Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Newmark.)
Thank you for calling me to speak in the debate, Mr Gray. Some time ago, the late Robin Cook—a man of considerable intellect and experience—spoke about an ethical foreign policy. This new drive, which would shape Britain’s engagement with countries around the world, would be based on our ability to engage in a more ethical way in the modern era, thus protecting our image and branding throughout the international community. Was that a naive objective? As I say, it was formulated and proposed by somebody with considerable experience, and it was certainly a commendable aspiration.
However, following the disastrous engagement in Iraq, and the illegal war that the Labour party pursued there, Mr Blair had a problem with his party and the country. He therefore sought out somebody who would enable him to show the world that although he was making war by force, he could also make peace through international diplomacy. Who better to choose than an isolated figure, ridiculed in the Arab League, with no friends? Mr Blair chose Colonel Gaddafi, who was so bereft of friends that he could be enticed into the little deal—the little charade or rapprochement—that Mr Blair pursued with him.
We were told at the time that as a quid pro quo for this rapprochement, the weapons of mass destruction that Colonel Gaddafi had amassed would be handed over and sent for evaluation and, ultimately, dismantling somewhere in North Carolina in the United States of America. I do not know about you, Mr Gray, but I do not know what those weapons of mass destruction consisted of, how many there were, or what their quality and calibre was. For all I know, Gaddafi may have had just a pea-shooter; his total inability to defend himself in the recent war certainly shows a rather chaotic approach to military strategy.
I did not want rapprochement with Gaddafi, purely because I knew from many friends in Libya, and from having visited the country, of the appalling human rights abuses that this tyrant perpetrated against his people over decades. I hope Members will agree that that does not fit in with the ethical foreign policy espoused with such fanfare by the previous Labour Government.
I have a gripe with not just the Labour Government, but the Scottish National party Government in Scotland. When they were about to release the convicted bomber al-Megrahi, I pleaded with Alex Salmond and the Scottish Justice Secretary not to do so. I also pleaded with the former Labour Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), on the Floor of the House to intervene with the Scottish Government to prevent the bomber being released. Of course, he told me, “This is nothing to do with us. This is a purely Scottish matter.” Despite the fact that releasing al-Megrahi could have had huge ramifications for the United Kingdom’s foreign policy, the previous Labour Government said, “It’s nothing to do with us.” I am absolutely convinced that our current Prime Minister would not have acted in such a way.
Does my hon. Friend regret that the Scottish Government have not apologised for what happened, given that although their action was taken on the assumption that the man had less than six months to live, he is, as far as I know, still alive?
Yes, I totally concur with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I think that we were told that he had less than three months, not six months, to live, but he is still alive somewhere in Tripoli, two years on.
So passionately did I feel about the release of al-Megrahi that I even travelled to Qatar for an international conference. In front of a totally Arab audience in debates in Doha, I and others won the debate on a motion saying that the house deplored the release of the Lockerbie bomber. A young girl from the United Arab Emirates told me, “On the one hand, you expect us to join you in your war against international terrorism, but on the other hand, you are releasing a convicted bomber who was involved in the worst terrorist atrocity committed on UK soil since the second world war.” That was a very salient, pertinent point, and it certainly stuck in my mind.
I thank my hon. Friend for securing this important debate. Does he agree that the release of al-Megrahi marked the low point in the previous Government’s appeasement of Gaddafi? Does he also agree that they were hiding behind the fig leaf of devolution, given all the revelations that there have been about the surrounding commercial deals between them and Libya at the time?
I totally concur with my hon. Friend. The United Kingdom’s reputation was greatly damaged at the time. As I suggested, other Arab League leaders were so contemptuous of this bizarre, tyrannical clown that they told me and others, “If the United Kingdom cannot grapple effectively with Gaddafi, who can they effectively engage with and have a meaningful relationship with?”.
I stopped the previous Labour Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for South Shields (David Miliband)—the man who aspired to lead the Labour party—in the Members’ Lobby to ask him about PC Yvonne Fletcher. The Foreign Office had ignored her relatives for years—letter after letter had gone ignored—so to get him finally to meet them, I had to write an open letter on Conservative Home demanding that he did so. Before I did that, however, I stopped him in the Members’ Lobby and asked him to raise these issues and to assist me in fighting for PC Yvonne Fletcher and the victims of the IRA, who had suffered because of Gaddafi’s funding of it. To quote him verbatim, he said, “Don’t rock the boat now, Kawczynski. We’re in very delicate negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi—rapprochement. We don’t want you rocking the boat.” He basically told me to shut up and not to try to stir things up. That is why I believe his judgment was wrong, and why I commend the Labour party on not electing him as leader; I do not think that he is fit to be the leader of the Labour party, given his action then.
I hope that the shadow Minister will agree that this was not Labour’s best moment or its finest hour. How would the Libyan people view us now, if all they had to go on was the incredible rapprochement between Mr Blair and Colonel Gaddafi, and all the pictures of them smiling together in the tent where they met? I contrast that with the superb leadership that our current Prime Minister has shown in helping to secure UN resolution 1973 in order to ensure that NATO’s intervention to protect the citizens of Libya was legal.
I remember going back to my apartment after a late-night vote in February, and watching Colonel Gaddafi on Sky News promising that he would hunt the rebels down city by city, street by street and wardrobe by wardrobe—that was the expression he used. He promised the world that a bloodbath would ensue on the streets of Benghazi and Tobruk if he were given an unfettered opportunity to pursue that. That night I texted the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary three or four times, pleading with him to take the message to the Prime Minister that we must intervene to help those courageous people in Libya, fighting for their freedom against a brutal tyrant. I thank the Prime Minister for taking the decision to support the people, and I rejoice in, and thank God for, the fact that not a single member of British service personnel lost their life. If we contrast that with previous military operations, we see that it is something for which we should all be extremely grateful.
Our interaction with Libya reminds me of something that the Prime Minister said at the Conservative party conference:
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight—it’s the size of the fight in the dog”.
That encapsulates how, despite the extraordinary problems that this country has—the huge economic deficit that the Labour party so kindly bequeathed us—we can still intervene around the world and help people who are worse off than us, and protect them when they struggle for the freedom that we have enjoyed for such a long time.
