Earthlinggb's Blog

Diego Garcia: How it works

HC Deb 21 June 2004 vol 422 cc1221-2W1221W

§Jeremy CorbynTo ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been received from the US concerning the depopulation of the civilian population of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands that lie within the British Indian Ocean Territories. [179700]

§Mr. RammellThe US authorities have in the past made clear their concerns about the presence of a settled civilian population in the British Indian Ocean Territory. However, I have received no recent representations from them on the subject.

§Sir Menzies CampbellTo ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what facilities exist on Diego Garcia for holding human beings against their will; and if he will make a statement. [178580]

§Mr. StrawIn exercise of powers conferred on him by the Prisons Ordinance 1981 of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Commissioner for the Territory has declared certain specified premises in Diego Garcia to be a prison. This was done by orders made in February 1986 (which replaced an earlier order made in July 1982), July 1993 and December 2001. Under various provisions of the law of the Territory, persons may be arrested in execution of a warrant of arrest issued by a Court or a Magistrate, or in certain circumstances without such a warrant, and any person so arrested may then be detained in such a prison until he is brought before a Court or a Magistrate. Persons who are ordered by a Court or a Magistrate to be remanded in custody or committed to prison are detained in such a prison as also, of course, are persons who are sentenced by a Court to imprisonment following their conviction of a criminal offence.

§Sir Menzies CampbellTo ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many detainees, and how many shipments of detainees, have passed through Diego Garcia, or the territorial waters off it, while in transit between other destinations; whether any detainees have been disembarked at Diego Garcia, and for how long; and if he will make a statement. [178581]

§Mr. StrawThe United States authorities have repeatedly assured us that no detainees have at any time passed in transit through Diego Garcia or its territorial waters or have disembarked there and that the allegations to that effect are totally without foundation. The Government are satisfied that their assurances are correct.

HC Deb 24 September 2002 vol 390 cc26-156

Mr. DalyellThe right hon. Gentleman has used the words “overwhelming force” three times already. Does “overwhelming force” include the use of B61–11s? Those are the earth-penetrating nuclear weapons which, we are told, are based in the British Indian ocean territory of Diego Garcia. If there is to be overwhelming force, and if it is to involve nuclear weapons, with the B2 bombers that are based in the hangars at Diego Garcia, ought not the House of Commons to be told about it?

§Mr. AncramThe force that will be required is that which is appropriate and most effective in achieving the objective. I am certainly not going to speculate at this stage on what that force will be. Indeed, at this particular stage we need to make it clear that the United Nations resolution is the first objective to be fulfilled: only if Saddam breaches that will we consider the second option.

 

 

 

HC Deb 15 October 2002 vol 390 cc528-9W

Jeremy Corbyn 

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what applications he has received from the USA to construct new aircraft hangars on Diego Garcia; and if he will make a statement. [74654]

529W

§Mr. Mike O’BrienThe issue of possible upgrades to facilities at Diego Garcia has been discussed at annual talks between the UK and US governments. The details of these governmental talks are confidential and exempt under section la of The Code of practice on Access to Government Information, “Information whose disclosure would harm national security or defence”.

DG2

 

HC Deb 07 July 2004 vol 423 cc271-96WH271WH§2 pm

§Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North (Lab)I welcome the opportunity to debate what I consider to be a very serious issue. It touches on honesty in politics and in government, and it touches on issues of constitution and law and the way in which a group of people have been grievously treated by this country and, to some extent, the United States for more than 40 years.

The people who lived for hundreds of years on the Chagos Islands were descendents of its first inhabitants who had been dropped off there as slaves and traders or had settled there. They lived a settled existence, fishing and producing copra, and they inhabited an idyllic and pristine environment. Their problem was their location—the Indian ocean. The United States was eyeing it up in the 1950s and 1960s as a potential base, and subsequently decided to build what they euphemistically called a “communications facility” on the island of Diego Garcia. The communications facility turned out to be two of the longest runways that the world had seen and a base from which 4,000 US troops could operate. The base is now routinely used for the bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the United States ‘considers it to be a crucial communications facility.

