Terrorism

– in the House of Lords at 6:01 pm on 29 June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 6:01, 29 June 2005

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government, what progress they are making, together with other governments in the G8 and the European Union, in the cause of defeating global terrorism.

My Lords, in asking the Question, I greatly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey.

"Terrorism is . . . a tool of war": those were the words, as reported in the Guardian of 23 June, of three-star General Wallace Gregson, who is in charge of marine forces in the Pacific, when he was recently addressing the US Naval War College.

"Think of it as our enemy's stealth bomber" he continued.

"This is no more a war on terrorism than world war two was a war on submarines. It's not just semantics"— he said—

"words have meaning. And these words are leading us down to the wrong concept".

He reportedly added that providing doctors, engineers and other aid was,

"more important than capturing and killing people".

Although climate change will do more human, economic and social damage than terrorism ever will, I do not want to argue that there is no terrorist threat. There obviously is, and I regard it as the first duty of government to protect the community. We must constantly remember those who have died, suffered—sometimes grievously—and been bereaved. What I want to argue is that, although the dangers—including nuclear, chemical and biological dangers—can perhaps never be totally eliminated, the battle to contain them will ultimately be won in hearts and minds.

The threat is rooted in a combination of phenomena. There are ruthless, manipulative power seekers; there is fanaticism and the hijacking of religion; and there are well educated, desperate people who feel alienated and excluded from any meaningful control or influence over the circumstances in which they exist—people who are without hope.

Suicide bombing is a terrible crime. It kills, maims and bereaves the innocent, although, of course, bombardments and bombing can do the same. A refusal to ask ourselves why people—especially the young—are prepared to destroy themselves in that way is dangerously myopic. To put it all down to promises of the rewards to come in the after-life is na-ve self-deception.

There are also the millions of the socially and economically deprived. My direct experience tells me that the overwhelming majority of them are as appalled by terrorist deeds as any of us. However, they are so preoccupied and exhausted by the struggle to survive and to provide the next meal for their families that the exposure and denouncing of terrorists are not always their top priorities. On occasion, they may just wonder whether, however wrong the deeds, some at least of the terrorists may not be on their side. It is in a climate of ambiguity that terrorists flourish.

The most important challenge, therefore, is the provision of hope and a positive feeling of stake holding in a decent future. Economic and social justice is essential. The work ahead for the G8 at Gleneagles is highly relevant, but there are the challenges of political justice as well. We should think of the Palestinians or the Iranians. The redistribution of power, coming to terms with the importance of recognising whom the Palestinians or Iranians want to speak for them rather than hand-picking those whom we would like to speak for them, is vital. Indeed, the redistribution of power in the world is an imperative. The agendas of the global institutions have to be the agendas of the—until now—relatively powerless, as much as those of anybody else.

Enlightened paternalism by the powerful is not enough. Indeed, it could prove counter-productive. Our demonstrable commitment, with other nuclear powers, to our own nuclear disarmament is indispensable, if we are to be as convincing as we want to be on Iran.

Too easily, our response to terrorism can be knee-jerk. We want to convince ourselves and the tabloids that we are being strong, but real strength demands more. Those who deploy and manipulate terrorism want to provoke us into over-reaction. They want to polarise, by discrediting our talk of human rights and the rule of law as empty rhetoric. Surely, we should invariably be at pains to deny them that victory. It is precisely when the pressures are most acute that, despite the costs, we need to demonstrate convincingly that we really are about something better and about a positive vision for and commitment to humanity.

When the high standards to which the majority of decent people in our armed services, the police and the Prison Service are committed lapse, when there is brutality or torture, it is not just that it is wrong or that formal requirements have been breached or that the values that are being defended have been contradicted; it is that such action is treacherous. It aids and abets the manipulative terrorists. It gives them exactly what they want and, by doing so, drives more recruits into their arms.

Human rights should never be seen as just another constraining rule to be obeyed but as the essence of the task. Training should always have them at its centre. It is by relentless, transparent and consistent commitment to human rights that the cause of winning hearts and minds will be advanced. Soldiering or policing that is not about that is bad soldiering or policing. The most telling condemnation of Guantanamo Bay is that it is difficult to think of a high-profile project that could be better designed to provoke more effectively the very dangers that it is so foolishly claimed to be there to diminish. Similar concerns must be expressed about Abu Ghraib and Bagram.

