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asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the up-to-date information that appeared in the British Intelligence Dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction published in September has now been passed to the United Nations observers for verification and any necessary action.
My Lords, a copy of the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was passed to UNMOVIC at the time of its publication. It is up to UNMOVIC to decide how to act on the contents of the dossier.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that slightly cautious reply. Does she accept that it is infinitely better that the so far unfettered UN observers, backed by all the, presumably, detailed intelligence and evidence that we and the Americans possess, should seek out and destroy any nuclear, biological and chemical weapons—a better description than weapons of mass destruction—that still exist? That is better than using quibbling over paperwork to drift into a war that, whatever the early success, will have untold consequences for the longer-term stability of the Middle East.
My Lords, I agree with the noble and gallant Lord. So far, there have been 200 such inspections.
I am unaware of the sort of quibbling to which the noble and gallant Lord referred. As I said, the dossier was passed to UNMOVIC at the time of its publication. The noble and gallant Lord may be pressing a little further on other intelligence that has been conveyed to UNMOVIC and the IAEA, over and above that published in the dossier. If that is what concerns the noble and gallant Lord, I can tell him that, in addition to the published information, further information has been made available to the inspectors.
My Lords, now that the Foreign Secretary has—rather belatedly—recognised and acknowledged the intimate links between rogue states such as Iraq and the global terrorist system, can we look forward to another dossier, giving some of the intelligence underpinning that conclusion, on the lines of the information that has been circulated in Washington and provided to Congress about terrorist links with Iraq? Is it not now time for us to hear the same story, in order that those who have doubts about the war against Iraq and the need to take out Saddam can be reassured?
My Lords, I take issue with the pejorative remarks about it being late in the day to acknowledge links. We have always said that there were no direct links between Al'Qaeda and Iraq. There are no such direct links on which we have firm information or intelligence, and I continue to answer your Lordships' questions on that point. There are links between Iraq and some other organisations, and we have discussed those. A connection can certainly be made, in so far as it might be claimed that, "My enemy's enemy is my friend". I suggest that that may well be the sort of link that informs the noble Lord's question.
We will continue to publish information that we believe to be helpful in explaining why Her Majesty's Government take the view that they do of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but we will always put the safety of our intelligence sources and of our Armed Forces in the forefront of any judgment about what to publish.
My Lords, given press reports that some circles in Washington are sedulously denigrating the work of Hans Blix, can my noble friend the Minister assure us that there is no question of a casus belli being constructed from information that has not been corroborated by Hans Blix, simply on the grounds that it has not been passed to him?
My Lords, there have been voices in the background criticising Dr Blix since before he got to Iraq in the first place. I repeat to your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government has the utmost confidence in Dr Blix and in Dr ElBaradei.
There will be a discussion on the Iraqi declaration made on 8th September—all 11,807 pages of it—at the UNSC tomorrow, 9th January. That will be an opportunity for Dr Blix and Dr ElBaradei to give an update on their work, and I suggest that that will be an opportunity for any of the worries that the noble Lord mentioned to be aired in the most suitable place—the Security Council.
My Lords, in view of what the Minister has just said—rightly—about the safety of British intelligence forces and other western personnel, is she aware that 42 per cent of the population of Iraq are under 16? That represents 9.6 million children. Is the same weight given to the probability of innocent suffering in Iraq, should war break out, as to the protection of our people?
My Lords, one of the most awesome and dreadful responsibilities that a government can face is the responsibility of having to put troops into a conflict. It is an awesome and terrible responsibility not only because of the risks to the troops of this country or any of our allies who would be involved and the terrible loss that there would be if the worst circumstances were to prevail, but also that all war, by its very nature, may involve the loss of innocent life.
It could be argued that the loss of young life is, in many ways, more terrible than the loss of older life. However, I am bound to say to your Lordships that, whether a person was 16 or 60, the loss of an innocent life would always be a matter of grave responsibility. That is why we are so careful in how we proceed on that issue. It is why we have pursued the United Nations route; why we have persuaded others that that was the right route to pursue; and why we have also put as much information into the public domain as we possibly can to explain why the Government are so convinced that we are taking the right action on that issue.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has given way on at least two occasions. I believe that it is his turn.
My Lords, the initial full report to the United Nations Security Council is not due until 27th January—although, as I have indicated, there will be a preliminary discussion of the findings so far taking place in the United Nations Security Council tomorrow.
I stress to your Lordships that the report on 27th January is not the end of the process. It is merely a staging point which was committed to in UNSCR 1441. If there is no material breach at that point, that does not mean that the whole process of inspections is over. It is up to anybody else who feels that he has material breaches to report to do so. There is nothing to stop any other country at that point also bringing the Security Council into its confidence over what it believes is happening. But at that point it would be a decision about the continuation of the inspection. Therefore, I stress to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that that date is not a date on which a decision must be made one way or the other. It is simply a point at which a report will be made and discussed.