Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Tony Worthington: My hon. Friend has illustrated the value of my suggestion, which is that we should explore Members' ideas about how to tackle corruption and money laundering once and for all in a way that involves the House. We must not content ourselves with a small Bill that only pretends to do the job. I commend that idea to the House.

3.29 pm

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) has informed the House of today's terrible tragedy, whereby another aircraft has been taken out of the sky. I am sure that the whole House sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have been killed.

The Americans are coming to terms with terrorism happening within their country for the first time, but it has been happening in this country for 30 years. In 1969, I was in Northern Ireland as one of the first troops to go into the Province. I well remember marching into Londonderry in full colonial riot gear. One of the lessons that we had to learn at the start of those troubles, and which thankfully the United States has learned already, was the need for forbearance. We learned quickly that colonial riot drill banners that said on one side, "Disperse or we fire", and on the other, "Anyone crossing the line will be shot", would not work in that environment. I am not suggesting that punitive action is not necessary, but we have to go about things gently.

The second lesson that we learned, which is pertinent, was that friends can change sides. I ask the Minister to beware of that. It is often forgotten that we went in to protect the Catholic community. I had many cups of tea on the Falls road, but a few months later those residents were effectively against us. We must be careful with the alliances that we build in Afghanistan.

All the work that has gone in on the political front to solving the problems in Northern Ireland is a great example to the world. The work of the hon. Member for

4 Oct 2001 : Column 760

East Antrim (Mr. Beggs), other Members representing other parties and my right hon. Friend the former Member for Huntingdon, Mr. Major, has made a huge difference. If we are to get a global resolution, we must constantly look to diplomatic initiatives, not just to the military option.

For that reason, in 1988, I together with some other colleagues clandestinely met Yasser Arafat in Tunis. He was then a terrorist. One of my colleagues was a strongly pro-Israeli Member. We went out to talk to Arafat and to try to gain some understanding. Subsequently, we visited the west bank and saw the problems. In line with the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and my hon. Friend the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham), we concluded that those problems had to be sorted out. One of the fundamental problems now is that Arafat is not responsible for Hezbollah and the other extreme groups. It is no good driving tanks into Gaza and shooting up the police station, which Arafat does control. If there is to be any chance of conflict resolution, that must be understood. In much the same way in Northern Ireland we cannot just drive tanks down the Falls road. That simply would not work.

The other great issue out there concerns the settlements. During the third Reich the Germans talked of lebensraum, or more space. I am not suggesting that more space should be found. One cannot go into another country or these territories and simply drop one's own people on the mountain-tops without consequences. The settlements have caused much unhappiness across the whole of Arabia. We must be alerted to those facts.

During the Gulf war I was the secretary of the Conservative Back Bench defence committee and the foreign affairs committee. Intelligence was given to us privately. I commend the Prime Minister for trying to inform the House more about what is going on today by putting papers in the Library. That war was self-contained. Now we are in Afghanistan. Let us not forget that of the 16,000 troops in the second or third Afghan war only one came out alive, and that was because the Afghan authorities let him out. This theatre is very different and we must proceed with the greatest possible caution.

Good has already come out of this conflict, as new alliances are being forged. I had a lot to do with building alliances at the end of the cold war with newly elected Russian Members through the Future of Europe Trust, which the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. MacDonald) and I set up. Russian terrorist problems are legion. Someone tried to fly an aircraft into the Kremlin not long ago, but that is often forgotten.

We have a great opportunity to build that alliance. Iran has suddenly come in from the cold. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—we should take another look at Iraq. It has had sanctions for 10 years, yet the problem remains. Now that we have the possibility of dramatic change, let us at least address it. It is important that somebody should be finding out what the parameters are.

At the end of this conflict, we shall probably be dealing with all the tribes in Afghanistan. The only way forward is to have a UN mandate. We cannot hand over to one group or another. We have co-operation from all the surrounding countries and we need to build on that with a mandate.

4 Oct 2001 : Column 761

We are fortunate in the quality of our leadership in this conflict. The Prime Minister has set a good example and I cannot deny that he has done the country proud. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) has arrived at the right time because he is a security expert and a soldier. We are blessed that he is on the Front Bench with all his experience of dealing with terrorism. He can say a lot behind the scenes. It appears that the President of the United States has found himself, too. Some of us were not 100 per cent. happy with his performance before the war broke out, but he has demonstrated great leadership at a time of great crisis.

I speak for all my constituents when I say how much we feel for those who lost their lives in America and their families. Last night I spoke to a friend in New York who explained the ghastliness of it all, saying that they do not want to do anything except see their closest friends. The day before yesterday, I spoke to a Russian who said, "We have been living under threat, but we are now experiencing some sort of relief. We are coming out of the cold and people are understanding us—understanding the fact that Grozny was built by the Tsars and that we see it as a Russian town." Those issues must be understood.

