Kosovo

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 23rd March 1999.

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Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn Labour, Chesterfield 3:30 pm, 23rd March 1999

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is absolute unanimity in the House and the country about the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo? May I tell him that the statement that he made is one of the gravest that I have heard in the House, certainly since Suez? An ultimatum has been announced, amounting to an all-out air war and possibly a ground war against a member state of the United Nations which, under article 51, has the right of self-defence. By doing so, the British Government and other NATO Governments are defying the charter, to which we are committed, and breaking international law. If the bombing begins—apart from the fact that it is no more likely to be successful than it is in Iraq—it is bound to cause casualties and worsen the humanitarian crisis, and it could well broaden the Balkan conflict.

May I point out to the Prime Minister that there are two bodies that he never mentioned in his statement? One is the United Nations, which exists to deal with crises of this kind, and the other is the House of Commons. We represent the forces who may well be sent into conflict—they are our constituents, our families. Not a moment of thought was given to a debate in the House, which would allow more than question and answer, and through which we could explore the Government's policy, consider whether it will lead to a ground war, as many believe it might, and come to a conclusion about it. To treat the House as though it were just an audience for "Newsnight" on so grave a matter is simply below the standard that we are entitled to expect.