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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has used his time allocation.

12.25 pm

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): On behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party, I would like to associate myself sincerely with all the speeches of condolence that we have heard today. It is right that we should be thinking of our friends in the United States in their darkest hour. It is also right, as the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said, that we should offer our support to the Prime Minister as he supports the United States in any action that might be necessary, with some caveats.

It has been said that war has been declared. Strictly speaking, that cannot be right. It was certainly an act of war—something similar—but, in legal terms, clearly it was not war. The Pearl Harbour analogy is not one that stands the test of scrutiny.

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A commentator said yesterday that we in the UK are a third party in all this. That also cannot be right. People from Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland were in those towers. We also have lost loved ones and people dear to us. This morning, the Welsh Assembly broke off for three minutes' silence as a mark of respect.

The attack was a dastardly act of huge barbarity. It is difficult to imagine anyone settling down for 18 months to plan such an action, but it has happened. The attack did not recognise national boundaries or ethnic origins. It was just a matter of killing human beings for a perverted end. That is another reason why Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party will support the Government.

We know of the invocation of article 5 by NATO. That is a further reason to give our support. Also, we have had the unanimous support of the UN Security Council; that has not always been the case, but the Council was immediately and urgently unanimous in this case. That is another reason to consider supporting action by NATO.

When the news broke, the first reaction was anger and extreme sadness. President Bush is taking his time and that must be a good thing. Kofi Annan, on the day of the disaster, called for terrorism to be fought wherever it appears and said that cool and reasoned judgment was more essential now than ever. He added that we did not know yet who was behind these acts or what objectives they hoped to achieve. He called for restraint and careful consideration of all the available evidence.

I am reassured that, today, the Prime Minister said that, together with the allies, we will have to identify the perpetrators with care and that this judgment must be based on hard evidence. I welcome that and am reassured by it.

We have heard that terrorists work across boundaries and collaborate with each other. We all know that. There is now an even greater need for collaboration via the security and intelligence services of all the democracies involved in this urgent and extremely dangerous issue.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) that we need to facilitate greater openness between the services and ensure that there is a proper exchange of information. Three or four years ago, I spent some time in Ukraine, looking at nuclear installations. I was scared when I went there. It is clear that, sooner or later, someone will buy the goods necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. That might already have happened; I know not. The situation is extremely worrying. If those weapons were to get into the hands of the madmen who perpetrated the atrocity on Monday, God knows what would happen. By coincidence, there is a programme about the matter on Saturday evening on the fourth channel in Wales.

I was pleased to hear it said that those who harbour terrorists will be subject to the same wrath as those who perpetrate the crimes. Without those who harbour them, the terrorists would be unable to carry out their dastardly deeds. The response will have to be measured and careful. We do not want to go down the old "eye for an eye", lex talionis route. That would mean several thousand innocent people being killed for no reason. I believe that it was Mahatma Gandhi who said that the problem with an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is that we would soon end up with a blind, toothless world.

I therefore hope and pray that we will review extradition laws and establish an international criminal court. I have long been a great supporter of such a court, which is highly

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necessary. People must know that, whatever acts they commit, they will be caught and brought to the bar of international justice. However, I acknowledge that that would not have stopped the suicide bombers, and I endorse the call by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) for an international convention under the UN, to which countries would be obliged to sign up. That would an excellent step forward and is an excellent idea worthy of further consideration.

I urge the Prime Minister, in his discussions with President Bush and our NATO allies, to keep foremost in his mind the need to avoid what is euphemistically known as collateral damage. We dare not emulate what happened in New York, even with the best intentions. I hope that, whatever strike is considered necessary, it will be a strategic, tactical strike on those who perpetrated such awful deeds, and that it will be limited to such damage.

12.32 pm

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): I first heard of the events in New York moments after they began to happen, as a result of a call on a mobile phone from a person in Leeds who had a contact in one of the towers, who described the events as a horror movie unfolding in real life. If that was not shocking enough, the events struck home for me because my daughter was travelling in America and was due to visit New York. I did not know where she was, but mercifully, she was miles away.

I mention that because I feel that as a result of the events of the past week, our globe is smaller, more interconnected and more vulnerable than we realised. On this day of reflection, we should reflect on that fact. Yes, the atrocity is not just against America. It is a crime against humanity. All of us and our families are touched by it and are threatened by acts of terror. As the tragic evidence emerges, many of our friends, neighbours and constituents will be suffering with American families that will also be scarred for generations to come by the loss of innocent ones.

As others have said, we should not underestimate the resources, the organisation, the professionalism and the personal commitment of those who undertake acts of terror. I agree that we need more international action at the highest levels—international co-operation in intelligence and extradition to fight the common enemy, terrorism. Nevertheless, our policies should be derived from a desire for fear and anger to be replaced by reason and argument, based on a passionate commitment to justice and peace for everyone throughout the world.

Others have spoken about the fact that the House last met in such circumstances in connection with the Omagh bombing. As one with family connections going back 25 years in Northern Ireland, I know of the fear and terror there, as do many others in the House, and of the need for security and vigilance. In the light of the remarks of other Members, I must say that the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and of others in the House and elsewhere to establish and take forward the peace process in Northern Ireland have been a tremendous success.

It is a great achievement to have dragged the situation back from violence to word-based politics and it must not be underestimated, despite the difficulties and the long-term need for further action there. There is a long way to go, but clinging on to dialogue has resulted in families in Northern Ireland suffering fewer deaths and maimings in recent years. We should reflect on that in these circumstances.

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We must work internationally to outlaw and drive out terrorism, but we must not neglect or underplay the need for everyone to promote dialogue to tackle the conflicts in our world. Combating international terrorism in the light of this week's atrocities should also lead to the redoubling of efforts to reduce tensions, tackle conflicts and make serious efforts at talks where Christians and Muslims rage against each other, whether in the middle east, the Balkans, Chechnya, Kashmir, Iran, Iraq or Indonesia.

We must try constantly and consistently to promote dialogue and reconciliation—that is more imperative now, not less—and we must not leave tackling terrorism and conflict resolution on the back burner. Unless those go together, there is a risk that existing conflicts will be intensified and that more dragon's teeth of violence will be sown rather than terrorists being isolated from their current and potential supporters. There is a genuine danger that unresolved conflicts will be driven under the surface for generations to come and that we will alienate even some within our own society, thereby increasing tension, fear and conflict.

I mention that because this week, like others, I met representatives from the Muslim community in my neighbourhood. They were keen to stress that it too feels anger and sorrow about what happened. It is encouraging that others have spoken out to say that Islam, the Muslim religion, is not to blame, but it is also important that we go further to deepen our understanding of the traditions and religions of others in our own society and internationally.

Interestingly, some younger Muslims said to me, "If as a politician you are committed to word-based politics, encourage all politicians and commentators to be most careful in the words that they choose and use to describe the realities we face now." Why? Because some of our language can be not only careless, but costly, thereby causing damage and isolation and deepening existing conflicts.

I make two practical proposals for the longer term of politics nationally and internationally. First, the last Act of the last Parliament passed into law our affirmation of support for the International Criminal Court. That court could be a means to ensure that there is no hiding place for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide. Our Government campaigned for it; we need to champion it as a new instrument of international means to outlaw acts of terrorism.

Secondly, on this day of international reflection and of inter-faith prayer in St. Paul's, can we do more to encourage dialogue between the world religions and ethical traditions so as to undermine some causes of conflict in our globe? I am reminded of a remark by the French moral philosopher Simone Weil, who died in the French resistance to fascism:


I recommend that others go to the Library and read her essay, "The 'Iliad', Poem of Might", which suggests:



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