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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chair, Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Joint Committee) 2:16 pm, 26th February 2003

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.