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Libya — [Mr Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:54 am on 26th October 2016.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality) 9:54 am, 26th October 2016

It is good to be reminded of that case, which has never been resolved from an investigative point of view and for which no one has been held accountable. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We want that issue, as well as other outstanding legacy issues, to be addressed. It is such a major issue that I will not do my constituents the disservice of ignoring it and failing to take the opportunity to call for the wrong to be righted as far as possible, which is what the Government appear to have done. I hope that they will not continue to do so.

The IRA terrorist campaign led to the deaths of 3,750 people, not only in Northern Ireland but in Brighton, London, Manchester and other places. Libyan involvement is undisputed. Compensation has been paid to the families of Americans who lost their lives as a result of that involvement, as my hon. Friend Mr Campbell referred to, but the loss of British lives has not led to similar aid or support. I have said before in this place that our citizens are not second-class citizens and that they deserve the same justice as the Americans, and I stress that essential point about British engagement on behalf of my constituents.

Chaos reigns in many parts of Libya. I am aware from the Library briefing that in August, the Royal Navy supported the removal of potential chemical weapons materials from Libya. There are a lot of issues to be addressed there. This is not about winning a war; it is about seeing how we can influence the country and help to rebuild it from a dictatorship into a democracy. However, many external factors are taking control, and we must decide what the appropriate action is in that scenario.

The United Nations has brokered the formation of an inclusive Government of National Accord, but as seems to be the norm, the people the UN seeks to support have no regard for its regulations. There is substantiated evidence of the GNA having been undermined by people flouting the United Nations arms embargo and using Libyan militias as proxies. I have some good friends who work in security in the middle east and have been in Libya, and they have informed me that Libya is awash with illegal arms, some of which have made their way to terrorist groups in Europe. If we want to address terrorism in Europe, we must address the availability of arms in Libya.

Libya has descended into lawlessness since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, giving groups such as the self-proclaimed ISIS free rein to attack Christians. The Minister would expect me to make this point, because I take the opportunity to do so whenever one comes my way. We all know that Libya has a deep Islamic culture, so Libyan Christians must keep their faith completely secret. Churches for Libyans and Christian literature in Arabic are forbidden. Although migrant Christians are allowed to practise their faith in Libya, many have paid the ultimate price: in 2015, dozens of Christians from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt were kidnapped or killed by extremists in Libya. Several of those cases have been well expounded upon and were in the papers and on TV at the time. For example, a brief search for links to news stories related to Christian persecution and Libya returns the following headlines: “Christian woman in fear for her life”; “IS kidnaps 86 Eritrean Christians”; “Islamic State capture more African migrants”; and “IS kill 30 Christians, destroy churches”. Those are just some of the things that happen. Continued persecution is an important factor that must be considered in any discussion of our role and involvement in Libya.

I am conscious of the time and your direction, Mr Chope, so I will conclude with this comment. We face a massive problem. We must first determine our role in solving it and working with others who seek to absolve themselves rather than help solve the issues. We must try to bring stability to an area that desperately needs it, for the benefit of Christians, citizens and neighbouring countries, simply for the fight against terrorism, and, as my hon. Friend David Simpson referred to, for the ordinary people of Libya—the mothers, families, children and hard-working people. We must be wise and effective. Our actions must be co-ordinated to ensure that there is a global response that is felt by those who continue to seek to bring the country to its knees. We in this House have a duty, but we are not alone in that, and we must ensure that all the key players have a role in bringing stability to Libya.