Among the things that I have done as a Member of Parliament in the past six years, one of the most pertinent to this debate and the most solemn has been to stand in the British war cemetery in Tripoli. It has beautiful green grass, immaculately cut, and beautiful headstones, immaculately washed. It contrasts with the surrounding district, which is rather shabby and dusty. I stood for hours looking at the headstones of our young service personnel who died so tragically, liberating Tripoli during the second world war. It is deeply striking that so many of them were so young: 22 or 23—some as young as 20. They all died in January 1942 in the liberation of Tripoli, and there is row after row of headstones. I hope that those sacrifices during the second world war, and what we have done, today show the people of Libya that they can trust and depend on us. I pay tribute to a dear friend of mine from my constituency—Mr Ted Sharp, who was a desert rat. I have spent many hours listening to his stories of how there were no food supplies at one stage; some of the desert rats were like skeletons. They went through terrible suffering to free Libya.
The manner in which Colonel Gaddafi died rather shocked me, but I did not shed many tears for his passing. The way in which he was killed shows how despised he was by the Libyan people, but I was disappointed that he was not captured and put on trial. It would have given me great satisfaction to see him atone for the brutality he meted out to his own people for so long.
Does my hon. Friend agree that what happened to Gaddafi and the manner of his death make it all the more important that his family be put on trial, both in Libya and the International Court of Justice, to ensure that the rule of law is followed, and that those people atone properly for their crimes?
At the point of capture, it is difficult to control forces that were not particularly under control in the first place; the testosterone is flowing. People probably just wanted to get rid of Gaddafi there and then. I do not blame those soldiers who killed Gaddafi. Like my hon. Friend, I regret it, but I understand exactly what was going on. They were in the height of battle, their testosterone was flowing, and they just went for it and killed him, because he was the tyrant.
I agree. In fact, my understanding is that one of the people involved in his death was from Misrata, and his sister had been raped by Libyan soldiers loyal to Colonel Gaddafi, so I concur with my hon. Friend.
To return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), I have tabled an early-day motion on the issue, calling on the Government of Niger to respect international law and acquiesce in ensuring that the relevant members of the Gaddafi clan—up to 30 loyalists are allegedly in Niger—are extradited to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. My first question to the Minister is this: what discussions is his Department having with the Government of Niger—and with the Governments of Mali and Algeria, where other Gaddafi loyalists are said to be seeking sanctuary? The most important of those loyalists is, of course, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who apparently is hovering somewhere around the Libya-Niger border. I hope that that man will not be killed. I would like him to be brought to justice in the Court at The Hague, and would like to hear what the Minister is doing to interact with the Government of Niger, and others, to achieve that.
I apologise for making a second intervention, but I have given evidence in five trials at The Hague, and the writ of the International Criminal Court runs only when a national jurisdiction has indicated that it has no intention of trying individuals who have committed war crimes in its territory. I should like the Gaddafi family and their supporters to go back to Libya. There will be a problem, because of the death penalty, but that is what I should like, because it is how the Court should work. A national jurisdiction tries those in question first, and if that does not work, they go to The Hague. I would prefer those people to go back to Tripoli.
That is an interesting point, and the Minister will have to deal with the Government’s position on that. Do we want those people sent to The Hague, or should they go to Libya? I defer to the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) in those matters.
I am very supportive of the national transitional council, but I am deeply concerned—I feel passionate about it—that there has been no plebiscite. No referendum has been announced on the sort of constitution that the country will have. We have been told that there will be parliamentary elections in eight months’ time, and presidential elections in 18 months. I am extremely concerned that the NTC has already unilaterally decided to state that there will be presidential elections. I think that the last thing the Libyan people want is another Head of State who is a politician. They need to be consulted, so that they can decide what sort of constitution they want. I think that they want a unifying figure: someone who commands respect throughout the country, who is untainted by any previous association with the Gaddafi regime, and who can bring the whole country together in a unifying way. I am not embarrassed to put those issues forward; I do not flinch from doing so. Yes, it is a matter for the Libyan people, but our country has put our service personnel’s lives at risk, and we have a right to advise and caution the NTC in that regard.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. He is making a fairly straightforward case about international justice and constitutional law, which I follow and by and large agree with. Is he concerned, as I am, about the stories coming out regarding atrocities committed by anti-Gaddafi forces?
Yes. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point; there are allegations of atrocities on both sides. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham talked about testosterone and the desire to take revenge, and we have heard that serious human rights violations and massacres have taken place, such as the shooting of up to 50 Gaddafi loyalists with their hands tied behind their backs in Sirte. The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) raises an important point, and I would like to hear from the Minister what the Government’s attitude is to ensuring that people are brought to justice.
I believe that the unifying figure who is untainted by Gaddafi and who commands respect in Libya is Crown Prince Mohammed, the heir to the Libyan throne. I have had the great honour and privilege of meeting him; he has lived in London since Gaddafi exiled him and his father from Libya. Gaddafi burned their house down in front of them and then banished them, and they have lived in London ever since. Crown Prince Mohammed’s father subsequently died, but His Royal Highness continues to live in London. Having met him on numerous occasions, I consider him to be, if I may say so, a friend. He is a tremendous counsellor, and I respect him greatly. I have met many leaders around the world in the past six years, but few of them have impressed me as much as Crown Prince Mohammed.
A few weeks ago, I raised directly with the Prime Minister how important it is for him, or at least one of his aides, to meet Crown Prince Mohammed to seek his guidance and views. Foreign Office officials have met Crown Prince Mohammed, but to my knowledge no Foreign Office Minister has yet met him, which I am concerned about. I understand that the Foreign Office does not want to be seen to be manipulating the situation in Tripoli—of course it is for the Libyan people to make decisions—but a member of the el-Senussi family who has extraordinary respect in his own country is living in London; the least the Foreign Office can do is engage with him effectively and properly and find out from him what is happening on the streets of Libya.
The Foreign Office will of course be told a lot by the national transitional council about what the council wants the Foreign Office to know, but I am hearing from Libya—from town councils and the people on the streets of Tobruk, Benghazi and other cities—that many people are holding exhibitions about the history of Libya, which is something that they were deprived of under Gaddafi. Many people are holding exhibitions about the royal family, the late King Idris and Crown Prince Mohammed.
The Foreign Office must be careful. Having spent so much taxpayer money on pursuing the liberation of Libya, we want to ensure that the Libyan people are consulted, and that their will comes through. If they wish to have a constitutional monarchy, as I believe they do, that should be put to them in a referendum, so that they can decide of their own accord, rather than the unelected NTC unilaterally deciding that the Libyan people should have a politician as their Head of State in perpetuity.
