Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 17th October 2001.

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Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister 2:30 pm, 17th October 2001

Of course, we take notice of the concerns that the agencies have raised but I must say to my hon. Friend that the principal problem for the drivers of the UN convoys is the Taliban regime's harassment and intimidation of them. We should remember that anyone who associates with the UN inside the Taliban- controlled areas of Afghanistan is liable, according to the Taliban's own statements, to be prosecuted by them.

The World Food Programme believes that it can get 12,000 tonnes of food into Afghanistan in the next week. We are doing everything we can to remove the obstacles, but the single most important thing for the Afghan people is to be released from the tyranny of the Taliban regime as swiftly as possible. That is essential, and it is essential for humanitarian reasons, too.

I also stress to my hon. Friend and to the House that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan pre-dates 11 September by a long way. Literally millions of people were refugees before then and living in conditions of deprivation and, in some cases, starvation. So we will continue to do everything we can. We cannot have the Taliban regime remain in power and able to use this humanitarian crisis as a reason for warding off the action that we take.