– in the House of Lords at 3:17 pm on 26 February 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, when your Lordships last debated Iraq, on 28th November, we took note of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. That resolution set out the objectives of the United Nations in strict and compelling terms. Operational paragraph 2 made clear that its aim was,

"bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by SCR 687".

That resolution, 687, required Iraq to accept unconditionally,

"the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision", of its chemical and biological weapons.

Those were the terms that were unanimously agreed 12 years ago, and they are the terms that Iraq has repeatedly flouted. For the past 12 years, Iraq has withheld its co-operation from the United Nations, or has at best co-operated only superficially and grudgingly with it. As Dr Blix made very clear in his report of 27th January to the Security Council:

"Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance—not even today—of the disarmament which was demanded of it".

UNSCR 1441 attracted world attention not only because of the intrinsic gravity of the issue, but because of the clear and unambiguous conditions which it laid down for weapons inspections. Those added up to the immediate, unimpeded and unconditional access to all relevant people, buildings and documentation.

It is now 15 weeks since UNSCR 1441 was passed and we are no further forward on the requirement that Iraq should immediately and unambiguously divest itself of its weapons of mass destruction. That did not mean waiting and hoping that 150 weapons inspectors can, in what Dr Blix aptly described as a "game of hide and seek", find those weapons in the teeth of obstruction by the huge Iraqi security machine. It did mean that Iraq had to bring proscribed materials and programmes to the notice of the inspectors, or present documentary or witness proof of their destruction.

So often we hear commentators say that if the evidence were there the inspectors would have found it by now. That supposition is based on a fundamental misconception of why the inspectors are in Iraq. They are not there as part of a detective exercise or an operation of containment. They are there to verify the disarmament process.

Again, we are asked why, if we know that these weapons exist, we cannot tell the inspectors where to find them. That question is based on the notion that we are looking for really bulky weapons like artillery and fighter planes which are easily identified and hard to conceal. However, the very nature of weapons of mass destruction is that they are very easy to conceal. Nerve agent, chemical precursors, chemical munitions, mustard gas shells and even proscribed missiles can be broken up and dispersed. Stockpiles can be moved from one site to another in small quantities. Missiles can be put on transport platforms and moved from place to place—hidden almost anywhere in a vast country dominated by a network of state terror and intimidation.

In short, to claim that if they exist, the inspectors can find them, is to fail to understand what those weapons are like; to fail to understand how easy it is to conceal them; and to fail to understand the nature of the state that wants them concealed. Above all, it is not up to Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei to find them. It is up to Saddam Hussein to give them up. He has not.

Many people ask why this issue has come to the top of the agenda now. All too often people forget just how long this history of lying and arrogant defiance of the United Nations has gone on. The 12-year history is clear. It is laid out in the Command Paper before your Lordships, and it is reinforced by the Iraqi regime's behaviour over the past six months.

We hoped that the very stringency of 1441 would make Saddam understand that this was his chance for peace. Predictably, the Iraqi response to 1441 was the letter of 13th November, in which Iraq said it would, "deal with the resolution". It was followed by a further letter, of 23rd November, asserting, absurdly, that 1441 contradicted international law.

Those less than reassuring statements were followed by the Iraqis' detailed responses, including the 12,000 page declaration which Dr Blix described as,

"rich in volume but poor in new information . . . and practically devoid of new evidence".

That was followed by the absolute non-co-operation with the inspectors' entirely justified wish to interview scientists in private and unrecorded; the terrorising of such witnesses, including the regime's threats to execute them and their families; the lack of co-operation on procedural matters and on providing the names of those involved in weapons of mass destruction programmes; and the absurd proposal that inspectors needed warrants to enter private premises.

We have seen what our own Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, described as a,

"tightly monitored media circus, with demonstrators ready to harass inspectors if they come too close to hidden material", as they did in the military hospital in Kut in January.

So where are the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals? Where are the 368 tonnes of bulk CW agents, including VX and the 30,000 special munitions? Where are the growth media capable of producing huge quantities of anthrax? We do not know. We do not know because Saddam Hussein does not want us to know, and we shall not know unless and until he co-operates, voluntarily or under compulsion. That is what makes so misplaced the various suggestions of giving inspectors more time, or increasing their numbers. I am sure that those who make those suggestions genuinely want Saddam to be disarmed. I am sure that they genuinely believe that they are arguing for a peaceful solution. But I also believe that what they argue for is exactly what the regime wants to see: more time, more procrastination, more opportunity to disperse weaponry and to hide documents, not only in the houses of scientists, but also now in the houses of family members who are terrorised into complicity and silence.

It is therefore not a question of more time. Time is not the issue. The will to co-operate is the issue. Nor is it a question of more inspectors. Let us remember that it took just nine inspectors to verify disarmament of South Africa's nuclear weapons programme at the end of apartheid because South Africa co-operated.

In recent weeks, some commentators have asked, why choose Iraq? The answer is that this is not our choice. The fact is that we are committed to tackling the problem of WMD proliferation wherever in the world it arises, using in each case the tools most effective for the job. But in Iraq there is a uniquely terrible combination of capability and intent. We know that the weapons exist, and we know that the levers for their use are embedded in the structure of a regime where there are no fewer than 12 different organisations of state terror and security. We know that in Saddam Hussein we have a dictator who uses terror as an everyday instrument of government, not just in the murders of women—of mothers in front of their children, as my noble friend Lady Ramsay reminded us on 28th November—but also in the use of the very weapons of mass destruction which are now at issue against tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Iranian soldiers in the 1980s.

Why do we think that it will happen again? We believe that the Iraqi regime has contingency plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons against some of its own population. We understand enough about the chain of command in Iraq for their use to know that they can be deployed within 45 minutes of an order to use them.

Saddam's lack of co-operation with the inspectors and with Iraq's obligations means that that he is bringing this crisis to a decisive and final phase. It is not the United Nations or the United States or the United Kingdom which have provoked this terrible situation. Iraq is the only country in such serious and multiple breech of mandatory UN obligations. But even now, at this late stage, there is still time for Saddam to recognise that the time for his lies, deception and non-co-operation is over. The crisis can be resolved peacefully—but that must happen now so that Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei receive full co-operation in their important work.

UNSCR 1441 did not impose obligations only on Iraq. All 15 members of the Security Council agreed that if Saddam failed to comply immediately with his obligations, we—all of the nations of the United Nations—would have no option but to conclude that the Iraqi regime should face "serious consequences". Diplomatic language can be ambiguous. In this case, however, the terminology had only one meaning: disarmament by force. Iraqi contempt for the United Nations has brought us to this position. In passing SCR 1441, the United Nations steeled itself for the prospect that it would have to demonstrate that the UN resolutions in respect of Iraq have a potency beyond words on paper. That is why the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain tabled a resolution in New York on Monday, making clear that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity that the UNSCR held open. This is no more than a plain statement of fact.

We are now seeking to build consensus at the Security Council that, by failing to disarm voluntarily, Iraq is making not only a wrong choice, but a choice in which we cannot acquiesce without shying away from our own responsibilities. We shall not be calling for a vote on the draft resolution immediately. We want the text, the proposition, to be examined by the Security Council in full.

We need that second resolution soon because Resolution 1441 required Iraq's full, active and immediate compliance. Fifteen weeks later, Saddam's compliance has not been full, active or immediate. Not one member of the Security Council, NATO or the European Union says otherwise. Every move of Saddam Hussein's has been cynically timed and calculated to divide and delay. Only last night, Iraq told Dr Blix that they had "found" a bomb apparently containing biological agents. I know that some will argue that this shows that Iraq is being contained or is complying. This was a predictable move in a pattern of behaviour. It is in reality the familiar game—dribbling out small concessions at the last minute—as Saddam may well do on the demands to destroy the al-Samoud missiles as the inspectors have ordered in an attempt to cause further delay and doubt before the UN moves to the next resolution.

How will the issue of what happens after the next resolution be dealt with in Parliament? My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said clearly today that the debate in another place today is not to endorse military action by UK forces. No decision to deploy British forces in action has yet been taken. He went on to say that if such a decision is taken, it will be put to another place for its endorsement on a substantive Motion. He said that, subject to the safety of our forces, it is as much in the Government's interest as Parliament's to do so before the start of any hostilities.

Notwithstanding Saddam's lack of co-operation with UNMOVIC inspectors, one thing is clear. There would be no weapons inspectors in Iraq today if we had not brought to bear against him the threat of credible force. History shows us that he has never yielded to the will of the international community unless threatened with military action. Indeed, President Chirac conceded this in his interview with Time magazine recently. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, if such military action should prove necessary, it will be on the basis of Saddam's failure to comply with UN resolutions. The Government have now announced many deployments from all three services. The UK military presence in theatre is a highly capable force.

Any decision to embark on military operations is a grave one. It is not right to risk the lives of our servicemen and women unless there is no alternative; unless we believe that all avenues to a peaceful solution have been exhausted. In coming to any decision to initiate military action, the Government have a duty to do everything possible to ensure that our Armed Forces are properly equipped. In part, this is about the right training, capabilities and equipment. But it is also about ensuring that there is a clear mission and that we have the right rules of engagement.

If military action becomes necessary, we envisage that UK forces would play a key part in coalition operations led and directed by the US. To facilitate this, UK commanders would be integrated into an overall coalition command structure. However, UK forces would only undertake missions and tasks approved by UK commanders, and would remain at all times accountable to Her Majesty's Government. I hope that the House will understand that I will not be able to go into details today which could assist a potential enemy. But I can assure the House that our military planning is well advanced, and that we are taking steps to ensure that all the necessary conditions for success will be in place in the event that military action becomes necessary.

Our servicemen and women are among the finest soldiers, sailors and airmen in the world. They have proved this again and again over recent years: in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, and in many peacekeeping operations throughout the world. There is no question that should it come to armed conflict, they will acquit themselves with the integrity and skill that we have come to expect from them. I am sure that all of us will want to pay tribute not only to their professionalism, but to their commitment and their courage and to send our good wishes to them and their families who wait at home.

Some of your Lordships, in previous discussions of this situation, have asked why we should seek to enforce Security Council resolutions on Iraq when the international community has failed to achieve peace in the Israel/Palestinian conflict. I have made clear on many occasions that Her Majesty's Government believe that the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, and the situation in Iraq, are both of grave concern and need to be addressed urgently. Both issues are important and progress on one should not be held hostage to progress on the other.

The Prime Minister again yesterday stated his personal commitment to peace in the Middle East. He made clear that urgent progress on the Middle East peace process is essential: terror and violence must stop; Israeli settlement activity must cease. Our priority is for the agreement and publication of the Quartet roadmap leading to a comprehensive settlement based on two viable states by 2005.

