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17 Oct 2002 : Column 536—continued

4.42 pm

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): I do not know whether you have noticed from the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the shorter your limits on Back

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Bench speeches, the more prolix those on the Front Bench seem to become. We were regaled with a wonderful example of the benefits of brevity by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), who demonstrated in an extremely thoughtful speech some of the challenges that face our armed forces and society in the global war against terrorism. He covered most of the points and I shall try to fill in some of the gaps.

We have all learned from the Bali experience perhaps more than any other, although we learned it to some degree from the horrendous events of 11 September in the United States, that this is genuinely a global war. We are all in it together. I know that some of my constituents are mourning at this very moment, and that will be replicated throughout the House. It is incumbent on us to ensure that the policies we promote will eradicate the tremendous evils of terrorism. There can be no compromise with terrorism.

The methods we use have to span a wide spectrum, including intelligence, police procedures, the justice system, the ending of money laundering and the evolution of military assets and tactics to match. On the judicial question, I am shocked that it would appear that some countries in Europe may not be willing to extradite terrorist suspects to the United States of America on the grounds that if they are found guilty of the charges that could be preferred against them, they would be subject to the US death penalty. We in the free world must all co-operate wholeheartedly. There can be no such inhibitions to our co-operation.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), who spoke at length and wisely, brought to our attention, as did the Leader of the Opposition at Question Time, the matter of proscribing Jemaah Islamiyah under the terms of the Terrorist Act 2000. The case is not unique. I have had cause to bring to the attention of the House the situation in Colombia. Our armed forces, the special air service regiment, to a small but significant extent has given advice to the armed forces of Colombia who are fighting a desperately important war against a vicious guerrilla movement, FARC, and to some degree the ELN. There have been more casualties in the conflict there than ever have been caused to date by al-Qaeda. FARC is using the drugs trade to finance its operations and to acquire its weaponry. Yet our Government do not proscribe FARC, and nor does the European Union. Nor, to my knowledge, do they proscribe any Latin American terrorist organisation, apart from the self-defence groups in Colombia. Those groups would not operate if the terrorists who are threatening democracy and the rule of law were made inoperative. It is important that we show a united front—we and our European Union colleagues, who are just as bad as we are in this matter. FARC, ELN, in Peru the Sendero Luminoso and in Chile the Frente Manuel Rodriguez should all be proscribed organisations, as should Jemaah Islamiyah.

I must refer the House to certain aspects of European policy vis-a-vis Iraq and the implications of the divisions to which my hon. Friend alluded: the divisions that exist within what should be a wholly united coalition of western democracies. The United Kingdom says, XYes, we are prepared to take military action against Iraq".

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There is not too much conditionality in our response. The Federal Republic of Germany appears to say, XNo, in no circumstance whatever are we prepared to undertake military operations against Iraq". The French position is more nuanced as they are hoping for a United Nations resolution, or in their case resolutions, which will have widespread support and which they can back. If a European security and defence policy is to have any import, any meaning, and if the European members of our alliance have such disparate positions over such a crucial issue as the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, what future is there for the more complex situations in the Balkans, the near east and elsewhere? We have to work on concerting our position.

Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Wilkinson: I will not because time is short.

In this regard I am concerned by the duality of responsibility between the European Union's so-called High Representative, the former Secretary General of NATO, Javier Solana, and the External Affairs Commissioner. The Front-Bench spokesman rightly reminded us of the dangers that can exist to the effectiveness of our response in a crisis, if the respective staffs of the European Union and of NATO come up with different views and options. That could confuse what is already probably a difficult situation to respond to. If there are to be differences of opinion between the External Affairs Commissioner and the High Representative, it bodes doubly ill. If the European Union is to pursue this path, I urge that it must do so under the stewardship of the High Representative because at least he will be answerable to the Council, and it is the Council who are the representatives of national Governments, and the national Governments who are providing the armed forces and making the decisions about any European military response.

ESDP must have a responsibility to combat terrorism—something that has not been spelled out in the Petersberg tasks. I spelled it out in my report to the Assembly of the Western European Union on the military means to combat terrorism, which was passed by the Assembly in June. I earnestly hope that if ESDP is to be significant, this nettle will be grasped. Par excellence, if the ESDP is about peacemaking, those who are in the business of brutal murder and imposing their will by terrorist methods should be enemy number one.

We—the national parliamentarians who vote the funds and supply the Defence Ministers who have to make the decisions—should provide the scrutiny of ESDP. This has been discussed in the convention and my earnest hope is that because of the crucial link that we represent between the people whose taxes provide the resources that we allocate to defence, we will have the duty of scrutiny. In so doing, we should take the crucial decisions about mobility and, for example, the tankers that we need, as well as the A330/200, and other decisions in relation to the ability to project power and to be more flexible and effective.

In conclusion, I repeat the wise words of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, who said that the quality of our armed forces in these

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enterprises is crucial. I ask the Government to come to the House and say why, at Deepcut, there seems to be a fundamental breakdown in discipline. Officers' heads should roll and there should not be such a succession of scandals and suicides. It indicates to me that something is fundamentally wrong. Elsewhere our armed forces do us credit. This episode does not.

4.52 pm

Paul Flynn (Newport, West): In June, a group of scientists from America packed a container with uranium, loaded it on a train in Austria and sent it through Turkey and across the sea to America. They landed it on the American coast, and it is now lodged in the heart of New York. They did that to make the point that although the container went through border controls and tests—it was active uranium, so it should have been detected—no one detected it.

We should ask what is the greatest risk. There is no safe course ahead, but we must find the least perilous course. We all felt a chill of fear when we saw the pictures of the chemical weapons protection suit that has now been issued to frontline health service workers and when we heard that they have had smallpox injections.

