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I am grateful to you for recalling Parliament on a second occasion so that the House can consider developments since it last met.
Then the scale of 11 September tragedy was still unclear. Even today we do not yet know the precise numbers of those feared dead. But a bleak picture has emerged: there are up to 7,000 feared dead, including many British victims and others from 70 different countries. Many were Muslims. It cannot be said too often: this atrocity appalled decent Muslims everywhere and is wholly contrary to the true teaching of Islam. And we condemn unreservedly racist attacks on British Muslims here, most recently at an Edinburgh Mosque.
These acts are without any justification whatever and the full force of the law will be used against those who do them.
I pay tribute again to all those in America who have been involved in dealing with the human consequences of the attacks. The rescue services and medical workers who worked tirelessly and with devotion in the most harrowing conditions imaginable. I pay tribute to our own consular staff in New York and London and the family counsellors and Metropolitan Police officers who have supported relatives of the victims. And, above all, to the relatives themselves. Those I met in New York, still uncertain finally of the fate of their loved ones, bore their grief with immense dignity which deserves the admiration of us all.
Since 11 September intensive efforts have taken place here and elsewhere to investigate these attacks and determine who is responsible. Our findings have been shared and co-ordinated with those of our allies, and are clear.
first, it was Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida, the terrorist network which he heads, that planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September second, that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida were able to commit these atrocities because of their close alliance with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan which allows them to operate with impunity in pursuing their terrorist activity I will later today put in the Library of the House of Commons a document detailing the basis for our conclusions. The document covers the history of Osama bin Laden, his relations with the Taliban, what we know of the acts of terror he has committed; and some of what we know in respect of 11 September. I enter a major caveat, much of the evidence we have is intelligence and highly sensitive. It is not possible without compromising people or security to release precise details and fresh information is daily coming in. But I hope the House will find it useful at least as an interim assessment. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats have seen the full basis for the document on Privy Council terms. For myself and all other Government Ministers who have studied the full information, we have absolutely no doubt that Bin Laden and his network are responsible for the attacks on 11 September. That was also the unanimous view of the NATO members who were taken through the full facts on 2 October. Much more of the evidence in respect of earlier atrocities can be released in greater detail since it is already subject to court proceedings; and this in itself is powerful.
Indeed, there is nothing hidden about Bin Ladens agenda. He openly espouses the language of terror; has described terrorising Americans as "a religious and logical obligation"; and in February 1998 signed a fatwa stating that "the killing of Americans and their civilian and military allies is a religious duty".
As our document shows, he has been responsible for a number of terrorist outrages over the past decade.
The attack in 1993 on US military personnel serving in Somalia 18 US military personnel killed. In 1998, the bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. 224 people killed and over 4500 injured. Attempted bombings in Jordan and Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium, thankfully thwarted. The attack on the USS Cole nearly a year ago which left 17 crew members killed and 40 injured. The attacks on 11 September bear all the hallmarks of a Bin Laden operation: meticulous long-term planning; a desire to inflict mass casualties; a total disregard for civilian lives (including Muslims); multiple simultaneous attacks; and the use of suicide attackers.
I can now confirm that of the 19 hijackers identified from the passenger lists of the four planes hijacked on 11 September, at least three of these hijackers have already been positively identified as known associates of Bin Laden, with a track record in his camps and organisation. The others are being investigated still.
Of the three, one has also been identified as playing key roles in both the East African Embassy attacks and the USS Cole attack.
Since the attacks, we have obtained the following intelligence: shortly before 11 September, Bin Laden told associates that he had a major operation against America under preparation; a range of people were warned to return to Afghanistan because of action on or around 11 September; and most importantly, one of Bin Ladens closest lieutenants has said clearly that he helped with the planning of the 11 September attacks and has admitted the involvement of the Al Qaida organisation. There is other intelligence we cannot disclose of an even more direct nature indicating guilt.
The closeness of Bin Ladens relationship with the Taliban is also plain. He provides the Taliban with troops, arms and money to fight the Northern Alliance. He is closely involved with the Talibans military training, planning and operations. He has representatives in the Talibans military command structure. Forces under the control of Osama bin Laden have fought alongside the Taliban in the civil war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime, for its part, has provided Bin Laden with a safe haven within which to operate, and allowed him to establish terrorist training camps. They jointly exploit the Afghan drugs trade. In return for active Al Qaida support the Taliban allow Al Qaida to operate freely, including planning, training and preparing for terrorist activity. In addition they provide security for the stockpiles of drugs.
Mr Speaker, in the face of this evidence, our immediate objectives are clear. We must bring Bin Laden and other Al Qaida leaders to justice and eliminate the terrorist threat they pose. And we must ensure that Afghanistan ceases to harbour and sustain international terrorism. If the Taliban regime will not comply with that objective, we must bring about change in that regime to ensure that Afghanistans links to international terrorism are broken.
Since the House last met, we have been working ceaselessly on the diplomatic, humanitarian and military fronts.
