Middle East

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:12 pm on 31st March 2004.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Leader In the House of Lords, Leader, House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 7:12 pm, 31st March 2004

My Lords, perhaps I may offer my thanks to your Lordships for a very serious, responsible and thoughtful debate. Although there are still substantial differences of opinion in the House, I think that every Peer who has spoken has addressed this terribly difficult issue with a real sense of trying to contribute to a peaceful and lasting outcome.

A number of noble Lords have suggested, not least the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that we have to recognise that some things take time; in particular, the implantation of any kind of democracy in a culture which is not used to it or accommodated to it. It is also true that there is very little time. One reason for that is that attacks are continually being made on the ground on both sides in this tragic dispute.

We are indeed at a crucial moment, as a number of noble Lords have said. It is a crucial moment when we could continue the spiral downwards or seize the opportunity and turn it around into something that could be really constructive and helpful. In this context one of the important questions is whether Dr Sharon proposes to withdraw from the West Bank as well as from Gaza, because Gaza on its own is little more than a basket case.

I offer my very warm thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. We know that she gives a very substantial part of her undoubtedly great energy and thought to the Middle East crisis and to how to move in the right direction. I thank her for the way in which she invariably listens very closely to debate in this House—that is not always true of everybody, but it is certainly true of her—and the way in which she tries very carefully to address every one of the detailed issues raised.

I conclude simply by saying that I hope the noble Baroness will do her very best to try to make sure that food aid resumes. To add hunger to all the other desperate things in this region of the world might be enough to push even more people over the brink. I should like to thank her and the House as a whole for what I believe has been a very useful and constructive contribution to an extremely difficult problem. I beg to withdraw the Motion for Papers.