Armed Conflict (Parliamentary Approval)

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 15th May 2007.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 6:41 pm, 15th May 2007

No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman has made a lot of interventions and he will be able to make his speech in his own way.

We cannot brush aside the serious events of March 2003. The motion for which we voted—I must admit that I voted against it, not for it, and most people were misled by it—made it absolutely clear that we were going to war because there was a direct threat to this nation. The motion cited numerous United Nations resolutions and stated explicitly that the war was a just war. A just war is a war into which a country is forced against its will to defend itself. We were told in March 2003 that we had to go to war because we were faced with a dictator who was out of control, who had the third or fourth biggest army in the world, who had weapons of mass destruction and who was a real and potent threat to the region.

At that time, numerous people—I and many others who were far more knowledgeable than I was about opinion in the Arab world—raised their voices about the risks, while many people with huge experience in our diplomatic service warned the Government that invading a sovereign Arab nation would, far from solving the problems of terrorism, grossly exacerbate the problems. All those voices have been proved right. However, everyone in the House, even those who voted against the war, believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Those who voted against the war believed in deterrence and thought that as the concept of deterrence had always worked in the past, it would work in this case. We believed that even if he had weapons of mass destruction, he would never dare use them. We need not rehearse all the arguments that were made at the time. We accepted the word of the Government, but that word simply was not right. There were no weapons, which is why we must accept that there has been a massive breakdown in trust.

We can argue that that is now all history. In a sense, this debate has been a rather friendly academic exercise. We have talked about history and while, of course, the Government will never apologise for what happened, they have half-apologised and said that they acted in good faith. However, while we have made progress in that we all apparently accept that the decision was difficult and that votes must take place in the future, as they did then, the terrible aspect of what we are debating is that the situation continues. Fifteen of our soldiers have been killed in the past year alone. As a result of the decision to invade Iraq, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have died, yet otherwise they would still be alive. They died yesterday, they are dying today and they will die tomorrow.