|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting but it is inappropriate to raise that issue today. We need to focus on the terrible tragedy that has occurred in America this week. As far as I can remember, the incident was investigated by the security services and the Metropolitan Police and nothing untoward was found.
A French voice was overplayed on the microphone system for the precise duration of the comments made by my noble friend Lady Cox on this issue of international terrorism. Several of us who followed her activities were convinced that this was a warning from the violent Islamists to show that they had penetrated the sound systems, and therefore the security, of this House. It was also, of course, a warning to my noble friend. It was the sort of warning with which those of us who used to support the dissidents before the Wall came down were all too familiar.
Our conviction was based on our knowledge of my noble friend's extraordinarily courageous human rights activities, which had brought her into conflict with the fundamentalist regimes in the Sudan, Azerbaijan and elsewhere. These experiences had allowed her to be one of the first people, and certainly the best-known person, in this country to piece together much of the violent Islamist network being assembled by Osama bin Laden and his associates. We checked our conclusion with friends in Washington, who were working officially on the bin Laden case, and they had no doubt that our fears were well founded. So my noble friend raised these concerns with the Palace authorities, with the Intelligence and Security Committee in the other place, and with our national intelligence agencies, but she was given the brush off. She was told that it had just been a fault with the microphone, although they could not explain what the fault was or how it worked. Our friends in Washington, however, could tell us exactly how the effect could have been achieved.
Some time later, on 30th July, an article appeared in the Sunday Times, alleging that an associate of bin Laden, Mr Salah Idris, was a major shareholder in a British company which provided security systems to the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Courts of Justice, New Scotland Yard and several leading British companies. When my noble friend and I tried to discover whether there might have been any connection between those allegations and the jamming of her
I agree that this is not the time to dwell in great detail on those events, but it is appropriate to put them on the record and to ask the Government to re-open their inquiry into them. Perhaps they could be put on the agenda for the meeting between my noble friend and the Home Secretary which, let us hope, will take place as a result of his remarks on this morning's "Today" programme.
I finish where I started. It is the duty of all of us to support our peace-loving Muslim friends, and to encourage them to join with us in identifying and bringing to justice all those violent Islamists who are just as much their enemy as they are ours, perhaps more so. As we embark upon this journey of collaboration and fellowship, I trust that we may be fortified by a verse from the Koran which shows how far the violent Islamists have strayed from what should be their true creed. Chapter 3, verse 84, reads as follows:
The global community is, for Christians, nothing new. Across the street from what was the World Trade Centre stands the first Church of England parish church, St Paul's Broadway, built in 1722. It is the mirror image of St Martin-in-the-Fields. On 11th September the graveyard of St Paul's Broadway was extended by several acres.
St Paul's church, and the surrounding land on which the towers of the World Trade Centre were built and have now fallen, was a farm owned by Queen Anne. It was given, as part of her bounty, to sustain the life of
How times change. Yet of the things that matter most--human virtue and evil--nothing changes. Yet again, as the pastor of the American Church in Surrey, who gathered with us at the cathedral vigil in Guildford on Wednesday night, reminded us, the senseless death of one man ages ago and far away affects even the senseless deaths of the thousands of people this week.
It is in the nature of evil to seek to create chaos, to attack the innocent and to feed bitterness and hatred destroying all that makes our life truly human. We must not allow such to bring down our values and reduce them to rubble. Those who are responsible for these deeds must be brought to justice--justice allied to freedom, impartial, measured and effective.
Many noble Lords have spoken of the extraordinary and moving courage of those who worked and continue to work in the emergency services in the United States. Extraordinary levels of human energy have risen to the surface in their lives. Have not many of us felt this week an unshakeable bond of affection with our American friends? Are not these things the first signs of resistance to terror and the making of a new start? Life and hope and renewed commitment to liberty and justice must spring forth from this death. The roots of American liberty and of our freedom as represented in our Parliament are joined together as one in the deepest of places--in the culture, the values and the faith of our people over many centuries of struggle. If that is our good fortune and if it is that which has come under attack from the forces of oppression and fanaticism, let us see it as a gift to be shared with the whole human community.
We ought not to forget that our Parliament is to be the voice of the people, defending their freedom and their dignity and enabling their duty and citizenship. As the forces of terror have this week struck deep into the heart of our free world, we must ensure that the forces of freedom and justice strike deep into the heart of oppression and the gross abuse of power in the modern world. That is the war we must win.
