Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 10th February 1998.

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Foreign Secretary 3:30 pm, 10th February 1998

On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's first point, we are well aware of the acute interest in this matter in the House and of the importance of ensuring that the House has adequate opportunities to debate these issues. I am consulting the Leader of the House and the usual channels about what might be an appropriate day for such a debate.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly correct to draw attention to the fact that Saddam Hussein agreed to the UNSCOM regime, and accepted the inspection provided for in those resolutions. It was part of the ceasefire agreement to which he signed up. To take one of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's later points, there is therefore adequate authority already in that ceasefire agreement and in those resolutions.

It is nevertheless very important that we demonstrate that it is the international community that condemns Saddam Hussein's repeated violation of those resolutions. It is therefore important that the Security Council, on behalf of the international community, registers its criticism and rejection of Saddam Hussein's behaviour, and calls on him to abandon his plans to develop chemical and biological arsenals.

I see no conflict between what I have said and what the right hon. and learned Gentleman quotes from the Prime Minister. The objective is, indeed, to achieve compliance with the Security Council resolutions and to deny Saddam Hussein his ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction. Much the most effective way of doing that would be for the UNSCOM regime to be allowed to return to work. To increase the pressure for that to happen, we have made it perfectly plain that we have the resolve, if necessary, to use military force. If we cannot achieve an agreement by which UNSCOM can effectively hinder Saddam from developing chemical and biological weapons, military force will be applied to ensure that what UNSCOM inspectors cannot achieve can be achieved by direct action, so that Saddam is not left with arsenals of terror with which he could then seek to bully his neighbours.

I regret that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, at a time of immense international crisis, chose to make his own point about European policy. For the record, I have to say that he is behind the times. We are in close and continuous contact with the Government of France, and only this weekend Chancellor Kohl made it perfectly clear that he is willing to back and support us.