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Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. Was he in the Chamber regularly during the debates on the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 or the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999?
Viscount Slim: My Lords, the noble Earl generally catches me out, and, frankly, after 30 years in your
The other factor is that the terrorist knows that he does not have to bring any weapons into this country. We are very good at taking weapons from those who are licensed properly and correctly. But there are 250,000 or 500,000 illegal weapons already here which people can get. It takes about a day to get a weapon in Britain today if people have the money. So there is no need to do that. There is a bit of a problem with explosives, of course. But if people can get drugs in, they can get explosives in. And there are ways to bring even more nasty paraphernalia to harm us today. So terrorists, I think, would say that Britain is rather an inviting place to come to set about their business. We have been so mesmerised by what is going on over the water that many of us have forgotten the international terrorism at our doorstep.
It is time that we stiffened the sinews. All we do is defend against terrorism--we are a very defensive nation. Of course, we have to defend; we must have the tightest possible security, and we are not bad at that. But we could be better. We need further resolve. We do not need spin talk. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, rightly said in his excellent maiden speech, we want to rally the people. That is hard-hitting straight talk, and it must come, as it has, from our Prime Minister, and from all Ministers. This is a long haul and Ministers must be able to hack it. There must be no fear; there must be resolve, resilience, a bit of cunning and subtle work. Secrets must be secrets. Then we have a chance. If we defend, we never win--or hardly ever. We must attack, in the ways that other noble Lords have described, on the economic, political and coalition fronts. There is no need for me to go into all those different ways, because noble Lords have spoken most eloquently about them.
The Government must let the proper agencies off the leash. Our intelligence and security institutions have been pared down in pennies and manpower, and they need to be supported and let off the leash. Policemen and the military, who are invariably used with one hand tied behind their back, if not two, must be let loose at the right moment. It is an awful thing to say, but we must have no pity, no remorse and no fear when the time comes for action. I hope that our Government and the people will hack it. We will not succeed if we are besotted by the immovable attitude of defence; we will not win if we are besotted by political correctness; we will not win if we are stuck with an ethical foreign policy.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, on Monday of this week, in my capacity as vice chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Defence and Security Policy, I had the honour to listen to a number of expert spokesmen and women on the US proposed
We met again and the foreign affairs committee immediately issued a statement saying that we learnt with shock and sorrow of the atrocious terrorist attack in the USA and that
The background to that statement is important and powerful. All of this year and for some of the preceding year we have been discussing the development of the common foreign policy of the European Union and the development of the common defence and security policy. Developing a common foreign policy in any area of the world for the European Union depends not on a single government statement and not even on a majority vote such as we witness so often in this House and in another place. The common foreign policy of the European Union depends on 15 member states coming together and developing a common position.
Your Lordships are aware that on the Middle East process, on Iraq, on Libya and on all of today's burning topics the European Union has as yet no common position and therefore we have no policy. This House made it intensely difficult for us to do what we had been required to do by so many key players in the Middle East process; for example, to step in and take a position. We cannot do so. We are the single biggest donor in the Middle East, as we are the single biggest donor in so many areas of our troubled world today, but we still have no common position. When I visited the then Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister, now the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr Moussa, and he demanded that we counterbalance the USA from the European Union, I had to say that we could not do that; we had no common position and it was not our task.
Common foreign policies take some time to develop in the unique democracy of 350 million citizens which today's European Union reflects. And it will become even harder with the enlargement process when we have 170 million more citizens as our European Union citizens. That is not too far away. We hope for a big bang of enlargement in 2002 when 10 new member states will enter. We hope to have two more by 2007 and beyond that yet more. Our target headline goal within the next two decades will be a total of
However, the common defence and security policy has been even more complex to develop perhaps than a common foreign policy for any area of the world. Perhaps I may take as an example a common foreign policy. I am the rapporteur for Iraq so for the first time we have an initiative of mine coming forward on Iraq. It is extremely difficult to reach a common position on Iraq despite the fact that Iraq has the single most powerful dictator and repressive regime in the world today. It is still difficult to reach a common foreign policy.