I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, for his remarks on Afghanistan. Many noble Lords will have heard on the "Today" programme this morning the director of Christian Aid speaking about the dilemma of the people of Afghanistan. Millions of them are displaced and starving. They live and suffer under the regime that presently holds power in Kabul. What we do must in the end is to offer them hope of a different future. I especially welcome the Prime Minister's comments about the Middle East. The Bishop of Jerusalem sent an important message to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. It spoke of the monstrous evil that has taken place and reaffirmed the commitment of Christian people in the Holy Land to peace and freedom. It is worth reminding ourselves that the vast majority of Christian Palestinians now live in the United States of America and that Christian Palestinians continue to leave the Holy Land to do so.
Now is not the time for us to consider the detail of all that needs to be done to our politics and our security. What matters at this moment are our convictions and what holds us together. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, spoke movingly of Her Majesty's decision to have the United States national anthem played at the changing of the guard. That was a generous and powerful symbol of what we all stand for. But it has an added poignancy. The British national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key while the British bombarded Baltimore from within the harbour. Dare we think of a moment in the future when the United States Marine Band will play in a free, peaceful and just Kabul?
On Monday afternoon my wife and I were on an internal flight in the United States from Jacksonville in Florida to Washington. We were on our way home. Noble Lords can imagine the shock we felt when on arriving home we put on our television and saw a plane of a rather similar design to that on which we had just been carried being flown into the World Trade Centre. It reminds us all of the fragility and vulnerability of human life. Freedom is vulnerable if we do not defend it. It easily crumbles. We have a duty as a free society, and as a society rooted in faith and conviction, to put in that energy and effort with fresh commitment to ensure that freedom and peace, hope and life, are offered to our world. Every English parish church stands as a sign of hope and life in the midst of its graveyard. Out of the sea of this death, let us bring life and hope to our world.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I pondered for a long time about putting down my name to speak in the debate. My reason for doing so is that I represented Warrington in another place when we were subjected to terrorist attack in 1993. I felt it right to speak today and to express sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives. They were just going about their ordinary business. They were going to work. Yet they never returned to their loved ones. They never again saw their husbands or wives, their sons and daughters. That is the tragedy of the situation. It is at times like these that both Houses unite to give a common message. We speak for the whole of the nation. We join the Prime Minister in giving our full support to the American people.
At the same time, I wish to draw attention to one or two lessons that could be learnt from these events. I have never believed that what is called the "Son of Star Wars" missile defence system would defend America. I have always felt that a greater danger was presented by someone perhaps bringing in a suitcase full of biological or chemical weapons. However, what I never anticipated--I do not believe that anyone did--was that suicidal zealots would destroy parts of New York and the Pentagon by using such deadly methods, as well as taking another airliner which then crashed in Pittsburgh. It is very difficult indeed to put in place an effective defence against such actions.
One of the dangers that will be have to be faced in the United States--one that comes about as a natural reaction because people are angry and need to avoid a knee-jerk response--is that it may turn to isolationism. One can understand such a response. After all, only around 7 per cent of United States citizens hold a passport. Many do not ever leave their own state. I could understand Americans responding by saying, "Why should we get involved in world affairs if this is the result?". But that is no defence. Indeed, it would not mean that America would never be subject to further attacks. Rather, I believe that President Bush and his Administration should be encouraged to become more involved in the problems facing the world.
We would miss the wise counsel and intervention of America in areas such as Israel and the peace process with the Palestinians, in the Middle East generally and in particular in Ireland, where again the situation is grave. At the same time, we should never forget the problems of Africa. There is a tendency to concentrate to a great degree on the problems of Europe and the developed world, but there will never be lasting peace if one half of the world prospers while the other half suffers and starves. Grave problems must be faced and all the nations of the world must come together to resolve them.
Perhaps I may make one further point here. Earlier in my remarks I spoke of Warrington, although equally I could have mentioned Manchester or Canary Wharf. We must unite against all terrorists. I share the belief of many Americans that we should see a united Ireland, but to that end some have given their support to terrorists. I hope that recent events will make such people reconsider their position. A terrorist is a terrorist, no matter which country he comes from.
