Thank you for your letter expressing your concern about the bombing of Afghanistan.
I have been contacted by a large number of constituents with similar concerns, many of which I also share.
Since I received your letter, Kabul has fallen to the Northern Alliance. We must hope that the takeover will render any further bombing unnecessary and allow a massive escalation of aid to get into Afghanistan as winter draws in. Until now only 20 – 30 % of the food needed was being dispatched and it is doubtful if very much was reaching the remote areas most in need (for further information visit the following websites: British Red Cross and Save the Children ). I have always felt that the humanitarian effort should be the priority, not just for its own sake but for undermining any support for terrorism.
In addition, I continue to have serious concerns about the apparent use of the Northern Alliance as a proxy for the "coalition" or UN action (Human Rights Watch discusses similar concerns on their website). That is why I think it is right to bring in UK and US ground troops as an interim measure until UN peace-keepers can be deployed. They will be needed to support the processes needed to set up an interim civil administration that can be seen to be representative of all ethnic groups, as well as women. As soon as practicable, the Afghan people must be given the opportunity to choose their government in free and fair elections.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say that like many of the constituents who have contacted me, I condemn the use of cluster bombs. I have recently tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions to highlight the dreadful damage and ongoing danger caused by these weapons and the questionable legal status of their use.
LYNNE JONES MP
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As an Amendment to Mr Paul Marsden's proposed Motion (AFGHANISTAN):
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16 October 2001
Thank you for your letter expressing your concern about military retaliation in response to the terrorist attacks on the US.
Like everyone, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the events of Tuesday 11 September. However, I share many of the concerns that you and many others have expressed in letters and other communications.
I do accept that the United States and the international community have legitimacy to enter Afghanistan, by force, in order to apprehend and arrest Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. However, I am deeply concerned that an extensive bombing campaign will not assist in this very precise task and that the suffering of innocent Afghans will increase as a result. Leaders of aid agencies have warned about the impact of the bombing on the delivery of aid and the problems created by amalgamating the military and humanitarian campaigns. I remain concerned that much of the media have given big headlines to small shipments of food aid into Afghanistan which hardly scratch the surface of what is required.
Another major concern is that we must act in accordance with international law and take this opportunity to bolster our international institutions, principally, the UN. I have tabled a Parliamentary Question in order to follow up on the reply I received from Jack Straw to the question I put to him on 4 October detailed in the press release from 5 October below. I would like to reassure you that I will continue to do all I can to press the Government on these key points of concern.
As you will have heard in the media, both the US and UK have sited the UN as having sanctioned the military action against Afghanistan. Ben Bradshaw, Minister responsible for counter terrorism issues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, cites UN resolution 1368 to this end, in the enclosed letter that I have recently received from him. I have been in contact with the House of Commons Library for clarification on this interpretation of the UN resolution and I have produced a briefing sheet, which I hope is informative.
Closer to home, I know, that like me you will have been appalled by the prejudice that has been experienced by some members of our Muslim community and others who may appear to be Muslim. I will continue to use my position to speak out against such bigotry, as the Prime Minister has also done, since the atrocities of 11 September.
Several of the constituents who have contacted me have expressed their concerns about the possibility of the introduction of domestic laws which will infringe our civil rights and in particular those of vulnerable groups, such as people seeking asylum. I am pleased that the Government has apparently backed down over ID cards and would like to reassure you that I will be asking exactly how any proposed incursions into our civil liberties are expected to bear down on terrorism. I will oppose any legislation put before Parliament that will disproportionately affect vulnerable people or which cannot be demonstrated to have a clear impact on the prevention of terrorism.
Finally, I would like to convey my gratitude for the large volume of correspondence from constituents regarding the current crisis. Without exception, all have expressed reservation about military action. I am passing all the communications I receive on to Ben Bradshaw, so that the Government is aware of the strength of feeling.
LYNNE JONES MP
In a letter to me dated 5 October 2001, Ben Bradshaw, Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated:
The resolution endorses ‘necessary steps’ under the UN Charter (point 5 of the resolution) in response to the attacks of 11 September. A recent Library research paper considers that: "Security Council Resolution 1368 represents an important statement of legal weight on the general issue of taking action to combat international terrorism"
However, it was not clear to me on reading this resolution whether it was correct to interpret it as sanctioning military action against Afghanistan by individual countries. I therefore contacted the House of Commons Library (an independent research body) who outlined that United Nations resolutions are always somewhat ‘open’ in nature, usually pointing to the UN Charter and in this context SCR 1368 is posed in strong language in UN terms.
Article 51, the section of the Charter relevant to SCR 1368, reads as follows:
There is debate as to the extent of this right and the right to use force in self-defence is qualified in various ways. The most widely held criteria are that it must be necessary and proportionate. Necessary, meaning force should not be employed when an alternative with a reasonable chance of success exists and proportionate to the need to repulse the attack. The attack against which one is defending oneself leads on to the question of anticipation of attack. Customary international law allows states the latitude to judge that a threat is such to justify defensive action but it does not allow carte blanche discretion to excuse any use of force through a retrospective claim of self-defence. The use of force in self-defence must be notified to the Security Council under Article 51 and I attach a copy of the letter from the UK to the UN informing them of the UK’s military action.
Point 6 of SCR 1368, that the Security Council "Decides to remain seized of the matter" means that the UN is constantly monitoring the situation and keeping their position under review. This does give some credence to the view that the UN would have spoken out, if they considered that military action by individual nations in Afghanistan, to counter the terrorist threat posed by the events of September 11, was not in accordance with SCR 1368.
I do accept that under SCR 1368, the US and the international community have legitimacy to enter Afghanistan by force in order to apprehend and arrest Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda network leaders. However, I remain to be convinced that the strikes that have been waged on Afghanistan are necessary and proportionate to this very precise task. I will use opportunities in Parliament, when the House reconvenes, to raise further questions.
