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In discussing those issues, we should remember that such freedoms were not handed out by benevolent
monarchs or generous Governments but had to be won, often against apparently insuperable opposition. If they are taken away, they will have to be fought for once again before they can be re-established. When the Government cannot provide conclusive evidence that their proposals are essential for the security of our citizens, my colleagues and I will not support the erosion of those liberties.
We will listen to and assess the contributions of the head of MI5 and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. We should remember, however, that they are advocates, not arbiters. The ultimate responsibility for legislation rests among those of us who are elected to the House. We are elected for our judgment in such matters.
Sir Menzies Campbell: I gave way to the right hon. Gentleman because, from time to time, we get flashes of that intellectual ability for which he has a justifiable reputation. If I may say so, however, he has a remarkable capacity for not taking the opportunities offered to him. [Hon. Members: Are you paying the money back?] We will open our books for public scrutiny if the Conservatives do the same [Interruption.]
Sir Menzies Campbell: The Governments previous proposals on detention without charge were rejected by Parliament, as was the proposal to remove the right to trial by jury in fraud trials, and yet both are to reappear. Unless there are new and persuasive arguments, they should be rejected again. If the Government wish to pursue an effective way of combating terrorist activityand some reports suggest that they may be rethinking on this matterI hope that they will change their position on phone intercepts. By allowing the admissibility of information obtained from intercepts, the police and the prosecution would be given a powerful weapon.
We also read that the Government intend to proceed with the development of ID cards. We remain firmly opposed to the introduction of mandatory identity cards. They are an expensive and unwanted intrusion into the private life of the British people, and there is no conclusive evidence that they would prevent terrorist activity in this country.
We shall also consider carefully our response to the detailed proposals of the criminal justice Bill when it comes before the House. In the light of our experience, however, we will find it difficult to avoid scepticism. Of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, 52 sections and five schedules have still not been brought into force. Two sections were repealed without ever being brought into force, and a further three were brought into force and then repealed. That is no way to legislate when the liberty of the individual is at stake.
Extraordinarily, last weekend, following the British National party trial, Ministers argued that it was necessary to amend a law that had yet to come into
force, because of a failed prosecution in a trial that proceeded on another law entirely. Even Kafka would have found it difficult to invent such a proposition.
We are pleased, of course, that the Government have decided to include a climate change Bill in their programme, but we wonder why it is so limited in scope, given the general acceptance of the terms of the Stern report. A legislative framework and an independent review body are welcome proposals. I listened carefully to the Prime Ministers argument against annual targets, but if we do not have annual targets, how will it be possible to measure progress? Of course, targets alone are not enough; if they were, Britain would be the best run country in the world. We must hear more about proposals for achieving them.
We have set out our stall on the relationship between taxation and environmental considerations. We are opposed to nuclear energy, as we have made clear, on both cost and environmental grounds. The costs of commissioning and of decommissioning are enormousand, of course, private industry wants the taxpayer to be responsible for commissioning and decommissioning, and to be allowed to make a profit in between. I doubt that that is a good bargain.
Finally, let me say something about foreign affairs. On the opening day of the Queen's Speech debate, rarely has much time been devoted to foreign affairs, but today has been and, in truth, should be an exception. For behind the bland words in the Gracious Speech
to support the new Iraqi Government in its efforts to build an enduring constitutional settlement,
which falls a long way short of some of the rhetoric that we have heard beforelies still the historical fact of the flawed prospectus on which military action was taken, the continuing cost in lives and resources, the feeling of drift and hopelessness among so many members of the public about our continuing presence in Iraq, and indeed the anxiety demonstrated a moment or two ago in an intervention by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).
When Britains most senior soldier questions our presence in language that we all understandI leave aside the propriety of his doing so publiclyit is surely the responsibility of Government and all of us to respond. My complaint is against the absence of a British strategy based on British priorities, and the apparently uncritical acceptance of a United States strategy that has self-evidently failed and no longer commands the support of the American people or domestic support in the United States. My complaint, too, is against the use of clichés such as, We will not cut and run, We will stay the course, and We will stay for as long as the Iraqi Government want us to. Those are meaningless expressions when judged against the complexity of the circumstances in Iraq, and they do not convey the degree of sophistication and intellectual rigour that is necessary to the establishment of a proper position for the United Kingdom.