I believe that only by coming together and uniting all nations in a common cause against terrorists everywhere will we achieve the result that all desire to see. There is no easy answer; certainly there is no military solution. That has been pointed out in this House and I should like to repeat it. The way to defeat terrorism is for people in every country, along with their governments, to unite in the effort to stamp it out and to ensure that there are no hiding places anywhere in the world for terrorists. Only then will we have a saner and safer world.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, so much has been said in the debate today, and in such a moving manner, that I wish to be associated with all the words that have been spoken--and none more so than those uttered a few moments ago by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. I add my condolences to the American people. They have paid a very heavy price for being the leaders of the free world. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all Americans, in particular the thousands of families that have been affected. Furthermore, I think of the hundreds of families in the United Kingdom that have been similarly affected by this disaster, one which has brought the free world up with a jolt.
I do not intend to speak at length but I wish to make a few points. My daughter has a close friend, Mr Simon Turner, who is missing. He was attending the Risk Waters conference being held on the 106th floor of the north tower. On Wednesday evening I rang the emergency service, whose number is 0207 008 0000. I should like publicly to thank those who are manning that service. They were efficient, cool, understanding and very helpful. I suspect that I speak for hundreds of other United Kingdom families who have used that telephone service. I am sure that they too would like to place on record their thanks.
Sadly, I have to contrast that with the response of the medical services. I do not say that the problem is universal, but too many comments have been made to me regarding the difficulty of securing an NHS appointment with a specialist service. I have also heard of difficulties in the private sector in securing a quick response from BUPA, as well as difficulties with the BMA, which has not responded to certain complaints that were lodged yesterday. I should have thought that every single medical person in this country would have been on red alert from Tuesday onwards. Sadly, that is not the case.
This debate goes slightly wider than the events which took place on Tuesday and covers international terrorism. Suicide is not sanctioned by Islam. Unfortunately, however, certain scholars of Islam do sanction it. That dimension--namely, the re-education of such scholars--must rest with the leaders of the Islamic faith and is not something that we in the West should attempt to do.
Noble Lords will know that for well over 20 years I have spoken in depth both in this House and in the other place about the problems in Sri Lanka. I know the country well and I am the joint chairman of the all-party Sri Lanka parliamentary group. Over those 20 years, that country has suffered from terrorism. Some 60,000 people have died.
The hijackers of the four aircraft last Tuesday were suicide bombers. I believe that some research work has been carried out on acts carried out by suicide bombers over the past 20 years at the University of St Andrews. It has been estimated that the number of such acts is around 250, but as many as 160 of those have taken place in Sri Lanka. The president has gone, ministers have gone and individuals have gone. Many of those senior people have been in my home here in the United Kingdom; they were close friends. Now they are all gone.
I have campaigned hard to have the LTTE proscribed. Thankfully, earlier this year the Government responded to that campaign. But an Act of Parliament is not enough, as other speakers have pointed out. Only last week the chief spokesman for the LTTE, Anton Balasingham, chose London as the venue for his international statement that his
I conclude by reflecting that the British who died in New York will not thank the BBC for changing the Last Night of the Proms. I also conclude with the thought that their lives cannot be restored, but others can be saved if all the democracies co-operate in rooting out terrorism. This summer I read Ian Kershaw's book about Hitler between 1889 and 1936, called Hubris. There is no better blueprint of what happens to democracy if people are not vigilant and if they hope that a problem will go away. Problems such as Hitler and fundamentalism will never go away. They will be removed only if they are eradicated and if we are strong.
In this ghastly, horrendous attack there are many assumed facts and many theories, some inherently probable, some not. I hope that the Minister may be able to assure the House on certain facts and assumptions that relate to the security aspects of this deeply sad affair--aspects that I believe to be of the utmost importance.
Clearly, the passengers were infiltrated by the terrorists. That is how they managed to get on board the plane. It is generally assumed to be highly probable that, having got on board, they forced their way on to the flight deck and took over the flying of the plane by first killing the pilots and other relevant crew staff. That would explain the deadly accuracy of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The major question is how those terrorists managed to get on to the flight deck and what security precautions existed to prevent their entry.
I may be wrong--I often am--but I understand that only on Israeli airlines is the door leading to the flight deck locked before the flight takes off and remains consistently locked until the plane lands and is evacuated. Food is supplied to the crew via a small hatch. If one or more terrorists reach the door leading to the flight deck and threaten to blow up the plane or take some other violent action if the door to the flight deck is not opened, those threats are ignored.