We live in a time of great horror and great hope. We have great hope because new coalitions are emerging and we have a tremendous opportunity to make the world a better place, notwithstanding the ghastliness of this terrible tragedy.

3.36 pm

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): The 11 September was not just an American tragedy but a global tragedy. As our Prime Minister saw from the start, it required, therefore, a united global response. Within hours of the atrocity, we heard some more extreme voices, such as Richard Perle, who advocated widespread indiscriminate vengeance and accelerating missile defence. On the first, we must be grateful that President Bush has shown careful judgment and listened to wiser counsels, especially those of our Prime Minister. We have had the promise that the military aspects of our response will be targeted and proportionate.

On missile defence, the justification given for it is the fact that there are rogue states whose dictators insanely hate the United States, seek to obtain rockets and weapons of mass destruction and are sufficiently irrational not to be deterred by nuclear annihilation. On 11 September, three of those four rogue states sent messages of sympathy and support to the United States. Even if their motive was cynical—to avoid reprisals—that does not imply that they are impervious to deterrence. The fourth rogue state is Iraq. Saddam Hussein may be insane, but I believe that he has a murderous obsession with self-preservation.

Only North Korea has attempted to test a long-range rocket, which could not have reached the United States. The test failed and has never been repeated. The Ministry of Defence, looking ahead 30 years, describes a rogue rocket attack as low risk. The Foreign Affairs Committee's report suggests that the threat has been exaggerated, probably pushed by political and commercial interests rather than strategic thinking. The Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously warned against some of

4 Oct 2001 : Column 762

the dangers that could follow from missile defence. We have had similar warnings from the present Chief of the Defence Staff and his predecessor. Such concerns have been expressed in Parliament and in the country, where a series of opinion polls suggest that 70 per cent. of the public are concerned about the proposal, not least because of the fear that in trying to reduce a comparatively low risk we may increase far more grave dangers; not least if it breaks down the whole system of treaties, arms control and non-proliferation; not least if it divides us at a time when we need global unity; or if it starts to destabilise any of the nuclear weapons states, and that increases the risk of proliferation not only to rogue states but to terrorists.

We should remember that terrorists can be impervious to deterrence. They can be difficult to identify and to locate, as we have seen recently. They can deliver weapons of mass destruction by van or boat, which are as impervious to missile defence as the type of attack that occurred on 11 September. Rogue states may prefer to use smuggled weapons rather than a rocket, which could invoke a pre-emptive attack before it was used, or lead to nuclear annihilation after it was used.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary said in the previous debate that there was a real danger of terrorists getting hold of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Reference has just been made to the visit by two United States elder statesmen, Robert McNamara and Thomas Graham, to talk to Members of Parliament and Front-Bench spokesmen of the three main parties They both say that they think that there is a threat of nuclear terrorist attack within five to 10 years. Thomas Graham says that he has seen the room in which the previous South African Government made their nuclear weapons. He said that none of the apparatus in that room would be difficult to obtain and could probably be obtained in the average British city and certainly in London. Six nuclear weapons were produced, which were considerably more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb and could be packed on to a van.

I want to compare two threats: the threat of smuggled weapons and the threat of rogue state missiles. The first is real, immediate and high. The second may not be illusory but is certainly distant in time and low.

This is a time for extremely delicate diplomacy. I hope that our Prime Minister will use the immense respect that he has gained in the United States from his international statesmanship not just to suggest that it should be moderate in its approach to this crisis, but to encourage it to reconsider priorities with regard to missile defence, the biological weapons convention and treaties and multilateralism as a whole. This is not a time to emphasise policies that create disunity and division. We need the greatest global unity to pursue not just this campaign but the world vision that the Prime Minister expounded on Tuesday.

I hope that the American Administration will listen to the voice of the American people. Before this tragedy, opinion polls showed that 77 per cent. of them believed that the greatest threat came from terrorism and only 10 per cent. believed that it came from rogue state missiles. Immediately after the tragedy, Newsweek did a different survey in which 72 per cent. of people said that they believed the immediate priority was airline security and other security and only 18 per cent. said that it was missile defence.

4 Oct 2001 : Column 763

This is a time to recognise that we need international unity to fight not only terrorism and its causes, but proliferation. One of the tragic lessons of 11 September was surely that the unilateral military invulnerability of any one state is a dangerous delusion. Increasingly, the national security of every state depends on the common security of all nations.

Next Section

IndexHome Page