§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Caplin.]
§ Mr. Speaker
I must inform the House that there is an eight-minute limit on Back Benchers' speeches.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)
Like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who offered congratulations to the new Leader of the Opposition in these appalling circumstances, I offer my congratulations to the new shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), and express my appreciation of the co-operation that I received from his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude).
The whole House, as we have heard in the past 55 minutes, has been united in shock and grief at the events in the United States on Tuesday morning. Today, as so many times before in our shared history, we find ourselves in complete solidarity with our friends and allies in the United States. Our peoples are inextricably bound together by close ties of family, friendship, language, culture and, above all, values. We all remember that this country's freedom, and Europe's freedom, which so often we take for granted, would not exist today without the direct support that the United States gave us twice in the space of 25 years. The close interconnection between our two societies has been tragically underscored by the large number of British casualties.
Many right hon. and hon. Members present will know of homes in their constituencies where families wait, with fading hope, for news of loved ones. Tributes have already been paid to the work of the emergency services in New York and Washington who, even now, are trying to save lives, having lost many of their own.
I regret to say that we have no certainty at this stage about the exact identity or total number of British casualties, but it is likely to run to hundreds. With a catastrophe on this scale, it is crucial not to diminish individual tragedies behind the awful aggregate figures. Like everybody else in this House, I have tried to imagine the intense agony of the thousands of people who still wait to hear the fate of their loved ones. We, too, are frustrated that, as yet, there is so little information to give, but we all understand why that is so. I can assure the House that the Government are doing everything possible to get information to families as soon as we can.
Our crisis unit in London—run from New Scotland Yard, and staffed 24 hours a day—has dealt with thousands of calls reporting people missing or safe. Response units in our diplomatic posts in the United States have been working day and night. A crisis centre set up at our consulate-general in New York is taking calls and contacting companies with offices in or around the World Trade Centre, and is passing on all information on British nationals to our staff in London.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister answered an intervention from the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) about the assistance that we have already offered those who have been bereaved and that we stand ready to offer. Some UK citizens in the United States will have no medical insurance to pay for the 618 treatment of their injuries. Given the exceptional nature of the circumstances, the Secretary of State for Health and I have agreed that the Government will bear their hospital costs. We are already working on arrangements for the repatriation of bodies and for flights for relatives to go to the United States.
These attacks have shocked the world; they have also changed the world. This massive tragedy is an event of huge and almost unparalleled historical significance. Comparisons have been made with the attack on Pearl harbour, but, unlike Pearl harbour, Tuesday's attacks were directed against thousands of unarmed, innocent civilians, and at the very heart of the continent of the United States. They were launched by an enemy who, as yet, remains unseen.
It is plainly too soon to reach firm conclusions about the consequences of these acts for the global order, but history has presented us with such decisive moments before. Over the past two centuries, each time a conflict has ended people have come together to try to ensure that the last war really would be the last war.
After the first world war, US President Woodrow Wilson worked for a new world order to try to establish a lasting peace, yet within a generation the world was again at war. The structures established after 1945 have in every respect been more successful in preventing global conflict for half a century, but those structures—political, military and legal—were laid down to deal with the last threat: of war between states. Our challenge now is to make sure that they are equal to this and to the next threat.
In considering the approach we now take, we would do well this week to draw lessons from the experience of the 1930s. Our predecessors then were so desperate to avoid further military action that they made a huge, if understandable, mistake. They thought that they were dealing with adversaries who shared the same values, basic rules and assumptions about how humans, even in times of conflict and war, should behave towards one another.
It was not until it was too late that our predecessors realised that the aggressors were in the grip of a sort of collective political psychosis and that they did not accept the norms and decencies that the rest of us took for granted. We all know the consequences of what followed.
We have to acknowledge that the people who plotted, organised and carried out Tuesday's attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania do not accept any of the rules or values that we in the rest of the world would recognise. They have no respect, however minimal, for human life—not even for their own lives.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, there must be a response. As he said, the United States, rightly, is proceeding with deliberation and care. Equally, to turn the other cheek would not appease the terrorists, but would lead to a still greater danger. We need to acknowledge that overwhelming, if dismal, truth if we are to prepare ourselves and our societies in the months and years ahead for the possibility—unpalatable as it may be—of further attacks.
This is not a conflict in which nation state is pitted against nation state. Instead, this is a deliberate act of war by calculating groups formally outside states against the rest of the civilised world. Indeed, the rise of the warlord and the terrorist funded by conflict, drugs and other criminal activity is one of the growing threats that we have faced, particularly since, paradoxically, the fall of the Berlin wall.
619 NATO has recognised the unprecedented nature of the threat. As we have heard, for the first time in the history of the alliance, it has invoked article 5 of the Washington treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. There is no clearer signal that we could send to the perpetrators of these attacks than that they face a determined and united response by the international community.
In many ways, however, the unanimous decision taken on Wednesday by the United Nations Security Council was more important still. The Security Council resolved that not only those directly responsible for what happened at the World Trade Centre but those indirectly responsible foraiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers or sponsors of these actswill be held accountable. It expressed its readiness to take "all necessary steps" to respond to the terrorist acts and to combat all forms of terrorism. In making such a resolution and a similar one in the General Assembly, the whole international community showed itself to be united in its determination to respond.
We must develop our defences against a repeat or copycat attack—it would be deeply irresponsible not to do so—but we must also focus our attention on where the next threat to our collective security will come from. It should now be obvious to everyone that people who have the fanaticism and the capability to fly an airliner laden with passengers and fuel into a skyscraper will not be deterred by human decency from deploying chemical or biological weapons, missiles or nuclear weapons or other forms of mass destruction if they are available to them. We must therefore redouble our efforts to stop the proliferation and the availability of such weapons.
At the same time, we must intensify our traditional methods of diplomacy to bring some good out of this evil. We must not be deflected from our attempts to resolve conflicts, to defuse tensions and to work for peace in the troubled regions of the world, whether those be the Balkans, the middle east or elsewhere, for it is the terrorists, above all, who want all such efforts to fail.
It is no longer tolerable that any states should harbour or give succour to terrorists. The international community must unite as never before to take determined collective action against the threat that failing and failed states pose to global security. We can no longer allow the borders between democratic nations and the gaps between our domestic jurisdictions to be exploited so ruthlessly in courts of law by those who reject the rule of law.
With my European Union colleagues, I have this week agreed the first steps towards a common policy on terrorism. We need to consider what further action we can take collectively on issues outlined by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, such as extradition, proscribing terrorist organisations, as we have done in the United Kingdom, and thwarting the planning and funding of terrorist organisations.
§ Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)
With reference to the funding of terrorism, is the Foreign Secretary aware that in London there are still a number of extremist middle east organisations that are raising funds and peddling evil—for example, Sheikh Abu Hamza, who is based at Finsbury Park mosque? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that bin Laden's sister is living in this country?
§ Mr. Straw
Of course I am aware of the presence of the individual whom the hon. Gentleman mentions; one could 620 hardly fail to be aware of him. However, as so many hon. Members have made clear in their interventions, and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, that individual does not speak for the Islamic faith or the Islamic community.
With regard to the action that needs to be taken, only last year the House enacted the Terrorism Act 2000, which greatly strengthens the tools available to the police and the courts to deal with people who are raising funds or support for terrorist organisations. We should remember that when that Bill and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill were introduced in the House, some claimed that they went too far and were not proportionate to the threat of terrorism. We have been reminded this week of the strength and potential threat that terrorism poses to us, and we must ensure that we respond to those mounting threats in a way that properly balances liberties and the freedom to live.
Terrorists operate without regard for borders. The fight against terrorism therefore needs to be a global one. Only a true coalition of the civilised world offers a real chance of cutting out that cancer. As we construct that coalition, we will include the Islamic world. No one should be in any doubt: those acts of mass murder have nothing to do with the Islamic faith. The Muslim Council of Britain said in its strong condemnation of the atrocities:These are senseless and evil acts that appal all people of conscience".We admire the calm determination and dignity with which America's leaders and the American people have reacted to the calamity. We have offered them our full backing for their efforts to hunt down and hold to account the terrorists and those who harbour them. There must be no refuge. The attacks were not just on the United States; they were on humanity, on civilisation and on us all.
The terrorists who struck on Tuesday exploited what they see as the great weakness of democratic societies—freedom—but, in truth, freedom is and will remain our greatest strength. Terrorism is ultimately self-defeating. We must channel the rage and revulsion that we feel today to make intelligent decisions in order to ensure the triumph of the civilised values on which this House is founded. From the catastrophe, I believe that the United States and the free world will emerge stronger.
§ Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)
I begin by thanking the Foreign Secretary for his speech and his kind remarks. I only wish that we could have met first across the Dispatch Box under happier circumstances. I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), for the way in which he conducted his administration of this shadow portfolio. I hope to be able to emulate his wisdom and judgment in the weeks and months ahead.
We meet today in sombre times—sombre not just in the devastation wrought by the vile and barbarous acts of terrorism that we witnessed in New York and Washington this week, but sombre in the threat implicit in what we witnessed for the rest of the civilised world. What we saw on Tuesday with such disbelief was an attack not just on innocent people, not just on the centres of power, but on the values of humanity that form the very basis of civilisation across the world.
621 It was an attack not just on America but on the whole free world—the whole civilised world. It is right therefore that Parliament has been recalled, and I congratulate the Prime Minister on that. Today we have set partisan politics aside. In the face of great evil, we are one Parliament and one House.
The enormity of what was done on Tuesday was such that in some ways it is only now beginning to sink in, in all its horror. To begin with, it was a terrible and almost unbelievable series of images and pictures. Only now are we beginning to understand the extent of the violent ending of life, of the families brutally shattered and of the unbearable anguish left behind, the sheer number of people killed, the manner of their killing and the evilness of it all. Now, as the bodies are recovered and the tragic stories emerge, the real human horror hits us all, and if we feel growing anger and emotion we should not be ashamed.
The catastrophe has, with reason, been described as an act of war. It is that, but it is much more: it is a crime against humanity. We would be less than human if we were not profoundly moved. Our deep sorrow at what has been done to our friends in America is added to by the fact that there are so many British victims. We must all be shocked by how many British casualties there are. It is the worst terrorist outrage that we have faced. I welcome the help that the Government announced this morning for the relatives and the bereaved. We should not forget the many other nationals who lost their lives, not least the many Pakistanis who were in the two towers when they collapsed.
Our hearts today go out to all who have died, all who have lost loved ones and all whose lives will be permanently scarred either physically or mentally by this vicious crime. Many of those will be the brave heroes and heroines of the emergency and medical services, especially the firefighters, who literally risked life and limb in that hell on earth. We pay tribute to their dedication and their courage. For me, they have given new meaning to the phrase, "the indomitable spirit of man."
We have all been touched by this dreadful event. The bond between this country and America is strong—strong because of the values and interests that we share and because of the personal bonds of friendship and the family ties between our two countries, but strong, most of all, for the times that we have stood shoulder to shoulder against evil. I welcome and support the Government's swift announcement that, at this time of America's need, we shall do so again. I also praise the way in which the Prime Minister indicated that, in the difficult and dangerous times ahead, we will support our friends. I urge him and his Government not to be shaken from that resolve. When we have needed America, it has helped us. When America needs our help, we will help it.
I pay tribute to Lord Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO, and his council for the resolute way in which they have invoked article 5 for the first time in the organisation's history and to the European Union, which has in no uncertain terms declared its determination to combat international terrorism. I hope that the Government will work to stiffen the spine of any of our European partners that may appear to wobble. I welcome also the Security Council's unanimous call for international co-operation to deal with terrorism.
622 Indeed, almost all of us must have been warmed by the near universal condemnation from the international community. President Putin and Russia have been forthright in their support. States that have traditionally been hostile to the United States condemned this vile act of terrorism. Yasser Arafat has condemned it. Libya has condemned it. The international community of nations has risen up against the perpetrators of Tuesday's atrocity.
That international response has been heartening, because if terrorism is to be driven from the face of our planet, we need, as US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, to form a worldwide coalition against it. We have a vital role to play in helping to build that coalition and, more importantly, in sustaining it. I offer the full support of Her Majesty's Opposition to the Government in their chosen path as a leader in the international community and a staunch ally to our American friends in the fight against this terrorist evil. The going will undoubtedly get tougher in the weeks ahead, and I urge them not to waver.
There is, without doubt, a reason for the almost universal condemnation of Tuesday's atrocity—this act of terrorism struck new levels of evil. It was of a different order. In the past, planes have been hijacked for the purpose of taking hostages and buildings have been bombed. On Tuesday, those heinous activities, for the first time, were woven into one, with devastating effect. This was no opportunist attack. This was no spontaneous act of terrorism. It had been long in the planning. It required skilled recruitment, skilled training and the ability to retain motivation over what was clearly a lengthy period. It was the work of a sophisticated organisation or possibly even a state. It represents a new dimension of terrorism—terrorism without limits.
Here were terrorists for whom human life held no value, neither their own nor those of the hundreds on the planes and the thousands on the ground, which they were to destroy. The terrorists were not mindless, and I agree with the Foreign Secretary that we should be cautious about using that word. They were totally calculating and deliberate. Theirs was an attack on that set of values that believes in the sanctity of human life and in human liberty and human rights. Theirs is a war in which nothing matters except the achievement of their objectives. There is no morality and no conscience.
Those are the real dangers that the civilised world must now meet, because these are the rogue elements—the rogue terrorists who are backed more often than not by rogue states. The manner in which they deliver their terror is developing to a frightening pattern. Once it involved firearms, then car bombs. This week, it involved the equivalent of flying bombs packed with people into buildings packed with people, designed to create the maximum loss of life. As the Foreign Secretary said, next time it could involve missiles. If ever there was good reason to consider the dangers of asymmetric warfare and the need for layered defences against it, it was this vile escalation of the wicked trade of the terrorist.
I have listened to those who told us that Tuesday was a day when the world changed. I urge caution about that. Terrorism seeks to change the world, sometimes without having any idea of what it wants to change the world to. Terrorists must not be allowed to take comfort from their action and these terrorists must not be allowed to take comfort from Tuesday—not even the merest glimmer of satisfaction that they have achieved any of their aims.
623 Mayor Giuliani of New York said to Manhattan soon after this terrible tragedy, "Go about your normal day … do the things you normally do, show confidence in yourself and the city". Terrorists may temporarily have caused life styles to be altered so as to recognise the need for greater security, but they have not, they will not and they must not change our freedoms and our rights and the way that we, as free people, live our lives.
What has been changed by Tuesday is the way in which the free world now reacts to terrorism. There must be no more talk of discussions with and concessions to terrorists—those who hold no human values. The simple priority now must be the pursuit and total eradication of this terrorist threat.
My time in Northern Ireland taught me that terrorism depends on three elements to succeed: it needs the oxygen of publicity, it needs to show that it works and it needs safe havens in which it can hide. As this week showed, the first cannot be prevented if the act is horrific enough. The second can be avoided by determining that terrorism must never be appeased and must never be allowed to dictate the way in which lives are led. The third can be achieved only when those in whose territories the bolt holes exist are prepared to block those bolt holes and ensure that the terrorist can find no comfort or shelter or harbour from the relentless search-and-destroy pursuit that the international community will launch against them.
The successful terrorist, like the guerrilla in Mao Tse-Tung's famous dictum,swims like a fish in the sea of people".The challenge to the international community is to dry up that sea to leave the terrorists exposed on the sand so that we can deal with them. The significant coalition that has already been brought together since Tuesday must challenge the countries of the world one by one to block the bolt holes and ensure that the terrorist is isolated and dealt with. Those countries that demur or refuse will condemn themselves as the harbourers of terrorists, and it must be shown that the international community will not tolerate them.