Prime Minister Wilson and President Johnson discussed the matter in the 1960s and decided to do a deal and evacuate the population of Diego Garcia to make way for the American communications facility. The Americans insisted on the evacuation of not only Diego Garcia, but the entire archipelago, despite the fact that its other islands were some distance from the putative communications facility.

The language used by the then Colonial Office was outrageous beyond belief. Simon Winchester wrote a wonderful piece on the subject in Granta magazine in which he quoted the then permanent secretary in the Colonial Office who described the population inhabiting the islands as a group of “Man Fridays” and stated that it would be simple and easy enough to move them out of the way. The deal subsequently went through and, to make ready for the American base, the British authorities proceeded to remove people from the islands. However, it was never done openly.

Only two days ago outside the Foreign Office, I met a man who was part of a demonstration there. He told me that he had left the islands in 1966 and that he was not allowed to go back, as many others were not. When they went to Mauritius or the Seychelles—mainly Mauritius—for medical treatment or education, they suddenly found that they could not go back.

When the time came for the British to remove the population in earnest, they did so —putting them on a ship, taking them to Port Louis in Mauritius and simply dumping them on the quayside. When my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) speaks, I am sure that he will describe the conditions that he saw when he went to Mauritius at the time. The people were dumped there in terrible destitution. To ensure that nothing was left on the islands, the British commissioner had the problem of what to do with the islanders’ domestic animals and pets. The dogs were rounded up 272WHand gassed, all the animals were killed and the islands were left empty and uninhabited to make way for the American base.

The poor islanders were forced to eke out an existence in terrible poverty in Mauritius and the Seychelles. Ignored by everybody, they managed to survive and they never gave up two things: first, the hope, determination and desperation for the right of return; and secondly, the hope that one day, somebody, somewhere would recognise the fundamental injustice of their treatment.

Time has moved on and it is 48 years since the original and disgraceful deal was done between Wilson and Johnson, but the injustice has not gone away. I visited Mauritius a couple of years ago to meet the Chagos islanders and to see the conditions in which they live. They are very poor indeed. We have to remember, and we should remember, that the compensation that they finally won, some 15 years after the original removal from the islands had begun, was mainly eaten up by debt collectors and land agents. No one was given sufficient compensation and no one was made rich or wealthy by the process. This has been the subject of a court case that is still going on, so I cannot comment on anything more than the original facts of the case. However, it seems that the islanders were cajoled into signing what they did not believe to be a full and final settlement, and were told to accept it as such. The injustice and the poverty go on.

When I was in Mauritius, I spent a week visiting as many Chagossian families as I could. I talked to them about their lives on the Chagos Islands, when they lived there, and their lives now. They described their sustainable form of living, the type of community, religion and schools that they had and their lives in general. It was fascinating to talk to them, but one could see the hurt in their eyes at the way that they were taken from the islands and dumped on the quayside at Port Louis. Many of those families still live in desperate poverty in metal huts with outside toilets and little furniture. Although the current Mauritius Government have been kinder to them than previous ones, they are still very poor people.

Those people, however, were always going to campaign for their hope of a right of return; they would never give up. Eventually, a case was lodged in the British legal system and, in a court order of 2000, they were granted the right to return under British immigration law. It was ruled that they had the right of return. The following year, a further step forward was taken when theBritish Overseas Territories Bill was introduced in Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and I raised the question of the eligibility of the Chagos islanders for British citizenship, on the basis that they would be entitled to British citizenship like everyone else in overseas territories had they not been removed from the British Indian Ocean Territory. To their credit, the Government accepted the thrust of our argument, and a Government amendment was tabled and accepted in Committee. Therefore, the islanders were given the right to British citizenship. There is, unfortunately, a grey area in which I hope ministerial discretion will be used to deal with the small number of those who have fallen outside the provisions of that law.

