DEFENCE – TERRORISM CRISIS – 26 October 2001

Dr Julian Lewis: I strongly endorse the plea that the Minister [Adam Ingram] has been giving to the mass media to show restraint in what they publish at this delicate time, particularly in relation to speculation on what might happen in the employment of Special Forces. Surely the media should bear in mind that even a newspaper published in London is now accessible worldwide on the internet, and that bin Laden has not been slow to use Western technology against the West.

Does the Minister agree, however, that the media have performed a very important role in alerting society as a whole to the nature of the threat that we face by making it clear to world opinion that the horrors we face cannot go unanswered, and by warning us, even today, that if the Government and our American allies are not successful in our campaign we may even face the threat of nuclear terrorism from bin Laden and his terrible organisation?

[Adam Ingram: I thank the hon. Gentleman for those comments. I think that he is right to say that the media should show restraint and that, equally, they have an important role to play in bringing into the open the enormity of what we face. We are not only dealing with 11 September, as the network's probable intent is to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. The Prime Minister has made it clear that if the network did get its hands on such material its intent would become very clear. I think that the media are able to get that point across, bolstering all the action that we are taking to tackle the menace and evil that currently exist within Afghanistan.

We hold almost daily briefings either in the United Kingdom or in the United States to set out the various developments. This statement is an addition to that process. There is no paucity of information although, for very good reasons, there are some matters  on detailed operational activities, or to confirm or deny the presence and actions of special forces  on which we will not comment.]