Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:53 pm on 3rd November 1998.

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Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Shadow Secretary of State 4:53 pm, 3rd November 1998

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, and support his expressions of resolve. The House will appreciate that this is not the first time that Iraq has severely tested the will of the international community. It was only last February that, in order to avoid military action, it undertook to co-operate fully with UNSCOM and to provide immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to inspectors. Iraq is now breaking that undertaking.

At the time, the Secretary of State rightly told the House: If Saddam were now to be permitted to set aside all those decisions of the UN, and if we were to walk away and allow him to do so with impunity, there would be no point in invoking the power of the UN the next time we are confronted with a dictator threatening the security of his region or the lives of his people."—[Official Report, 17 February 1998; Vol. 306, c. 909.] Does the Secretary of State stand by those remarks today?

At the time, the Prime Minister said that only effective diplomacy and firm willingness to use force"—[Official Report, 24 February 1998; Vol. 307, c. 174.] had brought about the agreement, and that nothing else would ensure its satisfactory implementation. Are the Government prepared to display equal resolve through the international community now? Can the Secretary of State say something about the deployment of British forces in the region, and about any preparations that may be under way to despatch more forces to the Gulf?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that his final warning to Iraq will be more effective than his final warning to President Milosevic during the Kosovo crisis in the summer? Can he tell us more about the terms of the resolution to be tabled in the Security Council today? Is it the Government's view that a further resolution is necessary before force can be used if diplomacy fails?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also comment on the resignation of Richard Butler's deputy, Scott Ritter? Mr. Ritter accused the British and American Governments of turning a blind eye to Saddam Hussein's transgressions, in the vain hope that, if they gave way, Saddam would lay off. Does the Secretary of State think that, if those warnings had been heeded, the present crisis might have been avoided?

Finally, will the Foreign Secretary confirm that Iraq cannot pick and choose the people who are appointed by the international community to enforce its will? Does he agree that it would be a tragedy if Richard Butler and his work were cast aside in a futile attempt to placate Saddam Hussein?