I beg to move,
That this House
takes note of Command Paper Cm 5769 on Iraq;
reaffirms its endorsement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, as expressed in its Resolution of 25th November 2002;
supports the Government's continuing efforts in the United Nations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction;
and calls upon Iraq to recognise this as its final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.
This motion means what it says. It is not an endorsement of military action by United Kingdom forces. No decision to deploy British forces in action has yet been taken. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spelled out a few moments ago, we will put any decision on military action to the House, and the timing will be subject only to the usual caveats about the safety of our forces. It is as much in the Government's interest as it is in the paramount interest of the House that we should do that before the start of any hostilities. In addition, there will be oral statements to the House on the business of the Security Council, and a full opportunity to debate and vote on the outcome of proceedings on any second resolution.
Let me commend to the House the Command Paper "Iraq", which I presented yesterday. For the convenience of the House, this contains in one document the reports of Dr. Blix and Dr. el-Baradei, statements on the Iraq crisis by the European Union and by NATO, my statements at three recent Security Council meetings, and, above all, the full texts of 13 of the principal Security Council resolutions on Iraq passed since August 1990.
The situation that we face is plainly grave. It is a matter that, across a range of beliefs, arouses great concern and anxiety. So in this debate I want to answer what I think are the central and continuing questions in people's minds. Why Iraq? Why now? Why not more time, more inspectors? Why a second resolution? Why not persist with the policy of containment, rather than contemplate military action? And finally, is not the west guilty of double standards, especially in relation to Israel/Palestine?
Let me deal with those questions in turn. First, why Iraq? The best answer to that question is to be found in the 42 pages of text of the 13 Security Council resolutions that form the first section of the Command Paper. There we see, paragraph by paragraph, the exceptional danger posed by Iraq, and its continued defiance of the United Nations. On
On and on the resolutions go. Resolution 688 is "gravely concerned" about the repression of the civilian population in many parts of Iraq. In 1994, resolution 949
"condemns military deployments by Iraq in the direction of the border with Kuwait", three years after the original invasion. In 1999, nine years after the invasion of Kuwait, resolution 1284 establishes a further inspection regime
"as a result of Iraq's failure to implement the Security Council Resolutions fully".
Iraq flatly and completely refuses to comply.
Last November, resolution 1441 recognised
"the threat which Iraq's non-compliance with Council Resolutions and proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and long range missiles poses to international peace and security"— and gave Iraq its "final opportunity to comply".
So, for the United Nations, the answer to the "Why Iraq?" question is very clear. Iraq is the only country in such serious and multiple breach of mandatory UN obligations. It is the only country in the world to have fired missiles at five of its neighbours, the only country in history to have used chemical weapons against its own people, and the only country in the region that has invaded two of its neighbours in recent years.
Mr. Ricketts ceased to be the secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee about two years ago. All the information that was attributed as intelligence came from intelligence agencies and the whole of that dossier was accurate. I thought that my hon. Friend was going to ask me whether we had accepted his advice about taking the issue to the United Nations, because this matter has been the subject of 12 years of United Nations resolutions and 12 months of the most intense and proper debate in the House of Commons and in Westminster Hall.
Last March, when there was some speculation about the course of events and whether, for example, the United States would put its case to the United Nations, my hon. Friend said:
"Incidentally, if there is to be any action, it should be taken through the United Nations."—[Hansard, Westminster Hall, 6 March 2002; Vol. 381, c. 70WH.]
Several other colleagues who have put their names to the amendment agreed. All I say is that on this matter we have listened carefully to what the House has said. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has talked to President Bush and much discussion has taken place about putting the matter to the United Nations. That is exactly what we did and, on
The next question that I raised was, "Why now?" All the resolutions of the Security Council, 12 years of them, also help us answer that question.
Saddam's aim is that "now" shall never arrive. His tactics all along have been to prevaricate in the hope that by exploiting people's natural anxieties about military action he can string out the process for ever and keep his arsenal for good.
Let us look at the recent evidence. On
There were then two months of intense negotiations inside the Security Council. In response, the international community united, resolution 1441 was passed unanimously and the Security Council agreed to back its diplomacy with the credible threat of force. The inspectors finally entered Iraq on
But since the inspectors' return the story has been all too familiar. We saw first a 12,000-page Iraqi declaration, which Dr. Blix called
"rich in volume but poor in new information . . . and practically devoid of new evidence."
There have been concerted Iraqi efforts to prevent unrestricted interviews with scientists. The issue of interviews with the scientists is not a trivial matter. It is the most important way in which we can arrive at the truth of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes.
Iraq refused any interviews to begin with. Since the weapons inspectors pressed the Iraqis, there have been three private interviews, all within the closing days up to Dr. Blix's report on
There have been categorical Iraqi denials that the al-Samoud missile has a range in excess of the 150 km limit prescribed by the United Nations, an assertion since disproved by an independent panel of experts from the five permanent members of the Security Council and by UNMOVIC.
As a result, as Dr. Blix himself indicates, in 15 weeks, the inspectors have not been able to close a single outstanding issue. There have been no answers to what has happened to the 8,500 litres of anthrax; no answers to what has happened to the 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agent; no answers to what has happened to the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; no answers to what has happened to the 1.5 tonnes of the completely deadly VX nerve agent or to the 6,500 chemical bombs identified by Dr. Blix on
I heard the interview too. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also made clear was that our policy is 100 per cent. support for and full implementation of resolution 1441. What the hon. Gentleman is now trying to do— having got resolution 1441 and having signed up to it, having asked for the United Nations to be brought in, having asked us to take the United Nations route—is to rewrite the terms of the resolution.
Can my right hon. Friend explain why we have the motion today and not next week, following the statement by Dr. Blix on Friday? We would all like to know why it is so important.
We have sought to have as many debates as possible, and, on the entirely proper request of hon. Members on both sides of the House, to do so on substantive resolutions, so that hon. Members are not voting on an Adjournment, but are voting on the substance of the issue. Normally the complaint is that we have not had a debate soon enough. I plead guilty to the fact that we have not delayed this debate. We are having it today because we thought it entirely appropriate, given that we have submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council. As I made clear in my opening remarks, once there is a conclusion to the Security Council proceedings—and it may well be before that, too—we shall have a further debate and a vote in the House.
I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, so the House will have to excuse me if I do not give way.
The next question that I raised was about more time and more inspections. I understand why there are calls for more time and more inspections, but Saddam has not shown that he is ready to break with the past. That is exactly what Dr. Blix said today. At present, it is not even clear whether the Iraqis really want to co-operate. In these circumstances, in the absence of active and immediate Iraqi co-operation, more time will not achieve anything of substance. Nor, without that active co-operation, can it be a question of more inspectors.
It took just nine inspectors to verify the disarmament of South Africa's nuclear weapons programme at the end of apartheid. It did not take 12 years. It did not take hundreds of inspectors. It did not take endless Security Council resolutions. It took three years, nine inspectors and no resolutions. Why? Because South Africa was complying with the inspectors.
It is critical that, in respect of Iraq, we all accept one reality above all, which is that what grudging concessions on process there have been from Saddam have been secured only because of the military build-up. What is the difference between the circumstances now and the circumstances when resolution 1284 was agreed at the end of 1999, the resolution that set up the organisation of weapons inspectors, UNMOVIC? There is some difference in terms of the powers of the weapons inspectors. But the only significant, material difference is that, back at the end of 1999, the world said, "Let us try giving them more time. Let us try by a completely peaceful route to secure the disarmament of Iraq. Let us plead with the Iraqis to do the decent thing. Let us impose some sanctions, too, and hope that they will work."
Saddam's answer was to slam the door in the face of the international community. The only reason for the difference between Saddam's refusal to co-operate with one dot or comma in resolution 1284 and his very reluctant co-operation on some process today, his statement that he will co-operate, is the build-up of the credible threat of force, something clearly recognised by the United Nations charter.
I was glad to note that President Chirac of France—and I pay tribute to him—conceded in an interview last week in Time magazine that it was the military build-up that had made the difference. There is a logic that follows—
I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment. I always do. I do not know why.
There is a logic that follows from what I have said that cannot be avoided and is for everybody in the international community. We are now close to the crunch point. Saddam must either embark immediately on voluntary and full disarmament or the Security Council must face up to its responsibility to see that he is disarmed by force. That is the truth. That is the reality.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way.
My point is in connection with what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of his speech, which seems to contradict what he told the House on
"consequences up to and including military force"—[Hansard, 7 November 2002; Vol. 392, c. 436.]
Is it not right that anyone who votes for the main resolution today will in fact be voting for war?
For one moment, I was worried that I had said something inconsistent back in November—that sometimes happens, even with me—but on this occasion I agree entirely with the words that I uttered then. Indeed, I could not have been more accurate. I wanted then to spell out to the House what "serious consequences" meant. I wanted to tell the House without any dubiety that in voting to support resolution 1441, which we did by a huge majority, we were voting to recognise the serious consequences that would flow from a further material breach by Saddam Hussein, up to and including the use of force.
I repeat for my hon. Friend what I said at the beginning of this debate. The United Nations is responsible for its resolutions, but the House as a whole is responsible for the motions that it passes. Notwithstanding my hon. Friend's invitation that we should seek a mandate for military action, we are not seeking one today because the Government have not yet got to that point. If we do reach that point, we will come back and seek a vote, through a debate in this House, on a substantive motion.
No. I am so sorry, but as my hon. Friend knows, there is great time pressure.
The next question is why do we need a second resolution now? Resolution 1441 required Iraq's full, active and immediate compliance, as indeed did resolution 687, which was passed 12 years ago. Fifteen weeks after 1441, Saddam's response has been neither full, nor active, nor immediate. He has not complied, and not a single member of the Security Council says otherwise. In place of active voluntary co-operation, we have had a string of cynically timed concessions that are calculated to divide and to delay.
We saw more token concessions last night. According to the newspapers, Iraq has now told Dr. Blix that it has—and I quote—"found" a bomb. Iraq has found a bomb containing biological agents—it simply popped up from some gooseberry bush. Some will be tempted to regard this as evidence that Saddam is being successfully contained, and that the inspectors should be given endless time. However, this latest "find" is the same old game of dribbling out small concessions at the last minute.
It is completely ludicrous for the Iraqi regime to talk of "finding" weapons of mass destruction, as if it were someone else who made a 12,000-word declaration, claiming that the country had no weapons of mass destruction.
I seek the advice of the Chair on whether it is in order for the Government to table at this late stage a business motion to suspend the 7 o'clock deadline, which would allow the Secretary of State time to take interventions.
The conclusion that we ought to draw from this overnight admission by Iraq is that we are right to say that it does have weapons of mass destruction, that it has lied about them, that it has tried to hide them, and that it is determined to keep them behind a charade of cynical concessions. Unless we bring this game to a halt, it will go on for as long as Saddam wants. I will not be surprised if, by the end of the week, Saddam is offering concessions on the proscribed al-Samoud missiles—having said that he will never destroy a single one—in the hope, once again, of playing for time. However, if the words "final opportunity", in operative paragraph 2 of resolution 1441, have any meaning, it is that this time we must not let Saddam lure the international community into endless indecision. Resolution 1441 called for disarmament "immediately". We have waited 110 days already, which is stretching the meaning of "immediately" to breaking point.
I ask our friends in France and Germany—who share our goal of Iraqi disarmament, and who fully support resolution 1441—why Saddam is more likely to co-operate actively, fully and immediately in the further 120 days that they now propose than he was in the past 110. What does he need 120 days for: to have a look for the weapons that he says he has not got, in case he has overlooked something; to search the homes of scientists for the incriminating papers that he ordered them to hide there; to tell those scientists to attend interviews and tell the truth that, through intimidation, he has instructed them to conceal?
I shall give way in one second.
No. Saddam would use a further 120 days to bring the authority of the United Nations lower week by week, to tie the weapons inspectors in knots, and to create further divisions within the international community. We know that this is what he will do, because it is what he has always done.
I shall also give way to my hon. Friend in a moment.
Worse, this delay would send Saddam the clearest possible signal that his strategy is succeeding. It would tell him that the international community lacks the will to disarm him, and it would tell all those who threaten our security that Saddam Hussein has broken the United Nations as an instrument for defending peace through the force of international law.
The Foreign Secretary is making a most powerful speech, but in the light of everything that he and the Prime Minister have said, can he clarify for the House, for the people of Britain, who are confused, and for the members of our armed forces, who may be about to lay their lives on the line for this policy, whether there are any circumstances in which this crisis can be resolved with Saddam Hussein's being allowed to remain in power? Is it not a fact that our objective is, and has to be, regime change in Iraq?
There are such circumstances, as it happens, and the important point is this. We are committed to implementation of 1441. I do not like the Saddam Hussein regime—I regard it as one of the most revolting and terrible regimes in the world—but the focus of 1441 is not regime change per se, but the disarmament of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
In his statement yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spelled out that if there is full, active and immediate compliance by Saddam Hussein with the full terms of 1441 and the other resolutions referred to, Saddam would remain in government, but his power would be greatly reduced because those weapons of mass destruction would have been removed.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. On the question of timing and taking a decision, can he tell me why half the UN staff involved in the oil-for-food programme have been withdrawn?
I cannot tell my hon. Friend directly, but I am happy to look into the matter. They certainly have not been withdrawn on any advice given by us. I have been involved in discussions with the Secretary-General of the United Nations about the humanitarian crisis that has existed in Iraq for the past 12 years, and about the circumstances that would arise if military action had to be taken. All the Security Council partners are of course concerned about that issue, and so is the Secretary-General.
No. With the greatest of respect, I have given way a good deal. [Interruption.] I am sorry; I would love to give way, because I always enjoy doing so.
Time is pressing, so let me turn to the next question, which in many ways is at the heart of the amendment. Why not persist with the policy of containment, rather than contemplate military action? After all, some argue that Iraq has not invaded any of its neighbours or used chemical and biological weapons in the past 12 years, and that these weapons have either been destroyed, or do not present a sufficient threat to Iraq's neighbours or to the wider world to justify the use of force to remove them if Saddam refuses to do so peacefully.
I understand the containment argument, even if I do not agree with it. However, let no one be under any illusions: the policy of containment is not the policy of disarmament as set out in resolution 1441 or any of the preceding resolutions. There can be no stable, steady state for Iraq unless it is properly disarmed, and nor can there be stability for the region and the international community. What may appear to be containment to us is rearmament for Saddam.
We do not need to speculate on this, as we have witnessed it. A de facto policy of containment existed between 1998 and 2002 following the effective expulsion of inspectors by Iraq, and Iraq's refusal to comply with resolution 1284.
Far from keeping a lid on Saddam's ambitions, that period allowed him to rebuild his horrific arsenal, his chemical and biological weapons, and the means of delivering them against his enemies at home and abroad. UNMOVIC inspectors chart in their recent reports, which are before the House, how Iraq has refurbished prohibited equipment that had previously been destroyed by UNSCOM, the earlier inspectors. That equipment included rocket motor casting chambers and chemical processors. UNMOVIC has also found that Iraq used the four-year absence of inspectors—the so-called period of containment—to build a missile test stand capable of testing engines with over four times the thrust of the already prohibited al-Samoud 2 missile. All this happened during containment. There is no steady state—the choice is between disarmament or rearmament.
Thankfully, the so-called policy of containment ended on
I turn now to the next question. I am often asked, "Isn't the west guilty of double standards, especially in relation to Israel and Palestine?" [Hon Members: "Yes."] Some of my hon. Friends say yes. I accept, as does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that there has been a considerable amount to this charge, and to the perception of double standards, which extends well beyond the Arab and Islamic world. However, we deal with this charge not by ignoring outstanding UN obligations, but by working even harder to see all of them implemented. The key ones on Israel/Palestine—242, 338, 1397—impose obligations on three sets of parties—on the Palestinians to end terrorism, on the Arab countries to end support for terrorism and to recognise the state of Israel, and on Israel fully to co-operate in the establishment of a viable state of Palestine with borders broadly based on those of 1967.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I welcome the Government's efforts to restart the peace process. However, the allegations and anger about double standards are not only to do with the lack of talks. They arise from the fact that, when a house in Gaza is destroyed, perhaps with the people in it, the destruction has probably been caused by an F-16. That aeroplane has probably been supplied by the US and may have parts supplied by Britain. Moreover, when the olive grove is destroyed, the destruction is probably carried out by a bulldozer bankrolled from the US. If we are to avoid the allegation of double standards, we must get talks going, and ensure that UN resolutions are upheld and respected.
As my hon. Friend knows, I entirely agree with that. We have to ensure the full application of international law by Israel, and—as I have told our friends in the Palestinian authority—we have to ensure as well that the Palestinians take even further action to stop the terrorist organisations in their areas. There is no alternative to that. The Arab states must also end giving terrorist organisations active support, finance and supplies.
We are working actively to implement this UN policy, including the early publication of the roadmap.
It must also never be forgotten, however, that the obligations on Saddam are singular, unilateral, and not for negotiation by him. We increase, not undermine, respect for the authority of the UN as a whole—and the prospects of a peace settlement in the middle east—if we implement fully the resolutions on Iraq, and do not shy away from their consequences.
I thank my right hon. Friend. I think that the House will concede that I have been as outspoken as any hon. Member in condemning Israeli policy, and I shall continue to be outspoken on the matter. Given that, does my right hon. Friend agree that anyone who believes that Saddam Hussein gives a twopenny damn for the Palestinians, the Kurds or the Marsh Arabs is living in self-delusion?
As ever, I agree with my right hon. Friend. I knew that it was a wise move to give way to him.
International terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are the crucial strategic questions of our time. Our answer to these threats will determine the stability of the world for decades to come. This is an awesome responsibility. It calls for courageous leadership. And it requires the vision and foresight to act decisively and, if necessary, with military force.
Once Saddam's invasion of Kuwait had been turned back by the international community, the international community, with our agreement, put on hold the military option, preferring of course to resolve the continuing crisis peacefully, first through weapons inspections and then, from December 1998, through a policy of containment. However, neither of those approaches has worked.
Following the adoption of resolution 1441, Saddam has now to be under no illusions that there will be no further resolutions calling for containment, no further attempts to tinker at the margins rather than to remove his weapons. This has to be a moment of choice for Saddam and for the Iraqi regime.
However, it is also a moment of choice for the UN. As I told the Security Council on
This is the hardest issue that I have ever had to deal with. I know that it causes very great anxiety to the British people and to Members of this House. It does to all of us. However, the issue of what we do about tyrannical states with poison gases, nerve agents, viruses and nuclear ambitions, and which defy international law and the principles of the UN, will not go away. We have to face the issue. We have to give Saddam Hussein a categorical choice, and after 12 long years he has to give us his answer now.
I commend the motion to the House.
The Opposition support this motion. In many ways, it is a rerun of the debate in this House on
None of us wants war. For those of us who have spent a significant part of our political lives working to establish peace, it is a desperately sad prospect. However, sometimes conflict is necessary in the short term to achieve peace through the defeat of aggression, and sometimes it is the threat of conflict that can establish peace.
The current situation that exists in Iraq today is not peace. It is conflict waiting in the wings. It has been there for the past 12 years. As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, that is what containment has meant. To prolong it in the absence of genuine disarmament would be to prolong the uncertainty and suffering of the people of Iraq. It would leave the conflict and the crisis unresolved. It would also send a message to Saddam Hussein that the urgent requirement to disarm was no longer urgent, that the determination to secure immediate compliance with resolution 1441 was no longer immediate. It would not be peace. It would be the procrastination of a conflict that would be more vicious and more damaging when eventually it came.
I will give way in a moment, but I want to make a few introductory remarks.
I believe that the Prime Minister's last push for peace is important. It is the language that Saddam Hussein understands. It is based on the clear understanding that Saddam Hussein only begins to comply when his feet are held to the flames and the heat begins to take effect. Equally, it is based on the knowledge that, the moment the heat is turned off, he returns to his old threatening ways, as we have heard from the Foreign Secretary.