273WHThings looked quite good in 2000 and 2001, and a compensation claim was lodged to re-open the issue. In meetings we had at the Foreign Office with the Minister’s predecessor, Baroness Amos, on the right of return and the possibility of a visit, we thought that things were going very well. Indeed, in the Commons, Ministers have asserted two things. One is that there is a right to return, and the second is that there was no impediment to anyone going back at any time. Things were looking good, and we had hope, as did the islanders.

On 10 June this year, which everyone will remember as election day, staff at the Foreign Office were not out ensuring that people were voting. Instead, they were at the palace asking the Queen to sign an Order in Council. When I was told that an Order in Council had been signed, I misheard or misunderstood. I thought that it was a statutory instrument that I would be able to pray against, as I assumed other hon. Members would, so that decisions made by Ministers would be subject to some form of democratic accountability. I had to reconsider, and I spoke to Sheridans’ Richard Gifford, the excellent solicitor who has represented the Chagossians for many years. He calmly explained to me that I had misunderstood, and that an Order in Council signed by her Majesty was law. It overrides everything in which we believe about the democratic accountability of the Government.

There are two orders: one is the British Indian Ocean Territory (Constitution) Order and the second is the British Indian Ocean Territory (Immigration) Order. I shall just quote a little of one, to give the Chamber a flavour of it: Subject to the provisions of this Order, the Commissionerappointed under the constitution order— may make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory”. The order then goes on to declare, without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1)”, that the commissioner in effect becomes the supreme Governor of everything in the territory. The order says: All laws made by the Commissioner in exercise of the powers conferred by subsection (1) shall be published in the Gazette in such manner as the Commissioner may direct. Every law made by the Commissioner under subsection (1) shall come into force on the date on which it is published”. We have handed power over to a commissioner. Never mind the fact that there were islanders living there and that several thousand people until that point had every right to live there; apparently, they now have no rights whatever. So much for the constitution order.

The immigration order was the second one passed, and I shall quote just two of its sections. Article 7 says: An immigration officer, acting in his entire discretion, may issue or renew a permit or may cancel a permit before the expiration, subject to the right of appeal provided in section 10. That is for people who wish to visit the Chagos Islands. Article 10 says: A person aggrieved by any decision of an immigration officer may appeal to the Commissioner, whose decision shall be final and conclusive. 274WHSo the only person to whom one can appeal if one does not agree with a decision to prevent Chagos islanders going to their own islands is a commissioner appointed specifically to control the Chagos Islands in every way for evermore.

The Minister made a written statement to the House on 10 June, although frankly it should have been an oral statement and made at a time when he could have been cross-questioned about it. At least, however, we are debating the subject here in Westminster Hall today. His statement said: Following the departure of the Chagossians in the late 60s and early 70s, the economic conditions and infrastructure that had supported the community of plantation workers ceased to exist. While the judicial review proceedings were still pending, the Government therefore commissioned a feasibility study by independent experts to examine and report on the prospects for re-establishing a viable community”.—[Official Report, 10 June 2004; Vol. 422, c. 33WS.] I have some comments to make on that. The Chagossians did not depart from the islands in the 1960s and 1970s; they were rounded up, taken away and thrown off the islands. Let us not beat about the bush: that was a disgraceful, immoral act. It is time that a Minister stood up and apologised for that act committed by the Government of the time and for the treatment of the Chagos islanders by succeeding Governments.

I was kindly given the three volumes of the feasibility study by the Foreign Office when it came out in November 2000, and it said that there were problems with water supply, periodic flooding, storms, seismic activity and so on, as the Minister points out. However, it did not say that no one could live there or that life was impossible on the islands. When pressed on the matter, the Foreign Office retreats into arguments about the potential cost of resettling the Chagos islanders. I have two points on that. First, they have a moral right to return. Secondly, would any Minister stand up in the House and say that the cost of keeping the population on Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha or the Falkland Islands was such that we were going to withdraw the entire population? They would not dare.

§Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab)My hon. Friend mentioned the Falkland Islands. Has he made any comparisons between the costs that he is talking about and the amount of money spent on defending the Falkland islanders when the Argentines invaded?

§Jeremy CorbynIndeed, the costs are on two completely different scales. The costs involved in administering the Chagos Islands are very small. At the current time, all the income from fishing licences—about £50,000 a year—is taken up by administration, and other money is paid to continue that administration. Were the islands to be resettled, however, and were there to be serious discussions with the islanders about resettling them, there would be an economy on the islands. There is fishing there, and the possibility of ecotourism or copra. Quite a lot of activities could take place on the islands. However, I do not get the feeling that there is any wish, desire, hope or intention of going down that road. The whole desire is to put the issue to one side and forget about it. That is because of an American base on Diego Garcia, for 275WHwhich I suspect nothing is paid, and because the Americans have said that they do not want anyone anywhere near their base owing to security concerns.

I think that we have every right to ensure the settlement of the outer islands—at least—and that we have a right to know exactly what is happening on Diego Garcia, which is, under the terms of the colonial order, sovereign British territory. Are there any prisoners on Diego Garcia? Is it being used for the sort of vortex of American justice such as occurs in Guantanamo Bay? I am assured that it is not. I want to hear that assurance again today and it would be much better if there were an independent inspection of what is going on.

I will make only a couple more points because I want to make sure that other Members get a chance to speak. On Tuesday, a group of Chagos islanders went to the Foreign Office to demonstrate. They handed in a petition signed by a substantial number of Chagos islanders who are living in this country legally. The petition demands:  

  1. “1. Restoration of our right of abode in the outer islands of the territory.
  2. 2. Restoration of our fundamental rights as British Overseas Territories Citizens.
  3. 3. The immediate payment of compensation.
  4. 4. The setting up of a pilot resettlement in the outer islands.
  5. 5. The setting up of a social survey in Mauritius and the Seychelles with recommendations to support the vulnerable group of our community.
  6. 6. The organising of a visit to the ancestral sites in the British Indian Ocean Territory for the Chagossians living in Mauritius, Seychelles and the UK”

—and, presumably, anywhere else in the world. It seems to me that that is a minimal demand. I had a response from the Minister today and I hope that he will be able to give us further positive news on the possibility of a visit and a return to it.

Mr. HopkinsIt strikes me that there is something of a parallel between what has happened to the Chagos islanders and the highland clearances in Scotland, when the rich and powerful drove the poor and weak from the land. That has scarred and informed Scottish politics ever since. Is it not significant that two of the three speakers here today are Scots?

§Mr. SalmondI am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that point, because I was about to come to it. One of the first and better acts of the Scottish Parliament when it came back into existence on the mound was in a debate such as this when it apologised collectively for the historic injustice of the highland clearances. They were not the responsibility of any Scottish Parliament, but it was felt none the less by all parties in that Parliament that such an apology should be offered, and that was done by representatives of all the parties. I very much hope that the Minister will do exactly what the hon. Gentleman suggested and proffer some sort of apology to the few thousand Chagos islanders who deserve not just an apology but some sign that future action and policy will be different from that in the past.

The islanders won the High Court judgment in 2000, which was in the days of ethical foreign policy. I shared the hopes that were expressed earlier that at last something would be done to rectify the historical 278WHgrievance and injustice. I accepted, as I think did many islanders, that there was an American base of long standing on Diego Garcia and that it might not be possible for all the islands to be reinhabited. However, basic rights—such as the right to visit the graves of ancestors, to occupy the outer islands and to receive reasonable compensation, and the right of the duty of care that any Government and the Crown should have over these people—should have been respected as de minimis compensation for the wrongs and injustices of the past. In fact, none of that occurred, and instead the Government, in a sneaky, underhand way, passed two Orders in Council on European election day to prohibit debate, to remove what little rights had been won and to rectify loopholes in legislation that allowed the assertion of the human rights of the islanders and their descendants.