Immigration controls will be with us for the foreseeable future. They are needed, but the way in which they are administered and publicly discussed is crucially significant. At all times, the dignity and self-respect of would-be immigrants should be central to all that is said and done. Understanding their predicament is not weak; it is strong. Readily to admit with humility the imperfections of a world order that increasingly encourages the free movement of capital and goods but cannot yet—frankly, it cannot—permit the free movement of people is strong, not weak. Anything said or done that, by humiliation, alienates is likely to add to the ranks of the disillusioned and disaffected and to promote the availability of recruits for extremism. That realisation should surely be at the core of immigration policy and its implementation.

Employment opportunities, educational provision, health facilities and housing are all essential to the cause of winning hearts and minds, where the challenges of immigration and a multicultural society are greatest. Generous and imaginative social provision for the communities where the biggest influx of immigration occurs helps to ease tension and inhibit scapegoating. It can therefore reduce the dangers of alienation.

In the making of law and in its administration, commitment to human rights has to be a constant discipline. Derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights and administrative short-cuts play right into the hands of the manipulators of terrorism. Imagine an impressionable young person in an immigrant or ethnic minority community who is under pressure from extremists when a short-cut on long-established legal process is taken. Due process and a transparent manifestation that justice is not only being done but can be seen to be done are essential. Not to appreciate that is to live in a world far removed from the front line of human reality, where it matters.

Meanwhile, we must not sweep the lessons of Iraq under the carpet. In any case, the daily carnage makes that difficult. That such an enterprise was embarked on without widespread international endorsement remains a devastating and counter-productive blow to the credibility of the international rule of law. The failure, despite British anxieties, to have had in place from day one a convincing strategy for winning hearts and minds has proved an almost fatal irresponsibility.

For some time, I have been involved through the Council of Europe with the conflict in Chechnya. The humanitarian and human rights challenge remains huge. The agony of the Chechen people is the shame of Europe. The Russian action and the way in which it is pursued is as counter-productive as ever. It recruits for the terrorists. Terrorism against the innocent can never be condoned; it is horrific. But that applies to state terrorism—overt or covert—every bit as much as to everyone else. The climate of impunity, the disappearances, the illegal killings, the brutality and terror remain shocking. If Europe and the outside world cannot persuade Russia to take the road of a genuinely inclusive political process, winning back as many fighters as possible who are prepared to renounce terrorism to a stakeholding in a viable and sustainable political future, the message may well go out far beyond Chechnya to the wider Islamic world that there is no room for moderation. If, on the other hand, a meaningful, inclusive political process can be developed, the standing of moderation throughout the Islamic world could be greatly enhanced.

The courage, determination and selflessness of all those in the armed services, the police, the security services and in administration who strive tirelessly to defeat terrorism are impressive. They are tactically holding the position far more successfully than many dared to hope, but strategically we must constantly be on our guard, lest we lend ourselves to a long-term defeat by the terrorist. We must be resolute. We must be tough, but on no account must we ever be provoked into the dismantling of the quality of our way of life. That would be the way to give those we resist their victory. Everything we do must be seen and felt by all to be grounded in an unyielding commitment to justice and, above all, to human rights. I ask my noble friend whether he would not agree that the most effective sustained defence against fanaticism will always be reasonableness, reconciliation, rationality, human rights and open, inclusive democracy.

Photo of Lord Chidgey Lord Chidgey Liberal Democrat 6:12, 29 June 2005

My Lords, rising to speak to your Lordships for the first time in this House cannot but fill one with a sense of humility. I look around, in the shadow of the bronze statues of 16 barons and two archbishops who, in 1215, forced King John to sign the Magna Carta—that great charter that laid down for the first time the statutes that protected our citizens from the excesses of the state. For 700 years, it was the point of reference for the constitutional rights of our citizens, until, in the 19th century, the growth of more utilitarian laws consigned it more to the backwaters of our legal process.

Speaking to your Lordships in the shadow of the Magna Carta barons, as a newly-created baron, I find it a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, I should like to place on record the fact that, since joining your Lordships' House, I have been overwhelmed by the courtesy, kindness and assistance of the staff of this House, and overwhelmed equally by the welcome offered by Members of this House from all political persuasions.