However, within our midst we have had great difficulties in pushing forward the common defence and security policy; difficulties which have troubled me deeply and difficulties I have found it extremely hard to accept. One difficulty has been that in the United Kingdom we have not been able to come together to support a common defence and security policy. Today is not the day, and now is not the time for party political hassles. Let us not go into that. But I urge colleagues on all sides of the House to come together and to recognise the need for the European Union to have a common defence and security policy, and not to pull against it any longer. We must have it. It is essential in the world today.
Perhaps one little thing to come out of Tuesday's tragedy is the statement by the 15 member states of the European Union and Nato together, which came almost immediately after our statement which followed the foreign affairs committee meeting, which happened to take place first. The joint statement from the European Union and Nato involved a clarion call from our own Lord Robertson, Secretary-General of Nato, showing that these were two institutions with just one voice, and that that one voice was willing to stand up and be counted together with the USA and all democracies world-wide. That is the first time that that has happened.
I applaud the French, their government, and French members of the European Parliament from all political groupings, because it has been so hard for them to accept that Nato is the shield of the world. The French and some of our other colleagues such as the Germans seem to have been intent on developing a unique, free-standing common defence and security policy that would have meant investing in our own security, intelligence gathering and so on, as if Nato did not exist. I think that in my fight against that I tabled 47 amendments, which were turned down. I wanted complementariness with Nato to be accepted as a key critical and fundamental element of a common defence and security policy. Now at last we have come together, and that is wonderful.
Of course, it is not enough to come together in the European Union or in Nato. A key issue is how we reflect our common position in a way that protects and supports other democracies that are in more fragile geographical or political situations. I think of India, the largest democracy on the globe, which lies next
It is vital that we should take up the thankless task of United Nations reform. We are the USA's allies, and the USA is our ally. She has been our greatest shield ever. But unless we manage to reform the United Nations in such a way that the USA feels comfortable to belong again, we shall have failed. At the end of the day, there is just one United Nations. There will never be a different form of it. We must come together at one table somewhere. The United Nations is that table and offers us that forum. Yet we at one point withdrew from certain elements of the United Nations. We should not have done so. The empty chair policy does no-one any favours, except the enemy. We must now work intensely hard with all our allies to make the United Nations a body that is acceptable to the USA and to bring the USA right back into the heart of the United Nations.
It is also important to look again at intelligence gathering globally. There is a feeling in the European Union that perhaps some elements of even American intelligence have been diverted from military intelligence gathering to supporting competitive, economic, market-oriented goals. Peace, surely, is more important than even enhanced prosperity. It is essential to think hard and long about intelligence gathering. Perhaps we should have supported the FBI. I was drawn that way, with the desire to de-encrypt every code that is used globally. I would rather have the FBI on my side than some of the enemies of whom we are now aware.
Finally, the enlargement of NATO will doubtless be a slower effort than before. We have to reassure those countries that were seeking to join NATO. Their applications might not go through in the autumn of 2002 for the obvious reason that we have to be more cautious. But that does not mean that they are outside the frame. We must also reassure Turkey, which has been so suspicious and concerned about its own security with the enlargement of NATO and the development of the EU common defence and security policy. We must reassure Turkey, a critical member of NATO, about how much its security matters to us. Article 5 of the NATO convention is critical for all the members, for the European Union members who do not belong and also for those applying to become members of the European Union who are not yet members either.
In conclusion, peace is a unique possession of any generation. Our peace has been rudely shattered. Our political leaders must square the impossible circle. They must make it possible to give our citizens and the world security, peace of mind and peace at home. Yet they must allow us to walk down the street without the obligation to suspect every stranger who passes by. We must be friends.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I thank the House for this opportunity to speak in the gap. I should like to join other noble Lords in expressing sympathy to the families of the victims of the attacks on Tuesday. I think particularly of the thousands of children who will grow up missing one parent or both parents. I find that deeply disturbing. I am sure that all noble Lords would wish to communicate sympathy for their position. They will not be able to play games with those parents or learn all those joyous things one can share with parents. They will never know them in maturity. I think of the father who is lost whose wife is seven months pregnant with their child. I think of the father of two who is lost and I think of that loss to his children.
