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Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): Today's debate is all about defence in the world. The fact that Britain is a major military power means that we have a tremendous amount of responsibility in regard to where we deploy our armed forces. Obviously, there are parts of the world that we must protect. Places such as the Falkland islands and Gibraltar depend on us, and the British public understands why we are sending our troops to those places. In fact, they support us. They support the Government wholeheartedly, and approve of the spending of money and other resources on protecting the places where we send our troops.
Other areas, such as Belize, depend on us. If there were not British soldiers there, the neighbouring country, Guatemala, would devour Belize. We are playing a critical role in supporting that small country.
Then there are places such as Iraq. No matter what people's views are on the war in Iraqwe have heard some very different opinions here todayI feel that our allies in NATO have responsibilities to help us, whether or not they agreed with the war. Some of our NATO allies are helping. Countries such as Poland and Italy have sent troops. They are with us there, supporting us in bringing democracy and stability to the country. However, I disagree with the Secretary of State for Defence, who assured me that all NATO members were doing their bit. I do not believe that they are. I think that NATO is meant to be a bloc of total solidarity between nations. If we do something, all the member countries in that bloc should participate, but I believe that some NATO allies have not done as much as they could to support us in Iraq.
There are some extremely wealthy countries in the European Union, with relatively large defence budgets, but they have played almost no part in the post-war development of Iraq. Then there are other countries around the world such as India, Pakistan and China. Those are growing military powers, butit is somewhat controversial to say thisthey currently seem to be focusing on their own local back yards rather than recognising that with their increased economic and military power, they too should start to take responsibility for dealing with trouble hotspots around the world.
What I am trying to say is that we are making too many interventions around the world. It is easy to demand that we help this country or that country, but we are already doing a great deal. The Secretary of State and the Government should make other countries around the world take responsibility and shoulder some of the hard work and effort that we are putting in.
I cannot understand our intervention in Sierra Leone. I do not understand why we have troops in Sierra Leone, but not in Darfur or other trouble spots in Africa. Why are our troops in Sierra Leone? Nor do members of the public fully understand the matter. In preparation for the debate, I asked some people in Shrewsbury whether they knew that we have troops in Sierra Leone. They did not, so I asked them whether they supported that deployment. They said that they did not, because they did not understand why our troops were there.
Mr. Ingram: If I may, I shall explain briefly why we have troops in Sierra Leone and what they are doing there. They are part of an international military training team, of which they form the greatest number. Their purpose is to train the Sierra Leone forces so that they can take on the problems internally in that country to maintain stability and to enable them to work with neighbouring countries to try to bring stability to that region. Without question, our troops do a superb job and we will continue to maintain them there.
I am sure that they do a superb job, but the question remains: why Sierra Leone and not other parts of the world? I raise the question only because I believe that the British public need greater clarification when Governments take decisions to deploy troops. The public need to understand why they have been sent to Sierra Leone and not another African country. There are so many trouble spots around the
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world that the Government have a responsibility to explain why they will intervene in one place and not another.
We need to be able to say, "No, we cannot commit troops to that particular problem, because we are already overstretched." We need to focus more on some of our own interests. Today has been a very painful day for Members on both sides of the House. For me, homeland security is very important and that brings me back to what my speech has been about. We do a great deal around the world, but it is now the timewhen we are under threat from terrorismto start to focus more on Great Britain, on protecting our borders and our country, instead of spreading ourselves so thinly across the world.
I share the concerns expressed by Conservative Members about the treatment of the troops and the failure to provide adequate kit for them. I have several contacts in the Territorial Army and a branch is based in my constituency. Considerable concern has been expressed to me about those issues. The wider issue is the policy of the Government and how they approach matters throughout the world.
If the Government are to take action without wider acceptance of the justice of their case for doing so, as arguably happened in Iraq, that will cause difficulties. We have seen such difficulties in Iraq. Although the British troops have lots of experience of dealing with difficult situations in Northern Ireland, the actions of the American troops and the anger that they cause have an impact on the British troops and put them in a difficult situation. When we find ourselves, as we do now, with great constraints on resources throughout the world, we end up stretching our troops very thinly and facing difficulties with kit. As a result of the Government's defence policy, we put the troops in a situation that is unacceptable in many ways. The knock-on effects cause massive difficulties for the United Kingdom in many countries throughout the world.
The Government must think about the way in which they address the issues of defence. I refer not just to the detailed issue of the treatment of the troops, but to their policies and whether they receive wider acceptance in the world. They have not done so to date, and that is causing substantial problems in this and other countries. The Government must recognise the need to address that problem.
I have come in at the end of this debate and recognise that the winding-up speeches are about to start. However, I conclude by saying that the Government really need to think about what they are doing with their defence policy throughout the world. It has a large number of problems.