Can the Minister confirm that my information is substantially correct? If so, why have not similar vital security measures been taken on other airlines, including our own? Is it likely that all the hijacking
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, spoke earlier of the "massive failure of security" in relation to these ghastly events. Is this an example of one of the failures of security? If so, what do the Government propose to do about it?
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, no words can describe the shock and horror that we all felt on hearing the dreadful news on Tuesday, nor convey the sympathy that we feel for the victims and their families or our admiration for the rescue workers. Those feelings are widely shared throughout the world. In most Muslim countries, there is revulsion at what has happened and enormous sympathy for the victims and their families. I hope that there will be no knee-jerk reaction to alienate that sympathy. Earlier this week, some speeches were made suggesting that there might be such a reaction. I am glad that that now seems less likely.
Of course, some people will want retaliation or revenge. They would not be human if they did not. Under similar circumstances, many of us would. There may be heavy pressure on President Bush to find scapegoats, who may not necessarily be the culprits, and to attack them, or those suspected of harbouring them, regardless of injury to innocent parties. I hope and believe that he will resist it. Cruise missiles on Kabul, Islamabad or Baghdad will only relieve feelings, not solve anything. There is enough evil in the world without adding to it by revenge.
This is a very dangerous situation--perhaps more dangerous than June 1914 or 1938-39. I hope that we have not seen the first shots of the Third World War fired. Surely this is a time to pause, take a deep breath and count to 10 slowly before taking any action. It is a time to consider very carefully the consequences of any action. I was glad to hear wise counsel from the lips of Henry Kissinger and Sir Michael Rose this morning on the radio and from Colin Powell earlier in the week. May they be heeded.
The United Nations, the United States, this country and NATO need to look back at history and consider very carefully what has led to the intense hatred with which the United States is regarded in Palestine and some other Muslim countries. Why was it America that was attacked? It is not at war with anyone, but it has been paying for Israel's war against Palestine. Incidentally, if it were possible to find a way to stop Sinn Fein carrying a begging bowl around the United States, that would also be very helpful.
The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was perhaps not a very wise move. The Palestinians were never going to be happy about it. Which of us would at having our country partitioned? It is only fair to say that quite a lot of leading Jews were not happy about the whole concept of a nation state for their people. But their wise counsels, and that of many others at that time who could see further ahead than the week which
Now we are entering a damage-limitation situation. We must try to limit the damage and not do anything in haste which will serve only to make bad worse. Some kind of modus vivendi for Israel and Palestine must be found, and compromise and restraint on both sides will be necessary if that is ever to happen.
The Statement of the Prime Minister and the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, as well as most of the speeches in this House to which I have listened today, have given me hope. I believe that I shall leave here happier than when I arrived.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, like other speakers before me, I wish to express my sympathies to the countless families whose relatives have been killed in these cowardly and murderous attacks. They were crimes against humanity. For my part, I have a nephew working in Manhattan nearby and I was much relieved that he was unscathed by this nightmare.
I am President of the International Rescue Corps. Seventeen of its experts were on standby for immediate action should their services have been required. Such help was on offer through the Department for International Development. As it happened, on this occasion its offer of help to the United States was not taken up. However, it provided evidence of the will in Britain to give as much assistance as lay within our power.
On two occasions, the Scottish Parliament, in which I serve, has considered this issue. On the first occasion it expressed condolences and yesterday, in the Prime Minister's words, the desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States after what were acts of war against the US.
It was not only the First Minister, Henry McLeish, who gave wholehearted support to the United States but also David McLetchie, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. There was the will to see that countries sponsoring or harbouring terrorists should be held to account for their actions. After all, the contrast between the fanatics who perpetrated these crimes against humanity and the representatives of the democratic nation they attacked could not be more substantial. New York represents peoples from all races, religions and cultures. It is a free and open society, in contrast to the narrow, rigid fanaticism of the criminals who perpetrated these outrages.
In particular, David McLetchie stressed, first, that our support extends right across Scotland's communities, including its Muslim communities, who are appalled that their faith has been hijacked and abused by the terrorists suspected of these atrocities. Secondly, he stressed that the national unity of
We and the other democracies must be prepared to defend the freedoms which underpin our way of life--those democratic freedoms which maniacal fanaticism seeks to destroy. The best way that we can ensure that our countrymen and countrywomen, along with many Americans and members of other nationalities, including Muslims, did not lose their lives in vain is to stand together with other democracies and with the civilised world absolutely determined to act in self-defence and to defeat the dark curse of terrorism.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I propose to be brief. On Tuesday, I noticed that President Bush said that this was the start of a war. I then recalled the 27 years during which I served in the Commons. Throughout that period, young men from my constituency served in Northern Ireland. Several were killed. For the whole of that period large numbers of families felt acute anxiety. The first young man from that constituency to be killed by terrorists was killed by a booby-trapped bicycle. It is a far cry from a booby-trapped bicycle to four airliners being used as instruments of terror. I make that point not because I wish to criticise President Bush but because his comment demonstrates that the scale of terror has risen enormously. Certainly, the resources of terror have risen vastly.
