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The SNP says that in an independent Scotland a new Scottish defence force would operate outside NATO, but would be configured forwait for itland, sea and air defence of Scotland. It would be capable of overseas operations including rapid deployment, and it would deploy on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. According to the SNP, that dynamic defence force would consist of whatever Scottish personnel in the current UK armed services chose to transfer. They would be choosing to transfer from one of the finest armed forces in the world to a tin-pot group of people with no experience and no idea about how to run the defence of the country. There is nothing on the SNP website about defence policy. It has removed it because it is deeply embarrassed by it. That is why it has made a token appearance today.
I shall conclude because time is pressing. The document that has been issued today by the Ministry of Defence is a fine document. It raises a number of key issues. It is important that the public debate them in the coming weeks and months.
The nature of such analysis tends not to identify the possibility of 'shocks', low-probability events with a dramatic effect . . . It is in particular the potential negative impact of shocks that we need to be aware of for purposes of contingency planning. Across a 30 year period we must expect a number of such shocks, even if we can't predict their nature, which have the potential fundamentally to disrupt our carefully laid plans."
We had sight for a rather brief period before the commencement of the debate of a new consultation document on how the strategic defence review should be updated in the aftermath of that atrocitythat outrageous mass murder that was nothing short of a declaration of war on the west. The document, which I have seen today for the first time, asks us to make our views known on no fewer than 11 different points. The questions are set out in a useful summary. In the limited time that I intend to confine myself to, I will work my way through as many of them as possible, so I may not give the most comprehensive response to the document that the MOD will receive, but I pride myself on giving the first response to it.
On assessing the likelihood of such threats being carried out, I am grateful to a friend for drawing my attention to an article in The Mail on Sunday on 3 February, which purported to be an interview with someone out in Lahore near what was alleged to be an al-Qaeda training camp. He claimed to have been born in Britain, to have worked as a doctor in Britain and to retain British nationality.
Unlike America, we do not want to harm civilians."
In that connection, I cite the experience of the Jewish community. Since being allowed to develop at the turn of the last century, which is when my grandparents came here, it has played a full part in the defence of this country. Hon. Members with knowledge of military history will have been reminded of that by the recent death of Tommy Gould VC, the famous submariner.
I have already mentioned the major causesthe coincidence of the existence of terrorists and their ability to get their hands on weapons while enjoying a secure baseand we can no longer ignore the behaviour of dictatorial regimes that are determinedly pursuing the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. We must be careful of again burying our heads in the sand and saying, "Saddam Hussein may be acquiring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction for all we know." We do not know whether he has such weapons because he did not allow the inspection demanded by the international community.
We must not say, "We will deal with this as and when it manifests itself." We must not wait; and if regimes are trying to acquire such weapons, it is up to us to stop them doing so, having given them every opportunity to allow the inspections that would show that they are not engaged in such activity. We must not allow the clock to tick indefinitely, as we may eventually find that the ticking is that of a time bomb.
We can try to prevent terrorism by putting pressure on Governments willing to harbour terrorists to ensure that they no longer do so. We can try to deter terrorism by showing that those who wish to harbour terrorists, or to sympathise with them, will meet not a feeble response from the west, but a massive one.
We can try to coerce host regimes to ensure that they do not think that they can wage a sort of proxy warfare. That possibility resembles what happened in the cold war, when people who did not want to fight the west openly would push smaller so-called client states to wage guerrilla war on their behalf. If Afghanistan has taught people of that mindset anything, it should be that that approach will not work in this case.
Disruption can be of only limited effectiveness against specific operations. In the end, terrorism has to be destroyed, without mercy or limit, wherever it rears its head in the world. That is why we must not close our eyes to the fact that ruthless regimes exist that for years have sought to acquire weapons which, even if they did not want to use them themselves, they could pass to other groups that would have no compunction about doing so.
I am not sure that the Conservative Government of the time did themselves any favours when they left Saddam Hussein in power at the end of the Gulf war. The time may be coming to put right that mistake. If it is necessary for us to act, we must do so firmly, and in a way that means that we will never again see anything as terrible as what happened so disastrously on 11 September.