The analysis that the islands are no longer capable of sustaining occupation because of global warming must be pretty bad news for the American military base—perhaps the runway is about to disappear under water. I have an overwhelming feeling that if Mauritius could be persuaded to send just one gunboat to the outer islands to establish the Mauritian flag again in what is arguably its territory anyway, we would decide that the islands were worth reclaiming on behalf of the Crown and dispatch a taskforce to the Indian ocean.

Global warming is an interesting concept, because it conflicts rather dramatically with what is on the US navy website. In a welcoming introduction to “The Footprint of Freedom” and Camp Justice, Diego Garcia is described as a paradise on earth and it is said that one of the best stationings that any US serviceman can have is on Diego Garcia. The website states: Although it is a British Territory, there are fewer than 50 British personnel (or Brits as they are commonly known) on the island. The Minister had better explain how the Government claim to know better than many respectable outlets of the US press. The Washington Post, for example, claims that prisoners are held on Diego Garcia for “rendering” before being transferred to Camp X-Ray. How confident is the Foreign Office in the information that the US authorities have offered it on what is happening on Diego Garcia, given that the Prime Minister seems to be revising his previous confidence in judgments that he has made about the international situation? Ultimately, the Minister should accept the collective responsibility of this and previous Governments for what has been done to the islanders. An apology should be proffered, but above all there should be a change of approach and of policy by the Government, who should offer some justice and some compensation to the islanders.

It may be thought that because of indolence or lack of concern among most Members of Parliament—there are a few honourable exceptions, who are here today such an issue is of no great moment, but it is precisely such issues that are of great political moment, because no member of the public could hear and understand what has happened to the islanders without having an overwhelming sense of injustice. If the Government cannot rectify the wrongs of the past for these few thousand people, what hope is there for their having any moral compass on the great issues of the day? Unless the Government are prepared to act and rectify the wrongs of the past, they are, in a moral sense, every bit as homeless as the islanders of Diego Garcia.

Mr. Tam Dalyell(Linlithgow) (Lab)

Let none of us suppose that there is a complete lack of interest in this country on this issue. When the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) had the opportunity to put a question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I was in company in Scotland. However, I subsequently heard, not only in university circles but more widely, that it was an important question. Indeed, some people went so far as to observe that it was the most sensible question asked of the Prime Minister for some weeks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) has inspired an important debate, but perhaps it comes 40 years too late. It was in 1964 that the Government began misdescribing the long-settled population as transitory workers in order to mislead the world into thinking that they had no obligations to that population. My clear recollection is that I raised the subject with the then Foreign Secretary, Patrick Gordon Walker. Frankly, having been defeated at Smethwick and about to be defeated at Leyton, his mind was on other things. A later Foreign Secretary was George Brown. When the general problem of the British Indian Ocean Territory was raised with him, he told me, in colourful language, to mind my own business. Perhaps I was not as tough then as subsequently, but George Brown was a formidable operator in his heyday. I raised the subject on the prompting of the late Sir Ashley Miles, the biological secretary of the Royal Society. It was his concern about the Indian ocean that first raised my acute interest.

Article 73 of the United Nations casts a “sacred trust” on a sovereign power to promote the welfare and advancement of the people, but the Government surreptitiously deported the islanders and misled the world about their status. At the United Nations on 16 November 1965, the British representative Mr. F.D.W. Brown, acting on the instructions of the Foreign Office, misdescribed the islands as uninhabited when my government first acquired them”,misdescribed the population as labourers from Mauritius and Seychelles and misled the UN into stating that the new administrative arrangements had been freely worked out with the…elected representatives of the people concerned”. Instead, they bought the plantations, closed them down, forced the people to leave on boats, which incidentally were horribly overcrowded, and led them to exile, where they still remain. Their lives have been a tragedy of misery, poverty and despair, the only alleviation of which has been the heartfelt desire to return to their homeland, where their villages and ancestors lie.

