Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 4 February 1998.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alan Simpson Alan Simpson Labour, Nottingham South 1:40, 4 February 1998

I know that the west has its own explaining to do about who armed Saddam Hussein, but I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for saying that there have to be some clear military and political objectives to underpin any strike against Iraq. In the current situation, they could range from eliminating or deposing Saddam Hussein to destroying the military and industrial stockpiles or the biological and chemical weapons. Will my right hon. Friend tell us exactly what objectives he would sign up to in the name of this country and what calculation of civilian casualties has been made as the cost of doing so?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

The objectives are absolutely clear. They are to bring Saddam Hussein back into line with UN Security Council resolutions so that we can continue to destroy the chemical, nuclear and biological weapon capability that he wants to develop.

I emphasise yet again that it is important to realise that at every stage there has been deceit and deception on the part of Saddam Hussein. I shall give the House a couple of examples. Iraq claimed that the VX nerve gas project was a failure until we discovered that it had the capability to produce it on a huge scale and that four tonnes had in fact been produced. I have already mentioned a factory that was able to produce 50,000 litres of anthrax and botulinus. Iraq claimed that it was for animal feed. It was only when one of its leading people defected to a neighbouring country that we discovered the truth and it admitted what was happening, although it had been denying it for four years. It is for those reasons that inspectors have to be allowed in.

People keep wondering whether we cannot give Saddam Hussein a way out, but all he has to do is to keep to the agreement that he originally made and let the inspectors in to do their work so they can see that what he says is happening is actually happening. It must be right to ensure he does that. We will try every diplomatic avenue to ensure that the matter is resolved. If it can be resolved peacefully, so much the better—no one wants to take military action—but resolved it must be, and resolved in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Conservative, Maidenhead

Will the Prime Minister tell us his target for building on brown-field sites? Does he think it should be increased to 60 per cent. or above? If not, why not?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

It is certainly better than 42 per cent., which was achieved by the Conservative Government. The purpose of the consultation paper is precisely to ensure that we receive the various representations. We will then, in the statement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions will make, declare our position for the future.

We have always made it clear that we will protect the green belt. In fact, there has been an increase in the amount of green-belt land since 1 May, so we do not need any lessons from the Conservative Opposition about the protection of the green belt. Indeed, it was the first Labour Government after the war who introduced the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 which provided the first such protection, and it will be the new Labour Government who in this area, as in so many others, will clean up the mess left by the Conservatives.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling

On the fourth day of enactment of the new legislation banning hand guns in Britain, may I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of the residents of Dunblane, which is in my constituency, for his commitment to the cause, and may I also thank the House for ensuring that the ban was enacted? Even given that firearms have legitimate uses, will my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government will consistently review the procedure and regulatory framework for the ownership of firearms to keep pace with the increasingly sophisticated weaponry in private use?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance—we shall keep the regime under tight scrutiny. I am delighted that, as a result of the House's vote, we managed to put through the ban on hand guns. I believe that that, in some measure, repaid our debt to the people of Dunblane.