Kosovo

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:02 pm on 25th March 1999.

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Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn Labour, Chesterfield 3:02 pm, 25th March 1999

The House knows that I am opposed to the action that has been taken. I hope that there is a Division tonight. If there is, I shall vote against the war.

I may secure more agreement in the House when I say that this debate should have taken place months ago. Some of the speeches that we have heard show that the House contributes experience and knowledge to issues in a way that a Foreign Office brief cannot. If the Foreign Secretary had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), with which I agreed, he would realise that it was wrong for British troops to be committed to war without the House of Commons discussing the matter. That is not just a constitutional question. The Government could have tabled a motion in support of their action whenever they liked. They did not do that because they did not think that Parliament mattered. I say that with some feeling.

We agree that there is a terrible humanitarian crisis. It is a civil war. For anyone who has any doubts about my view of Milosevic, let me explain. I am bitterly opposed to Milosevic. Why? Because, faced with a political problem, he used force—the same reason why I am against the Government's action. If Milosevic had had any sense, he would not have withdrawn autonomy from Kosovo and he would have realised that the problem had to be resolved by getting round the table with the Kosovars, but he did not do that. NATO has come along and repeated the mistake on a bigger scale.