Some noble Lords have also been concerned that we are seeking to enforce UNSCRs on Iraq when we ignore them in respect of Israel. I think it important to reiterate that these two situations are very different. The UNSCRs relating to Iraq are of a special nature, different from other conflict situations. They arise from the ceasefire terms at the end of military action against Iraq carried out under UN authority. They are mandatory. That does not mean that we do not attach importance to the SCRs on the Israeli/Arab conflict because we do. But Resolutions 242 and 338 call on all parties to negotiate a peace settlement so the responsibility lies not only with Israel to comply, but also with Israel's neighbours.

Let us be quite clear what is the basis and objective of our action in the UN: it is the disarmament of Iraq. But as I have said to your Lordships before, if in the process of achieving that disarmament, Saddam Hussein's regime should fall, his departure would be of huge benefit to his country, his region and the rest of the world. His regime has been a proven danger to his region in the course of two attacks on neighbouring countries; and has been, and continues to be, a brutal burden for his own people. We must remember that this is the regime that has presided over an under-five mortality rate that is now 131 in 1,000 live births—worse even than in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a regime where almost one-third of all children in the centre and south of the country suffer from chronic malnutrition; and where more than half of the Iraqis living in rural areas have no access to safe drinking water. This is not a result of UN sanctions. Iraq's decline from a once prosperous country began well before sanctions were introduced, and well before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and provoked the Gulf War.

Our government policy objectives on Iraq published on 7th January, include as an immediate priority to,

"continue to support humanitarian effort to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people".

We and the UN agencies are planning for a range of humanitarian contingencies, including how to minimise harm to the Iraqi people if military action is taken.

This House now has the opportunity to debate fully the issues facing us. I look forward to listening to the debate, and to responding to it. Of course, there will be a range of opinions and different points of view. But I am sure that every contribution will share the desire for peace and I am confident that we all hold that desire.

It is the task facing us all now in the international community—not just the United States, not just the UK, but the whole of the United Nations—to end Saddam Hussein's defiance and the danger he poses to his region and to the rest of the world. Saddam Hussein can end that danger and the prospect of war simply, cleanly and quickly, by complying with what is required of him: not just complying with the inspectors, although that is an absolute prerequisite; not just complying with the spirit of Resolution 1441, although that is an absolute necessity, but complying with what Resolution 1441 and the UN as a whole is determined to achieve, which is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. That is what the world wants to see. I know that is what this House wants to see, and I am confident that today's debate will demonstrate that.

Saddam's disarmament will happen one way or another. He should be in no doubt about that. I hope, and I am sure that this House and the whole country hope too, that his disarmament can be carried out by wholly peaceful means. That is the best way forward. But we have to be ready, if peaceful disarmament proves impossible, to secure it in the face of Saddam's obduracy and to take action.

None of us wants to see that; none of us wants to see military conflict. We do not want war. It is indeed terrible to contemplate. But the time may soon be upon us all when Saddam Hussein makes his choice, when he rejects the wishes of the international community and instead chooses fear, violence, terrorism and dictatorship. As a result, we will have to make our choice too, choosing determination and democracy in the cause of securing peace. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of Command Paper Cm 5769 on Iraq.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:39, 26 February 2003

My Lords, the Minister set out the situation with her usual thoroughness and pinpoint clarity. The noble Baroness mentioned that she has undertaken to wind up for the Government—which is a burden for her but a bonus for the rest of us. I look forward to a very good debate, which I am sure there will be in your Lordships' House.

For anyone with the slightest sense of history, it is impossible not to appreciate—indeed admire—at this particular moment the tireless determination and what has been called the lonely valour of the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair. I for one especially admire the robustness of his view, which he reaffirmed unequivocally only yesterday, that our foreign and defence policies, not merely in this matter but in all matters, will be conducted by the Government of the United Kingdom and by no one else—a view that is challenged almost daily in the European Convention, with its view of shared competencies, a single European voice and other fantasies.

There have been critics of the presentation—not the actions and policies—of the Prime Minister's case. Some of us on this side of the Chamber are among those critics. It is clear from previous debates in your Lordships' House that the Prime Minister has slightly confusingly swung about in making the case for military action. It does seem that the priorities have been altered. I am not too critical because perhaps that is inevitable and should be forgiven. We are dealing with a situation of enormous complexity and anyone with too much certitude in this matters should be suspect. At least the Prime Minister has not tried at any time to ride the tiger of populism, which is an extremely dangerous pursuit that nearly always ends in tears. It is right to remind our French and German friends of that danger as well as—I say this in the friendliest way—some political parties nearer home.

The core case for disarming Iraq and—at least by a side wind, as the noble Baroness indicated—"ridding the world" of Saddam, in the Prime Minister's words, is not just 12 or 13 years of defiance. It must be something more immediate and I believe that it is. Iraq is at the centre of the jigsaw of global terrorism and the hatred of all Western values that grew and multiplied before and since 9/11. It is a direct threat to our national security and society and possibly even an imminent threat—although we cannot prove that and can only make preparations against it.

The issue is not just Saddam's co-operation, which is important, but his intention. Some of us have believed all along that it is his remorseless intention, unless halted, to destabilise and dominate his own region; to threaten international security and of course energy supplies; and to sponsor terrorist violence wherever and whenever the chances arise. That is what our assessments suggest and why we back the Prime Minister's stance, as well as admire it, and know that much further delay is incredibly dangerous to all of us—I repeat, incredibly dangerous to all of us—as well as to the wider world.

Since 9/11, there have apparently been four major terrorist threats against sites in this country—each mercifully and successfully thwarted. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has revealed that dark terrorist leaders have been in and out of Baghdad and that Iraqi cash flows and assistance are being injected into the veins of international terrorism all the time. I had doubts about links with Al'Qaeda, as did many of your Lordships, until hearing this morning that Saddam Hussein, that well known truthmonger, was denying all links—a denial carried uncritically and deferentially by the BBC. After that, I am beginning to believe that there must be links of some kind. Whether or not one can believe Saddam—and most of your Lordships would start from the proposition that one cannot believe a word that he says—we have seen again and again, even if one does believe him, how Iraqi newspapers, all Government controlled, admire Osama Bin Laden's handiwork even if the Iraqis do not share his religious fervour.

We have reports of arms and missiles being shipped to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, of money being pumped into the hands of Hamas bombers and of a dozen other trouble-stirring involvements. It is all there, staring us in the face, even when we have dealt with the question of Saddam's defiance of the United Nations and all the rest. Sometimes it is better to focus on detailed specifics and minute particulars—as Blake said,

"To see the world in a grain of sand"— rather than be guided by generalisations and big assertions. Those are the little signs and they do tell the big story.

France and Germany are insisting that the answer is more inspectors and more time to hunt for weapons of mass destruction. Many of your Lordships may argue that case this afternoon. We have to ask, as did the noble Baroness, "Why should that help?" Inspectors are not disinterers or, as the Prime Minister said, detectives. They are the auditors. All the facts and figures must be set before them, not hidden away. The noble Baroness emphasised that there is only the smallest chance of finding weapons or nerve agent substances without Saddam's full compliance and the opening of all the books. Will more inspectors—500, 1,000 or whatever number—mean more compliance? One only has to ask that question to know that the answer is that of course it will not.

The Prime Minister mentioned yesterday that we know from intelligence and simple deduction that weapons, nerve agents, growth media, machining equipment, classified software and technology are all there—hidden and dispersed in a vast country, which is easy to do. We know that getting co-operation from Saddam will be like getting blood from a stone, with a dribble of skilfully timed, last-minute, so-called concessions. The noble Baroness described one from yesterday.

So what really lies behind the stance of the anti-war countries and groups, which is undoubtedly so widely shared? One must analyse the fears in order to respect them. There is the usual anti-Americanism, although I do not set much store by it, and genuine fears about winning the peace after the war and what the whole operation may do to neighbouring countries. I am sure that your Lordships will have many thoughts on that important consideration. There are also perfectly justifiable fears all round about the humanitarian consequences of war. The noble Baroness reminded us that 60 per cent of Iraqis are already on food rations—in a country that was richer than Greece or Portugal only a few years ago. Almost half the population of Iraq is under 14—an incredible statistic. We need to know a good deal more about the Government's preparations for dealing with millions of starving refugees and how the agencies will cope on top of dealing with all the other humanitarian challenges around the world.

The biggest fear or concern of the doubters, which I much respect, is that the casus belli or justifying trigger is not yet fully spelt out—at least, it seems not clear to them. Everyone agrees that Saddam is evil—that is easy—but regrettably, far too many are still asking the awkward question, "Why now?". What precisely justifies a pre-emptive strike? I suspect that half of the 1 million people who marched through Hyde Park the other day were the usual suspects—minds closed to American values, western liberties and the other values that we esteem. I suspect that the other half had sincere doubts about the immediate case for war.

My noble and honourable friends and I believe that there are clear answers to those doubts—but they have not been put as well as they should have been. Now that we are in the final, final phase, those answers need to be put over much better—not by just leaving it to the inspectors. I do not think—the noble Baroness probably does not think it either—that they will light upon some magic discovery of a smoking gun or whatever. It must not be done even by entering into the debate about the moral justification, although that is very important, but by spelling out the direct threat that Saddam and his policies present to us all as of now. That is the case for imminent action, against imminent threat.

Personally, I hope that further delays will be minimised. A second UN resolution has to be worked for and will be desirable, without a doubt. However, in my view action should follow swiftly thereafter. I have no doubts that Saddam is one of the great murderers of the 20th century, and he is killing more people even now. At the time of the Gulf War, I took a particular personal objection to him. Having just left the Cabinet, I noticed that it was his habit to strangle outgoing Ministers. That seemed to me a very bad idea.

Confronting Saddam now is not only a question of upholding UN authority. That is what the Prime Minister and the noble Baroness have said before. We all value that authority. Without the UN, what is there in its place? Frankly, however, the UN is not always the fount of all moral authority, considering some of its members and their practices. There is also the question of putting a stop to the cycle of unending violence and perpetuated terror by someone who is clearly a lead contractor and sponsor of the terrorist business.

I hope that everything is over speedily and with a minimum of casualties. The US is about to go to war with the highest technology ever used, with weapons for pulverising radar tracking stations and with thermobaric bombs that paralyse all electrical apparatus, and therefore whole cities and the working of cities. If Iraqi military morale collapses fast, things should be over and done with in short order, or so we pray, should it come to that.

I emphasise that more delay is just what Baghdad wants. If Saddam is left in place, it might mean peace, but it will be the peace of the dead. To take a phrase from another context,

"twere well it were done quickly".

Action will open the pathway for real peace and progress in the Middle East, instead of the current real insecurity and real uncertainty plaguing the entire planet, and the real terrorism close to us all and coming closer every day.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 3:52, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I too thank the Deputy Leader of the House for the very forceful, although not at all untypical, way in which she addressed the House. We on these Benches share completely the objective of the disarmament of Iraq. There is no question about that.

I want to remind the noble Baroness of the second part of Resolution 1441. It states that Iraq should have,

"a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council", and that it has been accordingly decided,

"to set up an enhanced inspection regime with the aim of bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process".