Your Lordships who were previously Members of another place may recall that I entered politics rather late in life—as an aunt of mine once said, "At an age when you ought to have known better". In total, I fought six elections—two in Europe, one of which was a by-election, and four for Westminster, one of which was a by-election. In fact, I suspect that fighting a by-election for both Parliaments might be almost unique. It might be a good Trivial Pursuit question if not practice. Nevertheless, having found my score standing at three losses and three wins, it seemed a good time to quit—if not quite ahead, at least even.

I should like to turn specifically to the debate before us today, on the progress of the G8 and the EU in the cause of defeating global terrorism, instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, with whom I have had the pleasure to serve on the Joint Committee on Human Rights. We were united as lay men, often in awe of the eminence of the lawyers who grace that committee. Often was the cry heard, "But we are not lawyers", until it was taken from our lips and thrown to one side as unworthy of the committee.

I shall concentrate on the progress made in Afghanistan—the old north-west frontier, home of the Taliban and the breeding ground of al-Qaeda. I am particularly concerned about the progress in addressing the military and economic issues in that region, as they bear so directly on terrorism.

Your Lordships will be aware that nearly all the heroin that enters the European Union and the United Kingdom starts from Afghanistan. To their credit, the Government have recognised the problem and committed resources to try to address it. I understand that their target is a 75 per cent reduction in poppy cultivation by 2008 and complete eradication by 2013. I understand also that the United Kingdom's counter-narcotics budget has risen from £30,000 in 2001 to £16 million in 2004. It is forecast to rise to £20 million in 2005. However, I also understand that poppy cultivation has also increased, from 8,000 hectares in 2001 to more than 130,000 hectares in 2004.

Clearly, the pressures are enormous. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The proceeds from one hectare of cultivated wheat is about £120; the proceeds from one hectare of poppies is £7,000. It is no wonder that the warlords are happy to pay farmers in advance for their crops. It is estimated that, last year, the income gained by each of the warlords in Pakistan from heroin and retained border taxes exceeded £150 million per year. That somewhat dwarfs the United Kingdom's counter-narcotics budget.

It is also clear that the United Kingdom's effort, despite these problems, is greatly appreciated and admired—but I suggest that we need to see similar support from our European Union colleagues to address what is after all a European Union problem. We have to tackle heroin production if we are fully to tackle terrorism.

Military intervention is only one part of the solution. Nevertheless, it is right to say that the United Kingdom's record on military intervention in Afghanistan has been second to none. Both NATO generals and Afghan Ministers have confirmed that the behaviour and efforts of our forces have been peerless at all levels. They have set standards, including standards for human rights, to which others can only aspire. I understand that the Government plan that there should be 1,000 British Armed Forces personnel committed to Afghanistan at the end of 2005. It seems very likely that more than that will be needed in the short term and the near future. In that regard, I press the Minister to tell us, if he can, how he intends that we should cope with those demands, given the demands that we face in Iraq, Kosovo and elsewhere, and given the concerns expressed in all quarters of over-stretch in our Armed Forces.

Will the Government seek a commitment of more European Union and NATO forces to Afghanistan as a priority during the UK's EU presidency? In that regard, the European Union's delivery on commitments to Afghanistan in the past has been shabby at best. Last year, in the NATO headquarters in Kabul, the commanding officer was close to despair for the want of a few thousand extra personnel from the European Union's 2 million Armed Forces personnel—close to despair for the want of approximately 10 more helicopters from the EU's total of more than 1,000 helicopters.

The subject is particularly relevant given the tragic news today of the loss of another United States Chinook helicopter, together with 17 lives, to what appears to be hostile fire in the Kunar province. Clearly, if we are to be successful in combating terrorism at its heart, we have to have the resources and the personnel to do that job.

Finally, I draw attention to the need—as I think was intimated by the noble Lord, Lord Judd—to consider not just the military aspects but also the civil and the hearts and minds aspects of combating terrorism. We can do that only with the support of the G8 and EU nations. If we consider a centre of terrorism to be the north-west province of Pakistan and northern Afghanistan, we are considering one of the most mountainous regions in the world with a desperate lack of infrastructure and development. In isolated areas the tribal lifestyle is virtually unchanged since the days of the Raj. There are appalling levels of illiteracy, particularly among women. I understand from the figures that have been quoted that in some areas the level of literacy among women is less than 1 per cent. That is almost unimaginable. There is almost no provision of state education, health services or public health. Ignorance has become embedded and has become fertile ground for a hostile society to transform itself into a terrorist society.

