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Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman's time is up.

4.47 pm

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), I hope that the Government will listen to what I have to say. I know something about the Islamic world and have spent the best part of 10 years warning in this Chamber about the rising tide, the rising radicalism and the Islamicisation of the Muslim world and the terrible clash that would result. My warnings were not much listened to before; I hope that after 11 September they are being listened to more.

Let me respond to a number of difficult and troublesome comments made during the debate. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) should not ask British Muslims to choose between Her Majesty and their religion, for they will not do it. They will put nothing in front of their religion. They will not put Her Majesty in front of their religion any more than I would put Her Majesty in front of mine. It is an unrealistic and unfair demand.

I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who has left the Chamber, that no one in this country should be told to keep their heads down during a period of national debate and soul-searching such as this. I appreciate that he may not have meant it in quite the way it sounded, but it sounded very bad.

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I deplore the comments of the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) about foreign students at Britain's universities. I am married to a biologist—a scientist—who took her PhD at Glasgow university. She is a Palestinian with an Arab name, so I am acutely sensitive to this point. Foreign students in this country, whatever subjects they study in British universities, should not be made to feel uneasy or put under a searchlight, as the comments of the right hon. Member for Swansea, East seemed to imply.

The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), a former Minister indeed, seemed to think that any Parliament anywhere should be required to give unequivocal and unconditional support to the Government. That might be the kind of Parliament that Osama bin Laden would have in mind; it is not this kind of Parliament. The only thing more depressing than the demand of the former Minister that Parliament should show unequivocal, unconditional support for the Government was the rapid surrender to it by the spokesman for what he himself described as the loyal Opposition.

I shall vote against the Government this evening, albeit on a procedural motion, because I believe that a substantive motion should be on the table to allow hon. Members to table reasoned amendments and the House to express deliberate judgment on the aims and conduct of the war.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Galloway: I do not have time. I believe that some of my hon. Friends and some Opposition Members will join us in the Lobby and that a substantial number of hon. Members will abstain. We and the abstainers will only grow in number in the days to come.

There is a fantastic dislocation between the atmosphere in the Chamber and the atmosphere outside in the country, and still more in the wider world. One would not think, listening to the Secretary of State for Defence, that more than half the population of this country want the bombing to stop now so that humanitarian aid can flood in. One would not know, listening to some of my colleagues who often lecture us about feminism, that more than half the women in Britain are demanding an end to the war. One would not know, listening to the Liberal Democrat spokespeople, that more than half the Liberal voters in the country are demanding an end to the war. One would not know, listening to some Labour Members, that millions—if the opinion polls are right, some 12 million to 14 million people—in this country were demanding an end to the war, or that millions of them were Labour voters.

One certainly would not know from some hon. Members who represent constituencies with substantial Muslim populations that there was great unease and opposition to the war in our country. One would not know that the campaign was going disastrously around the world. One would not know that it is scarcely possible for an American politician to set foot in the Arab countries. Our Prime Minister has to go as what The Wall Street Journal unkindly described as "the American ambassador" to those countries.

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When our Prime Minister goes to Arab countries, he receives short shrift from the leaders whom he meets. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, countries such as Iran are unequivocally against the bombing. Syria lectured the Prime Minister yesterday against bombing. If anyone here thinks that public opinion in the Arab world is with them, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

I have the benefit of watching Arab television, listening to the phone-in programmes and reading the Arab press. If Members of Parliament think that they have the support of the Islamic world—1.3 billion people strong—they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Our new friend General Musharraf promised his people at the outset that the campaign would be short, sharp and targeted. The fact that it is neither short nor sharp is the reason why it is now a dagger pointed at his heart. Everyone in Pakistan knows it. More than 90 per cent. of the people of Pakistan are demanding that their Government desist from co-operating in the savage bombardment of Afghanistan. That is a fact. The Secretary of State for International Development may think that General Musharraf is secure in his post. I do not know anyone else who thinks that the self-appointed president of Pakistan is in any way secure.