I, too, have met Crown Prince Mohammed, although he is not as big a friend to me as he is to my hon. Friend. I know that Crown Prince Mohammed has had contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so it is fully aware of the situation. I subscribe totally to my hon. Friend’s contention that there should be a general election before a presidential one, and I, too, would like someone such as Crown Prince Mohammed to become Libya’s Head of State. However, it cannot be done just like that; the Libyan people have to ask for it. That is fair.
I agree with my hon. Friend, but after 42 years of absolute and tyrannical despotism, it is not unreasonable to have a referendum or plebiscite. Let the people decide. Give them the options. We in this country had a ludicrous referendum on changing the voting system, which I was furious about, as chairman of the all-party group for the promotion of first past the post.
Sorry, Mr Gray. I had to get that one in; I could not resist. If we can have referendums on trivia such as changing the voting system, the people of Libya should be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to decide what constitution they want. I thank God that we have such a wonderful Head of State as Her Majesty. Some of the most stable countries in the world, such as Denmark, have monarchies. Interestingly, even in the Arab world, people have not rebelled or shown hostility to Governments in countries that have monarchies. I therefore think that monarchy is a stabilising factor.
I would like Niger to hand over Saif al-Islam and others associated with Gaddafi’s regime either to Libya, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham suggested, or the Court in The Hague. I want Saif al-Islam to be captured alive, and I hope that the Government will give me their perspective on that. Do they, too, want him captured alive, so that he can account for some of the crimes committed?
I would like the Government to help the Libyan authorities to find all the money stolen—the billions that have been squirreled away in vaults and bank accounts all over the world, from Liechtenstein to the Cayman Islands. Given the expertise that we have in our country, we should offer the Libyan Government some assistance. London is the financial capital of the world, and we can play a part in helping the Libyan authorities to find all the frozen and other assets that have hitherto not been traced.
One of the most important aspects of the matter is compensation for IRA victims. Colonel Gaddafi provided the IRA with Semtex for many years. I was slightly concerned to read a report in The Sunday Times last week that a private law firm was already asking the NTC to hand over £450 million in compensation. I have two concerns about that. First, that is unduly hasty. Although I am desperate for the families of IRA victims to receive compensation, it might be slightly too hasty to start asking for £450 million in compensation when Libya is practically on its knees, with limited electricity, water and other supplies, even though I would support such a request in the future.
Secondly—I shall emphasise this time and again—I certainly do not want a private law firm to be responsible for bilateral negotiations with the Libyan Government on compensation for IRA victims. It is not for a private law firm to undertake that huge job. I want every single penny piece of that money, when it is handed over, to go to the victims of IRA atrocities. I do not want a private law firm to get £1 million, £2 million, £10 million or £15 million—according to the various reports—of that money. Every single penny piece has to go to the victims. I have raised that point with the Prime Minister in a private meeting, and I expect to hear from the Foreign Office that it will take responsibility for the negotiations to ensure that the private law firm does not make any profit out of the case. We, the state, sacrificed hundreds of millions of pounds and put the lives of our service personnel at risk to liberate Libya, and it is for us to ensure that compensation goes to the victims of IRA atrocities. We do not want some private law firm dishing out the money and making the profits.
Christmas eve will mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Libya. I would love to attend the celebrations, but obviously I must be with my family at that time. I am sure that the Libyans would greatly appreciate it if somebody from the Foreign Office went to Tripoli to celebrate their 60th anniversary of freedom.
Will the Minister tell us what will happen about the prosecution of the killer of PC Yvonne Fletcher? Are we happy for this matter to be brought to justice in a Libyan court, or do we want the killer to be extradited to the United Kingdom? In the past, I have said that British justice could not be attained in a Libyan court under Gaddafi’s jurisdiction. During the Gaddafi regime, Scotland Yard had been going back and forth between Tripoli and the UK, and when it was close to getting its man, Gaddafi, in yet another game of cat and mouse, stopped issuing visas. However, things have changed, so I would be interested to hear what our line on that is.
When the new Secretary of State for Defence went to Libya, he said to British companies, “Pack your bags and come here to reconstruct Libya.” I totally agree with him; there are huge opportunities for British firms to help with the reconstruction of Libya. Will the Minister tell us what UK Trade & Investment is doing on that? I had the pleasure of meeting Lord Green, the head of UKTI, in the House of Commons recently, and he told me about some of the changes that he wants to put in place to make his organisation more effective. I would like to know exactly what is happening on the ground.
Many consultants have come to see me and have said, “Look, we have been tasked with finding various companies to do x, y and z in Libya, but we cannot find British companies to do it. The only companies that are prepared to do anything are Danish, Austrian or German, and we are desperate to find a British company to carry out the work.” British companies are hesitant about going to Libya because of security issues and other such matters. I very much regret that. We are the ones who go in and liberate the country, and then everyone else goes in and gets all the business. The British are rather circumspect about such things, but we cannot afford to be. We should not be embarrassed to go out there with our companies for the mutually beneficial reason of reconstructing the country. We must stop this British sentimentality. We must not think, “Oh no, we must not sully our fingers with the business aspects of this.”
I would not normally interrupt a speech at this point, but I would like to reassure my hon. Friend on this niche specific issue. Lord Green went to Libya in late September, and there have been conferences here on investment opportunities in Libya. The UKTI staff are very much part of our team at the embassy in Tripoli. I hope that efforts are being made—efforts that my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) will support—because we are well aware of the opportunities, and wish to seize them in the proper way.
I thank the Minister for that. I recently had a meeting with a lieutenant-colonel who had served in Basra. He told me that when he met Mr Blair, he said, “Okay, we brought peace to Basra, so where are all the suits?”. In other words, he wanted to know why Mr Blair had not brought in British companies to reconstruct Basra. Some of the huge problems that we have had in Iraq stem from the fact that we were too slow in bringing in British companies to reconstruct the country. However, we could not have just said, “Look, pack your bags and go to Iraq.” Many companies would have found that difficult, and we are now saying the same of Libya.
