Arab World

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9 February 1998.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 12:00, 9 February 1998

If she will establish a Select Committee to examine relations with the Arab world. [26131]

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Lord Privy Seal, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

No. The subject falls within the terms of reference of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and, to a lesser extent, the Select Committee on International Development.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

May I ask my right hon. Friend a question of which I have given her notice in the hope of her considered reply? Given that Boutros-Boutros Ghali said yesterday that the proposed action against Iraq was illegal, as did Pérez de Cuéllar, and that Mark Weller of the Cambridge Centre of International Studies has written in The Times that preventive action of the type contemplated is unlawful, should the Government not have an obligation to set out in the Library the precise legal basis on which they are acting, because it is open to doubt in the view of the international lawyers whose names I have given to No. 10 Downing street? Indeed, lead letters in this morning's newspapers cast the gravest doubt on the legality of what the Anglo-American force is supposed to be doing.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Lord Privy Seal, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

My hon. Friend raises points that he has brought to the House's attention on other occasions during the past week or two; they are obviously issues about which he feels very strongly. However, as I have told him and the House, the House will be kept fully informed of any developments. I told him last Thursday at business questions that we have not ruled out the possibility of a debate. There will be Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions tomorrow, and I cannot add anything further at this stage.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The question was about Select Committees and should have been answered as such.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

May I press the President of the Council on the question of a Select Committee? The relationship between the United Kingdom and the middle east is most tortuous and difficult, so is this not a good opportunity for a Select Committee specifically to examine the

extraordinary inconsistencies between Britain's policy on Iraq—whereby Saddam Hussein will be made to disgorge those United Nations resolutions of which he is in clear breach—and her approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, as the Arabs rightly believe that there is a double standard? Would that not be a good subject for a Select Committee to study?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Lord Privy Seal, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office)

I have said that I do not intend to establish a Select Committee specifically to examine relations with the Arab world. The content of any Select Committee investigation is, of course, a matter for the Select Committee itself.

The Chairman of the Finance and Services Committee was asked—