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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Shadow Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, Shadow Foreign Secretary 1:17 pm, 26th February 2003

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.