Sharp? B52s, sticks of bombs, carpet bombing—is that sharp? We saw just how accurate the targeted, laser-guided weapons were. Now we have moved to carpet bombing from B52s. We are told that the bombing is of military positions, as if the military lines in Afghanistan were somehow wholly separate from the villages and towns in which people lived, not to mention from the displaced people in Afghanistan.

Sharp? Cluster bombs? I never thought I would hear Labour spokespeople defending cluster bombs. Is the military struggle with the Taliban so finely poised that we cannot eschew the use of cluster bombs? I watched the Secretary of State for International Development on the beach at Brighton—done up in her mine-clearing suit—weeping about the victims of land mines. She knows that in so far as cluster bombs are not land mines they are worse than land mines, because land mines at least are mapped—land mines dropped from aeroplanes are by definition unmappable.

I only have time to deal with a couple of additional points. The aims of a campaign such as this cannot be separated from its likely outcome. Members who wish it to be restricted to Afghanistan are fooling themselves: this war is going to be extended to other countries. If they do not want that to happen, they must join us now. If they do not want the Northern Alliance, they must join us. The Northern Alliance are the people who destroyed and beggared Afghanistan in the first place, whose mediaeval obscurantism put the women in chains, destroyed the towns and cities, took the women out of the universities, hanged the former President Najibullah from a lamp-post—they put his penis in his mouth and left him hanging to rot. That is the Northern Alliance—your new best friends whom you hope to put into power.

My last point is this: we want this war stopped during Ramadan—not out of respect for the Muslims, but because it would give the Government a chance, without losing face, to send a message to the Islamic world that they are going to pause during the holy month of Ramadan; that they are going to consider how the project

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has gone so far; that they are going to consult more widely; that they are going to try diplomacy; that they are going to try legal means and political means during that pause in the war; and that, above all, they are going to flood the country with humanitarian assistance—food and kindness—which will do far more to win the masses of Afghanistan to their cause than bombing them from B52s and bombing them with cluster bombs will ever do.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Mr. Speaker has imposed a time limit of 10 minutes, but I can see that a considerable number of Members still hope to contribute. Perhaps if Members could curtail their remarks, even more of them may catch my eye.

4.57 pm

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) spoke with great passion and some knowledge of the Arab world, but he also spoke with inaccuracy and from a position with which I cannot agree.

One inaccuracy is about Najibullah. In fact he was the president of the amalgamation—the coalition that made up the Northern Alliance—and was hanged by the Taliban. Secondly, land mines are not neatly marked "Achtung Minen!". I am a trustee of a land mine clearance charity with 1,200 local employees in Afghanistan; they go through the ground bit by bit, trying to clear mines—whether they were laid by Soviets, Afghans or whoever. The mines are not neatly marked.

As regards President Musharraf, he was indeed self-appointed in a coup, but I happen to know that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin has spent a great deal of time in Baghdad, where he called Tariq Aziz "my good friend". Can he tell the House—not now, because I shall not accept an intervention from him—who appointed Saddam Hussein but Saddam Hussein himself, for whom the hon. Gentleman has spoken up so loudly and clearly in the past?

I shall turn back to the subject in hand: the international coalition against terrorism. I particularly want to associate myself with the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin). It would be pointless to repeat what he said, but I stress that it is essential that we react to what happened on 11 September. It is no good merely criticising from the sidelines in the way that we have just heard. If we do not act—if the west does not act—the same thing will happen again. Next time, it may be London, or Glasgow, or Birmingham.

The idea that we could reason with al-Qaeda is ludicrous. That organisation's aim is, as we understand it, to destroy the United States of America. Is there any negotiation on that from an American point of view? I think not. There can be none.

I should like briefly to consider four points—the aim of the coalition, the humanitarian actions, news management and how the crisis affects the United Kingdom. First, we must stick to our aims—that is why we have them—but we could be a little clearer. On the fourth immediate objective, the Secretary of State for Defence said that we would require

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We have to go further and, as the Prime Minister has said, the Taliban have to be removed because, while they control Afghanistan, the barbaric civil war will continue; it is a breeding ground for terrorism.