I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us that during the United Kingdom's presidency of the EU and chairmanship of the G8 it will, in addressing the war against terror in the short and the longer term, and in addressing the military and civil aspects, make Afghanistan one of its priorities.

It is a great privilege to address your Lordships in this House. I hope that I shall play a part in your proceedings on a regular basis in the future.

Photo of Lord Garden Lord Garden Spokesperson in the Lords, Defence 6:21, 29 June 2005

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Chidgey, who has made as informed and informative a maiden speech as I and those who know him would have expected. He brings an extraordinary breadth of experience to your Lordships' House. Trained as a mechanical and aeronautical engineer, his career spanned the Admiralty, highways and the engineering industry at home, in the Middle East and in Africa.

As we have heard, he has been the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh—when he was eventually elected to Parliament—since 1992, and has been our party's spokesman in the other place on employment, transport and trade and industry successively. He has a wealth of experience. In addition—this is relevant to today's debate—he has been a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee since 1999, which does so much good work in considering the causes of terrorism. He brings a wealth and breadth of experience that I know will be valued. We look forward to his future contributions.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for giving us the opportunity to consider how the current approach to international terrorism is progressing. I believe that I agreed with everything he said, and mostly with the same passion that he expressed.

The cause of defeating global terrorism is unhappily likely to be a lost cause in this century. What we can best do is look at ways to reduce risks from existing terrorists, reduce their number and aim to eliminate the growth of recruits to extremist movements. This should shape our thinking in terms of where we put our effort nationally or through the G8, the EU or, indeed, the UN as between short-term defences against the threat and long-term cures to address the causes.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the other place produced on 22 March 2005 a report entitled, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism. I commend it to your Lordships as an excellent piece of analysis. It concluded that al-Qaeda and associated groups continue to pose a serious threat to the UK and its interests. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that that is not the most serious security threat that we face. I refer to threats such as climate change, disease, poverty and so on. However, it is a serious threat. How do we best tackle this threat? Your Lordships will probably not have read a recent report by Professor Coolsaet of Ghent University. His analysis is relevant to the matters that we have discussed so far this afternoon. He states:

"Jihadi terrorism now basically is a cloak patched from different sources of local discontent, real and perceived, stitched together by a puritanical and radical interpretation of Islam, and thriving on an enabling global momentum. The root causes underlying this particular brand of terrorism are composed of one major global root cause and a multitude of local root causes".

He sees the major global root cause as,

"an astonishing degree of solidarity amongst Muslim communities worldwide, built upon shared feelings of humiliation, bitterness and besiegement".

The Select Committee highlighted the role that Iraq is playing as a training ground, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, spoke of that as well. It is a training ground for the new generation of terrorists, just as Afghanistan was in the past. Therefore, it is in those two countries that we need to examine our policies most carefully. My noble friend Lord Chidgey has dealt with Afghanistan in detail, and I agree with his analysis. In Iraq, we need to ensure that our actions do not stoke up further the fires of extremism. Heavy-handed peacekeeping may give short-term military successes, but the families of the dead will be the fertile grounds for new terrorist recruits.

In that respect, I am sorry to see the United Kingdom is providing aircraft to operate with American aircraft in Fallujah-style offensive operations near the Syrian border. Will the Minister comment on that? Even if the intelligence were reliable, which one might doubt, there will be innocent deaths and growing resentment. That is not the way to reduce the long-term threat from terrorism.

If Iraq is now at the centre of our problems, we must look for a grand strategy and not just continue to operate at the military tactical level. That means a realistic approach to the political process, which is the key to stabilising the country. The drift and the worsening insurgency since the elections of 30 January must be reversed. That means that we must bring together the United Nations, the G8, the EU, the neighbours and the Iraqis in forming a coherent plan. It is not good enough just to say, "We are going to stay there as long as the Iraqi Government want us to"—that is not a plan. We need a co-ordinated approach, or we may eventually have to leave and we will have a nest of terrorism to strike at all our interests for decades to come. As the Select Committee concluded when it looked at Iraq:

"The counter-insurgency strategy has not succeeded. This may reflect an overriding focus on a military approach to the detriment of political engagement".