I acknowledged, as did my right hon. and hon. Friends, a moral obligation to the people of Iraq, although on 18 March 2003 we voted against military action. But we have a moral obligation to our young men and women as well. We have no right to ask them
to risk their lives if there is no realistic chance of success, and we have no right to ask them to risk their lives if British interests are not being served. That is why I now believe that the only strategy available to us is a phased withdrawal, and that it should take placeto echo General Dannattsooner rather than later.
Efforts to engage Syria and Iran, yes; efforts to give the United Nations a greater role in the stalled reconstruction programme, yes; efforts to persuade moderate Arab nations to contribute forces for internal and external stability, yes. But those things cannot take place against the background of an open-ended commitment. The Iraqi people must take responsibility for themselves, and that is why all those efforts must be undertaken against the stated inevitability of withdrawal.
At the heart of this, as the Prime Minister acknowledged today and yesterday, is an overwhelming need to find a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The first President George Bush knew that. He and James Baker were the architects of the Madrid conference that produced the Oslo agreement, which so nearly succeeded. There can be no chance of long-term stability in the middle east until there is a settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
Today marks the Prime Ministers last appearance on this annual occasion. There have been many glad confident mornings in the past, but there is none today. This is a sombre occasion, in truth. For all his achievements, Suez defined Anthony Eden; for all his achievements, Iraq will define this Prime Minister.
Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), who is the leader of the Liberal party. Last year, I followed his predecessor, who was kind enough to talk a little while on Europe. I note that on this occasion the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not mentioned Europe. Instead, he mentioned nuclear energy and his partys opposition to that. The one way to frighten any audience is to tell them that, in 20 years, when they put their hand out to turn on a light, there will be no electricity. One may also tell them that, if they wish to display a museum piece, they may show their car in the garage.
As the Prime Minister said in response to the Leader of the Opposition, it is no use waiting until our energy supplies, either home grown or from abroad, are no longer there to start looking at nuclear energy. Every industrial country is now looking at returning to nuclear energy. Seventy per cent. of Frances energy is nuclear. We will have to come to that debate and to make a decision that is based on the national interest. I
hope that, when that time comes, both the official Opposition and the Liberal party will look at their position again in the interests of all our people in the future.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned foreign affairs, which I expected him to do, and he was somewhat critical of the Prime Ministers foreign affairs policy. I am sure that he read the Prime Ministers speech in Los Angeles in July and his speech at Mansion house. He was clear on what the foreign policy of this country should be and it is referred to in the Queen's Speech: an alliance between the United States of America and the European Union, an alliance of peoples from the Pacific ocean to, broadly, the Urals, an alliance of people who share values, have a shared democracy and value democracy.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about Iraq, I am sure that he will not forget that 12 million people voted in the Iraqi elections. There have been elections in the Congo and in Palestine. There is a movement in the Gulf towards democracy, and that principle of democracy should be the principle that links the United States of America and the European Union. I would like to see that link strengthened, as is mentioned in the Queen's Speech.
When the leader of the Liberal party talks about Iraq, he never talks about the no-fly zones. He never talks about our pilots who risked their lives day in, day out to defend the Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south. He never talks about the Marsh Arabs who lost their homes when the marshes were drained. He never talks about the 2 million peopleat leastwho lost their lives under Saddam Hussein in a war with Iran. He never talks about the daily executions that went on within that regime, and he does not say what the British Government should have done. He voted against the war but what was his solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf? He did not have a solution then and he does not have one now. He talks of drift and hopelessness. He never talks of the two provinces in the south that we have given back to the Iraqis. He does not talk about the professionalism of the British Army in the south or the job that we are doing.
