|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Government and the Prime Minister in particular have responded well domestically and on the international stage to the crisis. We have a clear duty to protect our citizens from atrocities. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) pointed out that the risks are very real and continuing.
I have read the evidence that the Prime Minister placed in the Library this morning and I believe that military action is a necessary part of our response to make it less likely, or impossible, for further atrocities such as those committed on 11 September to take place.
I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say this morning that he believes that the humanitarian coalition is as vital as military action. The humanitarian crisis faced even before the events of 11 September by the people of Afghanistan was very real. After 23 years of war, seven years of Taliban misrule and three years of drought, food production in the country last year was half the normal productionin some parts of the country it was only one tenth of the normal level. Twenty five per cent. of children born in Afghanistan die before the age of five.
The problems faced by women are particularly acute. I have no idea what it costs to buy a place on a truck going from Kabul to the border, but it will be out of the price range of any of the 700,000 war widows in Afghanistan, who are not allowed by the Taliban to work and have to survive as best they can on the help of friends or family or by begging on the streets. They and their children will be major casualties.
The United Nations published a report headed "The Deepening Crisis" a week before the World Trade Centre attack, which talks about 5 million Afghans being displaced within Afghanistan or as refugees to neighbouring countries. Last Friday, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its "Donor Alert" report estimated that a further 2.5 million Afghans are likely to flee their homes from fear of conflict or conflict itself. Some will move within the country, about a million are expected to cross the border to Pakistan, 400,000 to go to Iran and 100,000 to central Asia.
The United Kingdom has well-established aid programmes in Afghanistan and elsewhere to assist Afghan refugees. The Department for International Development has responded quickly and positively to the crisis with the allocation of a further £25 million on top of the £35 million in aid that it sent to Afghanistan last year, as well as another £11 million of aid to Pakistan, in particular for the poorer areas that are likely to receive refugees. About £15 million of that UK aid has already been disbursed. Speed is essential. Food supplies need to get through before the winter sets in as communications will be frustrated by the winter weather as well as by a breakdown of law and order which may follow military action.
Is £36 million enough? No. In its report on Friday, the United Nations called for an international fund of $584 millionjust under $200 million for food aid over the next six months and about $270 million to help refugees.
At present the UK's contributions come from the Department's contingency reserves, which is the right place for them to come from. However, will the Secretary of State for Defence say in his reply whether, if additional resources are requiredI accept that we will not know that until we know the number of refugeesthe Treasury will make them available to ensure that the Department for International Development does not have to cut necessary aid programmes in other parts of the world?
Furthermore, in addition to planning military action to constrain and defeat the terrorists, will the Secretary of State's Department plan for the armed forces to carry out humanitarian tasks? Our armed forces played a magnificent and important humanitarian role in the former Yugoslavia. Given the size of the humanitarian task, I am certain that we will need support from the military to provide security, so that aid can get through to the people for whom it is intended and is not looted or captured by bandits, and possibly to help build refugee camps or provide wider logistical support to aid operations. Is that planning taking place and, most importantly, is it taking place in consultation with the Department for International Development?
Obviously, meticulous military planning is taking place with regard to action against terrorism. It must be meticulous because it is a matter of life and death for those involved, including a number of my constituents as my constituency is a garrison town, and our armed forces will be at risk because of the military action that we are taking. Will the planning be as meticulous for the humanitarian role that they may also be called upon to perform, which will also be a matter of life and death for Afghans?
Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): I add my voice to the chorus of approval from the House in praising the considered, purposeful and resolute leadership of President George W. Bush. He has been severely tested in the most tragic and appalling of circumstances and within months of taking office. He has been tested, but he has not been found wanting. We are, indeed, very fortunate to have such a man in the White House. I also praise the achievements of the Prime Minister in forging such a close and effective working relationship with the President.
The Conservative party, perhaps more than any, has always known the value of the special relationship, but the Prime Minister has demonstrated that the bonds that bind our two nations are not the property of any one party but the prerogative of all. I am sorry, therefore, that the leader of the Liberal Democrats found it necessary to sound off at his party conference when he warned about writing blank cheques to America.
Mr. Barker: I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right, but the only thing that has been hasty and ill considered has been not the actions of the President of the United States but the rhetoric of the leader of the Liberal Democrats at their conference. His remarks were hasty and ill judged.
The President did us all a signal honour when he acknowledged in Congress that America has no truer friend than Great Britain. However, I am particularly glad that the Prime Minister is reaching out not just to our oldest allies but to new-found friends such as Russia. I wish the Prime Minister godspeed in his journey today. Russia has more motivation than most to join us in the war against terror.
I lived and worked in Moscow two years ago when the city was convulsed by the terrorist bombing of residential apartment blocks. Hundreds of innocent civilians were slaughtered, literally in their beds. The fear in the city that ensued was almost tangible as people went home at night not knowing whether they would wake up the next morning. In recent years, similar atrocities have been perpetrated right across the Commonwealth of Independent States, and I believe that President Putin has the makings of a staunch ally in the new global war against terror.
Although our national security must never be compromised, I would like greater emphasis to be placed on the effective sharing of intelligence when it is safe to do so. We have an unparalleled history of successful intelligence sharing with the United States, and now on matters of terrorism we can and must be more proactive with others. There is still plenty of scope for better collaboration with our European partners, particularly those within the Schengen bloc, and with other nations such as Russia that stand ready to march with us against this new threat.
