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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 3:52 pm, 26th February 2003

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.

Since 11 September, the United States has developed a different sense of vulnerability. In the context of that sense of vulnerability, it has developed the philosophy of a pre-emptive strike against those who may pose a threat to its security. I understand that. I happen to think that it is wrong, but it is not an unworthy attitude. At the same time, I also have a great deal of respect and understanding for the position of the Prime Minister. In that regard, I agree with much that my hon. Friend Sir Patrick Cormack said. It is right that we should stand by our allies; after all, we expect them to stand by us. However, we need to keep in mind the fact that the United States is the one country capable of taking unilateral action. It is therefore all the more important that we should bind the United States into the multinational organisations that try to regulate the world.

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.