This is a war, which the United States has declared, on terrorism. The form it will take cannot yet be known. I hope that the Foreign Secretary can assure us that, before it is decided, we will be consulted. I hope that he can also confirm that our Government have told the United States that it will have our military support and assistance should that prove necessary.
It is fruitless to speculate on the scale of military action that the Americans may be planning to undertake, but I am sure that the whole House agrees that it must be proportionate, clearly and legitimately targeted and effective. I am confident that it will be.
President Bush and his national security team around him, even in the face of the provocation of the barbarity of this week, have shown the controlled and measured way in which they are considering their response. Whatever action is taken, and action there must be, they must clearly identify their objective and then pursue it. At the same time, it must be made abundantly clear that that is not directed against Islam, nor indeed against the Arab world, most of which has condemned this atrocity.
The whole House will welcome, as have I, the clear and unequivocal statements from Islamic spokesmen that what was perpetrated on Tuesday by the pilots of those planes is not martyrdom, but murder. The true voice of Islam has condemned what happened with as great a ferocity as many others, not least because this act was stripped of humanity and stripped of compassion.
624 Our thoughts and prayers today must be with the bereaved. Our resolve must be interwoven with that of our friend and ally, America. Our anger must be targeted on the perpetrators of this savage act of inhumanity and on their accomplices and protectors. Our will must be single-mindedly addressed to the need to bring these people to justice.
§ 11 am
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I ask the House to rise and observe a three-minute silence for the people of America.
§ 11.3 am
§ Mr. Ancram
Nothing can mitigate the sheer horror of the act that we have just commemorated by our silence, but if it has mobilised the world community finally to stand up to the terrorist and say, "Enough is enough", and if it has galvanised the family of nations into taking the action that can eradicate this evil from its midst, some good may yet come of it. I offer the Government our full support in the action that they are taking.
§ 11.3 am
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)
Not for the first time this week, I reflect on the fact that no matter how rich or diverse the English language it is inadequate to convey the sense of horror and frustration that so many of us feel about the events that have taken place across the Atlantic. Expressions such as "defining moment" have been thrown about—there are many of my generation for whom the defining moment appeared to be the assassination of John F. Kennedy—but I suspect that the life of the most powerful city in the most powerful country in the world will never be the same. I refer not just to the irritation of increased airline security, but to the realisation that no country, however powerful, can guarantee absolute safety for its citizens.
After the emotions of shock, sorrow and anger has come, as the Prime Minister rightly expressed, our admiration for the people of the United States. The United States is a great country with enormous economic resources, but this week we have seen that it has great resources of character as well. How else can one explain the extraordinary unified response to these events: immediate bipartisanship in the Congress, the quite extraordinary valour of the emergency services and, in towns and villages throughout the United States, public protests of determination that the people will not be intimidated?
In our occasionally patronising way, we on this side of the Atlantic sometimes raise our eyebrows at the United States' style of public affirmation of nationhood—the pledge of allegiance and the public support for the flag. The truth is that this week has demonstrated that, in time of crisis, that public expression of unity is priceless in promoting a common purpose and a determination to triumph over adversity. The collective response of the people of the United States has rightly earned the admiration of us all.
When the roll call of nations that have lost citizens is set down, it will tell us that the nations of the whole world were the indiscriminate targets of the zealots whose barbarity has brought sadness and grief to so many families. For me, and perhaps for others, the close proximity of the headquarters of the United Nations has 625 more than symbolic significance. We know that the heaviest burden will be borne by the people of the United States. Out of the collective sorrow that they suffer, and that we share, there must surely come a resolve that through collective action the perpetrators will be brought to justice and terrorism will be met in all circumstances by a robust defence of democratic values.
Let me try to put to rest the canard that somehow United States' policy in the middle east was the cause of these events. I have not always agreed with United States' policy in the middle east, and indeed I have said so in the House on many occasions, but the cause of these events was a deliberate and calculated decision to take the lives of as many as possible, allied to the willingness of desperate men to implement that decision at the cost of their own lives. The Prime Minister was correct to tell us that we must not suffer any ambiguity in our analysis of terrorism, but we should also remind ourselves that terrorism often flourishes where real or perceived injustice prevails. Communities which have an unresolved or unrecognised sense of grievance are driven sometimes to assume that terrorism is the only way of seeking resolution or recognition.
This is not an occasion to conduct a detailed analysis of policy or to try to offer long-term solutions, but let me offer two thoughts. There are Governments in the middle east today to whom these events will be a chilling reminder of the radical discontent in their own countries and who themselves have an overwhelming interest in co-operating with the efforts of the United States and others.
After the Gulf war, President Bush's father, then the President of the United States, used the quite extraordinary coalition that he had forged to achieve the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait to breathe new life into the middle east peace process. Out of that came the Madrid conference and the Oslo agreement. President Bush of today has forged a remarkable coalition of interest—a coalition of condemnation. Is it too much to hope that this unity of purpose may give an opportunity to repeat the effort to breathe life into the peace process in the middle east?
I cannot but conclude that we will more easily put down terrorism when we understand the causes of terrorism, although I am by no means so naive as to assume that if Israel and Palestine were to strike a bargain today and to begin to implement it tomorrow, that would be an end to the terrorist threat. There are some so opposed to that reconciliation that the mere fact of the reconciliation would be a further provocation towards terrorist acts.
The Prime Minister used the words "brought to justice"—I imagine that he used that formulation deliberately—but I have some sense of relief that the pressure for retaliation has abated. Retaliation is not self-defence by any legal measure with which I am familiar. The United States as our oldest ally—our strongest ally—is entitled to our support, and we have heard already of the unique invocation of article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty. But this is a sovereign House of Parliament, and this sovereign House of Parliament and this nation, even accepting the letter and the spirit of the article 5 requirement, cannot give a blank cheque for military action. NATO operates by consensus and if there is to be any NATO action and implementation of the article 5 obligation it will be only because it is supported by all the 19 members of that organisation.
626 I suggest that any response should be based on clear and unequivocal intelligence, that it must not be disproportionate and that it must be consistent with the principles of international law. I do not rule out for a moment the use of United Kingdom forces and materiel for the purpose of such a response if that be appropriate.
There is a risk—a risk of what is sometimes called rich man's justice—lest, by the overwhelming zeal with which we pursue the perpetrators of these terrorist acts, we give the impression that the lives of citizens of the richest countries are worth more than the lives of citizens of the poorest. In the past 10 years, we have seen in Rwanda hundreds of thousands, incalculable numbers, massacred—that is a form of terrorism—while the world looked on and the United Nations uniquely had to make a formal acknowledgement of failure. In Srebrenica, in the name of Christianity, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred, while units of NATO—the most successful military alliance in history—looked on and the skies above were quiet, and empty of the aircraft that a short time before had bombed Iraq into a wasteland.
Perhaps the events in New York and in Washington are a watershed. Perhaps they reflect a new beginning. Perhaps they are a defining moment. They will be such if they achieve the apprehension, in accordance with justice, of those who were the perpetrators of the terrible acts of this week. But they will also constitute a defining moment if they make the Srebrenicas and the Rwandas much more difficult to achieve.
§ Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool)
Given the profound and unbearable nature of what has happened this week, it is not surprising that there is a great deal of debate—quite rightly—a great deal of speculation and some hesitation about what should follow next. The Government are right, therefore, to have acted so promptly and so instinctively in leading the action to internationalise and co-ordinate a calm response to the savagery that we have seen—in particular, in drawing in the Russians.
I know that there are some among my own colleagues who worry about the form that the American retaliation will take. To those who worry, I say that we will only influence America if we stand four-square behind America at this time. To the American people, I say with humility—given the grievous loss that they have experienced this week—"don't get mad, get even". The desire to meet this challenge with a forceful response is understood and it is shared. The need to do so in a way that defeats terrorism as well as punishes terrorists is paramount, so the test of the response that will be made is not so much whether it is proportionate as whether it is effective.
Britain has unique experience and qualifications to be listened to, because we have fought terrorism over many decades in Northern Ireland. The main point is that terrorism is not conventional war, demanding a conventional response. The terrorism that we are seeing now is of a most advanced, fanatical and carefully planned kind.
§ Mr. Mandelson
No, I shall continue, if I may.
That terrorism will not be countered by simple physical force. It will be defeated only by a combination of intelligence, political activity and dialogue, and 627 international collaboration of a quality and on a scale that we have not seen before. High-quality intelligence, painstakingly collected and applied over time, is at the heart of this effort to defeat a hidden enemy. That involves high-tech surveillance and supreme acts of human bravery. It cannot be done on the cheap. It cannot be done without a political framework in which the work of the intelligence services depends on explicit political and ministerial authorisation. It cannot be done without recruiting agents from the same communities from which the terrorist organisations draw their own membership. To fight the menace of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, recruitment has to be directed at Muslim and Arab-speaking communities. The James Bonds of the future will not be found in the Travellers club and the Athenaeum but on the streets of Bradford and Marseilles.
As a high priority, we should be looking at how we extend intelligence co-operation. There is close UK-USA co-operation and I would not wish to see that undermined in any way. However, European partners should not fall short of their responsibilities; they cannot opt out—including the Russians. Informal co-operation already exists: the question is how we make that more effective. A new EU or multinational anti-terrorism agency would need to work within a clear structure of political accountability. It would need a political head, appointed and accountable to participating Governments. Having put that framework in place, it should have independence and the autonomy to act without constant reference back.
We have to re-examine the balance between civil liberties and the fight against terrorism. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke with great sense and judgment on the radio this morning. In terrorist cases, we need to accept new extra-territorial powers for the police to make arrests outside their own country. We need a new international court, like the court established at The Hague to fight war crimes, and we need acceptance in that court of evidence gained by covert means.
Other steps that we need to take include seizing the assets of terrorists and their associates unhindered by bureaucracy. We need an international organisation to supervise that. Mr. bin Laden is a very wealthy man indeed, and he does not keep his money in an Afghan bank account.
We need, too, to enhance our own security. It is time for us to look again at the case for identity cards. We have to ensure that, with EU enlargement, we have an effective common border, with not only border checkpoints, but effective high-tech surveillance to monitor and control movements across that common border.
As well as strengthening security, we need to address the legitimate grievances of the communities from which terrorists draw their recruits, as we have done in Northern Ireland. We must renew our efforts to tackle the causes of the conflict in the middle east. The United States must re-engage in the middle east peace process as a high priority. The aspirations of both Israel and Palestinians must be recognised in the way that the Good Friday agreement serves both nationalist and Unionist traditions in Northern Ireland.
Intelligence, political dialogue and activity and international co-operation underpinned by the appropriate and timely use of force—there are no magic solutions to 628 the terrorist challenge that we face—is the only course that we must take. However, we face a very long haul in doing so.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I inform the House that, with effect from 11.30 am, I have authorised the placing in the Library of a book of condolence in memory of those who died in the tragic events in the United States this week. The book will be available for Members and the staff of the House to sign.
§ Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)
All of us are still numbed by the unspeakable events that occurred in the United States. We must all agree that it is essential that we pursue the culprits and ensure that they are brought to justice. I have voted consistently against capital punishment for all the time that I have been in the House, but my convictions in that regard are now being sorely tested.
The misguided fanatics who carried out this event and who lost their own lives in the process are not the real culprits. The real culprits are the bigoted, warped, evil people who led them to believe that they were pursuing the cause of some religious objective in carrying out what they did. It is those people whom we need to seek out: they are the guilty people. They must be brought to justice and any regime that supports them must eventually be removed from power by the international community. We need to plan that process extremely carefully.
As many speakers have said, these events are not the fault of Islam. I am afraid that all major religions have suffered from the same fanatical bigotry and fundamentalism. The history of Christianity itself contains many examples of appalling behaviour in the name of Christianity. Indeed, we need only to look at Northern Ireland today to see what religious bigots can do to one another in the name of their religion. The same point applies to the Jewish faith. There are fundamentalists and bigots in Israel today, and they have delayed irreparably the cause of peace between the Jews and the Palestinians.
This action in the name of Islam threatens not just the western world but all the moderate Islamic states, and many of them are under threat from the same group of people. Egypt, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the former Soviet Islamic states are all under threat from this process and we must make common cause with those people to ensure that these fanatics do not succeed not simply in causing further mayhem in the west but in overthrowing moderate Islamic Governments wherever they exist. The interests of those Governments coincide precisely with ours.
We must therefore ensure that the problem is not seen as one between Islam and the west, but as one that should lead to a common cause between all Islam and all the western world. That must be the thrust of any action that is taken by the international community.
We must also ensure that our banking systems do not permit the financing of such activities in the future. As the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) pointed out, bin Laden has bank accounts and they are not located in Afghanistan—they are located elsewhere in the world. The international banking system has a duty to take action to prevent the transmission of funds for such evil purposes.
629 We also need to consider the ways in which our present attitude towards immigration and asylum seekers may impact on this problem. We should not do anything that prevents genuine asylum seekers from coming to this country. However, we must remember that the way in which our courts and those in Australia interpret the legislation means that it is virtually impossible to exclude anybody from our borders.
Some 5,000 Afghans have come to this country in the past six months. I believe that the majority of them are fleeing, and are in genuine fear of persecution, from the evil regime that exists in Afghanistan, but we cannot rule out the real possibility that among them are terrorists who are here for a very different purpose. We need to regain control over the immigration process if we are to protect ourselves from international terrorism. It is therefore the duty of Governments here and in the European Union to review the way in which the legislation on human rights is framed, so as to make it absolutely clear that it cannot be used to allow terrorists to penetrate our shores. If we cannot reform it in that way, we should abrogate the treaty.
§ Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
This is a solemn occasion. This is a time for grieving and for showing our horror at the number of individuals whose lives were shattered when they were going peacefully and innocently about their work. It is also a time to show solidarity with the people of the United States in all the reasonable actions that they may take in response. So far, indeed, their response has been commendable. The American Government have avoided the twin temptations of a reckless swipe at an unknown enemy to placate the demands of public opinion and of yielding to what is perhaps a desire for a new isolationism.
Now is not the time to debate national missile defence, but surely that debate will be conducted in a new context. We may realise that national missile defence may be a sort of Maginot line in the sky when the real danger comes from terrorists with suitcases and not from the rogue states that are now in the sights of the United States.
I wish to make several brief reflections. First, how can we combat the terrorist threat on the operational level? My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have mentioned the links with organised crime and narco-terrorism, but I wish to point to a number of other issues while clearly wishing to retain at all times our democratic values.
The issues to examine include aviation security. I will not go into details, but it is clear that the threat was foreseeable and was foreseen. I refer the House to chapter 8 of the excellent work "Terrorism versus democracy", which was written by Professor Paul Wilkinson of St. Andrews university and published last year. One sees a precedent, for example, in the Algerian GIA—the Armed Islamic Group—and the airbus in France. We claim that our security is much better with Transec and other measures, but the danger is known; the Gore commission in the United States demonstrated that the real problem now is implementation and enforcement. There was no enforcement because of commercial considerations.
630 Under that heading, we must also look at the education of foreign nationals from sensitive areas in sensitive subjects. In 1993, the World Trade building bomber was educated in my city. In the recent attacks, we know that two of the bombers were educated in Hamburg; others were taught flying in Florida. Surely, we need to look at and follow the recommendation of the United States national commission, chaired by ambassador Bremner, which made relevant recommendations that, again, have been ignored. I support what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about extradition.