The peaceful disarming of Hussein may, in the event, not be possible, but I believe that it has been right to try to do it. The Foreign Secretary has painted a very pessimistic picture in that regard today, but we know that, if there is to be a peaceful outcome, it will happen only if the determination of the international community to resort to force if necessary is clear and unambiguous.
Saddam Hussein has always taken ambiguity as a sign of weakness, so the last push for peace depends on his understanding clearly that there is no way out other than to disarm, and that the final opportunity that the Security Council signed up to in resolution 1441 means precisely what it says.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that public opinion would be greatly reassured if Her Majesty's Government undertook to ensure that, before UK and US troops attacked Iraq, a specific resolution authorising war was tabled to the Security Council, and that a specific resolution was put before the House of Commons as well?
If my hon. Friend checks the resolutions that are already before the House in the Command Paper, he will find that there is plenty of cover in every one of them. [Interruption.] I will come to the reason why I say that in a moment because it is very important; but we have supported the idea that a substantive motion should be put before the House, and we have also supported the second resolution before the UN because, although we do not believe it to be legally necessary, it is desirable to have it.
I will in a moment.
I want to ask whether the Government have asked France—politely, of course—what it understands by the phrase "final opportunity". I took the trouble to look up the French version of resolution 1441, and it talks about the "dernière possibilité". Although my French may be a little rusty, I believe that both phrases mean exactly the same thing. The French signed up to resolution 1441, but when I saw their counter-proposal, which they tabled on Monday, it seems anything but final in the proposals and demands it makes. It must give Saddam Hussein a very real hope that he might just get away with it once again, and with his weapons intact.
I hope that France and those who are tempted to support her position will think very clearly about the importance of the message that they signed up to in resolution 1441, as it is crucial to the last push for peace. It is worth recalling that the Arab League, the European Union and every member of the Security Council, as well as all the parties in the House, expressed their support for resolution 1441.
A few moments ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was the Conservative party's policy to seek a substantive motion in the eventuality of hostilities breaking out. Will he confirm whether that substantive motion would be tabled in the House before the commencement of hostilities, not after?
We in the Opposition will obviously not be as aware as the Government are of when military action is likely to start. We have made it clear that, ideally, we would like that to happen before any such action, but there may be circumstances—the hon. Gentleman was a Defence Minister, so he must know this—where military action, for all sorts of security reasons, might have to begin before the House can debate it, and we should be very careful to do nothing that undermines the ability and security of our armed forces by setting improper and unworkable conditions.
The concern in the country about any future action against Iraq runs right across all sectors of our community, not least among the 1.5 million Muslims who live in the United Kingdom. Will my right hon. Friend support me in a request to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will meet Dr. Siddiqui—my constituent and the leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain—to listen to the views of those Muslims as expressed through the Muslim Parliament?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for having raised that issue. The Foreign Secretary will have heard what she said, but it is vital in the days and weeks ahead that hon. Members on both sides of the House continue to make it clear that this is a conflict not with Islam, but with a gangster who has weapons of mass destruction and who needs to be dealt with.
Today's debate will be one of deep but conflicting views. I have the greatest respect for those who hold strong and principled views on this difficult issue, even if those views may differ from mine, but I have no time for those who might seek to play politics with this issue, although it would have been easy to do so. It is far too serious for that. I also have very little time for those who have sought to face both ways. I look down the Benches to my left, at the leader of the Liberal Democrats. Yesterday and today, he criticised what he called the pre-emptive draft resolution. Is this the leader of a party which, ever since resolution 1441 was passed, has insisted on a second resolution? Indeed, is this the leader of a party whose foreign affairs spokesman, Mr. Campbell, told the House last year that
"legally, no new resolution is required for the use of force to implement resolution 687."
He went on to say
"that from a political and diplomatic point of view, a new United Nations resolution is essential".—[Hansard, 24 September 2002; Vol. 390, c. 43–44.]
Well, he was talking not about a second resolution, but about the resolution that turned out to be 1441, which he had already said was not legally required for force to be used. It really is time that the Liberal Democrats decided what their position on such resolutions is. Is this the party leader who told the recent anti-war rally that he would not support military action without a second UN resolution, only two weeks after his defence spokesman, Mr. Keetch, when asked, in my presence, whether he would feel bound by a second resolution endorsing military action announced that his party's foreign policy would not be dictated by the UN? What a tangled web! The House has a right to know the clear and unambiguous position of the Liberal Democrats, and I hope that we will hear it today.
No, I will give way to the hon. Member for Hereford if he wishes to explain what he meant when he was talking to all those students the other day.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that invitation. It simply demonstrates why the official Opposition are so concerned about the Liberal Democrats: this party has been calling for support for our troops in the Gulf. As for what I said during Westminster Day, it has never been the case that the UN is the sole repository of international law. Indeed, if we had waited for a UN resolution, we would not have deployed troops into Kosovo—an action by the Government that this party rightly supported.
Hon. Members: More.
I am even more confused about the Liberal Democrat position than I was before the hon. Gentleman intervened, but it is absolutely clear that they behave like weather vanes: every time the wind changes, they change direction, too.
The right hon. Gentleman asked the Liberal Democrats to have a clear and unambiguous position on this issue. Is he aware that, if the Liberal Democrats had a clear and unambiguous position on this issue, it would be the only issue, ranging from street lighting to council tax, on which they had such a position?
I accept from the right hon. Gentleman that what I said was the triumph of hope over experience.
Many hon. Members have genuine fears and concerns, and the Government must take them seriously. I have to tell the Foreign Secretary that the public have been confused too often by the changing focus of the Government's arguments. It is now time they clarified their objectives and made the case more clearly.
All that I can do is set out my position and that of my colleagues. I believe that Iraq poses a threat to international peace and security, and, therefore, to us. That is why we support the Government today. The UN believes that Iraq poses a continuing threat to international peace and security, which is why 17 resolutions, including 1441, have been passed under chapter VII of the UN charter, which deals specifically with threats to the peace and permits military action. That was the point that I made when the matter was raised earlier. The draft resolution tabled on Monday in the UN Security Council refers specifically to chapter VII. The threat flows neither from the evil of Saddam Hussein nor from the existence of weapons of mass destruction, but from the combination of the two.
Other countries have weapons of mass destruction but they manage them responsibly. There are other evil and murderous leaders, but they do not possess weapons of mass destruction, nor have they shown readiness to use them even against their own people. Saddam in possession of weapons of mass destruction is, in the eyes of the United Nations—not just in the eyes of the House or of those on these Front Benches—a present and current threat to international peace and security. We would fail the people whom we represent if we were to turn a blind eye to that.
Does my right hon. Friend not accept that the disparity between the treatment being meted out to Iraq and that being meted out to North Korea sends a worrying signal to all countries who fear that they will be bullied by the United States? Is not it a cause for concern that everyone in the world is seeing North Korea being treated with kid gloves while Iraq is treated with an iron fist? Is that not an invitation to all other countries that are threatened to try to obtain nuclear weapons?
No. I understand what my hon. Friend is saying, but I was in China last week and I talked to the Chinese Foreign Minister, about North Korea in particular. The point was made to me—this is an important distinction—that whereas Iraq has been subject for many years to mandatory resolutions, North Korea has until recently been abiding by agreements that had been made. What is happening in North Korea is a matter of great concern, but we must be absolutely clear that to confuse that with what is happening in Iraq would be dangerous in terms of the consequences that could follow.
The right hon. Gentleman has just advanced two reasons for his party's support for military action, if necessary, in Iraq: first, the weapons of mass destruction that are likely to be present in that country; and secondly, the nature of the regime. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was present in the House—the Foreign Secretary certainly was—when the Secretary of State for International Development said that it was illegal, and not permitted under international law, for one country to seek the removal of another country's leader. If his party's policy relies on that argument, it is doing a gross disservice to the people of this country.
The hon. Gentleman has not considered the matter fully. What is clear, as we have made plain for some time, is that a sole objective of regime change would be outwith the bounds of international law. But that is not the case in this instance. We are seeking the removal and elimination of weapons of mass destruction that are a threat because they are in the hands of a gangster who uses them not only to threaten his own people but, as we know, to threaten the countries around him. That is why the United Nations believes that he poses a threat to international security and peace.
I understand the doubts that are expressed about whether we have sufficient evidence to proceed in the direction that the Government have outlined. It would help to meet doubts, of course, if weapons of mass destruction could be disclosed or discovered now. I continue to hope that, as far as is consistent with maintaining the integrity and security of our intelligence, the Government may yet produce more tangible evidence than they have done so far. What we know already, however, is that the elements of such weapons of mass destruction and the programmes for developing them existed in 1999 when the last team of UN inspectors had to leave Iraq. We heard details from the Prime Minister yesterday of the spine-chilling extent and nature of those weapons: the anthrax, the nerve agents and the thousands of special munitions. We know from UNSCOM and from previous Iraqi declarations—let us not forget that—that those weapons were there then. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must believe that they are there now. It is not for the inspectors to prove that they are still there; it is for Iraq to demonstrate credibly that they are not. That is not my demand: Hans Blix made it clear on
Although we have not found a smoking gun, we learned in the presentation made to the UN Security Council by Colin Powell on
We supported resolution 1441 because it gave Saddam Hussein a final opportunity to comply or face serious consequences. He has not taken that opportunity. He has failed to comply with and co-operate fully in the implementation of that resolution. For that reason, we support the draft second resolution, because it makes clear that when the UN Security Council says that non-compliance will lead to serious consequences, it means what it says.
My colleagues and I want peace. We see military action as a last resort. That is why we will support the Government in the Lobby tonight. We do not see tonight's vote as the final say of this House on this matter, however, and nor should it be. We will also want a further debate on a substantive motion at the first practical opportunity should military action become necessary. I welcome the undertaking that the Foreign Secretary has given in that regard.
In the interim, however, we need greater clarity on a number of important issues. We need more clarity on the timetable. At what moment will the second resolution be put to the vote? Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that Hans Blix will have reported to the UN Security Council before any vote is taken? That is an important point, to which he may wish to respond now.
The answer to that is yes. Dr. Blix is in charge of his reports, not us. He is due to make a report to the Security Council under the provisions of resolution 1284, which is his basic authority, on
I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for that clarification, which will reassure many people. Although I do not have a suspicious mind, will he also say what efforts the Government are making to win the backing of the Security Council, including the three African members, Guinea, Cameroon and Angola, whom the French Government entertained royally in Paris last week?
I am relieved to hear that.
Given that it is accepted by all that Saddam Hussein is not complying and is not showing the change of attitude that Hans Blix was seeking, what further information—perhaps this will be answered by the Minister in his winding-up speech—will be required to trigger or justify a postponement of a vote? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that a last-minute agreement by Saddam Hussein to dismantle his illegal missiles will not be enough? I think that that was what the Prime Minister was implying yesterday, but we would like some clarity on the matter.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question that I would have asked the Secretary of State had I been given half a chance? I will put it to the right hon. Gentleman as he may well have information that Labour Members do not. If the weapons inspectors report that Saddam Hussein is complying with their demands, but it is revealed that the original Iraqi declaration was false and misleading, will it be the position of the Opposition that that would legitimise war?
I was in the United Nations when Hans Blix reported on
My right hon. Friend has rightly highlighted the danger of cynical, last-minute gestures by Saddam that are designed purely to save his own skin. Given that Saddam has demonstrated over a long period that he is a mass murderer and a compulsive liar, would my right hon. Friend agree that, in practice, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction will also require the removal of Saddam and his hated regime?
We are all aware that, unless Saddam Hussein decides voluntarily to disarm, the likely outcome of the removal of weapons of mass destruction will be the removal of Saddam Hussein. That brings me on to my next point, and I will take no more interventions because I know that many hon. Members want to speak in this debate.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday for information on contingency planning for the administration of Iraq after Saddam. I asked for such information as long ago as September. It is of grave concern that such information has not been forthcoming. With potential military action imminent, it is incredible that such contingency planning is not well advanced—although we were told yesterday that it was being discussed in the United Nations. We must be assured that there is no question of a long-term military administration and that early steps will be taken to see in place an administration that represents the interests and concerns of all parts of Iraq and all factions within it.
A key objective must be the preservation of the integrity of the sovereign state of Iraq. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that any break-up of Iraq would create enormous tensions and instability in the region? Does he also agree that, unlike Afghanistan, Iraq has a highly educated population and a suppressed but strong middle class? Within a relatively short period, it should be possible to establish a stable, representative and effective administration in Baghdad.
We need to know more about contingency plans for ensuring that immediate, adequate and effective humanitarian aid is available to the people of Iraq. That prospect would do much to reassure people in Iraq and the region, should military action prove necessary. The Secretary of State for International Development has shown a marked reluctance to come to the House to talk about this—she is not even in her seat today. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Mr. O'Brien will give us some information when he replies to this debate.
With great respect, the Secretary of State for International Development has been extremely concerned about this issue and very forward in telling the House what she is doing about it. To my certain knowledge—because I heard her say it between 11.30 am and 12 noon today—she has spelled out what she is doing and the work in which she is involved.
I have to admit that I was not here for that, but for a very good reason. My hon. Friend Mr. Duncan, who spoke on my behalf, tells me that he received no information from the Secretary of State for International Development, other than a stream of abuse.
There is another important question on which we need reassurance. Everything that we are being asked to support is on the basis of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. We are told that they are well hidden. Are there contingency plans to ensure that, in the event of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, such material does not fall into the hands of terrorists or weapons dealers, or simply remain as a hidden arsenal that will be available to others in future? Even if we cannot be given the details, can we be reassured that clear plans exist to ensure that weapons of mass destruction and programmes to develop them will be well and truly eliminated by whatever action is taken?
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has said about progress on the other area of concern in the region—the nearer middle east. It is essential for the reassurance of other countries in the region that that issue is not put to one side during the next few weeks.
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will not give way. I really must draw my remarks to a close.
This is one of the most serious debates to be held in this House for many years. The Prime Minister faces momentous decisions in the days and weeks ahead. We have always made it clear that, so long as he is acting in the national interest, we will support him. That support has never been unconditional. We have been critical from time to time of the Government's failure to set out its case properly.
Some crucial questions remain to be answered and I have sought to pose them today. Most important is to do what is right. No international crisis is ever simple. No international questions are ever black and white. What is right and moral is sometimes difficult to discern. As I am sure we shall hear in this debate, matters are open to different interpretations. However, I am clear in my mind that, in the light of what we know, the direction and position of the Government in relation to this crisis is right. That is why, although it is not always the most comfortable or easy course, I believe that we owe the Government our support today. In the interests of the long-term security of our people, that is right. I urge my hon. Friends and right hon. Friends to support the motion.
I beg to move, To leave out from "destruction" to end and add
"but finds the case for military action against Iraq as yet unproven."
The amendment stands in my name and the names of 115 hon. Members and right hon. Members from all sides of this House. Let us make no mistake. The Government motion before us talks—rightly—of the United Nations process. I welcome that. However, if the Government motion is passed unamended by this House, a signal will have been given that this House endorses the timetable that is now upon us—which will lead, I fear, inexorably to war within the next three to four weeks.
Three main arguments appear to be mounted in support of early military intervention in Iraq. The first is: "They have had the time to comply; they don't need more time." Actually, Iraq has had 11 weeks since the weapons inspectors went in this time round. Let us not forget that, from 1991 to 1996–97, the weapons inspection process produced substantial results. Substantial amounts of chemical and biological warfare capacity were destroyed by the process. I would argue that a strongly supported weapons inspection process—one that is given the time to complete the job—is what the international community should be arguing for.
I have only eight minutes, so I will carry on.
The second argument is that there has not been full and complete co-operation with the weapons inspection process. That is true. However, there has been a substantial amount of co-operation. Are we seriously saying that, because Saddam Hussein has complied by 70 per cent. rather than 100 per cent., that is a cause for going to war?
There is no basis whatsoever—from any sentence of the Blix reports or any other evidence—for saying that Saddam has complied by 70 per cent. or by any fraction approaching that.
I have to disagree with my right hon. Friend. Everyone agrees that Saddam Hussein has not given full co-operation and is not complying completely. However, in such a situation, we must ask ourselves whether the degree of co-operation that he has given and which has undoubtedly been extorted out of him by the pressure from the international community falls so far short of what is required that it is a cause for going in and wreaking substantial havoc and destruction on Iraq. That case, as yet, is not made.
The third major argument that is used is that we will give comfort to Saddam Hussein by sending the wrong message. That is true only if we fail to maintain the pressure on him. There may well be a time for military action. I do not take the view that military action is never, ever likely to be required. There may well be a time when it becomes necessary.
At the moment, the timetable appears to be determined by the decision of the President of the United States and not by the logic of events.
The other argument that has been made is that those of us who urge caution are failing to be strong and that, by doing so, we are somehow appeasing a tyrant. That is the shallowest argument of all. Strength does not lie simply in military might. Strength lies in having an unanswerable case. It lies in making the right moral choices. It lies in maintaining the pressure, and it lies in securing the fullest possible international agreement. That is where our efforts should now be directed, but I fear that we may be cutting short those efforts by the timetable that is now upon us.
Let us not forget what we are talking about. We are talking about going to war. We are talking about thousands—possibly hundreds of thousands—of innocent lives being lost. We are talking about casualties almost inevitably among our own forces. We are talking about instability across the whole middle east. We are talking about making the achievement of a solution to the Israel/Palestine question infinitely more difficult. We are talking about the alienation of moderate Muslim opinion across the world. One does not undertake such things lightly. One must have the clearest possible reasons for doing them, and I do not believe that those reasons are there.
This may be the last chance before our forces are committed to military action that the House has to make our view known. It grieves me that I am seeking to amend a motion tabled by my Government—a Government whom I applaud and support. However, these are serious times and the House must make a serious judgment. We must say here today in this Chamber that now is not the time, that the case has yet to be fully made and that war, with all its consequences, cannot be the present answer.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. For the ease of the debate and so that interventions are taken for debate to take place across the Floor of the House will you clarify that, when interventions are taken, time is added to the time allowed for the speeches?
In the previous debate on this topic, the Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to the Government motion. We have done so again today and it sets out our party's position. There is no question but that we share the doubts expressed in the amendment tabled by Mr. Smith and in his speech. We will support him and others in the Lobby. On the assumption that the amendment is not passed, we will vote against the Government's motion.
We welcome the opportunity that this debate provides to discuss the critical issues facing the country. After three months and repeated requests for a debate, it has been a long time coming. However, it comes at a key moment in the development of the international situation.
We must send out an absolutely clear message. Saddam Hussein must be disarmed and his evil regime with it. Nobody disputes that. The question for us is how we go about that. Throughout the process, we have supported the United Nations and urged our Government and the United States of America to work through it. The international community is taking on Saddam Hussein because he defies international law, so it is absolutely essential that, as we tackle him, we follow the United Nations route; otherwise we will undermine the very principles and institutions in whose name we act.
It has not always been clear that that the United States of America has recognised that requirement. Even in the past 24 hours, the United States President has restated his belief that a second resolution against Iraq is not required before military action can begin. That is a lonely view in the world but, sadly, an important one.
We acknowledge the United Kingdom's role in persuading the United States Administration to pursue their case via the United Nations in the first place. However, all of us must be concerned about the threats made to members of the Security Council if they ignore America's will, and concerned that, if they do, the United States will go its own way.
In similar vein, the Prime Minister has introduced the concept of an "unreasonable veto". This, too, is a dangerous notion. Will it allow other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to disregard a future use of the British veto? This pick-and-mix approach to international diplomacy is bad for Britain and it is worse still for the international community.
There is no doubt that the possibility of military action has been the catalyst for the return of the weapons inspectors and for the co-operation received from the Iraqi regime so far as it goes. However, there must be a difference between getting the military forces ready and using them. Much of the anxiety in the public's mind at present is because the United States' and the United Kingdom's rhetoric suggests that, once the build-up is complete, the military will go into action. Many fear that there is an unstoppable momentum towards war that is accentuated by the attempt to force the pace with a new draft resolution. Never mind the United States Administration's ambivalence about the role of the UN and even the need for a second resolution. We must have a credible threat of force, but not a certain threat of force; otherwise the international order has everything to lose and Saddam Hussein has nothing to gain except by pre-emptive action of his own.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but is his point not inconsistent? How can there be a credible threat to Iraq if we make it clear at the outset that the threat is not credible because we are not prepared to use it? Is that not an inconsistent position?