The difference between these Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, is straightforwardly that we believe that the present draft resolutions pre-empt that process, that it is not yet completed, and that there is still an opportunity to avoid war.

Let me say very clearly, in case there is any misunderstanding, that we believe that we, as powerfully as any other part of this House, have an obligation to our troops to make absolutely certain that men and women are not put into war, risking their lives, unless it can be shown to be absolutely necessary to do so. It is to that that I intend to address my remarks.

The first question is whether we are convinced that Iraq is an imminent and present threat. There is no question but that it could be a potential threat, although I must dispute briefly with the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. Not only the CIA in the United States but Ministers in this House have on more than one recent occasion admitted that there is no clear evidence to link Al'Qaeda to the Government of Iraq, much as we might find things easier if that were so. That must be stated very explicitly, because repeating a misconception over and again does not turn that misconception into a truth. Therefore, I doubt whether we can show that Iraq is an imminent threat.

If we are seeking imminent threat, I need only quote from a very senior colleague of mine who is the head of the security unit in the Belfer Center at Harvard University. Ash Carter is a former National Security Agency assistant secretary. He said:

"News reports late last week indicated that . . . North Korea is trucking the fuel rods away where they can neither be inspected nor entombed by an airstrike . . . as this loose nukes disaster unfolds and the options for dealing with it narrow, the world does nothing".

That is a much more imminent threat.

Secondly, we are not convinced that containment has failed. I can quote from an authoritative source. These are the words of the Prime Minister himself in November 2000:

"We believe that the sanctions regime has effectively contained Saddam Hussein in the last 10 years. During this time he has not attacked his neighbours, nor used chemical weapons against his own people".—[Official Report, Commons, 1/11/00; col. 511W.]

Nor has he done either in the past three years—since that statement.

Another authoritative source said:

"Through a process of inspection and verified destruction, the UNSCOM inspectors have demolished more weapons capability than was destroyed by the allied forces during the Gulf war".—[Official Report, Commons, 17/2/98; col. 900.]

Those are the words of Robin Cook, then the Foreign Secretary. Even much more recently, it has been restated more than once that containment has proved more effective in destroying weapons of mass destruction than any war at any time in the past few years.

The third issue is whether we believe that the peaceful options have been exhausted. Again, I quote from two unimpeachable sources. The first is the Congressional Research Service of the United States Congress, which said:

"In meetings with Blix and ElBaradei in Baghdad on February 8 and 9, 2003, Iraqi officials handed over documents on anthrax, VX, and missile programs . . . On February 10, Iraq notified the UN that it would permit overflights of American U-2, French Mirage, and Russian Antonov aircraft".

Let us add to that the report in the Independent today, which said:

"Mr Blix said the details of the weapons"—

I have described when they were handed over to the inspectors—

"were 'positive steps which need to be explored further'. Asked if there was any indication by the Iraqis of 'substantive progress or proactive co-operation'", which are exactly the requirements mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, Mr Blix, a man of few words, replied, "Yes". That was only yesterday. We on these Benches are not persuaded that all peaceful options have been exhausted. We point, not to illusions or statements by Members on these Benches, but to clear and unimpeachable sources such as the Congressional Research Service and the chief inspector, Mr Blix himself.

None of this would matter so much if the consequences of war were less serious than they are. I wish to say a few words about them. First, the Financial Times states:

"The coalition of the willing sounds ever more like a coalition of the reluctant".

Huge pressures are being brought to bear, not least on moderate Muslim countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and others, to subscribe to being part of an alliance to destroy the Iraqi regime. Those countries have protested over and over again that they do not wish to be involved in the war.

Let me give two examples. There was a great deal of controversy over Turkey because it was argued that it had been refused Patriot missiles as a result of a disagreeable coalition between France and Germany. It later emerged that Turkey had never asked for Patriot missiles or for any of the other equipment that was sent to it. Turkey had asked for consultation under Article 4 of the NATO treaty. It had not invoked Article 5, which is the article concerning mutual defence. Even now, Turkey is driving a colossally hard bargain. Members of the House will have seen that one part of the bargain is that Turkey should be allowed to bring 55,000 troops into northern Iraq—the Kurdish area, much of which is protected by a no-fly-zone—a situation which, at the very least, is likely to foment great anger and, at worst, could lead to civil war and the disintegration of Iraq. It has also—incidentally, almost—helped to destroy the real prospect of a united Cyprus entering the European Union some time in the next seven or eight years.

The International Crisis Group—I declare an interest as a board member—has discovered that there is tremendous public concern about the possibility of a war against Iraq in the Middle East. In its report, it states:

"ICG interviews throughout the region, in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Algeria, indicate that there exists wide and deep scepticism about US motives".

That may be unfair, but it is a fact that we have to take into account when deciding whether the price of war is too high. It also emphasises the importance of pursuing every other possible alternative.

I need not add the special complication of the wretched situation in the Middle East, referred to in another place yesterday by that distinguished and brave Member of Parliament, Gerald Kaufman, as the daily almost casual slaughter of Palestinians by the IDF and the daily almost casual slaughter of Israelis by terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza. We cannot pretend that this is not a desperately serious complication. With great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, she and I both know that the reason why the UN resolutions are mandatory on Iraq, and not mandatory on Israel, which has also broken many of them, is because the United States refuses to agree to their being made mandatory on Israel.

I have the greatest respect for the Prime Minister. He has virtually ripped himself into pieces trying to hold the Administration in the United States to the UN process. He is the reason why George Bush went to the United Nations: I pay the Prime Minister great credit for that. But the distinction I have just drawn between Israel and Iraq shows all too clearly that it is not the Prime Minister who is in the driving seat. It is concern about who is in the driving seat that underlies much of the scepticism.

I do not need to mention at length the possible humanitarian consequences of a war. That has been done effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. But they are extreme. One has only to consider the desperate plight with regard to food. According to a leaked UN document, 30 per cent of children under five will be at risk of death from malnutrition if the war lasts more than a week or so. There are also warnings about cholera and many other extreme diseases. The warnings come from a United Nations leaked document, called the "Humanitarian Consequences of the War".

Before I come to my conclusion, I shall say in the words of a famous politician whom many Labour Members of this House will remember,

"You don't need to look at the crystal if you can read the book".

What is the book? The book concerns Afghanistan. I shall quote again from two sources, the first of which is The Times of 13 February, which states that

"large parts of the country are once more on the verge of anarchy".

An article by the senior fellow at the American Council on Foreign Relations—I declare an interest as a member of its international advisory council—states:

"Basic security and stability have still not been achieved".

Worst of all, when the President drew up his budget for 2004, he forgot to put even a penny for the reconstruction of Afghanistan into it. Paul Krugman, of the New York Times, states:

"The Bush team forgot about it. Embarrassed Congressional staff members had to write in $300 million to cover the lapse".

So much for Afghanistan, already largely forgotten, coming back to anarchy, and neglected by the international community.

I conclude with two thoughts. First, there is clear evidence that the obsession with Iraq is drawing us away from what should be our first priority, which is to attack international terrorism. For that we need the widest possible support. I shall not go on quoting, but it was President Jimmy Carter who said a few days ago that the obsession with Iraq had essentially diverted the American Administration from concern about terrorism. There is more evidence that we are beginning to neglect the remnants—not dead remnants, but live ones—of Al'Qaeda in many other parts of the world.

Finally, there is a fundamental thought, to which my colleague Lord Wallace of Saltaire will address himself. There is undoubtedly among European opinion, including the United Kingdom, more than 80 per cent opposition to a war without UN support and considerable opposition to a war even with UN support. That does not reflect anti-Americanism, except perhaps among a small minority. Many of us regard America as one of the most enterprising, imaginative, democratic and open societies in the world. What it reflects is concern with an Administration propelled to some extent by what I can only describe as a fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Jewish drive that is almost as powerful as fundamentalist Islam itself. The Administration have set aside the structures of the multilateral community by removing themselves from treaties and conventions, by refusing to sign the Kyoto agreement or agreeing to the biological weapons convention being resumed, and now by embarking on nuclear plans that threaten even the nuclear proliferation treaty. It is who is in the driving seat that frightens many of us; certainly not that great country the United States.

Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Convenor of the Crossbench Peers 4:08, 26 February 2003

My Lords, that great war strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote:

"No one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it".

That is sound advice. Governments should define the purpose and desired end state of any conflict. There must be clear political objectives to establish a guiding framework for the military planner. Without establishing a purpose for war, one will never know how to fight, or when indeed the fighting might end.

If we go to war, what is its purpose? By now, with all that has been said about Saddam Hussein and his evil regime, his weapons of mass destruction and his possible and likely links with terrorist organisations, there should be a clear understanding about the purpose. But, for all the efforts of the Minister and others, I wonder if part of the problem that the Prime Minister and his Government are having in gaining the support and confidence of the public is not down to confusion about the precise purpose.

For much of the earlier part of last year the oft-repeated phrase was "regime change", which was accepted then to mean that Saddam must go. The main proponent of that approach was the US Administration, even before the arrival of President Bush. It had echoes on this side of the Atlantic, too, and in Parliament. Regime change in Iraq is clear enough. It expresses a broad purpose or aim, to which diplomatic, economic and, if necessary, military effort could be directed.

I set to one side the very important dilemma about whether it would be lawful and right to launch a military contribution to topple a head of state by means of a pre-emptive strike, or what steps are necessary to make such action lawful. Maybe it should not be described as lawful.

Some time later the aim seemed to have been adjusted: it was still "regime change" but that was now being described as meaning that so long as Saddam surrendered his weapons, and thus changed his stance on them, that would be a satisfactory "regime change". In other words, Saddam need not be got rid of if he got rid of his weapons.

Recently, all the emphasis has been on the efforts of the weapons inspectors, and there has been a clear focus on the weapons themselves. Their removal has to be the aim. I pay tribute to the consistency with which the Minister has stuck to that formulation. But in his speech in Glasgow at the Labour Party conference, the Prime Minister said that if Saddam went as well as the weapons, that would be "great". At the press conference he gave last week, he was quoted as saying that he wished to see the back of Saddam Hussein. In his Statement yesterday, the Prime Minister said,

"the purpose in our acting is disarmament".

However, later—in answer to a question—he said:

"The objective is the ridding of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and while Saddam's regime stands in the way of that it is an obstacle that has to be removed".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/2/03, cols. 125-34.]

So it seems that we go round in a rather confusing circle about the purposes of our actions. Of course, to a large extent, the differing purposes are interrelated, although I believe that from Saddam's point of view whether he himself is to go or just his weapons is a very material difference.

I fear that that rather mixed message does not help the country to be clear about what is intended, and indeed about what contribution military operations—if they take place—are to make. Differing assertions about links between Iraq and terrorist organs and poorly prepared dossiers have added to public disquiet. There must be confidence that the United States' purpose and the UK's purpose are sufficiently the same that the military operations of both countries—if ordered—are going to be in step and directed towards the same political goals.

