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David Burnside (South Antrim): Will my right hon. Friend, with his experience as shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland, comment on the double standard that has been running through the debate all morning? The Garda Siochana and the Royal Ulster Constabulary have evidence relating to the guilt of the Real IRA in the Omagh bombing which has every bit as much credibility as the evidence supplied by the FBI and the CIA, and which is persuading the Government to take military action. Is that not a double standard?

Mr. MacKay: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. If I may, in the few minutes left to me, I will deal with it towards the end of my remarks.

There are international links between republican terrorists in Ireland and other terrorists around the world. A prominent member of ETA was present at the weekend Sinn Fein conference. The House will be aware of the particularly unpleasant bomb attack in the Basque capital only two days ago, in which the court was blown up but mercifully only one passer-by was injured. Equally, there are close links with the narco-terrorists of the FARC in Colombia. If anyone has any doubts about the way in which they wish to destroy democracy they have only to consider the dreadful death of the Colombian Minister who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in the past few days.

I have a request for the Prime Minister and for the Secretary of State for Defence, who is to sum up the debate. As the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) said, we must treat terrorists equally. Terrorism is wrong. The House and the British people want from the Prime Minister the same robust response towards terrorism in Northern Ireland as to the dreadful events of 11 September. It is vital that those who are not prepared to renounce violence are treated in the only way that one can treat terrorists, which is to remove them, arrest them and take away their funds.

This is a bipartisan debate, but the House will forgive me for saying that there has been a lack of enthusiasm about taking that action. Many of us, from the Dispatch Box and elsewhere, have pressed the Government to take a tougher line on terrorism. They have given terrorists the benefit of the doubt again and again and they have been let down. I am not critical that they have given terrorists the benefit of the doubt, but it must now be abundantly clear that they will not decommission their arms and explosives and that they are totally committed to gaining funds from criminal activity and destabilising our democracy. I hope that the legislation that the Home Secretary and other Ministers will put before the House in the next few weeks will allow positive action against terrorism in Northern Ireland.

12.12 pm

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) is right to say that this is a bi-partisan day for the House. In my 14 years as

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a Member of Parliament I do not recall a debate in which so many speakers on both sides of the House have been in agreement. Of course, we agree that this is a war on terrorism. This is not a war against Islam. It is not about faith, but about dealing with fanaticism and terrorism.

I commend the work done so far by the Foreign and Defence Secretaries, the visit made by the Foreign Secretary to Iran, and the visit that the Prime Minister is about to make to the Gulf and Pakistan. Britain is not going to do this on its own. It is right that we should stand with the United States. America is our closest ally and friend and the attack on the World Trade Centre was an attack on all countries that wish to eradicate terrorism.

Sometimes, however, I feel that we discover our friends in the Arab world only in times of crisis. It is extremely important that relationships are built up and developed over many years. The Arab states have enormous affection and respect for Britain and it is important for the Prime Minister to visit countries such as Oman to ensure that the support is there. The visit to Pakistan is also good. We should commend the role that India and Pakistan have played in unity on this occasion. The British Government should support the attempt by those two countries to work together to defeat terrorism.

I wish to deal in particular with the British Asian community and with the words of Baroness Thatcher that were quoted in The Times today. She stated that she did not hear enough voices of condemnation from the British Muslim community about the events that occurred in New York. I do not know what she has been reading or to what programmes she has been listening. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the only representations and comments that I have heard from the British Muslim and Asian communities have been words of condemnation for what has happened in New York as well as total support for the actions that the Prime Minister and Government have taken. Similarly, on the words of Mr. Berlusconi—although I think that he retracted them—it is important for people to understand the background to what has happened and to acknowledge the enormous contribution that the British Muslim community has made.

Tonight I shall go to Richmond in Surrey, which is the town in this country to which I first emigrated at the age of nine. Thirty one years after we emigrated to Britain, the country has changed. The Asian community has made an enormous contribution to the life of this country. I do not think that we would have imagined 31 years ago that some day someone called Hussain would be captain of the England cricket team. Perhaps in another 31 years someone called Patel may edit The Daily Telegraph.

It is important that we do not look at the British Muslim community and visit mosques only at times of crisis. Dialogue, which hon. Members have every day with constituents of Asian origin, is extremely important. Asians feel that they are part of the mainstream in supporting the Government in what they are doing.

We also need to support the Government's proposals, which were outlined by the Home Secretary yesterday at the Labour party conference. We need to introduce legislation to tackle religious hatred. Some of us have suggested it for some years. It is important to be tough on those who perpetrate acts of racial discrimination. We must look at the laws and the powers that have been given

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to the Commission for Racial Equality to find out how we can make that body more effective. It should be doing much more work in this area, not only to bring communities together but to take a more proactive role in what is being achieved.

I come to the House in total support of what the Government are doing. I am proud that we have a Prime Minister who is prepared to take a leadership role in international affairs. It is also important that the Asian community speaks out in a united way, as the Muslim community has done—Muslim leaders such as Zaki Badawi, Iqbal Sacranie and Syed Pasha have all condemned what has happened.