That is not what I was saying. If the hon. Lady will bear with me and listen to the rest of my case, I hope that that will become absolutely clear to her.
International law is clear that war can only ever be justified as a last resort. In upholding it, we must show conclusively that that is so and that we will go to war only if all other diplomatic and political options have been exhausted. That is far from being the case at this point.
The current action against Saddam is justified by resolution 1441. The resolution was a supreme effort of international diplomacy that took eight weeks of patient negotiation. It was unanimously agreed and was all the stronger for that. It put a clear onus on Saddam, marked out the fact that this was his final opportunity, and gave a warning in respect of further material breaches and the serious consequences that would flow from them. Saddam Hussein must know that that involves the real possibility of military action, but we do not believe that the current resolution that was drafted and put before the United Nations is sufficient to justify any such development.
The weapons inspectors are the key to dealing with Saddam. They have got clear instructions; indeed, they could not be more specific. So far, the outcomes have been mixed, co-operation has been patchy and the inspectors have not been helped by the slow build-up in their resources and numbers, but can anybody doubt their seriousness, purpose or independence? It is their judgment that is crucial in this debate. Overnight, we have seen the release of new information—an important development that would suggest that the regime is co-operating with them—but we face an early test this weekend regarding the al-Samoud missile system and Iraq's willingness to dismantle it. Overall, this is a finely judged case, but in the circumstances, we must surely listen to the chief inspector when he says:
"Eight years of inspections, four of no inspections, then 11 weeks and call it a day? It's a little short".
Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that this is a case not so much of the al-Samoud missiles, which are the delivery system, as of the nerve and biological agents that could be delivered? Those agents could be delivered by all sorts of other means, including manned aircraft and many others. Merely to focus on one particular aspect of the offensive capability of the Iraqi regime is wholly naive.
I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to listen carefully to what I am saying. I was not saying that the requirement was the only one with which Saddam must comply, but I pointed out that it was an important test of his willingness to comply. It is for the chief inspector and his colleagues to judge this matter. The chief inspector has said that he should be able to reach that judgment within months—not hours or days, but months. He must be given sufficient time.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the interview given by Dr. Hans Blix to Die Zeit newspaper? In the interview, which will be published tomorrow, he appeals again to be allowed a number of months to complete his task. Should not the international community listen to his advice and give him some months to complete that task?
Alas, I am not as well connected with the editorial desks of foreign newspapers as the hon. Gentleman, but I will take his word for it. His intervention reinforces the point that I was making: the inspection regime needs a number of months to carry out its work and we should not be short-circuiting it at this point.
Prior to the passing of resolution 1441, we relied on containment and deterrents to look after Saddam.
It is hard to understand the Liberal position. First, we heard the hon. Gentleman's party leader saying at the "stop the war" demonstration that he did not support the war, but the Liberal Democrats' amendment says that they would support war if it were sanctioned by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. What is their position?
Secondly, is it not the case that, if the United Nations passes a second resolution, the Liberal Democrats would support military action against Iraq within weeks, not months, which contradicts what he has just said?
May I suggest that the hon. Gentleman not listen to what the spin doctors from Millbank, or wherever they are now located, say about what my right hon. Friend Mr. Kennedy has said. He said not that he was opposed to the war, but that we were in favour of resolving the situation through the United Nations and that war must be the last resort after all other options had been exhausted. That is a world away from the hon. Gentleman's characterisation.
I am sorry, but I have given way numerous times and I intend to continue.
At this point, the weapons inspectors are still in Iraq and are still saying that they have a worthwhile job to do. In response to the draft resolution tabled by the British and American Governments, the French have offered an alternative, supported by Germany and Russia. It talks about needing a clear programme of action, reinforced inspections and timelines for inspection and assessment. The Foreign Secretary drew attention to the contrast between Iraq and South Africa, but surely one of the key differences is that, in South Africa, the very points that the French memorandum sets out—a clear programme and timelines for inspection—were contained in the inspection regime. We must not dismiss that out of hand, as the Government appear to have done.
If we are to proceed to war, we must be a lot clearer about what the objectives might be. There is currently an enormous lack of clarity. It is not clear whether war would be only for disarmament purposes or for regime change. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both referred to regime change in previous contributions. Those mixed messages do not instil confidence in the international community—
Tempted as I am to draw attention to the mixed messages of the hon. Gentleman's party—some Opposition Members are signed up to the amendment while others are not, and Front Benchers who talked previously about not needing a second resolution now favour one—it would be as well to leave the matter to one side.
Apart from the objectives, we must also reflect on the consequences of any action. The most important starting point will be the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Iraq and in neighbouring countries. As yet, it is not at all clear what humanitarian preparations the Government or international bodies are preparing for. In the context of the situation in Afghanistan, where the President has complained about lack of follow-up to the conflict that occurred there a couple of years ago, that issue is very worrying.
We must also not lose sight of the dangers in the middle east conflict and its potential to spill over in what is already a very sensitive and difficult time, as Richard Burden made clear. As the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury put it, the prospect of upsetting and putting at risk the support of moderate Muslim opinion throughout the world is very serious and we must not overlook it. There are many things that we must sort out. In doing so, we must be clear what we are setting out to do.
It is beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein's evil regime has murdered thousands of his fellow citizens. That is not the point. The point at issue is the consequence of any action in the middle east that is not supported by international resolutions. The Foreign Secretary must think very carefully about that.
Many things have got to be sorted out. In sorting them out, we must be clear about what we are setting out to do and how we will deal with the consequences. We are far from having reached that position at this point. It is important that, in due course, if there is to be a further resolution, we must have a debate in this House and a vote when UK armed forces are to be committed. At the key moment, when another UN resolution has been passed, that is absolutely vital. This debate cannot suffice.
We believe that the decision by the British, Americans and Spanish to table a new resolution at the United Nations is premature. All of us want to see the Iraqi regime disarmed and Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction destroyed.
Under the existing resolution, the weapons inspectors are carrying out a clear mandate to inspect and to report to the Security Council. They must be given sufficient time to carry out and to complete their task. War can only be a last resort once all other political and diplomatic options have been exhausted. We have not reached that point. The case for war has not been made.
I will not repeat what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary said so eloquently yesterday and today, but I want to put on record that I support my Government—not out of loyalty, although that is not a bad reason, but because I think that they are right, and I want to add a few points.
First, supporting the Government today does not mean that one is in favour of war. [Hon. Members: "Oh, yes it does."] It does not mean that, as the media and—I was about to say idiots, but I had better not—Liberal Democrat Members say. War can be avoided by one simple act—Saddam Hussein complying with the resolutions of the United Nations. All the pressure—not just our pressure, but the pressure from everywhere—should be on Saddam Hussein, not on Blair and Bush. The pressure should be on Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions. I am no fan of President Bush, but the hyperbole of the attacks and the comparisons that he has suffered is incredible. That does no one's cause any good. The United Kingdom and United States Governments are working through the United Nations. We have heard that the weapons inspectors have found non-compliance on anthrax, on nerve agents and on long-range missiles. The evidence is now overwhelming, and we should be supporting the Government.
I do not doubt the sincerity of the majority of those who oppose Government policy, but I agree with Mr. Ancram that the Liberals and, I would add, the Scottish National party, are attempting to use this issue—an issue of life and death—for party political purposes. As I said yesterday, that is irresponsible opportunism. They should be aware that Saddam Hussein is cleverly exploiting everything that they do, including my ex-right hon. Friend's patsy interview with him on television. I saw the marches that some of my colleagues took part in. They were reported with joy and glee on Iraqi television and they gave great succour to the dictator. I saw no placards on those marches saying, "Saddam must go". I saw no mention of the 2 million dead in the two wars, the Kurds who were gassed, the Iraqis who were exiled, or the hundreds of children who starve each day now because of Saddam Hussein's manipulation of the sanctions. Yet each day that passes without action to disarm Saddam Hussein means that more of those children will die and more members of the opposition will be persecuted. My colleagues should remember that there are consequences of inaction, as well as of action.
If the right hon. Gentleman reads the record, he will know that both sides of the House have condemned Saddam Hussein for years. Surely he understands that those of us who marched, and were proud to march, did so because we believe that when advisers to the Security Council—experts—say that they want more time and that they might be able to achieve disarmament if they had it, that is a road to disarmament by peace that must be preferable to a road to disarmament by war.
The hon. Gentleman and those who support him are not just naive; they are being duped. They are also inconsistent, and I shall point to another inconsistency. Members on the Opposition Benches and others who oppose the deployment of troops now urge us to give more time to the inspectors, but the inspectors would not be there had we not deployed the troops, and we would not have deployed the troops if we had taken the advice of some Opposition Members. That credible deployment of force needs to be maintained and intensified to make Saddam Hussein realise and understand that we are serious.
In conclusion, I have repeatedly asked critics of Government policy—I have asked them here, I have asked those with whom I have appeared on the media, I have asked people in my constituency who come to see me—what credible way they propose to disarm a brutal dictator. I get no reply and no credible alternative. I therefore believe that we should support the Government. We are not here just as people to do the bidding of everyone who writes to us; we are here to make our own judgment about what is right and what is wrong. I think that the Government are right and that, as there is no credible alternative, we as elected representatives have a responsibility to go back to our constituencies to explain the Government's policy, to bring people along with us, to support the Government and to get rid of a brutal dictator.
I am as strong a supporter of the Atlantic alliance as anyone in this House. I believe that the continued maintenance of that alliance is absolutely vital to our security, to that of other European nations and to that of the United States itself. I have no hesitation, in the right circumstances, in facing up to my responsibility to vote for the use of military force in the defence and support of vital national and international interests, so long as it is plain that it is a necessary last resort and all other means of proceeding have been satisfactorily exhausted. So I begin—obviously, I trust—from no anti-American, left-wing, peacenik position in approaching the problem.
Today's debate is the time to put down a marker to say that the other approaches—the diplomatic, deterrent policy and the use of threat in order to get compliance—have not yet been exhausted. I find myself attracted to the motion tabled in the name of Mr. Smith, in that if we ask ourselves today whether the case for war has yet been established, the House should say that it has not and that there is still a case for giving more time to other, peaceful alternatives for enforcing our objectives.
We should take as much time as is necessary to achieve disarmament, and we should resort to warfare once it is plain that all other methods are exhausted.
We have had 12 years, in two or three of which people have done nothing at all. We have had 11 weeks of the present policy and we must judge whether a few weeks more are required.
Let me make clear the origin of my doubts about the very persuasive case that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary sometimes put. I cannot rid myself of doubts that the course to war upon which we are now embarked was decided on many months ago, primarily in Washington, and there has been a fairly remorseless unfolding of events since that time. I am not alone in having heard and met American politicians of great distinction who gave the impression that a change of regime in Iraq was determined upon long ago and that the use of military force in a pre-emptive strike was justified in order to achieve that. I believe that in most cases the motives have been worthy and they genuinely believe that they are ridding themselves of an evil regime. I do not believe the conspiracy theorists. One can go on to hear theories about the installation of democracy in the Arab world, unfinished business from a previous Administration, and a reaction to the understandable state of political opinion in the United States of America in the aftermath of
If war happens in the next few weeks—that is a genuine possibility—hon. Members must ask themselves whether it is legitimate to believe that such action had already been determined and had been remorselessly unfolding for many months. Many people believe that. It is why middle England and those of moderate political opinions have so many doubts. To many of my constituents, the answer to the questions, "Did Washington determine such action many months ago?" and "Could the President seek re-election without war and the removal of Iraq's president?" is as obvious as the reply to "Does the emperor have clothes?" The Government must respond to that formidable case.
However, I praise the Government for their actions: first, they put themselves in the classic Churchillian position, followed by every subsequent Government, of being America's closest ally in a great diplomatic crisis to gain the maximum possible influence over the exercise of power. I trust that any Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of this country would have done that. Secondly, they went to the United Nations and led it towards the path of diplomacy and peaceful coercion, which, I trust, the House would prefer if it achieved the desired effect. The result was resolution 1441, for which I voted. It plainly paves the way to war, if necessary, in setting out the conditions for endeavouring to put together an international coalition that would enforce the United Nations' will when all other means had been exhausted.
The resolution turns on the question whether a material breach has occurred. Although other concerns cannot be brushed aside, the revolting nature of the Iraqi regime and its cruelty, much though we deplore it, is not a legal basis for war. We must concentrate on whether there are weapons of mass destruction, whether disarmament can be induced and, if not, whether force will be used to effect it.
The Government introduce other matters to strengthen their claim. Even today, the Prime Minister asked us to listen to Ann Clwyd. I shall do that, doubtless with a sense of shock and shared anxiety about the Iraqi regime's outrageous behaviour. The word "attitude" has also been used today, as though the Iraqi regime's attitude to disarmament is a new and exciting concept.
However, the question that we must ask is whether a material breach has occurred. To me, that means considering whether demonstrable evidence exists to show that biological and chemical weapons are held in conditions and circumstances in which they pose a current threat to neighbours or to us. There is no evidence of links with al-Qaeda and I do not believe that Iraq poses a threat to New York or London. To claim that is to insult our intelligence. However, I wish to know whether demonstrable evidence exists of sufficient quantities of weapons to pose a threat. I doubt that.
I am glad to say that Iraq's army is degraded and in a weaker position than in 1991. I do not believe Saddam Hussein; he probably has material around Iraq that he has not disclosed and we need to pursue that rigorously. However, is it in a condition to be deployed as a threat to anybody? That has not yet been demonstrated and we should not go to war until it has.
Use of threat and reverting to the policies of international diplomacy and deterrence that we used in the cold war have been successful. Every speaker so far has conceded that coercion has moved Saddam. That shows that the policy is working. It does not mean that we have reached the stage of abandoning deterrence, coercion and threat and deciding that the weather is unfortunately getting warmer in Iraq, that 250,000 people, including a large part of the British Army, are there and either we must bring people home in the next few weeks or they must open fire.
Any war will be won easily. I am glad that if we go to war, it will not take long. However, we should consider alternatives because of the consequences of war. How many terrorists will we recruit in the greater, long-standing battle against international terrorism? It will be far harder to win. What will we do to the stability of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Egypt? What sort of leadership will replace that which might be deposed? The Government never address those questions satisfactorily, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary said. However, they will have to live with the answers.
The next time a large bomb explodes in a western city, or an Arab or Muslim regime topples and is replaced by extremists, the Government must consider the extent to which the policy contributed to it. That is why hon. Members should pause and why, unless evidence is produced for a breach and a material threat, my judgment today is that we should not go to war. I therefore support the amendment that the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury tabled.
It may surprise some hon. Members, even Labour Members, to know that my instincts are those of a party loyalist. The Foreign Secretary laughs, but I suggest that he examine the record. I have long taken an interest in the subject, and although my view has been consistent, I, like Mr. Clarke, have noticed the Foreign Secretary's inconsistency and the various attempts to shift the goalposts. I therefore support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr. Smith, Mr. Hogg and 113 others who joined us.
When the Foreign Secretary opened the debate, he gave the impression that we would have the opportunity later to hold a substantive vote on whether this country commits troops to action in Iraq. At the very least, the Government could get their act together. My right hon. Friend Dr. Reid, the appointed chairman of the Labour party, made it clear on "Today" this morning that the Government will go ahead without a substantive vote. He said that that was in accordance with a tradition that was hundreds of years old.
I also heard the interview to which my hon. Friend refers. My right hon. Friend the chairman of the Labour party made it clear, as on other occasions, that a substantive vote would take place in the exact terms that I set out earlier. It is our hope and intention that that happens before any military action occurs. That is in the Government's interest as well as that of the House. Let me also give a separate undertaking that the result of the proceedings on the second resolution will be the subject of a debate and a vote in the House on a substantive motion.
I do not want to disagree with the Foreign Secretary, but my understanding, from sitting in the studio and listening, was that the party chairman made an unequivocal statement. I accept the Foreign Secretary's view, but I should like to dispose of the myth that having a substantive debate before troops are committed somehow prejudices their security. If we have not already signalled a firm intention to attack Iraq, I do not know what we have done. The President of the United States has to go to Congress under the war powers Act. Surely the House should also be allowed to express an opinion.
The Foreign Secretary said two things in answer to the question, "Why Iraq?" He subdivided them into two further points. First, he claimed that Iraq posed an exceptional danger, and he gave defiance of the United Nations as the second reason. Many arguments have been presented about defying the UN. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary mentioned UN resolutions that referred to all countries in the middle east, including Israel, and specifically to making that region a nuclear-free zone.
Although there are differences of opinion, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe presented very well the case against a thoroughly emasculated Iraq posing an exceptional danger. Like him, I anticipate that the overwhelming force in place to deal with Iraq is of such a nature that a campaign would, hopefully, be relatively short and sharp. What we cannot guarantee, however, is the amount of collateral damage that would ensue— apart from the wholly undesirable political outcomes, of course.
The Foreign Secretary asked the rhetorical question, "Why now?" People who think that it is a matter of us running out of patience misunderstand the mechanics of what is going on. The decision was made not in Downing street or the Foreign Office, but in the White House. We are all Philadelphia lawyers now and know all about the fascinating weapons of mass destruction, but anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of American military doctrine since Colin Powell and the first Gulf war knows that we are missing the obvious. It has taken until now, and it is still not finalised, to mobilise and deploy the troops and units needed to hold a campaign that accords with an American military doctrine that is nearly coming to a conclusion. Oddly, hon. Members will have noticed from today's new reports that space has been allocated in the middle east for only seven of the 70-odd British planes. The hard reality is that it will be an American military campaign.
The reasons for the campaign are complex. It is not just a matter of oil or of the President avenging daddy's unfinished business; the ideological hawks in the US Administration have set out their stall for many years. They have set out, transparently and consistently, the different hopes and aims to which they aspire. I mentioned the undesirable outcomes. We must not forget, as our Prime Minister confirmed at the Dispatch Box when his Back Benchers heckled him, that North Korea will be next. We can write the script: Iran, Syria, Libya. People in Iran must be worried, and we do not know where it will end. That is not conjecture; the objectives of the new pax Americana have been set out clearly and unequivocally.
We should leave it to Hans Blix and el-Baradei to make the definitive statement on weapons of mass destruction and let the United Nations decide whether a material breach has taken place. There are two prerequisites for British public opinion on that.
No, I will not.
The first prerequisite is that a United Nations resolution is essential. It must be based on credible evidence, and that will not be provided by the political imperatives of the US or UK Governments, or anyone else for that matter. I recommend that people read Senator Riegle's report, published by his Senate Committee, on where the biological weapons originated. It is a matter of congressional record and anyone can get a copy. There were 73 separate consignments, including everything from botulinum toxin to other horrors, such as anthrax. Those were exported to Saddam by the United States. None of us is lily white. I know that that does not help to deal with the problem, but it ill behoves people to stand up as purer than Caesar's wife on the issue.
I urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to consider the fact that it is extremely unlikely that we will be afforded an opportunity to debate the problem substantively. I hear what the Foreign Secretary said, but I also heard what the Labour party chairman said. I wage that it will be extremely problematic for Members of this House to connect with public opinion in our constituencies, parties, the nation at large and internationally, and to express our views. We can do that now only by accepting the amendment. It rules nothing out; it asks only that we consider that the case is not yet proven. That gives all concerned the leeway to make their case. Hon. Members should not miss out on the opportunity to reconnect with the overwhelming consensus of the British people.
I draw attention to my registered interest.
I begin with the connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. During the weekend following
In the 1990s, there was the first attack on the World Trade Centre. That was followed by the bombing of American barracks in Saudi Arabia, the bombs at American embassies in east Africa, and then the attack on the US warship Cole. Those outrages represented a classic escalation. In retrospect, each inadequate response to each outrage showed a lack of determination that was taken as a sign of weakness, and that emboldened our enemies.
The hon. Lady should have waited for my next paragraph.