In 1969, on my return from Australia, I stopped in Mauritius to stay the night with the former general secretary of the Labour party, Len Williams. Harold Wilson had wanted him out of Transport house and made him Governor-General of Mauritius. His wife Margaret Williams was a very intelligent and nice lady, and she decided that I should spend a morning with some Ilois people. It made a strong impression on me.

What is remarkable is that in the same speech by Mr. Brown representing the Foreign Office, he described the wishes of the Falkland islanders, whose 280WHrepresentatives were consulted. Here we return to a previous intervention and a proper comparison with the Falkland islanders, of whom Mr. Brown said: It has been suggested that this population is somehow irrelevant and that it has no claim to have its wishes taken into account …it would surely be fantastic to maintain that only indigenous inhabitants have any rights in the Country”. He then quoted Woodrow Wilson from 1918: Peoples and Provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were chattels or pawns in a game”. Within months, the Chagos Islands had been given to the United States and the destruction of the islanders’ homes and lives was soon to follow.

These days, we are all too familiar with conducting foreign policy on the basis of false or misleading facts. The historical record now revealed by the islanders’ legal struggle has after 30 years shown that a small and vulnerable population of British subjects can safely be written out of the history book on the pretext that they are not really a population at all. There is nothing new in deceiving the world while acting in breach of civilised standards of international and constitutional law. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North in his powerful speech.

When the islanders finally won their struggle to return in the High Court in November 2000, Lord Justice Laws stated: The people are to be governed, not removed. He also stated that the Immigration Ordinance 1971 was an “abject legal failure”, which had no colour of lawful authority. That is not my view but that of a distinguished Law Lord.

We are supposed to have an ethical foreign policy. The then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), accepted the Court’s judgment and said: I have decided to accept the Court’s ruling and the Government will not be appealing.The work we are doing on the feasibility of resettlement of Ilois now takes on a new importance. We started feasibility work a year ago and are now well under way with phase two of the study.Furthermore, we will put in place a new immigration ordinance which allows Ilois to return to the outer islands while observing our treaty obligations.The Government has not defended what was done or said 30 years ago. As Lord Justice Laws recognised, we made no attempt to conceal the gravity of what happened”. History is repeating itself with the same moral turpitude. This time, given that the islanders had already been promised that the Government’s policy was to move towards their resettlement on the islands, the new banishment is a cruel change to what has already been offered. Moreover, the reasons given are again based on inaccurate and misleading information.

The Foreign Office press statement claimed that it was the feasibility study that prevented resettlement. I am glad that this Minister is replying to the debate, and I thank him for his personal courtesy in seeing my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North and me in the Foreign Office. He cited a conclusion, supposedly made by the consultants in their executive summary, that the costs of maintaining long-term inhabitation are likely to 281WHbe prohibitive. However, that was not based on any work of the consultants, whose terms of reference precluded any consideration of cost. Even if he had read only the executive summary, he would know from page 3 that the consultants reported: This report has not been tasked with investigating the financial costs and benefits of resettlements”. I feel entitled to ask where the conclusion came from. It was certainly not from the consultants.

The Minister further stated that human interference within the Atolls…is likely to exacerbate the stress on the marine and terrestrial environment and will accelerate the effect of global warming. However, other things might accelerate global warming. Thus”, he continued,resettlement is likely to become less feasible over time”. Again, that judgment was not based on the work of the consultants, who stated in volume 3, paragraph 8.3: At the present time it is not possible to quantify the risk associated with climate change for the Chagos Islands. The Minister’s conclusion had crept in from somewhere else.

Finally, it is impossible to take seriously the suggestion that only a resettled population will face difficulties. Are we really to believe that the 64 islands offered back to the islanders by the then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston, are going to sink under the waves, while the one island occupied by the Americans is to provide defence facilities for generations to come? It is the biggest military base outside the continental United States.

