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

I thought I heard a senior army officer in Iraq say that it was a 30-day deployment. However, I agree that the Prime Minister made the commitment that the Black Watch would be home by Christmas. I do not seek to challenge that; the Minister has given the answer that he has, and I am sure that is fine.

To return to opium production, it is likely that this year's yield will be even higher than last year's when the next United Nations report comes out. The Government are committed to spend £70 million on the issue over three years. Given the scale of the impact of the yield on the United Kingdom, is that really sufficient spend to try to stamp out that vile trade?

I understand that the Americans put forward a proposal that the poppy fields should be destroyed using strimmers—they call them weed whackers, in their quaint American way—but that we said that that was not the right way forward. Why did we do that, and what other ideas do we have to try to destroy those crops?

I want to make a couple of comments and ask a couple of questions about Iran. We certainly agree with and support the Government in their constructive engagement. We want to see the issue of uranium enrichment brought to a successful and harmonious conclusion. How do our Government intend to bridge the gap between the approach taken by the EU, particularly France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and the rather hard-line approach taken by the United States of America? What proposals are there to try to bridge that gap?

What will the United Kingdom say and do if the IAEA reports on 24 November that Iran is still intent on producing enriched uranium? After all, on Sunday the Iranian Parliament passed a law allowing them to continue to do that. Where are we going on that issue? When will we get the military equipment back that the Iranians stole from us when they wrongly captured some of our troops a few weeks ago? They are still holding British military equipment.

I want to touch briefly on the Russian Federation, because some important points have been made. Since the report was produced, we have had the sickening scenes from the Beslan siege, which was an awful outrage. What do the Government make of regular Human Rights Watch reports of Russian heavy-handedness and of the involvement of senior Russian parliamentarians and Government officials in the oil for food scandal? Does the Minister think that that impacted on the way in which they responded to the crucial UN security resolution that they would not support?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling asked some important questions about weapons of mass destruction stockpiled throughout the former Soviet Union. What is our policy to try to do all we can to see that those stockpiles are removed?

I also want to focus briefly on the middle east peace process. President Bush's re-election, as others have said, gives a fresh opportunity. He can be more relaxed about the Jewish lobby and the strong Christian evangelical lobby in the USA, which has a very zealous view of the state of Israel. We welcomed the Prime Minister's commitment at the Labour party conference to re-engage vigorously in the proposal. Can the Minister confirm that he meant it and that he will take that forward over the next few days and weeks?

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend Mr. Maples, who asked whether the road map exists any longer or whether it has been blown to pieces. What is the strategy either to get the road map back on track or to introduce a new way to bring both sides together? I want the Minister to know that any action that the Government take to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back to the table so that they can negotiate and finally settle the outstanding issues between them will have our full support.

What role is the Government playing as regards security operations to help the Palestinians in Gaza enjoy security during the withdrawal? What is the status of the current Quartet engagement with the road map? Finally, what is the United Kingdom's strategy for taking the matter forward?

Other issues were mentioned. During his sparkling, thoughtful and insightful speech, my hon. Friend Mr. Tyrie spoke about exporting democracy, and I absolutely agreed with him in my equally sparkling intervention. No one plans to export our style of democracy anywhere—certainly not with hob-nailed boots on—but it is important to underpin and encourage a local expression of democracy in the right way. We should encourage the rule of law, freedom of speech and some kind of representative governance in every country we can, because that is the framework in which people can enjoy freedom.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon that the Government's response to one paragraph in the report was over modest. I have been involved in some of the work that is being done by the global opportunities fund in Bahrain. There has been a new Parliament for the past two years, and I hope to return there in a couple of weeks to help parliamentarians learn more about holding a Government to account—something that we do excellently in this country, of course. The Foreign Office is doing some very good work on such issues, and it is important that we know about it and spread it to other countries. It is long-term, often invisible work, but it is important, and I strongly support it.

I was recently in Saudi Arabia, where people are holding municipal elections at the end of this year and the beginning of next year. While I was there, a raging debate was under way about whether women should be given the right to stand for election and to vote. I did not know whether to be depressed or jubilant about the fact that they were having that debate. None the less, something is moving there.

In his very enjoyable speech, Mr. Pope spoke of not allowing countries to use the war against terror as an excuse for human rights abuses, and I think, in particular, of Uzbekistan. Will the Minister confirm that our man in Tashkent was not recalled simply because he was robust on the issue of human rights and expressed his strong view to the Foreign Office that we should not extract evidence under torture?