My second point is that approximately a decade ago I served as chairman of the sub-committee on terrorism in the Council of Europe. I would not enthuse about the recommendations that I made because too many people were eager that I should not
President Bush said that there should be no shelter for the terrorist and no shelter for those who support the terrorist. With the development of information technology, I should have thought that before long it would become possible to ensure that there is no shelter for the financial resources and bank accounts of organisations which sustain terror. That is one approach which requires urgent pursuit and action.
I do not need to say more. One grieves about the fact that the number killed in New York on Tuesday exceeds the number of people killed during all the years of terrorism in Northern Ireland. That does not in any way diminish the ground for concern, and I hope that the resolve expressed by the leaders in America will persuade those who still wish to support terrorism in Ireland or anywhere else to stop that folly. If that is the case, we shall see a stride forward.
I support the whole approach adopted thus far by both Washington and NATO. I would be happy to see determined and resolute action once those responsible have been accurately identified. We cannot afford action before that identification is established. However, it will not be enough merely to act with firm resolve unless there is also wisdom. The awful ululations of triumphant women in east Jerusalem on Tuesday and Wednesday was distasteful. I should think that that worried the more moderate Palestinian leaders and others. There has to be wisdom.
The pursuit of land for peace is necessary if hate in the Middle East is to be diminished. It is all very well saying that the early years of the 21st century saw the development of terrorist technology. If we do not act with firmness and wisdom--if hate is not diminished--God knows what condition humanity will be in at the end of this century.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I have many reasons for wishing to speak today. In accordance with the new high standards of disclosure, I should disclose my interests up front and perhaps during the course of my speech. Some of my interests have been disclosed previously.
I am eternally grateful to the United States. It looked after me from the age of two, at the start of the war. My sister is married to an American, having just returned from a year serving with the Peace Corps in Senegal. The last job that my eldest nephew had was to get his boss, Senator Glenn, back into space; my nephew worked for the Senate but, unfortunately, with the wrong party. Another nephew, from a relatively difficult background, went to West Point, joined the Rangers and went to fight for his country abroad. Yet another nephew went to Annapolis and has just retired from leading a hostage team with the SEALs. That is part of the background. I had the privilege of
At the other end of the scale, I find myself, by an accident of birth, in this place. By an accident of employment, I found myself actively involved in the Middle East from 1974 onwards, and I had great mentors such as the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. I am sandwiched between him and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, who will speak near the end of our debate.
I shall try to pin down the matter. We have disasters, persecution and tribalism around the world. We are today discussing the enemy--or potential enemy--of the state. Are we talking about terrorism or war? What are we seeking to define and who is the enemy? I shall try to put myself in the position of those people who may regard the United Kingdom and the United States as their enemy. They are, regrettably, from some of the countries in which I have spent much time as a banker. Banking often exceeds or is above politics. One has the right to go to people, and to do so when there are no diplomatic relations.
I had the difficult job of discussing terrorism with the Libyans. Unfortunately, my family used to own Galloway House. In Dumfries and Galloway, that was a matter of discussion. I shall not go into that in great detail but we had 150,000 people--I believe that they were all British subjects--working in Libya at one time. We were good friends with them. I do not want to explain why Libya suddenly determined that the United States was an enemy, but it did so; it also decided that Britain was its friend. However, Libya provided large amounts of money to fund the IRA. In discussions, Libyans asked me why it was wrong for them to fund the IRA when the United States provided 75 per cent of the IRA's financial resources through NORAID.
I could go on to discuss Algeria, where I have been, or Iran, but I shall turn to Iraq. The British were the only people who fully observed the sanctions against Saddam Hussein. We could not go to Baghdad without a permission to speak that was signed by a higher authority and written on a piece of paper that looked like a banknote. I had the privilege of going there--in fact, it was not a privilege; it was a pain. However, I found, to my amazement, that virtually every other country in the world was sanction busting. The French were there trying to win oil concessions, as were certain other people, but it would be wrong for me to name them. I had long discussions about why we would not speak to the Iraqis. We were, after all, the old colonial power.
