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The Prime Minister: We have the insurance agreement that will be of some assistance and, obviously, we are looking carefully at airline security measures. Of course these are difficult times for the airline industries and we are in close discussion and consultation with them. However, I believe that one of the most important things that we can do is to demonstrate by the strength of the action that we take that people can have confidence in going back to using the airlines in the way that they did previously. We have some experienceobviously less so given the particular nature of the attacks of 11 Septemberfrom the Gulf war of a crisis in confidence among people using airlines. I believe that that will pass when they see that proper security measures are in place and that we are taking the correct action. As a result of what happened on 11 September, there is already a great deal more security in place and people should have confidence in the ability to travel as freely as they wish.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for outlining the coalition that has been built up not just here in the House but internationally. That coalition will be severely tested over the coming days and weeks. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Members on both sides of the House will be judged by their conduct in the House and outside; that we must not lose sight of the overarching specific objective; and that force will have to be used to preserve peace, however uncomfortable that may be at times?
The Prime Minister: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. We are about to go through a difficult time because when action begins there will be many difficulties and problems, as there always are with such action. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support. Of course it is important, in so far as it is possiblepeople in this country have the democratic right to disagree and long may that continueto demonstrate a united resolve in this House.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity directly to distance himself from the reported remarks of Lady Thatcher, who seems unaware that all representative Muslim associations in this country have condemned the atrocities in the United States? Does he hope and believe that the evidence that can be published will carry all members of the coalition? Will he reiterate that the military options available will avoid, wherever possible, the loss of further innocent lives? Finally, a number of hon. Members have remarked on the cautious, determined, hugely impressive and highly focused response of the United States Administration. Given that that is the response of the country most affected by the appalling events of 11 September, will the Prime Minister commend that hugely impressive stance to the rest of the international coalition?
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): My right hon. Friend said earlier that Sikhs and Muslims also lost their lives in the World Trade Centre. He will be aware that the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Church leaders have called for a national day of prayer tomorrow for peace, justice and reconciliation and that Muslims, Sikhs and other inter-faith denominations have supported that call for prayer. Does my right hon. Friend agree that tomorrow, in schools, workplaces and elsewhere, a moment of contemplation, meditation, reflection and prayer would give a sense of faith and hope to our people?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend. I spoke to the Archbishop of Canterbury over the weekend, and obviously I have also spoken to other religious leaders. The Archbishop of Canterbury is deeply committed to inter-faith dialogue, which is important in so far as good can come out of the terrible acts of 11 September. A closer understanding between the faiths would be sensible and perhaps a closer education of our own society about the degree of common heritage and common values would also be valuable. It is important, in these times in particular, that people understand where those of the faith of Islam are coming from and that it is a peaceful religion. It is also important that people in the
Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon): The Prime Minister has mentioned the need to change extradition law, but surely the problem is delays in the courts rather than weaknesses in the legislation. The United States has been seeking the extradition of three alleged members of the al-Qaeda organisation in connection with the African embassy bombings in 1998one since September 1998 and two since July 1999and France has been seeking the extradition from the United Kingdom of a terrorist suspect since December 1995. Not only are those delays unacceptable, they are almost certainly costing lives. If we are to be at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism, we cannot allow Britain to be used as a place where terrorists can seek safe haven from justice in our allied countries.
The Prime Minister: I wholly agree. That is why not only Britain, but other countries around the worldcountries with very similar problemsare seeking to tighten their legislation. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the delays are in the courts, but, on the whole, they are caused by weaknesses in the legislation. That is why we need to change the legislation to eliminate those weaknesses.
