Humanitarian Relief and Libya

Part of Bill Presented — Sustainable Energy (Local Plans) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 5th April 2011.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission, Chair, Public Accounts Commission 3:46 pm, 5th April 2011

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Slaughter—he asked some pertinent questions and I wish to do the same. We also heard a good speech by Dan Jarvis, although I did not agree with a lot of what he said. Many of his arguments reminded me of Tony Blair coming here to justify the Iraq action. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that his speech was one of a liberal interventionist. I am not one and despite the fact that I may not make myself very popular in this debate, I still want to go on asking these questions.

I felt unable to be among the 517 MPs who voted for the Libyan action. I spoke in that debate and asked a number of questions, although they are perhaps incapable of being answered. We were faced with an appalling humanitarian dilemma and I am not suggesting that there is an easy way out. As with Afghanistan and as with Iraq, my view of this action is very much based on the policy of containment and of relying on United Nations resolutions. I hope that before I sit down I will have convinced some people that we should stick to the UN resolution absolutely—no more, no less—and that there should be no question of regime change.

We wrap ourselves in a cloak of high morals, but we should remember that arms sales to Libya—to the Gaddafi regime—since 2009 have totalled £61.3 million. That means that we have provided sniper rifles, bullets, tear gas and crowd control ammunition to the Gaddafi regime that we are now trying to topple. The Foreign Secretary was careful in his use of words yesterday about exporting telecommunications equipment to the rebels. The impression given was that it would be of a purely non-military nature, but there have been reports this morning that some of the telecommunications weapons could be of a highly sophisticated variety to call down air strikes on the Gaddafi forces, so my argument is that we are gradually being sucked into action that goes further than providing humanitarian support. Perhaps the Secretary of State for International Development can assure us that that is not the case.