|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): I expect that the Prime Minister will agree with me in commending those people in Worthing, and probably elsewhere, who will deal with the threat of Islamophobia by holding a fund-raising eventinvolving Muslims and those in other faiths, including the Christian denominationsfor the fund for the victims of the disasters in the United States. Will the right hon. Gentleman pass on the thanks of the House to Mark Byford of the World Service and David Green of the British Council for making plain what they are doing in these times? Although the Chancellor no doubt has to keep the purse strings under control, may I suggest that he considers providing consistent extra fundingnot only during this crisis, but beyondto spread the idea of democracy and openness around the world, because the real way to confront such problems in the long term is to allow people to live in peace in their own countries, and that requires more democracy, not less?
The Prime Minister: I certainly pay tribute to people in Worthing and elsewhere who have made it clear that Muslims are with us in the struggle against terrorism. They have often been the victims. Indeed, many Muslims were killed in the World Trade Centre. I hope that people understand that, despite the often disproportionate publicity given the statements of a few extreme people who call themselves Muslims, the vast majority of Muslims were appalled at the acts that took place and condemned them utterly.
We are increasing the funding for the World Service, and it is worth it. It does a magnificent job around the world, as does the British Council. They are very strong British institutions, which play a part not merely in reaching people and in communicating with them, but in giving them some sense, if they live in a country struggling under repression or dictatorship, that there is a different world to which people can aspire.
Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon): I support the Government in the actions they have taken since the appalling events of 11 September. In responding to those attacks, does my right hon. Friend believe that children in particular should be protected? If so, will he ask Ministers to ensure that no British childrenunder 18sare sent into action in our name as part of this conflict?
Terrorism is terrorism, and it requires no further qualification, so I ask the Prime Minister to reject the spurious distinction that some people seek to draw between international and domestic terrorism. The events of recent weeksI am thinking of the arrest of the head of the IRA's engineering department in Colombia while developing similar mortars for the FARC guerrillas, the expedition of Sinn Fein's Assembly chief whip to Turkey in support of a variety of Turkish and Islamic terrorist groups and the appearance on Saturday at the Sinn Fein conference of a notorious Puerto Rican terroristall show that the Irish republican movement is part of an international terrorist network and that there is still no sign that it is making the changes required by the Belfast agreement. I ask the Prime Minister to bear that in mind in coming days. I understand his desire with regard to the present process, but we must recognise that it has now become a completely one-sided process. All the terrorist organisations in Northern Irelandloyalist and republicanhave broken their ceasefires in recent weeks and months, and sooner or later the Government will have to deal with the machinery and the resources of IRA and loyalist terrorism with the same determination as they display elsewhere.
The Prime Minister: First, the legislation that we propose will apply to terrorism wherever it occurswhether inside the United Kingdom or outside, or whether it is international or domestic. Secondly, of course, we have the current impasse in the peace process in Northern Ireland precisely because it is necessary, if people want to play a part in the government of Northern Ireland, for them to demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to peaceful and democratic means. Given that the right hon. Gentleman has played such a large part in that process, I hope that he understands that, before it began, we also had a very serious situation in Northern Ireland, where terrorist groups operated and killed people year on year. We know that the situation is still very difficult and fragile there. Therefore, we must try to find a way forward, consistent with the principles that we set out in the Belfast agreement. That is what we are trying to do. I know that, because of the huge part that he has played, he will want to see that process move forward, and I accept that it can move forward only on the basis of principle.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): The publishing of some of the evidence is obviously very welcome, and we wish the Prime Minister godspeed in his efforts to consolidate the international coalition against terrorism. Will he tell the House what convinces him that, given the tragic failure of the intelligence community before 11 September, its competency has improved since 11 September?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his good wishes in the action that we take, but we have to bear in mind two things. First, our intelligence services do a superb job. However, it is often difficult with
Patrick Mercer (Newark): The Prime Minister has spoken of the strength and determination of our armed forces. How will that strength and determination be further reinforced by the use of specialist reservists such as Arabic speakers, interrogators, intelligence officers and, above all, medical men, all of whom so far have remained uncalled?
The Prime Minister: I pay tribute to the work of the specialist reservists and I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will use them as and when we need them. We are still considering the requests that have been made about the precise capabilities that we can offer, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we will make full use of all the different parts of our armed forces, including reservists.
Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Govan): We face the most miserable humanitarian and refugee crisis in history. Millions of people face starvation and hundreds of thousands are desperate to flee Afghanistan. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that continuous supplies will be the top priority at this crucial time?
The Prime Minister: I can confirm that. We have the money identified and we have experience of dealing with Afghan refugees, as there were some 4.5 million on the move before 11 September. People have been fleeing the Taliban regime for a long time. I am confident that provided that we put in place the measures that we have identified around the borders of Afghanistan, we will be able to provide for people in camps that are set up there, although it is a huge logistical organisational operation. However, it is also important that we try to get supplies to people in Afghanistan. That will be more difficult, in part because the Taliban regime have made it clear that they will take action against anyone who co-operates with western agencies, even relief agencies, but we are doing what we can.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Will the President, I mean the Prime Minister[Interruption.] I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows what I mean. Does he agree that suicide aerial terrorists have been waging psychological and economic warfare against the west and that the effect on the air transport industries in particular has been especially grave? Is it not the case that two state carriers have had to seek the protection of their