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Mr. Dalyell: All right, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Robertson: I do not think that I shall persuade my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who has made up his mind that we should not be involved in this military action at all. If he is willing to stand back while people are massacred, that is a matter for him and his conscience.

The port situation and where any potentially enhanced force will be based are matters for the NATO authorities and the countries involved. I would like to pay tribute to the Government of Greece, who have allowed the use of the port of Thessaloniki for the troops that are at present in Macedonia. I pay tribute also to the Governments of Macedonia--a tiny and fragile country, which has hosted so many of our troops because it believes in the interests that we are promoting--and Albania, which has absorbed 400,000 refugees: that is equivalent of the whole population of the island of Ireland being absorbed into mainland Britain. Those are extraordinary achievements by those countries, which deserve our thanks and congratulations.

Our forces will be supported wherever they are. They have been up to now, and they will be in the future. My hon. Friend asked about cluster bombs. They have existed for some time, and they are the means that we have against the forces that are at present deployed inside Kosovo, who are deliberately targeting civilians and causing mayhem. Not only are people raped and tortured, and men beaten, as we saw so vividly on television at the weekend, but who knows what other horrors are going on.

Depleted uranium is not used in any of the munitions currently being used in Kosovo or in the Yugoslav theatre.

My hon. Friend asked about the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina. If he were listened to for military advice, all the ethnic Albanians would be swept out of Kosovo, and Milosevic would not stop there: the minority in Vojvodina

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would certainly be expelled and the last flickering elements of democracy in Montenegro snuffed out, after which Milosevic would be on the trail for other victims.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): The Secretary of State said that he had received military advice to the effect that it is now necessary to have more military forces to escort the refugees back into Kosovo. Does he accept that that implies that we are likely to meet greater resistance than was previously anticipated? Does it not follow that what he is doing in reality is to guard, and possibly provide, against the opposition of the Serbs? In short, we are talking about an invasion against resistance.

If that is right, or even likely to be right, should not the Secretary of State ask, on a substantive motion, for the authority of the House to underpin such an operation?

Mr. Robertson: The right hon. and learned Gentleman was Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the previous Government, and was specifically in charge of the Balkans. I was a shadow foreign affairs spokesman for about 11 years, and I do not remember substantive motions being tabled about the military action that NATO, rightly and properly, took in Bosnia, through IFOR, to ensure that the Serb violence was ended there.

We will leave that to one side, because according to the Leader of the Opposition we are not allowed to talk about history: apparently, the previous Government did not exist. The fact is, as I have said, that this is not an invasion force but a strengthened implementation force, designed by the NATO military authorities and endorsed by the North Atlantic Council for the good, sensible and practical reasons that they believed made it absolutely necessary to have a force in place that is relevant to the circumstances that our troops will face when they take the refugees back into Kosovo.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South): Will my right hon. Friend accept the congratulations of the House on the judicious leadership that the Government have shown in NATO? Will he ensure that ground troops are deployed as quickly as is practical and prudent, to secure the safe return of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees?

Mr. Robertson: I am very pleased to accept my hon. Friend's congratulations, not only because there is no politician who does not like to be flattered but because he has been to the refugee camps in the region, met the people there and listened to the tales of horror, but also the tales of hope about what NATO has done and can do in the future. Their only hope is that NATO will--as it will--prevail.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): In the light of the Secretary of State's earlier answer, in which he referred to the need to backfill units deployed into action, and his answer to the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) on the use of Territorials and Reservists in Bosnia, can he confirm that, throughout the country, units that are being reduced to a small fraction of their present size are receiving requests to send volunteers to the Balkans, including for example the Green Jackets Support

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Weapons Unit in Oxfordshire and 289 Commando Battery in the east end of London? Is he planning a compulsory call-out of Territorials?

Mr. Robertson: The purpose of restructuring and modernising the Territorial Army was to make it more usable, more deployable, and therefore much more useful in the sort of situation in which we find ourselves in Kosovo today. I hear no suggestions that we should reverse the reforms that we have put in place. On the contrary, I have heard from various parts of the country the clear message that what we set out to do, and what we are delivering in terms of strengthening the Territorial Army, is precisely what the Territorial Army will be good at in the future. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take that message back to the country.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): May I take the Defence Secretary back to the reply that he gave a few moments ago in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in which my right hon. Friend asserted that depleted uranium shells are not being used by British forces? Will he confirm that NATO forces are using them and that they have a long-term carcinogenic effect both on the victims at whom they are directed and on society as a whole? Will the Defence Secretary confirm also that it is part of NATO's strategy to bomb oil refineries, chemical factories and industrial plants, in the full knowledge that the resulting danger of pollution is enormous and horrendous and that that pollution will not stop at national boundaries but affect and destroy natural life and the health of people throughout the region? Will the Defence Secretary confirm that cluster bombs--about which my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow inquired--are, in effect, mines dropped from the sky and that they will be a curse on the people of that region for many decades to come?

Mr. Robertson: It will be nice--and, gosh, will I welcome it!--when my hon. Friend comes to the Chamber and denounces the violence perpetrated against women and children inside Kosovo.

Cluster bombs are not covered by the Ottawa treaty. They are not anti-personnel land mines and they are not covered even by the annexes to that treaty, which was negotiated with enormous care in order to take account of those munitions that might qualify under the original campaign.

I have made it clear that we are not using shells with depleted uranium in Kosovo or in the theatre of action at present. My hon. Friend made several assertions, none of which he can back up with peer-reviewed scientific research. We are undertaking considerable research into the allegations made about the effect of considerable amounts of depleted uranium that are alleged to have been used in the Gulf war. We believe the health risks are very small, but we will consider carefully any reliable medical or scientific data that may emerge concerning the incidence of ill-health that might have been caused by the use of depleted uranium in Iraq.

I remind the House that depleted uranium has many civilian uses and that several thousand tonnes of depleted uranium are in civil hands in this country. It is used for

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radiation shielding in hospital radiotherapy departments and in the manufacture of counterbalance weights for yacht keels and aircraft, among other things.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): The Defence Secretary's answer to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) will come as a depressing surprise to the 5,000 men deployed with the ARRC and KFOR, who will be disappointed to learn that the clock is not ticking on their expected six-month deployment on an emergency operation. The Defence Secretary has acknowledged the horrendous problem of overstretch in the armed forces. Can he confirm that, despite the fact that training and the recruitment campaign have been a success, the Army is still suffering a net outflow of personnel? Can he confirm also that the day before the 6th Battalion and the Light Infantry were told of their amalgamation into the West of England Regiment, they were asked for 200 volunteers to reinforce the Army? The Defence Secretary has told us that 18,600 men and women are now dedicated to the operation in Kosovo. How long can the armed forces sustain that level of commitment, given that they have no idea when deployment to Kosovo will occur, as that decision remains in the hands of Mr. Milosevic?


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