The first key principle of war is "selection and maintenance of the aim". Turning destruction of weapons of mass destruction into a military plan presupposes occupation and overthrow of the Iraqi forces. All that should be clear. However, it is disingenuous to argue that little can be said about operations and their aftermath for fear that we forgo the element of surprise and so endanger our forces in the field. No one would want to do that. In the last Gulf conflict we made it very clear to Saddam what was required: he had to withdraw from Kuwait. Not for one moment did we tell him how we might go about achieving the removal of his forces if he did not order them to withdraw. The methods of attack, and where our forces would come from, were of course not mentioned, although, with a deadline set, it would have been clear to him that hostilities would begin at or soon after the date he had been given.

One thing is clear about Saddam: he is not a quitter. He has held on through thick and thin for many years. The default presumption before Her Majesty's Government embarked on this strategy of confrontation and pressure on the Iraqi regime had to be that Saddam would not be persuaded to do that which was required of him. There would be no change of heart. At best there would be small tactical-type concessions as he strung the United Nations and the Security Council along. In his eyes, he has done so successfully for more than a decade.

So I accept that having embarked on this strategy, there can be no turning back. As the Prime Minister so pointedly said in his Statement in the other place on 3rd February:

"if, having made a demand backed up by a threat of force, we fail to enforce that demand, the result will not be peace or security. It will simply be returning to confront the issue again at a later time, with the world less stable, the will of the international community less certain, and those repressive states or terrorist groups that would destroy our way of life, emboldened and undeterred".—[Official Report, Commons, 3/2/03; col. 23.]

So we must face up now. If we are to take the Prime Minister at his word, we are almost certainly committed to taking part in hostilities. It is therefore most important that those members of the Armed Forces who will be undertaking these operations and their loved ones know that this cause is just and that they have the backing of this House and of another place. They will deserve that at least from us all, once the die is cast. To the extent that it is possible, I also hope that the Government will be forthcoming about the future for Iraq if we are to be committed to hostilities. At least let them indicate what comes next, whether they intend to maintain forces on the ground in Iraq and what the prospects are for that period being short. Fighting draws heavily on resources and stretches the forces. However, the prospect of maintaining some form of peacekeeping force on the ground for weeks, months or even a year or more will be an even greater strain on the forces, particularly the Army. Our Armed Forces and the public deserve to know what lies ahead. We can be sure to win the war but we must also be sure to win the peace that follows.

Now is not the time for hand-wringing doubts, for looking back in anger at what could have been done differently or for moral uncertainties. We are where we are now. The past is for the historians. The future has to be faced as things stand today. The Government's aim must be even more clearly stated and then achieved with as widespread support as is possible and most particularly if—as seems likely—our forces are committed to battle. If they are, we wish them God speed.

Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop 4:17, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I would like to begin by making a distinction between what should be the distinctive contribution of the Church at a time like this and what might be the judgment, however considered, of an individual Church leader. The prime responsibility of the Church, qua Church, is to draw attention to the long tradition of Christian thinking on the morality of war and to insist that the criteria or conditions of this tradition are met. In doing that, we are very conscious that it is the Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, who carry the heavy responsibility for actually making such decisions. So, aware of this, I would want to assure all those who have those awesome responsibilities that they are very much in the prayers of the whole Christian community at this time and that the divine wisdom might prevail in this as in all matters. That theme was very much emphasised by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster in their recent joint statement.

That said, in a democracy, the individual judgments of Church leaders will, I hope, contribute to the debate but they will be put forward with proper modesty and there will be a distinction between them and what I believe to be the distinctive, authoritative voice of the Church, which is actually to set out those criteria and to insist that they be met.

I do not intend to go through all the criteria but I do wish to focus very briefly on three of them. First, there must be lawful authority. For the past few hundred years, final authority has rested with the ruler of the nation state. In our time, however, we have the significant achievement of the United Nations. Leaving aside the pre-World War II League of Nations, whose collapse is a warning to us all, for the first time in human history we have the makings of a truly international authority. Some argue that even without a fresh resolution specifically authorising military action there is a legal basis for war. Professor Adam Roberts, for example, has argued that there is a legal basis as a result of already existing UN resolutions.

Other people, such as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, in a recent article in the Tablet, have argued against that position. My point, however, is that even if there are legal grounds for war on the basis of present resolutions, and even if unilateral action is sometimes morally right—as I believe it to have been over Kosovo—in the present situation it is imperative to obtain a fresh mandate if force is to be used. The reason is that the UN exists to be a focus for and an expression of a truly international consensus. When the right course of action is fiercely contested, as it is at the moment, it is that much more important to ensure the widest possible international support and authority.

Some argue that it would be quite wrong to desist from military action because of a veto from another member of the Security Council put forward on purely political grounds. That argument might apply in certain extreme circumstances. But the UN has never operated in the stratosphere above political considerations. It is, and always will be, an arena in which political goals are pursued and conflicting goals are worked through. But this is precisely the process by which we ensure that any UN decision is based on as wide as possible a consensus and the resulting decision has in mind the good of the international order as a whole and not just the national interest of a particular state or group of states.

I want to emphasise at this point that what is at stake is the authority of the United Nations As the Prime Minister said yesterday:

"At stake in Iraq is not just peace or war. It is the authority of the United Nations".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/2/03; col. 126.]

This is vital, as the Prime Minister emphasised, not just to what might happen over Iraq but for the Middle East and indeed the world as a whole, not just for now but for the future. It follows from this that because it is the authority of the UN that needs to be upheld in relation to Iraq, it is that much more crucial that what is done is done in the name of the UN as a whole and not simply of a few member states.

If there is a fresh resolution of the UN Security Council, recognising that the end of the road has been reached in trying to persuade Saddam Hussein to comply with UN resolutions by peaceful means and authorising the use of military force, those of us who have been sceptical about whether other criteria have been met will need to think again. However, in the absence of such a specific resolution that scepticism will remain.

The second criterion of the tradition is that of just cause. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is a cruel tyrant to his own people and a threat to the region, but is that threat both imminent and serious enough to justify crossing the awesome threshold of war with all its unpredictable and potentially destructive consequences for the region and for the world? A policy of containment and deterrence has worked for the past 12 years, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, pointed out. It has not worked perfectly, not least because of the undermining actions of some states, but it has kept Saddam Hussein within certain constraints.

There is a temptation to believe that some decisive action will put right all that is wrong. Less than perfect solutions are difficult to live with and there is always a level of continuing frustration. Because of this frustration we are sometimes tempted to go for the big, bold decisive step that will somehow remedy everything. Sometimes that is a temptation to be resisted.

The third criterion I want to touch on is that of last resort. Every effort to resolve the dispute by peaceful means must first have been tried and found to fail. The Prime Minister has rightly emphasised that Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to comply with UN resolutions on disarmament. He has indeed had all that time, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, emphasised, the inspectors reported significant success in getting him to disarm in 1998 and there is some reported co-operation now. I believe that they still have a role to play.

The authority of the United Nations is the issue. It needs to be upheld for the whole future of international order. Its authority depends in part on the threat of force now operating on the mind of Saddam Hussein. It may come to the use of actual force. But we are not yet at the end of the road. If we do come to the end of that road, when it is clear that the UN inspectors can achieve no more, a clear sign of that would be a new UN resolution indicating that force was now the only remaining option.

Photo of Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Labour 4:25, 26 February 2003

My Lords, the case for action against Iraq does not start now, does not start with resolution 1441, does not start with 11th September 2001—in fact, I believe that even without the events of 11th September we should sooner rather than later have had to act against Iraq. The case started 13 years ago, which is clear from Command Paper Cm 5769. So to the questions: why Iraq and not other horrible murdering regimes; or others who have been subject to UN resolutions; and why now, the answers to me are clear.

Saddam Hussein's regime had a war waged against it on an UN mandate in 1991 and the resolutions concerning him are all under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, covering,

"Action with respect to threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression", which uniquely provides for the use of coercive force to counter these threats and authorises collective military action. That is the significant and serious difference between resolutions under Chapter 7 and those under Chapter 6, which covers peaceful resolution of conflict and situations such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Kashmir.

The Chapter 7 resolutions all embody and arise from the ceasefire agreement which Iraq was party to and has evaded for the past 12 years. The activity of the regime through those years, rendering the work of UNSCOM impossible so that it left in 1998, and the accumulating evidence of the regime seeking material for which there was no credible civilian purpose in places such as the Congo and in Belarus—in fact, an Iraqi mission was reported visiting Minsk just before UNMOVIC arrived in Iraq—all mean that Iraq is an ever increasing threat prepared to spend its money, from, among other sources, illegal sales of oil, on luxuries for the Ba'ath elite and its weapons of mass destruction programmes rather than medicine to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi children, which the regime makes such propaganda capital out of and which is the result not of sanctions but of the way the regime chooses to manage its affairs.

The idea advanced that containment is an answer ignores history. Containment most certainly has not been working. I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, about that. Although it has had its successes in its time, neither the inspectors nor sanctions were inhibiting the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by this regime. Does anyone doubt that only the real and credible threat of force has achieved the return of the UN inspectors? Resolution 1441 demands full co-operation from Iraq and is a final and last chance which the regime is patently not taking.

Although I am not a lawyer, I really have problems understanding how anyone can raise fears about international law being breached by military action against Iraq. Chapter 7 specifically allows the use of force and Saddam has failed to comply with 23 separate obligations under a series of resolutions under Chapter 7. I said when the House was recalled last September that, as someone who had spent the last 12 months of her government service completely immersed in the Gulf crisis and the war of 1990–91, I felt a sense of de ja vu. It gives me no pleasure to have to say that that sense has only become stronger.

I agree with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in his intellectually powerful and moving speech in Glasgow, when he said that what we are seeing, in the way Saddam is playing at co-operation with the inspectors, is a repeat of the 1990s. Even the very faces around Saddam's military council table are exactly the same. Those of us who have seen all of this before know only too well how this game goes: the serial last-minute concessions, always with a twist of a qualification; visits and interviews with western politicians; the parading of the Christian religion of Tariq Aziz; and so on and so on.

Twelve years after the UN gave him 15 days to disarm—15 days, my Lords—Resolution 1441 gave him a final opportunity to disarm. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said—most recently in his Statement yesterday—if Saddam really takes the opportunity and starts to co-operate, the inspectors can have as long as it takes. But if the evasion continues, there has to be action now. It cannot be that 1441's "serious consequences" turn out only to mean an increased number of inspectors or an extension of inspection time. As my noble friend the Minister made clear today in her comprehensive introduction to this debate, "serious consequences" really have to mean "serious consequences".

As someone who was in the hall in Glasgow listening very carefully to the Prime Minister's speech, which I have subsequently re-read several times, I want to say that the point I heard and understood the Prime Minister making about morality was not, as the media would have it, the case for the morality of war, but rather he was addressing those who are understandably disturbed about the possible consequences of war and the morality of causing those consequences and saying that there were consequences of not taking military action and that these also are disturbing, and morality has to come into that, too.