In my constituency, there are a number of companies that are very keen to do business in the region. The trip that the Minister mentioned may have been an opportunity for them to do just that, but the incentive for British business to get involved is not fully pushed by Government. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that the Government should do more to encourage local companies, especially when so many are keen to do business?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have had meetings with leading industrialists, and with various Army officers who have served in Iraq and other parts of the world and who have experience of such matters. We have compiled a report, which we will send to the Prime Minister and the Minister, outlining some of the things that the Government have to put in place to ensure that there is confidence, and encouragement for British companies to go out there. The French are brilliant at that; they have a body called COFACE, which I visited in Paris many years ago. It is a nationwide organisation that insures, underpins and takes some of the risk out of French companies going abroad and investing in such projects. The Government should start up a similar insurance fund. We will put in £50 million, the Libyans will put in £50 million, and we will get another few hundred million from wealthy Arab countries. We will then pool the money, and it will act as an insurance policy for British companies that are reconstructing Libya.
I will send the report to the Minister, as well as to the Prime Minister, because we must get a grip on the issue. I could tell the Minister the names of hundreds of companies that I have met in the past six months that would like to work in Libya, but do not know how to go about it. They ask me about guarantees and about what kind of political support is in place.
Yesterday, I met the Labour peer, Baroness Symons, whom I respect greatly. She said that there had been good engagement with Libya previously. I hope that the Minister is aware that the Law Society has been in Libya to help with the rule of law and arbitration. The British Council has operated in Libya, advising on issues to do with women. Welsh universities have signed memorandums of understanding with the Libyan Education Minister to work and interact with Libyan universities. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy has been helping to develop democratic institutions and civil society. Crown Agents were also in the country, working on anti-corruption measures. Those wonderful institutions were already working in Libya under Gaddafi, and I pay tribute to the previous Labour Government for getting them into the country. However, I do not know how successful those institutions were under the brutal Gaddafi regime. Certainly, now that Libya is free, I hope that the Minister will do everything possible to help the Law Society, the British Council, Welsh universities, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Crown Agents and others to get to Libya to underpin all that work and to help start reconstructing the country.
The European Union had negotiations with the Gaddafi regime on various trade agreements, and I hope that those are speeded up as well. Apparently, Dominic Asquith has been a representative of Her Majesty’s Government in Libya, and I am keen to know what his views are.
Libya has been a passion for me all my life. When I was growing up in Poland under the communist regime, we had nothing. The regime was brutal and tyrannical, and everything was rationed. My late uncle and his family worked in Libya, and they used to send oranges from Tripoli to Warsaw. Receiving those oranges at kindergarten was like a miraculous experience. Children in Warsaw in 1978 did not know what oranges were; we had never seen these things. We peeled the oranges delicately, we ate them, we made marmalade out of the peel, we drew them and we talked about them. They were incredible to us. Of course, most days now I peel an orange and I do not think about it, but as a child in 1978 I thought, “What sort of paradise must this be for them to have these sorts of things?”. My interest in Libya has stemmed from that early childhood experience.
I love the Libyan people and I love Libya. I am so passionate about the country, and I am so grateful that the brutal tyrant has been deposed. I look forward to the people of the UK having a very strong friendship with the people of Libya for the rest of my lifetime.
Thank you very much, Mr Gray, for calling me to speak. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing this timely debate. In introducing it, he once again showed his expertise and personal experience, and we are indeed lucky to have him. He set out a compelling account of some of the legacy issues involved in the future of Libya, and he raised other important issues.
As we know, a week ago on 23 October the national transitional council of Libya celebrated the country’s new-found and hard-fought independence. That marked the end of the first chapter in a new story for Libya. Back in March, I welcomed UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, as well as NATO’s Operation Unified Protector. It was my view then, and it remains my view today, that we could not have stood by and watched the inevitable bloody reprisals of a despotic regime. We were right to take action, and we were right to do so with the clear backing of international law and indeed of neighbouring countries.
Like my hon. Friend, I commend our forces, who stood in harm’s way in the long tradition of our military’s fight against tyranny. However, the success that should be praised above all, as my hon. Friend so eloquently put it, belongs to the Libyan people who rose up, defied a dictator and seized control of their own destiny. They are doubly brave, because they have not only thrown off the shackles of the Gaddafi state but embarked on the long and arduous journey towards a free and democratic society of their own choosing.
As we have seen in other countries during the Arab spring, and indeed as we have seen throughout history, democracy is a long and hard journey, and it is not a quick or close destination. Like the people of every democracy, including the British people, the Libyans have much work to do, and we must help them whenever they ask for it. Securing the future of Libya must now be a priority for Her Majesty’s Government.
Since the end of the conflict, we have seen swift action by the Department for International Development to put in place a programme of humanitarian aid. That work builds on DFID’s success during the conflict in providing much needed aid on the ground in Libya—at the borders and inside the Libyan border—to help those who needed help most. DFID’s work has been seamless with the work of other organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, the International Organisation for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross. It is right that DFID continues to play a leading role in the stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in Libya.
As we know, the national transitional council itself has called for a continuing NATO military presence in the region. I, like many others in the House, welcomed the end of NATO military operations in Libya at midnight last night, but we must be prepared to offer assistance if the need for it arises. Consequently, I welcome the recent visit of the Chief of the Defence Staff to the Doha conference on Libya and the support that he offered to the national transitional council, in terms of assistance with specific capability requests for military support as Libya makes its transition to democracy.
With the end of military operations and the return to relative peace and normality, a new and exciting chapter in Libyan history is beginning. It is my view that Britain must build on the work that we have started with the Libyans—for example, we are already providing support for policing. I commend the work of the stabilisation unit to date, and I hope that the Minister will give assurances that it will be properly resourced in the future. We must continue to help to build the institutions of a civil society and to promote the rule of law.
It is vital that the relevant Departments of the UK Government involved in all areas of reconstruction, assistance, enterprise and business work together in a co-ordinated fashion to achieve the optimum results in the shortest possible time. Unco-ordinated efforts run the risk of duplicating work, wasting resources and hampering the emergence of a well-defined, strong and confident Libya.
We should also be working with other countries involved in the reconstruction of Libya, particularly our NATO partners. It would be nonsense if we succeeded in working together to protect the Libyan people in war but were unable to help them coherently in peace.
The most important matter that must be addressed by those in authority in Libya is ensuring the security and well-being of the Libyan people. Unless those aims are achieved and unless they remain a constant focus, we run the risk of other, less scrupulous people seizing power in Libya. Also, I totally accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that we could put British military teams into Libya to help to train the Libyan armed forces.