I look forward to the day when, like the Jewish community in Britain, the Asian community has a body that truly represents it—a sort of Board of Deputies—in which it can say in a united way what it has said separately through its various communities. That day will come and the House should push for such a development. In the mean time, in the current crisis we must work together in a united way in Britain and in the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrorism are defeated once and for all.

12.18 pm

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): It is right that the House was recalled today. Hon. Members must remember that we have a central role to play in questioning, sustaining and fortifying our Government at this difficult time. I join hon. Friends on both sides of the House who have congratulated the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the others involved in the excellent work that has been done so far.

Like the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), I was in New York when this appalling attack took place and 300 of my colleagues from a firm with which I am associated were killed in the north tower. It was an unspeakable outrage, and the more so since the perpetrators of the crime hide behind a great religion that teaches, above all, compassion, love and respect for human life.

There has been no lashing out. America has reacted with great strategic patience and skill and, above all, with calm resolve. The coalition that has been built by the partners is extraordinary. An alliance that includes Russia, the NATO countries, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and all the other Gulf states and that receives the acquiesence of China and Iran would simply have been impossible before 11 September. Inevitably, such an alliance will always be fragile, but, as the Prime Minister said, that fact will not prevent us from proceeding, diplomatically and militarily, with boldness and resolution.

As the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said, at the heart of this catastrophe lies the Arab-Israeli conflict. I warmly welcome what the Prime Minister said about that in his speech to the party conference and again today. When the pieces in his kaleidoscope settle, Governments must truly see to it that we bring all our influence to bear on a resolution of that problem. Some 34 years of occupation and daily humiliation and harassment of an entire people have led to appalling and grotesque consequences. There have been

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10 years of unconvincing peace process following the Madrid conference and there will be many more catastrophes unless the Governments of the world—particularly those of the United States, Britain and their European allies—put their minds to dealing with this problem.

Our international influence depends on our ability to act in concert with others, notably the United States, Europe, the World Trade Organisation, NATO, the G8, the Security Council of the United Nations and so on. The Government need to use all the energies at their command to secure a just, lasting and, above all, honourable peace for both sides. As I said, I am encouraged by what the Prime Minister said today and I hope very much that the Government will proceed with great vigour and see to it that America does the same.

Moderate Arab leaders are under increasing and possibly irresistible pressure. I hope very much that they will welcome the spirit of what is intended and push forward themselves even if they are entitled to be cynical about the process.

Britain has a role to play and we need to be more confident about it. We can play a thoroughly worthwhile and important role both in our own right and as a trusted ally of the United States—an ally that is able to make a distinctive contribution, as the Prime Minister rightly has in contributing to the formulation of policy in Washington.

I warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary's visit to Iran. It is far too important a country to ignore and, in the new realities, it has a role to play. We need to develop the relationship on a continuing basis, not only on our own account but with our partners in the European Union. At the same time, we must urgently develop and grow a more pragmatic, sensible, mature, lasting and meaningful relationship with Russia, so I am delighted that the Prime Minister has left to visit Moscow.

Does the Foreign Secretary believe that the Foreign Office deploys enough resources to its middle east department? We are embarking on a long and drawn-out business, which will require increased commitments in an already very overstretched department.

Defence will also require more money, and I hope that the Prime Minister will repay as of right the great debt of honour that he owes to the armed forces. In particular, we will need to spend more money on our intelligence services, to whom we should be very grateful and of whom we are very proud.

Britain must take the chances offered by these events. The Prime Minister is right to say that the state of much of Africa is an affront to the world. If the world wanted to put that problem right, it quite clearly could. Britain has a unique role—standing as it does at the centre of the Commonwealth, the G8 and the Security Council—and we can develop a strategy with our partners and allies to try at least to deal with the problem in a co-ordinated way. It will be the job of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to make sure that the Government press ahead with all those plans and that they do not simply slip off the agenda after a period of time in the face of pressing—albeit correct—local domestic difficulties.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) said, terrorism knows no bounds. It is not defined by any ethnic group, so it is very difficult to fashion a strategy to deal with such a strange and

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perplexing enemy. Broadly achievable military and political objectives are developing, but there will be no clear single or timely outcome. This campaign will not be defined by military action—although that must be an important part—and the only way to cope is by the Government and the United States working together through international co-operation and concentric alliances that are built on security, intelligence, diplomacy and economic and military efforts. All those elements must come together, not just in the fight against terrorism but in the resolution of the middle east crisis and, in particular, in dealing with the deep and abiding frustrations that have built up over the years.

As an immediate start at the World Trade Organisation conference in Doha, I hope that our Government will press for a fairer deal for poor countries as a matter of the most profound importance for now and for the future. Meanwhile, I endorse the words of my hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. As British forces prepare themselves for almost imminent action—it cannot be long delayed with the advance of winter and the approach of Ramadan—

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