I have to say to your Lordships that that point has great personal resonance for me. In over 22 years of government service, through many stressful and difficult decisions and situations in my career, there is one outstandingly painful experience which troubles me still, and that is the massacre in 1991 by Saddam of the Shia in Basra and southern Iraq. He was able to massacre them because we stopped our military action earlier than might have been expected. There were issues raised then, too, about international law and a public outcry about continuing to fight and kill Iraqi soldiers after Kuwait had been liberated. But the consequences of us not taking the required action were terrible. Surely there has to be a question of our moral responsibility for not taking action then, and there are surely lessons to be learnt today.

War is always bad but it is not always the worst option. The stark choice is Saddam's: disarm now or be disarmed.

Photo of Lord Howe of Aberavon Lord Howe of Aberavon Conservative 4:33, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for her extremely lucid and forceful presentation, supported as it was by my noble friend Lord Howell and amplified by the remarkable speech—unsurprising but remarkable none the less—that we have just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay.

However, I venture to raise, and shall try to answer, a question which worries me at this point. How does it come about that, in the face of this desperately serious problem, the formidable multilateral organisations of the United Nations and NATO, put together at the end of World War II under the notable leadership of the United States, are currently under threat of disintegration, with leading democracies almost at each other's throats as they try to grapple with this problem?

The fact that that is so is due not to any inherent weakness, fragility or stupidity on the part of some of our long-standing allies; it is because we have not yet been able to reach a clear and concerted conclusion on how to tackle this matter. Yet, we were able to do so, as my noble friend Lady Thatcher, who is sitting beside me, knows so well, in the face of recurrent threats and challenges of a far greater gravity than those that are posed—to put it in an absurd fashion—by this tiny statelet in the Middle East, with a gross domestic product smaller than that of Essex, which has been twice defeated in the past 20 years in head-on conflict. Yet, it has managed to throw us into this hideous turmoil. We understand why, of course. It is because the hapless, wretched, long-suffering and cruelly treated people of Iraq are under the leadership of this cruel dictator with whom we have been fighting in one way or another for so long.

I understand the growing urgency of the situation. But I ask whether we have yet reached the point of taking the final decision—urged upon us by many colleagues—without balancing the other factors, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, did in her speech.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, presented a simple and persuasive case: an ever-increasing threat, but accompanied, alas, over a long period of time by an ever-diminishing determination on the part of the West to confront the hazard. In the years immediately following the noble Baroness's agonising experiences in 1991, there was clear determination, but that was allowed to diminish. The inspectors were withdrawn and suddenly the alarm bells rang for us all on 11th September. From then on, the pressure has gradually built up. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, alongside President Bush, the threat of force to persuade Saddam Hussein to move has been renewed. Resumed pressure is there and it is achieving change, albeit desperately slowly.

In those circumstances, one needs to consider, before reaching a final conclusion, the hazards of going to war, as has already been touched on by many noble Lords. Those hazards relate not only to our troops or our own side, as it were, but to the long-suffering people of Iraq.

I do not believe that the hazards with which we are now grappling—for example, weapons of mass destruction—are likely to manifest themselves while the pressure is being maintained and while Saddam Hussein is in this ever-tightening box. Ironically, almost the only circumstance in which weapons of mass destruction might be deployed is in response to an attack to enforce the resolutions. We must take that factor into account in weighing the balance.

There are two other more substantial factors which we must consider. First, can we be confident that the consequences of war will increase the prospect of peace, security and stability throughout the region? That question must be faced. One reason that it must be faced directly is because one of the engines driving the cause of conflict springs from some thinking in the United States which regards the removal of Iraq's administration as only the precursor to a much wider set of onslaughts to destabilise the entire region. That undoubtedly provokes anxiety there but it also provokes anxiety elsewhere. Therefore, can we be sure of that?

Secondly, can we be confident that success in such an attack will, in the long run, diminish, but not eliminate, the threat of terrorism for the people of this country? Is there not a real danger that, if we are seen as one of the involved and engaged parties in this operation, we shall be seen not as the liberators but as the returning imperial power which created the state of Iraq and, for a long time, governed it?

I believe that those two arguments must be borne in mind before we reach the final conclusion in favour of triggering the war, which is being widely and understandably advocated at present. That is why I think there is a need for us to work even harder than the Prime Minister, to put together support throughout the alliance, if the cause is as important and as vital—even if not risk free—as it is rightly being presented. There is then some justification for believing that we have to go that further distance to achieve that consolidation. It is easy to put the argument, "Action now, and not a minute later". We need to consider that aspect.

My final point is at the heart of this argument. If Iraq is to be disarmed, as it certainly must be—that case cannot be stated too often and too strongly—then the Prime Minister is right, as he has been from the outset, to insist that that should be achieved with the authority of the United Nations. It is very easy to become profoundly impatient with, and almost dismissive of, the United Nations. However, it represents the best international authority that we have. So it is right to wish to secure that authority. Above all, the fundamental reason for wanting to act in this way is the breach of Resolution 1441. If it is our determination to uphold the authority of the United Nations, we need to be sure that we can reaffirm that authority. That is why the Prime Minister is right to be pressing for a second, final and conclusive resolution.

Before then our pressure must be maintained and sustained under the threat of force. If it comes to that, so be it. If, in pursuit of enforcing that determination of the United Nations, our forces are to be engaged as they must be, of course they are entitled to the fullest possible support of this House and of the entire nation.

Photo of Lord Thomson of Monifieth Lord Thomson of Monifieth Liberal Democrat 4:41, 26 February 2003

My Lords, in view of the time factor I want to concentrate on one main point in my remarks. I believe that the American and British Governments are getting their priorities confused, and indeed the wrong way round, in dealing with the twin evils of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The horrors of the Saddam tyranny have for a long time been well known, and have been vividly described by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay. The region in which he operates would be a far better place without him.

There was a unanimous consensus at the UN Security Council around Resolution 1441 for a serious fresh effort to disarm him after the long years of stalemate. President Bush was persuaded again to go down what he no doubt regards as the rather dreary United Nations route. That owes a very great deal to the influence of the Prime Minister. The fact that the UN inspectors have gone back to Iraq, and some progress, albeit modest, has been made, owes a great deal to the joint military pressure mounted by both the United States and the United Kingdom. That cannot be denied.

However, Hans Blix is surely right that after years of defiance of the UN by Saddam, and only weeks of the present inspection programme, it would be wise to give a good deal more time and enhanced resources. An army of occupation of United Nations inspectors is a good deal better than an army of occupation amid the ruins of war. If that last resort of war can be prevented by patient diplomacy, that ought to be the priority.

There is always a danger that decent men draw the wrong lessons from their own historic experiences. In 1956, at the time of Suez, Anthony Eden equated Nasser with Hitler. He was rescued from a foolish war only by the government of the United States. Today, sadly, the leaders of both America and Britain appear to be falling into the same historic fallacy over Saddam Hussein.

Hussein, for all his horrors—described vividly by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay—is no Hitler. He poses no immediate threat to the security of the United States or the United Kingdom. He is not a global threat to the world's safety and security. However, Osama bin Laden and Al'Qaeda are such a threat. There is nothing new about rogue states like Iraq. When they commit inter-state aggression, as Iraq did with Kuwait, the United Nations Charter has machinery to deal with such aggression.

However, there is something frighteningly new about stateless terrorism. It is fuelled by religious fanaticism and prepared globally, from Bali to Manhattan, using the ultimate human weapon of suicide missions, to cause the mass murder of innocent civilians. The international community is still fumbling to find effective means to counter and control this new global threat. There are many uncertainties about the outcome of the present crisis, but I do think that one thing is certain. A resort to war with Iraq, without full United Nations authority, would inflame and aggravate the phenomenon of Al'Qaeda terrorism throughout the world.

There are no easy answers to this non-state underground terrorism. Perhaps a starting point is to apply internationally the Government's domestic policy on crime and violence; that is, to be tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism. The starting point for that policy is right in the heart of the Middle East on Iraq's borders with the Israeli and Palestine conflict. If it were possible to make progress with the famous road-map to an independent Palestine state, alongside a secure Israel, that would do more than anything else to create a climate in which the Al'Qaeda brand of terrorism would steadily wither.

The prospect of a war to disarm Iraq has provoked much moral debate. I enter into that side of it with due diffidence. It is ironic that a secular and reputedly atheistic tyrant like Saddam Hussein should provoke such a debate in the very cradle of the great monotheistic religions. Personally, I prefer the tone of our Archbishop of Canterbury and our Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster—and the Pope—to the Christian fundamentalism of Texas, the Muslim fundamentalism of bin Laden, or the Jewish fundamentalism within Israel.

The Manichaean black and white moral view does not sit easily with the realities of creating peace among nations. I prefer a modest pragmatism. I simply pray that we are going to find a way to enable the United Nations to survive, and to adapt its charter to a world with a single superpower. Perhaps we can also find a way to build a coherent European foreign and defence policy that might provide a useful and healthy balance to the role of that single superpower.

An invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, with all its serious consequences for relations between the Muslim world and the international community, should be absolutely a policy of last resort—it may be a necessary policy of last resort—and only undertaken with clear UN authority. To do otherwise would seriously risk the undermining of the UN and risk the splitting of the European Union. Here at home it would be greatly destabilising to the Government and to a Prime Minister who does not deserve it, because he has shown great courage and conviction—even for those who disagree with some of his emphasis.

It would be too high a price to pay to throw away all that by tackling Iraq by war without United Nations authority, in order to topple a vicious but second-rate Middle East dictator, as against tackling the much greater, more global, more serious problem of the new menace of international terrorism.

Photo of Lord Bramall Lord Bramall Crossbench 4:50, 26 February 2003

My Lords, this very important debate may be the last time that some of us can allow ourselves to be critical or cautionary about our readiness to take part in military action without a resolution specifically authorising it. Once our Armed Forces were committed, I, and I am sure others, would want to give full support to what the Government required them to do and to wish them Godspeed.

Nor would I want to make it harder for the Prime Minister to secure the nation's support for those forces were they to be committed to battle. But I think it is very important that everyone is quite clear what we are likely to be letting ourselves in for if we go down the military path.

Even now—and I agree with my noble and gallant friend—war involving this country may, sadly, be inevitable— and I imagine the Government, despite statements to the contrary, must be resigned to this—with the removal of Saddam Hussein being the "name of the game".

History has shown that when land forces are deployed to battle positions, as ours soon will be, it becomes difficult to reverse the process. And having so overtly supported the Americans on the possible need for military action, the Prime Minister can hardly withdraw that support now; while, unless there is absolute proof—always very difficult to obtain—that no nuclear chemical and biological weapons remain in Saddam Hussein's grasp, and probably without him opting, in advance, for exile, it is difficult to see how the President of the United States, after all the rhetoric, can pull back without very serious political consequences, both domestic and further afield, however well or badly the case for imminent action has been made.