There are, of course, other regional priorities as well as Afghanistan and Iraq for the political action that we need to reduce the long-term threat from terrorism. I know that noble Lords agree that the Middle East peace process is key. Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and long-term stability problems, is a particular worry. Syria and Iran need careful engagement rather than isolation if we are not to generate new sources of extremism.

The Select Committee looked closely at problems of the Maghreb, and the significance particularly of Algeria, Morocco and Libya to countering terrorism. I agree strongly with the conclusion that this emphasises the need for reform in the EU's policy towards the region, an overhaul of the Barcelona process, and full engagement. Perhaps the Minister will comment on how the UK presidency will take that forward.

Three other aspects of the Select Committee report were just as important: the multilateral framework, the importance of human rights, and the role of non-proliferation. The Motion rightly speaks of the G8 and EU, but the importance of the United Nations to the multilateral framework must not be forgotten. The lack of a secretariat for the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee has been a poor indication of commitment. Similarly, in the EU we have an action plan on terrorism under Mr de Vries, but progress has been remarkably slow. EU members agreed in December last year,

"that in order to be effective in the long run the Union's response to terrorism must address the root causes of terrorism. Radicalisation and terrorist recruitment can be closely connected".

The analysis is right; the strategy is right; and we must use our presidency to put some urgency into that area.

Promotion of human rights is a key factor in preventing support for terrorism increasing. Injustice, lack of dignity, abuse, and torture by repressive regimes have always led to extremes of violence. In promoting democracy, the members of the G8 and EU must never sink to the moral norms of their terrorist enemy. I agree totally with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram, and the many other interrogation centres of which we know nothing. They are not just a moral outrage, they are against our interests in combating terrorism. Information gained by undue pressure and outright torture is always unreliable and recruits many more to the terror banner. We must stop it and bring back due process for all suspects.

Non-proliferation approaches have also assumed much greater importance in the age of the suicide bomber. It is now more likely that a non-state actor will use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons—CBRNs—to achieve their aim. The Cold War left us with unwanted mountains of fissile material, and also biological and chemical weapons expertise. All the responsible nations of the world should be working together to deny access to those materials and manufacturing processes. In that respect, the failure of the NPT Review Conference was also a failure of counter- terrorist strategy. I trust that the Government will make that an important aspect of their G8 work.

I shall draw my remarks to an end by questioning whether we nationally have the balance of our efforts correctly drawn. The Ministry of Defence sees its role as tackling the threats at a distance. We and our allies seem to think that we can take a robust military approach when the action is thousands of miles away. I do not recall us contemplating the use of aircraft-launched missiles on the Irish border for the terrorist problems closer to home. Yet if we generate five new radical recruits for every mis-targeted bomb, we will be storing up more trouble for the future. The need for engagement and respect for all peoples is in our interests as well as theirs.

If that is true in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is also true in Bradford and Bethnal. Each EU member nation needs to work hard to prevent its own minorities becoming isolated and radicalised. Fallujah and Guantanamo Bay radicalise young people in Iraq and Afghanistan. To an extent they do so here as well, but discrimination and racism can do the same at home. We must take care that, in legislating to protect against terrorism, we do not spawn more recruits to the cause by alienating and isolating our citizens.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, Northern Ireland, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips 6:32, 29 June 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for initiating the debate, and to the expert speakers who have taken part, including the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, to whom I pay particular compliment.

Speakers have drawn attention to the three key factors which impact on this subject. Dominating all, of course, are the after-effects of 9/11. In many ways, we are in even more dangerous waters. We have moved from the highly disciplined, relatively closely organised network of Al-Qaeda of five years ago, which was after all able to mount the remarkable logistical achievement of the 9/11 hijacking. By all accounts, Al-Qaeda is now a much more amorphous club, shall we say? That club has minimum rules, the first of which is a fanatical interpretation of Islam, coupled with a violent hatred of the West and of the United States in particular. The very looseness of the structure makes it very much more difficult to destroy in one fell swoop by an attack at the centre. Now it is a case of finding a few suicide fanatics and you are in business. Cross the porous boundaries of Iraq and there are targets without limit.

