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Iraq and European Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 24th March 2003.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:30 pm, 24th March 2003

I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the brave servicemen who have lost their lives, to their families who now mourn, and to those who continue to put their lives at risk. I also send my condolences to the families of the journalists who have also lost their loved ones. I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the US servicemen who have put their lives at risk and whose families, in many cases, now wonder about their future.

I thank the Prime Minister for his words about the road map, and for the importance that he places on assessing and addressing the matter. As he has said on a number of occasions, it holds the key to future stability in that region.

The war was never going to be easy, but the cause, I believe, is just. Despite the tragic losses of individual lives and the resistance that has been encountered, I agree that we must keep sight of the bigger picture. The pace of the advance towards Baghdad has been rapid. The capture and preservation of the oil wells has been a notable success, and the seizure of the bridges intact has been vital. The objectives, as the Prime Minister says, remain the same. However, there remain a number of questions.

What assessment has the Prime Minister made of the impact that the campaign has had on the cohesion of the Iraqi regime? In particular, given Saddam Hussein's television broadcast and some questions about whether that was live or recorded, what is the latest assessment of Saddam Hussein, his sons and the regional commanders in Iraq? In terms of strategy, can the Prime Minister confirm that the coalition is continuing to isolate towns to protect the civilian population, and that there is no change? Specifically, with reference to Basra, there are serious concerns about the shortages of water and electricity in the city. What steps does he believe can be taken to put that right?

The treatment of coalition prisoners of war was degrading and a clear breach of the Geneva convention. That gross spectacle yet again shows the nature of Saddam's regime and must be considered a war crime. Will the Prime Minister reassure the House and the British people that the perpetrators will be brought to justice? Is it not vital that in our treatment of prisoners of war, we continue to show that we have come to free the people of Iraq, not to conquer them?

There is continued concern at the talk of Turkish troop movements in northern Iraq. The situation is extremely delicate, I am aware, and there are reports that the Iraqi Kurds are diverting forces towards the Turkish border. Does the Prime Minister agree that a major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq would be wholly unacceptable? What assurances has he sought and received from the Turkish authorities that that will not happen? Is there any prospect of Turkish forces being placed under coalition command?

On the humanitarian crisis, can the Prime Minister tell the House how soon aid can be deployed in Iraq and who will be in charge of the delivery of that aid? Will he also confirm that in the early stages of delivery, the armed forces' participation is essential? Perhaps he can confirm that HMS Sir Galahad is standing by with large amounts of humanitarian aid for delivery as soon as the port of Umm Qasr is cleared. The House should note that the more successful operation has been carried out by American troops under British command.

At a time of heightened concern about national security, the Prime Minister will be aware that there is currently no Minister of State at the Home Office with responsibility for security services and home defence. When will he replace Mr. Denham? At this vital time, when will the new ambassador to Washington officially take up his post?

The Prime Minister referred to the European Council. I have one question. Does he now accept the need to reassess fundamentally the concept of a common foreign and security policy? Surely now is the time for a new Europe rooted in its nation states, not the deeper and deeper process in which we are engaged.

The days ahead may well be difficult. The Prime Minister assured us that our objectives remain clear: ridding Iraq completely of weapons of mass destruction and the end of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime. Our forces out there will carry out tasks that we know will place them in great danger, and I have no doubt that they will carry them out with efficiency, bravery and success. For our part, it is essential that we send our forces the clearest message that they have our unflagging support.