy of the insurgents, who are composed of Islamist jihadists and nationalist extremists, has become the coalition and the Iraqi security forces with whom they work. The solution has indeed become part of the problem. That is why it should be the policy of Her Majesty's Government to state as their objective a phased withdrawal by the end of December 2005, at the date of the expiry of the United Nations mandate. I believe that the withdrawal of British forces in such circumstances is entirely justified, subject to three areas in which more effort is required: the Government in Iraq should be seen to be a sovereign Government and less of a creature of the coalition; the services to which I referred should be restored in order to give the people of Iraq some semblance of normal standards of living; and security should be improved through a far higher degree of training and equipment for Iraqi forces.
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