In parallel, the west was failing to respond to the escalation of activities by Saddam. He failed to co-operate with United Nations inspectors immediately after the Gulf war. There were further atrocities against his people and violations of the no-fly zone. He harassed the inspectors until they were forced to leave. The west again made no adequate response to any of those things. If there is a criticism of the Prime Minister, it is that he, in common with others, did not seek to take effective action in 1998 and 1999, but that does not make him wrong today.
I am explaining the history of the west's lack of response. Of course that includes the Government of whom I was a member, but I am analysing the important point at which we now stand.
Let me make some progress.
During the 1990s and beyond, Russia and France undermined the sanctions regime. They advertised to Saddam the infirmity of purpose of the west. Both Saddam and al-Qaeda, separately, could take comfort from the clear evidence that the west was not willing to take firm action. That is the connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam. I think it reasonable that after
The world has its fair share of wicked leaders and terrorists, and they will do whatever they can get away with. They listen to what we say but, more to the point, they watch what we do. As the Prime Minister rightly says, if the civilised world is not prepared to make its words stick now, its determination will always be doubted because political will is crucial.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall a question that sought to persuade the Government to beef up the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme? Does he also recall the answer in which the Government said that they had full confidence that Iraq, as a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty, would abide by its international obligations and not work on a nuclear weapons programme? According to the response, the Government had no intention of doing what the question asked, which was to increase the weapons inspections. That answer was given in the House on
I think I have covered that point. I must admit that, in my view, Members who persist in saying "We have been wrong over a period of 12 or 13 years, and we must therefore be wrong to try and put our mistakes right now" are on very weak ground.
In an important sense, Saddam and Bin Laden are co-belligerents. They share a hatred of the west, and a belief in the efficacy of terror. Let me add that if Britain tried to stand aside—here I disagree with my right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke—that would not spare us from the terror. A display of weakness will bring more terror, not less; and I think it is a dangerous myth to believe that terrorism is in some way beyond deterrence .
The Prime Minister's task has been made more difficult—I admit this—because America has not been willing to say much about the middle east peace process. I think that the United States is strictly correct to reject any link between Iraq and the regional peace process, but there are many indirect links. Certainly, I believe it might have been easier for the Government to try to establish direct connections between Iraq and the Palestine Liberation Organisation than to try to establish them between Iraq and al-Qaeda. It is clear that Saddam is the hero of the Palestinian suicide bombers.
Many today have focused on the dangers to the region if there is a conflict. Of course there are dangers, but I say that if Iraq is disarmed there are opportunities too. The United States will then engage in the middle east peace process; but it will do so with an unambiguous hostility to terrorism. A new Palestinian leadership will then understand that terrorism will not work, and that therefore political engagement may.
Prime Minister Sharon may be ruthless in war, but he would also be ruthless in peace. The peace will require Israel to give up land, positions and settlements, and Mr. Sharon is the man to force such an outcome on the Israelis.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday, Iraq is a potentially rich country. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes said today, it is a country with a middle class and educated people. If economic and political freedoms are returned to Iraq, that can have a powerful effect on a region in which those liberties are largely absent. Perhaps Iran too will flip towards the moderates.
This crisis has cost the west dearly in terms of the damage to its institutions. New institutions may be required. I am a great supporter of NATO, but it is damaged, and in any case it is geographically very limited. I believe that we should look for a new organisation, not to replace NATO but to stand alongside it. The aim of that organisation would be to counter terrorism, and its focus would be global. The United States, Britain and Australia would certainly be founder members of the new organisation; perhaps its headquarters would be in Prague or Madrid. Whatever the precise form of that new organisation, I believe that its time has come.
Last August, at the invitation of Mr. Johnson, I wrote an article in The Spectator setting out my reservations about a possible war on Iraq. Six months later, I stand by every one of the arguments I advanced then. They included my concerns about the effect on Muslim opinion; about the need for any action to take place under United Nations authority; about the apparent double standards involved in enforcing UN resolutions on Iraq while neglecting those on Israel and the Palestinians—although I recognise that the resolutions on Iraq are mandatory, while those on Israel are not; about the danger of Iraq's spreading any such war, with the consequent perils of a middle east in turmoil and serious economic consequences; about the hazards of war—including the certainty of civilian casualties; and about the role played in such a conflict by the most unappetising United States Administration I have ever known. I repeat that I said that then and believe it still.
If tonight's vote were a vote of confidence in George W. Bush—appointed by the United States Supreme Court rather than being elected by the American people—I would be the first into the No Lobby. Under Bush the United States is a bad world citizen—bad on global warming, bad on the International Criminal Court, and bad on steel tariffs. What we are debating today, however, is not a vote of confidence or otherwise in Bush, or even a vote about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—although I support and trust my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The issue at stake in this debate, and in whatever action follows from it, is the United Nations as the only upholder of world order, however faulty and inadequate the United Nations may be.
In my Spectator article I emphasised the primacy of the United Nations, a primacy stated in clause IV of the Labour party constitution. As it happens, it was included in that constitution on the initiative of one Anthony Wedgwood Benn, who at that time was a staunch supporter of the United Nations rather than the toady to Saddam Hussein that he has since become.
The fact is that the United Nations has passed a series of mandatory resolutions on Iraq following that country's serial aggressions and violations of human rights, and Iraq has violated every one. Since I expressed my concerns last summer the Security Council has passed resolution 1441. I must say that the constant moving of the goal posts is a sign of the inadequacy of some of the arguments being advanced. First, Members said "Let us have a resolution"; we got a resolution. Then some Members said "Let us have a second resolution"; a second resolution has been tabled. Now there is a motion on the Order Paper referring not just to a second resolution but to lots of other conditions, including a debate in the House before military action. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has conceded that as well. At what point do we have a consistent position? At what point do we lay down conditions and say that those conditions must be met?
Resolution 1441 reiterates all the previous resolutions since 1990, and lays down a process for its implementation together with a statement of the consequences if it is not obeyed by Saddam Hussein. The resolution could not be clearer; I assume that all Members have read it. While a further resolution may be regarded as desirable—and my right hon. Friends are attempting to obtain one—it is certainly not indispensable. Resolution 1441 lays down all the necessary conditions.
Mr. Kaufman: What happens if resolution 1441 is not implemented? Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out the consequences for world order—
As I was saying, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out the consequences for world order if resolution 1441 is turned into a flouted expression of unfulfilled requirements. What he said was incontrovertible. If Saddam can get away with the games he is playing, stringing out the process until it is vitiated and nullified, the consequences for world order will be catastrophic. I cannot understand my colleagues who argue that, given a little or a lot more time, Saddam will suddenly display a change of heart. It is what Hugh Dalton used to call the doctrine of unripe time, and it is the basis of the amendment.
Yet there is a further consequence. I have expressed in clear terms my distaste for the present United States Administration. Only with immense difficulty and effort has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister persuaded Bush and his cronies to take the United Nations route. The House should have no doubt that if that UN route fails on this issue, the Bush Administration will wash their hands of the UN altogether and go it alone whenever they believe that their national interests are at stake.
Neither we nor any other ally will be able to influence Bush otherwise. That may be a despairing argument for voting for the Government motion tonight, but it is realistic and, I believe, incontrovertible. Moreover, if the role of the United Nations is set aside, we have no hope whatever of solving the agonising Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. Even now, it is possible for our Prime Minister to persuade Bush to participate in the initiatives necessary to obtain peace in the middle east. Success in this issue may persuade Bush that there could be success in that issue too. However, I do not believe that a middle east peace process would be possible if the United States retreated into self-interested isolationism, which is only too prevalent in the White House and the Pentagon. Every hon. Member will search her or his conscience in deciding how to vote tonight. I have searched mine and, as I said, all my colleagues will have done so. Even though all our hearts are heavy, I have no doubt that it is right to vote with the Government tonight.
I am sure that the article by Mr. Kaufman was excellent. I hope that he was suitably paid—perhaps there will be another commission shortly.
The Chamber is a marvellous place, and is at its best in a debate such as this one. I listened to my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Clarke, whom I proudly supported when he stood for the leadership of my party. I also listened to the Foreign Secretary. Strange to say, I find myself in great disagreement with my right hon. and learned Friend, but in total agreement with what the Foreign Secretary said today and what the Prime Minister said yesterday. This is the second debate on Iraq that I have listened to in two days. Yesterday, I sat in Church house, Westminster as a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and listened to a debate on Iraq.
The hon. Gentleman is using unparliamentary language about being duffed up. In fact, in a debate in which I did not take part, I listened to a series of speeches from good, well-intentioned men and women who, for the most part, were misguided and did not understand the realities of what they were talking about.
No, I will not.
I listened in particular to three Church of England bishops who effectively paraphrased the words of St. Augustine—"Make us tough, but not yet." All of them underlined the appalling nature of the despicable regime in Iraq, but were not prepared to face up to the consequences, which the Prime Minister, as a national leader, has had the courage and calmness to do. I make no apology to any Opposition Member or anyone in the House for saying that I believe that the Prime Minister has behaved in an exemplary fashion since
No, I will not.
The Prime Minister has given a lead, although that has not been easy for him. We must all accept that his party has an honourable tradition of pacifism, so it cannot have been easy for him to make certain speeches before certain audiences. I remind Government Members who disagree with him that he has made one fundamental mistake in his six years in Downing street. He has relied too much on spin, which has undermined his credibility and made people less trusting of him. I believe that that is one factor in the unease of the nation as a whole. However, I wish to tell Government Members and people outside the House that in this particular area the Prime Minister has behaved with probity and great courage. He deserves support as a national leader of considerable renown.
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's praise for the Prime Minister's role in the issue since
I have seen people march before on Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demonstrations, including the Prime Minister in the past—[Interruption.] Perhaps not a million people, but the numbers approached that. The hon. Gentleman spoke about spin. I said that, paradoxically, that has helped to destroy the Prime Minister's credibility, which I greatly regret.
I have limited time at my disposal, so I will not give way again.
I wish to say two things in particular. Yesterday, in the exchanges after the Prime Minister's admirable statement, I put it to him—the Foreign Secretary made this point this afternoon—that if we allow the international community to be set at naught by a tyrant whose evil, if not without parallel, has not been exceeded in the past half century or more, the United Nations will go the way of the League of Nations. At stake—this was implicit in the speech of my right hon. Friend Mr. Portillo—is the credibility of the international order in standing up uncompromisingly to evil. Like everyone else, I hope that we will not have a war, but action against Saddam Hussein will be wholly justified if he continues to flout the will of the international community.
In that context, let us remember that the weapons inspectors are not employed as weapons discoverers. They are there to inspect what Saddam Hussein declares. He has repeatedly made false declarations, and the evidence is before us. The Command Paper that the Government provided for every Member as background reading for this debate makes it plain that time after time this man has thumbed his nose at the international community and has wrought terrible havoc on his own people. I urge Liberal Members to go to the National Liberal Club and look at the portrait of Mr. Gladstone. They should remember those amazing speeches that he made during the Bulgarian atrocities in which he talked about clearing out the Turks
"bag and baggage from the province they have desolated and profaned."
If anybody has desolated and profaned the province over which he rules it is Saddam Hussein.
We are now at a critical juncture in the history of this new century. If we allow this evil tyrant to get away with it, we will advance into the century with no credible international organisations and with our own credibility, and therefore the defence of our very people, at risk. I urge the House to reject the well-meaning amendment tabled by Mr. Smith and support the Government without any equivocation in the Lobby tonight.
The approach to war is dangerous for combatants and non-combatants, and poses enormous problems for ordinary Members of Parliament. We are buffeted by pressure and arguments on all sides but, at the end of the day, we are impelled to make a rational decision. I have looked at the resolution, and shall vote on it, and not one that may be made in future. There is nothing exceptional about that—I do not feel prejudiced, nor is my conscience undermined by decision to go into the Lobby with the Government and the official Opposition.
I have long believed that the US and the UK should go down the Security Council route. I have unequivocally supported all those who supported 1441, and I have strongly supported, at the United States Congress, as has the Defence Committee, a further resolution—not that it is necessary legally, but it is certainly necessary politically to gain endorsement and justification from a larger number of individuals and nations than have hitherto given support. The Defence Committee went to Washington and New York a couple of weeks ago. We met the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior people from the National Security Council, the Department of Defense and the State Department. There was hardly anybody whom we met, bar the commissionaire in the Watergate hotel, whom we did not press strongly for a second resolution. I am delighted that efforts are being made to achieve that.
Is Saddam co-operating fully with 1441 and the other 16 or 17 resolutions? Of course he is not. Dr. Blix and others have said that he is co-operating reluctantly with the process, but he is not co-operating in substance. It has been said endlessly, and I repeat, that UNMOVIC's role is not to search down holes or in caves but to verify whether Saddam Hussein has been compliant. Dr. Blix said that in his speech to the United Nations; and the Defence Committee was privileged to listen to him privately for one hour and five minutes the day before he made his presentation and, I am sure, before he had written it.
During his formal presentation, Dr. Blix said:
"The declaration submitted by Iraq on
"Although I can understand that it may not be easy for Iraq in all cases to provide the evidence needed, it is not the task of the inspectors to find it.
Iraq must squarely tackle this task and avoid belittling the questions."
So the inspectors are seeking assurances, which up to now have not been provided.
The example of the al-Samoud missile is well worth considering. There are three variations of it, two in existence and one on a drawing board. It is obvious from what Dr. Blix has seen that Iraq is in material breach in relation to the missile, which in 13 out of the 40 tests has shown that it is capable of flying farther than the distance laid down for it by the United Nations.
If one considers each of the flagrant breaches, the obfuscations, the untruths and all the evidence that has been provided, one reaches the inescapable conclusion that Saddam Hussein has hidden, is hiding and is not compliant. One asks how much longer should one search. Yes, weeks more—there must be flexibility—but if anyone argues that Dr. Blix should be given 10 or 12 months to complete the job, I am afraid they are barking.
Surely the logic of the argument that the right hon. Gentleman has just spelled out is that if the arms inspectors—Dr. Blix and his colleagues—ask for more time, they should be given it.
As I tried to explain earlier, there is a great deal of flexibility in the system. The Prime Minister has succeeded in persuading the United States to go down the Security Council route. I fear that there will be an opportunity for Dr. Blix to search further and longer, but it must not be for an indefinite period.
The hon. Gentleman has only been in the Chamber for half an hour, and has already intervened once. I have no intention of giving way to him.
There are many hon. Members who are not persuaded by the evidence so far presented, and I respect their views. It would be much easier for Members of Parliament and our Prime Minister to succumb to domestic and international pressure, but when I asked the Prime Minister a rather convoluted question before the Liaison Committee, about what factors he would take into account before he made a decision, he said:
"is it right and is it do-able"
He believes, and others believe, that the route he is taking is right.
If we look at the Prime Minister's record so far, it is clear that he faced a lot of opposition to the UK intervening in Sierra Leone. He was right. There was a lot of opposition in all parts of the House to intervention in Macedonia. He was right. On Kosovo, there was even more opposition. He was right. On Afghanistan, he was right. Therefore I am prepared to give his judgment further endorsement. I have heard no reason why his perspective should be trashed, as many have suggested.
I approach war, if it is to take place, with trepidation. It is not something to which anyone looks forward. The more one speaks to military personnel, the clearer it becomes that war must be undertaken as a last resort. I hope very much that there will be a second resolution and that pressure will be put on Saddam Hussein. I, like many others, have said over the months that the only way to put pressure on him so that war will be superfluous is to let him see that the various countries of the world are so united that he has no option. Ironically, the greater the pressure, the less likely he is to resist.
There was an amazing demonstration a week ago; it was extremely impressive. I have read a number of biographies of Keir Hardie. There was a massive anti-war demonstration on
Although one must pay serious attention to public opinion, ultimately—this sounds an appalling argument, using Burke, who was not a democrat—we owe our constituents our judgment. I have spoken to so many people, been to so many meetings and read so much documentation, and my own view is that Saddam Hussein is not to be trusted. I hope that there will be a second resolution, and I hope that the pressure on him will be so enormous that there will be no need to go to war. That is what I yearn for.
Hearing my hon. Friend Sir Patrick Cormack is an exhilarating experience. He is like a bottle of 1970 port, which improves with maturity. Today he showed, as he always does, sound judgment. He brings to these debates an engaging Barchester view. We get a report from Church House, and it is not irreverent, as mine would be—all gas and gaiters. He is serious in his criticism of the Synod of the Church of England and says that it is seriously misguided, as it is, and as are so many of those who have signed the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.
I was saddened by the amendment and by the fallacious arguments adduced by the right hon. Gentleman. First, he said that Her Majesty's Government were not giving Iraq time, as though 12 years since the end of the Gulf were not time enough. One should recall that the ceasefire at the end of the Gulf war was conditional on the full implementation by Iraq of UN resolutions. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman said that perhaps there was not total co-operation, but possibly 70 per cent.—a figure challenged by the Foreign Secretary, and rightly so. There is virtually no evidence of any significant co-operation with the arms inspectors or of compliance with UN resolution 1441. The right hon. Gentleman then said that the Government were anxious that his amendment might give comfort to Saddam Hussein. Nothing gives greater comfort to Saddam Hussein than the infirmity of purpose and the divisions that we have seen in the House of Commons.
Fourthly, the right hon. Gentleman said that Saddam Hussein believed that caution was appeasement and that this was an utterly wrong belief on the part of the President of Iraq. It is perplexing, naive, simplistic and highly dangerous to think, as the right hon. Gentleman does, that Saddam Hussein is open to moral persuasion. Strength is the only thing that he understands. The right hon. Gentleman might think that strength lies not only in military might, but Saddam Hussein and his ilk most certainly do not agree.
The notion of peaceful coercion, as advanced by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Clarke, is a thoroughly dangerous illusion. It is a contradiction in terms. The earlier sedentary intervention by my hon. Friend Dr. Lewis put it very well: it is like feeding the crocodiles. That was his comment to the Liberal spokesman, and it was highly pertinent. If we wish to deter the dangerous process of weapons proliferation, and particularly the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the way to do it is to deal effectively with Saddam Hussein and to do it fast. Time is not on our side; that is why he is trying to string us along. The faster military action is taken, the better. We all know that it will be much harder for the allied forces in the summer season. We cannot keep them marching up and down the frontiers of Iraq, and there comes a time when enough is enough. That time is approaching fast. If effective action is taken, it is much less likely that the dictator who runs Korea will maintain his weapons programme, and other potential proliferators such as the Iranians and the Libyans will be deterred, too.
Unity of purpose is absolutely crucial, however. We learned that when facing down the dictators during the cold war. I find it so sad that the allies who brought succour to the beleaguered people of West Berlin in 1948—the United States, the United Kingdom and France—should not be wholly together and that France should be diverging its purposes today. I recall, too, as will many other hon. Members, the deployment by the Soviets of SS20 ballistic missiles. We faced down that crisis in the face of public opposition and opposition in some quarters of the House, especially in the Labour ranks. We did so, and there was unity of purpose in the alliance, not least on the part of the federal German Government, who were courageous then, but today seem frankly to be on the other side. That grieves me.
It is also interesting to note that those with the firmness of purpose that we seek are those who have suffered most from dictatorship. It is not we western Europeans who are showing total resolution—this Government are, to their credit—but the central and eastern Europeans: the Poles, the Czechs, the Bulgarians and others. The Poles remember what happened to their people at the time of Solidarity when martial law was imposed by Jaruzelski. The Czechs remember the Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in '68. The Hungarians remember what happened to Imre Nagy in 1956. It is sad that the Liberal party has become so wayward today.
Saddam Hussein knows that those who are not against him are for him. It is therefore crucial for the future of our alliance and the security of our continent that the European members of the alliance as a whole should get behind the United States as we are, see that resolution 1441 is fully implemented—and fast—and that Saddam Hussein is seen down.
How extraordinary that my right hon. Friend Mr. George should pray in aid of this war what happened in Britain in 1914. That war was one that neither side wanted to fight, but because they had both turned up for the show, they thought that they had to go through with it. Yes, my right hon. Friend is right: despite Keir Hardie, the first world war was fought and there are a lot of white crosses in France and the low countries to prove it—an anthem for doomed youth that killed the flower of European civilisation.