Lynne Jones MP 11 October 2001
Statement - 4 October 2001
On October 4 2001 Parliament was recalled. Although indicating my wish to speak in the debate and attending between 9-30 and 7pm, I was not called to speak. This is the gist of what I would have said, had the opportunity arisen.
Members of the House and the British people are thankful for the emphasis the Prime Minister has placed on justice and not revenge. The public mood is neither for war nor perpetuating the cycle of violence but for actions that will improve, not harm, prospects for world peace.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister told the Labour Party Conference that the justice we seek is not only to punish the guilty but to bring the values of freedom and justice to people around the world.
He is right.
But, though it would be wrong to foster prejudice against Americans, it has to be acknowledged that in many places the USA is seen as a supporter of anti-democratic regimes which have been kept in place to support US financial interests.
This is a point made time and again in the flood of communications I have received from constituents in the last three weeks.
As we cope with the aftermath of the terrible carnage in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, I agree with points made by several honourable members that we must bolster and extend the role of global institutions. I would particularly like to endorse the comments made by the Honourable Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) in which he questioned the use of the veto in the Security Council.
We also need to reinvigorate our own democratic institutions, in which, we know from the general election, so many of our own citizens have lost confidence. This creates a dangerous vacuum that extremist elements will be only too happy to occupy.
We must make this Place more relevant.
Today, Parliament has been reconvened to give implicit, not explicit, support for the military action necessary to achieve the objectives that were laid down by the Prime Minister in his statement.
I, for one, accept the need for military action if we are to deal with those behind the atrocities in America, if at all possible by bringing them to justice in an international court. But action must be measured and only that which is strictly necessary.
There should have been a substantive vote today so that this House can set the framework within which we expect our Government to act on our behalf.
In a few weeks time, it is likely that the House will be asked to approve measures which we will be told will help combat international terrorism. The House has a responsibility to ensure that the effectiveness of any legislation is properly scrutinised, something that we have often not been effective in doing. The Government needs to consider whether the way it exerts its powers of patronage and marginalises critical voices contribute to good governance and effective law-making.
In my constituency, those of all faiths and none that I have spoken to have unreservedly condemned the atrocities committed in the USA. In Birmingham survivors of the 1974 pub bombings and the relatives and friends of those who did not survive, and even those like me who thought "there but for the grace of god go I" will empathise with the feelings of the American people. But at home it is the Muslim community that is suffering from threats of violence and actual violence. Those who threaten schools and mosques and circulate hate material are equally to be deplored as are those that rejoiced in the carnage in the USA.
Lasting good must come out of the events of September the 11th. We owe it to the lives lost that day.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister set out the challenges that face us. How can anyone think that National Missile Defence will help in anyway? The vast resources that would need to be deployed on this project would be better directed towards international institutions engaged in work to reduce conflict, bring justice and tackle the real threats to world order – poverty, climate change and abuse of human rights.
In everything we do from now on we should remember that this is what we want to achieve.
Lynne Jones MP
Jack Straw MP
Date: 21 September 2001
I am writing to pass on the messages from many of my constituents who, whilst being horrified at the terrible events of 11 September, are fearful about the rhetoric coming out of the USA and the possible extent of the proposed military retaliation. There is also concern about the UK’s apparent unquestioning support.
I share many of the concerns raised in the enclosed communications. It would be neither a just nor effective reaction to wage a war on the Afghan people who already face terrible poverty and oppression. Further loss of innocent lives would compound the tragedy and create further grievances that would sustain terrorism. Many of my correspondents feel that violence is a tragic expression of unmet needs. As Einstein put it: You can’t solve a problem by using the thinking that created the problem in the first place.
However, I was encouraged to note Tony Blair’s comment during the debate on 14 September that the US Government "together with allies, will want to identify, with care, those responsible. That is a judgement that must and will be based on hard evidence"
I do support a major diplomatic and intelligence effort to track down, arrest and try those responsible for the atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. We also need to utilise and foster the unprecedented international consensus that has emerged to begin the delicate process of untangling the web of hatred behind the horrendous acts we witnessed last week.
This brings me on to the point that the current crisis has thrown up opportunities as well as threats. I was horrified to hear reports shortly after the US tragedy that Israel were stepping up their attacks on the Palestinians. However, unprecedented pressure from the US has lead to a cease-fire (although this is of course fragile). I very much welcomed the unanimous resolution of the Security Council, the statement by Kofi Annan and the General Assembly resolution A/RES/56/1, all of which pledge support for the international effort to track down and bring the perpetrators to justice. It is right that statements of solidarity should be made in this global body and this is a real opportunity to build up our international institutions. A Commitment by governments across the world to work with these institutions is our best hope of ending conflict and creating global stability.
In view of this I am concerned that the Government has not emphasised the pivotal role of the United Nations and in turn the UK Media has almost completely ignored the positive work done by the UN during this crisis. There is still time to put this right.
LYNNE JONES MP
Jack Straw MP
Date: 28 September 2001
Further to my letter of 21 September, I am writing to pass on the messages I have received from my constituents since that date. As with those enclosed with my previous letter all those who have contacted me are fearful about the possible extent of the proposed military retaliation.
I should like to add a further concern about the lack of prominence being given to the role of the UN. I noted in the Labour Party briefing sent to MPs on 24 September that:
Is this all the Prime Minister spoke to Kofi Annan about?
As I mentioned in my previous letter, the UN should be at the centre of the international effort to track down and bring the perpetrators of the attacks on America to justice. Britain should be taking the lead to show that a commitment by governments across the world to work with our international institutions is our best hope of ending conflict and creating global stability.
LYNNE JONES MP
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