We need to tackle more energetically the world crisis areas that breed terrorists. Of course, it is in the middle east, broadly defined, where terrorism overflows regional boundaries. Many points of leverage can be used on both the Israelis and the Palestinians but, obviously, we need to start a new process on firm foundations. There is no magic panacea to end terrorism, but renewed strenuous efforts to increase stability in volatile areas of the world will reduce the waters where terrorists breed and swim.
Reflecting on the tidal wave of revulsion following the outrage, the United States needs to build a new coalition against terrorism. We have begun with article 5 of the NATO treaty and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the important decision made at the UN Security Council on Wednesday. However, the coalition will break down if the American response is deemed to be disproportionate and badly targeted and if there is a failure to consult adequately on general policy. The chances of a solution would be weakened if one stepped outside a reasonably international solution.
In a related and final reflection, there will, of course, be some form of military response which, I trust, will not be an invasion of Pakistan; we know its topography and the history of this country's involvement in the 19th century—[Interruption.] I am sorry, I mean, of course, Afghanistan. We know about the history of the United Kingdom's 19th century involvement and the bleeding wound of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Certainly, military firepower has a role, but it is not a long-term solution. Bin Laden and his like will not be crushed by missiles or invasion. To reduce the risk, we need a subtle combination of policies, not an unbalanced military response which, in my judgment, would lead only to more violence and more deaths; it would be a gross mistake, a betrayal of our values and wholly counter-productive.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
As a leader of a parliamentary party, I regret that I did not have the opportunity to express my condolences when the other party leaders expressed their condolences about those who were done to death in these terrible atrocities. I wish to put it on the record that I have had an apology from the Speaker, which I accept, but I want to associate myself with those earlier remarks.
Great grief is never good at talking; the language of grief is not vocal. It is a tear, an anguish in which the depths of one human soul calls to the depths of another in agony. In light of what has happened, words are too weak to express how all nations feel about this moment. Coming from Northern Ireland, where ugly scars are still before us and where running wounds are still open, I find it interesting to note that republican terrorism was taking place there at the same time as the atrocities were being carried out in the United States; attempts were made to slaughter three 631 police officers in the city of Londonderry. It was only providential intervention that has kept us from mourning those three police officers in the House today.
The whole world has been sent a fiercely highlighted message by this terrible atrocity, which brought the New York skyline to sea level and made its rubble the cruel sepulchre of thousands of unsuspecting victims. The rulers of western democracies must learn the lesson that criminal terrorism cannot be talked away; it cannot be engaged in dialogue because it is a lie incarnate. Its priests and acolytes are unchangeable liars. A demonstration of that is that a killer in one plane knifed young children to death. I welcome the Prime Minister's words today that this form of terror knows no mercy, no pity and no boundaries. I also welcome what was said by the shadow Foreign Secretary, which was in keeping with those words.
Terrorism has become a monstrous beast, which now rages forward to torment the whole world. A new and terrible dimension has been added to the terrors of our unknown tomorrows. We met in the House after the awful atrocity in Omagh, and heard strong words and strong language. However, those who mourn their loved ones in Omagh never got action in the courts and have had to bring a private prosecution against the suspects, for which they are raising money at the moment. For the Omagh people, therefore, we did not come up to the standard, and many people will wonder whether, after all that will have been said in the House today, we will really take on the enemy and be determined to have the courage to work to take away the oxygen from it.
Numbers of victims were quoted by the leader of the SDLP in the House; he is right. The atrocity in the United States, in comparison with those suffered by the population of Northern Ireland, is very minor. One knows that from the figures. We have endured such things, on the same level and higher, day in, day out. Yesterday, in the Stormont Assembly, we were not even allowed to table an amendment to the motion before the Assembly because of the desire to get some sort of consensus. I resent that; I believe that when anything is dealt with there, there should be opportunity to consider it thoroughly from every point of view. I am glad that the House has been given the opportunity, through the recall of Parliament, to state our views. We must have a grim determination that, come what may, we will act against the terrorists so that people throughout the world do not fear what will happen on the morrow. That is a tall order and will not happen overnight, but it must be the objective. Anyone who suggests that this is a war that cannot be won takes from the very heart of determination and hope among the people of the planet. This war must be won. This war must be pursued with all the activity of energy, determination and resolution.
I resent the remarks made against President Bush. I do not believe that he ran away, and I think it disgraceful that that should be suggested.
Those of us who are under police protection, as I have been for 30 years, do not like it. We are told that there are places where we cannot go, and we have to obey that. It is not that I would not want to go to such places: I have a great argument with my protection officers, who say "As long as we are protecting you, we will tell you where you should go and where you should not go." They have to watch themselves as well.
I think that the House should salute the President of the United States, wish him well, and join others in prayers that these sores and wounds will be eased and that some 632 day soon we shall see the shining of a better sun on this world, and the sight of a beautiful rainbow over the awful valley of tears where we are at the moment.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
May I have a quiet word with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, my friend of 35 years? He spoke of turning the other cheek, but it is not quite like that. We must make up our minds about whether we are concerned with "vengeance and eradication", or with preventing such ghastly happenings from ever occurring again. I am directed towards the latter.
We must ask ourselves this: where do evil organisations recruit people who are prepared to take planes into skyscrapers? I think I know part of the answer. In 1998, with the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, I went to Baghdad. We were invited one evening to the house of Tariq Aziz, who said rather movingly, "You may think that Saddam and I are extremists. We are as nothing to what will follow if these sanctions and this bombing continue."
The truth is that there is a generation in Iraq and, indeed, elsewhere in the middle east which—whether we like it or not; unpalatable though it may be—is growing up absolutely to loathe the United States and Britain. It is a "pool of talent" from which people can be recruited to do desperate and evil things. We must ask ourselves, as a candid friend of the United States—candid friends can, of course, be a great nuisance—to what extent the hatred of America is due to very aggressive American foreign policy.
Reference was made to Libya and Lockerbie. The Prime Minister has a letter from the Rev. John Mosey of the Lockerbie relatives, a very balanced, decent man, who says that it was American aggressive foreign policy that killed his daughter. That is a matter of record, and his opinion.
I think we must be very careful about assuming that a great many people in this country want vengeance. They want this to be prevented from ever happening again.
I have one concrete suggestion, which may be very unpalatable: I ask the Foreign Secretary to look again at the whole Iraq policy. I happen not to think—I may be wrong—that the Government of Iraq had anything to do with it. What one suspects is that there are people from all over the middle east—a very tightly knit group—who, because of what they have seen happening in Palestine and elsewhere, are prepared to go to desperate lengths. Unless we address that problem, this will happen again. I simply ask the Foreign Secretary this: for God's sake, look at 10 years of bombing of Iraq and sanctions.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
The House always listens with great interest and respect to what is said by the Father of House, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), and we all hold him in high and affectionate regard. We can understand why he spoke as he did, but I think—as I have said, with great respect to him—that he underestimates the anger that is felt throughout the world at this despicable series of atrocities.
I have rarely found the House more united in grief and in anger, or in resolve. This debate recalls in some respects the debate we had on a Saturday morning in April 1982, just after the Falkland Islands had been invaded. The Opposition of the day gave virtually unqualified support to the Government, and on the back of that a successful expedition to the Falklands was launched.
633 Of course it is crucial, as we give support to the Government—which we do unreservedly—for the Government to use their influence in the councils of the world to ensure that any response is measured, accurate and properly directed. We do not want to compound this appalling series of dreadful deeds by the making of more innocent orphans. The House will, I think, be united on that as well.
In the brief time that I have—and it is right for all our speeches to be restricted—I want to direct the attention of the Foreign Secretary, and that of the Secretary of State for Defence, who will respond to the debate, to one suggestion. Of all the talk of international co-operation, we can say, "So far so good"; but out of that must emerge something definite and specific.
What we need is an international convention akin to the Geneva convention. What we need is a convention to which all members of the United Nations are obliged to subscribe: a convention that says that the harbouring of terrorists and the nurturing of terrorism will never be accepted, and that nations refusing to subscribe should forgo any rights to United Nations assistance—and, indeed, to votes in the United Nations General Assembly. They should know that they would be regarded by the other nations of the world as legitimate targets should they indeed harbour terrorists.
These people, evil and motivated as they are, cannot succeed without some state in which to base themselves. I do not know whether the speculation that bin Laden is responsible is right; I do not know whether the speculation that Saddam Hussein is very involved is right. I regard both as entirely plausible theories, and it is perfectly possible that both are right. If they are, it is entirely right for those countries to feel the wrath of the international community—but it must of course be done in a measured way, and we must be as careful as possible that the innocent are not slaughtered in the process.
We must root out this cancer of terrorism from the world. It will be a long, long job. There is, as someone has said, no absolute and ultimate defence against the suicide bomber who is hell bent on mayhem and destruction; but we must make his task as difficult as possible, and our intelligence services must be as sophisticated and alert as possible. One way of ensuring that—it is only one suggestion, but it is a specific and particular thought—would be to create an international convention, as I have said, to which every member of the United Nations would be required to subscribe. It must be detailed and specific. The Geneva convention is rarely broken when it comes to the way in which almost all nations treat prisoners of war, and so on. There should be such a convention binding the nations of the world as a partial step towards overcoming and eventually eradicating this monstrous evil.
§ Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Govan)
It is hard to comprehend or to come to terms with the tragic and staggering death toll that has been inflicted upon the American people and those of other nations. Our hearts and our thoughts are with all those who have lost friends and family. People of all nationalities and faiths have perished in this meaningless atrocity.
I speak on behalf of my constituents, and undoubtedly on behalf of the Muslim community in this country and beyond, when I say that this barbaric and inhumane 634 terrorist atrocity must be condemned unreservedly. We would solidly support all legitimate efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Whoever the culprits turn out to be, it is critical that we send a clear message that they cannot possibly claim to represent the true interests of any religious or ethnic group.
In the recent past we have seen how hysteria can be whipped up at times of tragedy and the corrosive effect that that has on society. It is for that reason that I support the Prime Minister in his clear message about the danger of stereotyping communities, particularly the Muslim community. With those words, my right hon. Friend has given comfort to people in this country and across the world. It is critical that, in giving support to any action, we do so observing the principles of justice and within the framework of international law. We must naturally give our support to our American allies, but we must counsel against unilateral action. We must avoid action that could result in the deaths of thousands of other innocent civilians, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.
We cannot afford to isolate any of our allies in finding solutions, and in particular, if there is evidence that Osama bin Laden is responsible, our allies who recognise the Taliban Government—namely, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates—will be crucial to influencing the situation.
It is a difficult time, but I believe that it is the right time to examine more deeply our role and responsibilities in the world. We must attempt to understand why some extremists feel driven to the abhorrent madness that we have witnessed in New York and Washington. There can be no justification for this vulgar terrorist atrocity, but we cannot be blind to the plight of oppressed people who look to Europe and the USA for support.
As a former colonial power we have a special responsibility. We should use our influence with the Americans and other allies to redouble our efforts in search of a just solution to the outstanding issues in the middle east and other parts of the world. This brutal terrorist attack is profoundly contrary to the doctrine of Islam and has been strongly condemned by Muslim states, Muslim clerics and individual Muslims throughout the world. I can only reiterate that condemnation and, on behalf of all my constituents, express my hope that the international community can achieve justice for the innocent victims and their grieving families.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
The Government, in their response, have followed in the courageous tradition of Clement Attlee when he put our war-weary and almost economically destitute country firmly behind America at the onset of the Korean crisis. When speaking to my many American friends I have expressed admiration as well as grief, admiration particularly for the heroes of the New York emergency services and for those, among others, who fought on the fourth plane to prevent a fourth major tragedy from taking place.
There will be two critical pillars involved in building a successful coalition to see this business through. The first will be among moderate Arab and Islamic opinion. I remember that when I was working in Bahrain a single smartly dressed guard with his bayonet fixed stood at the door of every service of mass at the church that I attended. He was the Emir's personal guarantor of religious freedom. We must carry with us the moderate Islamic and Arab world and I can think of nobody better placed to build and 635 solidify that coalition than Colin Powell. Central to that challenge will be convincing the Arab leaders that we in the west are as concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people as we are about the right of the Israeli state to exist in peace.
The second crucial pillar will be the relationship with Moscow. We barely said "thank you" for the generous support that the Russians gave us at the end of the Kosovo crisis in defusing what could have otherwise become a bloodthirsty war. Russia's history in Afghanistan before the fall of communism is an extremely unhappy one, and my 20-year support for an Afghan charity goes back to those evil days. That was long ago, however, and we must acknowledge President Putin's generous and immediate response to this, and thank him for it. Russia must be seen as a crucial part of the process.
I shall turn now to the military aspects. I urge the Government in the strongest and most non-partisan way to go back to our very assumptions on defence policy. I make no secret of the fact that those assumptions grew out of the views of almost the whole of the younger defence establishment; assumptions that the whole of our defence capability should be vested in an expeditionary capability, itself vital, but that we could marginalise, except on a small scale, considerations of home and civil defence.
As we look across at the United States, we see not just the courage of the New York emergency services, but their co-ordination, regular rehearsal and planning, elements so lacking here under Governments of all descriptions in recent years. In my county, as in so many others, the software and frequencies of our various emergency services are not even compatible. Our control centres cannot even talk directly to one another, let alone to the military.
There are some 2,000 national guard units and sub-units in America, representing nearly 400,000 men and women, many of which have been mobilised, while others are waiting to be mobilised. For all its problems, the American military can not only mount a huge expeditionary force and reinforce it, but it can also defend its home base with vast numbers of part-time local personnel in a range of functions, from infantrymen through to nuclear, biological and chemical specialists and engineers.
There must be an all-party reconsideration of the matter in which the excellent Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, my close friend the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), will no doubt play a critical role. Three years ago, he made a remarkable speech, which there is no time to quote from now, predicting this sort of problem.
We are in for a long, ugly haul. The matter will not be resolved by the pressing of a few missile buttons or the sending in of bombers. This will be a long, difficult, agonising process. The Government, my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, and almost all hon. Members who have spoken today have started our nation on the best, most resolute and most sensible course of action.
§ 12 noon
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
I thank the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) for his kind comments. I hope that he does not think that I am patronising him in any way by congratulating him on his courage in speaking today.
We were all willing voyeurs of a catastrophe, rushing to our television sets and pinning our eyes on something quite surreal. I thought that the pictures of planes flying into the 636 towers were computer generated. We are so used to seeing simulated death on television that I could not believe that they were real. I half expected King Kong to appear on top of one of the towers. We had to remind ourselves that a catastrophe was unfolding before our very eyes.
When the towers imploded, for every second of the few seconds that it took them to disappear downwards we knew that thousands of people had died. We were spared too-real television. Perhaps in future television cameras will be inside an aircraft about to penetrate concrete so that we can see the grief and terror in people's eyes as they face inevitable death. What we saw will be with us for ever. We all have images, positive and negative, that we will recall for ever, but with the globalisation of television the world saw, in grief or ecstasy, what was unfolding before its collective eye.
There can be few reasonable people, whatever their backgrounds, who were not filled with horror, anger and disbelief at the fallibility, stupidity and malice of fellow human beings who not only derive political happiness from participating in such an outrage but foolishly believe that their god will reward such barbarity with instant entry to some higher form of afterlife.