I have recently returned from an expedition to Angola sponsored by UNICEF. I should like to ask the Government whether they have considered the importance of education as a means of choking the flow of terrorism in the future. When I arrived in Angola, the head of the UNICEF mission there commented to me, "Education is the key to improving life for the children of Angola in the future". I spoke to a teacher in one of the schools for street children. She was desperate to get to university so that she could continue studying but no funding was available for her. When I arrived back from Angola, the first message I received was from Henrique George, a school boy in Angola, who asked, "How do I get a scholarship to study in the UK?"
With education there is the possibility of hope. There is an alternative to the road of violence if one believes that one can improve one's lot and the lot of one's family. Education also helps the development of the critical faculty so that one can begin to challenge the precepts of fundamentalism. Of course it can be argued that education may simply produce more educated and more sophisticated terrorists. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, referred to the intelligent and educated fanatics whom he has met. It is a complex matter, but as we try to think of a long-term solution to the problem of terrorism, I hope that we shall think about redoubling our efforts to support developing countries and their education systems.
Lord Rogan: My Lords, we meet today under a heavy cloud to express our sympathy and to show solidarity with the United States and its people. On Tuesday we witnessed what were easily the most obscene and barbaric acts of terrorism in the history of the modern world. The impact has been global. So many people from different countries and of different nationalities have been affected.
The world has been stunned by the scale of the devastation and the carnage. In all my years of living in Northern Ireland, unfortunately I have witnessed many atrocities and many attacks on innocent people. While we in Northern Ireland have a special understanding of the suffering of the people of the United States at this time, we are still deeply saddened.
The Foreign Secretary has talked about the number of United Kingdom citizens who are missing in New York. The figure may run into hundreds. People from Northern Ireland have been caught up in the nightmare. Many are feared lost, but some have been lucky.
My party colleague and Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, Michael McGimpsey, has a nephew who was one of the first New York firemen to enter the World Trade Centre. John McGimpsey was on the 19th floor of the north tower when the south tower was attacked. Injured while trying to rescue a civilian, he was carried out of the tower in time. Thank God for that. Most of his brave friends and colleagues are missing.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families, to the American community living here in the United Kingdom and to the many friends of Northern Ireland, in particular those in New York and in Washington. It is hard to comprehend what could motivate anyone to cause such misery, destruction and deliberate loss of human life.
Perhaps the most disturbing fact about the events of the past two days is that the passage of time has served only to heighten awareness of the enormity of what has taken place. The catastrophic scenes have not lessened as time has elapsed; rather, they have become more horrific and more traumatic.
It is worth noting that while we in Northern Ireland were coming to terms with the news from the United States on Wednesday morning, the same terrorists who bombed and murdered innocent civilians in Omagh were trying to murder young policemen in Londonderry. Terrorism, no matter where it emanates from, is terribly wrong.
In moral terms the IRA bomb attacks on the Baltic Exchange and Canary Wharf are no different from the attacks on the World Trade Centre. They differ only in scale. I am greatly heartened by the determination and resolve of world leaders to support America at this difficult time.
It is worth recalling the words of the United States Secretary of State, General Colin Powell:
My party has worked very hard in Northern Ireland to promote a way forward that takes us out of terrorism and towards peace and stability. We will always stand against terrorism. Just as the Americans need help to defeat terrorism, so we in Northern Ireland need help from the rest of the world. Today, we have remembered our American friends as they try to come to terms with their loss. Today, we stand beside President Bush and the American people. Today, we stand defiant against those who would threaten the basic freedoms and principles of the democratic world.
Our friends have called to us for help. In the name of freedom, we will stand by them, on the side that is right and just.