The suicide bomber has lent a totally new dimension to what it is sad that one has to describe as the effectiveness of terrorism. The events of the past year have demonstrated in a most frightening way that the threat of insurgency through the principal weapon of the suicide bomber is an open-ended one. It is only this week that Donald Rumsfeld gave it as his opinion that we were in for anything up to a 12-year stint to defeat the insurgents.

There are other aspects of global terrorism in the 21st century that have not occurred hitherto, one of which is the emergence of the rogue nuclear powers—principally North Korea and Iran—to which the noble Lord, Lord Garden, referred. If any message comes out of that, particularly from the new president in Iran, it is the necessity to talk. That point was made with his usual eloquence by Prince Hassan of Jordan on the "Today" programme this morning.

I suppose that we are experiencing the close association of a faith with so many acts of terrorism. One immediately thinks of Islam, but we must not forget that the conflicts in Northern Ireland over the past 35 years owe to their origins nominally—I repeat "nominally"—different interpretations of Christianity. However, I hope that the violence in that area is behind us and, sadly, it is Islam that is associated with so many acts of terrorism in the 21st century.

It is essential that a dialogue with moderate factions of Islam is maximised. Such forums may well not be easy to identify, since moderate Islam does not necessarily follow national boundaries. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that such dialogues are being pursued by Her Majesty's Government as a matter of urgency.

Perhaps I may add one further thought. In conversations with nationals of Muslim countries one is constantly made aware of the place that the Palestinian problem occupies in their thinking—often transcending national considerations. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Blackburn, will not mind me referring to a conversation I had with him shortly after 9/11, when Afghanistan was very much on the scene. He said that your average Muslim in Pakistan, or, indeed India, would regard the priorities of Afghanistan as 10 per cent, but of the Middle East, particularly Palestine, of 90 per cent. I have never forgotten that. It should be a constant reminder to us all of how central that problem is and what an impediment it is to reconciliation with responsible and statesmanlike Islam.

We in this House know only too well of the history of the Prevention of Terrorism Act earlier this year. That marathon led to an undertaking to appoint an independent reviewer, the publication of a draft counter-terrorism Bill and the beginning of pre-legislative scrutiny. We on these Benches are pleased that the new counter-terrorism Bill will follow the existing legislation seamlessly—one hopes, in 2006.

My party has four priorities in the fight against global terrorism and so many of those have been covered tonight. The first is that terrorism and extremism must be confronted whenever they appear; secondly, that action must be taken against rogue states that are the breeding grounds for international terrorism; and thirdly, Britain must be ready to take pre-emptive military action as a last resort. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, emphasised the contribution that our Armed Forces have played in Afghanistan. One is so proud of the military action they take and the civil relations that they are so expert at following with. No other country on day five of the Iraq operation could play football against the locals and manage to get soundly beaten.

Fourthly, taking up a point made by many speakers, we must avoid a clash of civilisations. We must not give the disaffected Muslims whom Al-Qaeda attempts to recruit the impression that we are their implacable enemy. Just as we must confront the terrorists, we must deepen our exchange of ideas with the rest of the Islamic world.

This Question asked the Minister what place this subject would occupy at the G8 summit. Perhaps he can give us an indication of that.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 6:38, 29 June 2005

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord Judd for giving the House this opportunity to discuss the British, G8 and EU efforts to combat global terrorism. The noble Lord is a dedicated and distinguished internationalist and a democrat to his fingertips. We share his disgust for terrorist methods. They strike at the values that we hold most dear, which is why he says that over-reaction to them can itself damage those values. We share the belief that we must defend those values.

I am grateful to all other noble Lords who have contributed. I especially welcome the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, on his maiden speech. After a decade of service in another place—and, by the way, a 3–3 draw is not a bad result in many circumstances—I know that he will bring valued expertise to this House, due to his deep knowledge of foreign affairs, which was so evident today. I look forward to hearing him on many occasions.

Let me start with the threat. My noble friend Lord Judd appeals to me to agree that reasonableness, respect for human rights and the many other values he expressed are essential. Of course I do. Who could disagree with them? They are a huge bastion for all of us. But on occasions, they are not enough to stop bullets or to dissuade bombers. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, asked whether we accept that in taking the stance we have taken, we may be in for a century in which the struggle against bullets and bombs may be lost. I may be paraphrasing him incorrectly, but I believe that it is there to be won.