The hon. Gentleman has made my point far more eloquently than me. He has also pre-empted a point that I will come on to later, which is the deweaponisation of Libya.
Overall, we need to see clear direction on the relative importance of the bilateral support to Libyan efforts. At the moment, DFID is ramping up its efforts in Libya, while the Ministry of Defence is scaling down its efforts. If we are to remain engaged in an integrated way, all Departments need to be at the table, and we need clarity from the Government about our overall objectives. How active will we be, Minister? What is good enough in terms of the peace-building effort? And is our main focus going to be trade, governance, stability or all those issues?
An example of the current confusion is the potential divergence between the DFID-led public safety efforts, which my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham has mentioned, and the MOD’s interest in the security architecture. Unless Her Majesty’s Government know what they are trying to achieve collectively in Libya, it will be hard to determine where the various pieces of the jigsaw fit together.
It is important that we are realistic about what the UN and the EU can and cannot do, and what they will and will not do, in Libya. At present, far too many assumptions are being made in Whitehall that the UN will deliver everything that we want it to deliver in the time frames required. It will not do that, particularly within the security sector. Bilateral engagement with Libya by the UK and our NATO allies will be required, but with a view to bringing in the UN, where possible and as soon as possible.
In seeking to aid Libya in its transition, we must also be mindful of how our actions are seen. We should only seek to help Libyan people at their own behest. All our stabilisation efforts must be owned by the local communities. We must never impose, nor appear to be imposing, our systems, beliefs, culture or demands upon the Libyan people. If there is to be a successful transition in Libya to a strong democratic state, it must be a transition that the Libyans themselves have decided upon. Only then will it become entrenched and real.
Of paramount importance in post-war Libya is ensuring that the very weapons used to free the people do not remain in the country long enough to enslave them once again. When a country is awash with small arms, it is at risk of descending into sectarianism, vigilantism and terror. We are already helping the national transitional council in seeking the dangerous weapons that were stockpiled by Gaddafi, and DFID is already helping with demining projects, but we must go further and encourage a much wider demilitarisation of Libya and its people.
Economically, relations between the UK and the new Libya should now move towards development support and enterprise opportunity. In order to prosper fully, Libya will require serious investment and expertise. To that end, I welcome my hon. Friend’s suggestion that there should be an insurance scheme to protect British businesses as they venture into Libya to set up operations.
I have visited the beautiful Roman ruins in Libya of Leptis Magna and Sabratha, which are the best Roman ruins to be found anywhere around the Mediterranean. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is also huge potential for British tourism in Libya to see not only those ruins but the beautiful Libyan coastline?
There are opportunities not only for British business in reconstruction, but for British tourism and for cultural exchanges between our universities and schools. I hope that the relationship between the UK and Libya will flourish on all levels. I am sure that, as we speak, many travel agencies are considering my hon. Friend’s suggestion.
I repeat my call for a co-ordinated UK and European economic response to the Arab spring. Whether in Libya or elsewhere in the region, it is vital that we deliver the benefits of economic pluralism to the people to sit alongside their new and hard-won political pluralism. The Libyan people have thrown off the yoke of repression and conformity, and we must now play our part in lifting them and others out of poverty. We must work to see a strong, confident and open Libya setting its own destiny, offering our help where necessary and when asked, and finally able to deliver security and prosperity to its people.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing the debate. He displays incredible knowledge of the subject, and his book on Gaddafi is an important read. I thank him for setting up the British Mena—middle east and north Africa—Council for parliamentarians, which gives some balance to the debate. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) on his thoughtful remarks.
I am sorry to intervene so early in my hon. Friend’s speech, but he has kindly mentioned my book on Colonel Gaddafi, which I gave to the Prime Minister before the last election. Does he know that in the book I thank him for all his work on Anglo-Libyan relations, referring to him as a rising star in the Conservative party who will be in a future Conservative Government?
I thank my hon. Friend. Being British, I blush at such compliments. I do not want this to turn into a mutual love-in.
Yesterday marked the end of British military involvement in Libya, seven months after the no-fly zone was authorised, and I would argue that it was one of the most successful NATO operations in history. It proved, all the more importantly after the Iraq conflict, that intervention can work and that Britain can fight for peace and democracy. Although I was disappointed at the manner of Gaddafi’s death because it would have been better for him to be tried in the international courts, I wish that my grandfather, Renato Halfon, was alive now to have seen his demise.
In 1968, after some anti-Jewish pogroms, my grandfather was forced to leave Libya and, as an Italian Jew, he went to Rome. He had planned to return to Tripoli once the pogroms had subsided, but Gaddafi took power in 1969 and all the Jewish businesses and my grandfather’s home were taken. The same thing happened to the Jews and the Italians. Luckily, my grandfather had sent my father to England some years earlier. I love Britain—I was born here and would not live anywhere else—but I feel a deep concoction of Jewish and Italian from Libya, which has been awakened by recent events. I listened with considerable interest to the story that my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham told about being in Poland, particularly the part about the oranges, and about what motivated him to fight for freedom in Libya.
It has been good to have conversations with my father and his friends from Libya to try to understand what it was like in those days. My grandfather had a clothing business and sold clothes to the British, and he always said that they were the only people who paid on time. He loved this country more than anything; he thought that the streets were metaphorically paved with gold and that everyone in England was a gentleman. It is worth remembering that King Idris was installed as monarch of Libya in 1951 by the British, in the aftermath of the war, when Libya gained independence from Italy and the old colonial name Tripolitania disappeared.
Although my grandfather and many other people had contempt for Gaddafi, we must acknowledge that in the early days the colonel was not a monster. My father remembers him becoming a rapidly popular figure, who before the coup used to walk down the famous Italian street in Tripoli, Corso Vittorio Emanuele—I think it is now called Jadat Istiklal—shaking hands with passers-by, including my father, wearing a broad serene smile and speaking loudly. He was articulate and nurtured dreams of pan-Arabism, and because of King Idris’s benign weakness, he became known as the liberator. Astonishing as it might seem, he was seen as sympathetic to western interests, and so the Americans, who controlled the large Wheelus air base outside Tripoli, did nothing to stop the coup d’état against the king. No one imagined that Gaddafi would become the monster he did and impose a 42-year totalitarian regime. Now he has gone, everyone is asking, “What next? Will it be a repeat of Iraq in the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?”