Lord Roper: My Lords, today's six hours of debate have enabled us to express our horror and condemnation of the terrifying crimes that occurred on Tuesday in the United States and to express our sympathy with the United States authorities and with those families in the United States and, in particular, in this country who suffered so much in that attack.
The debate has also shown the shared analysis of these horrific events in all parts of the House. Like the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, I leave slightly hopeful, because it is clear that we have a widely shared approach across the House to the aspects of policy that we need to take forward if we are to deal with these terrifying events.
As very often in debates in this House, I have particularly appreciated a number of interventions on points of law that I would not have thought of. I found the interventions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, on points of law extremely valuable. The technical point on insurance law that my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury made was also of great importance. I hope that the Government will find a way to reply to him, even if it is not today.
I am glad to have come to that hope, because the past 72 hours have been some of the most depressing of my life. I was alive in 1939, but I cannot remember it. I cannot remember any event in international affairs in the past 50 years that has been as depressing and as serious for the future environment of the world in which we are going to operate. If we wanted a glib phrase, this was, "The end of the end of history".
I pay tribute to the remarkable maiden speech by my noble friend Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. As we expected, he made a particularly valuable contribution to the debate. I know that his remarks were welcomed in all parts of the House. We look forward to hearing his contributions on many future occasions, although we hope not on such serious matters. He referred to the importance of developing international mechanisms and international co-operation. I shall return to that.
Like many on these Benches and elsewhere in the House, I was fortunate to spend some of my postgraduate education 40 years ago studying in the United States. During those two years, I learnt about the generosity and decency of the American people, which, like so many students from all over the world who have had an opportunity to study there, I have never forgotten. I was horrified to think that others have gone there to study and learn from the United States and then used their skills in the way that those who learnt to fly there used them this week. That was a further reason why, like so many who have spoken, I stood in shared sadness with our colleagues from America and from throughout Europe this morning, thinking about what happened.
I believe that this event comes as a shock of a very particular kind for the United States. It has been said that not since 1814, when, owing to a little local difficulty, we attacked Washington, has the United States been directly attacked in this manner. Indeed, I believe that the effect of these events on the psyche of the American people will take some time to absorb, both for them and for the rest of us. The effect will be most serious.
Today, most comments have been made about the attacks on New York. I have visited, and have friends and colleagues who work in, the Pentagon. I want to say something about those who work in government service in that building. I have been there many times. I never imagined that the Pentagon, of any building in the world, could be on fire day after day, and that those who serve there--they are criticised frequently but they serve their country valuably--could be put at risk. I am sure that the Ministry of Defence has conveyed sympathy on behalf of this country to its colleagues in the United States. I hope that it will also be possible to convey from this House that we are concerned that American public servants have been put in that position.
We must have enormous sympathy for President Bush and those who serve in his relatively new administration, along with those in government in this country and elsewhere who hold the responsibility of office at this critical time. It is essential that we go forward together to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism which has struck this week. As I believe is important, we have already seen the international structures begin to respond.
The meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers, which preceded the meeting of the North Atlantic Council on Wednesday, ensured a common response, bringing together the two institutions which are sometimes said to be "against 'together'". It was important. This morning the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, referred to how quickly the resolution was carried at the United Nations Security Council. We know how long it can take to pass resolutions. On this occasion, it was carried very quickly and with remarkably strong terms, as indicated by those quoted by the noble Baroness.
We must rebuild international order. It is only through having an international order that we can outlaw international disorder. We must work to prevent access to funds or to weapons by those who would have them. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said this morning, that will require us to consider further counter and anti-proliferation policies and, as the Prime Minister said in his speech, mechanisms of access to such funds or weapons. In the 21st century we must try to achieve at the global level what the European Union was able to achieve in the last half of the 20th century; that is, the elimination of conflict and dissent among peoples.