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Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I wish to start with a quotation from that great public servant, the late Lord Ismay. He served as Churchill's representative on the Chiefs of Staff committee throughout world war two and later became the first Secretary-General of NATO. He therefore spanned a great deal of the history of the 20th century, and in his active service as a young officer, he had something to do with insurgencies as well. When he was looking back on this unparalleled career, he wrote:
"It is easy to criticise peaceful democracies for their habitual lack of preparedness when a war breaks out, but it is only fair to recognise that the dice are loaded against them. Dictators, bent on aggression . . . are masters of their own timetable. They are free to decide when to strike, where to strike and how to strike, and to arrange their armament programmes accordingly. Their potential victims, the democracies . . . with their inherent hatred of war, do not know when or where the blow will fall, or what manner of blow it will be."
A threat is at large in the world that is beginning to manifest itself on a small scale domestically in the homelands of the principal democratic countries. We saw it in America in September 2001; we saw it in Spain on the eve of its general election; and we have seen it today; and of course, it is no coincidence that the G8 summit is currently under way.
I will not wander from the subject of the debate, which is "Defence in the World", but I agree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway) to the extent that there would be an air of unreality about a defence debate taking place on such a day if it did not in any way allude at least to the type of conflict of which we have seen such a terrible and despicable manifestation in the streets and on the tube network of London today.
I will not speculate about who did this, but I will make a prediction. My prediction is that it will be found in the end that very small numbers of people indeed were involved in carrying out these atrocities, just as very small numbers were involved in carrying out the atrocities that we have seen in a variety of countries since September 2001. I do not know whether the people carrying out these atrocities have a real understanding of the resilience of democratic societies under such circumstances. Again, I agree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow to the extent that, from the point of view of the victim, it makes very little difference whether they are killed by a suicide bomber on a bus or by a high explosive dropped from an aircraft. That is not to say, however, that the two activities are comparable.
Certain methods of war are recognised as legal. Certain methods of killing people are widely recognised as totally unacceptable. No matter how volubly, with what degree of articulation, or at what volume the hon. Gentleman may speakI am sorry that he has not seen fit to come back to the Chamber now that he has caught his headlineshe nevertheless cannot conceal the basic difference between casualties who get caught up in conventional warfare and casualties who get caught up in acts of terrorism. There are laws of war, but what happened today was not part of any recognised law of war.
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I am sorry that there is still a Member of this House who is willing to try to justify, or empathise with, people who behave illegally when fighting their cause, no matter how strongly he happens to believe the grievances that they imagine they have. What is it that people of this sort really expect us to do? Do they really expect us to hand over a country such as Iraq to people, for the most part foreigners, who would destroy any chance of freedom for the millions of people who make up that society? Did they expect us to have done nothing in Afghanistan? I remember that a Member in the last Parliament said that we should have bombed Afghanistan with bread, not bombs, and subsequently identified with, and empathised with, suicide terrorists in the middle east. She has gone to a well deserved fate in the House of Lords and I am glad to say that her outlook is not widely shared.
When we consider the defence in the world that we have to undertake, we must recognise that the people who are mounting these campaigns fully understand the importance of having maximum impact for minimum effort. We must fight on the ground where we are strongest, not where they are strongest. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said that some of those people are prepared to sacrifice their lives if they can take thousands of people with them. Yes, indeed they are, which is why there is only one threat about which we really must worry as a nation, as opposed to as individuals, families and people who may get caught up in random or planned acts of terrorism: people of that sort must never be allowed to get their hands on weapons that could possibly kill thousands or tens of thousands because we know that they would unhesitatingly use them if they could get hold of them. That is why the threshold has been lowered for intervention internationally. That is why one cannot take the chance of allowing other countries with dictatorial regimes that might think it in their interests to make such weapons available to such terrorists to continue to have the possibility of owning those weapons, unless they can satisfy the international community that they absolutely have renounced them.
We heard several hon. Members pleading the cause, even now, of unilateral nuclear disarmament. The hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) said that we should not be thinking of Trident, but rushing round the world trying to scoop up the loose fissile material that has gone missing from the former Soviet Union. However, I say to him that those two propositions have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Whether or not we have a successor to Trident will of course not diminish the problem of terrorists getting their hands on fissile material, but it would certainly add to our dangers if we got into a situation in which other countries continued to possess nuclear weapons while we renounced ours.
The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith), in a typically thoughtful speech that became typically emotional, did everything that he could to argue the case for the Defence Aviation Repair Agency workers who formerly did such an excellent job in his constituency for the RAF.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Peter Viggers) gave an account of the basis of the more extreme factions of militant Islam and said that there was not enough emphasis on winning hearts and minds. Here there is a role for our Defence Secretary and Prime
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Minister to do a little more in carrying over to our American allies the successful techniques that have been used by British forces over the post-war decades in defeating long-term insurgencies. The most obvious role model is the long campaign in Malaya. At the end of that campaign, the insurgency was defeated. Insurgencies have to be defeated by a number of means. They have to be resisted militarily; they have to be fought at source; they have to be infiltrated at home; and one must never give the slightest evidence of weakness of purpose.