We were told here that this was not a resolution for war, and that it was the last push for peace. Well, listening to the consensus between the two Front Benches, it sounded awfully like war to me. I do not know what it did for the enemy, but it didn't half frighten me. It is entirely possible that the teenage scribblers who made that spin earlier this week on the Prime Minister's behalf that today's resolution was about peace, not war, have not read George Orwell's "1984". After all, the same teenage scribblers told us last week on the Prime Minister's behalf that this was going to be a six-day war, drawing on the illusion of the apparent triumph of the Israeli armies over the Arabs in 1967. They entirely missed the point that, on the day that the six-day war ended, the 35-year war began. That is precisely the point that the supporters of this amendment—which merely asks us to conclude that the case for war has not yet been proven—are making. However short and sharp this war is—I place on record that I do not believe that it will be either short or sharp—its consequences, its reverberations and its seismic impact will disfigure life in this country and around the world for as long as the Members here present are still with us.
This is a defining moment. For the first time in many years, Parliament has an opportunity truly to shape world events. I have spent the last months talking virtually daily to American broadcasters and journalists, and I can tell the House that if this Parliament sends the message tonight that the British people are not with this adventure, it will have a decisive impact on opinion in the United States of America. We are always told that it is too early to vote on war until it is too late. This is our last opportunity meaningfully to affect the course of these great events, and hon. Members are fooling themselves if they do not acknowledge that. We all know what the public want. Every Member knows what their constituents would like to read about them in the newspapers tomorrow. Every Member on the Labour Benches knows what the members of their constituency party would like to read about them tomorrow. Let me quote our leader:
"The people are the masters. We are the servants of the people. We will never forget that, and if ever we do, the people will very soon show that what the electorate gives, the electorate can take away."
Those words were spoken by our Prime Minister when that new dawn broke in 1997.
This debate is about one man, and it is not the man they want us to think it is about. This is about George W. Bush. [Interruption.] I know that they do not like to hear this. As my right hon. Friend Mr. Kaufman said, this is the most distasteful American Administration that he has seen in his long lifetime. This is an American presidency that people on the Labour Benches would not have been seen dead with. This is an Administration who made Texas the execution chamber of the world, who broke all the international treaties, who walked away from every international effort held dear by Labour Members. [Interruption.] They don't like it up 'em because they know that what I am saying is the truth. They are standing against Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu, Thabo Mbeki and with George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. That is the bottom line.
This matter can be resolved by the man prayed in aid by the Foreign Secretary eight times in the course of his address—Dr. Hans Blix. The Foreign Secretary may not know it, but in the German press tomorrow, Dr. Blix will ask for exactly what our amendment this evening asks. It is no good pretending to be with the UN and Hans Blix and then slapping him in the face when he asks for more time to complete the job that he has already begun and which is bearing fruit.
There is no doubt that the United States Administration would like to go forward into this war. There is no doubt in Labour Members' minds and hearts, however much they protest, that that born-again, right-wing, Bible-belting, fundamentalist Republican Administration in the United States want war, but they cannot have their war without the support of Great Britain. The vast majority of people in Great Britain are against the war. We know that to be true: we are asking Parliament to reflect it. We have a great opportunity this evening and I hope that my hon. Friends will not throw it away.
There comes a time in one's life when one finds oneself in peculiar company. The feeling is probably mutual, and others will be as embarrassed as I, but that should lead people to listen carefully to the group that has come together to point out something that should be self-evident—that the case for military action against Iraq is yet unproven. First, it is unproven to the British people. They are not convinced, and my right hon. Friend Mr. Ancram has been assiduous in pressing the Prime Minister to convince the British people. He has failed so far to do so.
No, I really will not. Secondly, the wider world has not been convinced. Of course, we could be right to go to war even if neither of those groups were convinced, except that there has to be life after war. That is the problem. If we go to war in circumstances in which neither our own people nor the wider world are convinced, we will not be seen for what we believe ourselves to be, which is merely the handmaid of the United Nations and the enforcer of peace in circumstances in which there was no alternative.
The alternative is the issue. There can be no just war unless it is the only possibility. That is the number one explanation of the basis on which a nation may go to war. It defends itself because it can do nothing else. It goes to the aid of someone else because that person is being attacked. However, it must have an absolute assurance that it could not do anything else. That is why it is right to suggest that the case for military action against Iraq is as yet unproven.
Hans Blix believes that he can make great gains if he is given time. Of course, he cannot have a veto on the matter. I do not support those who suggest that he can go on asking for more time for as long as he likes. However, it is not unreasonable when a man has had 11 weeks in this stage of the process to give him some more time. People argue that Saddam Hussein has had enough time, but I am not asking for time for him: I am asking for time for Hans Blix, which is rather different.
We are now in a situation in which the western world—to some extent, the whole world—has devoted large resources to press, to squeeze and to demand of Saddam Hussein. We have not yet gone as far as we could, short of war. Much of what is being done could be enlarged, short of war, inexorably to press Saddam Hussein so that he knows that it is not the preamble to a gradual reduction of pressure, but the slow and certain steps that will lead in the end to war.
No, I will not. The issue for us is whether we should, at this moment, lose sight of the important and necessary precondition for a just war by taking action before it is utterly clear to the world that it is the only possible route.
I turn now to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes. There is no Member of Parliament who does not know that this war is war by timetable, and the timetable was laid down before the United States had any intention of going to the United Nations. I speak as one who has been a supporter of strong military action. After all, I supported the Cruise and Pershing missiles, and other strong nuclear weapons, when the Prime Minister was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I do not, therefore, accept any suggestion that I am being weak in these circumstances. The truth is that it must be seen by the world that when, or if, we invade Saddam Hussein's Iraq, we do so not because of some prearranged timetable, connected with ulterior motives, but because we and the world are convinced that there is no alternative. That is the message that should be given to those who argue the case from moral grounds.
I would have a great deal of sympathy for the Prime Minister if he said, "I am a politician. I do not listen to clergymen and others on political issues. I am the politician, and I can therefore make those decisions." It is a serious matter that almost without exception those for whom morality is at the centre of their vocation do not believe that the conditions for the just war are yet fulfilled. I would hope that a Prime Minister who believes in the moral case would at least hesitate in his timing when he finds himself opposed by those who are not themselves against war, but who know better what the conditions of the just war are. Those conditions are not yet fulfilled.
One of the problems that beset us is the fact that some people mistake impatience for necessity. Of course we are impatient to get rid of this horrific man, to destroy this regime which has destroyed so many others, to rid the world of a despicable dictator. But we do ourselves wrong if we do not choose the moment when the case for war has been made to those who afterwards must make us able to make the peace.
I speak as someone who supported military action by our Labour Government in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and before that supported military action in the Gulf war to expel Iraq from Kuwait. My only criticism is that the Americans and British at that time did not finish the job, because my understanding is that regime change then would have been permissible under international law.
I have to say however that, sadly, I am simply not convinced that all-out military action in Iraq can be justified at this time and on the scale envisaged. I do not doubt for a minute the sincerity and morality of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, or those who support them. I share their concerns about weapons of mass destruction, about the vile and murderous Iraqi regime, about terrorism and about the need to uphold the United Nations. And I recognise, as we all must, that every alternative course of action before the House today is likely to result in protracted misery and a large number of deaths for the people of Iraq. The Government argue that these concerns justify virtually immediate military action, and that they would be resolved by that military action. I find those claims less and less convincing.
In relation to weapons of mass destruction, I do not believe that the Government have made a case that the existing policy of containment, backed up by increased coercion and inspection, is bound to fail.
I do not believe that the Government have made the case that, after 12 years of not protecting the Iraqi people from their vile and oppressive regime, it is now a moral imperative that we do it within the next few weeks. In any case, we are saying that regime change is not one of our objectives.
I do not believe that we have made the case that there is any connection between the current Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda.
In relation to upholding the authority and reputation of the United Nations, I ask whether anything could undermine the authority of the United Nations more than the United States announcing in advance that unless the United Nations agrees with its policy the United States will ignore the United Nations. The United States cannot claim to be the sheriff executing a warrant that its court has not granted it.
Even less convincing are the claims of the United States about the enforcement of international obligations, when we consider its failure to implement Kyoto, join the International Criminal Court or obey the World Trade Organisation. It is tending to behave rather like a maverick state. A small maverick state is a bit of a nuisance. It is a real problem for the rest of the world if the only remaining super-power turns maverick. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was wise and sensible to recognise the danger of that prospect and to try to reduce it by reining in the activities of the United States and getting it to go along the United Nations route. He deserves great credit for what he has achieved. But there is a danger of following the example of the Israeli Labour party, which joined the Sharon coalition to restrain him and ended up by getting nothing but the blame at the end of the process.
It may be that the United States is strong enough to shrug off any consequences of the actions it intends to take. Britain may not be in as strong a position.
If there is a war, it is likely to be quick. It may not be, but it is likely to be. Even if there is a quick win, what will the result be? I am sure that the Iraqi people—those who survive—will welcome the overthrow of the current regime, but we have no answers to the question of how Iraq will be governed, who will govern it and whether the internal struggles that might result will spill over into neighbouring states in a way that might be a threat to international peace and security. I am sure that the ruling elites in the neighbouring states will welcome the overthrow of Saddam, but what of their peoples? They will see double standards: action to uphold UN resolutions on Iraq, but no action to uphold UN resolutions on Israel and Palestine. Many will regard that as anti-Islam. From my personal knowledge of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, I know that there is not one jot of truth in that view in terms of British Government policy; however, I cannot necessarily say the same for the United States.
People in the middle east recognise that the current Administration in the United States are in power partly because of the support of Christian fundamentalists, some of whom publicly believe that the borders of Israel should be extended to take in all the land of the Palestinians. That leaves millions of Muslims angry, and moderate Muslims in despair, because they feel let down by nation states and the United Nations. As we know, an additional minority will resort to terrorism. Military action against Iraq will be a principal recruiting sergeant for terrorism, and al-Qaeda will be delighted if the United States and Britain go to war.
There are also wider consequences: the threat to the fragile world economy, and a boost to the right-wing United States unilateralists, who think that the new world order should consist of them issuing the orders. The rest of the world will, in future, be waiting nervously to see who will be the next target for such treatment.
No. Meanwhile, nothing will be done to strengthen the United Nations' ability to act as the United Nations. Nothing will be done to counter terrorism, to contain the spread of weapons of mass destruction, or—most important of all—to give the UN the power to undermine and remove tyrannous regimes, which is currently beyond its competence.
With all that in mind, I do not believe that there is a case for immediate military action on the scale envisaged. It will inevitably lead to the loss of life of, and permanent physical and mental injury to, British troops and innocent Iraqi people. That cannot be justified at this time, and certainly not without the explicit prior consent of the United Nations and this House of Commons. Even then, I, for one, would be doubtful of the consequences.
I should make it clear at the outset that my hon. Friends and I will support the Government in the Division Lobby this evening. The Government have said that this motion is not a vote for war, but we are under no illusion about the fact that it is a further step along a route that might end in war. We do not support such a motion lightly, therefore, because we are well aware of the consequences that might flow from it. Indeed, all right hon. and hon. Members will be deeply conscious of the fact that thousands of servicemen are on their way to the Gulf, and we know what the consequences for them may be. I remark parenthetically that among those going to the Gulf are the two Irish regiments: the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Guards. Consequently, well in excess of 1,000 people from Northern Ireland—and, indeed, a not insignificant number from the Republic of Ireland—will shortly be deployed in the Gulf.
Time is pressing, and I want to make just a few short and simple points. We have no doubt about the nature of the regime in Iraq. I was amazed at the comment by Mr. Galloway, who referred to Texas as the execution chamber of the world. Does he know nothing about Iraq? Does he know nothing about what has happened in Baghdad in the past 30 years? That was an appalling statement for him to make, and he needs to look at the regime that he has befriended a little more clearly.
We have no doubt about the threat, about the wars that have been started, or about the weapons of mass destruction that have been accumulated, and which continue to be there. There is also no doubt about what the United Nations requires. There are United Nations resolutions that require Saddam Hussein to disarm. There has certainly been a failure to comply. There was a material breach before 1441, and there is a material breach now.
What should we do? That is the question. It is only the credible threat of force that has achieved the little progress that there has been, and that has made Saddam Hussein permit the admission of inspectors. That comes after the failure of earlier UN resolutions. All the resolutions in the 1990s failed. The UN and the world community allowed themselves to be bluffed and manoeuvred out of Iraq. Against that background, 1441 had to be clear, and backed up by a credible threat of force. That credible threat has to be maintained.
The paradox is that, in order to obtain compliance with UN resolutions, there has to be the threat of force. Unless Saddam Hussein complies, it is inevitable that that force will have to be used. The time involved may be long or short, but hon. Members who have supported the UN and its resolutions, including 1441, must be aware that, as a consequence, they must support the credible use of force, right down to the point of its use. If they fail to do so, they will weaken the UN gravely.
The UN has been weakened badly enough by the failures of the 1990s. It has again set its hand to trying to carry through its will in this matter, and it must succeed. If not, enormous damage will be done to the possibility that the UN can be credible in the future, and that will have implications for world peace. The paradox is that those who want peace and a UN that succeeds in the world must therefore support the Government, right down to the use of force if that becomes necessary.
I appreciate that some people find that difficult to live with. Some of those who are reluctant to go down the route that I have described are well meaning, and others are engaged in wishful thinking. We have seen some evidence of that in the debate.
Other people are influenced by less noble motives. I have been distressed by the degree of anti-Americanism that has been expressed in the debate, and the personal hostility to the President. I consider that wholly misplaced. I have been appalled at some of the comments about President Bush, and at the false caricature of him that has been presented. I base that opinion not only on the fleeting personal acquaintance that I have had with him, but on what he has said and done over the past couple of years, which I have looked at closely.
The record is clear, especially in the period since
People have been concerned about what will happen in Iraq and the region if force has to be used. However, we must realise that the region is highly unstable. That is another of the lessons of
This is a complex issue, and I cannot go far into it in the couple of minutes remaining to me, but we need to ask ourselves what we can do about it. If there were no oil in the region, there would be a series of failed states there. The region has failed to deal with the challenge of modernisation.
I emphasise that I am talking about the middle east region as a whole and the Arab states there, not about Islam. A distinction must be drawn between Islam and what is happening in the middle east in respect of a particular and virulent strand of that religion. That strand is a distortion of Islam.
We need to ask why modernisation has failed. Saddam grew out of the Ba'ath socialist party, although he is, in fact, a crude anti-Semitic nationalist. Why have such people obtained and retained power? How do we change that?
I am not just talking about regime change, but asking how we change the culture in the middle east and the orientation of those states because, until we do that, we will not achieve stability. Just talking about the problem in Israel and Palestine is not terribly helpful. That problem cannot be dealt with in isolation. It is part of the instability generally, and dealing with that instability generally will make it easier to deal with Israel and Palestine; but we cannot deal with that in isolation.
The issue this evening is whether we support the Government in what they are doing—whether we want the UN resolutions to be enforced. That is the challenge. The resolutions have got to be complied with or enforced—if not complied with, then enforced—and that has to be done as and when we can to maintain the threat, and it may have to be done soon.
Most people would agree that war can be justified only when all other options have been exhausted, and it is my view that we have not reached that point. There is still an alternative to war: the weapons inspection process, set in place by UN Security Council resolution 1441 last November.
Dr. Blix made the point—as did the Liberal Democrat spokesman earlier—that there have been eight years of inspections since 1991, followed by a four-year gap, and that there have now been inspections for just so many weeks. As Dr. Blix says, with characteristic understatement, to call it a day after just 13 weeks is a little short. It is indeed; I would go further and say that it is wrong.
During his statement to the House earlier this month on contingency preparations, I suggested to the Secretary of State for Defence that the threat to world security from Iraq is less while the weapons inspectors are in place. In many ways, my views have been strengthened by the reports of Dr. Blix and Dr. el-Baradei.
In essence, as the House is aware, Dr. Blix is largely positive about what he calls Iraq's co-operation on process, but he has identified shortcomings in Iraq's co-operation on substance. In that respect, the tone of his report of
The truth is that the weapons inspections process has far from outlived its usefulness. Weapons inspections are still a viable alternative to military action, and the process should be pursued until either it is concluded successfully or it is clear that the inspections cannot usefully continue.
As an aside, I would make a point in response to the argument that inspections have taken place for 12 years. After all, it is legitimate to ask what has happened during those 12 years. Has Iraq attacked, or threatened to attack, its neighbours or the wider world? When we talk about those 12 years, we should not pretend that they were 12 years of total failure. From an international viewpoint, there was the effective containment of Saddam Hussein, and containment in those circumstances is not necessarily a bad policy.
I do not want the House to misunderstand me; it is clear that Saddam Hussein is brutal dictator. I am not advocating that the status quo should exist in perpetuity, and we must deal with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
I very much agree with the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making, but, if I remember correctly, President Clinton made exactly the same point about the success of the arms inspections at last October's Labour party conference, and many members of the current Cabinet were nodding vigorously behind him.
We are in broad agreement that, certainly, the inspections process should not be concluded at this point.
Turning to the future, I am not in a position to assess the strength of opposition that the Iraqi regime can mount against the military might of the US, supported by Britain and any other states that might fight alongside us. But regardless of the intensity and duration of a war in Iraq, it would not be surprising if sustaining a new regime within a framework acceptable to the victors was far more demanding in terms of resources and what could be achieved politically. Reports of the plans for Iraq after military action show the scale of what we have in mind.
Neither would I want to guess what support there is for Saddam Hussein in Iraq—possibly the vast majority will welcome his overthrow—but it is certainly true that many people in the wider world will deeply resent a military attack, especially if it is not explicitly authorised by the UN. A leading figure in the international Muslim community who was visiting Edinburgh last year told me that an attack on Iraq will be seen by many Muslims throughout the world as an attack on a second Muslim country after Afghanistan. It would certainly not be a surprise if the new regime in Iraq were a target for Muslim radicals throughout the world.
More broadly, without a second resolution we can be confident that war on Iraq would be detrimental to the international coalition against terrorism that has been built up since
What are the options before us? We can all agree that the most desirable outcome is full Iraqi co-operation with weapons inspectors and the peaceful dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. That would be a victory for the United Nations and for the stance taken by the United States and our Prime Minister. A second scenario is military action that is not endorsed by the United Nations. Some may say that resolution 1441 gives authority for military action, and if Iraq is in breach, any resulting military action can be described as being authorised by the UN. However, France, China and Russia made it clear when that resolution was passed that they did not consider their support for the resolution as constituting endorsement of future military action. Given the views of those three states, the realpolitik is that an attack on Iraq will be seen by the world as authorised by the international community only if it is backed by a further resolution from the United Nations. If military action is clearly endorsed by the UN, I imagine that most Labour Members will go along with it. While many people worldwide would resent the attack, explicit authorisation by the UN would reduce the scale of opposition.
I am sorry, but I would rather not because of the time remaining.
A second resolution would demonstrate unequivocally to Iraq and the wider world that any military action was based on international agreement and was properly authorised by the only institution in the world that has the authority to do so: the United Nations.
I respect the motives of my right hon. Friends, and I do not question the seriousness of the issues about which the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon. However, to register my concern that the US and British Governments are, on the face of it, rushing to war too quickly, and to make it clear that military action without further explicit UN support is unacceptable, I intend to vote for the amendment of my right hon. Friend Mr. Smith.
This may be the last opportunity to vote on a substantive motion before British forces are committed to war. If so, those of us who disagree with a war policy will find it much more difficult to express our views. It is therefore important that we take advantage of this debate to do so.
Mr. Trimble has spoken about anti-Americanism, which troubles me, too. I am disturbed by the fact that I cannot support the American position on this matter. I have always attached huge importance to the relationship with the United States. I have long-standing and close relations with that country. I am bound to say, however, that I believe it to be wrong on this matter. I understand the American position, which is not crude or unworthy of respect. It is not about oil or about completing what a previous President left undone; in fact, I think that he was right to stop the Gulf war when he did in 1991. This is different.
