Defence in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:38 pm on 22nd January 2003.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 2:38 pm, 22nd January 2003

It is interesting to discuss what motivates military intervention. I submit that there was not only genocide, but a direct threat to the stability of our continent. We are in very dangerous territory. Why not, for example, immediately authorise a military intervention in Zimbabwe, where a massive humanitarian crisis is being inflicted on its people by a vicious tyrant? Why does the hon. Lady believe that a country such as Iraq obtaining weapons of mass destruction and having relationships with terrorist organisations is something from which we can simply walk away? We cannot.

It would be worrying if Britain could not take such principled action again. Military action would still depend on a broad international consensus, particularly among those nations that border Iraq, and provided that any military action remains within international law, we must be prepared to take such action. Now that the Government have committed themselves to a very major deployment, there are many questions that we could ask, including many that I do not expect them to answer, but it would surely help the House if they could clarify some issues.

The Secretary of State did not answer my questions about the command arrangements for British forces in the Gulf. We have read a certain amount about that in the press, and I should be grateful to him if he could inform the House at some stage. Similarly, the Government did not say where the main element of United Kingdom forces would be deployed. Again, at some stage, I am sure that the Secretary of State will wish to ensure that the House is informed. It is important that the public should understand that, although UK forces will operate under overall US command, the UK command can nevertheless retain the discretion to act as a partner rather than a servant of US military commanders.

The force is clearly configured to sustain itself for a considerable period. There should be no doubt about the magnitude of the commitment that the United Kingdom is taking on. If war is avoided—we still hope that it will be—how long might the presence of substantial UK land forces be required? If there is military action, how long will UK forces be committed, and on what scale, to deal with the aftermath of war? After Afghanistan, the Prime Minister assured the people there that we would not just walk away. Does the deployment for a much bigger operation indicate a similar long-term commitment on behalf of western nations?