There, I take issue with one or two Members such as the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who suggested for the Liberal Democrats that it was important to set some sort of date for withdrawal. Nothing could be better calculated to increase the dangers to our troops working in Iraq than the knowledge that the insurgents had to hold on only for so long and those troops would be gone. If we are to fight a campaign of this sort, the message has to be that there will be no withdrawal until the enemy are defeated, so they may as well give up now because they are not going to win. Anything less than that message and we may as well not have got involved in the first place; otherwise, we will be heading for unnecessary casualties and ultimate costly failure.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot) made the point that the sort of incidents that we have seen in London today have been happening for a long time and on a much heavier scale in Iraq. I could add that they are also similar to events in Israel. Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israeli dispute, one must recognise that the incidents that have happened on such a heavy scale in Israel have no chance whatever of overthrowing the Israeli state. The sooner terrorists and their apologists realise that they will have no chance of overthrowing the democratic system of the United Kingdom, the sooner this sort of strife and atrocious behaviour can be brought to an end.
The hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) remarked on the role of international organisations and sensibly backed up her point with a hard-headed realisation of the necessity from time to time to use military force. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) concentrated on the use of our reservists, who are put under excessive pressure at a time when we are dependent on them as well as on our regular forces.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) brought to our debate knowledge that can be gained only as a highly professional former regular soldier by talking about what it really means to the troops on the ground not to have the adequate equipment and adequate communications on which their lives may well depend.
Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) suggested that we were intervening too often. I do not entirely accept what he said about Sierra Leone per se. I visited the country with the Defence Committee and I can tell my hon. Friend that people were stopping us in the street and thanking us simply for being there, because a relatively
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small military investment had had a relatively large effect on the security of many people living there. I venture to add that it brought a beneficial effect on the area as a whole. I agree with my hon. Friend that when we take decisive action of that sort in a country like Sierra Leone, it seems rather inconsistent that we refuse to take action in countries facing equally if not more extreme circumstances, such as the suffering of those poor people under Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
As I have a few moments left, I want to say a little more about the nuclear deterrentsomething that is close to my heart because I go back on this campaign to a time in the 1980s, which included a famous long march by the then general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Monsignor Bruce Kent. He started out at Faslane and walked all the way to Burfield. At various stages en route, he was joined by people like me who disagreed with him and people like the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow who strongly agreed with him. Of course the cold war was still raging. At that timein no way do I distort the argumentit was suggested that there was no evidence whatsoever that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw pact allies posed a significant or serious military threat.
In 1998, a book was published called "The Cold War: A Military History", which revealed some of the plans that the German Government discovered after the downfall of communism. This is what they said:
"since the end of the Cold War, no evidence has been found of any Warsaw Pact defensive plans, except for a few formulated in the final three years, after President Gorbachev had insisted that the General Staff prepared them. Instead, all plans concentrated on a series of massive attacks, which were aimed at securing Soviet control of the entire west-European land mass."
In these plans it was intended to use nuclear weapons as an integral part of the attacks, even if NATO did not use them first, and many targets had already been selected. The main attacks on the Central Front would have been allocated 205 Scud rockets at army level and 380 short-range missiles at divisional level, which 255 nuclear bombs carried by aircraft".
At that time, plenty of people believed that it was unwise of us to keep nuclear weapons. I should like to ask the House how many people still think that it was unwise for us to keep nuclear weapons in the light of what we now know of the Soviet attack plans if a war had broken out. Those were offensive, not defensive, plans.
I was indeed at that meeting with Robert McNamara, a gentleman who played a key role in the evolution of America's strategy in the run-up to and during the Vietnam war. I noted that he did indeed say that nuclear weapons are illegal. I then challenged him on that very point, and he showed straightaway that he did indeed know that the requirement was for worldwide nuclear and worldwide conventional disarmament, and he said that an attempt was even made to insert a comma between the two at some point to try to differentiate them, but that it had mysteriously disappeared. That did not stop that gentleman, who is a remarkable character at the age of 88, from nevertheless having conceded the point that nuclear weapons were not illegal under that provision, rounding off his speech with the peroration that was quoted by the hon. Member for Pendle, and reasserting that they were illegal after all.
I have to ask the hon. Member for Pendle and those who think like him why someone whose judgment was so flawed in the 1960s appeals to them now as having wise judgment in the 21st century. The answer is that people with a career that points them in a certain direction during its active phase sometimes, with a view to history, like to rewrite it or reshape it during their retirement.
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