Al Shifa Factory
Mr Derek Fatchett (Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Leeds Central, Labour)
I am delighted that I took that intervention. I agree with my hon. Friend's condemnation of terrorism and I shall come on to his other point. He has a very good record on human rights and of opposition to terrorism, and it is right that should go on record. In the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, we know about the evil of terrorism and it is right that the House should take every opportunity to remind others throughout the world that we condemn terrorism, and will take action to ensure that we can stand up against terrorists and those who organise and finance terrorism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow has raised questions about Al Shifa on many occasions. He had an exchange with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister only a week or so ago. I shall take this opportunity to remind my hon. Friend what the Prime Minister said on that occasion, because he repeated answers that he has given since August last year. He said:
Last August, I gave my support to the United States action. It was action against international terrorists. The US told us at the time of the strike on Al Shifa that it had compelling evidence that the plant was being used for the production of chemical weapons materials.
My hon. Friend then asked the Prime Minister whether there was any hard evidence that VX precursors or any other chemical weapons-related compounds were manufactured at the Al Shifa plant. I shall remind the House of my right hon. Friend's reply:
The US was quite clear: it had compelling evidence that Al Shifa was involved in chemical weapons production. Terrorist organisations operating out of those places caused the death of more than 100 totally innocent people by acts of terrorism in Africa. The assault on Al Shifa was retaliation for that; no one was killed in it, but we gave a very clear signal—and I think the right one—to those who engage in international terrorism that we are prepared if necessary to take action in retaliation."—[Official Report, 10 March 1999; Vol. 327, c. 364–5.]