Only yesterday, in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Sedley referred to the shameful treatment to which the islanders were subjected: The deliberate misinterpretation of Ilois history and status, designed to deflect any investigation by the United Nations, the use of legal powers designed for the governance of the islands for the illicit purpose of depopulating them, the consequent uprooting of scores of families from the only way of life and means of subsistence that they knew, the failure to make anything like adequate provision for their resettlement, all of this and more is now part of the historical record. Moreover, he went so far as to compare those removals with the highland clearances of the second quarter of the 19th century. He stated:Defence may have replaced agricultural improvement as the reason, but the pauperisation and the expulsion of the weak in the interests of the powerful is the same. It gives little to be proud of. Now there has been a cruel new blow to this mistreated population. Their hopes, which were raised by this Government, have been dashed. Nothing in this game of cat and mouse is any less culpable than the lies and inhumanity that characterised the removal of the population.

It is not, however, too late to render justice. The right of the islanders to return to their homeland should now be recognised, and proper scientific studies should be undertaken, with proper, independent input from respected scientists whose conclusions ought to be binding on the Government.

HC Deb 24 September 2002 vol 390 cc26-156

Mr. Tam Dalyell(Linlithgow)I echo what the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said about the affront to democracy. I shall set an example by making a speech which is much shorter than 10 minutes. It is in the form of a question, and it is apposite that a Minister from the Ministry of Defence should be answering this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and I have been much involved in the case of the Chagos islanders. Their lawyers told us of a problem with the Ilois returning to Diego Garcia because of the building of six huge temperature-controlled hangars. We were asked what we would do to protest to the Government about that. We asked what the hangars were for. Apparently they are for B52 bombers and, particularly, B2 bombers that have to be repaired and maintained in a particular temperature. Why does one have B2 bombers? It is particularly to carry earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, specifically the B61–11.

My question, which I hope will be addressed in the reply, is this: we are talking about a British base, the British Indian Ocean Territory, of which Diego Garcia is a part and which is a House of Commons responsibility. The House of Commons should be told if nuclear weapons, albeit tactical, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons to destroy bunkers—one can understand why the American air force may wish to have this particular weapon in relation to Iraq—are to be launched from British soil, with or without agreement by the United States air force. We should be told in the winding-up speech tonight.

2.45 pm

§Mr. Francis Maude(Horsham)I have only a few points to make and I shall endeavour to be brief.

First, the issue is not about human rights in Iraq. The Foreign Secretary made great play of them and the dossier covers them. We need no persuading that Saddam Hussein’s regime is about the most evil in the world today. It has committed atrocities on a scale unseen almost anywhere else, but that does not justify armed intervention 52in Iraq. If I may say so, it is something of a red herring. The debate is about something wider, more important and of greater application to the world outside Iraq.

Secondly, there can be no controversy about the evidence that Saddam Hussein has developed, and is continuing to develop apace, weapons of mass destruction. The dossier, which puts forward the evidence in a calm and measured way, makes the case conclusively. Surely that can no longer be a matter of dispute.

Thirdly, does Saddam having and developing such weapons amount to a threat sufficient in immediacy and gravity to justify armed military intervention, even as a last resort? As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said in a powerful, lucid and cogent speech—I am afraid that I did not agree with much of it—the threat issue is a matter of judgment. Everyone has to make their judgment about the gravity and immediacy of that threat.

We must look at other countries that have developed weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, and ask ourselves what it is that distinguishes Iraq from, for example, India, Pakistan or even Iran. The answer is that there is clear evidence from the history of the Saddam Hussein regime that it is fundamentally an aggressive regime. He has developed these weapons, not as an instrument of deterrence to deter attacks on Iraq, but as weapons of aggression. In the past 20 years, the regime has twice invaded its neighbours. On a number of occasions, it has launched ballistic missiles against neighbouring states. It is not a regime under external threat that has developed these weapons to create a mutual deterrence, as is the case with India and Pakistan—regrettably, perhaps, but one can understand the reason for them doing so. Those considerations do not apply to Iraq.