Any discussion on counter-terrorism, must start with the realistic assessment of the threat. The United Kingdom and our international partners have faced terrorism previously, as noble Lords have said. But, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, made clear, the global terrorism of al-Qaeda and its affiliates poses a threat on an unprecedented scale. These terrorists have a global ambition and reach. They use modern media to spread their propaganda and to sustain their networks. They have attracted recruits and supporters across the world. Their ideology is adaptable to many causes, local and international. They assert—and it is a lie—that the West is a threat to Islam and that violence is the only proper response.

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are ambitious and innovative. They are prepared to use any means to mount attacks, no matter how indiscriminate and no matter what the consequences for the victims or themselves. It is true to say that suicide bombers add a totally different ingredient. Some aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. They are prepared—indeed, eager—to kill in large numbers.

The scale of recent terrorist violence is unprecedented. In the past five years, as many as 4,000 people have died in terrorist attacks linked to al-Qaeda and associated groups. I have no doubt whatever that we remain among their most clear targets. British interests and citizens were directly targeted in attacks in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia and Doha. No government, of whatever persuasion, could conceivably ignore a threat which has killed hundreds of their citizens in four years. We will not do so. British citizens are entitled to expect their Government to protect them. We are determined to do so.

It is thanks to the skill and vigilance of our intelligence agencies and police services that attacks in the United Kingdom have been disrupted before they could be mounted. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, is right to say that we should attend to suicide bombers and others becoming part of that tangible threat in this country.

To combat this global and unprecedented threat, the United Kingdom Government have adopted a four-part strategy, so close to the prescription of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. The immediate imperative is to pursue terrorists and those who support them. We must do all we can to make it difficult for terrorists to plan and commit attacks. This means disrupting their logistics, their means of communication, their finances and their travel. It means tracking and apprehending them and bringing them to justice. And I wholly take the point about bringing them to justice.

The noble Lord, Lord Garden, said that sometimes it involves us in taking military action and he cited the use of aircraft in western Iraq. But, with the greatest respect, I cannot accept that were we to desist from doing so, it would lead any terrorist to give up. I do not believe that that has any realistic prospect. However, I accept explicitly, and in the terms put by my noble friend Lord Judd, that in taking action we must uphold the fundamental values which the terrorists are seeking to undermine. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, and my noble friend are right that bad soldiering, bad policing and bad practices in gaols undermine our most fundamental values. We cannot tolerate that and on every occasion it appears we must deal with it—and deal with it openly, as we do with all injustice. We do so because we respect people and regard them, whether citizens of the United Kingdom or citizens of another country, as being equal in our pursuit of just outcomes.

Pursing terrorists is only one element of a successful strategy for countering international terrorism. We also seek to prevent the emergence of new generations of terrorists. We need to address the factors that contribute to the radicalisation of individuals and the recruitment of terrorists. We must address each structural issue in turn. We must deal with poor governance, unmet economic aspirations and political and social alienation. We must address what motivates people, such as local and international conflicts, including the conflict in the Middle East, because it is so central to people's thinking and to the perception in the Muslim world that it has been oppressed and attacked by the West. We must counter the terrorists' propaganda in all these respects. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was quite right when he said that this is first and foremost a battle for hearts and minds. I could not agree more. Hope and stakeholding are essential, and they are often what are disrupted by terror.

It is wrong to suggest that respect for human rights and effective counter-terrorism efforts are contradictory. The abuse of human rights breads a sense of powerlessness and injustice that can lead to terrorism and it feeds terrorist propaganda. Effective law enforcement is a vital short-term weapon to undermine terrorist groups, but justice and basic rights are vital long-term weapons in the attempt to undermine the appeal of such groups.

Our strategy also needs to be to reduce our vulnerability by protecting potential targets from attack and by preparing for attacks so that we can minimise their consequences. We must work with our partners. We have done a great deal domestically to implement the strategy, but international partnership is vital if we are to be successful in dealing with an international threat. We work at many levels and with many countries well beyond the EU and the G8 to build co-operation at an operational level and to increase the will and the capacity of other governments to counter terrorism, including on those social hearts and minds issues.