It is worth emphasising that a yearning for freedom is deep in every human breast and should be nurtured and supported. The Libyan people deserve freedom just as much as we do in the west. For years, the realist school of foreign policy—I am sure that the Minister is not of that school—has argued that the middle east is not ready for democracy and that democracy cannot be dropped from a B-52 bomber, but actually it can. The NATO planes showed that by providing cover as the rebels advanced on Tripoli, although that is not the only way to do it. We must remember that liberty is a human right for everyone, whatever their background or race. Sometimes it requires military intervention, and sometimes it requires hearts and minds—so-called soft power. Our foreign policy should be directed at supporting groups of resistance to dictators, and at funding radio and TV stations and the internet, in the same way as the CIA did in the cold war to try to combat communism. Where is the middle east equivalent of Radio Free Europe?
What is not required is appeasement. Appeasement often works in the short term but never in the long. The previous Government, as well as some of our universities and businesses, lost their moral bearings when it came to dealing with the Libyan regime. I happened to support Tony Blair and the invasion of Iraq, yet the complete contrast between that and what his Government did with Libya was astonishing. While senior new Labour Government figures hobnobbed with Gaddafi and his family, academic institutions accepted millions of pounds in blood money from the regime, and companies rushed to Libya to sign commercial deals. The London School of Economics, in perhaps the most shameful episode in the university’s history, went cap in hand to Gaddafi and treated him like some kind of king from over the water. I am glad that one of the professors implicated in that disgusting scandal resigned today, according to reports in The Times.
The leader of the Labour party talks about predator and producer capitalism, and I do not think there has been a more horrific example of predator corporate capitalism than the commercial dealings between the previous Government and so-called big business and the Libya regime. I do not say that to make a party political point; I just cannot get my head around how the previous Government could do some good things in Iraq but behave so disgracefully when it came to Libya. The release of the Lockerbie murderer, al-Megrahi, marked the low point of that kind of appeasement by the establishment, and I would argue that the political establishment’s flirtation with Gaddafi was akin to the appeasement of Hitler before the second world war by British upper-class aristocrats.
In having the courage to support intervention and ignore the armchair generals who said we could not or should not get involved, the Prime Minister did much to correct Britain’s moral compass, but I urge the Minister and the Government to launch a serious inquiry into the previous Government’s relations with Gaddafi. We must learn from what went wrong, so that we never, ever, do such a thing again with such an evil regime.
It was not so much the armchair generals. The armchair generals were right that we had no land forces that we could have put in. We did what we were able to do, which was to use our Air Force, but we certainly could not put troops on the ground, so the armchair generals and the Government were right to say that we could not do so.
I bow to my hon. Friend’s incredible experience in these matters, but I was not arguing about what kind of intervention it was. In fact, Britain has shouldered too heavy a burden, and other NATO countries should have done more. However, many so-called armchair generals argued against any intervention per se.
I have made my point about the previous Government’s appeasement of Gaddafi, which sets the context, but I understand what my hon. Friend has said.
Of course, getting rid of a tyrant does not mean that we have got rid of tyranny. The experience of much of Iraq shows that the first steps after dictatorship are incredibly important. NATO and western Governments must continue to nurture genuinely democratic forces in post-Gaddafi Libya and help to rebuild the country. Any prospect of extreme Islamists or al-Qaeda gaining ground must be ruthlessly crushed. However, the threat of Islamists should not be overstated. They are less prevalent in northern Africa than in the rest of the middle east. It may take a few years to achieve democracy, but that was also the case in Japan and Germany after the second world war.
I am vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq. That region sets a precedent for democracy. The Kurdish people suffered chemical genocide under Saddam Hussein and lived in terror under the Ba’athist regime. I have visited the region, and I have seen the democracy, the rule of law, the religious tolerance, the free press and the vigorous political opposition. It can be done, and the Libyan transitional national council must do the same.
The signs are encouraging. There are reports that the Libyan leader of the opposition invited the representative of Libyan Jews in the UK, Raphael Luzon, back to Tripoli to take part in the political process. Yesterday, I met Mr Luzon, who is a senior Jewish politician, in the House of Commons. He is known by the key people in the transitional council, who, he said yesterday, invited him back to work with the Government and perhaps stand for office, which is a very encouraging sign.
As we reopen our embassy in Tripoli, now is the time for the British Government to encourage the forces of liberalism in Libya. We should impress on the national transitional council interim Government that we stand with them against Islamic fundamentalists, and that we hope they will revive a good relationship with Christians, Jews and other minorities.
I also hope that the Foreign Office can help to obtain compensation for exiled Libyan Jews. Gaddafi’s law 57 of July 1970 gave the Libyan regime powers to seize the property of Jews who had fled after the pogroms of 1967 and before. Not a penny in compensation has been paid to dispossessed Libyan Jews or other victims of the Gaddafi family. As the country reconciles, I ask the Minister to consider compensating victims and the families of those who have been killed with some of the assets sequestered from Gaddafi. We now know that Colonel Gaddafi’s son lived in some splendour in a large house in north London—bizarrely, it is not far from where I spent a few years of my childhood.
During the past 60 years, Arab states have ethnically cleansed ancient Jewish communities, creating the largest population of refugees in the region—far larger than that of the Palestinians—and incurring property losses many times greater. My grandfather lost his material possessions when he was forced to leave Libya, but at least he could get away and rebuild his life here, unlike the Libyan people who have been oppressed for so long. We hope that their suffering is coming to an end. I commend what the Government have done, and I hope that they will work closely with the new Libyan leadership to help them develop democracy. I look forward to visiting Tripoli when it is more stable and retracing my dear grandfather’s and father’s footsteps.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing this timely debate.
I have limited time. I start with Robin Cook, as did the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham. With respect to him, he misquoted Robin Cook, as people so often do. Robin Cook, for whom I have great admiration, said on Monday 12 May 1997:
“The Labour Government does not accept that political values can be left behind when we check in our passports to travel on diplomatic business. Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension”.
As the debate has progressed, that matter has become even more relevant to today’s discussion. The debate has been more backward-looking than I expected, but it is helpful to consider some of the points made as we look forward to the future of Libya and progress in that country, which hon. Members from all parties welcome.
I am sorry that there has been a partisan element to this debate, because I know that the speakers, whom I respect, believe in an ethical dimension to foreign policy. They seem, however, to have short memories. Robin Cook established his reputation in the arms to Iraq debate in the 1990s. That debate involved a Conservative Government, and—
I accept your ruling, Mr Gray, although Hansard will record our previous discussion of other matters.
