The Middle East

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:17 pm on 16th April 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Smith John Smith Labour, Vale of Glamorgan 9:17 pm, 16th April 2002

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at this late stage in what has been an extremely interesting debate; in fact, it has been one of the best debates that I have heard in the House. The House has been shown at its best.

With your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should like to move away from the general discussion that has taken place and focus on a single tragedy arising from the situation in the middle east. Before I do so, I should like to make a personal observation: as far as I am concerned, there is no justification for the use of human bombs to kill innocent civilians in the streets of Israel, just as there is no justification for the suicide attacks on the United States of America. Attempts to seek such justifications are unwarranted and wholly wrong. I must also say that there is no justification for the actions of Israeli soldiers in the last 12 days—I speak as an ex-service man. Their actions bring disgrace and dishonour to the uniforms that they wear. They have no right to call themselves soldiers if they carry out such heinous crimes.

In the short time available to me, I want to draw the attention of the House and the country to the desperate plight of four young Welsh children who have been caught up in the terrible horrors that have been taking place in the middle east. The four children of my constituent, Mrs. Eileen Sutton of Barry, have been trapped in a house in Nablus for the past 12 days. They are unable to move, and the house has been occupied by 21 heavily armed Israeli soldiers. The occupants of the house—not just the four children and their immediate family but other children and adults—have been pushed into one room. These young children—constituents of mine—have been warned not to go near the windows because they might be shot dead if they do. There is no justification or excuse for treating children like that in any war or any situation.

These Welsh children are British citizens and British passport holders. Not only that: they are British wards of court. In other words, the legal guardians of the trapped children are the British Government. Everything humanly possible should be done to move the children immediately and to place them in the safe custody of the British consulate general in Jerusalem.

I have been in touch with my colleagues on the Front Bench, the Foreign Office and the British consul in Jerusalem. We have had regular contact. I also wish to place on record my gratitude to my hon. Friend Ann Clwyd. She raised the plight of the children when she was in Israel last week. I thank her for her efforts to get them released into safe custody.

These children were born and brought up in the little town of Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan. Just a few months ago, they went to local schools, clubs, after-school clubs and discos. They enjoyed the life that our children and grandchildren take for granted. However, in just a short space of time, they have found themselves in the most horrendous and despicable situation.

I am aware that such cases involve desperately difficult diplomatic and political considerations. In fact, it has been put to me that moving the children right now might create a spark that could result in an escalation in the violence in Nablus. If that is the thinking, we have got it all wrong. There should be one consideration only: the children are in grave danger and should be moved to safety immediately.

I hope that the fact that I have been able to refer to this desperate case in the debate will mean that my right hon. and hon. Friends will do all in their power to return the children to the safety of their mother at home in Barry, in south Wales. I hope that they will not delay any further. The children are the only British subjects in such a position anywhere in the occupied territories or where the Israelis have moved in and attacked and threatened innocent civilians. These four young innocents do not deserve to find themselves in such a situation. For God's sake and in the name of humanity, get them out of there—and get them out now.