There must be a reaction. I am amazed that the Americans, who are a volatile people, have not demanded instant gratification for their anger. When I heard on television that very evening that bombs had apparently been heard in Kabul, I trembled at the prospect of the catastrophe becoming an even worse catastrophe. I was relieved and, in a way, surprised at the response of the United States President, a man of limited experience in international relations. He did not take to his bunker out of cowardice. He was away from the action for a while. What further catastrophe would it have been had the White House and the President been taken out simultaneously? I deprecate some of the remarks that have been made.
It is right that our Prime Minister has had almost unanimous support. The Chamber is configured to encourage an adversarial approach. It is thought not just helpful but compulsory to be adversarial, and our political culture encourages us even further, but every now and again we rise above that.
I do not attack homogeneity and consensus. I thrive on them. We rose above the heat of battle in 1939, 1940 and 1982, and in the Gulf war, the bombing of Bosnia and the Kosovo crisis. Of course there were dissenters. I support their right to dissent from the consensus.
Not everyone is grieving. Those who watched David Dimbleby's programme last night will have seen clearly the depth of anti-Americanism that exists among a minority in this country and elsewhere. I represent Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and people of many other religions. I hope that, without indulging in gesture politics, we can publicly empathise with and support the Muslims in our constituencies who are not a party to this. I shall certainly visit a mosque and explain to Muslims, who may disagree with my views, that I do not consider them a part of this crime. No cause should precipitate actions such as those that we have seen and condemned.
There will be action by the United States and others. In 1998, the Defence Committee said that an article 5 NATO action might well be activated by terrorism. We were prophetic. If NATO is informally involved, it could provide a brake on the United States. We will have a voice, if not a veto. I am satisfied that George Bush will want to do what his old man did and build up a consensual approach to resolve an enormous crisis. If the action is seen 637 as unilateral, it will be condemned and people will regard it as one obscenity being matched by another. The response must be proportionate and identify the perpetrators.
There is a wonderful book by a journalist about the earlier bombing of the twin towers. The investigation took a long time and ranged from Swansea to Baluchistan, but the villains were apprehended. We should not expect instant fixes. We watch too much television and think that a crime that begins in minute one can be solved by the time we get up to make the tea or the takeaway arrives. Life is not like that. The US should be cautious. When it has proved a case to its own people and to a sceptical world, it can act.
What are the lessons to be learned? Intelligence manuals will have to be rewritten. Those who are complacent about their aviation security will have to think again. I have been to the Federal Aviation Authority in Washington and seen reports of appalling security at some airports. Those who brought about the dilution of the commission headed by Al Gore will now be feeling sick, and perhaps their companies' share values will be plummeting, because they put commercial pressures before the security of their passengers.
To have one's security penetrated once in a decade is a disaster. To have two major airlines' security penetrated four times simultaneously borders on criminal negligence. However sophisticated the technology, a system is only as good as the security guard on the ground. We cannot—
§ 12.8 pm
§ Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)
On Wednesday afternoon, my constituency chairman, Maureen Holding, learned that two of her cousins had almost certainly been killed in New York. They were a brother and sister. Christine Egan was 55 and had devoted her professional life to helping and caring for deprived communities in the United States and Canada. She was visiting her brother Michael Egan, who was 51.
Michael Egan phoned his wife after the impact of the plane in the tower of the World Trade Centre where he was working. He was a highly respected vice-president of an insurance company based there. He said that he hoped to be home soon. He had taken out two parties of his employees. He was just about to go back and fetch the last batch of employees, after which he hoped to return home. She never heard from him again: the building imploded shortly afterwards.
It is perhaps self-defeating and certainly pointless to talk publicly about what retaliation measures should be considered before they have been decided upon, let alone carried out. However, there has been too much concentration, especially in America, on purely technical methods of punishing aggressive groups, societies or even countries. It is not possible to wage counteraction or even counter-warfare without putting one's own armed forces and human lives at risk. That is why which measures to take will have to be the subject of careful consideration.
Matters that can be discussed publicly in advance are the measures that may be necessary to protect free and open societies against the sort of onslaught that we have seen in America and that may well be visited on the rest of us 638 quite soon. It might not have occurred to anyone else, but I experienced a twinge of unease listening to the radio this morning, when it was stated how St. Paul's cathedral would be open to all for the memorial service at 11 o'clock; anyone could come along and join in and only a certain section would be reserved for dignitaries. I wondered what would happen if a terrorist suicide bomber chose to avail himself of such an opportunity. Such thoughts would have been dismissed as paranoid a week ago, but they cannot be dismissed as such now.
During the last great conflict in which this country was involved, various severe restrictions had to be imposed on what are known today as civil rights or human rights. I believe that serious attention will now have to be given to several measures, one of which must be the introduction, by compulsion, of national identity cards. Consideration must be given to establishing a comprehensive DNA database—not merely something to be employed when people stray into areas of illegality, but a resource that will enable the tracking of suspected terrorists from site to site, from den to den, and from safe house to the point at which they are ready to act. The Government must recognise that if an onslaught of the sort seen in America begins in this country, they might need emergency powers analogous to the internment powers used in previous conflicts.
When discussing the hijacking of aircraft, we should remember that the aircraft of one country—Israel—are never hijacked. That is in part because of greater security, but primarily because when hijacking was first attempted on Israel's aircraft the armed guards on the aircraft eliminated the hijackers on the spot. Israel's airliners are now probably the safest in which to travel. We have to have the powers to which I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary refer in his excellent speech today—powers to ensure that if action has to be taken against someone who is in the process of hijacking an airliner, the Government will not be sued for infringing the human rights of the would-be murderer, shot to prevent him from committing his crime.
If all that sounds draconian, it is precisely because those are the measures that open societies have to take when they are under attack.
§ Bob Spink (Castle Point)
My hon. Friend is aware that every day several thousand of my constituents travel to work in Canary wharf and the City. Does he accept that Scotland Yard and the various security forces now have the task of ensuring that such people's environment is safe?
§ Dr. Lewis
They do indeed have a job to do to ensure that, but they cannot do it if their hands are tied behind their backs by legal inhibitions that would render effective counteraction impossible.
When talking about an open society, I have regard to that great work of the late Sir Karl Popper, "The Open Society and its Enemies", in which he refers to something entitled "the paradox of tolerance". It states that in a free society we must tolerate all but the intolerant, because if we tolerate the intolerant the conditions for toleration disappear and the tolerant go with them.
An act of war has been perpetrated. We must consider carefully whether the measures in response should be judged by peacetime standards or the standards that pertain when a country is fighting to preserve its life. I was fascinated to hear the Taliban in Afghanistan say categorically that bin Laden could not have been responsible. If that is not a tacit admission that it knows of the things for which he is responsible, I do not know what is.
639 Has anyone else noted that 24 hours before the attack in America, General Masoud, the leading freedom fighter in Afghanistan—first against the Soviets, then against the Taliban—was the victim of a suicide bomb attempt that was meticulously and skilfully planned? I do not believe that that was a coincidence. I am sure that there is a connection between that event and what followed a day later in New York.
I conclude by saying that if action is taken, it must be taken wholeheartedly and to the bitter end. We do not want another Gulf war that leaves the people responsible in power to continue to provide funds, to function and to commit evil through the medium of others.
§ Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin)
I send my condolences to the great people of the United States of America, in particular to that great city, which I know and love, New York—so great they named it twice. I also send my condolences to New York's magnificent emergency services and its much maligned mayor, Rudi Giuliani, who has proved an admirable and excellent leader of that city's response. I am sure that New York will be back, as big and magnificent as ever.
I despise Osama bin Laden, the mediaeval obscurantist savage; the difference is that I have always despised him. I despised him when weapons, money, and political and diplomatic support were being stuffed down his throat faster than he could eat it. I said in this building on the eve of the victory of those whom the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) used to hail as holy warriors and freedom fighters that, although I might be the last man in this place prepared to say it, we were responsible for opening the gates to the barbarians and a long dark night would descend on Afghanistan. Never did I speak truer words.
I caution against use of the word "civilisation". There are many civilisations in our world. Viewed from some countries, western civilisation does not always look as benign as we see it. It would be much easier if this were truly a conflict between the forces of good and a helpfully turbaned and bearded Dr. Evil, and, if only we could ker-pow that mephistopholean genius in Action Man comic style, everything would be fine again—but it is not so. What we face is a hydra-headed phenomenon precisely because it arises from real conditions and has a real base of support.
Do not mistake the condemnation from Arab and Muslim Governments. It has arisen either from a dependent relationship with us and our friends or from the fear that if they do not say what is expected of them they will be attacked. Do not mistake that for the feeling of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people in Arab and Muslim countries that we are responsible for monumental double standards and that we consider the lives of our own people and of our friends to have a fundamentally different order of value from the lives of those people.
The House may not wish to hear this, but I must say that I have walked in the ashes of cities under aerial attack. Buildings under aerial attack, people being crushed in falling masonry and steel or incinerated by fire from aerial attack look, sound and smell exactly the same whether they are in Beirut, the west bank, Baghdad or Manhattan.
§ Mr. Galloway
There is no time.
640 Arabs and Muslims believe, and they are right to believe, that we do not consider their blood as valuable as our own. Our policy over decades of our history makes that abundantly clear.
The question is: what is to be done? We are the friends of the Americans. It is no service to a friend to write a blank cheque, singing, in the manner of "White Christmas", that "we'll follow the old man wherever he wants to go, wherever he wants to go." That would not do a service to the world or to the United States of America.
In Korea, the Attlee Government played a decisive role in restraining the United States of America from using nuclear weapons against Korea and the People's Republic of China. We played a decisive role in removing from the theatre of operations General MacArthur, precisely because he was likely to move out of control.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) that the only test that matters is whether action will make matters better or worse. If a devastating attack is launched on a Muslim country, killing thousands, it will make 10,000 bin Ladens rise up in the stead of the one whose head has been cut off. I do not know what could be bombed in Afghanistan, the stone age country that we helped to create. There is nothing there. Hardly a building stands. The only thing to hit in Afghanistan is people, and every slain Afghan will be a new banner for new bin Ladens.
Millions of Afghans—5 million of them are starving today—will spill over the borders to become refugees and asylum seekers on ships that western countries will turn away at the point of guns, as the Australian navy did just a week or so ago.
I do not have time to develop all the points that I want to make, nor is this the time to raise certain subjects, although I associate myself with others who have spoken on them, at least in this regard: if 5,000 people have died in Manhattan, and even if 10,000 have died in Manhattan and Washington and Pittsburgh, that represents less than the two-monthly total of the number of children who have died in Iraq in every month of every one of 11 years. Those figures come from the United Nations, not from me or from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The UN itself has told us that. The Muslims do not believe that we care about that. They do not believe that we care about the children being slaughtered by General Sharon, the butcher of Beirut, today as we are speaking. They do not believe that we care about them. In some respects, they are right and until this House and this country show that we care—
§ Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
On behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party, I would like to associate myself sincerely with all the speeches of condolence that we have heard today. It is right that we should be thinking of our friends in the United States in their darkest hour. It is also right, as the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said, that we should offer our support to the Prime Minister as he supports the United States in any action that might be necessary, with some caveats.
It has been said that war has been declared. Strictly speaking, that cannot be right. It was certainly an act of war—something similar—but, in legal terms, clearly it was not war. The Pearl Harbour analogy is not one that stands the test of scrutiny.
641 A commentator said yesterday that we in the UK are a third party in all this. That also cannot be right. People from Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland were in those towers. We also have lost loved ones and people dear to us. This morning, the Welsh Assembly broke off for three minutes' silence as a mark of respect.
The attack was a dastardly act of huge barbarity. It is difficult to imagine anyone settling down for 18 months to plan such an action, but it has happened. The attack did not recognise national boundaries or ethnic origins. It was just a matter of killing human beings for a perverted end. That is another reason why Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party will support the Government.
We know of the invocation of article 5 by NATO. That is a further reason to give our support. Also, we have had the unanimous support of the UN Security Council; that has not always been the case, but the Council was immediately and urgently unanimous in this case. That is another reason to consider supporting action by NATO.
When the news broke, the first reaction was anger and extreme sadness. President Bush is taking his time and that must be a good thing. Kofi Annan, on the day of the disaster, called for terrorism to be fought wherever it appears and said that cool and reasoned judgment was more essential now than ever. He added that we did not know yet who was behind these acts or what objectives they hoped to achieve. He called for restraint and careful consideration of all the available evidence.
I am reassured that, today, the Prime Minister said that, together with the allies, we will have to identify the perpetrators with care and that this judgment must be based on hard evidence. I welcome that and am reassured by it.
We have heard that terrorists work across boundaries and collaborate with each other. We all know that. There is now an even greater need for collaboration via the security and intelligence services of all the democracies involved in this urgent and extremely dangerous issue.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) that we need to facilitate greater openness between the services and ensure that there is a proper exchange of information. Three or four years ago, I spent some time in Ukraine, looking at nuclear installations. I was scared when I went there. It is clear that, sooner or later, someone will buy the goods necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. That might already have happened; I know not. The situation is extremely worrying. If those weapons were to get into the hands of the madmen who perpetrated the atrocity on Monday, God knows what would happen. By coincidence, there is a programme about the matter on Saturday evening on the fourth channel in Wales.
I was pleased to hear it said that those who harbour terrorists will be subject to the same wrath as those who perpetrate the crimes. Without those who harbour them, the terrorists would be unable to carry out their dastardly deeds. The response will have to be measured and careful. We do not want to go down the old "eye for an eye", lex talionis route. That would mean several thousand innocent people being killed for no reason. I believe that it was Mahatma Gandhi who said that the problem with an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is that we would soon end up with a blind, toothless world.
I therefore hope and pray that we will review extradition laws and establish an international criminal court. I have long been a great supporter of such a court, which is highly 642 necessary. People must know that, whatever acts they commit, they will be caught and brought to the bar of international justice. However, I acknowledge that that would not have stopped the suicide bombers, and I endorse the call by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) for an international convention under the UN, to which countries would be obliged to sign up. That would an excellent step forward and is an excellent idea worthy of further consideration.
I urge the Prime Minister, in his discussions with President Bush and our NATO allies, to keep foremost in his mind the need to avoid what is euphemistically known as collateral damage. We dare not emulate what happened in New York, even with the best intentions. I hope that, whatever strike is considered necessary, it will be a strategic, tactical strike on those who perpetrated such awful deeds, and that it will be limited to such damage.
§ Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)
I first heard of the events in New York moments after they began to happen, as a result of a call on a mobile phone from a person in Leeds who had a contact in one of the towers, who described the events as a horror movie unfolding in real life. If that was not shocking enough, the events struck home for me because my daughter was travelling in America and was due to visit New York. I did not know where she was, but mercifully, she was miles away.
I mention that because I feel that as a result of the events of the past week, our globe is smaller, more interconnected and more vulnerable than we realised. On this day of reflection, we should reflect on that fact. Yes, the atrocity is not just against America. It is a crime against humanity. All of us and our families are touched by it and are threatened by acts of terror. As the tragic evidence emerges, many of our friends, neighbours and constituents will be suffering with American families that will also be scarred for generations to come by the loss of innocent ones.
As others have said, we should not underestimate the resources, the organisation, the professionalism and the personal commitment of those who undertake acts of terror. I agree that we need more international action at the highest levels—international co-operation in intelligence and extradition to fight the common enemy, terrorism. Nevertheless, our policies should be derived from a desire for fear and anger to be replaced by reason and argument, based on a passionate commitment to justice and peace for everyone throughout the world.