One of my worst experiences during my 15 years as a Member of Parliament was when someone from the city of Newport came back from the Gulf war in a body bag. As a supporter of the Gulf war and of all the other military actions taken by the present and previous Governments, I find myself deeply unhappy with the present proposals because we are taking the wrong course.

What frightens me, as I am sure it frightens everyone, is the terrible nature of biological weapons, which make no distinction between warrior and civilian, young and old, Christian or Muslim. There could be terrible destruction, with diseases that have been dormant since medieval times being unleashed. We know that Saddam Hussein has biological and chemical weapons, but what is the risk? I believe that the greatest or only risk—the only conceivable situation in which he is likely to use the weapons—will arise if there is a military invasion of his country. We have heard today that he is a wicked, evil man. He is indeed, but he is not a suicidal maniac.

Every time that Saddam Hussein has attacked a group of people, he has done so in the certainty in his own mind that he was going to win. When he attacked the Kurds in Halabjah, he knew that the rest of the world was not interested and would not help them. When he attacked Iran, he was again certain that the Ayatollah was a weak leader whose country was in chaos, and he was sure that he would have an easy victory. He attacked Kuwait in the belief that the American ambassador had given him an assurance that the Americans would not intervene. Under what circumstances would this man, the great survivor, attack another state? Under what circumstances would he use his weapons of mass destruction?

I do not know of any plausible scenario except one, and it is the one that we are walking straight into. If he is defeated and is in one of his palaces, like Hitler in the Berlin bunker, he might use his biological weapons—not by using his ramshackle missiles, which are useless and cannot be sent far, but by doing a deal with his

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ideological antithesis, al-Qaeda. In those circumstances, he might well do that, and the horror that we all dread might take place.

The change in the world situation resulted not from what happened on 11 September but from the election of George W. Bush. We should examine the right-wing fundamentalists who are now in government in America and their plans for a new American century, which were drawn up before they took office. They are now fulfilling those plans, which did not start last September. They started when Bush was elected, with a rogue state creation programme.

When Bush took office, the situation between North and South Korea was one of rapprochement. It was going very well, but George W. Bush immediately cancelled a meeting that had been arranged by Madeleine Albright. He tried to turn that rapprochement into antagonism. A mythology was spread about the danger of missiles from North Korea hitting Seattle, when the North Koreans had great difficulty in targeting its missiles on South Korea. He made sure that the situation deteriorated.

The position in respect of Iran was an improving one over many years. There were visits from representatives from western countries, but President Bush has made sure that the situation has grown far worse. With Iraq, there was stability for almost 10 years. Iraq had been contained by the bombing programme, which I fully supported. The inspectors left because they were fed up; they believed that they were close to finding significant weapons, but left because they believed that there was going to be bombing of the sites that they could not inspect. There might have been some justification for action then, but there is no justification now.

The plans from PNAC—the project for the new American century—make alarming reading. They were drawn up not last year, but in 2000. One of them speaks of the American armed forces as

The blueprint supports a document written by Wolfowitz and Cheney—Pearl and Rumsfeld are also involved—that says that the US must

They talk of regime change not only in Iraq but in Syria and Iran. However, their greatest target is China, which they see as the next state that might challenge them as a new world power.

In an extraordinary speech, the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) suggested that we could become a vassal state of America by abandoning a dearly cherished policy of this country, and of almost all Council of Europe countries—our opposition to capital punishment. Suddenly, we should accept that.

The Americans have said that they regard the United Kingdom as

That was and is Bush's policy. He has used the dreadful events of 11 September to accelerate that policy. Most people have forgotten the events that occurred before then.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood made an interesting point, although we would take his expert views on South America a little more seriously if he had

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not been an apologist for certain aspects of Pinochet's actions. The hon. Gentleman referred to Colombia. The United States' attempt to impose its failed policies of drug prohibition on a vassal state had dreadful results, leading to continuous chaos and at least three armies, two of which were funded by drugs. What if we apply that policy to Afghanistan? We went in because the Taliban were protecting al-Qaeda. That was a justified objective, and it was successful up to a point. However, another objective was to eliminate the drugs trade from Afghanistan. At the time, as the United Nations has reported, the Taliban had reduced by 92 per cent. the growth of poppies in their areas, whereas the Northern Alliance had increased by 300 per cent. the growth of poppies in their areas.

Our victory in Afghanistan, if that is what it was, did not decrease the use of drugs and the growth of the drug trade, but if we had gone in with the same policy as the Americans pursued towards Colombia, the drug trade would have expanded in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the country formerly known as Burma, now Myanmar. The worry is that by following the policies of the United States we will see the Colombia-isation of a whole area of mid-Asia.

I have another concern that is discussed only rarely. We have heard of star wars, but other weapons are being planned and may exist. A very interesting one is HAARP—the high frequency active auroral research programme. The Americans view it as having innocent intentions, but it terrifies the Soviet Union and many other countries because its effect has been described as boiling the ionosphere. Terrible weapons might exist beyond the ones of which we are aware.

It is significant that the document on the project for a new American century refers to combat likely to take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes. It says that advanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool. The people who wrote that and believe that it is the future are in charge of the only superpower in the world. It is a tragedy that we have not taken a more critical stance and challenged them in the way that leaders of other European countries have done.

Finally, I thought that the best speech that I have read, possibly in my life time, on how to deal with the world, how to deal with the third world and how to guarantee peace was made by the Prime Minister at last year's Labour party conference. I urge him to take some time off to read his own words. We should take the least dangerous course, not the most dangerous one.

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