The headline story on the front page of The Times today, which I commend to the House, was the most awful tale of barbarism, brutality and injustice. The regime acts in a horrific way, contrary to all international law and agreements and certainly not to the benefit of its people—in particular, its women and children.

We should not aim to impose a Government—that should not be our business. There may not be universal suffrage with voters' lists, but that does not mean that the people of Afghanistan, even if they are not on voters' lists, cannot say who they want to have as their leader or their Government. We should aim to allow all the people of Afghanistan, including the 50 per cent. who have to dress in the fearful burka, to have some say in a Government whom they accept. Of course, that is not easy. I have no idea whether it may involve the king, a Loya Jirga or a constitutional commission, but that should be our aim. We should not allow a barbaric, mediaeval regime to succeed or last. We certainly do not want to go back to civil war.

Lastly, on our aims, we should remember what happened in 1991, when people said, "You must not go on into Baghdad." We did not need to impose a Government on Baghdad, but we allowed Saddam Hussein to survive, because we did not cut off his republican guard. By allowing him to survive, we have had to put up with another 10 years of instability and terrorism in the middle east.

I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for International Development for what she has said about the humanitarian aid effort. She is quite right. We should know that there will be hardship, possibly disaster, this winter, even if we stop bombing now. In about two weeks' time, the snows will have descended and those in the mountains will have insufficient food. It will be awful and we must help the World Food Programme and others as far as we can, but the best solution for the poor, benighted Afghans is a successful conclusion to the war—for their sakes, not ours.

We must give as much as necessary to the subsequent reconstruction. We must be magnanimous in victory and use our influence over our Northern Alliance allies—if that is what they are—because they do not have a good record of behaviour in the past, and they are certainly not the Blue Berets of the UN. They are former mujaheddin, and anyone who has read the stories of that time knows that the mujaheddin could be very barbaric towards their captives.

A huge effort will be required by the whole world—the western world, in particular—but it may help with the hearts and minds that have been mentioned. Whatever happens, we must not forget Afghanistan, as we did in the past. When the cold war ended, we left those who had been sitting in refugee camps for 10 years to sit for another 10 or 12 years in ghastly camps in the dust in Pakistan.

I visited my first refugee camp, near Peshawar, in 1985. I visited another one with the International Development Committee in 1999. The former was run by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the latter by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,

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but whoever runs the camps, they must be controlled by those who pay for them. I need not remind the House of the dreadful situation outside Goma and other places in the Congo in 1994, when the UN was actually delivering food aid and other things to the Hutu Interahamwe, who had fled from the massacres that they had committed in Rwanda.

There is little proper education in the Afghan refugee camps. Frankly, they are like a bit of backward Afghanistan. The women are subjugated and segregated, and madrassars may or may not flourish. They provide a breeding ground for discontent and extremism. When we have camps in future, we must have no Taliban in control; it is very easy for the camps to be under such control. There must be no weapons. There must be no conscription into armies by the Taliban, Northern Alliance or whoever. There must be proper education and skills training for all. There must be good health care, especially for women. There must be good food, and seeds, and whatever is necessary, and those camps must be open for women, who should not be subjugated there. No one will ever accuse me of being a feminist, but it is outrageous that 50 per cent. of the population of Afghanistan, many of them educated people, should be subjugated as they are at present.

Finally, let me refer to the relationship between international terrorism and events in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the Secretary of State will answer a question on something about which I have been thinking for some weeks. Apart, thankfully, from a great difference in degree and scale, what exactly is the difference between the murderous attack on the World Trade Centre, and the attacks on the NatWest tower, now tower 42, in February 1993 and on Canary wharf in February 1996, both of which killed people and caused enormous damage? Will the Government pursue all the people who committed and assisted in those dreadful attacks on the two tallest buildings in London with the same vigour as they are pursuing the perpetrators of the attack on the tallest building in New York?

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