I can confirm that we have had initial discussions with the US about a range of military capabilities with which Britain can help and have already responded positively to this. We will consider carefully any further requests and keep the House informed as appropriate, about such requests. For obvious reasons I cannot disclose the exact nature of our discussions. But I am fully satisfied they are consistent with our shared objectives.
I believe the humanitarian coalition to help the people of Afghanistan to be as vital as any military action itself.
Afghanistan was in the grip of a humanitarian crisis even before the events of 11 September. Four years of drought, on top of over two decades of conflict, have forced millions of people to leave the country; and have left millions more dependent on international humanitarian aid.
Last week the United Nations launched an appeal for $584 million to meet the needs of vulnerable people in and around Afghanistan. The appeal covers the next six months.
The international community has already pledged sufficient funds to meet the most immediate needs. The British Government has contributed £25 million, nearly all of which has already been allocated to UN and other agencies. We have also made available a further £11 million for support for the poorest communities in Pakistan, especially those most directly affected by the influx of refugees.
I know President Bush will shortly announce details of a major US programme of aid.
I have been in detailed consultation with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and other leaders. Kofi Annan has now appointed Lakhdar Brahimi to be his high level coordinator for the humanitarian effort in and around Afghanistan. We will give Mr Brahimi all the support we can, to help ensure that the UN and the whole of the international community comes together to meet the humanitarian challenge.
Action is already in hand to cope with additional outflows of refugees. UNHCR are working with the governments of the region to identify sites for additional refugee camps. The first UNHCR flight of relief supplies, including tents donated by the British Government, arrived in Iran yesterday. A second flight will depart at the end of this week, carrying more tents, plastic sheeting and tarpaulins, so that we can provide essential shelter for refugees.
We are also stepping up the effort to get food into Afghanistan, before the winter snows begin. A UNICEF convoy carrying blankets and other supplies left Peshawar for Kabul on Tuesday. A World Food Programme convoy carrying over 200 tonnes of wheat arrived in Kabul on Monday. Further WFP convoys have left for Afghanistan from Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
We will do what we can to minimise the suffering of the Afghan people as a result of the conflict; and we commit ourselves to work with them afterwards inside and outside Afghanistan to ensure a better, more peaceful future free from the repression and dictatorship that is their present existence.
On the diplomatic front, over the past three weeks the Foreign Secretary and I have been in intensive contact with foreign leaders from every part of the world. In addition, the Foreign Secretary has visited the Middle East and Iran. I have visited Berlin, Paris and Washington for consultations with Chancellor Schroeder, President Chirac and President Bush respectively. Later today I will travel to Moscow to meet with President Putin.
What we have encountered is an unprecedented level of solidarity and commitment to work together against terrorism. This is a commitment that spans all continents, cultures and religions, reinforced by attacks like the one on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar which killed over 30 innocent people.
We have already made good progress in taking forward an international agenda. Last week the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1373. This makes it mandatory for all states to prevent and suppress terrorist financing and requires the denial of safe haven to who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts.
The European Union too has taken firm action. Transport, interior, finance and foreign ministers have all met to concert an ambitious and effective European response: enhancing police co-operation; speeding up extradition; putting an end to the funding of terrorism; and strengthening air security.
We are also looking closely at our national legislation. In the next few weeks, the Home Secretary intends to introduce a package of legislation to supplement existing legal powers in a number of areas. It will be a carefully-appraised set of measures: tough, but balanced and proportionate to the risk we face. It will cover the funding of terrorism. It will increase our ability to exclude and remove those whom we suspect of terrorism and who are seeking to abuse our asylum procedures. It will widen the law on incitement to include religious hatred. We will bring forward a bill to modernise our extradition law.
It will not be a knee-jerk reaction. But I emphasise we do need to strengthen our laws so that, even if necessary only in a small number of cases, we have the means to protect our citizens liberty and our national security.
We have also ensured, insofar as is possible, that every reasonable measure of internal security is being undertaken. We have in place a series of contingency plans, governing all forms of terrorism. These plans are continually reviewed and tested regularly and at all levels. In addition, we continue to monitor carefully developments in the British and International economy. Certain sectors here and around the world have inevitably been seriously affected, though I repeat the fundamentals of all the major economies, including our own, remain strong. The reduction of risk from terrorist mass action is important also to economic confidence as 11 September shows. So there is every incentive in this respect also, to close down the Bin Laden network.
Mr Speaker, three weeks on from the most appalling act of terrorism the world has ever witnessed.
The coalition is strong. Military plans are robust. The humanitarian plans are falling into place.
And the evidence against Bin Laden and his network is overwhelming.
The Afghan people are not our enemy. For they have our sympathy and they will have our support.
Our enemy is Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaida network who were responsible for the events of 11 September. The Taliban regime must yield them up or become our enemy also. We will not act for revenge. We will act because for the protection of our people and our way of life, including confidence in our economy, we need to eliminate the threat Bin Laden and his terrorism represent. We act for justice. We act with world opinion behind us. And we have an absolute determination to see justice done, and this evil of mass terrorism confronted and defeated.