Others have spoken about the fact that the House last met in such circumstances in connection with the Omagh bombing. As one with family connections going back 25 years in Northern Ireland, I know of the fear and terror there, as do many others in the House, and of the need for security and vigilance. In the light of the remarks of other Members. I must say that the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and of others in the House and elsewhere to establish and take forward the peace process in Northern Ireland have been a tremendous success.
It is a great achievement to have dragged the situation back from violence to word-based politics and it must not be underestimated, despite the difficulties and the long-term need for further action there. There is a long way to go, but clinging on to dialogue has resulted in families in Northern Ireland suffering fewer deaths and maimings in recent years. We should reflect on that in these circumstances.
643 We must work internationally to outlaw and drive out terrorism, but we must not neglect or underplay the need for everyone to promote dialogue to tackle the conflicts in our world. Combating international terrorism in the light of this week's atrocities should also lead to the redoubling of efforts to reduce tensions, tackle conflicts and make serious efforts at talks where Christians and Muslims rage against each other, whether in the middle east, the Balkans, Chechnya, Kashmir, Iran, Iraq or Indonesia.
We must try constantly and consistently to promote dialogue and reconciliation—that is more imperative now, not less—and we must not leave tackling terrorism and conflict resolution on the back burner. Unless those go together, there is a risk that existing conflicts will be intensified and that more dragon's teeth of violence will be sown rather than terrorists being isolated from their current and potential supporters. There is a genuine danger that unresolved conflicts will be driven under the surface for generations to come and that we will alienate even some within our own society, thereby increasing tension, fear and conflict.
I mention that because this week, like others, I met representatives from the Muslim community in my neighbourhood. They were keen to stress that it too feels anger and sorrow about what happened. It is encouraging that others have spoken out to say that Islam, the Muslim religion, is not to blame, but it is also important that we go further to deepen our understanding of the traditions and religions of others in our own society and internationally.
Interestingly, some younger Muslims said to me, "If as a politician you are committed to word-based politics, encourage all politicians and commentators to be most careful in the words that they choose and use to describe the realities we face now." Why? Because some of our language can be not only careless, but costly, thereby causing damage and isolation and deepening existing conflicts.
I make two practical proposals for the longer term of politics nationally and internationally. First, the last Act of the last Parliament passed into law our affirmation of support for the International Criminal Court. That court could be a means to ensure that there is no hiding place for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide. Our Government campaigned for it; we need to champion it as a new instrument of international means to outlaw acts of terrorism.
Secondly, on this day of international reflection and of inter-faith prayer in St. Paul's, can we do more to encourage dialogue between the world religions and ethical traditions so as to undermine some causes of conflict in our globe? I am reminded of a remark by the French moral philosopher Simone Weil, who died in the French resistance to fascism:Where there is no room for thought, there is no room either for justice or prudence.I recommend that others go to the Library and read her essay, "The 'Iliad', Poem of Might", which suggests:The diversity of the limitations to which men are subject creates the illusion that there are different species among them which cannot communicate with one another. Only he who knows the empire of might and knows how not to respect it is capable of love and justice.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
We have a duty to express on behalf of our constituents our very personal sense of sorrow, shock and outrage at the aerial 644 terrorism that has hit the United States of America. As the representative of an outer London constituency, I feel that my constituents, who daily get on the train to go to inner London to work in the financial centres of the City, or go to Heathrow airport to work as flight crew or security personnel or to fly about their business around the world, have in a sense been replicated by the very many victims of the atrocities which we are commemorating and debating.
I do not believe that my constituents will feel in any sense let down by our proceedings. On the contrary, the Foreign Secretary's speech was to the point, constructive and wise, and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was a formidable expression of his clarity of mind and determination in a difficult baptism of fire.
Like so many in this country, my constituents who work at Heathrow airport depend for their livelihood on air transport. We have seen how vulnerable air transport has become—in my opinion, somewhat unnecessarily so. A range of practical measures can and no doubt will be taken, and I trust that they will be taken quickly. First, there is no need for hand luggage to be taken into cabins. Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) pointed out, flight attendants should be trained not only to be courteous but to be capable of dealing with in-flight emergencies and crises using appropriate methods, although I am not sure that firearms would be appropriate in aircraft. That could be done relatively easily. There must be a much more active process of scrutiny and security clearance of all those who work as baggage handlers, ground crew, engineers and security personnel.
This scrutiny process must also be considered in a national context. Our constituents rightly demand that we control our borders effectively. They do not believe it to be the case at present. With our European partners, we should at the very least ensure that the Dublin convention on the influx of refugees is made to work properly so that would-be refugees or people posing as refugees have their applications processed properly at the first EU country at which they arrive.
We need a second line of defence, do we not? We need effective border controls of our own. We still do not have those, and the scenes on our television screens of events in the channel tunnel for many weeks past are evidence of that fact. Thirdly, we need to know that those who are in our country are people with whom we can feel at ease and who pose no security threat to us. My hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) gave us wise advice: the need for identity cards is manifest, and the measure should be implemented as a matter of national urgency. Furthermore, those who are proved to be illegal immigrants should be returned to their country of origin. There is no sense in having people in this country who have not gone through our processes of scrutiny and immigration control, which are instituted for the protection of our citizens.
Those are basic matters, but if the worst comes to the worst—as the representative of a London constituency, I can, like all of us, imagine a variety of hideous targets, such as Canary wharf and elsewhere—we need, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) so sensibly pointed out, the reintroduction of proper civil defence. In my borough of Hillingdon, the civic centre has been turned into a reception centre for stranded passengers from Heathrow airport. Camp beds have been put in the corridors and elsewhere to accommodate people who 645 wanted to go home. Those resources are part of our civil defence preparations, but they are not effectively co-ordinated nationwide, or even throughout London.
We also need to know that our armed forces have the powers to act in support of the civil power. My hon. Friend cited the example of the national guard which has been on the streets of New York and, I imagine, in Washington, too, helping with the emergency work in the aftermath of those hideous terrorist atrocities. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force could immediately be called up to fulfil just such operations?
In conclusion, in looking at the international dimensions of the response, let us always act together with our friends overseas. When I was in south America, I read—with shock, but not surprise—that three members of Sinn Fein had been apprehended at Bogota airport on their return from a part of Colombia that is under the control of revolutionary forces—an armed band of guerrillas who have caused great loss of life in that country. The courts have yet to decide whether their activities were illegal, but we all know that the drugs trade finances the activities of the FARC in Colombia and of the terrorists who plague Pakistan and elsewhere in the middle east—originating in that case from Afghanistan. In the west, we need to impose the strictest measures on drug abuse, to try to eliminate the trade in western Europe and in the United States. It is no good merely eliminating the crops in countries where there are few alternative sources of livelihood for the peasantry, we have to eliminate the problem here. In our response, we have to be precise; we have to be intelligent and we have to be imaginative. The terrorists always want to be one step ahead. In our response, the very last thing we wish is to provoke a jihad against the west.
§ Jean Corston (Bristol, East)
First, I thank Mr. Speaker for allowing Parliament to reconvene within three days of the indiscriminate genocide in the United States, to enable us to give public voice to the disgust, revulsion and bewilderment that we all feel. Indeed, the sense of the vulnerability of human life has spread far, far beyond the bounds of Manhattan, Pittsburgh and Washington. I know of small children in south London who have been frightened to go outside during the past few days and who have been terrified at the sight of an aeroplane. That reinforces some of the things that have been said by hon. Members today about the way in which our globe has shrunk. Of course, thousands of personal tragedies are represented—evidenced by mobile phone messages left for loved ones and in personal stories of survival, heroism and death.
We are, however, on a journey without maps now. We, of all countries, have had experience of terrorism, but this is terrorism on a scale that we have never had to contemplate. It represents an attack on the international community.
Much has been made of the fact that the terrorist attack in New York is likely to have caused more British casualties than has any terrorist attack in the United Kingdom. The attack did not take place on British soil, and as it was an attack on the international community, the response must be international. Therefore I was gratified to hear the Prime Minister refer to the need to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. The emphasis on 646 justice and on the need for evidence and better intelligence is crucial if we are to ensure that we do not just recruit more people to a cause that we do not understand and which disgusts us.
It is also important to have an international response because we know that there is no point in indulging in behaviour or sanctioning action that reinforces the notion that might is right. We know that that does not work.
I echo the words of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and United States Defence Secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Earlier in the week, Mr. McNamara said that we must act internationally, support the United States and ensure that we do not push it further into isolationism.
I also wish to question the language that we have all used to describe the people responsible for these terrible crimes. To preface descriptions of them with the word "Islamic" is very mistaken. The debate is on "International Terrorism", and that is what we are talking about. To preface the words terrorist or fundamentalist with the word "Islamic" is as mistaken as describing the holocaust as "Christian" genocide or what happens in other parts of the world as "Jewish" fundamentalism. Terrorism is criminal, international and conspiratorial by nature. We have to deal with it in those terms.
Using the word "Islamic" in the way that I have described stigmatises people who follow a religion whose basic tenets are those of peace. They recognise that an attack on an innocent person is a crime in itself and they feel the revulsion that we all feel. We must be careful about the language that we use because of the offence that it might cause.
I represent a multicultural constituency with a large Muslim population, and the people in the Muslim community in Bristol, East have been just as appalled as anyone else. They feel their Britishness just as strongly as many of us and they have been horrified at what has happened. I urge everyone to think carefully about how we describe these people whose deeds were unimaginably terrible.
We send our condolences and sympathy to the people of the United States who understandably thought that, living as they do in a vast country surrounded by ocean, such a thing would never happen to them. We sympathise with their grief, bewilderment and the sense of loss that they must feel. The British people are no stranger to civilian casualties and offer their deepest sympathy to the people of the United States.
§ Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)
When there is a consensus across the House, it behoves us to listen very carefully to the voices of dissent. Therefore I listened carefully to the Father of the House and to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway), and it is necessary for those of us who represent the consensus to have answers to the points that they raise and to the questions that they ask.
The Father of the House and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin may have given a cogent explanation of why these events happened so that we are able to understand the motivation of those who flew the aircraft on the suicide missions. However, the causes do not and cannot ever excuse the atrocity that has taken place. The fact is, the United States and, by extension, its allies in the liberal democracies, now find themselves in a state of war 647 against these people, who have been in a state of war against us for a considerable period. Now, however, on our part, our conflict with them is overt.
§ Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the use of the term "the vernacular of warfare", which we have heard increasingly, endows those organisations with the status that they seek?
§ Mr. Blunt
The hon. Gentleman must understand that the organisation that is almost certainly responsible for the atrocities on Tuesday is already extremely widespread and, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin made clear, well supported throughout the Muslim world. There is an enemy for us to fight. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin and the Father of the House made a case for magnanimity in victory, but first we need victory.
I commend to Members the 1 August 2001 edition of Jane's Intelligence Review for an understanding of the enemy. The United States has already named Osama bin Laden as the man chiefly believed to be responsible, and Jane's Intelligence Review gives a good summary of his organisation. There should be sympathy and understanding for the view of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin that the cause and roots of the matter lie in the western assistance given to intelligence agencies in Pakistan and organisations run by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, when we supported the Mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden continued his operations in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban in the 1990s. His organisation clearly had the means, the opportunity and, of course, the motive to carry out the atrocity in Tuesday. In my judgment, it is clear that he and his organisation are almost certainly responsible for those acts. For the Taliban Government to suggest that Osama bin Laden could not have been responsible because he could not have taught the people concerned to fly is a demonstration of their complicity in his actions.
In the time remaining I want to focus on one country with which Britain has close links and which is central to any action taken against that organisation. Afghanistan's neighbour, Pakistan, the decision that its Government now take and the assistance that they will, or will not, give the United States, our allies and us in taking on that organisation will be central to the success of our operation. Pakistan is in the most appalling state; it is a military dictatorship at the moment under General Musharraf because of the failure of its own democratic politics; it is a byword for corruption in the world, it and Nigeria being, in the estimation of the Foreign Office, the two most corrupt countries in the world. When I visited Pakistan with a previous Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Benazir Bhutto had just appointed her husband Minister for Investment, which was regarded as a sick joke by Pakistanis. One in 240 people in Pakistan pays tax; the previous Prime Minister, Nawar Sharif, is reported to owe $25 million in unpaid taxes. Such people are the country's leaders; endemic corruption and the virtual failure of civil society led to the military coup.
That is the desperate situation in which Pakistan finds itself. In the west, those of us with military experience tend to look to the military to rescue the situation, but we must understand that the military in Pakistan is not the 648 Sandhurst-educated Indian army that was inherited in 1947; it is a very different institution. The Pakistan army, which currently runs the country, is split. There are those who support the Taliban; the inter-services intelligence agency has been responsible for supporting terrorism in Kashmir, and has organised support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. There is a clear overlap between those agencies and the recruiting of young Pakistanis to the religious schools. They then go to the military training camps in Afghanistan, which have provided many of the most zealous and determined fighters for the Taliban inside Afghanistan. There is a clear overlap with the activities that Osama bin Laden's organisation has been carrying out both in Afghanistan and around the world.
Pakistan now faces an immensely difficult decision. That is true of its leader in particular. I say to the Government that if we can secure the wholehearted co-operation of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies in this endeavour, we shall find a route by which to convey our human intelligence—referred to by the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson)—to the organisations that are our enemies in this fight. Only when we have destroyed the effectiveness of the organisation that carried out the atrocity of 11 September can we exercise magnanimity in ensuring that we remove, in future, the causes that have led people to behave in such an appalling way.
§ 1.1 pm
§ Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
On Tuesday evening, I sat with my family in my home in Birmingham, watching television with increasing horror and revulsion as the pictures from New York and Washington were repeatedly shown. We watched the images of an airliner filled with passengers smashing into the World Trade Centre; we watched the buildings explode and collapse. We watched terrified New Yorkers staring at the sky with horror and disbelief, matched only by their sense of helplessness. We sat there, as a family, sharing the grief that most people in the United States and most people in Britain were feeling.
Like many members of our extended family and members of our community who were watching television that evening, we were all saddened and grief-stricken by what had taken place. We were no different from any other family in Britain: we were all the same, grieving over a great loss of life—the lives of innocent women and children on those aeroplanes, and of innocent workers who had gone to those offices to work and who had been put in a situation of which they had no knowledge. There was no rhyme or reason to their taking part in any of the so-called wars that these people purported to be fighting.
Those workers were not players in this horrific act of terrorism; they were doing their day-to-day jobs. They were doing the things that they did normally, in their normal lives. They were communicating according to the normal process. Thousands of innocent lives were lost. Families were ripped apart. The feelings that I have described remain, but they are matched by determination to find the monsters who were responsible for this outrageous act and to punish them.
People look at me and ask what my religion is. It is not the religion of the people who carried out that act. My religion is the religion that believes in peace and harmony. Above all, I am British—and, in fact, a Brummie, having been brought up in Birmingham and having lived there. Birmingham faced similar problems in 1974, when a building there was bombed by the IRA. Councillor John 649 O'Keefe, a prominent member of the Sparkbrook community, was focused on by the rest of the community because he was Irish. It was not because he had any links with the IRA or anybody else. He had settled in Birmingham and wanted to play a part in society there, but he was picked on because of his Irish heritage.
I grew up, went to school and did my engineering in Birmingham. It is also where I joined the Labour party. I could go to school and to my place of worship without feeling different from the rest of the community. I believed that our nation's integration and cultural diversity was what we wanted. It is what this country is. Those are our strengths and I do not want to see them broken down by those who purport to be Muslims. Such people cannot claim that any doctrine they follow is a religion of God. They are acting for their own ends, not for those of any community that they seek to represent.
