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5.15 pm

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): I add my condolences to those already given in the House.

On 11 September, I was in South Africa and along with so many millions watched in shock and disbelief as the horror unfolded on television. My greatest fear was that

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there would be immediate and brutal retaliation. It did not happen. I too pay tribute to Ministers, to the Prime Minister in particular and indeed to the United States Administration for their wisdom in creating the international coalition and the climate in which a considered response has become possible.

Many of my constituents, while condemning the atrocities, have urged me to speak out against military action and in favour of peace. They are right in believing that I am a peacemaker, though never a pacifist. I have always believed that the international community should have as many people trained in conflict resolution as in military strategy. Indeed there are countless examples of prolonged terrorist wars ending only by concerted peacemaking, and of past terrorists holding political power in modern democracies. However, the events of 11 September are wholly different. The unspeakable horror of the attacks on innocent civilians could reflect no justification. For me, it is not a choice between war and peace. It is a matter of justice—justice that can and should be universal.

International law requires us to bring the suspected perpetrators of terrorism to trial. I accept with a heavy heart that that is no longer an option. The Taliban regime not only failed to hand over Osama bin Laden but have offered him their military protection. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has reiterated, the military response must be proportionate and targeted. Its aim must be the destruction of the military base from which the terrorist acts of 11 September were organised. That is a limited military objective. It should remain limited.

"The world will never be the same" has already become a cliché in respect of 11 September, but I hope that it might prove to be the case because our world has rarely been united in pursuit of justice. Too often, nations subscribing to the thesis "My enemy's enemy is my friend" have colluded in the narcotics trade, in money laundering and in illegal arms dealing. Too often, powerful nations have fuelled regional conflicts to preserve economic interests and turned a blind eye to terrible human suffering in countries where they have no similar economic interest.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister spoke of reordering the world. The international coalition is charged with the task of rooting out and destroying support for terrorism in all its forms. We can all subscribe to that, but it will be self-defeating if it does not embrace a wider justice. Justice for the Palestinians must be one of its priorities not only because, as many have said, it is right of itself, but because continuing injustice in the heart of the Arab world inevitably provides a recruiting ground for fanatics.

Our challenges lie not just in the mistakes of the past, but with our current behaviour. The world community, primarily under the auspices of the United Nations, has sought to conclude international treaties that would make our world a safer place. A reordered world would require the United States to adhere to the anti-ballistic missile treaty, to support an international criminal court and to ratify the convention on anti-personnel land mines and the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Global warming poses a security threat as great as any international terrorist organisation. Food and water supplies for millions are already jeopardised, whole land masses are already threatened with submersion, and freak storms already wreak havoc throughout the globe

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with incredible economic consequences. A new, global, energy-security paradigm is urgently needed. A rapid shift to renewable energy by the west would pave the way to oil independence and the removal of nuclear power plants as terrorist targets. Most significantly, cutting our output of global greenhouse gases and developing benign forms of energy would be a powerful signal to the developing world.

We in the west are right to be proud of our shared democracy, openness and freedoms, but they depend on the exercise of justice and the rule of law, and those must determine our way ahead. We may need to work with the Northern Alliance now, but we must ensure that we do not help it to impose another terrible regime on the people—particularly the women—of Afghanistan. We must commit ourselves not just to massive humanitarian relief now, but to UN protection and the future rebuilding of Afghanistan, as we have done in the Balkans.

I represent a multi-ethnic community with constituents with roots in every part of the globe. A minority are Muslims, a minority refugees and a few are from Afghanistan. Many have appreciated the reassurances of respect for Islam given by my right hon. Friends, and the Home Secretary's announcement of new laws on incitement. However, many are also concerned lest new security measures fall disproportionately on people of colour. I know that my right hon. Friends will understand that.

On 11 September, the peoples of the most powerful state on earth experienced a profound and unique vulnerability that no military defence can overcome. As we seek to end the threat from the perpetrators of those acts, we shall need to remember that we all share that vulnerability. In Afghanistan, we shall need to use the minimum force necessary and to take every possible step to protect innocent civilians. We shall need to look again at the desperate plight of the world's poorest people and not allow the economic consequences of 11 September to fall on them through reduced aid and development funding.

We shall need to look again at the World Trade Organisation and listen more carefully to the leaders of the developing world about fairness in our dealings, particularly with their agricultural produce. In truth, we shall need to exercise the greatest caution and wisdom if we are not to destabilise whole areas of Asia and the middle east, giving rise to more odious and dangerous regimes.

As ever, the greatest task ahead of the international coalition will be not the waging of the war but the winning of a lasting peace in the re-ordered world of which the Prime Minister so eloquently spoke.