I turn to Iran. It so happened that at one point everyone was denied a visa. I was asked whether I could go to Iran to solve the problem of a person whose name we could not mention under the agreement that we signed in Isfahan; I referred to him as, "That man". That matter was based on insulting a religion. I worked with a committee of mullahs and legal advisers. As Lords temporal and spiritual, we sat in the palace in Isfahan discussing what we could do
Everywhere I went, I sat with Syrians and others--with people who were fanatical. I call many of them the non-blinking brigade. As a child I used to try to stare people out. I was quite good at it but I could not stare these people out because there was a deep passion within them. I sought to find out what many of them were. They were highly sophisticated, intelligent men--doctors, engineers and professors; they were not simple fundamentalist terrorists. They held the passionate and genuine belief that they had a role to play in the world and they were looking for an enemy.
In many of those countries, the British, who were once a friend and partner, were for a long time treated as an enemy. I shall give a couple of the stupid sort of jokes that were heard. "Why does the sun never set on the British Empire?" "Because the Arabs do not trust the British after dark." "What is wrong with the Middle East?" "Hashish, baksheesh, malish (meaning, 'tomorrow') and the British; and the worst is the British because they invented the rest." We were somehow regarded as a corrupt, foreign, colonial power that had exploited the resources of a country and brought it no benefit.
Suddenly came the new enemy. Before I turn to that, I point out that there is a strange attitude in life--not quite a philosophy--that involves believing that in order to unite or control a nation one has to create fear of the regime. In order to unite a nation, one has to create a bogeyman or enemy. In my discussions over the period--the noble Lord, Lord Owen, reminded me that 20 years or more may be involved--a movement has developed that regards the United States as an enemy. It does not want to be an enemy of anyone; it wishes to be a friend. The United Kingdom is to be found somewhere between the United States and those countries.
Noble Lords will remember the hostage crisis in Iran. Its resolution involved the government of Algeria and the Bank of England combining in order to make a pay off. I find myself in a difficult situation when discussing terrorism or war. I look back and consider the human tragedies that have occurred throughout the history of the world and its natural disasters.
I return to my banking background and the financial aspects of this matter. The biggest disaster to hit Lloyd's was, I suppose, hurricane Andrew, in 1992, which cost 11 billion dollars. It was a natural disaster, like flood, pestilence, famine and rushing mighty winds. Before that, if I recall correctly, there was Piper Alpha, which cost approximately 3 billion dollars. An early disaster occurred in 1906--the San Francisco earthquake. I happen to have worked for the insurance group, Barings--although not at that time--which was the first group to pay out after the disaster, through the fireman's fund.
The human tragedy of this event has already been described. It was pointed out earlier that for the first time we, the British, are no longer in the first place with regard to the number of deaths caused by terrorism; we are, however, in second place.
The problem with all of that is insurance. It is estimated--the estimates are, in general, broad--that insurance claims will be in the order of 20 billion dollars. That is more than twice the figure associated with hurricane Andrew. I am assured that, in the same way that the Government have offered to provide substantial insurance support if necessary, underwriters in the City of London and elsewhere will be very tolerant and will not necessarily stick to the strict letter of the law. There are arguments about whether the event involves terrorism or war. At the moment, it is regarded as war--it has been stated by NATO and the United States that war is involved. In some of the countries in which I have worked people have felt that they have already been at war with the United States in one way or another but are powerless to act other than through the back door.
This particular act of aggression is so devious and cunning because it did not involve any armaments of war; it involved two missiles that were loaded with aviation fuel to the maximum limit--that needed by long-range aeroplanes. It involved perhaps no more than three people on board who were supposedly armed with knives that one might take on to an aeroplane. But this is perhaps only the first wave. From discussions with such people my understanding is that those attitudes are not short term. They are not a revolt; they are a long-term attack and plan and, unfortunately, the enemy of the United States.
The United States has helped us in the past and is fortunate because the United Kingdom is probably the most reliable ally upon earth. We stick to the rules and honour our agreements. It is that ability which I believe will stand the rest of the world in good stead at this time.
Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Baroness the Minister that we should also play the Commonwealth card. We should seek to deliver the wholehearted support of all members of the Commonwealth in this particular era because it has 40 votes in the United Nations. That is something which we can offer.
During the First World War my grandfather was director of restriction of enemy supplies. We should consider restriction of supplies to the enemy. That does not necessarily mean military weapons. I believe that the real restriction lies in financial resources and the ability to travel or communicate. I should declare another interest as president of the Anglo-Swiss Society. Yesterday, I met the Swiss Ambassador. We discussed the question of bank accounts which could be traced not to money laundering but to those whose countries might directly or indirectly be associated with harbouring or having relationships with those perceived to be of terrorist mentality, and how such bank accounts might be controlled. A phrase used in the banking world is "know thy customer". It is the duty of every banker to know the people for whom they hold a bank account.
It is perfectly acceptable for someone of Islamic faith under a fatwa to take an aggressive action which could supposedly take him to the promised land, but there is one quote from Islam which I like: "He who kills shall surely himself be killed".
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I begin on a personal note. Having lived for five years in New York during the 1990s, I came to know and to count as my friends a good number of New Yorkers. I came to admire the city, one of the most beautiful and vibrant in the world, as it pulled itself, by its own efforts, out of the economic doldrums and problems with crime that characterised it at the beginning of the decade.
As I have watched the images of ordinary New Yorkers this week grappling and coming to terms with the unspeakable horrors that have been visited on them, I have been filled with admiration and sympathy. They have set us a wonderful example of grace under pressure. I hope that this House might find some way of sending a message to New York's courageous mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, as a mark of our support for him and his fellow citizens in their hour of trial.
Faced with a crime of such enormity, it is not easy to know where to begin. Denunciation is certainly not enough. No mere words can adequately describe the depravity of the perpetrators of these crimes and those who have helped them. I shall concentrate on a few simple points. First, let us make no mistake; this is an attack on us every bit as much as it is an attack on the United States. Many of our fellow citizens are among its innocent victims. Its aim can only have been to destabilise and paralyse the world's leading democracy and our principal partner in the western alliance.
If it were to succeed in those aims--I believe it will not--we would suffer every bit as much as the Americans. Our state in a world which encourages democracy and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means would be crucially depreciated. I believe that the Government were absolutely right, along with our other NATO partners, to state that this outrage was effectively an attack on us all, to which we must respond collectively and in solidarity with the immediate victim. Let us not delude ourselves that if we were in some way to distance ourselves from the United States as it sets out to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book and that there is no repetition of these crimes we would increase our security and be less at risk. The contrary is the case.
Secondly, there has been much loose talk about how all this was an inevitable consequence of America's role in the Middle East and the support which it has traditionally given to Israel. One does not have to be a supporter of the Government of Mr Sharon, nor does one have to believe that the policies the Israeli Government are currently pursuing are the right ones, to argue that that analysis is fundamentally flawed. I do not believe that the policies of the Sharon government have any prospect of succeeding, let alone bringing peace to the Middle East, and I am ready to
Thirdly, as has been mentioned by many speakers in this House, it is no secret that the finger of suspicion is pointing at various Islamic terrorist groups. Should that suspicion be substantiated, there is a real risk of a wave of what has been called, and I would call too, "Islamaphobia". That would be deplorable. More than that, it would be against our interests if our objective is, as I believe it needs to be, to build a wide-ranging coalition against international terrorism, which would necessarily include, if it is to be fully effective, many Muslim countries.
In any case, it is not Islam which is at issue but rather fundamentalism in any shape or form. It is fundamentalism, whether it be Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or even Christian, whose intolerance and readiness to resort to violence and atrocities, whose belief that the end justifies the use of any means, which is the enemy of our democratic societies. After all, it was a Jewish fundamentalist who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin and so extinguished what was probably the best chance there has ever been of achieving a just peace in the Middle East.
We should be clear that the struggle in which we are engaged is against fundamentalism, and the use of terrorism by fundamentalists behind their cloak of religious zeal, not those who practise their religion, whatever it may be, in peace and in tolerance of others.
Fourthly and finally, the effort to achieve as wide a coalition as possible against international terrorism must be the top priority. We must try to ensure that such an effort does not get bogged down, as it has so often in the past, in futile attempts to define terrorism in a restrictive or tendentious way. Surely what defines terrorism is the method employed--the deliberate murder of innocent civilians, the taking of hostages, the hijacking of civilian aircraft and ships--not the artfully crafted political objective which is prayed in aid as a cloak for the commission of such crimes.