Sir Menzies Campbell: I will allow the hon. Gentleman his attacks on my position, but I will not allow him to undermine the suggestion on my part of nothing less than complete admiration for the men and women of our armed services. I have no direct experience of the armed services, but a distinguished member of my family did. I am well aware of the sacrifices that have to be made and of the fact that when we ask our young men and women to put their lives at stake, we should have very good reasons for doing so.
Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that clarification. He also talks about the moral obligation that we have to the Army. How does he square that moral obligation with his support for troops in the field? He says that he admires them and he gives them support but at the same time he queries what they are doing there. How does he feel that affects the soldier in the field?
Sir Stuart Bell: The hon. Gentleman says Ask the soldiers. I do ask the soldiers. I see them. My soldiers in my constituency have joined the Army for their country. They are prepared to fight for their country and, as we know, tragically, some are required to die for their country.
Mr. Kevan Jones: I have been to Iraq four times now and have spoken first hand to troops on the ground, for whom I have a great admiration. Does my hon. Friend agree that the constant sniping from Liberal Democrats and other opponents is undermining the job that they are trying to do?
Sir Stuart Bell: I have not served in the Army, not even during military service. However, were I in the Army and listening on the radio to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife and some of his colleagues, I would not feel happy or in concert with their views. These young men are in the field of battle in the interests of this country and in accordance with decisions fully and freely made by this House on the basis of the facts that we had at the time.
I understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not like the use of certain words and phrases when it comes to Iraq. Why does not he use the word scuttle? He wants us to scuttle; to abandon the Iraqi people, Iraq, the Gulf and the national interests of this country.
Mr. Keetch: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has been to Iraq in the run-up to the war or since. I visited our troops in the run-up to the war in Iraq and on three occasions since. May I tell him that soldiers have approached me in the sergeants quarters in Basra to support the issues that my party raised before the war; its legality, the production of equipment and the way in which the House should debate the war? If the hon. Gentleman doubts that, he should be aware that this House debates conflicts, as we did in Norway
Sir Stuart Bell: As they would say in a court of law, the hon. Gentleman wishes me to answer several questions at the same time. I have been to Kuwait and my daughter was a Reuters correspondent, who followed the war from Kuwait to Baghdad and spent a year in Baghdad as a newspaper reporter. I know from her first-hand information how our troops felt in that battle. [Hon. Members: What about this war.] I am talking about this war, the war that took us to Baghdad; the Iraqi war, as you would describe it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con):
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a constitutional outrage
that the Prime Minister is prepared to take part by video link in a US congressional inquiry into the war but will not support a similar inquiry here before this House and the people of this country on the Iraq war?
Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to answer that point, which was touched on last week by the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who criticised the Prime Minister for not participating in the assessment in the United States. He made a perfectly valid and pertinent point with which I agree. [Interruption.] He did so on the Floor of the House; the hon. Gentleman can look it up in Hansard. The point is this: it would be very odd if the Baker commission was having an assessment of future policy in Iraq and our Prime Minister sat waiting to hear what was said and did not participate in the debate.
There is a world of differencethe Leader of the Opposition touched on it today when he talked about the inquiry that was held after the Falkland Islands warbetween a parliamentary inquiry after the event, when our troops have been withdrawn from Iraq and it is in a stable condition, and participating in an assessment. What the Prime Minister said in that video linkhe repeated it today, and the Foreign Secretary has said itis that it would not be the right approach to go for the partition of Iraq. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) in his place; the partition in Ireland led to 80 years of dispute and violence, and that is what would happen in Iraq. It is quite right for the Prime Minister to advise the commission that this ought not to take place.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife also mentioned Israel and Palestine, and the Oslo agreement. When that agreement was signed, I moved a motion at the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Delhi, congratulating the parties on that and on trying to create a two-state solution in respect of Palestine. Unfortunately, that did not come about. It is worth working for, and as the Prime Minister and the Queens Speech have suggested that we should be working with the United States and Europe, it would be useful as a platform to have those two democraciesthe European Union and the United Statescoming together in an effort to create a two-state situation in Palestine and Israel.
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