We need a balanced approach when considering the history of different parties’ approach to foreign affairs. From the outset, the Leader of the Opposition made clear his support for the Prime Minister’s decision to support, quite rightly, the actions in Libya. When difficult interventions were happening in Libya, he supported the Prime Minister throughout. Of course, there were times when particular aspects of policy were not succeeding, when the Opposition held the Government to account, as is our role.
There is now a broader consensus across the House on the ethical dimension of foreign policy. It is unhelpful to misrepresent the previous Government’s position—
Order. The hon. Gentleman must now return to the question under debate, or he will resume his seat. We are discussing UK relations with Libya, not the ethical foreign policy of the previous Labour Government, or indeed any Government. The question is UK relations with Libya and nothing else.
I am delighted that last week, the UN voted unanimously to end the no-fly zone, which has now been lifted. The new resolution is another important landmark towards Libya’s democratic future. The state has a historic opportunity to build on human rights and to ensure that freedoms are protected. We in the United Kingdom have a great tradition of working with developing democracies to try to establish democratic values, and I know that the Minister will support that.
Britain’s future involvement in Libya is important. The shadow Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander), warned in September how a liberated country can quickly become a lawless and violent one. We have seen the end of armed conflict in Libya, and we are now seeing a steady transition to democratic government. The country must now embark on the delicate process of developing institutions. We know from our own history how difficult that is in the aftermath of civil war—Oliver Cromwell was not able to build enduring institutions in the UK. The problems that Libya now faces are serious, so we need to ensure—I think that the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) put this well—that the Libyan people are at the forefront of addressing them. It is important that we support their work in developing institutions.
Will the Minister make clear how he sees our role with Libya developing? Will the emphasis be on bilateral relations with Libya, or will we continue to work through NATO or the UN? What is the current format for the working relationship with the new Libyan Government, and how will that develop?
There is a great appetite in the House for developing relations with Libya. It is a matter for not only the Government, but Parliament as a whole. I am sure that there will be interest throughout Parliament in developing the nascent democracy in Libya. There is great interest in establishing working links, as well as economic links, with Libya. Companies in my constituency already export to Libya and have done so for a number of years, which, to pick up what the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham has said, is something that we need to develop. There is no shame in that. The Defence Secretary was right to say that there are business opportunities in Libya, and I am pleased to hear that Lord Green has already visited Libya and is assisting in the rebuilding of that country in a way that suggests that we can contribute as a nation. We have an opportunity in both the democratic and commercial spheres to assist with the development of Libya.
After the Kuwait war and the tremendous contribution made by British armed forces to that victory, a number of British companies in Kuwait felt that they would have an economic advantage, but it did not happen. Following other contributors to this debate, does the hon. Gentleman feel that more could be done to ensure that British companies benefit?
It is important that we grasp the opportunity to contribute commercially, which means creating jobs in our own constituencies. We, as parliamentarians, have a responsibility to be outward-looking on occasions such as this. Perhaps we should not focus purely on issues such as Europe, when big issues are happening around the world. We should look at the opportunities in Africa, China and beyond. It is important that, in these extraordinary times, we use the increasing communication with countries such as Libya for the benefit of our own constituents.
The business infrastructure in Libya is excellent, if we consider that it is in Africa. We should waste no opportunity to get in there again. I know that a number of companies are already there and that British companies have been kind of operating throughout the troubles over the past six months. I totally endorse what the hon. Gentleman has to say.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s contribution. There are opportunities in the commercial sphere. A number of organisations have been referred to, such as the British Council and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and I add the BBC World Service, which can make a positive contribution to building democracy in Libya. We have a huge opportunity.
I have not visited Libya, but it is extremely important and has massive potential. It is a neighbour of countries that are becoming increasingly important, such as Egypt. Will the Minister touch on how he sees those relationships within the new Mediterranean developing as we progress? We are in extraordinary times in north Africa and the middle east, because the changes are having profound effects on our relations and on the lives of and individual possibilities for the people of Libya.
We have long-established relationships with Libya, for many of the reasons that have been referred to in this debate. We should use those opportunities to assist the people of Libya, who must lead what happens. We must be prepared to stand ready to assist whenever we are asked. We have much to give.
Thank you, Mr Gray, for allowing me the opportunity to conclude the debate. It is an honour for me to serve for the first time under your chairmanship and to follow the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas). I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), not only for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important and topical issue, but for his ongoing interest in Libya. I apologise on behalf of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), who has specific responsibilities for north Africa and the middle east, and would, in normal circumstances, reply to this debate. He is, however, travelling, so I will respond as his colleague in the Foreign Office.
As has been made clear, events in Libya over recent months and days have offered the opportunity to change radically the United Kingdom’s relationship with Libya, to the benefit of both British and Libyan citizens. The end of the Gaddafi regime, the national transitional council’s declaration of liberation just over a week ago, and the end of the UN-mandated no-fly zone just yesterday mark the beginning of a new era in Libya’s history. After 42 years of brutal repression under Gaddafi, Libyans can now look forward to a brighter, more secure and prosperous future, and a new start in Libya’s relationship with the international community, including us in the United Kingdom.
In responding to the many points that have been made on the nature of the new relationship, I would like to focus on two aspects. The first is the role that the United Kingdom has played to date in helping bring this opportunity about. Secondly—the hon. Member for Wrexham made this point—I want to focus on our plans for future relations, as well as dwell on the recent past.
The Government are proud of the role that Britain has played in establishing and implementing the NATO mission to protect Libyan civilians. The international community, led by the United Kingdom, stepped in because it was necessary, legal and right to do so. We could not stand by and let Gaddafi commit atrocities against his own people in order to cling to power. We are likewise proud of the role that the United Kingdom has played in building international support for the new Libya, not least through the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council resolutions 2009 and 2016 in recent weeks.
Over recent months, at the request of the national transitional council, the United Kingdom has also offered advice on stabilisation and committed more than £20 million of assistance to support the NCT’s stabilisation plans. In April, we opened a mission in Benghazi, and were among the first diplomatic missions to re-establish ourselves in Tripoli after its liberation in August. Together with the French President, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was the first Head of Government to visit Libya after Tripoli’s fall. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary accompanied him on that visit, and also made a separate visit last month, when he was able to announce the formal reopening of the British embassy and the appointment of Sir John Jenkins as the new British ambassador to Libya.