I want to make one point about the references to the intelligence services. I remember visiting Washington in the 1980s and talking to a professor from a New England university. Later, I discovered that he was
As we teach our students, much in international relations is based on perceptions rather than on reality. Today, in almost every speech that has been made we have made clear that we are trying to deal with the problem of international terrorism. It is not a matter of being against Islam. That was made clear in the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Minister, and it was particularly powerfully put by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. The point was also made by many others--in particular, by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, who discussed her concern about the way in which the media were quoting unrepresentative members of the Muslim community in this country and building up misperceptions. We need to attend to that.
We know what the reality is; we know that the enemy is international terrorism. Unfortunately, the perception--this is true not only in the Muslim world but also in much of our country--is that the conflict involves something other than that. We have a real responsibility to ensure that such false perceptions are destroyed. Otherwise, what is already a serious problem could become a problem of enormous gravity.
Just before these events a United Nations conference was held in Durban, at which the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, played an important part in eventually finding satisfactory language. It was important to find a satisfactory framework; otherwise, it would have appeared that there was a distinction between the North and the South or the rich and the poor. That would have reinforced false perceptions, which could have done much to harm international relations.
This week's events may well have been as dramatic a change in the international environment as was the end of the Cold War little more than a decade ago. That was a benign change, for which, admittedly, we were not particularly well prepared. However, because it was benign that did not matter too much. This week's change was a terrifyingly malign change, for which our preparations were far from satisfactory.
The Prime Minister's Statement in another place and many of the contributions to our debate show that we need to have a co-ordinated, long-term approach or strategy. That will create the structure that we need in
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, this has been an exceptional and moving debate in response to appalling acts of terrorism. One of the many speeches that we shall remember for a long time was the notable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. Some of us have read in newspapers in recent days his accounts of his dealings with the Government; but more of that on another day. Today, we welcome his very thoughtful maiden speech and look forward to his future contributions.
So many wise speeches have been made that the task of responding is daunting. I am very conscious of the risk of turning wise thoughts and important principles into cliches by repeating them through poorer words than were used by the original speakers. We have all been touched by these events.
Some noble Lords may have heard a young Englishman speaking on Radio 4 this morning. He was on the 70th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Centre when the first plane hit the north tower. He succeeded in escaping. His name is Mike Shilaker; he and his family are close friends of our family. Many work colleagues who were with him at the time have not survived; we are delighted that he did.
It seems that there were many more British casualties in this incident than in any one of the Northern Ireland terrorist incidents of the past 30 years. As the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, reminded us, casualties in Northern Ireland over those 30 years amounted to over 3,000. There are more--people of many nations--on the New York casualty list. That is not accident or collateral. The main chosen target was not an institution of the United States Government but the World Trade Centre where people of many nations are present every day.
I hope that the coming together of parties and faiths in this debate will be mirrored by a coming together of the nations and faiths in the world to tackle the problem. From some of the reactions around the world, there is good reason to believe that that might be so. It may prove important, too, that these incidents happened in New York where the United Nations meets. Leading diplomats of every country serving at the United Nations, like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for our country, saw what happened. They shared at first hand a few blocks down Manhattan the shock and horror but also the wonderful spirit shown by the firemen and ordinary people in response to the events.
In this international context our own Government will support the United States in every way they can, particularly in the vital intelligence field, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Park. We have been on the receiving end of terrorism and have valued the support we have had in our own struggle to preserve the
From our own experience in the Second World War and numerous examples since, including IRA attacks and other terrorist incidents, we know that bombing does not weaken the resolve of the bombed people. On the contrary, it increases it. We must bear that in mind when considering the incidents and our response to them. We can see from the recent experience of other nations that the attempt to crush people by overwhelming disproportionate force breeds more hatred and more suicide bombers. We need to win the hearts and minds of the people of these countries if we are to win this war.
Several noble Lords have mentioned hatred of the Americans. I hope that the scale and horror of these attacks will help us to gain sympathy for the Americans. A week ago, who would have thought that we would see Yasser Arafat giving blood for wounded Americans? I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Marlesford and others about Palestine. Giving blood has not proved as necessary as it might have been because a special feature of this tragedy is that there are relatively few wounded in comparison to the number of dead.
