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Libya

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:48 pm on 16th April 1986.

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Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith 7:48 pm, 16th April 1986

Varying views have been expressed in tonight's debate, and I am reminded that at present the country has an official guest, Mr. Abdul Haq. He is not a pop star, but, according to the Prime Minister, he is Mr. Wonderful because he boasted about planting a bomb in Kabul airport in 1984 which killed 28 civilians. He had been wined and dined in this country. Of course, that action indicates the double standards of this Government and, particularly, of the Prime Minister. The point at issue seems to be why we should worry about 28 people in some far-off country, or about other people in Libya. After all, the people there have darker skins and a different culture from ours. The suggestion seems to be that they do not greatly matter. However, surely it does matter to us if we are concerned about humanity, which is the real issue.

Tonight it is not Gaddafi who is on trial: it is the regime of the Conservative Government. They are on trial for aiding and abetting Reagan in killing innocent Libyan civilians. There is no way to describe that other than as a conspiracy to murder. Even the European Economic Community leaders saw through Reagan's manoeuvre and did not want to be involved in it. The Germans knew that it was a set-up; they knew that the bombing in West Germany did not involve the Libyans, and they would not take part in any manoeuvres against Libya. However, the Prime Minister, the bold lady herself, said earlier that she has evidence that Gaddafi is implicated and that she can prove it. She might be able to prove it to many people elsewhere, but she has not proved it to me or to any other right hon. or hon. Gentleman I know. Although she has not proved her case, she maintains that she is right, as is her due. We will judge her according to the facts. We will not condemn anyone, including Gaddafi, until we have seen the facts.

I always look at issues simply. If, for example, the ruling class, including this Government, do not tell the truth about the miners and their struggles, they certainly will not tell the truth about Libya and its position. It can be argued that perhaps Gaddafi is a villain, but why punish innocent men, women and children? Gaddafi has not been punished; some of his family and some Libyan people have been punished. In addition, embassies and other installations that have nothing whatever to do with the Libyan situation—apart from expressing the viewpoint of the Government—have been attacked.

I accept that many people, perhaps naively, will say that Gaddafi is a monster. He has a different point of view and does many things with which I disagree, but he is no ogre. If he were as bad and unpopular an individual as he has been painted, he would not have remained in office for 17 years as head of state and instigator of a revolution. Of course, he is not as bad as he is said to be. He must be judged, not by western or British standards, but by the standards of the middle east. He is a thousand years in advance of most rulers of the feudal regimes in the middle east. All right hon. and hon. Members, ex-Prime Ministers notwithstanding, must remember that in Libya there are 5,000 reasons why we should think carefully about the Libyan situation, because there are 5,000 members of the British community there. Those people feel betrayed by the Government because their families, as well as other families, are endangered by the reckless action of Mr. Reagan and his buddies.

If there is any guilt, it must be pointed in a certain direction. It is perfectly clear that, despite the atrocities, the Libyans have not taken any reprisals against the British or American communities in Libya. Indeed, when I spoke yesterday to Salah Usallam, a diplomat who heads the Libyan interest section in London, he made it clear that the Libyans, while opposed to Reagan and the Prime Minister, were not opposed to the British or American people. That is an important and principled position to take. Whatever one thinks of the Libyans, they have taken no reprisals against any British family in Libya.

Many things can be said against Gaddafi. He can be called mad, ill-advised, and so on, but it cannot be said that he is personally corrupt. He does not have a personal fortune, and he is not a drunkard or womaniser. [Interruption.] Hon. Members can laugh, but a number of hon. Members in here are like that. To his credit, Gaddafi is very pro-British. The economic situation, and trade links with Libya, show that he favours British companies, because he recognises our skills and expertise. In addition, he has a special feeling for the British people.

Of course, he can be called a terrorist. As I have already said, I disagree with many things he has done. However, to his credit, he has supported many national liberation struggles throughout the world, including the Sandinistas. He has used the resources of his country to support the struggles of the popular masses—the peasants and workers—against oppression. He is no hero; I certainly do not put him on a pedestal. However, in the eyes of people in the middle east and in his own country, especially after the attacks by American war planes, he is obviously a hero. Ironically, the action of the Government has made him a popular hero in the middle east and, in a sense, in Europe and other parts of the world.

By its action, the Government have also fuelled anti-Americanism. I oppose any feeling against America. Although I am against Reagan and reaction, I am not against the American people. To argue that the removal of Gaddafi will solve all the problems is naive. According to the press, getting rid of him will solve everything. That is a daft notion. In the middle east, there are 101 Gaddifis, and he, as one individual, although important, can easily be replaced. The system operating in Libya will ensure that he is replaced. Gaddafi may have a tremendous personality, but we should not be fooled into thinking—