We must look at the issues that have been raised by the actions of such people and how to address them. Hon. Members have talked about the national co-operation that will be necessary to root out those people. People like me have to look at our communities and at how to provide a sound base for all who live in our constituencies. We can achieve that and move forward only if we have respect for each other and are not taken in by the doctrines of evil offered by any side.
It was not long ago that people in the north of the country were trying to divide the community on the basis of skin colour and religion. Those very people will now have another opportunity to carry out such activities. It has already started in Birmingham. I was at a radio station yesterday morning when I learned that such people were ringing up mosques and other institutions leaving abusive messages and putting excrement through doors. I spoke to a member of the Sikh council. He is not a Muslim but ignorant people do not recognise the difference. They lump everybody together. The sad thing is that everybody will be lumped together in a senseless approach to this situation.
We must be aware of the media's role. I would not normally say this, but I must congratulate The Sun on its approach today and on its editorial. I hope that the rest of the media will follow suit and not further ignite the tensions that have been created in our community. We can do without that. We are here to live together. We should grieve together at the great loss that has affected all our communities.
§ 1.9 pm
§ Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)
I was one of a group of hon. Members who were in Washington DC on Tuesday morning. In fact, we were in the Capitol building when the events took place. It was a perfect morning in Washington and we all remarked on the cloudless blue sky, but that blue sky was perhaps one of the triggers for the day's events.
We were in the old Senate building, the cradle of American democracy, when police officers ran in screaming and shouting, "Get out, get out." We realised that something serious was happening. We sprinted out of the building and looked behind us to see smoke rising from the Pentagon, across the Potomac river.
We were extremely well looked after by members of the American State Department and others. We were close to an event of enormous significance, but that does not make 650 us heroes; the heroes were the firefighters and police officers in New York and the people on board the plane that crashed in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, who appear to have stopped the plane reaching its intended target, which was us in Washington DC.
Like every other person in Washington that morning, we were stunned and scared by the death that seemed to be arriving from the sky. We also shared the great astonishment that a crime of such proportions could take place in mainland America. We could only agree with many American commentators that day who echoed the words of President Roosevelt after Pearl Harbour—that this was a day that will live in infamy. It was a shocking experience.
Although Americans in Washington and, apparently, New York went about their business with a calmness that was extraordinary under the circumstances, we shared their deep shock. I hope that we also shared in the unity that they expressed immediately afterwards. The American people have a great ability to come together at times of trauma, and we saw that demonstrated in the debate in Congress when representatives from every part of the United States—from California to Maine, from Washington state to Florida and from American Samoa and Hawaii—all said the same thing: "We are Americans. We believe in the principles that made our country and we shall not be deflected from those principles by these events."
The shock turned to outrage and anger that such a crime could have been committed. Such anger is understandable. We need to understand the anger felt by many people in the United States and the loss of innocence. America is not the safe place that they had always imagined it to be.
We watched the television and read the newspapers—I read the Washington Post and The New York Times— and looked at the long list of people who had lost their lives and the circumstances in which they had started their day. They were the ordinary, mundane stories of people who had caught planes or gone to work in New York or the Pentagon and were then no longer there. They included people from all walks of life and professions and of all ages, including a child who until that morning had never been on an aeroplane and now will never do so again. It was only then that the enormity of the crime began to hit home. As we watched the television, a litany of names was scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Many of those people will have been our constituents and many British people will be deeply affected by the tragedy.
It may be a cliché but it is desperately important to say that one of the casualties of those events should not be freedom and openness in our society. Of course we need to consider our security procedures and to put the apparatus in place to guard as well as we may against such events happening again, but in that process let us not lose the freedoms that make the liberal democracies what they are.
I do not believe that there should be a knee-jerk change in foreign policy, even though there are foreign policy areas on which I profoundly disagree with the American Government, and indeed our own. Any change that we make should be a response to the inequities of the world situation, and not to the action taken by some lunatics on Tuesday.
Many people have referred to this as an act of war, and indeed it has the characteristics of an act of war—that is how it felt when we were in Washington—but it was not: it was a massive crime that killed innumerable people. We cannot imagine how many died, but I suspect that it may be as if every man, woman and child in my town of Frome 651 had been killed overnight—as if they had simply been obliterated. That brings home to me the scale of the outrage.
I was, frankly, surprised by the maturity of the approach taken by Senators and Congressmen immediately after the incidents. I had expected their anger to give rise to calls for immediate retribution, which would have been understandable, but we heard mature reflection from the people we talked to: they realised that it is difficult to identify the culprits and frame an appropriate response. We talk about a proportionate response, but what on earth could be proportionate to what was perpetrated? It is most important to concern ourselves with justice, which is the prerogative of the free nations.
We no longer have fortress America or fortress Europe. We must deal with this as an international community. We must bring in the Russians, with whom, ironically, we now have common cause in facing a common foe. We must share intelligence and—
§ Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)
Many of us who listened to the firm resolve of the Prime Minister will also have reflected on the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). Many of us hope that their sentiments are compatible. We should reflect soberly on the views that my hon. Friend gave with great candour.
Following our brief period of pause and prayer earlier today, I was reminded of the fact that, about 60 years ago, Wendell Willkie brought a letter from President Roosevelt to Winston Churchill containing the words of Longfellow, which also seem appropriate today:… sail on, O Ship of State!Sail on, O Union, strong and great!Humanity with all its fears,With all the hopes of future years,Is hanging breathless on thy fate!We are at a sensitive stage, when miscalculations or over-reactions could cause us all immense peril. We need strong reflection before any action is taken. I welcome the invoking of article 5 of the NATO treaty, in which it is implicit that there is some form of co-decision making, not only politically but militarily too. I hope that the Defence Secretary or the Prime Minister will give us some assurance that our American friends recognise that there is a need for such co-decision making. That will help greatly to instil confidence in hon. Members and beef up the resolve that we already have.
I hope that the Defence Secretary will assure us that overflying of central London will not be resumed. Many hon. Members have long considered it crazy that successive Governments have allowed overflying of London, almost uniquely among the capitals of western Europe. There was always the danger of major technical failure in or collision between aircraft having catastrophic consequences. I hope that the Government here will not bend to the same airline industry that prevailed on the United States Government not to do the right thing in terms of domestic air travel safety.
In addition, we should put on ice a decision on terminal 5, because questions of airspace and limited airspace capacity are implicit in that issue. Hon. Members 652 might not like my saying that, but it does not matter how many seats at fundraising dinners the airline industry buys—those are the facts. The Secretary of State shakes his head—he has done that to me in the past and then had to retract his comments—but the decision on terminal 5 is inextricably bound up with issues of airspace, air capacity and safety.
I want the Government to consider the inquiry being conducted by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions into the policing of our ports. Most sensible countries have a dedicated ports police force, but only a few ports in this country's massive industry—including my local port of Tilbury, and Felixstowe, Tees and the port of Liverpool—have their own police force. A dedicated police force in all our ports would complement our immigration services, Customs and Excise and Home Office police forces. I hope that no decision will be made on that inquiry until this matter has been considered, especially in the light of the growing terrorist threat.
It strikes me that we and our American friends are torn between the need for firm resolve that was reflected in John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech, in which he said,Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more",and the sentiments expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural speech, in which he saidlet us … finish the work we are in: to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan; to do all which may achieve … a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.Those two sentiments—that resolve and the compassion that seeks to heal wounds and differences—must be our guiding lights. We must find that difficult pass between those two legitimate ambitions.
In the coming weeks, it will be the duty of the House of Commons to monitor, scrutinise, encourage and sometimes criticise the stewardship of affairs during this terrible crisis. We must carry out that duty with resolve, if necessary by returning sooner than we planned.
§ Mr. George Osborne (Tatton)
We have heard some powerful speeches today, but I should like to single out the speech by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) as especially powerful. He reminded us all that the acts of terror committed in the name of Islam have absolutely nothing to do with Islam.
I should like to quote an e-mail that I received from a good friend who lives in New York and whose husband works for Morgan Stanley. It is believed that the bank has lost 500 employees, but last night I learned that my friend's husband was alive. She writes:The worst thing about New York today is the distorted Manhattan skyline. There is midtown, a jagged crest of tall buildings, and then, where downtown used to be, an enormous cloud of yellow smoke.There are tens of emergency vehicles lining the street, and groups of green-clad surgeons standing about—waiting and waiting for survivors who don't come. The area is strangely quiet although the grief is so loud you can hardly hold up your head.When you walk down the street you can hear the sound of radios and televisions all saying the same thing. But one TV station has given over its airtime to the relatives and friends who are desperately seeking news. Every one is different, and everyone sounds the same. I can't tell you how sad it is to be here.653 It is sad, too, to be here today talking about the worst act of terrorism that the world and, in particular, the United States have ever seen. It is also the worst act of terrorism to be perpetrated against our country. It seems almost indecent to talk about the consequences of that act of terror and the lessons to be learned while thousands of bodies remain buried and people may be alive under the rubble, but we owe a duty to those people who have lost their lives to do that thinking and to learn the lessons.
I have some brief observations to make about the new phenomenon of mass terrorism that is perpetrated by fanatical suicide bombers whose capacity for killing and destruction is far beyond anything that we have seen even in this country. First, on airlines and airport security, my constituency takes in part of Manchester airport. I know from my constituents that one of the great unspoken but widely held fears of all people who live around airports is of a hijacking, an accident or an incident like the one that occurred this week.
I flew out of Boston's Logan airport the night before the two planes were hijacked. My wife and I actually remarked to each other as we went through security how lax it was. I was able to push a metal trolley through the metal detector and no one bothered to check me even though it went off. There are clearly lessons for the Americans to learn about security at their airports, but we must learn lessons too. We have much tighter security at, for example, Manchester airport, but security on board aeroplanes is also important. I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) said. Gone perhaps for ever are the days when cockpits are open and little children are led up to the flight deck as I was as a child. That is sad and is another infringement of our freedom, but it is a price that we have to pay.
Secondly, we must consider how we support President George Bush. I welcome everything that the Prime Minister said about working with the new President. He and his Administration face a test that is perhaps as great as any faced by an American Government. I have had the privilege of meeting George Bush a couple of times, both in Texas when he was the governor and during his recent visit to London as President. I shall be blunt: he is not the fool, the redneck or the coward that some people imply. He is an intelligent and thoughtful politician and is surrounded by some of the wisest advisers ever to be assembled in an American Administration. It is difficult for us and even the Government to imagine the awesome responsibility and expectation that rest on his shoulders today. President Bush must feel very lonely in the Oval Office. We all owe a duty to support him. We must show him that he does not act alone and that he has the full support of Britain in his deeds and actions.
My third and final point relates to the regimes that harbour evil killers. I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). It is often said that terrorists are cowards, but the regimes that support them are also cowards. They are run by Governments who never have the courage to face general elections, to be open with their people or to try to win their arguments with words instead of bullets. Like all cowards, they often back down when their bluff is called. I am not an expert in international terrorism, but Libya's bluff was called when Tripoli was bombed. It stopped its overt support of terrorism and even handed over the Lockerbie bombers. Syria's bluff was called when it tried to bomb 654 the El Al jet. If the reports are correct, the Taliban Government's bluff may also have been called and they may have taken action against bin Laden.
We can act against terrorists as we act against all cowards. We too often excuse the behaviour of evil regimes as a product of a different culture. We are told that we should not judge Iraqi attitudes towards human rights by our own western standards. We are told that we should not judge Taliban fundamentalists by Judaeo-Christian ethics. I say that murder is murder in any culture. Torture is torture in any language. We have an opportunity to bring terrorists and the regimes that harbour them to account, and we should take that chance.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
As the House has heard, the United Kingdom section of the British-American parliamentary group was on Capitol Hill in Washington when the Pentagon was attacked at 9.30 am United States time and 2.30 pm British time. I was a member of the delegation, as were the hon. Members for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), for Cheadle (Patsy Calton) and for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Lyons) and for Midlothian (David Hamilton).
When we were told to run, we ran, along with thousands of others. We did not need simulation, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) suggested, to let us know that what was happening was real. We could see the Pentagon burning as we ran. I thank the Royal Air Force for allowing us to fly home on a transport plane yesterday evening. We flew over New York—the only plane allowed to do so yesterday, I believe—and could see the centre of that great city burning. We did not need a simulation to see the destruction. Anyone who has seen Manhattan burning will know that it is a symbol of terror and of a challenge to free and democratic society.
The delegation put out a statement on behalf of the all-party group, which would, I am sure, be endorsed by all Back-Bench Members, many of whom will not be called to speak. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to put a few points from it on the record.
We expressed our deepest sympathy for the American people at this time of tragedy and sent heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and communities who have lost loved ones. We unreservedly condemned those cowardly acts of terror against innocent people. The delegation stood united behind the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in offering solidarity and help in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
On a personal level, the delegation thanked the State Department officials who had shown such concern for our safety and welfare when we found ourselves in the Capitol during the attack on the Pentagon. We were impressed by the bravery and resolve of the American people and their representatives and Government. We are certain that they will prevail.
Two officials, Deborah Underhill and Paul Engelstad, have been involved in government for a long time, but even as they look telephone calls from friends and colleagues in the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, their concern was for our safety. They went so far as to take us out of the city in the evening and cook us a meal.
655 We met elected representatives on Wednesday and were invited to Congress to hear the debate. We met Senator White, and Congressman Jim McDermott of Seattle. I was impressed by the balanced view that they took of what should happen now in the international policy of the United States. Jim McDermott is a noted liberal within the Democratic party and he was not far off in an analysis that impressed us all.
I was impressed, too, by a woman member of Congress from New York who had lost her own husband to a terrorist who attacked people in the New York subway three years ago. She spoke with great poise and determination.
We shared, as would anyone who had been there, the shock of the American people. We felt their bewilderment. The last time someone attacked a building in the capital city with such ferocity, it was the British during the war of independence, who burned down the White House. That was much on people's minds.
We heard and understood their anger. On that first day after the deed, there was a lot of anger against the perpetrators. We tried to reach out to people, to help in any way that we could with their pain and to console those whom we were with. They were clearly in confusion as they tried to find friends or to come to terms with what was happening while still looking after us.
The House must not underestimate the effect of the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, which were shown repeatedly on United States television. America sees us not just as an ally and a part of America's foreign policy baggage. Americans look to us as friends and brothers, sisters and cousins. In a sense, we are the people from whom they feel they came. I hope that we will continue to repeat the assurances that we will stand by them. We must show support and solidarity, but also offer wise counsel.
I echo the Congressman who bravely said in the debate in Congress that there must be fairness for all in the middle east. These terrible acts must not blind people to the need for justice for all sides. Justice must not be swept aside by the fear of accusations of appeasement. I hope that that will guide our policy and our advice from our Government and our representatives to our American friends, who must be aware—as was pointed out to me by a distinguished former Member of this House—of the fragility of Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Jordan as well as the problems in Iran, Libya and Iraq.
There is merit in the analysis of the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), and I hope that the Government will consider the comments made by the Father of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), and by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway). I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin, had he the time, would have taken longer to analyse, and empathise with, the suffering of the people of America and those who wish to see democracy and justice throughout the world. His comments were pertinent and relevant and should be considered.