Most specific operational co-operation on counter-terrorism is bilateral, or among a small group of countries, according to the particular needs, whether in a police investigation into an individual, sharing intelligence about a network, or discussing how to respond to an attack affecting more than one country. The most effective way is to work bilaterally or in small groups. This co-operation runs across all aspects of our work.

I shall give two examples to answer questions that noble Lords have put about some of the work we are doing. To prepare for simultaneous attacks, we hold joint UK-US- Canadian exercises. We did one in April to which we invited many observers from the EU and beyond to see what was done. In response to a point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, we are trying very hard to promote inter-faith dialogue. My colleague, Dr Howells, is co-hosting a conference in Indonesia in July with leaders of the Muslim world to address precisely that objective.

Specific operational co-operation exchanges will rarely be suitable for the bigger multilateral institutions. But the multilateral system does provide a way to set minimum standards and encourage co-operation. Although the UN is not the subject of this debate, I mention that it does have a pivotal role, and I am sure that we all believe and know that. It has an unrivalled legitimacy and reach. It has done a great deal to set global standards for counter-terrorism, to monitor compliance and to encourage help for those states that need it.

While the UN sets those minimum standards, we work within the EU and G8 to provide higher ones. Let me turn to each of those briefly in turn. The G8, of which we are adopting the presidency in a few days, is a forum for collaboration, but without any permanent secretariat or legal existence, so its role is to put issues on the agenda and to gain agreement on how its members will push them forward. Since the 11 September attacks, the G8 has focused on a series of critical counter-terrorism issues.

At the Kananaskis summit in 2002 we agreed policies to prevent terrorists from accessing chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. We returned to the issue at Evian in 2003 and Sea Island in 2004, focusing specifically on preventing terrorist access to radioactive materials.

The Evian summit also saw the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Action Group to co-ordinate efforts to provide counter-terrorism assistance to weaker nations. That meets three times a year and involves others from beyond the G8, including the UN, the World Bank and IMF, Australia, Spain and Switzerland.

At the Sea Island summit, we agreed a series of measures on international transport security, the vast majority of which have been implemented under the UK presidency. In many cases, the standards set by this work, for example on aircraft cockpit security, are now being promulgated more widely.

The EU—and the noble Lord, Lord Garden, specifically asked about it—is a very different organisation from the G8. Its contribution to counter-terrorism includes legislative and institutional measures as well as collaboration between states.

The EU response has developed quickly in recent years. After the 11 September and then the 11 March attacks, the European Council agreed detailed action plans. These have produced important results. We have established an enhanced framework for co-operation between member states on police and judicial matters. Most notably, we have agreed a European Arrest Warrant to facilitate extradition of terrorist suspects.

We are working hard, and will work in our presidency, on the issues which have also been raised in relation to Afghanistan. That is an extremely important issue because it demonstrates both the necessity to interdict terrorism and the need to help reconstruct a whole society. There are great difficulties in that, as noble Lords have pointed out. But those are problems which President Karzai and others are addressing.

It is easier to describe some of the military realities there than to identify some of the other things which are being done. But I take huge pleasure in the work that we have been able to assist with, which has meant that most girls are now back at school alongside their brothers, who are also back at school. That is transforming Afghanistani education in the most fundamental way.

We are working hard with Afghanistan on the anti-narcotics programme. We have some successes and there are setbacks. In other places such as Colombia there has been big progress in anti-narcotics work; but again, in other Latin American countries there have been setbacks. We work on it very hard.

We have worked with the Kenyan authorities in order to ensure greater security in the skies over Kenya. Where we can be proactive, we are proactive, and we intend to remain so.

The threat is serious. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, makes the point, and I completely agree, that we will resolve most issues in the end by talking with one another. Talk and negotiation: absolutely. When it is difficult, we should talk again. But of course, as we do so, we must protect our people from the violence to which they would otherwise be subject.

We have disrupted terrorist networks and averted attacks. We are better protected from and prepared for attacks than we have ever been. It is true that on occasions our response is military, and that is right, but it is also civil and cultural, and it is exemplified by our view that all the issues of security and poverty and the people's desire for a peaceful existence are interconnected. The Commission for Africa was an example of how to address interconnected issues.

International co-operation has developed considerably. We have had successes, but threats remain. We will continue to combat terrorism, working with our partners in the EU and the G8 and beyond. But we will combat international terrorism and we will stick to that task.