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21 Oct 2002 : Column 30—continued

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Everyone lowered their guard after the collapse of the Berlin wall. It was generally assumed that because the possible conflict between east and west was over, no significant threats to our interests and those of the west remained. We have sadly learnt to our cost that that is not the case. The hon. Gentleman is right to stress the importance of human intelligence alongside electronic intelligence—the one complements the other—and I am glad that he highlighted the fact that there has been,

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and will continue to be, a significant increase in resources to those parts of our intelligence apparatus that deal with human intelligence.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Can we hark back to the question asked by the former Foreign Office Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg)? The Foreign Secretary said that it was a curious question, but to some of us it is a self-evident question. Let me ask a direct question: in the view of the Foreign Office, is there any connection whatsoever between the monstrous events in Bali and Iraq? Can the Foreign Secretary imagine anything more likely to recruit terrorists from Algiers to the Philippines than raining down bombs on Baghdad from 15,000 ft?

Mr. Straw: I have the same difficulty as my hon. Friend in remembering the name of what used to be Grantham. It is Sleaford and North Hykeham. On the main point of his question, I see no connection between the atrocity and the Iraqi regime.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): May I again return to the genuine problem of warning fatigue? Obviously, I urge the Foreign Secretary to continue to warn of genuine terrorist threat, but I stress that if too many warnings are issued about too many countries, the public will not believe them. For example, in the recent India-Pakistan crisis, the Foreign Secretary urged British nationals to leave. In such circumstances, warnings will be ignored, at everybody's peril.

Mr. Straw: The right hon. Gentleman spoke with greater wisdom to some extent than Conservative Front-Bench Members. He is right: we must achieve a balance. We always err on the side of caution—as I did at the end of May about travel to India and Pakistan—in the travel advisories that the United Kingdom and the United States issue together. However, the right hon. Gentleman was right about subsequent difficulty with the credibility of the warnings. We must be careful about the way in which we issue the warnings and the currency that we thus establish.

We shall continue to issue warnings whenever we judge them appropriate and especially when we consider lives to be at risk. Let me repeat that we cannot simply act on unassessed, raw intelligence, some of which is presented to us precisely because it is inaccurate. The overall effect would be to shut down economic and social activity throughout the world, which is exactly what the terrorists want.

Jane Griffiths (Reading, East): I am sure that those who lost loved ones in the Bali outrage will appreciate the support that the Department offered. However, will my right hon. Friend also consider those such as the group of five young people from my constituency who fortunately escaped injury but witnessed the carnage at close hand? Will he discuss the matter with his

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colleagues and try to ensure that such people receive some support so that their lives are not blighted by terrorism?

Mr. Straw: Yes is the answer to my hon. Friend's question. If she has any details, I am happy to follow up on the case that she described so that we can learn from her constituents' experience.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Hindsight may be wonderful, as was said earlier, but foresight is much better. Was it not blindingly obvious, after 11 September and the Government's rightly strong reaction to those events, that British citizens around the world would be in danger of assault? If so, why were no preparations made to have a team on stand-by to react in support of British citizens around the world when they were attacked?

Mr. Straw: The fact that there is a worldwide threat is not only obvious but made clear in all our travel advice. For example, travel advice, which was last updated before 12 October on 27 August, said about Indonesia:

It goes on to give advice about a series of precautions.

We have been strengthening our consular and support arrangements since 11 September last year. Many were put in place quickly. For example, in the United Kingdom, the emergency consular department was established and operating fully by the small hours of 13 October. We may be able to do more here. Notwithstanding the difficulties of a remote location, where there was simply one British honorary consul on 11 October, not a full diplomatic staff, we must have more flexible arrangements that can respond more quickly to the possibility of atrocities.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): We welcome the decision to refer all the evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee. Will my right hon. Friend repeat or confirm that if all raw intelligence were taken at face value, the world would come to a standstill? As someone who also served in Northern Ireland, I can say that the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) should know that.

Mr. Straw: What my hon. Friend says is entirely correct. Those of us who work, or have worked, with intelligence have particular responsibilities in this area.

Angus Robertson (Moray): While echoing the Secretary of State's condolences in relation to the Bali attack, may I ask whether he is aware of the security report produced by the Government of Spain on the operations of al-Qaeda in Indonesia, which was reported in The Herald today and, in depth over the weekend, in El Pais? Although the Secretary of State made no mention of other European intelligence agencies, or, indeed, of the role of the European Union, I know that this matter is on the agenda of the Council of Ministers today and tomorrow. What specific enhancements does the Secretary of State favour, in terms of intelligence sharing, to help to avoid this kind of catastrophe in the future?

Mr. Straw: I have seen the report. It is important, particularly when dealing with intelligence, not to treat

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one individual report—particularly one in a newspaper—as though it were somehow gospel. There is a stream of intelligence coming through all the time. We have very professional and competent intelligence services, as do many other countries. However, notwithstanding the high level of intelligence assessment and capacity available in the United States, there was no warning or intelligence whatever before 11 September last year that could have led the United States to take action to avoid that most appalling atrocity. There are standing arrangements by which we share intelligence and assessments with other intelligence agencies around the world, and those will continue to be strengthened in every way possible.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): Is the Secretary of State in a position to make any observations on the significance of the Bali atrocity to the importance of continuing to fight against international terrorism, in terms both of this country acting alone and of international action?

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend's question raises the importance of us continuing this fight. We must not let our guard fall, or be led into believing that the last atrocity is really the last. That cannot be the case. Within the al-Qaeda organisation, within the organisation likely to have been responsible for the Bali atrocity and within many other terrorist organisations, there are people who are determined to attack our way of life—not just the west's values, but universal human values enshrined in the United Nations charter—and randomly to make victims of our citizens in the course of their attacks on our society as a whole.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Are the Government planning to give any immediate assistance to the people of Bali, who have not only had to deal with many dead and injured among their own population, but will have almost totally lost their livelihoods as a result of this terrible event?

Mr. Straw: We are giving immediate assistance, particularly in respect of the law enforcement inquiry—the anti-terrorist inquiry—in which we have a number of police officers on the ground working with the Indonesians and the Australians on the investigation. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will look carefully at any requests that we receive from the Indonesians for further assistance.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): May I come back to the question raised by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell)? Building on the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths) and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), may I ask whether it is not a fact that Balinese people have lost their lives in this tragedy? I am thinking of the six taxi drivers who plied their trade outside the nightclub, never to be seen or heard of again, and of the tragic consequences for their families. Is it not an incontrovertible truth that the terrorists, and only the terrorists, are responsible for this

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atrocity, and that, no matter how much we seek to shuffle responsibility or blame, it lies on the terrorists and only the terrorists?

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