War against Terrorism

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:47 pm on 4th November 2004.

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Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon 4:47 pm, 4th November 2004

It is very rare indeed for me to speak for the whole Conservative party.

The opportunities are first to see through the job that has been started in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must get those interventions right before anyone starts to think about any more interventions around the globe. I shall say a little more about that in a moment.

Secondly, it is crucial that the US re-engages with the United Nations. The hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale talked about the United Nations reform proposals, which return to us shortly, and I hope that we can debate them. It is crucial that the US engages fully in those proposals, and that future interventions are multilateral and supported by the Security Council with formal resolutions.

Thirdly, as President Bush enters his second term and with all that he has learned in the past four years, he has the opportunity to exercise more soft power rather than hard military power in various parts of the world. I hope that the Minister will agree and confirm in his winding-up speech—he will have almost half an hour, so he will have the opportunity to answer fully the many questions that have been asked today—that the United Kingdom has the opportunity to become more assertive in our relationship with the US. Perhaps in some quarters there will be a new enthusiasm for all kinds of activity, so we must ensure it is tempered by good old-fashioned British common sense and responsibility. The Prime Minister is well placed to become more assertive.

I will mention the main focus of the report, and start as others have done on the war against terror being fought in Iraq. We have seen many external insurgents, such as al-Zarqawi, pouring into Iraq, and my right hon. Friend Sir John Stanley made a powerful and chilling speech about the possibility of Iraq becoming a training ground for al-Qaeda, That is of immense concern. That is even more reason why we must see the work through and succeed. I do not think that my right hon. Friend or I would have necessarily started from where we are today, but we must see it through.

We have seen distressing acts of savagery—kidnapping and beheading. We think very much still of the family of Kenneth Bigley, and of Margaret Hassan, who is still captive and in our thoughts and prayers. The Minister needs to know that we will stand firmly with him to see the work through and the January elections take place. I have not heard much about engaging the United Nations in that process. The Minister was asked about security for United Nations officials, but what about monitors and support for those vital elections? Will he say more about that? We must also see reconstruction moving on apace, more jobs created for Iraqis and services re-established.

As is well known, we supported the recent deployment of the Black Watch in Iraq because Major-General Rollo confirmed that it was for operational purposes. Will the Minister say any more—we will understand if he cannot—about the proposed action on Falluja? I am concerned about whether we have done everything to reach a peaceful outcome—not with the external insurgents, as that is probably unrealistic, but with the various Iraqi factions. I am concerned also about the 50,000 or so civilians who remain in Falluja. I have no idea what military action is contemplated if any, but what about them? What opportunity is being given to them? Are we really going that extra mile to ensure that collateral damage, or the killing of innocent people, is not part of the story over the next few weeks?

Who will replace the Black Watch, given the firm commitment that it will be involved only for 30 days? Will it be the Scots Guards, as has been mentioned? My daughter has married into the military, and I have recently realised that maximum clarity about what is required of all our armed forces is a very good thing. It was the uncertainty that beset the Black Watch that caused so much distress; once it got its marching orders, things were fine. If the Minister can say any more about what will happen next, it would be most welcome.

On Afghanistan, we must, again, see the situation all the way through. There are some causes for hope, such as the election result. President Karzai is very impressive, but, as has been said by others, his writ runs only in and around Kabul, and that situation must be improved. Will the Minister confirm that President Karzai will be provided with adequate resources to clamp down on the warlords and on terrorist groups, which are raising their ugly heads again?

We are concerned about opium production, which we have taken responsibility for. When the Taliban were in control, opium yield slumped almost to nothing: 185 metric tonnes were produced in 2001, zooming to 3,400 in 2002 and 3,600 in 2003. We expect the figure to be even higher in 2004.