In my judgment, this threat is clear, serious and present enough to justify decisive intervention by the international community in whatever shape that takes to enforce a disarmament of the regime.

My fourth point is about the threat to the stability of the middle east and was raised by my right hon. and learned Friend and others. We should be very clear about this: the greatest threat to the stability of the middle east is Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Quite apart from the actual attacks that he has mounted against his neighbours in the past 20 years, the fact that he consistently sponsors suicide attacks by Palestinians helps to prevent the peace process that we all yearn to be restarted from resuming. It is hard to see how the successful disarming and removal of Saddam Hussein can do anything other than contribute to the stability of the middle east.

Of course, the same concerns were expressed before the Gulf war, 12 years ago, but in fact the successful conclusion of the Gulf war was the trigger for the start of the Oslo process—

HL Deb 24 February 2004 vol 658 cc121-30

My Lords, first, I thank both noble Lords for the welcome that they have given the Statement. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we particularly welcome the context in which he started his comments. However, I think it is only fair to say that none of us envisaged the possibility of two armed aeroplanes being flown into buildings in the way that occurred on 11 September. That was a dramatic shock to the international community……

In relation to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, about whether there are people being kept at Diego Garcia and elsewhere, the US has confirmed to us that there are no such detainees. Of course, we rely on that assurance.

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9 Responses

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  1. Gazz said, on March 19, 2014 at 12:48 am

    ‘ Do you see how, at every turn, International law is a crock of shit? ‘

    Yes . . . Palestine

    • D. Hounsome said, on March 19, 2014 at 4:08 am

      Absolutely, pack of bastards.

  2. Tom said, on March 19, 2014 at 7:08 am

    ok..debunked apparantly

  3. David said, on March 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Utter B******s…..

  4. Uffda said, on March 19, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Day 12 Malaysian plane mystery: US military base on Diego Garcia atoll IS involved
    http://www.dailypaul.com/314371/rolls-royce-furthers-malaysian-plane-mystery-engine-data-showed-plane-had-flown-for-four-hours-more-than-thought

  5. cheryl Monti said, on March 19, 2014 at 11:55 am

    What a horrible thing to do and they take no notice of any law. Yet again they come at you with a gun to your head, do as I say or your dead. The worst in all of this is that there seems to be no force that is stronger than them, so how is anybody going to get justice. I used to get upset about all of this stuff, then I got angry and now I’m numb. The whole of life is based on a lie, No wonder there seems to be no meaning to anything and people are getting depressed, angry and stupid. They will believe anything they are told, if it makes them feel better and who can blame them, I can’t. Even in the so called truth movement, they are stabbing each other in the back and there is always someone debunking someone else. We are heading towards the most horrifying future, it’s like a slow walk to the gallows. But what gives me hope is the fact that this has been going on for so long and the people doing it must want it all tied up quick now and we need to be vigilant and watch out for the many mistakes they are going to make in their rush for power. We should be able to duck and dive away from the hidden hand and steer our way through because it hasn’t got full control yet. You all may think I’m mad but I need some hope to put a smile on my face.

    • Crystali said, on March 20, 2014 at 12:21 am

      You are not mad Cheryl, just becoming more and more vigilant of the nonsense that we are surrounded by, as you try to explain it all away to yourself you think you may be mad, but you know you are not, you are just battling with reasoning, yours against theirs.
      Life would surely be purposeless, even among all the real madness, be pointless and without cause if we had no hope. Hope is something that the good understand, that there is always a glimmer of improvement and betterment to look to, it gives you strength among the bile you wade through in pursuit of it and to create it.
      That’s my excuse anyway, life really would not be worth living without hope, not for self, but for all. 🙂


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