CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

FOREIGN AFFAIRS – AFGHANISTAN – 7 February 2006

[The Minister for the Middle East (Dr Kim Howells): ... It is not enough to assume that if people eat the right kind of muesli, go to first nights of Harold Pinter revivals – [Hon. Members: "More, more."] – and read The Independent occasionally, the drug barons of Afghanistan will go away. They will not. The poison that is being pumped into the veins of children in the UK is coming from Afghanistan and we must play our part to stop that happening.]

Dr Julian Lewis: It is wonderful to have such a politically incorrect Minister at the Dispatch Box, but does the hon. Gentleman remember his written answers to my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mark Harper), published only yesterday? The Minister conceded that the vast majority of Afghan warlords had been against the Taliban regime, but that he does not know what proportion of Afghan warlords who are against the regime are involved in the drugs trade. Does he not realise that there is a danger of a mixed mission, with the serious possibility that what the hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) said will come true? Troops intervening to stop the drugs trade may actually consolidate warlords behind the Taliban. That is a serious risk.

[Dr Howells: I realise what the hon. Gentleman is saying and I heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) said, but I do not agree with either of them. There is a risk of that happening – there is no question about that – but we have no choice but to try to take it on. The alternative is not to take any risks whatever in the terrible business of opium growing and heroin exporting. The hon. Gentleman may feel that the subject should be left to divine intervention. I do not agree, and I do not agree with my hon. Friend either. It is absolutely vital that we take appropriate action. We have thought long and hard, and we believe that our action is appropriate.]