Darfur

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:42 pm on 5th June 2007.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury 6:42 pm, 5th June 2007

This is a much needed debate. It is one of those many occasions when I feel sorry that the Chamber is organised in a confrontational way with Benches on either side, because I suspect that this is one of those subjects where the whole House agrees on the main issues, and should be seen to be trying to muster support.

Those of us who have visited Darfur—many in the Chamber have done so—can give witness and testament to what they have seen. As has been well documented and reported the humanitarian crisis is awful and continues to get worse. That is clear from all the representations that we are receiving from non-governmental organisations such as Save the Children and Christian Aid.

I want to use this opportunity to raise some broader concerns about intervention in support of humanitarian assistance. The Foreign Secretary spoke about the responsibility to protect. That is a concept that the Prime Minister first developed in a speech in Chicago a few years ago, for which he must take great credit. As the Foreign Secretary said, the UN resolution on Darfur was the first time that the concept had been introduced into international law. However, there is no logic in the implementation of the responsibility to protect; it is implemented largely on an ad hoc basis and there has never been any consistency. Every time we have had an international humanitarian crisis, whether in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or wherever, intervention has taken place on a somewhat ad hoc basis with a different combination of players. That is partly a consequence of political will and partly of the fact that intervention often has to be military intervention, and very few countries have the necessary military lift capacity to intervene effectively in that way.

Last week the Prime Minister was in Sierra Leone, rightly receiving plaudits for what the UK had done in leading the intervention in Sierra Leone to bring an end to the conflict and killings there. We were able to do so largely because the UK had the necessary military capacity. One of the difficulties with Darfur was that the UK and the US found themselves so involved in Iraq that there was no question of military intervention in Darfur, even had that been thought to be the appropriate response. However, I cannot understand why the international community has not imposed a no-fly zone on Darfur. We know that a no-fly zone works effectively, as it did for a considerable period in protecting the Kurdish community in northern Iraq before military intervention by the coalition.

As one of those who voted against the war in Iraq, I suggest that if the UN Security Council does not operate effectively as an international law-making body there will be an increasing tendency for coalitions of the willing to act outside the parameters of international law, because they will see that as the only way in which they can take action. We are dependent on the effectiveness of the Security Council, which is in turn dependent on every one of its members, including Russia and China. It is a matter of record that Russia and China have been exporting defence equipment to Sudan. The 2005 trade figures show that China sold $24 million-worth, and Russia sold $21 million-worth, of military equipment to Sudan. Some 90 per cent. of Sudan's exports are to China.