It is only if a wide-ranging coalition can be mustered and harnessed in a sustainable way through a fully effective range of practical measures that the perpetrators of this crime will be brought to book and any recurrence of it will be averted. Those surely must be the principal objectives to be pursued and the yardsticks against which we measure any steps to be taken along the way. Simple retribution, richly deserved though it may be, is not enough. The use of force, which may well prove necessary--I believe that it will--should not become an end in itself.
It is already clear that the response of the United States and its allies to this challenge will shape the international scene in the period ahead. There had been friction between the two sides of the Atlantic in the early months or President Bush's administration. Now it is important to resolve or play down those differences and unite in the common cause of ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism.
Baroness Uddin: My Lords, I follow all noble Lords in offering my prayers and condolences to the families of the thousands of innocent victims of this most sorrowful catastrophe. It is right that today all nations demonstrate their solidarity with the American people. Our thoughts are with all those families who mourn their loved ones. The fact that such terror could unfold before the eyes of the world is beyond all our comprehension. It is true that the world will never be the same again, knowing that there are individuals among us who are capable of such hatred for humanity.
Today I can add nothing to what has already been said by many more experienced and more eloquent noble Lords than I. Having heard the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I was tempted to withdraw my name. I have never felt more comfortable about allowing others to speak about Islamophobia than I do today.
I am deeply honoured and proud to be a Member of this House and to be involved in the procedures of this House of Parliament. Who could have failed to be affected by the sight of families beside themselves with grief and fear? However, much hope exists. Equally stark is the fact that countries and communities have been made to feel fear as a consequence of their faith.
I agree with noble Lords who have said that we cannot have retribution at any price; nor must we become less vigilant on the infringements about liberty and human rights. There is no doubt that if innocence is allowed to die, democracy dies.
I apologise that I had to take a break from the debate today in order to attend a meeting in the Home Office to discuss what is happening in the North of England. We were to discuss what to do and how to encourage communities to work together. However, nothing except what happened in America was discussed. Everyone was deeply concerned about the impact on our society.
Rising out of the ashes of the atrocities in America have come attacks on individuals and groups of British citizens. A significant number of women who wear hijabs have called me, wanting to take them off. Young people have reported being harassed, mosques have been attacked and the list goes on.
Every single organisation, whether led by Muslims or not--the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Muslim News, the Q News, and FAIR, the list of groups is endless--has, like all of us today, condemned these attacks unequivocally, and has asked for a calm response and for some of our media to be more responsible in their choice of words and in their choice of guests.
All our prayers are with the American people and with the innocent victims. I know that our American friends will do all that is possible to ensure that we do not do what we condemn. The perpetrators must be brought to justice and we must fight for justice. However, we cannot be angry for the sake of it. There are genuine reasons for us all to be concerned when we speak in this House that we do not identify ourselves
There is also, as I have said, anxiety about the media. Individuals who have been brought forward to represent the Muslim communities have been totally irresponsible, and not surprisingly, have displayed extreme views. I wonder where they come from. I have been involved in politics in Muslim communities and with Muslim leaders and Muslim religious leaders, and none of those views represents mine or those of my children. I hope that the House will ask those who hold the media in their hands to show more courteousness, and, with the courage of their convictions, not side with dangerous views.
We should all show a profound consensus of sadness and sympathy. I have consulted the Muslim community and every Muslim parent to whom I have spoken not only fears the implications in relation to their children, but, first, they say that this is a most horrendous attack on all human beings. Also, I do not remember one of those people saying, "But they were American". Much more importantly, we have to remember that those lying under the rubble of American buildings are probably Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all other faiths who we should preserve, protect, love, take care of, and honour. Associating "civilised societies" and "democracy" purely with western countries is not at all helpful at this time.
I am proud of our Government's call for a strategic, measured, purposeful and proportionate response against the perpetrators of these attacks. Like all noble Lords, I believe that they must be brought to justice in whichever way. After many years of hard graft, the Muslim community in Britain has finally found a solid foundation of negotiating institutional acceptance. I believe that our community is stronger than the fragility and the division portrayed by much of the media.
All our prayers and condolences go to the American people and the innocent victims. I know that our American friends will do the right thing, as we all will. The perpetrators must be brought to justice for the sake of our civilisation, for the sake of justice and for the sake of the whole world order.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page