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1.29 pm

Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West): May I join other right hon. and hon. Members in expressing my horror and outrage at the events of 11 September and my deep sympathy, as well as that of my constituents, the people of Dunfermline and west Fife, for all those who lost a loved one, a colleague or a friend on that dreadful day?

Credit is due to the United States President and Administration for the manner in which they have resisted the pressure they must have come under to take immediate

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retaliatory action and instead opt for considered short-term and long-term approaches. Like other hon. Members, I pay tribute to the key and pivotal role that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the UK Government have played in building and strengthening a global alliance, which rapidly formed to express its horror at what happened on 11 September.

It is difficult to find something to say that has not already been said in the thousands, if not millions, of words that have been spoken in the past three and a half weeks. Therefore, in the limited time available I shall focus on just one or two aspects of the implications for defence and security of the events of 11 September. I join others in paying tribute to the UK armed forces, who have already played a role in events so far and look certain to do so in the weeks ahead.

It is vital that international terrorism is combated by measures on a range of fronts. I welcome those that have already been taken to restrict the financing of terrorism, to share intelligence much more coherently and effectively, to co-operate in policing and to build a global alliance the likes of which we are unlikely to see again in our lifetimes. Although I recognise that there are no quick fixes or easy answers, I believe that action on all fronts is required.

On defence, those who believe that a homeland policy is the answer are clearly wrong. No nation, however large its army, air force or navy and however massive its equipment, can singlehandedly take on this type of international terrorism and be effective. As Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King's college, said in a newspaper article last month, the attacks of 11 September

I had heard the term "asymmetric warfare" before 11 September, but I now understand more clearly what it means. High-tech, super, lethal weapons count for nothing if one does not know in which direction to fire them and has no clear military targets or infrastructure at which to aim them.

The United Kingdom needs to look again at its strategic defence review and what it said about dealing with such terrorist threats. We must look at the configuration of the rapid reaction forces and at the level and capacity of our special forces. We must consider the most appropriate attack methods when dealing with an enemy that deliberately targets innocent civilians and ensures that they are in the firing line of any military response.

We are dealing with an enemy who pays no regard to the Geneva conventions. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said earlier, we are dealing with an enemy with whom we cannot negotiate because it seeks no rational political objectives, only the destruction and extermination of those it hates using violent means.

We must also review our defence procurement to see what equipment, weaponry and logistical support we need to counteract international terrorism. We must look even more carefully at those to whom we export defence equipment and do our utmost to support the UN Secretary-General's call on Monday for tighter restrictions on biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. It is clear that the terrorists will use them if they can obtain them and transport them in a rucksack, holdall or suitcase.

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The events of 11 September have implications for the operation of NATO. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss some of those implications with fellow parliamentarians from NATO member countries in the near future. I welcome NATO's decision that article 5 was relevant provided that evidence was received confirming that the United States had been attacked from outside. I understand that NATO ambassadors received that evidence this week.

I also welcome NATO's recognition that it is a transatlantic alliance and that we must offer the US support in return for the support that it has provided to us over the years. However, NATO must accept that a monolithic military response to international terrorism is hardly appropriate and must consider the terms of the Washington treaty agreed in 1999.

Like many who have already spoken, I hope that in the weeks and months ahead we shall continue to find new ways of working that will bring bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice, bring food and shelter to the Afghan people, and result in the end of a brutal and oppressive Taliban regime and its replacement by an interim Government acceptable to all parties under the auspices of the United Nations. I hope that we shall see a better world, free from fear, oppression and poverty.

1.37 pm

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I share the sense of many in the House at this time of seriousness, and I understand something of what people in Washington and New York went through. I welcome the humanitarian approach of the mayor of New York, who is reported to be giving caskets to some 5,000 people with some of the ashes from the remains of the World Trade Centre. I say that I understand it because I have had to officiate at funerals where the only evidence of a person's body was a wedding ring. Two lovely young women were killed with others in an indiscriminate attack on a hotel. When we are dealing with international terrorism, there is no difference between New York and Newton Abbey, or between Warrenpoint and Washington.

We speak about tightening our laws, whereas it might be wiser if we were to implement some of them. Earlier in our debate, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said that, when in government, he had fought terrorism for four years. The then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke, admitted that the Government had not used the full rigour of the law in dealing with terrorism in Northern Ireland.

We talk about our forces being called into action in the service of the free world, to free Afghanistan if necessary from the thrall of the Taliban. I trust that, in our humanitarian concern, we shall not just welcome Tommy when he is in action and forget him when he is at home, as we did after the Gulf war and as we have done, dare I say, in the case of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who have been cast aside as a sop to terrorism. Why do I say that? It is because Gerry Adams is on record as saying that even the new police service that we seek to devise in Northern Ireland will simply be treated the same as the RUC was if any Catholics join that force.

We have to start being realistic in dealing with terrorism, wherever it comes from. I join those who condemn the attacks on Muslims as individuals and on

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their mosques, and I support the leader of the Muslim community in south Belfast, who has gone on the record complaining about them. Whether the attack on the mosque in south Belfast was the work of a particular racist or a reaction to what happened in New York, it could easily be the result of an endemic violence which means that halls, churches and homes are attacked day in, day out by elements of the community who have grown up with a sense of lawlessness. Sometimes when people are brought before the courts one would almost think that the prosecuting police officers were the guilty ones, rather than the people in the dock. That is something that we have to face in implementing our laws.

I am not doing now what I did when I tried to table a question asking a Minister what his interpretation of the law was, and was told that that would not be acceptable, because the courts, not Ministers, interpret the law. I said, "So that means that we who pass these laws here in Parliament don't know what we meant by them." We talk about tightening the laws, and I hope that when we do that we will be more explicit and will not simply provide a haven for barristers and solicitors to make more money out of disputations over meaning.

We are speaking about humanitarian issues, but I note that not once during the debate have I heard a reference to the humanitarian workers who were already working in Afghanistan seeking to help impoverished people. Those workers are now prisoners of the Taliban regime, and they were imprisoned before 11 September. We must bear in mind those who pay a price when they seek to help people in some parts of the world. I understand that there are at least two people from the United Kingdom, some from Australasia and some from Germany, as well as several native Afghan citizens.

I was interested to hear the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) say that the attack on the World Trade Centre was without purpose. I do not know where he has been, because it is significant that 11 September is a historic date, and bin Laden was aware of it. He was giving a message to the western world. If any of us minimise that we will not be keeping our eye on the ball as we deal with his intentions and those of the others whom he has gathered around him.

I appreciate the calm building up of an alliance, but it is sometimes a little like our missionary enterprises in the Christian church, in that many good men pray that the Lord's will be done, but add, "Don't send me, send my sister." When things begin to go wrong, it will be a moment of testing. How many members of the alliance will stand together when the issues have to be dealt with? I have more trust in our own steel, and in that of the United States, to see through to the end that to which we have set our hands.

Intelligence is necessary. We have been told that Washington was taken by surprise. I understand some of the difficulties of intelligence gathering, but I could not help but think back to my visit to Washington two weeks before the Shah of Persia was overthrown. Apparently, the CIA had known nothing about it, and his overthrow took them unawares. They knew that there was some agitation, but they did not think that anything would happen. However, an Iranian taxi driver in Washington told me a fortnight in advance that the Shah would be overthrown.

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I wonder to what extent the difficulty has been not that there has not been enough intelligence, but how far bureaucrats and politicians—

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