I urge the implementation of a fair peace in Palestine and Israel—where I have been many times since the first intifada in 1988—based upon UN resolutions. It would be 656 a symbol of democratic conflict resolution. That would be a negation of terrorism and a triumph of good international corporate governance. I urge our Government to pursue that option.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), I thank the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) for his conciliatory and wise words and, in particular, his description of these awful acts in the United States as evil. It is important for all Muslims to speak out and call these acts evil so that it is associated in the minds of others who may try to attack Islam that these acts can have nothing to do with one of the world's great religions.
I am wearing a black tie today—like my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench and others—as a mark of respect and a gesture of support for the American people and their Government. Together with Government and Opposition Front Benchers, who have said wise words today, I will support the American Government in justified and reasonable retaliation.
I would like to make two points, one about Afghanistan and the other about the situation here. I am a trustee of the HALO trust, the largest mine-clearance agency in the world, which has 1,200 local employees in Afghanistan. We had two or three expatriates there until Wednesday or Thursday, when they got out. The local employees are decent, hard-working people whose work in mine clearance has made Kabul a safe city in which children can play. Such people have as much right to respect as the Americans, ourselves or anybody else.
I shall refer to the history of Afghanistan, although I shall not labour the point. The country was occupied for 20 years by the Russians. Kandahar, the second city of the country, was just about razed to the ground during the war, largely by Russian bombing. Following that, there have been 10 years of civil war—the war still continues—and the most frightful drought and famine. Afghanistan is in a very difficult situation and has a Government who are not regarded favourably in most capitals of the world.
The bizarre coincidence of the attack on Masoud the day before the bombings in America should be noted, because a suicide attack—as seen at the World Trade Centre and elsewhere—is not traditionally a method used by Afghans, but is more closely associated with other parts of the middle east. If, as seems likely, there is the possibility of some form of retaliation against Afghanistan or targets in Afghanistan, it must be measured and carefully directed.
It should be recognised that Russia, which is geographically and strategically extremely important in the present situation, may not be the best choice as an active ally, because Afghans still have vivid memories of the Russian devastation. Moreover, what happened recently in Grozny plays loud in the Muslim world. By all means let us have the Russians on side, but let us be careful about the active collaboration that we expect of them. Russian involvement could make the situation yet worse, if that were possible. The best thing that could happen would be for the Taliban to deliver bin Laden to the United Nations or the United States for questioning, but that is rather unlikely at present.
There has been much talk of war. By invoking article 5, NATO has determined that the current situation is a war, and President Bush has said that it is a war. That will have an impact on the values of freedom and democracy in this 657 country, about which both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary spoke so eloquently. We are in danger of not being able to protect our values of freedom, tolerance and liberal democracy, because people who have come to this country wish to undermine those values.
We are liberal and tolerant, and we relish our freedom, but on "Question Time" on the BBC yesterday evening, I saw the former American ambassador, Clinton's appointee, Philip Lader, almost in tears as he said that he would not have believed that he would hear people saying, to general acclaim, that they despised America, as somebody did on the programme. I do not despise America. The people whom I know do not despise America. My constituents do not despise America. How could such an opinion receive applause, especially at such a time?
This morning on the "Today" programme, an asylum seeker who is being put up in a hotel near Heathrow said that he believed that the attacks were justified. I thought that he was fleeing an awful regime. By making such a comment, surely he has put himself beyond any claim to asylum in this country.
We must ensure that our tolerance, our freedom and our liberal democracy are not abused and used against us. We have heard today about Sheikh Abu Hamza, who called for a jihad. He and others raise money for bin Laden and his like. We must re-adjust the way in which we see such people and the law that governs them. We must not let our freedom and our democracy be destroyed by others' lack of tolerance.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
I am grateful to be called to speak in the debate. I have been present since early morning, and an important feature of the debate is that the best speeches come from the heart. There is no doubt that we have heard many fine speeches today, all of them from the heart. My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) made excellent speeches in a difficult situation for them. They explained fully how the Muslim communities—those who believe in the Koran—in our country are settled, integrated and positively horrified by what they have seen on television.
There is a view that those events are a fundamentalist Islamic attack on Christianity. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Jean Corston) made a pertinent point when she suggested that we should remove the concept of Islam from fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalism, if that is the proper name, gave rise to the crusades a thousand years ago and to the Spanish inquisition. There is nothing at all redeeming about the concept of fundamentalism, whether it is based on Islam or on Christianity. I see in this attack an attack by fundamentalists on our Christian society.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was the first speaker in the debate to invoke God. As Second Church Estates Commissioner, I have been touched throughout by the reference to God, first by the President of the United States and then by those who were caught in this situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) and others talked about being on Capitol Hill and being told to run for their lives. The staff on Capitol Hill spent the first five minutes in prayer before beginning to run. A survivor of the World 658 Trade Centre attack who was on the 82nd floor also survived the 1993 attack, so she has survived twice. She invoked her Christian religion.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) referred to the values of the United States—the Christian ethos, which we saw very clearly. We are in an age in which we are told that the Christian ethic is slipping, but it is strong in the United States.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) made a powerful speech, but he confused the explanation, as he sees it, for fundamentalism with the justification. We must be careful when explaining what he considers to be the reasons for the surge of restlessness, animosity and hatred in case we justify it. I am glad that he is still in the Chamber and I am sure that he does not think that there is a justification for such actions.
When considering Islamic fundamentalism, if I may give it that name, and relating it always to the situation in Israel and the middle east, we must not forget that it destroyed apartment blocks in Moscow or that, at this very moment in Algeria, busloads of children, villagers and farmers are being taken out to have their throats cut in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. That has nothing to do with the situation in the middle east and nothing to do with the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
The debate has gone on for quite a while, but no one has yet mentioned the Mitchell principles being proposed for some form of settlement of the middle eastern crisis or the meetings with Shimon Peres alongside Yasser Arafat. There are peace proposals going forward there, but we must be careful that we do not justify the reasons for that fundamentalism while seeking to define it. The Prime Minister was very strong on that point.
The point has also been made that this is a war of poor people against rich. The four-year-old child who took her first and last aeroplane journey would not have understood that concept nor would those who went to work early in the morning and lost their lives. We ought to move away from the proposition that there is conflict between what are called poor and rich people. The incident is much more fundamental than that. It is an attack on our democracy, an attack on our morality and an attack on our way of life.
The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), the leader of the Liberal party, quoted the angel of death speech made in the House in 1855 by John Bright. It was, of course, a quote from the scriptures and we note a certain continuity. A Liberal Foreign Secretary looked over St. James' park in 1914 and said:The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.On 11 September, each one of us saw a light diminish and die, and it is up to each one of us in the House, in our country and in the United States to ensure that the values of democracy, the values of the Christian ethos and the values of all those of other religions who have today expressed their strong, sincerely held religious convictions rest as pillars of our society and receive our support. We give full support to the Government in their relations with the United States and in any actions they may take.
§ Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire)
Listening to today's remarkable speeches has reminded me of how fortunate we all are to be here to express our views and, indeed, of how lucky we all are to be here at all. Apart 659 from our strong feelings of grief for our friends in America and our desire to stand close with them, our primary responsibility to our constituents, to the nation and to the wider world is that of safety. How can we best address ourselves to improving the safety of our people in the circumstances of the past few days?
The debate has emphasised the tension between the concepts of justice and vengeance. I take the view that there is a distinction between the two. It appears clear that, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary said, if the world has not changed, the rules of terrorism certainly have, and the terrorists themselves have changed the rules.
It is one thing for nations to react to the occasional terrorist outbreak, it is a different thing to bow before the scale of the terrorist attack that took place the other day. It changes us from being reactive to being proactive. We can no longer afford to play roulette now that the stakes have been raised. We cannot afford to wait and see the scale of the next attack, when the next group of terrorists descend still further into human depravity. The terrorists have proved that they have the will; all they lack is the means to commit the next atrocity. Ultimately, if none of us is safe, none of us is free.
There must be a response, and it is likely to be military and forceful, but it must be seen by the world to be just rather than vengeful. The distinction is this: justice is seen by the court of world opinion to be appropriate, properly directed and designed for good. Crucially—the House should accept the strictures of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) and the Father of the House, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)— justice should not leave embers of hate to be stoked up again. In short, justice means that people say, "This action is right"; vengeance means that people fear what comes next.
Secondly, I agree with those who suggest that there has never been a better time to deal with the underlying causes of world terrorism—the hot spots that in their lack of a resolution have bred the refugee camps, fuelled with a sense of injustice and hatred. The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) gave a small catalogue of those hot spots with which I fully concur. Every underlying cause of hate can be examined afresh with new will. It may be that the death of thousands moves just one party that has blocked progress in the talks in one part of the world. It is enough to try to unblock that progress so that some causes of tension can be removed.
My third point may not have been approached before. What on earth do we tell our children? How do we explain to young people what they have seen this week? Children cannot understand the sophisticated contradictions behind the concept of a just war. They cannot understand that sometimes force is needed to enforce something good and decent. How does a Christian voice of love make itself heard in these circumstances? For our children, we must deal with the matter by our absolute rejection of hate. Just as the terrorist is fuelled by vengeance and the bones of resentment that he can pick over, so he succeeds if he can sow hate. When in the west every dark face, every strange language and every different religion can be feared as sheltering an enemy, the terrorist has won. We must banish the causes of hate, for ultimately it was hate, and nothing but hate, that caused the crimes on Tuesday—murderous, anti-American hatred in the hearts of the perpetrators.
In this country, we should continue to promote anti-racism and continue our working dialogues between faiths. We should encourage our children not to see lines 660 of demarcation but to see common humanity in each other and to see what they share. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in "The Gulag Archipelago", wrote:Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, not between political parties—but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.If we are to banish hate, it has to be replaced with something, and it should be replaced with love. Our children should be taught that it is love that ultimately conquers. What will be the lasting image of what has happened in America this week? I believe that it will not be a cowed and broken nation, pointing to the disfigurement of war. What will endure are the stories of love, which came from the air as people struggled desperately to say their last "I love you" to those they would never see again, and the messages left on telephone answering services. It will be the love that was seen between people as they worked with each other, sought to rescue each other, comforted each other, gave blood for each other and died for each other. If we can prove that to children—that love will ultimately rebuild, there is a chance of good coming from this.
If our children are to have hate driven out of their minds, they must have their minds turned to other things. I am reminded of the words to the Philippians. Although they come from our bible, they are universally applicable. St. Paul said:Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.Let us help children to drive out the concept of evil by thinking on such things.
Those who perished on Tuesday will have an epitaph and it will be for good. If we can couple our determination to take the action necessary to rebuild a safer world—costly though it may be—with the determination to root out the ultimate cause of our inhumanity to each other, not one of those victims will have died in vain.
§ Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)
We would indeed be stones in this Chamber today if the loss of more than 5,000 people had not evoked the response that has come from almost all sides of the House—even more so, given our ties of history, culture, language and blood with the United States and in the knowledge of our own citizens who perished there. So many Members have their own personal and family contacts with that country. I studied there. I have relations there. On that morning, one of my college friends took her daughter to school just by the World Trade Centre. Fortunately—or unfortunately—she saw the impact of that aeroplane, dragged her child away and got them both back to the safety of mid-Manhattan.
John Donne said that no man was an island. We have demonstrated that again in our debate today, but if anyone in this Chamber doubted the need for solidarity between ourselves and the United States, let them go now to St. Paul's cathedral where that service is going on and see the book of honour of American service men who gave their lives for this country and for freedom in the second world war.
We need to think of all sorts of practical responses, in terms of security and airlines, when this thing has begun slowly to remove itself from trauma. We need to look at 661 airline security, access to cockpits and staff training. We must also not be complacent. Like many Members, I have been through America on internal flights. Yes, it is certainly true that security there is perhaps not what it should be, but let us not be deluded that we may not face similar problems of vigilance in this country as our internal flight schedules come more and more to resemble those of the United States, as more and more people travel. We need to take that on board.
The response we make must, of course, be proportionate. Everything that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said this morning emphasised and underlined that. The commitment of NATO, the UN and the European Union to that cause is important.
Most important, as so many Members have stressed, is that Islam and the Muslim faith are not demonised. If not for other reasons—of reality, but also of realpolitik—let us remember the millions of Muslims in Kosovo, Macedonia and south-eastern Europe, where at this moment we are engaged on so delicate an act of diplomacy and on constructive dialogue and peace making. We must be careful not to demonise.
At the end of the day, we must make that measured, proportionate response with the same determination as if it were a war, though it is not. It is, as someone said, a monstrous crime. We must do that because we wish to defend democratic values—of whatever civilization we aspire to or talk about. Greece gave us the first ideas of democratic values. It was Pericles, in his famous oration over the dead of the Peloponnesian war, who said that the whole world was the tomb of famous men. In some respects, the whole world is now entombed with the dead of many nationalities in the World Trade Centre. However, we need to ensure that that is not the entombment of our values, of our civilisation and of our democracy. We need to make sure that, by our action, we transmute that terrible human tragedy and that tomb into a memorial for all time and into a testament of which we can be proud. To quote John Donne again:To choose is to do and not to choose and do is to do nothing.
§ 2 pm
§ Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)
Nothing could better demonstrate the purpose of recalling Parliament than some of the speeches that we have heard in the Chamber today. I single out the speeches made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) and by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt): a Muslim and a Christian; a socialist and a Conservative: but joined together determined that reconciliation and rebuilding, and not retaliation, anger and vengeance, should be our response to this dreadful tragedy.
It is with regret that I take over as shadow Secretary of State for Defence in the aftermath of such an immense tragedy. I would have wanted to take this first opportunity at the Dispatch Box to pay a much fuller tribute to the bravery and dedication of our service men and women who are posted in various places over the globe. They represent our country at its finest, and in this uncertain hour we know that they stand prepared to do whatever may be asked of them.
This has been a week of horror. That point was amplified by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and by the e-mail read out by my hon. Friend the Member 662 for Tatton (Mr. Osborne). Many of us have visited New York and Washington; I have stood as a tourist under the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and marvelled at them, and I have visited the Pentagon for defence briefings.
This has been a week of horror, mass murder and destruction; of heroism and self-sacrifice; of loss and grief; and of the first acts of remembrance that will no doubt be repeated for many years to come on the anniversary of 11 September. Our hearts and prayers go out to the injured and the bereaved, who come from all corners of the world.
These are the factors that mark Tuesday's attack as one of the grossest violations of humanity that the world has seen since the second world war—an attack on the fundamental values of an entire world civilisation and on the values underpinned by every mainstream religion in the world. The minds behind this deed are every bit as evil as the minds behind the Stalin's pogroms, Hitler's holocaust and the killing fields of Pol Pot.
That is why every nation of the world must come together to fight this terrorist threat. I join most warmly in endorsing the Prime Minister's diplomatic efforts to support President Bush. They have so effectively helped to bring together a remarkable unity of purpose not just in NATO and the European Union, but in the United Nations. It is a coalition of states that extends among the Islamic countries.
That is a remarkable first step, but it does not resolve the future steps necessary to reduce and then to combat this dreadful threat. For there is a constant theme that must underpin everything that we say and do in the aftermath of Tuesday: there can be no appeasement. However cautious we may be obliged to be in what action is taken, however difficult it is to identify those who genuinely share responsibility for the atrocities, and whatever sacrifices need to be made to confront them, there can be no appeasement—a lesson we have had to learn from bitter experience in our own land and elsewhere in Europe when facing terrorism.