The Prime Minister has helped to stitch together a remarkable coalition, and of course any ensuing military action will be bound to impose a strain on so broad an alliance. However, the Government must make sure that this new spirit of international co-operation is converted into solid, tangible and practical benefits as quickly as possible. Better and more effective cross-border intelligence is such a benefit and it will be a key pillar of any counter-terrorist strategy that is to prove successful.
In this new and complex war against terror, our salvation will be in the detail. The Prime Minister has set the right course. It will now fall to him and to all his governmental colleagues to deliver. We hope and pray that they can.
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West): The events of 11 September arguably represent the most significant defining moment since the fall of the Berlin wall. It is not that international terrorism is new, but the scale and the audacity of the event that took place in New York and the unprecedented way in which the terrorists had the capacity to inflict war on nation states changes for ever our approach to dealing with terrorism itself. Terrorism is
There is no doubt that bad and undemocratic government creates the conditions in which terrorism can take hold. If the fall of the Berlin wall brought freedom, it also raised expectations. In many parts of the world, open access to television and to a view of the world that had been long denied to the people behind the structure of the Soviet Union meant that they wanted and expected to receive the benefits that they had seen. Of course they did not receive those benefits and, because in many countries they could not express their anger and opposition, some people became prone to listening to the voices of extremism. They perhaps believed that those voices represented the way forward.
Anger caused by domestic problems is to an extent fuelled by the way we conduct international relations. There are examples that show how members of the Muslim world might fall into the trap set by Osama bin Laden and others. In the Gulf war, American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia where two of the most holy Muslim sites are situated; we continue to police the exclusion zones in Iraq; and the United States has uncritical support for Israel's actions in the middle east. Rightly or wrongly, many people in the Muslim world see all that as an affront and as proof of western disregard for Muslim societies and their rights, values and opinions. Such dissent can breed terrorism, because in many of those countries there are few ways for anger to be expressed through legitimate channels. Some Governments are happy to see the popular discontent in their own country directed outside the country rather than at themselves.
Terrorism is a symptom of the absence of democratic government, where people feel marginalised and impotent. The converse is also true. Strong democracies are a counter to terrorism, and as a part of our response to the atrocities in New York and Washington we need to review and reinvigorate our involvement in supporting democracy and the rule of law in the belt of countries that stretches from Morocco to Pakistan.
I have learned today that the Pakistan Government have seen the evidence linking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to the recent terrorist acts. They consider that the evidence is strong enough to stand up in a court of law, and it is useful to know that in this debate.
If we are to respond to terrorism, we must ensure that other countries have the democracy and accountability within their own culture that we have here. Parliaments in such countries must be made to work and must be filled with people who truly represent the interests of their communities. Political parties must seek out a constituency and offer a real channel for communicating public discontent and for translating it into change. Local communities should be helped to make local government work for them, and people should start to have confidence that their Government are there to serve them and that they can seek legal redress through the courts.
It is vital that the United Kingdom plays its part to promote the development of inclusive and pluralist democracies throughout the world. I chair the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the organisation has the necessary expertise and experience to take a lead in this important task. We do that in conjunction with partner organisations in Europe and the USA.
The organisation works directly with local partners to develop culturally appropriate democratic structures. It works with national and local government, with civil society and with other international partners. Its work in Africa, central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has demonstrated that it has the necessary flexibility, sensitivity and robustness to tackle the difficult task of developing democracy in a wide range of cultures. We are uniquely placed in having that organisation to help us.
At our conference, the Prime Minister declared his unswerving support for justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed in all parts of the world, particularly where the international community has failed to take adequate action to ensure that justice and international law are applied. The middle east is just one such place. The Prime Minister clearly does not divorce the future security of the state of Israel from the issues of justice for the Palestinians. As he said, they should have a
The current situation is a far cry from justice. The slums of Gaza, to which the Prime Minister referred, hit the news again yesterday morning with the heavy Israeli military reprisals after the shooting dead of two Jewish settlers by Hamas gunmen. Such killings are reprehensible, but as well as condemning the killings we must address the sense of injustice that is rife within the Gaza strip, where appalling squalor and the deprivation of basic human civil liberties create a breeding ground for frustration. In Beach Camp, more than 70,000 Palestinian refugees live in three quarters of a square kilometre without proper drainage or clean water. Quite literally in the midst of the deprivation, Israel provocatively chooses to allow the existence of settlements, where Jewish citizens enjoy prosperity and the protection of an inflated Israeli military presence, which is denied to the refugees.
The greatest and most overlooked factor in the repeated failures to bring about a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been the failure to address the issue of Palestinian refugees. During the Camp David talks there was no acknowledgement from Israel of any legal, historic or moral responsibility for the refugee phenomenon. Behind the scenes, only minimal and tentative offers to accept the return of a token number of refugees were being made. The refugee problem is huge, and it is central to any viable peace process. Palestinians comprise the largest and one of the oldest groups of refugees in the world. As well as the refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, two thirds of the Palestinian population in Gaza and one third of the population on the west bank are refugees.
The joint parliamentary middle east councils in this building produced a report asking the Palestinian refugees to say in their own words how they envisaged living in peace side by side with their Israeli colleagues. That report is full of hope and I recommend it