War is wrong. I want to explain my reasons for saying that in four brief ways. First, a Security Council resolution is highly desirable, but it does not make what otherwise is wrong, right. It may provide legal cover, to use the phraseology of my right hon. Friend Mr. Ancram, but that is not sufficient.
Secondly, I am deeply troubled by the morality of what we are about to do. Here I find myself adopting the language—although perhaps less eloquently—of my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer. As we were reminded by Mr. Smith, war involves injury and death—maybe of thousands—and the devastation of a country. We really must not do that unless all other policy options are closed. Above all, we must not do that unless we can properly invoke the doctrine of self-defence. I accept that the doctrine of self-defence has to be given an enlarged meaning: one does not wait until one is attacked. However, one must be able to say that the risk to one's own country, to the country of one's friends and allies, or to the world is imminent and grave. In all conscience, I do not think that we can say that about Iraq. The policy of deterrence has worked these past 12 years and I believe that it will continue to work in future. I am therefore not satisfied as to the morality of our action.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member's last point. Does he agree that a risk that is clearly imminent and grave is the terrorist risk, which is most likely to be precipitated by precipitate action by us?
I entirely agree; that is my third point. The consequences of any war are likely to be grave. They include the risk of increased terrorism, to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention. They also include: turmoil in the middle east; the fact that Islamic opinion throughout the world will be deeply affronted; and the certainty that we will be involved in, and preoccupied with, the affairs and administration of Iraq for years to come. Those are the predictable consequences of what we are about to do; the unpredictable consequences are probably just as grave. The risks are disproportionately great when one considers any possible benefits of conflict.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the risks of terrorism. What would be his strategy for dealing with the risk that the Iraqi regime could pass dangerous chemical or biological agents not, perhaps, to al-Qaeda, but to secular Islamic extremists?
I would pursue a vigorous policy of inspection, but I would also make it plain that, if there were any evidence of the risk that the hon. Gentleman mentions, Saddam Hussein would be the subject of attack because the principle of self-defence would properly be invoked—as it was when military action was taken in Afghanistan.
Lastly, it is very dangerous to take a democratic country to war unless the population gives its whole-hearted assent. I do not believe that that assent has been given. We shall be taking this country to war when the country does not support war. That is a perilous venture.
For all the reasons that I have outlined, I am against war. I shall vote for the amendment and I shall vote against the Government's position. I very much hope that many other right hon. and hon. Members will do so as well.
In 1991, I stood at the Opposition Dispatch Box and described what I had seen on the mountains of Iran and Iraq when the Kurds fled from the bombardment of Saddam Hussein. I am afraid that people have very short memories. The scenes were appalling and typical of the attacks made by the Iraqi regime on its own people. The victims include Arabs as well as Kurds. They also include Assyrians, Turkomans and the Shi'as in the south of the country who were forced to flee from the marshes into Iran.
I have spent the past two days travelling and I have come back for this debate so that I can tell the House what I have seen and heard. As the House knows, I have continually argued the case over the years for indicting the regime for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. I am grateful to 201 of my colleagues on both sides of the House who supported my proposal. I believe that the regime should be removed and that it could have been removed by using international law and indictment. It is a great regret to me that this country, which could have led the way, did not do so. After two years of our making the case and providing evidence from the victims of the regime, the Attorney-General felt that there was not sufficient evidence. I do not know how much evidence one needs, because it abounds. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have the evidence, and the Kurds captured documents from the torture centre that they eventually liberated. Thousands of their citizens died there.
On my latest visit, I opened the first genocide museum in Iraq. It was snowing and quite dark on that day and people had come from all over the area. Their relatives had died in that torture chamber. Inside the museum were photographs that the Kurds had taken. The images were of skulls and shreds of clothing, and of the type of thing that one sees in genocide museums elsewhere in the world. I have been to similar museums in Rwanda and Cambodia, and I have seen the holocaust exhibition in London, but I am afraid that, on this occasion, I just cried. I do not think that I have ever cried in public before, but I did so because the regime's victims were all around me. One old woman came up to me with a piece of plastic and pushed it into my hand. I unwrapped it and saw three photographs. They were of her husband and two sons who had died in that torture centre.
People had written things on the cell walls. Sometimes the writing was in blood and sometimes it was just marks to cross off the days of the week. Inside one cell is a statue of a Peshmerga, whose face looks upward towards a grill through which the light comes. I was told that that Peshmerga had died in that cell and that he was always looking towards the light, because he hoped that, one day, he would be out in the daylight again.
The victims were all around me, and I have been involved for 25 years—including before I became a politician—with the Iraqi opposition. For those 25 years, I have heard the tales of Saddam Hussein's regime and its repression of the Kurds and other minorities. People seem to think that that all came to an end in 1991, but that is a big mistake. Repression, torture and ethnic cleansing have continued throughout the time since then.
On my latest visit, I met some of the victims of torture who had, in the past few months, come out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad under the so-called amnesty. One man told me stories that I hardly like to repeat, but we at Indict have taken victims' statements over the past seven years. This victim was a youngish man who said that he had been in prison for eight years. He said that almost every day, people were executed at that prison—not one person, but hundreds. When there was an attack on Uday Hussein's life some time ago, 2,000 prisoners in the prison were executed on the same day. That is the reality of Saddam's Iraq. When I hear people calling for more time, I say "Who will speak up for those victims?"
I shall recount only two stories told by the same man. He told me that a university professor gave birth at the Abu Ghraib prison while he was there. Apparently, because of the very poor diet of thin soup and bread, she did not have enough milk to feed the baby when it was born. She begged the guards for milk, but they refused to give it and the baby died. She held that baby in her arms for three days and would not give up the body. At the end of the three days, because the temperature in the prison was very hot—some 60° C—the body began to smell. They took the woman and her dead baby away. I asked the former prisoner what happened to her and he said that she was killed.
The man then talked about a young boy aged 15 who had done something or other and was in the prison, and fainted during one of the torture sessions—he was beaten so hard that he fainted. The guards pinned him up to the frame of a window and crucified him on the window frame while he was still alive. When he came to, he was crying out for water, but nobody would give him water. One of the other prisoners threw water in his face, but that prisoner was himself taken away and beaten.
Ethnic cleansing goes on all the time. I visited a UN camp where there were hundreds of recent victims of ethnic cleansing who had been kicked out of Kirkuk. The men, women and little children in the camp had been told that they had 24 hours to get out of Kirkuk because they would not agree that they were not Kurds, but Arabs, as part of Arabisation. In other countries, we have taken action against people responsible for ethnic cleansing, so I say to my colleagues, please, who is to help the victims of Saddam Hussein's regime unless we do?
I believe in regime change. I say that without hesitation, and I will support the Government tonight because I think that they are doing a brave thing.
No one would doubt the sincerity and long-standing commitment of Ann Clwyd to the Kurdish people. I only wish that I could believe that many of those who are planning military action have the same sincere concern about the hopes and aspirations of the Kurdish people. Although I oppose military action, as I am about to outline, I hope that the question of Turkish deployment in the Kurdish areas is well understood by the people who are planning military action, as well as the consequences that might follow.
There is one point on which I agree with Mr. Galloway and one on which I disagree with him strongly. The point of agreement is that, without any question, people should understand that this debate is going to be the crucial one as far as war is concerned. The shadow Foreign Secretary said—perhaps this admission would not have been made by the Foreign Secretary—that the resolution before the United Nations and the Government motion are cover resolutions. That is how he described them. I took that to mean that although they do not mention war or military action—even the new UK resolution at the Security Council does not do that and the Government's motion certainly does not do so—if they were passed at the Security Council and here, they would be taken as a green light for military action. No one who votes or does not vote tonight should be under any illusions that this is the opportunity to slow down the process if people want to do that. If that opportunity is not taken, it ain't going to come again.
There is another reason for that which we should understand as well. The procedures of this place do not always allow for the sort of vote that we are fortunate to have this evening. Not for the first time in his fairly short time as Speaker, our Speaker has taken an unusual course in selecting a genuine all-party amendment that gives hon. Members a chance to vote on an issue of principle that goes across the parties. I am proud to speak for my party and for Plaid Cymru in supporting and co-sponsoring the amendment tabled by Mr. Smith. That type of amendment will not necessarily be allowed to emerge again under our procedures, so let us make no mistake—this is the opportunity for hon. Members who wish to do so to vote to slow up the march to war.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin said some fairly savage things about President Bush. I do not agree. I can understand that view in terms of the policy of the American Administration, but I tend to look at the matter slightly differently. I see that Mr. Dalyell is looking puzzled. He is probably the only Member who was a Member of Parliament when Barry Goldwater ran for President of the United States in 1964. He ran under the argument that America could win a pre-emptive war against the Soviet Union if it was strong enough in nuclear weapons. His slogan was, "In your heart, you know he's right". The Democrat reply was, "In your guts, you know he's nuts". Thankfully for all of us, the Democrats were successful in that election. I am not arguing that that is President Bush's position, but when I listen to Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and other people who are central to that Administration, the words of the Democrat party in 1964 are very meaningful to me—in my guts I think they are nuts. They are trying to apply a management school theory about dominating companies and markets to international politics. They argue that America must exert its power in every sphere of influence, regardless of any consequences. That argument, which would have been regarded as extremism only a few years ago, now holds sway in key parts of the American Administration.
I differ with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin on the reason why that argument is central to the Administration. It is due not to a deep-laid plot by George W. Bush, but to the consequences of
That is where the Prime Minister is heavily culpable. As the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury told the Prime Minister yesterday in a telling intervention, it is the job of a candid friend to tell his friend the truth in times of crisis. That is particularly so in this case given that the friend, America, is gripped in the trauma of the aftermath of
That was if the weapons inspectors said that their process had ended. According to the transcript, the Prime Minister said that if the majority of the Security Council adopted a second resolution and it was blocked by one country's unreasonable veto, he would consider the use of force. It is significant that neither the Prime Minister yesterday nor the Foreign Secretary today was prepared to stand even on that position. The Prime Minister is no longer in control of events; they are controlling him.
Let us consider morality. The Prime Minister is a religious man and I respect that. It does him great credit. I have nothing like his record of church going or observance. However, I, too, have faith and conviction. I believe that if an immoral and unjust war takes place, with thousands of casualties and the spilling of innocent blood, the person responsible for arguing for it will answer one day to a much higher authority than the House of Commons.
All hon. Members know that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. He is a brutal dictator who has committed genocide and used poison gas against his people. He launched a war against Iran that resulted in more than 1 million people being killed. He invaded Kuwait and, when he left, caused an environmental disaster by torching the oilfields. I have no doubt that he has weapons of mass destruction and I fully accept that he has not complied with United Nations resolutions. With the rest of the civilised world, I believe that the Iraqi people would be well rid of such a person.
However, do my comments explain the reasons for America and the United Kingdom making a pre-emptive strike? I regret to say that I am not convinced. I fully support working through the UN, although I can envisage circumstances in which the USA, the United Kingdom or any other country took unilateral action, for example, if they perceived their national interest to be under threat. After 9/11, the civilised world united in its determination to combat and root out international terrorism. We rightly identified al-Qaeda as the main proponent and rightly took action against the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harbouring that organisation.
Since our action in Afghanistan, we have realised that we failed to obliterate al-Qaeda, and America appears to have lost the plot. Instead of pursuing terrorists, who live in the shadows and kill indiscriminately in the shopping malls of Tel Aviv and the bars of Bali, we are seeking a change of Government in Iraq on the basis that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who will not comply fully with UN resolutions. That is an unconvincing justification for a dangerous course of action.
President Bush referred to Iraq, North Korea and Iran as the axis of evil. What will we do about North Korea, which is ruled by an equally ruthless dictator and also has weapons of mass destruction? Everybody knows that the Chinese will not allow the Americans to interfere in North Korea's affairs. What will we do about Iran?
As I have said previously, 50 per cent. of the electorate in my constituency are Muslims. My support for the American ethos and my belief that, overall, America has been more a force for good than evil in the world does not always win me great support among my Muslim constituents. However, I must tell my many friends in America that I believe that they are about to make a disastrous mistake. With great respect to them, I do not believe that they understand the Islamic world. The current American Administration does not appreciate the consequences in the Muslim world of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. If America, supported by the United Kingdom, launches a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, Saddam Hussein will overnight become a hero—a martyr—of the Muslim world despite the fact that he is not a hero now because he runs a secularist rather than a fundamentalist regime.
What will be the consequences in adjoining countries? We need to remember that bin Laden comes from the Saudi royal family. He left Saudi Arabia to form the al-Qaeda organisation because he believed that the house of Saud was giving America too much support by allowing it to have bases in a country that is home to the great places of worship for all Muslims. What will happen if a regime change takes place in Iraq and the house of Saud comes under attack from within its own country? Will America commit itself to stationing a large number of troops, for however many years, in Iraq and Saudi Arabia? If so, what will that do to opinion in the Muslim world? What will happen to the Mubarak regime in Egypt? I accept that it is not a pleasant regime, but it is pro-western and greatly vulnerable to attack from within. What will happen to that country?
I strongly support the war against international terrorism, but America, Britain and the rest of the western world would be well advised to give more attention to why international terrorists emerge. They do not suddenly come out of the sky. International terrorists are born in the squalid, teeming refugee camps of Gaza, the west bank and along the Azad-Kashmir border. Young people living in those camps are without a country, a job, a future or any hope. They are vulnerable recruits for those people who say, "You will get your reward in the next world. Just join us in the jihad against America and the west." They will join having been told that America pursues double standards and that, when convenient, will use UN resolutions to justify a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. They will also be told that when, I regret to say, it suits America and other countries in the west, a blind eye is turned to UN resolutions on the building of settlements by the Israeli Government all over the west bank and on India not carrying out a plebiscite to allow the people of Kashmir to determine their own future.
I am not by nature a rebel. It gives me no pleasure to say that I cannot support my Government in the Lobby tonight. I am proud of the enormous amount that they have achieved since coming to power. I do not support or have any love for Saddam Hussein. I want the man to go and to go soon. But—
Politicians are often accused of being out of touch with the electorate, but I have never felt so much at one with the ordinary man and woman on the street as I felt when we marched together as part of the 1 million who took to the streets on
This House must show that it is listening to the people of Britain: listening to their concerns, their fears and their hope that a peaceful solution can be found rather than our engaging in war. A war with Iraq could well escalate into a much wider regional conflict, and will surely result in increased terrorist activities in this country, in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
Many who were on the march, and many in the House, believe that the case for war has not yet been proved, that the inspectors should be given more time, and that all other options have not been exhausted. War must always be a last resort. Today's debate may be our last chance to register our concerns in the House before military action starts, and I want to record my view that the Prime Minister and George Bush are wrong. The Prime Minister may well believe absolutely in what he says, but he has not convinced me, he has not convinced many other Members of Parliament, and he has not convinced the vast majority of people out there in the country.
I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents by post, e-mail and telephone. To a man and to a woman, they say that they do not believe a case has been made for going to war. I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed and I would not absolutely rule out the use of force, but, after four years without weapons inspectors, to say that after 11 weeks we must call it a day and go to war is wrong. Hans Blix and the inspectors should have all the time they need. The UN Security Council is not united. One reason is that the pace is being forced by the British and American Governments. Strong-arm tactics and financial inducements will not strengthen any second resolution; they will weaken it.
George Bush has made clear that if there is no second resolution, he will take action anyway. That has left many feeling that the decision has already been made, and that what is happening now is just covering up for the fact that the final troop deployments are not yet in place. Negotiations with Turkey are in their final stages, and today we have heard of RAF jets stuck in Cyprus. The final pieces of the military jigsaw are not yet in place, but they will be in a few weeks, and that is when many expect military action to start.
While other nations are pushing for peace and putting their energy into trying to make the inspections work, what we are seeing from our Government is a push for war, not a push for peace. Recently we have heard much about the moral case for war and the suffering of the Iraqi people—the number who have died over the years during which Saddam has been in power—but the moral case is seriously weakened by the fact that Iraq has obtained deadly pathogens from France, the United States and Germany, including anthrax, gas gangrene and west Nile fever.
What happens when the war is over? Who is in the frame for any future administration? Included in the list of potential leading lights in the regime to follow the toppling of Saddam Hussein are people who would make the Butcher of Baghdad look good. According to an article in the Sunday Herald, they include General Nizar Al-Khazraji, who is suspected of leading the chemical attack that killed 5,000 Kurds in Halabja in 1988, and who is alleged by some eyewitnesses to have kicked a Kurdish child to death during the height of Iraqi repression in that year.
The danger of any military action spreading throughout the region is another reason to avoid all-out war if at all possible. If Saddam can involve other countries in any conflict, he will; and the double standards that have been applied to Israel will become even more obvious as the Israeli Government continue actions that, were they taking place in Iraq, would have justified military action for many.
There has been talk of Saddam Hussein's going into exile, but if he went into exile in, say, Sudan, would that not be used as a legitimate reason to take action against that country for harbouring him and, possibly, terrorists? Ann Clwyd made a very emotional speech. I agree that if Saddam is toppled he should go on trial, not into a life of luxury.
Saddam's past history has been cited as a reason for taking action now, but many countries—some of which are now our strongest allies—have been at war with us in the past. While a recent past record is important, it is not reason enough to go to war. The war on Iraq is also constantly linked to the war on terrorism. I ask, where is the link? Where is the evidence?
Before we go to war, any Government should have the support of the people and the support of their representatives. Today they will see what their representatives think, but tomorrow we should be aware that the people outside are still not convinced.
For me, one of the most powerful passages in the United Nations charter is not in the detail of any of its chapters but in its opening preamble:
"We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind".
The preamble did not seek a pretext for other wars, and did not seek to justify a little ritual slaughter when the mood took us. It was a declaration by the international community at the end of the second world war that we had to pursue a path where the avoidance of war and its human consequences had to be a global priority.
Against that background, I regard today's motion and the war rhetoric surrounding it as a low point in contemporary British politics. They mark the disconnection of the House from the society we claim to represent. The realities of the wider world are clear—the case for a war against Iraq remains unproven. I shall therefore vote for the amendment, and against the motion. We should look at the sorry state of our current Parliament. Increasingly, we appear to have a Government who are looking for a pretext for war, rather than its avoidance. We appear to produce dossiers of mass deception, whose claims are dismissed as risible almost as soon as they are released. We have the embarrassment of a Prime Minister whose arguments chase from one discredited case to another in the search for something that will convince the public of the case for a war in which they do not believe. If anything slightly relieves the pain for Labour it is the condition of the shadow Cabinet, whose members appear to have given up the will to live and believe that they can only be redeemed if they offer to bomb earlier and more often. That is not, however, the position of the overwhelming majority of the British public.
I have just returned from a visit to the United States and Canada, where I was part of a citizens weapons inspectorate. We went to the Edgewood research base just outside Washington, where we attempted to ask its personnel for rights of access to inspect the site and for an account of the weapons of mass destruction that they were working on. They openly acknowledged working on anthrax, plague, botulinum, ricin and cholera. If such weapons were found in Iraq, they would immediately become the basis on which President Bush would declare war.
I shall join everyone else in saying no to the offer.
All those weapons are illegal under current chemical and biological warfare conventions. That is a measure of discrepancies, if not hypocrisy, in our approach to the role and rights of inspections as a way of stabilising and securing international confidence in the removal of weapons of mass destruction. That site also manufactures non-lethal biochemical weapons, which Defence Secretary Rumsfeld referred to in his testimony to Congress on
Those were measures of the visceral feelings of gung-ho militarism that characterise the debate taking place in the USA. We ought to think carefully before wandering even partially down that path. Those are President Bush's people, who stood up following the last report of the weapons inspectors and said that the objections made by a succession of countries that did not accept that a convincing case had been made for war were not objections in principle, but the objections of countries holding out for a bigger bribe. It is clear that the US view of the UN is that it is simply a body to be bought or bypassed.
Our view must identify with the 30 million people worldwide who say no, war is not the answer, nor is it acceptable. It is not justified in the current circumstances and it would be a horrendous gift to one group and one group only: al-Qaeda. From the evidence of the past 50 years, we know that containment works and inspection works. That is the basis on which the United Nations has worked at its best. We ought not to dismiss the value of that work.