Above all, we must remember, as many have said, that suicide and the killing of civilians in war are against the teachings of Islam. Blaming all Muslims or all Arabs is no more sensible than blaming all Catholics or all Irish people for the IRA. However, we know how hard we have had to struggle to avoid that after various violent incidents that we have suffered. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, reminded us of the situation in the 17th century.
Most Muslims condemn these attacks and many Muslims will be among the dead. More than ever, we need the support of the Muslim people and Muslim governments to identify and to deal with these terrorists. I welcome what the Prime Minister said in his Statement and what many noble Lords have said about Muslims in the course of the debate.
I also commend the speech of my noble friend Lord Elton. He and other noble Lords have shown how difficult it will be to drain the reservoir of hatred. It will involve difficult decisions and cool judgment. Like others, I am encouraged by the measured statements of President Bush and Secretary of State Powell. I believe that they have been wise in what they have said and in their approach.
Of course, suicide attacks are the most difficult type of terrorism with which to deal. Much of our current defence against terrorism rests on deterrent. It is based on the proposition, "If you shoot at us we will shoot
Today it is easy to set out principles but to put them into practice will be a long job. We in this country are already accused of harbouring terrorists. Listening to the speech of my noble friend Lady Cox, it is clear exactly why. She set out the matter in detail. The noble Viscount, Lord Slim, spoke of that too.
We were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, of the difficulties of controlling immigration, asylum seekers and so on, while keeping our cherished freedoms and sticking to our international agreements. The same kind of considerations apply in every country. Each country has to deal with them in the light of its geography and its heritage.
We shall have to face difficult decisions over a long time because this will be a long, hard process. Today, we must resolve to stick with it, to build up the maximum number of allies in the world and to fight for democracy by methods that preserve and reinforce our values so that this new century does not continue as it has begun with such horror and destruction.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, it falls to me to close this debate on the tragic events of this extraordinary week that all of us who have lived through them will not forget for a very long time. I begin by thanking all noble Lords who have spoken today. All of them bring to the debate their own expertise, their own backgrounds and their own experience. A number of noble Lords have held the highest offices of state and others have been extremely senior diplomats and civil servants. Many have some kind of military experience and others have none but have their own experiences of life in the round. It is that combination of expertise and experience that makes such debates in this House so compelling. This debate has been no exception.
Perhaps I may immediately mention the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon. We all knew that when he came to this House he would bring a unique combination of practical defence, political and parliamentary experience going back over many years. We looked forward to his contribution. I am quite certain that he did not wish to make his maiden speech in a debate of this kind; no one wished for such a debate. But I am sure that I speak for the whole of the House in saying that it was absolutely appropriate that with his background he made a speech in this sombre debate. His speech was memorable; all noble Lords
However fine they are, words are unequal to the task of conveying the sense of shock and sorrow which was felt by so many people across the world. The whole House has expressed its unanimous view. Its thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the families, friends and colleagues of those killed and injured by these acts of barbarism.
I know that many in the House have already followed the Leader of the House and my noble friend Lady Symons in describing in the most moving terms their sense of personal revulsion at these inhuman acts. I identify myself with those sentiments in the strongest of terms. They are the view of the House. It is only right that the first response of the House has been to comfort the injured and share the burden of the people grieving for those lost in this disaster and of the many, on both sides of the Atlantic, who still do not know what has become of lost ones.
The closeness of our links with the United States--the interchange of people and commerce, the commonality of values and ideas--has meant that the sense of shared pain has been particularly keen in this country. For those in the defence community, this has been especially so following the attack on the Pentagon, about which the noble Lord, Lord Roper, spoke a few moments ago. Every member of the Armed Forces of this country must have been thinking constantly about friends and colleagues in Washington. The Armed Forces of our two countries have trained together, exercised together and over the past 60 years and more have repeatedly fought alongside each other. That is a shared experience which is unique and a source of immense pride on both sides--and on ours in particular today.
Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that the Secretary of State for Defence has spoken to his counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, to express his solidarity and support and to offer whatever help we can, along with our NATO allies. We are united, of course, in our determination to bring those responsible to justice. I am aware, and the House would like to know, that the Chief of Defence Staff and other senior military personnel have spoken to their counterparts to express their shock and sympathy. The Ministry of Defence has offered to provide a wide-ranging package of assistance, including specialist search personnel, equipment and forensic experts.
I should like to join with others--it cannot be said too often--in paying tribute to the dedication, professionalism and self-sacrifice of all those men and women in America's emergency services, of whom we have seen and heard so much this week. Their response has been nothing less than heroic in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. I am sure that the House believes that they represent the best qualities of the American people: courage, humanity and compassion. They can be summed up in the phrase "plain humanity"--which is quite beyond the
This was no natural disaster, no event of nature beyond the control of man. This was cold-blooded, calculated murder. It was a vicious attack on the United States by a tiny but determined group of fanatics. It was in a very real sense an attack on the whole civilised world and on our most preciously won values, which cost us so many lives in the previous century; namely, freedom, peace, democracy and justice. The response of the American people to the disaster offers the best possible evidence that they will not surrender those ideals. Their anger and bewilderment are only natural; but what has come over to all of us is their courage and their huge determination to see that justice will win through.
I am sure that the message sent today by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary is supported by everyone here. It is that we shall stand resolutely behind our friends and allies. We can and will defend our people and our values against acts of terror, in whatever form they take.
This was not a debate in which many questions were asked of the Front Bench. I am grateful for that, because it would not have been appropriate. It was appropriate, however, to raise some questions and I shall attempt briefly to answer one or two of them.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, for his specific questions about airlines. I choose my words carefully. On the specific point, Israeli airlines indeed operate a policy of locking the flight deck door and not opening it during the flight, irrespective of threats. As to other airlines, I shall write to the noble and learned Lord and place a copy of my letter in the Library. Whatever the policy, it may be that in those terrible minutes leading up to the fatal crashes appalling incidents were taking place in the aircraft. Not until a full inquiry by the United States' authorities has taken place shall we be able to piece the picture together. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be patient. I shall write to him in due course.
The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, raised the question of insurance policies. The Government are, of course, well aware of the issue. The noble Lord will understand that it is one of many complex legal issues arising from this outrage that will need to be resolved. We have it very much in mind.
We in this country have had extensive experience of terrorism over many years. We have developed some of the world's best counter-terrorist expertise and capabilities. Our preparations include a raft of robust contingency plans for responding to a wide range of terrorist threats. These plans are well prepared, regularly exercised, tested, reviewed and refined in the light of changing domestic and international circumstances.
I heard with interest the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Her points have been taken on board and she will forgive me if I do not attempt to deal with them now. I shall write to the noble Baroness in due course. It would not be appropriate to go into
Many parts of government are devoted to monitoring and responding to the potential terrorist threat. Of course there is military expertise, but there are also security and intelligence agencies, police, and scientific and other specialist advisers. We continue to learn from our own experience and that of our friends and allies abroad. Everything that can be learnt from this latest attack and added to the substantial base of expertise from which we work, will be.
Naturally, events in America triggered a precautionary response in this country which I should like to outline. I want to emphasise, as my noble friend Lady Symons did this morning, that at no time prior to the attack on America did we have any indication that a specific threat to the United Kingdom existed. Nevertheless, our response was immediate. The police, who quite rightly take the lead in responding to any such incident, have been, as the House would expect, prompt, thorough and effective. Over the past few days they have provided advice and reassurance to many people concerned about the threat of direct action in this country. However, I must reinforce the message which the police have given, that while we should all be vigilant, we should not allow the events of the past week to damage or undermine our day-to-day way of life. That would really be to give some kind of victory--even substantial victory--to the terrorists. It must be business as usual.
Police patrols have been intensified on the streets of London and all police forces have been put on full alert. This heightened level of alertness will continue throughout the weekend and for as long as is considered necessary.