First, we must accept that this threat has been developing for some time. We must be prepared to ask ourselves: were we too ready to greet the end of the cold war as a so-called new world order? Such talk of a new world order lured many into a fool's paradise. Although we have successfully policed limited conflicts such as in the Balkans and we hope that we have successfully contained the occasional rogue state such as Iraq, across the whole of NATO, have we downgraded our defence capabilities too much? Have we been too ready to allow the main role of our armies to become that of a gendarmerie trapped in the thinking of conventional warfare? Have we reduced the mystique and secrecy of our secret services—our security services—and therefore possibly the effectiveness of our intelligence services?
In the meantime, while that has been happening, Africa has become a cauldron of military conflict and instability. Governments, from those in the former Soviet republics to those in central America, teeter on the brink of chaos, feeding the discontent of their peoples and the rampant corruption and gangsterism upon which terrorism thrives. For too long, have we taken too little care of that? We must accept that the security challenges raised by the new world disorder are far wider than we have hitherto been prepared to admit, possibly partly because we are reluctant to face the necessary expense and inconvenience.
We must face up to the threat of what is called asymmetric warfare. I am new to this brief, but I am struck by the fact that that term has been in the defence jargon 663 for some time. As long ago as 1998, the executive director of the Emergency Response and Research Institute of the United States, Clark L. Staten, addressed the question of asymmetric warfare in a comprehensive paper which demanded a significant shift in US Government thinking and resource allocation. He pointed out starkly how global conflicts were changing:Mass violence, injuries and deaths will continue to occur, although we believe they will happen in differing ways than one might currently imagine".He went on, foretelling how terroristswill use unconventional tactics to carry out particularly heinous acts".He even said, almost prophetically:Even a country as large and sophisticated as the United States could suffer greatly at the hands of an educated, equipped, and committed group of fewer than 50 people.He also added:high impact terrorist incidents could prove a major challenge for those with an entrenched large force cold war mentality.In this country, our own strategic defence review noted the threat of asymmetric attack. But the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George)—again, as long ago as 1998—wrote:the Review has yet to address broader security issues".He also said that it had failedto address the problems of 'asymmetric' threats—terrorism, possibly using chemical and biological weapons … and the other weapons which the weak may choose to deploy against the strong.That underlines the truth of what the Foreign Secretary said earlier about the scale of the threat we face; these people will resort to weapons of mass destruction and even ballistic missiles if they have the opportunity. We must be prepared.
We must be prepared to commit the necessary resources to ensure that we have the capability to respond to that threat. We need what is known as layered defence: an ability to respond in a measured and effective way to the widest spectrum of threats. Our armed forces are already overstretched. While this is not the occasion to revisit that particular controversy, it is a factor which now surely more than ever must be addressed, particularly with reference to our security services. I urge the Defence Secretary to respond on that point. The heads of both MI5 and MI6 have voiced their concerns about the 2001–02 financial year, saying that the funding position would be "challenging". They also flagged up the possibility of being unable to maintain current service levels and meet new challenges. Can the Secretary of State comfort the House that resources will not be a constraint upon the necessary intelligence effort required to defeat the threat, particularly as British intelligence services can make such a uniquely valuable contribution?
Finally, when the time comes for military action, we, of all nations, should have the confidence to say to the United States, "We will be by your side." Is it not vital that any United States effort should be, and should be seen to be, part of the widest international effort? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Prime Minister's warm words really do mean that the UK is prepared to commit our armed forces in support of whatever action is necessary to eradicate this particular threat?
I urge the House to set aside notions of a blank cheque for retaliation. That is not what we are talking about. There is no way of guaranteeing the certain success of any 664 military venture, but the United States would never undertake anything but the most carefully planned and effective action—and, of course, we can expect the United States to consult her allies.
Much of this debate has been about how to beat the terrorist threat. Our response is this recall of Parliament, and this measured debate. There has been much pessimism, but let us have confidence. Our values are not under threat; they are vindicated by the very acts of the terrorists. Their way of life is ultimately self-destroying. All that we need do is carry out what needs to be done with absolute determination, and we will win.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)
I welcome the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) to his new responsibilities, and, indeed, congratulate his predecessor on his election.
Let me begin by adding my personal expression of condolence with and profound sympathy for the American people—the families, friends and colleagues of those who have been killed or injured. Although these appalling attacks took place thousands of miles away from here, they are very close to the people of this country, because we, as individuals, are bound to the United States by ties of family, of friendship and of work.
One symbol of the strength of the relationship between our two countries is the number of British citizens who live and work in the United States, or who visit its cities—such as New York—every day. The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) gave one very moving example. The number of our citizens confirmed dead or missing is already into the hundreds. I know that I speak for the whole House in expressing our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who we know have died, and our thoughts are with those who still wait to hear news of their loved ones.
For those in the defence community, the tragedy is also close to home. The attacks focused on civilians in New York and Pennsylvania; they also focused on our colleagues in the United States armed forces, and the civilians who work with them. Many members of our two armed forces have trained together, deployed together and, in many cases, fought together. Officials in the Ministry of Defence work closely with their colleagues in the Department of Defence. The lives lost and the injuries caused by the attack on the Pentagon have had a particularly profound impact on everyone in the United Kingdom's defence community. I know that I speak for them all in expressing our sympathy and our support.
I have spoken to the United States Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to express my solidarity and support to him and to the United States Department of Defence. We are united in our determination to bring those responsible to justice. The Chief of the Defence Staff and other senior military personnel have spoken to their counterparts to express their shock and their sympathy.
Our strong relationship with the United States, and with its armed forces, is a practical expression of our close personal and national ties. The Government are identifying help and expertise that we can provide in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy. We have already offered a wide-ranging package of assistance, including specialist search personnel and equipment and forensic experts. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) and, indeed, the hon. Member for North 665 Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) eloquently pointed out, because we have faced terrorism ourselves, we have developed some of the world's best counter-terrorist expertise and capabilities.
Our own preparations have also included a raft of robust contingency plans, in the interests of national security and the protection of the public. The plans are well prepared, regularly exercised, tested, reviewed, and refined in the light of changing domestic and international circumstances. By their very nature, they cannot be made public; to do so would allow potential aggressors to undermine them. But should the United Kingdom be threatened in any way, we will not hesitate to defend ourselves.
Many parts of Government are devoted to monitoring and responding to the terrorist threat. Obviously, they include military experts. They also include the security and intelligence agencies, the police, scientists, and other specialists. I assure the shadow Defence Secretary that resources will not be an issue in that respect. We continue to learn from our own experience, and from the experience of our friends and allies.
It follows, therefore, that the events in the United States triggered an immediate precautionary response here, which I would like to outline to the House. Recognising that no specific warning was given of terrorist attacks in the United States, we immediately strengthened the position of key elements of our armed forces. This included reducing the notice to move of military personnel who would assist the police, if necessary, in guarding our airports. Ground-based air defence assets were also placed at a higher state of readiness in case they were required to guard key economic, governmental and strategic assets throughout the UK. Air defence aircraft of the Royal Air Force are constantly at a state of high readiness. Their role is to deter, to deflect and ultimately to destroy any threat from the skies.
Thankfully, it has not yet been necessary to take further measures or to utilise assets that were earmarked to provide specific degrees of protection earlier this week. Of course, we are continuing to keep this under very close review.
Our rapid reaction on this occasion demonstrated once again the flexibility, professionalism and dedication of our armed forces. It showed again how often we turn to them to help out in civil, as well as military, emergencies.
My direct responsibility is obviously for the armed forces, but I should also like to pay tribute to the very significant role that other Departments and agencies play in these circumstances. The police, for example, would quite rightly take the leading role in response to any incident. They would call on the armed forces' unique assets and capabilities, as well as those provided by other emergency services and local and unitary authorities. As we saw in the United States this week, the police, the fire service and other civil emergency services are often the first to place themselves in harm's way in order that they might help others. I know that our emergency services would have reacted with the same outstanding courage and self-sacrifice as was demonstrated by their American colleagues.
The police have been unstinting in their vigilance. Over the past week, working the longest possible hours, they have provided advice and reassurance to the many members of the British public who have been concerned about any threat to their safety. We can well understand why people have these concerns, but I must reinforce the 666 message that the police have been giving: that while we should all be vigilant, we should not allow the events of the past week to damage or undermine our day-to-day way of life. The Government and the police are fully committed to ensuring that individual members of the public are protected in the event of any specific threat to any location or building. Until that occurs, panic or disruption can only play into the hands of those who are trying to destabilise our way of life. That point was well made by the shadow Foreign Secretary.
Police patrols on the streets of London have been intensified and all police forces have been put on full alert. This intensification of their work will continue throughout the weekend and for as long as is judged necessary.
Specific actions have also been taken to ensure that people and buildings that might become particular targets are protected. Military establishments both at home and abroad and Ministry of Defence and other Government Department establishments raised their security states. Security at airports and points of entry to this country were raised to the highest level. Specific advice on what to do was given to all our embassies and made available to British nationals overseas.
The Metropolitan police, working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have set up an information centre at Scotland Yard where friends and relatives of the missing can seek detailed help and advice. A similar facility is being established in the British consulate in New York.
The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions co-ordinated the work of the Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services to facilitate the return of aircraft to airports following the closure of US airspace. All flights over London airspace were halted and private charter flights were grounded, as was the case in other European capital cities.
§ Andrew Mackinlay
I want to pin down the Government on this. I understand that flights over London are to be restored. I must tell my right hon. Friend that that is foolhardy in the extreme, as it was even before this great tragedy. There has always been the danger over the metropolis of a major technical failure in an aircraft or of a collision. That danger has now been underscored and we should not bend or buckle to the interests of the airline industry, particularly now, and we should not have done so before. I hope that such flights are not restored, and that if they are it is only temporarily.
§ Mr. Hoon
I will not resolve that matter here today. It is a matter to which my hon. Friend can return if he judges that to be the right thing to do.
Inevitably, these events have caused disruption to many people's travel plans, but I know that they understand the need for increased vigilance at this time. The Government are working closely with industry and the airlines to minimise the disruption. Several military airfields and their facilities were made ready to help with the return of US-bound flights, but in the event the extra capacity was not needed. Assistance was provided with the management of airspace, while non-essential flights were cancelled.
The attacks in the US demonstrate the full evil of international terrorism. These were attacks on democracy and freedom themselves—on the rights of ordinary, innocent people to go peacefully and safely about their lives. To commit acts of this nature requires a fanaticism and wickedness that is beyond our normal comprehension.
667 Of course we have intelligence expertise and systems in place that are organised to try to prevent such attacks, but we have to consider what we would do if a terrorist attack of a similar magnitude occurred here. That is why, earlier this year, the Government set up a civil contingencies secretariat. Based within the Cabinet Office, this has drawn on the expertise that has been developed especially in the Home Office but also within other Departments. Part of the secretariat's job is to assess issues that could arise and alert departments, including, if necessary, local agencies that may be affected. That central co-ordinating role is crucial in bringing together the emergency planning functions of all Government Departments. It has been utilised extensively during recent days.
As well as its recent activity, the civil contingencies secretariat has undertaken work with industry and other organisations to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities and interdependencies, and to agree responsibilities for responding to a developing threat. As a result, the consequences of disruption in key sectors of our national infrastructure are now understood far better than they were and better preparations for our response are in place. We are therefore already learning the lessons advocated by the hon. Members for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson).
For example, the specific and mutual aid plans that are held by health authorities and trusts to ensure the maintenance of services have been reviewed. Communication plans for maintaining both the machinery of government and the emergency communications network are also in place. In addition, the armed forces stand ready to assist the civil agencies as required. To reply to the point made by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, that would include reservists, as necessary. All elements of government are now working together even more effectively than they were.
The bravery, resilience and determination of the American people in the face of Tuesday's attack have been a shining example to others around the world. Of course there is shock and of course there is anger, but they have made it clear that they will not allow the people who commit such crimes to win, and they have made it clear that they will see that they are brought to justice.
I want to make it clear to all those who commit these cowardly acts or harbour these brutal criminals that, like the American people, we will not be intimidated by atrocity. Our resolve, our vigilance and our purpose are strong and clear. We can and we will defend our people and our values against terror in whatever form it takes.
That is why, on Wednesday, NATO invoked article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, under which the allies agreed thatan armed attack against one … shall he considered an attack against them all".The NATO allies of the United States therefore stand ready to provide assistance in exercising their right of self-defence. Each member of the alliance will assist by takingsuch action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force".Any NATO action that might flow from that would be subject to consideration and decision by the North Atlantic Council, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) pointed out. That was a significant act by the NATO allies: an unprecedented step in the history of the alliance.
668 As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier, the murder of British people in New York is no different from their murder here at home. The United Kingdom has both an interest and an obligation to provide assistance to the United States to help bring those responsible to account and to remove the threat that terrorists pose to the international community.
That assistance has already begun. There have been close contacts between a range of Government agencies in both countries. For example, the Metropolitan police are in close contact with their colleagues in the New York police department. The Treasury and the Bank of England have been in close contact with the Federal Reserve. We are already sharing information that may be useful to the United States authorities in their search for those responsible.
We are looking at what we can do diplomatically and in the international community to reduce the threat of any more events such as those that we saw on Tuesday. We are looking at ways to deal with terrorist groups more effectively, to starve them of their resources and support and to implement these measures from a solid international foundation. We are also examining the contribution that the United Kingdom could make militarily in the event of any requests from the United States to assist in bringing to account those who have organised, abetted and incited these acts.
It is now three days since the events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. We will all have to continue to live with their impact. We are not complacent, but we have taken sensible precautions and we will not be deflected from our purpose. We will continue to pursue our lives and fulfil our responsibilities at home and overseas.
Despite the impact that terrorism has had over recent days, we will not forget that, with our allies, we act as a force for good around the world. We must continue to do so; otherwise, the terrorists will have achieved one of their aims. That is why, for example, our armed forces will continue their important work in Macedonia, which is aimed, as elsewhere in the Balkans, at bringing peace and stability to the region.
We also remain committed to enhancing our close relationship with friends in the Islamic world—a point well made by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sarwar). The House will be aware that we are preparing for the largest exercise undertaken by British armed forces in the Gulf for many years. Exercise Saif Sareea will ensure that our armed forces are fully trained to meet their operational tasks, as well as demonstrating our commitment to peace and security in that region. We have no plans to call off the exercise.
We will not be deflected from ensuring that the effectiveness of our armed forces is maintained at the highest level possible, nor from demonstrating our solidarity with our many friends in the Islamic world. I pay tribute to the steadfastness of all those in the Gulf region who have expressed their sympathy and outrage following the events on Tuesday.
The attacks on our friends in the United States were an attack on values that are recognised right across the world. We will not tolerate that. Those values are not divided by religion, creed, race or political party. They will not be overcome by barbarism, arrogance or tyranny.
669 The depth and breadth of the condemnation and disgust expressed by nations all around the world are an indication of the level of the evil and the horror of what we witnessed. They should also have brought home to the perpetrators of this crime and to those who give them active or passive support the world's resolve and determination to bring them to justice.
I agree with the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) that deeds, not simply words, will ultimately count. Make no mistake: that is what we will be doing. The United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the G8 will all work to the same end. I can assure the House that the United Kingdom will take a full and active role. This Government will never allow the perpetrators of atrocities such as those that we witnessed across the Atlantic on Tuesday to succeed in achieving their objectives.
670 Those who carry out such acts of evil will not deter us from doing what is just and what is right. That is the message that I have heard throughout this debate, from representatives of all parties, with all their different approaches to the international organisations. We have many different ideas, but we are all united in a consistent belief that we have to use the democracy that we enjoy here to further the opportunities for other countries to share in our values and traditions. Now is the time for all nations to show where they stand.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.