We need to look very carefully at the powers we have and the ability to speed up the process. There is no point in our saying that we are leaders in an international coalition against terrorism if our own legislation is not up to the mark. That is another reason why it is important to act. I should add that we are not the only country considering such actionmost European countries and other countries are considering the same thing. Our laws, rightly and properly, have been drawn up to deal with the generality, the majority, of cases, but in the face of the current highly specific threateven if it applies only to a small number of caseswe have to ensure that our law has the integrity that we need.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): As we have been hearing for the past hour and 10 minutes, the House does not need to be reminded of the scale of the act of mass murder committed on 11 September. Although it appears that there may be fewer British victims than were at first feared, for Britain it remains the greatest loss of civilian life in any single terrorist incident. In any event, it was an attack on democracy and on civilisation. Even if no United Kingdom citizens had lost their lives in the atrocity, we would still share with the United States of America, our allies and our partners, a common determination to secure the mutually reinforcing objectives of justice and security.
Our ultimate aim is simply stated: that there should be no safe haven for terrorists anywhere in the world. In the meantime, we have unfinished business. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just made clear, we now haveand we are publishing itincontrovertible evidence that links Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaedah organisation with the attacks on 11 September. Our most urgent task is to hold those people to account and to make sure that they pose no further threat to global security. Our response will be targeted and proportionate to achieving those objectives.
Overthrowing the current Taliban regime is not a primary objective of our action, but if the Taliban continue to harbour terrorists they will be considered our enemy and will have to face the consequences. Whether the Taliban become a target is essentially a matter for them, not for us. That is underlined by the terms of United Nations Security Council resolution 1368, which speaks of all necessary steps being taken against not only the terrorists, but those who harbour terrorists.
Those objectives are not up for negotiation. All of us fully understand, not least from conversations with our constituents, that there are those in the House and outside it who are concerned about the prospect of the use of force, and many more who, while supporting the use of force, are profoundly concerned about its consequences. We share that anxiety and concern, but the danger would be much greater if we did not respond effectively.
Our aim is the precise opposite of the terrorists' aim: it is to protect innocent life, not to take it. There can be no possibility of reasoning with people who have no reasonable demands. We have to confront them, as we ought to have confronted fascism in the 1930s: had we done so, the world would have been spared the much bloodier confrontation of the 1940s. Our aim is not revenge, but the complete removal of the threat that terrorism poses to our values and our way of life.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out our overall approach in his statements to the House on 14 September and this morning, and most comprehensively and vividly of all in the address to the Labour party conference on Tuesday. The fact that his address was shown live on all major channels in the United States and in many other countries speaks volumes for the leadership that he is providing not only for our
We all admire the dignity, determination and restraint that President Bush, his Administration and the American people have shown at this most difficult of times. The close friendship between our peoples needs no further explanation today, but I will say that the truest test of friendship is in the hour of need. Twice during the last century, the United States came to Britain's aid; today, we have to come to the aid of the United States.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been making tireless efforts. He has held countless meetings and telephone calls with other world leaders; he has visited Berlin, Paris, New York, Washington and Brussels; and, as the House knows, he has now left for a visit to Russia, the interests of which are, like ours, directly engaged in the crisis and which forms an integral part of the global front against terrorism.
As my right hon. Friend said, let us not forget that, just this week, terrorism has continued to take an ugly toll of innocent human lifein this case, in India. In Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, a suicide bomber struck at the heart of that state's democracy by detonating a bomb in the State Assembly, killing 38 and injuring many more. The terrorist organisation Jaish-i-Mohammad, which I proscribed when I was Home Secretary, has claimed responsibility for that outrage. The House should know that we know that the leader of that organisation is linked to Osama bin Laden. I know that I speak for the whole House when I condemn that utterly unjustified attack and express our condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of India.
International law was mentioned by several Members who questioned my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I cannot emphasise enough that the actions that the United States, we and other partners in the international coalition have in contemplation are entirely within the framework of international law. The founding text of the United Nations, its charter, provides at article 51 for the right of UN members to individual or collective self-defence when they come under armed attack. The UN Security Council has passed two resolutions in the response to the crisis. The first, resolution 1368, states that those directly responsible for the attacks should be held to account, together with those who harbour them. The second, resolution 1373, focuses on two key areas: suppressing the financing of terrorists and denying them a safe haven from which to operate. That is the first time that a resolution has imposed an obligation on all states to respond to the global terrorist threat.