I was extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for his remarks about his experience relating to the information centre. The noble Lord's speech was extremely moving. We are particularly grateful for his compliments about the information service. We are grateful to the noble Lord for saying publicly that it is doing a very good job.
Other government departments, notably the Home Office and the Department of Health, have also been active in the joint effort to increase preparedness. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions co-ordinated the National Air Traffic Service to facilitate the return of aircraft to airports following the closure of the United States' airspace.
The Ministry of Defence, as one would expect, has also been heavily involved. We offered the civil authorities access to our unique assets and capabilities. A number of military airfields and their facilities were prepared in case of emergency landings. Military personnel were also put on standby in case they were needed to assist in the guarding of airports alongside
Throughout the United Kingdom, air defence aircraft of the Royal Air Force are constantly at a state of high readiness. Their role is to deter, deflect, and, in the last resort, to destroy any threat from the skies.
As we have heard, on Wednesday NATO invoked Article 5. The crucial part of that article was read to the House this afternoon. The NATO allies of the United States therefore stand ready to provide whatever assistance may be required. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to pay a tribute to our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who really, in some ways, by his leadership of NATO in these difficult days has done no harm at all to the reputation of this House. I believe that the House would want a tribute to be paid to him.
As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said earlier, the murder of British people in New York is no different from their murder here at home. Murder is murder. The United Kingdom has both an interest and an obligation to provide assistance to the United States, to help bring those responsible to account and to remove the threat that terrorists pose to the whole international community. That assistance has begun. There has been close contact between relevant government agencies in both countries. The Metropolitan Police are in close touch with their colleagues in the New York Police Department. The Treasury and the Bank of England have been in close contact with the Federal Reserve. We are already sharing information that may be useful to the United States' authorities in their search for those responsible.
The House has heard what we are doing on a diplomatic front. We are also examining the military contribution that the UK could make in the event of any requests from the United States to assist in bringing to account those who have organised, abetted and incited these acts. However, as I know the House will appreciate, it would not be appropriate to provide any details of such options at this time.
It is now three long days since the events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and we must continue to live with their impact. We are not complacent; we have taken sensible precautions, but we will not be deflected from our purpose. We will continue to pursue our normal lives and fulfil our full responsibilities at home and overseas. We must not forget that, with our allies, we act as a real force for good around the world, and we must continue to do so.
That is why, for example, our Armed Forces will continue their important work in Macedonia, which, as elsewhere in the Balkans, is aimed at bringing peace and stability to that region. The arms collection work is a vital part of the peace agreement between the Macedonian political parties. The National Liberation Army has handed in a significant number of weapons to Task Force Harvest, and the Macedonian Parliament has passed a first vote in favour of the settlement. I can tell the House that the
We remain committed to enhancing our close relationship with friends in the Islamic world. The House will be aware that we are preparing to undertake exercise Saif Sareea in Oman--the largest exercise of British Armed Forces in the Gulf for many years. We have no plans to call off that exercise. We will not be deflected from maintaining the effectiveness of our Armed Forces at the highest possible level; nor will we be deflected from demonstrating our solidarity with our many friends in the Islamic world. I pay tribute to the steadfastness of all those in the Gulf region who have expressed their sympathy and outrage following the events of Tuesday. Now is clearly the time for all nations to show where they stand.
We know that the attacks on our American friends were an attack on our values, and those are values that are shared across the civilised world. Those attacks simply cannot be tolerated, even by a tolerant society. Those values are not divided by religion, creed or race--let alone by political party--and they will not be overcome by barbarism, arrogance or tyranny. The depth and breadth of the condemnation and disgust that has been expressed by nations all round the world--and which, if I may say so, has been demonstrated by the unanimity of view in this House--is an indication of the level of the evil and horror of what we witnessed. It should also have
Before the debate closes, perhaps I may read the letter that my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House has written to the President of the Senate, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives--a letter that was referred to this morning, and which has now been written. To those two eminent Congressmen, he writes:
On Question, Motion agreed to.
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