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Gray: Our armed services are ready to do their duty

In his speech concluding the Foreign Affairs Session at the Conservative Party Conference, Shadow Front Bench Spokesman on Defence, James Gray MP said:

"As we sit here in the Blackpool Wintergardens today, and over the next few weeks as we sit in the comfort of our homes glued to our television screens, let us give more than a few moments' thought to a group of people who do not have that luxury.

"They are people distinguished by a cheerful selflessness; by a professionalism which has no equal in the world; by a steadfast devotion to duty; and by qualities of sheer grit, courage and determination which most of us can only dream of.

"They are people ready to go through the worst deprivations - extremes of heat and cold, exhaustion, hunger, injuries of every sort. They may even face death itself.

"And our armed services do all of that without flinching.

"They do it for us. Of course they do.

"And they do it because they believe so strongly in the very values which Osama bin Laden so foully desecrated on 11 September - freedom, democracy, respect for human life, tolerance of others.

"Those are the values which drive our service men and women, just as much as they did in 1914 and 1939, and in the Falklands and the Gulf War.

"But it's about more than that. They are ready to fight because they trust that the decision to fight - being taken by people they have never met in Westminster - is the right decison.

"They are trained and committed to defend the Realm; to do their duty; to accept orders from their superiors, if necessary to give up their lives. And they do it because they trust the very democratic values which Osama bin Laden and the Taliban seem so intent on destroying.

"That is why it is so important that all of us in this Conservative Conference, and in our Parliamentary Party and throughout the country wholeheartedly support - and are seen to support - the war effort. At a time of war, our nation must stand united behind the Government, and I salute the way in which Iain Duncan Smith has been doing just that.

"Those who will serve in Afghanistan do so in the knowledge that theirs is a just war; that it is an essential war; that it is a war which MUST be won; and that those are the wholehearted and unanimous opinions of those who are sending them to war.

"September 11th changed the world, and changed what we think of as warfare. This is not a war with frontiers or territories. Our enemies are not soldiers, but despicable criminals. They depend on corrupt or incapable Governments to give them safe haven for their operations.

"They exploit international organised crime, and they ruthlessly flood the West with heroin to finance their perverted ambitions.

"They have prospered and flourished surrounded by our complacency.

"As Edmund Burke said:

'It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing - for evil to triumph.'

"International terrorism is a cancer at the world's heart, and if we do not now act decisively to cut it out we will never again sleep easy in our beds.

"The action which we have seen in the last 24 hours is the first step in that vital surgery without which we can have no real hope for the future security of our globe.

"My experience is that it is surgery at which the Americans and the British Armed Forces are well placed and well practiced to carry out.

"Thanks to the sheer professionalism of all of our armed forces, they are able to fight today in Afghanistan, just as they have done in the jungles of Sierra Leone; in former Yugoslavia, patrolling the streets of Northern Ireland, or on exercise in the deserts of Oman.

"I've seen them training for it. The Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme took me to Canada to see an Armoured Battle Group of a thousand vehicles storming across the plain. It took me to Kenya to see an infantry battle group in training, and then to South Armagh to see them on operations.

"In my own constituency who could fail to be impressed by the air crews of RAF Lyneham who pride themselves that their Hercules aircraft will always be "First in Last Out" of any theatre of War. They are playing a key role in supplying Exercise Saif Sareea.

"Imagine the cool professionalism of our submariners able to launch Tomohawk missiles with deadly accuracy from under the sea hundreds of miles away from Afghanistan.

"We have the best armed forces in the world and are justly proud of all they are and all they do.

"But in the coming conflict, we and they must be prepared for a long and bitter struggle. The horrible freshness of September 11th will fade in our minds. Casualties will bring the wobblers and the appeasers onto our television screens. The faint-hearts may try to sap the nation's resolve. It will be our job to make sure that we never again drop our guard.

"We cannot foretell the course of the conflict. But we know that it is a just cause. I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the year. 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' and he replied 'Put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better to you than a light and safer than a known way.'

"Our armed services are ready to do their duty. That is their job, and they are devoted to it. Our thoughts and Prayers will be with them, and their families every hour of every day, until their task is done."

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