In relation to Iraq, have we found weapons of mass destruction that threaten to destroy the west? No. Have we had any threat from Iraq to destroy the west? No. In those circumstances, we should listen to our other allies in the United Nations—to Germany, France, Russia and perhaps to China—and to the inspectors. Their claims for more time, rather than more troops, are the voices that we should hear. We need inspections, not invasions.
The west and the UK must find the courage to speak out in favour of the peaceful settlement of international conflict and tension, rather than the presumption that we can drift into a war that would do nothing but scar the entire century. We owe a duty to our children and our society to find the courage to ally ourselves with those whose voices urge a peaceful solution to the issue, not a descent into warmongering.
Understandably, we have heard a great deal this afternoon about the military campaign. In the few minutes available to me, I shall say a few words about the humanitarian campaign. In a statement to the House a few days ago, the Prime Minister said that there needs to be
"a humanitarian plan that is every bit as viable and well worked out as a military plan."—[Hansard, 3 February 2003; Vol. 399, c. 36.]
The Economist recently observed that many aspects of war hanging over Iraq are unpredictable, but one is not—the unusual vulnerability of the civilian population. There are two reasons for that. First, about 60 per cent. of the population, or 16 million people, are 100 per cent. dependent on central Government for basic needs. They survive only because the Government of Iraq provides them with a food ration each month. Secondly, after two wars, decades of mismanagement and 12 years of exacting sanctions, there is no fat to rely on.
It is therefore essential not to see the military campaign and the humanitarian campaign in two separate boxes. As both Kosovo and Afghanistan have recently shown us, it cannot simply be a matter of fighting a military campaign, then announcing "end ex" and starting a humanitarian campaign the next day. Those planning military action must think about the humanitarian consequences of that action, not least how to minimise the impact of conflict on civilians. I emphasise that that is particularly important in Iraq, where huge numbers of people live in abject poverty, many families are clinging on by their fingertips, and 60 per cent. of the population is dependent on the UN oil for food programme.
Any attack on Iraq is bound to involve aerial bombing to take out military infrastructure. How confident can we be that military commanders will seek not to bomb hospitals, residential areas and vital energy sources? Targeting must take account of the vulnerability of the existing infrastructure and the weaknesses of the sanitation and water systems, for example. Every indication is that people in Iraq are just about scraping along, but any sustained disruption of sewerage systems or clean water supplies will almost certainly speedily result in disease, illness and death in large numbers in the civilian population. We have to ensure that everyone involved—the military in particular—thinks through the consequences for the men, women and children on the ground.
There are undoubtedly optimistic scenarios of what might happen, involving a short, well-targeted bombing campaign on key objectives, followed by a dash by coalition forces to seize Baghdad and Basra, the collapse of Iraqi resistance, the surrender of Iraqi troops and speedy regime change. It might be like that. It is to be hoped that any fighting—if, in due course, it comes to fighting—will be the shortest necessary to achieve the desired objectives. But history is littered with optimistic assessments that it would all be over in a matter of weeks by generals and politicians who then found themselves dug in for months or years. Military planners and humanitarian advisers have to plan for all scenarios, not just the most optimistic. I reiterate that any scenario will impact on a civilian population that is in poor shape anyway, and that any disruption of the oil-for-food programme will leave many people without the basic necessities of life. It is right that we should be cautious, because it was not easy to persuade the US military in Afghanistan to have regard to humanitarian considerations. Nine million people there were having to be fed by the World Food Programme before any military campaign began.
It is also important to reflect that this is all happening at a time when there are enormous strains on the international humanitarian system. When the Secretary of State for International Development recently gave evidence on the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa to the Select Committee, she expressed her concern that the scale of humanitarian feeding operations around the world was reaching such a level that she questioned whether the system could cope. Her concerns echoed identical points raised with the Committee only a little while ago by James Morris, the head of the UN World Food Programme. Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia gave evidence to the Select Committee. He made it clear that, notwithstanding recent generous commitments of food aid to Ethiopia—including those from the United Kingdom—unless further substantial amounts were provided by June, there would be a serious humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.
So there are already monumental food aid requirements in the Horn of Africa, throughout southern Africa and in Afghanistan. It would, therefore, be difficult for the international community to take on a further substantial food programme. There are problems with the funding of the World Food Programme, with the supply of food, and with the capacity of institutions logistically to continue to manage a massive and ever-expanding programme. The political will to do so will also be much more difficult to achieve if the international community is divided. It will be difficult to get co-ordinated European Union action on humanitarian relief when some of the larger EU member states are at considerable variance with others as to the appropriate way forward on Iraq. Countries such as France and Germany do not want to be seen to be preparing for the humanitarian campaign in a conflict to which they are opposed. If there is a conflict, it is essential that the oil-for-food programme continues to operate in the short and medium term.
What thought are our military commanders and political planners giving to the issue of refugees? In the last Gulf conflict, there were an estimated 1.8 million displaced people in Iraq, out of a population of just over 26 million. Unlike in Afghanistan, most people in Iraq live in urban centres. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there could be 900,000 refugees—100,000 in need of immediate assistance—and probably a further 500,000 displaced people in camps on the borders. It is impossible to predict just how many refugees there might be, because there are so many different potential scenarios. The UNHCR and the international community must plan for a range of possibilities and a range of numbers.
In addition to refugees, there will also be large numbers of internally displaced people in Iraq. This prompts another important question. In Afghanistan, the UN Secretary-General appointed Mr. Brahimi as his personal representative. The co-ordination of the humanitarian effort in Afghanistan is clearly under the auspices of the UN and senior UN agencies answerable to an experienced co-ordinator appointed by and answerable to the UN Secretary-General. What is going to happen in Iraq? After any conflict, will the humanitarian effort be co-ordinated by the UN? Numerous, unattributable, press briefings would tend to suggest that the intention is for the President of the United States to appoint a senior general to run Iraq, post-conflict. That would be a mistake. Afghanistan has shown how difficult it is for humanitarian relief agencies to relate to and work with the military, when the military act in any other role than as clearly designated and approved UN peacekeepers—
This is a time to do a lot of thinking about the future. Our generation is living through the biggest revolution in the history of the world—the technological, telecommunications and transport revolution. As a result, our world is a much smaller place than the world of the past. Therefore, we should recognise that we are in a stronger position to shape that world. As we enter this new century, our primary objective should be to make it the first century in the history of the world in which there is no war and no conflict.
Let us not forget that the victims of every war are the innocent civilians. Some 10 million were killed in the first world war and 40 million in the second world war. If innocent civilians are killed in a war against Iraq, their families will say, "Hussein is right and the terrorists are right. Those really are our enemies." We should be using our energies to create a peaceful and just world. If we use as much energy to do that as we would to fight a war, we would succeed far more quickly.
I ask Americans to remember the philosophies of their founding fathers. The ancestors of the present-day United States were driven from all their former countries by conflict, persecution, starvation and injustice. They decided that they did not want such things to happen in their new land—and we should remember the size of that land and how many states it has. What was their philosophy? It is one that the world needs again today and it is summed up on the American cent as "e pluribus unum". It is also writ large on the grave of Abraham Lincoln and it means that from many, we are one. The essence of our unity is respect for diversity. That is a message of real peace for the world, and I know that because of where I come from. We need respect for diversity and difference, because all conflict, no matter where it is, is about difference, be it of religion, race or nationality. The answer to difference is to respect it, because it is an accident of birth. We must get that message out.
Europe learned that lesson a while later than the United States. Who could have forecast, 50 years ago, during the worst century in the history of world, with two world wars—and 10 million killed in the first and 40 million killed in the second—that the peoples involved would gather together in a united Europe? But they have, and that is the best example in the history of the world of conflict resolution. Therefore, we should study how they did it and send that message to the world. The first principle of the European Union is exactly the same as that of the founding fathers of the United States—respect for difference and diversity—and it is backed up by institutions that respect difference and diversity, including the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the Parliament.
In the European Parliament, they work together in their common interests on areas of agreement rather than disagreement, on socio-economic development. They spill their sweat together, not their blood, and break down the barriers of centuries. That is a philosophy for the world. In today's smaller world, instead of sending soldiers, bombs and guns to kill human beings, we should send that philosophy. Because of the enormous influence of the United States and Britain in that smaller world, we could make a huge impact on it and create the first century in which there is no war and no conflict. If we used our energies to do that instead of in creating war, we would succeed far more quickly.
I profoundly disagree with what Mr. Hume has just said. To suggest that the lesson of the second world war is that one should not go to war is to fly in the face of the real lesson of that war, which is that when faced with dictators one should deal with them sooner rather than later.
What we face is, as always, the problem of democracies when dealing with dictators. I subscribe to the paradox of freedom. The paradox of freedom, sometimes called the paradox of tolerance, is that one must tolerate all but the intolerant, because if one persists in tolerating the intolerant, then the tolerant will disappear, because the conditions for toleration will cease to exist.
Let me say on the question of weapons of mass destruction the following: Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 litres of anthrax, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction. There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date. It might still exist. Either it should be found and be destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision, or else convincing evidence should be produced to show that it was, indeed, destroyed in 1991.
Those are not my words. They are the words of Dr. Blix in his report to the Security Council as recently as
I was rather sad about the refusal by Alan Simpson, who I am sorry to see has already vacated his place, to let me intervene when he was talking about the presence in north America of a biological plant, a plant that he said produces and deals with substances that are banned under the 1972 biological weapons convention. He compared that to the situation in Iraq. I have interesting news for hon. Members. There is a plant like that in this country. It is called Porton Down. Under the provisions of the 1972 biological weapons convention it does what such plants are allowed to do, which is to work on minuscule amounts of toxic substances in order to develop antidotes to them.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the United States refuses to allow international inspectors into some of its chemical plants, and is therefore breaking the chemical weapons convention?
I am not aware that the United States is breaking any such convention. I should be very happy to hear specifics from the hon. Gentleman.
What I can say is that it is wholly inappropriate and irresponsible to take a legal, permitted ability of countries that have signed the BW convention, which is to carry out research on small amounts of deadly weapons in order to develop antidotes, and compare it with what Saddam Hussein has done, which is to produce huge quantities of such weapons, use them, lie about them and, even when forced to admit that he had them all along, fail to account properly for what he did with them.
I am surprised by some of the remarks that are made by people who profess to support resolution 1441. In a debate like this I would have expected resolution 1441 to be quoted time and again. I do not think that it has been quoted at all, so I shall briefly quote it now. The resolution decides that Iraq
"has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions" and provides the
"final opportunity to comply"— not the pre-final, not the pre-pre-final, not the opportunity before the opportunity before the opportunity before the opportunity that might one day, in 12 years' time, be the final opportunity, but the
"final opportunity to comply".
No. The resolution requires
What is meant by active co-operation? It is a recognition that there is no prospect whatsoever of inspectors detecting the quantities of chemical and biological weapons that Saddam had to admit were manufactured unless he actively helps them to find them. There is no prospect of more time enabling greater discoveries.
No. The question is whether Saddam will actively assist the inspectors in finding his unaccounted stocks, and the answer to that is clearly in the negative. That is why Saddam is in breach, and why we have to look very carefully at the recommendation that we should continue to give more time. The comparison is made between 11 weeks now and 12 years in the past. The fact is that during every conflict in which this country has engaged, one could have heard arguments analogous to those that we have heard today. Plenty of people argued that it was wrong to take action against the Nazis, until it became so late that the action that had to be taken proved much more costly than that which could have been taken earlier. Had such action been taken earlier, it would have been denounced as unwarranted and pre-emptive.
It must be said that in subsequent conflicts and confrontations, many of the very same people who are arguing against action now were arguing against it then. Those who said, in advance of the action that was eventually taken against the Hitlerite regime, that no action was justified get a bad press, because they are now regarded as having had no reasonable arguments. Let me assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if we could revisit the debates that took place in this House in the 1930s, we would hear arguments for appeasement just as sophisticated as those put forward today. Those arguments were wrong then, and they are wrong now. It will be a grave mistake if people think that the cause of peace is served by always avoiding conflict. Sometimes, the only way to bring about peace is to face up to the need for conflict, and this is one of those occasions.
We are now in a phoney peace. War drums are rolling, and I approach the next few weeks with a deep sense of foreboding, but also with a great deal of respect for those in my party and in the House generally—experts, former diplomats—who come to a different conclusion, including even my hon. Friend Mr. Galloway, who made a passionate speech but offered not a scintilla of criticism of Saddam Hussein.
It is clear to me that the threat of force has indeed produced some results. The concessions made by Saddam Hussein just before the publication of Dr. Blix's report were predictable and, indeed, predicted. The fear is that a series of future benchmarks would equally lead to some grudging and minimal concessions, just before such reports were made. It is clear that force is the only language that Saddam Hussein understands, but there are many uncertainties. Different judgments will be made about the very grave cost-benefit analysis that has been made. I therefore view with respect those who take a different view. I am much less happy with those on either side of the argument who have absolutist convictions.
How did we get to this point? First, the pressure on Saddam Hussein did not begin on
I pose two critical questions. Why not give Saddam Hussein more time? Why act now?
The obvious retort to the first question is, time for what? If Dr. Blix asks for more time when he appears before the Security Council, in my judgment he should be given it. However, inspections will have limited relevance without proactive co-operation from the regime.
This is not a treasure hunt. The test is whether the Saddam Hussein regime is co-operating with the weapons inspectors. Resolution 1441 was wholly unambiguous. It required a complete declaration. Clearly, there were major gaps in the dossier produced on
There have been 12 years of diplomacy. It is 12 years to the day since Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to retreat from Kuwait. There have been years of inspection and sanctions. How long can that go on? Resolution 1441 talked of
"immediate, unconditional and active co-operation".
Do any colleagues in the House believe that what has happened over the four months since 1441 was passed amounts to
"immediate, unconditional and active co-operation"?
The second question that I posed was, why now? Clearly there is valid concern about extending the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence. Its implications for international law are potentially very dangerous indeed. The US has been only too ready to push the doctrine to the limits. There has not been sufficient debate on the subject, but we have to accept that weapons of mass destruction pose new challenges that current international law does not meet.
If Saddam Hussein were to obtain nuclear capacity—and he came fairly close to doing so—and then invaded Kuwait, he could, from an almost impregnable position, challenge the international community to dislodge him. North Korea is relatively invulnerable now, for similar reasons. Equally, Saddam Hussein's hostility to the west means that there is a very serious danger that, at some time, he could pass chemical and biological weapons to terrorist networks.
Would any war be a just war? As a Christian, I welcome the contributions from the archbishops. It is right that they should draw our attention to just war principles, but that invites questions about their role. Those principles are there to make us think morally, but they have certain ambiguities. The archbishops acknowledge that those who must make the decisions have access to information that better enables them to answer questions such as, "Have all other options been exhausted? Will a war be effective?" In the final analysis, we are dealing not with absolutes but with judgments, based on the available facts, including intelligence facts.
Is war inevitable in the next few weeks? We have left Saddam Hussein a number of exit doors, and thus far he has refused to use them. The tempo of Dr. Blix is increasing. He has demanded that the missiles be destroyed. How will Saddam Hussein respond to that test? What has happened to the 1.5 tonnes of VX agents, the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals and the more than 30,000 special munitions? We know that the Iraqis are normally punctilious in their record keeping. If they have destroyed those munitions, fine, there must be records and evidence, but none has been produced in the past four months.
As for the scientists, the human factor is the weak link. Of course there is an aura of extreme intimidation of those scientists. If there is nothing to hide, why has Saddam Hussein gone to such trouble to prevent the scientists from being interviewed openly?
How should we operate in the next few weeks? We have to realise what is at stake: of course, it is the credibility of the UN, which has given a final opportunity. There can be no debate about the word "final". What should happen? Clearly, we have to focus on disarmament, not on regime change. We have to maintain maximum pressure, and not be forced by a military timetable.
Finally, my view is that the Prime Minister took a strategic decision to stand alongside President Bush, and that has had positive effects. It was a courageous decision. It has given my right hon. Friend unique leverage, which should now be used to ensure that diplomatic options are pursued to an end. War is truly the last resort, but after 12 years, that "final opportunity" cannot go on indefinitely.
I should like to pay tribute not only to Mr. Anderson whom I follow in the debate, but to the enormously powerful speech made by Ann Clwyd, who is sadly no longer with us. [Interruption.] Anyone who could doubt the moral elements of those remarks would clearly be challenged to make a more arresting or clearer case for what has been going on in Iraq at the moment.
During the last Gulf war, I, as usual, was stuck in Northern Ireland, but I saw many of my colleagues disappear to fight in the Gulf, with a spring in their step and with a light heart. They felt that they were going to be involved in a cause that was supported by the nation and a war that was justified and had moral, religious and political backing. Most of them, of course, had not seen battle before, but when they came back they were a different generation. Very few of them were killed in action. Some were killed, sadly, by the American air force, and a very few were killed by the enemy.
I am conscious of the fact that I am in the company of my hon. Friend Hugh Robertson, who was actually there, but I do not think that any of them who had killed a fellow man approached life in the same way again. [Interruption.] I hear the word "good" coming from the Labour Benches—quite right. Any hon. Member who has seen the pictures that have been shown recently of the killing on the Basra road cannot doubt what the consequences of war are.
I can clearly recall teaching a young naval officer at the staff college who had had the miserable opportunity of firing eight missiles into Iraqi gunboats. He freely admitted that the first one was challenging. There was a sense of elation when his missile struck home, and every member of the crew was killed. When he got back to his ship, the reaction began to set in. By the time that he was flying against his sixth, seventh and even eighth target, he was heartily sick of the whole prospect.
No hon. Member wants war, and the House needs to remember that, if we go to war, some of our young men and women will not come back, and probably tens of thousands of our enemies—I use the term advisedly—will die in this war. Some of them will be guilty, some innocent.
To that end, after much thought and much soul searching, despite the Government's wholly inconsistent arguments, I have come to believe that war has got to be credibly threatened, that the forces have got to be put in place, and that nothing except a cohesive and unified approach to war may allow peace to prevail.
I referred to the inconsistent arguments. Where has the argument about terrorism gone? Until a few weeks ago, it was one of the linchpins of the Government's case. Today, interestingly, no Front-Bench Member mentioned it. One or two speeches have referred to terrorism, and it is interesting to note that, without doubt, the events of
So far this country has remained relatively untouched by such terrorism. I ask the House to remember exactly what happened 10 days or so ago. There was a major alert. For the first time in 10 years, light tanks were seen at Heathrow airport, troops were patrolling fly lines, and it was clear that there was a severe threat. Let us bear in mind the fact that, so far, in this country, only one policeman has been killed in the war on terrorism. The House is naive, however, if it does not remember that our intelligence agencies cannot give us the clear and unequivocal evidence necessary.
I do not believe that Saddam Hussein poses an imminent threat to his neighbours, to surrounding countries or to British possessions overseas. I am convinced, however—I may be alone in saying this—that he is behind much of the terrorist activity that goes on throughout the world. I believe, as I have said previously, that the House is unnecessarily hung up on the name bin Laden. I would not for one moment try to suggest that there is a direct connection between
I end on this note: if we are to avoid war, we must try to be unified in our credible threat of force. The regime with which we are dealing is an evil one, which is bent on destruction. I fear that we must accept that, as we pursue this course, we will be more and more vulnerable to the sort of terrorism that I have mentioned. We must not be cowed or bullied, however, and we must stand up to terrorists as well as tyrants; only by being unified can we succeed.
Like others who are waiting to be called to speak, I have listened to every speech and have tried to understand the way in which people have been reading between the lines. Although the sentiments of many hon. Members who spoke to the amendment are compatible with my own, I differ from them in my understanding of what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said.
Some hon. Members have had virulent words to say about George Bush but not about Saddam Hussein. I understand their fears and concerns—perhaps not those to do with George Bush, but certainly those to do with people around him, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Some mornings, I have got up and thought, "My God. We're going to war today." There is tension because we could, at any time, find ourselves dragged into a war.