Of course, should Saddam Hussein pre-empt it by voluntarily seeking asylum, there would be general rejoicing and an understandable rush to praise the statesmanship of the President and our own Prime Minister. It seems so unlikely, however, that all the necessary conditions would be met, and I think our most fervent hope must be that the Security Council can, despite the turmoil within NATO and Europe, be persuaded that military action is the only way to uphold its vital authority.

This does not necessarily mean that war is the best thing for the region—far from it—but most of us who have been critical would feel obliged to accept specific authorisation as being the proper way to deal with international problems in the 21st century.

Over six months ago—and for the moment putting on one side the difficult moral question of the greater or lesser of two evils—I set out in a letter to The Times differing views as to what the aftermath of military action might be. The first was that if Iraq was successfully attacked and Saddam Hussein was removed, preferably with the help of a popular uprising, the terrorist-ridden, war-torn Middle East would somehow unravel beneficially. It would become a more benign and tolerant area in which moderate Muslim governments could take heart; a Palestinian solution might even become possible; and the ability of terrorists to strike another blow at the United States, or indeed at Europe, would be neutralised.

The second was quite the opposite, with a conflict in Iraq producing in that "cauldron of anti-western feeling", as Secretary of State Powell described it, the sort of display of massive United States activity which has for some time provided one of the mainsprings for terrorist motivation. Far from calming things down, making the Middle East, or the world, a safer place, enhancing any peace process and advancing the war against terrorism, it would make things infinitely worse.

To some extent, you pay your money and you take your choice, although I did point out strongly that, even with all America's military power and the high technology, getting into Iraq to implement a political aim—whatever that may turn out to be—was always going to be easier than handling what you did when you got there and being able to extricate yourself after the battle was over.

Well, either of those scenarios, I suppose, remains a possibility. And should the first one happily be more accurate, one good thing that could result would be that the Americans, from a position of apparent strength and should they be so disposed, could enforce as only they can a fair and just solution to the Israel/Palestine problem. Indeed, any odium in the Muslim world which the Americans and ourselves would be bound to incur over coalition military action might be reduced if that action were to be linked to solving and underwriting the Palestine problem.

But the downside of the more likely second scenario, and to some extent of the first, has also to be appreciated and thought through. Winston Churchill once wrote:

"Never, never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter".

Well, there are bound to be risks in terms of casualties both to innocent civilians and to Anglo-American forces, and over a longer than anticipated duration, bearing in mind the possibility of fighting in built-up areas where the effect of fire power would be greatly reduced.

After all, in Kosovo it took NATO warplanes—admittedly without ground force action—71 days to bring the Yugoslav dictator to his knees, and then it was only the intervention of the Russians that clinched the capitulation; and the Yugoslav ground troops had hardly been weakened at all. Although it took only 100 hours to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait, the Republican Guard was able to extricate itself back into its homeland without too much difficulty. With those sorts of risks, the moral justification and the threat have to be particularly strong, as they were in Korea, in the Falklands and in the first Gulf War.

Then it must be recognised that such largely American military action would constitute, whether intended or not, a massive piece of imperial policing in an area where it is probably less, not more, western intervention that is needed. Any satisfactory rearrangement of Iraq is bound to require a quite lengthy occupation; and like imperial interventions in the past, it is often difficult to know when and where to stop and all too easy to get drawn forward to yet more rearrangements in other areas. After all, Afghanistan is still an ongoing and tense issue.

So the burdens of this sort of policing are often of long duration, very expensive and ultimately dangerous and democracies particularly soon become impatient of such burdens; and this time, I suspect, even more quickly. And of course by then the funding and resources of our already greatly overstretched Armed Forces will have been woefully and totally inadequate because of their underfunding during the past decade.

From the outset, when he took the view that America should not be left to deal with the difficult problem on its own, the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister has been a key player and a major influence in steering the whole question into the UN arena and securing that diplomatic triumph of a unanimous vote in the Security Council. For that, I believe the country should be very grateful to him. I would like to think also that our hearts are with him at this very difficult time in the nation's affairs.

So what is it that we should reasonably and constructively ask of him even at this late hour? There are four things. First, that he sees that the United Nations inspectors are given all possible intelligence of the sort that has convinced him and the President that Iraq still has these weapons and that they still pose a threat, so that they can seek them out and get rid of them. That is far the most painless and easy way of disarmament. If they can do so, they should be allowed to continue to do so. They will of course need more time and one has to accept that the longer they have the less credible and immediately practicable any fallback military option becomes.

Secondly, the right honourable gentleman must continue to do all in his power to build on that earlier UN consensus to secure an agreed, positive and effective course of action, not ruling out a permanent United Nations inspectors' presence, and perhaps trying to bring together the two resolutions in order to ensure complete disarmament, on which everyone agrees, or a resolution specifically authorising force in certain circumstances. A successful outcome will of course be influenced by how Dr Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei report and what they feel they can do subsequently.

Then, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, I believe that the Prime Minister and his Ministers must do more to get the nation's support. So far, some of their efforts, including that absurd dossier, have not done them justice. Despite—perhaps because of—the continual changes of direction in justification for various actions, they have failed to convince.

A national consensus affects their standing but, even more important, it is essential for the morale and motivation of the men and women of the Armed Forces who will put their lives on the line. Before going into battle, they need to know that the country is behind them. Convincing the country that there is a good, constructive case for such action will largely depend on the progress that the Prime Minister makes on the first two tasks.

Finally—this point has already been extremely well dealt with—there must be a proper political aim at every stage of the operation, so that the military objectives and plan can fit into it. The wider implications of war must also be thought through, so that any damage limitation exercise can be in place from the outset.

If all those matters are handled well, I suppose that there is just the possibility that a damaging war could be averted or, if not, at least that military operations will be conducted as quickly and intelligently as possible. By that I mean a land battle of 14 days at the outside, otherwise we are in deep trouble.

If anything goes wrong, certainly in the short term but probably in the longer term, serious questions will undoubtedly be asked about why the Government, with Her Majesty's Opposition close in their wake, went down that road in the first place, instead of that of continued containment of Iraq and concentrating on the more imminent threat posed by Al'Qaeda and other terrorist organisations—which, after September 11th, continue to be the real and most pressing threat.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Donington Lord Bruce of Donington Labour 5:02, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I ask the indulgence of the House with regard to its rules. Owing to the unfortunate fact that I am more than 90 years of age and consequently find it difficult for medical reasons to be up much after normal dinner time, I must ask your Lordships' indulgence in this respect. I shall not be able to be here at the end of the debate—after, no doubt, some distinguished speeches. I hope that the House will extend its generosity to me if I disobey that rule on this one occasion.

I do not believe in war. I do not believe in war because it is one of the most immoral acts that organised or semi-organised society can perpetrate. We talk of collateral damage in the event of any war. I wonder whether we understand what is really meant by collateral damage. In the case of the people of Iraq, it means that in addition to whatever disabilities they may face now—I should not want to minimise them—they will be blown up and torn apart, men, women and children who have never played any part in even mildly inconveniencing our life here.

It is more than 50 years ago since, as a serving officer in Her Majesty's Army during the war—I was a member of the Territorial Army even before that—I was asked to go before the North Portsmouth Labour Party, which was looking for a candidate at the time. When they invited me, party members knew perfectly well my military record at the time—risible and uninteresting though it may be. So I went to see them. It was probably an unwinnable seat, but I eventually won it. Praise be to luck; praise be to my good luck.

But one thing that my party in Portsmouth impressed on me was that one of the cardinal tenets, one of the built-in beliefs, of my party was the wickedness of war. My party said that it quite understood that I had been involved in both the TA and in the then current conflict but, for the future, my party through to its core did not believe in war; it believed passionately in peace. It secured my agreement to obey that edict. Thus I have tried ever since.

I very much regret the way in which the current argument has occasionally been conducted. It has not always been conducted in public. Where it has been aired in public, it has not always been other than rather loose with the truth. I have abundant examples of that, which only the constraints of time permit me to ignore.

War is an evil thing. It is not something to be brushed over or set aside. It is not something to be borne and tolerated in the back of one's mind on the basis of some probability occurring in future. It is a terrible thing and has terrible consequences for the individuals concerned. If we go to war—if we were unwise enough to go to war—we should be doing rather more than that. We should be implicitly harming the whole political structure of the world—a political structure based in the main on the sovereignty of individual states to arrive at their own decisions, to consult their own people and, through the United Nations, to express their collective view.

What would happen in the event of our opening hostilities with the rest of the world—because that is what it would be? We would be destroying its civil structure. Instead, we would be substituting—for perfectly good, sincere reasons—the power and authority of one state, the United States, which, thereafter, would in effect conduct the affairs of mankind in general.

One may find that difficult to realise, until one comes to consider one small matter—it is very small, but illustrative. It concerns the European Community, in which I have a more than passing interest. One of the reasons why Turkey has, so far, been denied membership of the European Community is, ironically, its record in dealing with the Kurds. It is small things like that—there are many more like them—that go to illustrate that, if we go to war in support of our colleagues in the United States, we shall do rather more than achieve a bloody victory; we shall achieve a transformation in the way that the affairs of the world outside the United Kingdom and America are conducted.

Photo of Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar Conservative 5:10, 26 February 2003

My Lords, if the war starts in March, as seems almost certain, it will be, in my view, a war of cynicism, aggression, greed and unpopularity. In Glasgow, the Prime Minister claimed that unpopularity was the price of leadership; in fact, Mr Blair has been unpopular not because he has been leading but because he has been following President Bush. His unpopularity is the price not of leadership but of "followership".

During the past century, the United States was, undoubtedly, a considerable force for good. However, it would be difficult to argue that the current Administration in Washington are a force for good. That is why they are so generally unpopular in much of the world. Their arrogant bullying; their opposition to measures to improve the environment and to arms control, as outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby; their attitude to the international court; their meanness over foreign aid; and their economic policy—free trade for everybody else but subsidies and tariffs for themselves—which damages the economy of many poor countries, make it difficult to argue that they are a force for good. Yet, it is that most benighted American Administration for many years—probably over a century—that this country has followed so slavishly. That is what causes the Government's unpopularity.

It will be a cynical war because the reasons given for it are largely bogus. The idea that Saddam Hussein—odious though he be—presents an imminent threat to this country or the United States is deeply implausible. In an article in the New York Times entitled "Bush should start telling the truth about this war", the pro-war, pro-Israeli right-wing American columnist Thomas Friedman admitted that Saddam,

"does not threaten America. He can be deterred".

Friedman added:

"It is a war of choice".

That is plainly true. It is certainly not a war of necessity, still less a just war.

Another reason given for the war—the alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden—is even more bogus. There is no evidence for it.

