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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:58 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 2:58 pm, 26th February 2003

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 7 December, despite its large volume, missed the opportunity to provide the fresh material and evidence needed to respond to the open questions."

He continued:

"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.