Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Libya

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:31 pm on 16th April 1986.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline West 8:31 pm, 16th April 1986

The hon. Member should not presume to say how I voted. I listened very attentively to what he said and I agree with a lot of what he said. He must contain himself.

What I am trying to show here, putting it very succinctly, is that even that definition indicates that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. That is a dilemma which we face in this country and which the international community faces.

It is a long time since I was in Libya. I have no love for Gaddafi's regime, but one tactical thing he did was distribute oil revenues in a way that brought considerable social benefit to the people. There is no gainsaying that the major exploiters of oil in Libya were the United States and United States companies. There has been no indication throughout the long period of Gaddafi's regime of effective action against Gaddafi over oil.

I do not go along with the view that the United States requires oil from the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The countries that require OPEC oil most, in Western European terms, are Germany, Italy and France. They and others may be soft on Gaddafi from the point of view of oil, but if action is to be taken against any nation in terms of a single product, surely oil sanctions against the Gaddafi regime in Libya have the best chance of being effective. That is something that we should have pursued strenuously in terms of the international community.

One of the disturbing features of this whole episode—and I take a different view of its genesis from that taken by other Members who have spoken this evening—is that our Government have over a long period, with the United States, eroded the concept of international law and the law of nations. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says "Oh". Let us take the example of the law of the sea. The genesis of this situation was that Gaddafi drew a line across the Gulf of Sidra and the United States wanted to challenge that. Here is a major maritime nation saying that it is going to challenge certain maritime rights. The United States, with our nation, undermined the whole of the United Nations deliberations on the law of the sea convention, yet the United States pleads in aid protection of the law of the sea. We have an example here of a battle fleet being sent to challenge the law of the sea in terms of innocent passage. If the United States had wanted to challenge a concept of international law, why did it not get together with other nations and suggest sending some kind of international fleet? But, no, it chose to send a battle fleet in a provocative way.

I do not think that it lies in the mouth of the United States or of this country, for example, to plead in aid the concept of international law and protection when we so undermined the endeavours of the United Nations to achieve an understanding on the law of the sea over a period of about 20 years.

No one now declares war. All nations plead in aid article 51 of the United Nations charter. It is about time that we read that article. It says: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security. Will any hon. Member suggest that the action taken by the United States Government in pursuit of its understanding of self-interest has enhanced the ability of the Security Council to take action to restore international peace? No one will plead that in aid.

Time after time from the Dispatch Box the Prime Minister pleaded in aid article 51. She also pleaded in aid the presence of United States troops in Europe. The vast majority of those troops are in the Federal Republic of Germany. One would therefore expect the Federal Republic to be America's best ally. Does the Federal Republic condone or support this action? American troops are there defending European interests—I accept that—but are also defending American interests.

One of my fears about this situation is that the American Government have thought in simplistic terms and that there will be a chain reaction in Europe which will trigger off a reaction in the United States—and I mean no offence to senators such as Sam Nunn—which will imperil and undermine the NATO Alliance. All of us in this country who believe in freedom will want to resist that.

Steps have been taken and we need a thorough investigation. I should not speak for the whole of the Select Committee on Defence but perhaps, as with a lot of other issues here, including the Westland issue, we should turn to a Committee of the House to investigate exactly what the United Kingdom Government's position is in relation to American-British bases in the United Kingdom—maybe British bases under American management. What authority do we have over them, because, as the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) clearly indicated, there was no idea at the time of the Attlee Truman accord that American aircraft would be used for such purposes as we have seen them used in the past few days. Therefore, if the agreement has to be renegotiated, there is no time at present to do so.

In conclusion, anybody who thinks that the United States' action in Libya has enhanced international order is deluding himself. If the simplistic solution to the problem that the United States is perpetrating could be construed in that way, that would be a falsehood. The United States' action in undermining international law and the law of nations is not a prescription for a peaceful solution to problems, but, if other people follow it, a prescription for international anarchy.