Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder


Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 26th February 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood 3:07 pm, 26th February 2003

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.