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Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden): I welcome the statement, but does it not imply to some extent that we have--for the time being, at any rate--ruled out importing into the area troops capable of mounting an invasion? This is basically a force to implement peace when it has been established; it is nothing more or less than that.

Can the Secretary of State tell us who, apart from this country, is contributing to the force? Are the Americans or the Visegrad countries involved? To what extent is there an agreement in deed as well as in thought?

Mr. Robertson: This is a peace implementation force, but we--my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the President of the United States and NATO--have made it clear that all other options are on the table, and will be carefully considered. As for who will supplement and strengthen the implementation force, I believe that all the allies in NATO will be engaged. They are substantially involved in the present KFOR. There are clear indications that, at the force generation conference that will probably take place next week, most of the other countries in NATO will be substantially contributing, along with us.

Mr. Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North): Although homelessness is a feature of all wars, does the Secretary of State agree that a unique feature of the war in Kosovo is that the vast majority of Kosovan people are now homeless--they either have been excluded from their country, or are homeless in the mountains? Therefore, he has the support of many of us in saying that we will need ground troops if the people are to return home in great numbers.

Will my right hon. Friend disregard the mocking ofthe British-American alliance by Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, which must replay very well in the Belgrade media? Will he instead listen to the voice of decent British public opinion, which cannot stomach genocide in Europe and will support all that the Government do to combat it?

Mr. Robertson: I agree with my hon. Friend thatthe decent majority in this country--indeed, the overwhelming majority of public opinion--support what the Government are doing. They support our humanitarian objectives--we need constantly to emphasise that. However, those are more than humanitarian. If Milosevic were to get away with the genocide and with ethnic cleansing on such a grand scale, does anyone imagine that he would stop at Kosovo? Vojvodina would be the next place, and it would be hoovered out of ethnic Hungarians. What would happen to Montenegro? What would he do about Macedonia, next door?

There are good strategic reasons why we have to draw a line before Milosevic's ambitions. Those go side by side with the common humanity that we engage when we say that ethnic cleansing is absolutely unacceptable.

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Ground troops have always been part of NATO's strategy. Air attacks and the ground troops that would escort the refugees back to their homes have been part and parcel of the twin-track policy that we have had from the beginning.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): After that last remark from the hon. Member for Croydon, North (Mr. Wicks), will the right hon. Gentleman understand that the Opposition are 100 per cent. behind our troops in the field and all the tasks that they have to achieve? Whatever questions may be asked of him, the support for what we have to do is complete and absolute, and he must know that.

Perhaps as an illustration of keeping up the morale of the troops in the Balkans, will the right hon. Gentleman show his support by doing everything possible to ensure that the anonymity of the military men who are called to give evidence to the new Bloody Sunday inquiry that has been instituted shall be maintained, and shall not be revealed to the IRA?

Mr. Robertson: I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for the unwavering support that he has given to what the Government are doing in their present endeavour--part and parcel of a NATO alliance that is standing firm in the face of an enormous evil, the like of which we have not seen.

Madam Speaker: Order. I believe that the Secretary of State should not respond further. I was reading material relating to that matter at the time. It is sub judice.

Mr. Robertson: I was actually paying a compliment to the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery). I had not got to the element that involves sub judice. I am grateful for your prior warning, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman can pay all the compliments that he likes to the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery), provided that he does not get on to the sub judice part of the question. I may have something to say about that later.

Mr. Robertson: I knew that I would be taking great risks if I got anywhere near the Bloody Sunday inquiry. I did not realise that I was treading in dangerous territory by daring to praise an Opposition Member, but he has always been robust in his support. I know that, contrary sometimes to the impressions that are given in the heat of the moment, the whole House supports those of our fighting forces who are out there risking life and limb for what they and we know to be a major national interest.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): I have never had any problems in supporting attacks on military targets in Yugoslavia, and the Secretary of State has just spelt out the success of that type of bombing. What I am concerned about is the impact of bombing on civilians, as it seems to have gone way beyond what one might attribute to collateral or accidental damage. What criteria are used in determining civilian targets? Obviously schools, hospitals and housing are being hit only by accident; but there seems to have been an awful lot of bombing of bridges, factories, bus stations and railway stations, going beyond the principle of proportionality.

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Many of us would feel much easier if bombing were restricted entirely to military targets, with only occasional non-military damage.

Mr. Robertson: Life would be much easier for all of us if, in a country such as Yugoslavia, we could easily draw a line between that which is military and that which is military-commercial. Milosevic set out to create a military machine in which there was an intimacy between his military and every other aspect of society. Nevertheless, the rule of proportionality is a very severe guide to us, as is appropriateness. Therefore, all the targets being hit are related--appropriately and proportionately--to degrading and weakening the military machine that has caused the genocidal violence in Kosovo.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): I also welcome the Secretary of State's presence in the House and his statement today. I can also assure him that, having seen the refugees in Albania and Macedonia, I wholeheartedly support the Government in their determination to get them back to Kosovo. I was tempted to ask why, if the air campaign is working so well, the volume of refugees being deported by Milosevic is increasing, rather than decreasing, but, my question is this: Before the bombing campaign began, did the Secretary of State receive advice from the Ministry of Defence that the bombing campaign on its own would not achieve the aims that he set out?

Mr. Robertson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making clear his support. I do not believe that anyone who--like him and me--has met the refugees could reach any conclusion other than that we had to act, and to do so very robustly indeed. He also asked a question that the Government are occasionally asked, on the military advice that we have received. The buck stops here: I am at the Dispatch Box, in the House of Commons, as the Secretary of State for Defence. There is in the United Kingdom civilian control of the military. I cannot hide behind the decisions taken by the military or the advice that I am given, because I am answerable to the House for the decisions that I take.

The decision to go ahead with the strategy that was adopted was taken not by the United Kingdom Government or by the United Kingdom military, but by 19 Heads of Government and 19 military commanders, with 19 democratic Parliaments behind them. I think that the hon. Gentleman can take it that the military advice that we received was the advice that we executed.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): I join with every hon. Member in condemning ethnic cleansing, be it in Kosovo or the Krajina. However, does the Secretary of State accept that there are other victims of violence in this war? Is he aware that 30 per cent. of the 1,200 civilians killed in Yugoslavia by NATO bombs were children, and that 40 per cent. of the 5,000 injured were children? What would he say to the children of Nis who, before the war, attended the Playhouse--the English-teaching primary school? While I was on a brief visit to the school between bombing raids, those five and six-year-olds took down the Union flag--I have it here--from their school, and drew on it pictures of their experience of being bombed by NATO. Does he agree that they are just as much victims

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as the children in the camps? Is it not time to start concentrating on a political settlement, rather than talking up a ground war?

Mr. Robertson: I know that my hon. Friend holds her views with great sincerity and great passion, but she really has to see in her own mind who started this whole thing. Who was it who started to bombard villages in Kosovo? Who was it who drove ordinary people--civilians--from their homes and their villages into the hills and across the borders? Who has been involved in the murders and the rapes that have been a part of that systematic picture? We know who it was not only from the words of the victims themselves, but because we know what Milosevic's troops have done in other theatres of war.

I do not like any civilian casualties. I am sure that the statistics were given to my hon. Friend in good faith, but I do not believe that 30 per cent. of the civilian casualties in Yugoslavia have been children. I regret every civilian casualty. Every one was a mistake. None of themwas targeted. Thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians--children, old people, men and women--have been brutalised directly and deliberately by Milosevic's troops and paramilitary thugs in Kosovo. When that stops and the refugees get back, we shall not have to carry out the bombing that has been necessary. We did not want to do it, but we had to.

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