I shall vote for the motion this evening. I have been asked to take note of the Command Paper, which is a factual and straightforward document. It reminds us that the story began in 1991—in particular with paragraphs 7 to 14 of part C of resolution 687. Had that resolution been followed at the time, the Government of Iraq would have reported in full on its weapons of mass destruction.
Would my hon. Friend confirm that resolution 687 also calls for the creation of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the middle east, which would entail the end of Israel's nuclear arsenal?
Of course I will confirm that. Having read the resolution, I am not surprised by my hon. Friend's point. However, it was Saddam Hussein who launched an unprovoked attack on Kuwait, so the world community was justified in wanting to see his weapons of mass destruction destroyed. Under resolution 687, the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council were given 45 days to set up a special commission, and a further 120 days to lay out the process of verification of the report made by Saddam Hussein. We know that by 1999, after a great deal of harassment, the inspectors decided that they could not carry on with their work and withdrew.
In the meantime, there was the no-fly zone policy, which provided for containment. It seemed to me that Saddam Hussein was quite happy with that. It left him, his family and his collaborators in power, living a life of wealth and luxury that the vast majority of his citizens could not even begin to dream about; and it meant that he was able to terrorise and kill people as he pleased, as my hon. Friend Ann Clwyd graphically described. Thousands died every year in a state that did not comply with a United Nations resolution that could have solved the problem. The resolution could also have solved other problems in the wider middle east, by creating a nuclear-free zone. I think that all of us would like to see that.
At the outset of this debate, the Foreign Secretary reassuringly said that there would be another vote in this House at, or around, the time that the second resolution was being put to the United Nations. I also got a clear feeling that there would be a vote before we went to war. I will support the motion tonight, but there should be a second United Nations resolution and a vote in this House to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein. There is a possibility of sorting out this terrible démarche peacefully. However, there are moments when my heart begins to stop because of the actions of, in particular, the people around George Bush, who would lead us into a war.
Several speakers have deliberately overlooked a crucial point: the inspectors still have an important role in reporting to the United Nations about the credibility or otherwise of their efforts in Iraq. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:
"If Saddam is willing genuinely to co-operate, the inspectors should have up to July, and beyond July—as much time as they want."—[Hansard, 25 February 2003; Vol. 400, c. 125.]
With those words echoing in my mind, I am happy to support the Government in the knowledge that we shall have further opportunities to debate the issue. If Dr. Blix reports that he is receiving co-operation from Saddam Hussein's regime, he will be given the time that he needs to carry out the inspections and to reveal the weapons of mass destruction. We can be thankful that the issue has been pushed to this point.
Like many people, I believe that the consequences of any war are incredibly difficult to judge. I have been involved in encouraging efforts to find a resolution to the Christian-Muslim conflict in Indonesia, where people are deeply fearful that a war in Iraq could result in a total upset of the work being done to try to maintain good relations between Muslims and Christians in that country. The Government of Indonesia believe that it would be extremely difficult to control extremists and prevent them from getting the upper hand there. We already have the experience of the Bali bombing.
There is a tremendous amount at stake in the debate and the votes that follow it. However, from what my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have said—particularly from what the Prime Minister said yesterday—I believe that the inspectors will have the time to resolve the problem peacefully. In that context, I am very happy to support the Government tonight.
The Prime Minister's position last July when he first talked of supporting President Bush in regime change in Iraq was followed by an apparent failure to recognise the growing public disquiet at what is effectively a headlong rush to a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. The world does not feel a safer place than it did last July.
I am disgusted—I know that my constituents are, too—by the propagandist manoeuvrings to which we as a people and as a Parliament have been subject. It does not matter how often the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Foreign Secretary mouth the words "weapons of mass destruction", "anthrax" and "VX"; so far, none has been found and no intent to use them has been displayed.
Yesterday, I asked the House of Commons Library for a briefing note. While the Prime Minister continues to speak of weapons of mass destruction, it is important that we examine the scientific evidence for the likelihood of their being there. The Library says that
"it is impossible to completely prevent the deterioration of chemicals regardless of the environmental and storage precautions taken."
I shall be coming to anthrax in a moment.
The Library briefing continues:
"Thus water contamination can be a problem, even if the available water is very small. Fluctuating temperatures that cause condensation can cause a problem."
Various obstacles were encountered in ensuring the stability of chemical and biological agents and preventing their deterioration even when the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom had their own chemical and biological weapons programmes. In some instances, the addition of a stabiliser to a nerve agent or other chemical agents to prevent decomposition or deterioration can lengthen their lifetime.
"The British Government alleged in its dossier on Iraq's WMD programmes that Iraq had the knowledge and capability to add stabiliser, although there are question marks as to whether Iraq actually succeeded in deploying such a capability."
Those are not my words, but those of the Library.
Undoubtedly, by the time of the Gulf war in early 1991, Iraq had developed advanced chemical and biological weapons programmes, but few sources believe that Iraq continued to produce such weapons during the 1990s while the UN inspection process was under way, even though the existence of an offensive biological weapons programme came to light only in 1995. Therefore, between 1991 and 1998, Iraq would have been dependent on existing stocks produced prior to 1991, which would have deteriorated to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the nature of the agent in question. Thus the main question mark over Iraq's current capability centres on whether it resumed the production of chemical and biological weapons following the departure of the United Nations Special Commission in December 1998.
Glen Rangwala, an Iraq analyst at Cambridge university, has compiled views on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction capabilities. His website examines the claims for each of the various weapons and makes very interesting reading. He says:
"If Iraq had a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons in 1998, it must consist of items produced prior to 1991. Not even the British government claims that Iraq was engaged in the active production of chemical or biological weapons in the period of weapons inspections (1991 to 1998)".
Will the hon. Lady tell us whether the person whose work she is quoting is a scientist or a political academic whose main interest is the politics of the west bank?
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I understand that the academic in question has a scientific background, but I would be very happy to ensure that she gets the full details of the information that I have. It would certainly be very surprising if he were simply an analyst without any scientific background.
Glen Rangwala goes on to deal with anthrax. I asked the Library about anthrax because the Government have always indicated that anthrax is measured in litres and I was interested in that point. It seems that Iraq has almost always deployed anthrax as wet anthrax. In those circumstances, it is extremely unlikely that that anthrax is still a weapons-grade material. There have been arguments about the storage of anthrax, which is why we need weapons inspectors to examine the situation. A report published on
"wet anthrax from . . . the 1989–90 period—if stored properly—would still be infectious."
None the less, it would have to be stored properly, and the suggestion that it can be moved around is very difficult to support.
The document goes on to deal with sarin and cyclosarin, and says that both those chemicals would have deteriorated rapidly. US experts have considered chemical warfare agents that are less than 50 per cent. pure to be militarily ineffective. Indeed, the CIA has said that it is extremely unlikely that those materials are more than 18 per cent. pure.
I understand that my time is short, so I shall make my point. We are talking about weapons of mass destruction that involve chemical and biological agents. The weapons inspectors must be in there to see whether indeed those materials still exist. If they do not exist, and everything has been produced since 1998, then yes, there is an issue, but it is not clear that there is an issue in terms of weapons of mass destruction. Until we are absolutely certain about the way forward—about whether we are talking about old deteriorated weapons of mass destruction or ones that have been made more recently—we should certainly not be going to war.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this very important debate.
It is important to re-emphasise that those of us who are opposed to war in this House and across our nation are not friends of Saddam Hussein. We were against him when he invaded Iran, we opposed him when he invaded Kuwait and we spoke out against him when he used chemical weapons against his own people. Unfortunately, the UK and US Governments supported and armed him in the 1980s. I am surprised that no apology was forthcoming from Conservative Front Benchers for supporting Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons against his own people. The American Administration is extremely well informed about Iraq's weaponry. As The Scotsman pointed out last Friday, Donald Rumsfeld probably still has the receipts. Like many opponents of military action, I am proud to say that we have been friends of the Iraqi people over two decades of Saddam's rule and we remain their friends today. We are concerned about the tens of thousands of lives at risk through an attack on Iraq. That is the real moral issue that we must all face.
The overwhelming majority of people in Britain support us in sharing that sceptical view. In my constituency, my party membership is unanimously opposed to war, including the former Member of Parliament for Govan and Cabinet Minister Bruce Millan. Among the general public, people from all walks of life are openly talking about opposition to war, including Govan's most famous son, Sir Alex Ferguson. Given that we have seen more than 70,000 people gather in Glasgow alongside 1 million in London to demonstrate their opposition to war, I must ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench if they are listening to the people of Scotland and of Britain. I have not found anyone outside this House—no one among the real people whom we seek to represent—who is in favour of war. People here and around the world are clearly against war. There is no groundswell of support for military action.
The 52 African Governments expressed their opposition at their recent summit. If Al Gore had been elected President by the Supreme Court Judges instead of George W. Bush, we would have an American Administration opposed to war. Our own policy on Iraq demonstrates that the Government are not at the heart of Europe, but in the heart of President George Bush. The policies of our key European allies, led by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, are more in line with British opinion than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
The French President expressed that clearly when he said,
"there is no reason . . . to change our logic, which is the logic of peace and switch to a logic of war".
I do not doubt my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's good intentions but I disagree profoundly with his support for President Bush. I am suspicious of the genuine motive for the American position. Saddam Hussein is as great a monster today as he was 20 years ago. The only difference is that he was our monster then.
Iraq has the largest oil reserves in the world today. The American Administration is brimming with oil interests. Almost every key member, from President Bush downwards, has been heavily involved in the oil industry. The United States should not try to buy support in the United Nations Security Council. The 15 nations should be given enough objective evidence to reach a fair and independent assessment of the situation in Iraq.
The international coalition is being built with bribery and by bullying smaller nations such as Chile and Cameroon. That starkly contrasts with the joining of forces to repel Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The business press always gives the bottom line on what is really happening. Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that America was preparing to pay a high price for support in its bargaining with Turkey. The Financial Times stated that
"this time America's allies are waiting to be bought off", and that the cost would be dear in "hard cash" and "IOUs".
It is sad to see America's loyal ally, Turkey, "haggling furiously". From a first US offer of $2 billion to $3 billion and an initial Turkish demand for $92 billion, it appears that a settlement of $16 billion has been reached. Is that any way to pull a stable international coalition together? Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, puts matters more starkly. He believes that it is
"no longer a war against terrorism, it is in fact a war to dominate the world".
I recently spoke to Americans who opposed military action. They made it clear that their biggest problem is not President Bush but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If he did not support United States policy, any backing for war would collapse across the Atlantic. Those who argue that President Bush would go to war alone, without our Prime Minister's support, are wrong. President Bush needs Prime Minister Blair to sell the war in the United States. That is shown in the efforts to prove a tenuous link between al-Qaeda and Saddam, based on the presence of an al-Qaeda group in northern Iraq. It is disappointing that the fair-minded Colin Powell could present that to the United Nations as evidence.
We all know that al-Qaeda terrorists operate in Britain, the United States and many other nations. Clearly, that does not mean that our Government or any other support al-Qaeda. The claim has no credibility. Saddam and Osama bin Laden are implacable opponents. They oppose each other as much as President Bush opposes them both. We should not look for a spurious link to terrorism as an excuse for war against Iraq.
The UN weapons inspectors are in Iraq for a reason. The international community sent Dr. Blix and the skilled inspectors to do a job. They should be allowed the time that they need to complete it.
I end with a quote from the leader comment in The Guardian today:
"To go to war now would be to act without the freely given consent of the vast majority of nations; without the support of key allies; without a legally unambiguous mandate; without just cause, and against the wishes of the people of the west and the Muslim world."
I shall vote for the amendment.
Like Mr. Connarty, I spent last week in Iraq. We visited the Iraqi Parliament, refugees and hospitals. The Iraqi Kurds asked us to speak for them when we returned. They support the Prime Minister's moral policy but they asked us to raise some key questions.
The first is that Turkish troops must, at all costs, be kept out of Iraqi Kurdish territories unless the Kurds invite them, which is extremely unlikely. Their incursion would be dangerous, destabilising and unnecessary. Secondly, the Kurdish people need more specific protection during the run-up to, and during the prosecution of any war. For instance, they need gas masks. Thirdly, we must keep the period of interim military governance of Iraq very short and hand over to Iraqi Opposition leaders as soon as Saddam's murderous and evil regime falls.
I am aware that the hon. Gentleman was in Kurdistan last week. Did he get any sense of the fact that an agreement had been reached with Turkey to leave the Kurdish autonomous region alone, or is the opposite the case and the 20,000 Turkish troops on the border are poised to invade when the Americans invade from the south?
The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on an important point. The Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan is fearful that Turkish troops will go into Kurdistan, which he thinks will be extremely damaging and destabilising. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that.
The fourth key issue is that we need to keep supplies of food and medicine going into Iraqi Kurdistan during any conflict period to help the millions who depend on them. In particular, we must continue aid immediately after any conflict finishes. Fifthly, we must get the oil-for-food money flowing properly under UN resolution 986 and stop the hold ups and possible corruption of that programme. Sixthly, we must assist Iraq post-Saddam to establish a federal state that is based on a parliamentary democracy with an autonomous Kurdish region. The Kurdish people do not now seek independence. Instead, they want to operate within a federal Iraq, with the oil reserves managed at a federal level and shared equitably between the regions. Finally, they hope that our Government will encourage the Turkish authorities to allow the 150 international journalists who are on the border in Turkey to pass into north Iraq so that they can see what is going on. That is in keeping with European standards and Turkey is holding them up.
We visited a refugee camp of 50,000 internally displaced people where thousands of families were still living in mud huts and tents. We met a family that had been thrown out of their home in Kirkuk by Saddam only two weeks earlier under his Arabisation ethnic cleansing programme. They suffered the sort of abuses that Ann Clwyd so eloquently outlined. Anyone who thinks that Saddam is safe in his box should have been with me to hear the tale of that family and to see the horrendous harm and devastation reaped on them by Saddam.
We also visited the Salahaddin university, which is close to Saddam's front-line army, and held meetings with lecturers and many English-speaking students. When we asked the students whether they thought that Saddam had chemical weapons and would use them, they stood up and shouted, "Of course." They thought it naive of me even to ask. They said that some of them had not slept for five nights because they were worried that Saddam would retaliate by using chemicals against them. People were trying to make improvised gas masks from plastic bags and electrical insulation tape.
The students were in no doubt that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and, given half the chance, would use them on the Kurds again, causing the unimaginably terrible consequences that they experienced before. They wanted our protection, but in a show of hands voted unanimously for Saddam's regime to be removed as quickly and cleanly as possible for their safety. They were entirely in step with the other Iraqi Kurds that we met. Other questions that we put to a formal vote to the students, who are the future of Iraq, revealed that they think that war to remove Saddam is justified because, on balance, it would save thousands of innocent lives. However, they need our protection during such a war.
We visited the Freedom hospital in Arbil, which has cut its operations to only 25 per cent. in preparation for the expected war casualties. We saw doctors and nurses standing by empty beds, waiting. The hospital is stockpiling medicines and surgical equipment as part of a co-ordinated plan to deal with the casualties of that war. Its staff know that casualties will be forthcoming, and accept that.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, East will speak for himself, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that when he accompanied me to Iraq he opposed the Prime Minister's action while I was in favour of it, and that he seemed to change his mind on the basis of what he encountered during the visit.
Along with many others, those at the Freedom hospital provided evidence that the UN resolution 986 oil for food money had not been flowing through properly. We met Prime Minister Nechirwan Barzani, and sent a plea for help from him to our Prime Minister in the form of a videotape. We delivered it to the Prime Minister yesterday. We spoke at the Parliament, and listened carefully to messages from the democratically elected representatives of the Iraqi Kurds. I have now delivered most of those messages.
It was clear to us that the people of Iraqi Kurdistan are battle-hardened and battle-ready. They want to remove Saddam's evil dictatorship, which has slaughtered so many of them; but they need to be reassured that if a conflict is initiated they will be given protection, because at present they feel rather like sitting ducks. They suspect that Saddam will try to throw chemical weapons at them as soon as he knows that war is inevitable, and they want us to do the job properly this time.
As is the case with many other Members, this is the most difficult issue with which I have had to deal during my time as a parliamentarian, but the bottom line as regards morality is absolutely clear to me. If taking action would save more lives than doing nothing—as the Iraqi Kurds themselves believe—we must have the moral courage to take action.
The most impressive speech I have heard so far was made by my hon. Friend Ann Clwyd, although my conclusions are very different from hers. She spoke very movingly about the real issues, and Bob Spink spoke in similar vein.
We must be clear about what is being proposed by both the Americans and the British through United Nations action. It is not regime change; it is the removal of weapons of mass destruction. There is a world of difference. This is not simply a narrow legal point: it is a very important technical and moral point, and it ultimately concerns where we will leave the world at the end of it all. If we are to talk of the need for regime change, we must bear in mind that there are many regimes in the world that we shall have to ask the United States and our own Government to investigate. Sadly, cruelty and barbarity are not the preserve of the odious Iraqi regime.
Let me explain why my conclusions are different from those of my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley. We know that during the last Gulf war some 100,000 people died as a direct or indirect consequence of military action. I believe that any military intervention driving all the way to Baghdad will cost more lives, both directly and indirectly. The aid agencies—the non-governmental organisations—are extremely concerned about the fragility of the infrastructure, which suggests that the death toll post-conflict, even with a military structure designed to bring in humanitarian aid, will be far higher than the death toll in Afghanistan, for instance, or the death toll in the aftermath of the last Gulf war. There is therefore a moral case for dealing with Saddam's brutality against his own people, and it cannot be wiped out by saying that going to war is the easy and obvious solution.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is important that those who advocate regime change examine the consequences.
Exactly what is the evidence for the threat that Iraq now poses to the rest of the world? Not many years ago, the Foreign Office and Downing street, now briefing on the need for action, were briefing Ministers—I do not think that I am breaching the Official Secrets Act—on the success of weapons inspections and our ability through containment and deterrence to maintain downward pressure on Saddam and Baghdad. I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is currently on the Front Bench, is not going to respond to the debate, but perhaps she will pass on my concerns. We need to know when and why that advice changed, as that is fundamental to the reasons why we are threatening to go to war against Iraq. Frankly, there is no evidence for urgent action to prevent the proliferation of terrorist groups. Proliferation is less likely to occur in Iraq than in Russia, where the security of nuclear supplies is grossly inadequate. Our own Government and other Governments—the Americans are an honourable exception—have done almost nothing about the security of Russian nuclear supplies.
If we are serious about non-proliferation, let us start with Russia, and provide it with assistance. Or we could look at North Korea, which has been a proliferator and has a programme to create weapons of mass destruction and the technology to deliver them. The United States rightly drew the conclusion that military action would be the wrong way to resolve the situation in North Korea. It is important that we learn those lessons, as the House has got to know why we are taking one route in respect of North Korea and another in respect of Iraq. Some of my hon. Friends mocked when one of our colleagues talked about that the probability that military action would make the world more unstable and terrorism more likely. However, I well remember, even if they do not, that during the invasion of Kuwait pictures of Saddam were held up by dispossessed Palestinians. I condemn their actions, but we would be foolish and naive not to realise that any invasion of Iraq will act as a recruiting ground for global terrorism. We ignore that at our peril.
At the moment, military action would be inhuman and cannot be justified as the moral war that a number of Members, particularly Opposition Members, have discussed. It would make the world less stable for our own citizens and other people. We must therefore examine very carefully the lurch to war. Can inspection and containment work? In the early 1990s, weapons inspections were successful, and resulted in the destruction of weapons. It is important that we give the inspectors the opportunity to carry out the work that we have asked them to undertake, and that we do not curtail it artificially. If we do so, the suspicion of people around the world that this war was pre-ordained, perhaps even pre-ordered, will be confirmed, and it will be impossible to convince the Arab world and people throughout the world that there was ever any intention to resolve the issue by anything other than military action.
This country has far too much to lose to be bounced into a war at the request of another nation, even at the request of such a strong and good ally as the United States. I strongly urge our Government and the world community to maintain the pressure on Saddam, to maintain the threat of military action, and to maintain the inspection regime. However, a lurch to war would be at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and potentially of many of our own citizens, and of a world that would be massively less stable in the future.