5.23 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House on what is undoubtedly a crucial moment in the history of the civilised world.

We have all suspected for a number of years that we live in a dangerous and, perhaps, increasingly unpredictable world. The events of 11 September proved clearly that the worst really can happen, perhaps in a way that none of us had imagined. If there is one lesson that I

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hope our Government and other Governments in the western world will learn from 11 September it is that we need to be prepared for the worst. What happened in New York was terrible; what could happen if weapons of mass destruction were to be used against our cities and our people is frightening beyond measure.

In recent days we have seen that events such as those that took place on 11 September are not limited to the United States, Europe or the NATO area. A horrendous attack has taken place in Kashmir and only this afternoon we learned that an airliner has been shot down out of the skies over the middle east, with many people killed. We must find a way to remove the hatred and terror from this planet and to create a more law-abiding, peaceful and potentially beneficial environment for all mankind.

Clearly, we should express our support not just for the victims of the events in New York but for those who have suffered in Kashmir and in today's attack over the middle east.

We should send our thanks to all those who have responded so nobly and selflessly to help the victims of the recent terror attacks. I pay particular tribute to those from this country who went out to counsel the families of the victims and provide support in their hour of bereavement. Many of those who gave up their time to do that are volunteers from our best known voluntary organisations in this country. They deserve our praise, and I hope that the Government will ensure that the process of support and counselling is not limited to the time when those families are in New York, but will continue afterwards.

I also pay tribute to those in this country who have done so much to raise money for the New York disaster fund. For example, the local fire service in my constituency held a fundraising morning last week at Epsom fire station to raise funds for their colleagues in New York.

I have a small Islamic community in my constituency, but I did not turn to them to seek their opinion, looking for condemnation of what happened in New York. I did not need to. I know them well as friends, as well as residents of the local community, and there is no need to ask about their attitude to what happened. They would condemn it, as would any right-minded citizen of this country.

However, like many Islamic communities in this country, they fear what might happen to them in the aftermath. It is undoubtedly our duty, as leaders in our respective communities, to set an example to all the people whom we represent, and to show that we need to support the Islamic community in this country. It is not they who carried out that horrendous act.

I ask our broadcasters to think about the groups to which they give air time. There is a danger that they may look to publicise the views of a minority at the expense of the views of the majority, and that does no favours to the majority of the Muslim community.

We need to focus on three issues in the aftermath of the events of recent weeks. First, there is the need for a balanced response. I share the pleasure of other Members of the House that the United States has taken time to think about its response, and has not responded in an abrupt, hasty and potentially damaging manner.

None the less, we need to take tough action; we have no option. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell)—I see that he has now left the Chamber—was correct to

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say that when dealing with an enemy who is willing to attack without thought, concern or consideration for civilian life, we have no choice but to respond in a way that tries to stamp out that threat properly once and for all.

We need to balance our response by providing the aid that is needed for the millions who have been removed from their homes in Afghanistan and who today are wandering the deserts looking for food.

Undoubtedly, we have a political responsibility to do what this country has always done, and try to find solutions for the world's trouble spots. The western world has played an active role over many years in trying to solve the problems in the trouble spots of the middle east, and to support a peace process between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world. As in other areas that threaten to create the environment that provides a recruiting ground for the terrorists, those efforts need to be redoubled.

The second challenge is that we need a pragmatic approach to civil liberties in this country. We must ensure that the rights of the individual do not take priority over the rights of society as a whole. While protecting the rights of the individual, we also have to protect our people collectively. That means that we should keep the possibility of identity cards under consideration, if our security forces and police advise us that that is the right step to take.

Last week a senior police officer said to me that there are people in this country—they may come here as asylum seekers or refugees, or perhaps through conventional channels—who are a genuine threat to our society. If we need a more regulated society to ensure that such people cannot take action that undermines our society, so be it. We should expect anyone who seeks to live here to respect the security of our society, and in my view, if there are people who do not do that, we should not be afraid to withdraw from them the welcome that we first offered them.

We clearly need to focus on our defences. During the past 10 years, we have run down aspects of our armed forces for a variety of reasons. In the wake of the cold war, in our belief in a peace dividend and our feeling that the world might be a safer place, we risked taking our eyes of the ball regarding our defences. We now have clear evidence to show that we must think again. I am glad to hear that the Government have decided to review force structures in this country and to consider whether we have the right capabilities to protect our people. One or two hon. Members mentioned the need to focus on civil defence. I have spoken to people in our security forces during the past couple of weeks and I know that many of them have serious concerns about the nation's ability to withstand a major attack. We need to be certain that we have the best possible civil defence structures.

What happened on 11 September brought to life a challenge. I suspect that it has been building for years. The terrifying thing—

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