The third reason given is that Saddam defies UN resolutions. That will not wash either: Israel also defies UN resolutions. Instead of being bombed by the Americans, however, Israel is showered with weapons and dollars for its defiance. In her interesting speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, sought to differentiate between Israel and Iraq, but there are many other UN resolutions concerning Israel besides Nos. 242 and 338. Unlike Iraq, Israel occupies territory and rules people in Syria and Palestine with no conceivable right to do so. Israel also wages a vicious colonial war against the Palestinians, who are struggling to free themselves from a brutal occupation. Yet, the Bush Administration give the Israeli Government unconditional support and allow Sharon to go on building illegal Jewish settlements in contravention of United Nations Resolution 465, as well as international law. Thus continues Sharon's robbery with violence of the small amount of land still left to the Palestinians.

If our Prime Minister had made his support of the United States over Iraq conditional on serious action—rather than inaction—from Bush to settle the Palestinian issue on the basis of UN resolutions, he would, at least, have been consistent and just, unlike the president. Unfortunately, he has done nothing of the sort.

The fourth reason—that there is a moral case for war because of the undoubtedly bestial nature of the Iraqi regime—was produced by the Prime Minister in some desperation, after his other reasons were shown to be unconvincing. As Harold Macmillan said, morals are best left to the archbishops; we all know what the archbishops—and the Pope—think about war in Iraq. In consequence, many fewer people than before believe what the Prime Minister says. In the late 1940s, there was a saying about President Truman that ran:

"Washington could not tell a lie; Roosevelt could not tell the truth; Truman does not know the difference".

That is increasingly applicable to the Prime Minister. He says that we are making a final push for peace, when, clearly, we are making a final push for war.

It will be a war of aggression. As many noble Lords have said, Saddam—horrendous though he is—has done nothing recently to merit being attacked. The principal warmongers in America are called "chicken-hawks". Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle and company were not brave enough to risk their own lives fighting in Vietnam, but they are plenty brave enough to risk other people's lives attacking Iraq. Aggression against Iraq takes attention away from America's flagging economy and the failure to find bin Laden. They also want Iraq's oil, which is where the greed comes in, and they aim to establish US-Israeli imperial hegemony throughout the Middle East. My noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon touched briefly on that.

Probably—far from certainly—the Iraqis will crumble, not fight. Probably, America, through persuasion of various sorts, will get a UN resolution. That will mean that the president and the Prime Minister will get away with their aggression for the time being. But, as many noble Lords have said, Heaven knows what will happen after that. As the fine Israeli writer Amos Oz has said, the dangers of the war are immense, and, as others have pointed out, what has happened in Afghanistan is not very encouraging.

The only sure result of the aggression will be even greater hatred of the United States and the recruitment of more terrorists. The eventual victims of those terrorists will be innocent, but the president will be guilty.

Photo of Lord Goodhart Lord Goodhart Liberal Democrat 5:18, 26 February 2003

My Lords, as a lawyer, I shall speak about the Iraq crisis in the context of international law. I do so as someone who is British and American by birth and has strong links to both countries.

I shall start from a basic principle: there should be an international rule of law that governs the external actions of states in the same way that, as we now accept, the rule of law must govern the conduct of the state in the internal exercise of its powers. In that context, it is a matter of great concern that, in some respects, the USA—the present Administration, at least—rejects that principle, which it sees as a limitation on its powers. That is true of, at least, some of the aspects of the handling of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and it is true of the American attitude to the International Criminal Court, which has been not just a refusal to co-operate but a policy of active obstruction.

International law is more amorphous and uncertain than domestic law. It has something equivalent to statute law, with the Charter of the United Nations and the numerous covenants, conventions and treaties made since the end of the Second World War. However, those are not exhaustive sources of international law. International law develops outside the treaty system, as well as within it. There is only a rudimentary court system. There is the International Court of Justice, but it has limited jurisdiction. We now have the International Criminal Court and the ad hoc tribunals on Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

Finally, there is of course no central agency for law enforcement. We must rely on the willingness of states to contribute their own forces and logistics support to enforcement actions.

If we are to support action against Iraq we must be satisfied that that action is within the rule of law and not outside it. There are three possible legal justifications for military intervention in Iraq: first, the right of humanitarian intervention; secondly, self-defence; and, thirdly, the failure to comply with the United Nations resolutions. There has been confusion between these three justifications, which has at times been shared by our own Government.

Let us look first at humanitarian intervention. This is a new principle which has arisen outside the charter. It was most clearly recognised in Kosovo. It is widely, but not universally, accepted by international lawyers. In cases such as genocide by rulers against their own people, as in Rwanda and Cambodia, it is hard to deny that such a principle exists.

Can it apply to Iraq? Can we invade Iraq to save its own people from tyranny? Saddam Hussein is certainly a murderous tyrant. He has killed thousands of his opponents and he has caused many thousands of deaths among Iraqis by the way he has spent money on arms and palaces which he was supposed to spend on food and medicines. But the right of humanitarian intervention is an exceptional power and can be used only in exceptional circumstances such as genocide or major ethnic cleansing. The closest Saddam has come to this is in his treatment of the Marsh Arabs, whose culture he has destroyed and many of whose people he has killed. But it would be unrealistic to treat even that as a justification for war. I do not believe that we are entitled to go to war with Iraq to save the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein, desirable as that result would be.

As regards self-defence, individual and collective rights of self-defence are recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. However, evidence of Iraqi involvement in the events of 11th September are non-existent. We plainly cannot use that as a justification for an attack. We are looking therefore at the question of pre- emptive self-defence—the right to strike first to forestall an attack which will happen in the future.

It is questionable whether a right of pre-emptive self-defence exists in international law. Most, but not all, international lawyers believe that it does. But most are also agreed that the right can exist only when an attack is imminent. What "imminent" means is, admittedly, unclear when weapons of mass destruction can be transported in a container on a lorry or a ship, or, indeed, even in a test-tube.

The most that can be said now is that at some time in the future Saddam may choose to make a weapon of mass destruction available to a terrorist group. We cannot regard that as a sufficiently clear and imminent threat to justify an attack now. On that issue, I beg leave to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, of Guildford.

And so we come back to the third ground for intervention, the failure of Iraq to comply with the United Nations orders to destroy weapons of mass destruction and not to re-equip itself, and, in particular, its non-compliance with resolutions 687 and 1441. I believe that this is a far stronger ground for intervention, and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, was right to concentrate entirely on it.

The United Nations has power under Article 39 to decide on the measures to take to maintain peace and security; under Article 41 the measures may be sanctions; and under Article 42, if sanctions prove to be inadequate, the United Nations may use armed force.

I have little doubt that Iraq still has biological and chemical weapons; I have little doubt that an Iraq in possession of weapons of mass destruction is, and would become increasingly, a threat to the peace and security of its region, if not of the wider world. I therefore have to accept that the use of armed force would be a proportionate and legitimate response if no other form of pressure can induce Iraq to disclose and destroy its weapons of mass destruction and its facilities for making them.

But the use of armed force would be legitimate only if other methods had failed. The question is, have they failed? Certainly they have not yet succeeded, but it is not clear that they have yet failed. We must not allow a timetable to be dictated by logistics and climate. We must act with deliberate speed and not with haste. Others have discussed, and will discuss, possible alternatives to armed force. I will say, once again, that force must be used only as a last resort.

I turn to the final issue, which is perhaps the most important of all. A decision under Article 42 of the United Nations Charter to use force is a matter that must be decided by the international community, acting through the United Nations. That brings me back to where I started—the rule of law must be paramount.

I recognise that without the commitment of the USA there would be no chance whatever of enforcing compliance by Saddam Hussein with the United Nations resolutions. That gives the USA a right to respect for its views and to a strong voice in the decision-making process. But it must balance its great powers with great restraint. As Shakespeare said in "Measure for Measure",

"O, it is excellent

To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous

"To use it like a giant".

The United States and the United Kingdom should act only with the authority of the international community behind them. Without that authority, military force would not be legitimate. I believe that what I have said represents the views not only of most of the British people but of very many Americans as well.

Photo of Lord Wright of Richmond Lord Wright of Richmond Crossbench 5:26, 26 February 2003

My Lords, in my entire career as a British diplomat I cannot recall a crisis to compare with our present situation vis-a-vis Iraq, with the possible exception of the Cuba missile crisis of 1962. I say this not because I think there is any risk, as there certainly was in the case of Cuba, of Iraq targeting the West with weapons of mass destruction; quite the contrary. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, I have never believed that there was an immediate threat from Iraq either against the United States or against Europe.

It seems to me much more likely, as has been argued by both the Sheikh of Al Azhar and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, that an attack against Iraq, which may well be necessary as a last resort, will be seen in the Islamic world as a direct attack against Islam and will fuel further terrorist attacks against the West. This is all the more likely given the Government's failure to convince our American friends of the need for a balanced approach to the deteriorating situation as regards the Palestinians and Israel.

I believe that we are now facing some decisions, and possible misjudgments, that will have profound effects on our long-term national interests in the Middle East and in Europe and on the stability of the neighbouring countries in the Middle East.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, referred to confusing objectives. Let us consider the arguments that have been deployed to justify military action against Iraq. First, we were told that it was a necessary reaction to the events of September 11th against a regime which had close links with terrorists, if not with the perpetrators of those horrendous events. But senior members of the United States Administration had been pressing, long before September 11th, for an attack against rogue states, including Iraq.

Then we were told that the justification for this new policy of pre-emptive attacks, to which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred, was the evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and Al'Qaeda. But I do not believe that I am alone in finding the evidence produced, both in the Government's dossiers and by Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Security Council, not at all convincing.

Then moral arguments were put forward to show what an evil regime it is in Baghdad and that therefore we should press for regime change in order to install some kind of western democracy in Iraq as a basis for democratising other regimes in the region. Ministers have repeatedly confirmed, both in this House and elsewhere, that our prime objective was not regime change but disarmament. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary is specifically on record as saying that we should not be in the business of changing other people's governments. So the inspectors were sent in, backed—quite rightly—by the threats inherent in Resolution 1441, and the benchmark was to be Iraqi co-operation or non-co-operation. Now we are told—in advance of further reports by Mr Blix and Mr El Baradei, and in the face of reports that Saddam Hussein is indeed starting to co-operate—that the Iraqis are clearly in serious breach of Resolution 1441 and that an invasion of Iraq should now be authorised.

What is the urgency? This is not 1991, when we had an urgent need, with strong international support and involvement, to rescue the Kuwaitis from their invaders. Why cannot we wait, as the French, Russians and Chinese argue, for the inspectors to continue their work, and for further time to be given to diplomacy? We may not believe Saddam's assurances to Mr Primakov; we may not trust anything Saddam says; but it is hardly the way to gather international support for our objectives if we are seen to dismiss the efforts of the weapons inspectors even before they have reported to the Security Council. Why not maintain the pressure, and see whether it works?