Although the Government are proud of that role, we have also been clear throughout that it has been a Libyan-led revolution. That is as true of post-conflict stabilisation as it was during the conflict. Now that liberation has been declared, Libya has an historic opportunity to create a peaceful, democratic and prosperous state, where human rights are protected and all its people benefit from its considerable natural resources. As the Foreign Secretary said last week, that would be a fitting tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for future generations. We welcome the clear and consistent messages from council leaders cautioning against disorder and, crucially, against reprisals, as mentioned during our discussions.
Establishing the new Libya will involve building infrastructure in every aspect of life, for example: political democracy and inclusion, the rule of law, security, migration, commerce and civil society. It is for the Libyan people to decide how to govern themselves. The UK will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Libyan people in that process, as they form a transitional Government within 30 days of liberation and rebuild a free and democratic country.
In a moment, I will touch on our plans for helping Libya in how it goes about that process, but, first, I will address an issue that straddles both Libya’s past and future, an important element of our relations with the new Libya and something on which we have been working with the NTC over recent months: the crimes committed by the Gaddafi regime. That has been a particular focus of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham not only in this debate, but over many months and years. Our relationship with Libya has been scarred over the decades by the horrific actions of the Gaddafi regime, including the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 and Gaddafi’s support of IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland and here on the UK mainland.
A new Libya offers the chance to revitalise the relationship between Britain and the new Libyan authorities. Part of that process must involve resolving those outstanding so-called legacy issues. As my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made clear both to the new Libyan authorities and the House, that is an important priority for our Government. The Foreign Secretary last raised those issues with Chairman al-Jalil of the national transitional council during his visit to Tripoli on 17 October, just a fortnight ago.
The Metropolitan police and Dumfries and Galloway police will return to Libya to conclude their investigations once an interim Government are in place. We will seek restitution and reconciliation for the victims of IRA violence. Chairman al-Jalil and Prime Minister Jibril have assured us on many occasions that they will work with us on those issues but, as they have pointed out—I am sure hon. Members will think that they have done so with valid reason—they need to form a Government and have functioning Ministries to be able to deliver their side of that commitment.
The short answer is no. I have not had a clear indication, but I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern. If I can sum up the sentiment of the debate, I think we all feel uncomfortable about the manner of Gaddafi’s death, even if we do not lament his passing. I, and I am sure the whole House, hope that Libya’s future will be based on the rule of law, not reprisals. Although Colonel Gaddafi was the most high-profile Libyan, I hope that his death is not indicative of the state of justice and the construction of society in the new Libya that will unfold in the months and years ahead.
As well as resolving issues from Libya’s past, we will work closely with the new authorities on the issues critical to Libya’s future. Security is a key concern, even though the new authorities are making steady progress and police are returning to the streets. The national transitional council has planned for a proper police force and a national army that integrates many of the revolutionary forces. We are offering help in that process, including through the presence of a British policing adviser and with communications and logistics for the new police forces. We are helping the NTC to secure and disable man-portable air defence systems, and we are supporting mine clearance in Misrata, Benghazi and other affected areas. We will also offer technical advice to help with the destruction of remaining Libyan chemical weapons stocks under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Government are also working with the International Criminal Court in The Hague to pursue and bring to justice the remaining indictees, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi. We want to ensure that they are held accountable for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and for the attacks targeting the civilian population perpetrated by them. We are encouraging all Libya’s neighbours who are ICC state parties and have a legal obligation under the Rome statute to co-operate with the ICC, including on enforcing ICC arrest warrants should those individuals enter their territory. UN Security Council resolution 1970 urges all UN member states to support the ICC investigation and implement the arrest warrants. We are making that position very clear.
The UK has played a leading role throughout in responding to Libya’s humanitarian problems. We have provided support through the International Committee of the Red Cross and supplied surgical teams and medicines to treat up to 5,000 war-wounded patients. We have also brought 50 severely wounded Libyans to the UK and are providing treatment in the UK to another 50 Libyans who have suffered amputations during the conflict. UK medical experts are also working with Libyan medical staff and are training them in the care of those who have been brought to the UK, so that they can take that knowledge back to Libya and work with others who have suffered such terrible injuries in the fighting.
Women and young people have an important role to play in rebuilding Libya. We are engaging with women across different sections of Libyan society to determine how best to provide support. That includes looking at the issues that women face as a result of the conflict and how women can participate in developing a new Libya.
I shall make only one point. I suspect that the Minister will not mention the matter of Crown Prince Mohammed, but perhaps he could write to me and my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) about what exactly the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s attitude is towards the Crown Prince, who seems a very decent man.
I am grateful for that intervention. Let me make it clear: the British Government do not have a position on the ideal constitutional arrangement for the new Libya. That is a matter for the Libyan people to determine for themselves. There will be a referendum on the constitution of Libya. On the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, there will be an opportunity for the Libyan people to express their support for the arrangement that is put before them.
Let me finish by talking about trade and commerce, which was raised by many contributors. Getting the economy running again in Libya is crucial to achieving political progress and stability. We are committed to helping the Libyan authorities build a strong and sustainable economy. Through UK Trade and Investment and our embassy in Tripoli, we are providing advice and assistance to British businesses, so that they are ready to compete for business opportunities now and in future, when the time is right for their business.
In late September, Lord Green, the Minister responsible for trade and investment visited Libya. He met senior leaders, who assured him that all legally obtained contracts would be honoured and new business welcomed. He discussed business prospects arising from the estimated $200 billion post-conflict reconstruction programme and, the day after his visit, Lord Green briefed more than 150 UK companies on how the Government planned to support their engagement in Libya. The Export Credits Guarantee Department has agreed to provide insurance cover for business deals up to a total of $250 million. That is an initial tranche of cover and it will be re-evaluated at regular intervals.
The Libyan people have now embarked on the transition to a pluralist and democratic society. Although we should not expect that that will always be a smooth path, the UK will continue to support Libya in that goal and in building a revitalised relationship between the United Kingdom and Libya that addresses past wrongs and lays the foundation for future progress. The NTC’s goals are ambitious, but already it has many times proved wrong those who underestimated it. We have confidence that it can continue to do so, and that a new bilateral relationship between Britain and Libya will bring greater benefits to the people of both our countries in future than at any point over the past four decades.