United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 21st March 2011.

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Photo of Katy Clark Katy Clark Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran 6:28 pm, 21st March 2011

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Lee, who correctly highlighted the importance of energy policy to all the issues that we are discussing.

I welcome the fact that debate is taking place today and that there is to be a vote. The traditions of the House have often meant that there have not been parliamentary votes on such matters. I would have preferred a vote to have taken place before troops were deployed, even if it meant the House convening on a Saturday. We need to consider that for the future. However, it is clear that there will be a full debate today, and there was a statement on Friday, when many aspects of the issue were discussed.

I have found the issues very difficult. I am disappointed that the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn was not selected, as it highlights some of the matters that concern me. Yet again, arms that have been supplied by British companies are being used against people internally by tyrants, and weapons that British companies have sold to Libya will probably be used against our own troops. We need to review that again and look at our policy on the arms trade,

The Arab world is going through revolutionary change, with uprisings in country after country, and we must look at the issue in that context. I of course support all those struggling for democracy and against tyrants and have always been appalled by the actions of Gaddafi. I fully understand the unwillingness to stand aside while the innocent are being slaughtered and so have every sympathy with those who feel that we must intervene. However, I have concerns about what we will actually be supporting the Government to do if we vote in favour of the motion. That is partly because the conflict is taking place in north Africa and previous interventions in that part of the world, including the middle east, have been very difficult for the west and inspired huge amounts of hatred towards it. The debate might be quite different if the conflict was taking place in a different part of the world.

I am also concerned because I genuinely fear that we might be entering what could be a long war. The wording of the UN resolution is very wide, and the reference to “all necessary measures” in some ways gives a blank cheque to the powers taking action. In other ways, however, it probably does not give those taking action the ability to do what they really need to do in Libya. We could easily end up being involved in a very long conflict but with Gaddafi remaining in power.

Although I find the issue difficult and think that there are many potential difficulties, as has been highlighted by colleagues on both sides of the House, I think that the key to the decisions we take over the coming period must be our relationships not only with Arab states, but with Arab peoples. Like many colleagues, I am particularly interested in what the Muslim and Arab communities in this country are saying at the moment and what Arab states and peoples will be saying over the coming period. In my short contribution, I wish to encourage Members on the Treasury Bench to listen to the messages coming from the middle east and north Africa, which should be taken on board when key strategic decisions are made.

I have deep concerns about this action and particularly about how long this war might last. We must look at it in the context of the war on terror. My fear is that if we continue with military action, particularly if it is conducted over an extended period by western powers, we might be giving ammunition to the fundamentalists in the middle east and the Arab world whose values are very different from those held by us in this House.