I acknowledge that those of us who argue against immediate war face a genuine dilemma; namely, the risk of appearing to reduce the pressure on Saddam Hussein. If that were the true purpose of massing our troops in the Gulf, I would support that. But I fear that the truth is that the Americans, or at least the President's senior advisers, have long been determined to attack Iraq.

I find myself in the position of the Irish guide who advised—rather unhelpfully—that we should not be starting from here. But we are, and I therefore ask the Minister the following questions. Have we taken into account the likely, though uncertain, effects of a military assault on Baghdad? Do we share the improbable view of some Americans that it will be a short and "successful" campaign (whatever that means) followed by democratic elections? Have we not learnt the lesson of Bosnia, where we and our allies have tried to install a democratic system in conditions far better understood than those in Iraq? Are we prepared to stay in Iraq for the 10 years it has taken us in Bosnia?

Do we share the stated American view that we can then use Iraq as an example to install Western-style democracy in Syria and Saudi Arabia, for starters? Having been ambassador to both countries, I can assure your Lordships that this would not be an easy task, even if it could be justified in international law.

It is often said that our troops should not be sent into battle without the support of public opinion at home. But they should at least be clear about the Government's objectives. Are they adequately prepared for the horrendous tasks which I believe await any invading force in Baghdad: the need to control a bloody civil war of revenge; a flood of refugees into neighbouring states; a massive humanitarian crisis; and, of course, the threat from those weapons of mass destruction which the inspectors have not yet been able to find?

Photo of Lord Brennan Lord Brennan Labour 5:33, 26 February 2003

My Lords, war is the killing of people and the destruction of things. Let us remember that in the 20th century 160 million people were killed in war—the majority of them civilians. The failure of the League of Nations to prevent the first stage of that horror was followed by the creation of the United Nations after the Second World War, with the declared aim of ridding mankind of the scourge of war.

The UN has sought to achieve that simple but noble objective by introducing a system of world government, a charter to which we and other countries signed up as a treaty, recognising within its terms that it represented a higher level than other treaty obligations. So we have agreed to the following: that war is not justified without the lawful authority of self-defence or a United Nations decision; and that self-defence is justified if there is armed attack until the United Nations can then seek to resolve the problem. But, beyond that, war is justified only when it has been established to the satisfaction of the international community that it is the last resort to protect international peace and security. That is the question that we face, and which the Security Council faces in making its decisions.

Professor Glover of London University said only last week:

"Some of us"—

I think he meant many—

"fear the instability of a world of unauthorised pre-emptive strikes".

He said that undermining the United Nations would lead to,

"the erosion of the world's [present and only] attempt at international authority".

At the end of the 20th century—within three years of it—are we to say to ourselves that this is a new world, in which unilateralism will prevail over multilateralism and in which the youth, inexperience and difficulties of the United Nations mean that we can pass it by? I think not—and I suspect that most people agree.

So I want to deal plainly with the questions asked by the Prime Minister yesterday and previously. Is there a will for war? The answer is: yes, if it is justified. The moral certainty of someone telling me that he thinks a war is justified is not enough. That moral certainty must be accompanied by rational, objective and convincing reasons why it is necessary, why it is the last resort, and why people's lives should be put at stake. Questioning the will begs that question. It is there.

Secondly, it is, I am afraid, a question of timing. The inspectorate that the nations of the world established to carry out its task in Iraq has said, through Hans Blix, that it has not finished its task. It does not predict an interminable process. It gives the clear impression of expedition, objectivity and good sense. Was the appointment of the inspectors a charade? Are we to say within weeks that the fact that they have found nothing illustrates the virtue of our cause and then pass on, whatever they say? How can that be? Would we accept such a state of affairs in relations between each other, in communities within our own country? I think not.

What of the peoples of our countries? Of course politicians must lead us into war and our generals and soldiers must fight those wars. But, usually, one hopes and prays that it is with the will of their people behind them. In the United States, where I was last week, the New York Times and CBS polls indicated that 60 per cent of the American population did not want a war now. They wanted to give more time. Are we to doubt that in our own country the proportion is any less? Are we to face war through political decision-making which fails to take into account the sentiment of the very people we say we are protecting?

If timing is to be looked at in terms of national support and the inspectors' decisions, surely the critical question is: if we have agreed that the rule of international law will be reflected through the United Nations, should we not wait for the UN to decide? I may be accused of legal rigidity; I hope I simply reflect a citizen's good sense when I say that war is the result of a clear decision. We, in the words of the United Nations, agree to all necessary means being employed to fulfil the need to protect international peace and security.

War is not a penalty for breaching United Nations resolutions. It is a consequence of breaching them in circumstances that threaten international peace and security. Many in the world do not think we are at that stage yet. Timing is therefore critical. I mean war sooner rather than later, but I cannot understand the need for war now.

Next, beyond will and timing, surely the critical question is judgment. Is this war necessary and justified? Let us examine some of the arguments—first, terrorism. Within the past two years, on the Floor of this House, we have debated 11 draft conventions of the United Nations to combat terrorism agreed to before September 11th. How many have been agreed to by now? Very few. We agreed to support an international campaign against the financing of terrorism. Where are we? Are we to forget those very important objectives and suddenly find that we are being told the real problem is Iraq? I find this state of affairs wholly unconvincing.

I therefore turn to the second point. Is there evidence that Iraq is a threat to international peace and security now, so that war is necessary? Let us wait for the inspectors to tell us, and the answer will be one of two. Either we have discovered such a state of weaponry as plainly to constitute such a threat or we have not but we are convinced that they exist. One of the two must be the connotation. I am sure they will not take much longer to establish.

Thirdly, I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary to have a second further resolution of the Security Council before war can be undertaken. Why? Pre-emptive strikes and regime change are concepts unknown to international law. However, we know that when you go to the Security Council and it agrees, you can take action to protect the international community. I hope that in a few weeks' time we will not be faced with a semantic analysis of a Security Council resolution to determine, cryptographically, whether it means war or peace.

Last of all, I turn to judgment. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, reminded us that soldiers go into war intending to come out of it—an exit strategy, militarily and politically. Are we to invade Iraq, then abandon it to a Kurdish war in the north, perhaps, a Shia uprising in the south, chaos in the middle, run by a military regime until we tire of it and leave them to their own resources? Is that what making peace is about in the 21st century? Surely not.

So, the will is there, the timing not yet decided, the judgment ready to be made. Underneath that judgment is the underpinning value that at the beginning of this century I, for one, do not want politicians, no matter how well intentioned, as our Prime Minister very clearly is, to make decisions about Iraq which destroy the international authority of the United Nations, returning us to the very chaos we fought to avoid only 50 years ago.

There is a simple saying which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, captured in his remarks: wisdom is the anticipation of consequences. If we are to make a wise decision about this war, let us consider all the consequences before we make it. If it is war, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, we will support our troops to the hilt, perhaps with a heavy heart, but afterwards we will ask: was this a just war? That is the critical question. Is this a just war for the right reasons, with the right intentions, aiming for the right result?

This debate is not about will or national sentiment; it is about legal, moral and rational discernment before we expose our world to a calculated, deliberate war.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 5:45, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I was reminded by the declaration of his pacifism by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, of an organisation which flourished in the late 1930s called the Peace Pledge Union. Most of its members were not pacifists; they believed that by demonstrating and calling for peace they could help to achieve peace. But in fact they achieved the opposite. They were so effective that they helped defeat the government of the day in the Fulham by-election. That gave the government such a shock that, in the years until the Second World War broke out, they were very cautious about rearming, when they should have been rearming. The consequence, of course, was that Hitler took courage and proceeded to undertake his series of annexations, confident that the British people were so feeble that they would not resist him.

When I look at pictures of the recent march, which 1 million people went on, I say to myself that it is probable that if they have any effect it will be to encourage Saddam Hussein to believe that he can continue longer in his obstruction of the United Nations. The marchers were very sincere and genuine people, and they certainly had the right to demonstrate, but I think the result of their efforts, so far as there was a result at all, would have been the negative one that I have just described.

I have been asking myself why there is such doubt in the country about the wisdom of the Government's policy. I think that it is, to some extent, a question of public relations. They started by allowing the impression to get about that the purpose of the inspectors was to discover a smoking gun. That, as we now understand, is not the purpose. It is to monitor the observance of the United Nations' resolution. But the impression spread that the smoking gun search was the objective, and of course, no smoking gun has yet been discovered. I think that is still bothering the public, because that was the first impression that formed in their mind when this affair was at an early stage.

The inspectors have done well to correct people's understanding by referring to Saddam Hussein's unwillingness to comply with the United Nations' resolution, but there is still a residual feeling that the absence of a smoking gun reflects badly on the Government's policies.

I should like to talk about North Korea, which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. One is asked, if we are about to wage war against Iraq, why are we not contemplating something similar in relation to North Korea? It is more dangerous than Iraq; it may have, as is generally believed, several nuclear weapons already. It certainly has chemical and biological weapons. It has one of the biggest armed forces in the world. It has a cruel and aggressive dictator. But there are two points to be made in explaining why the United States in particular, as well as China and North Korea's neighbouring countries, are approaching the problem of the recent North Korean renunciation of its treaty obligations regarding weapons of mass destruction with some caution. North Korea has in fact negotiated with the United States an agreement which was effective for eight years, but which has just been rejected. So North Korea has shown itself willing to negotiate, which I think is not true of Saddam Hussein.

The main point, however, is the possible possession by North Korea of nuclear weapons and its certain possession of other types of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea has 10,000 artillery pieces on the border with South Korea. As the capital of South Korea, Seoul, is very close to the border, the South Koreans are not very keen on an attack on North Korea. I think that one has to ask the following question. If Saddam Hussein were not restrained at all by the inspectors or by some other measure, would he not very soon have the same sort of weapons, including nuclear weapons, which he had almost developed in 1991? If that were so, I think that the West would be very cautious about attacking Saddam Hussein.

My last, and most important point is to reinforce those who talked about the implications for the Middle East of a war against Iraq. What will happen after a successful war is ended? The American hawks would say that there would be a democratisation of the countries in the Middle East which would usher in an era of peace, which would make it easier rather than more difficult to resolve the problem of Israel and the Palestinians. I am very sceptical about that scenario, and I think that other noble Lords who have spoken are right to be sceptical of it. My noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell wrote a very interesting—indeed, brilliant—article in the current issue of the RUSI Journal in which he referred to the possibility of the Middle East being in a state of sullen humiliation. He talked of an increased threat of terrorism.

So I believe that one thing that is absolutely essential for the United States in particular to do at the end of a war against Iraq, if such a war occurs, is to show unprecedented energy, skill and determination in promoting a solution to the Arab-Israeli problem. I think that it is a great pity that the road map has not yet been published by the Quartet. The actions of the Quartet were apparently put in suspense during the Israeli election period and I think that that too was a mistake.

As we would all agree, the solution has to be fair to both sides. It has to safeguard the existence of Israel. It has to involve withdrawal from the occupied territories, which are illegally occupied in international law. When I say "withdrawal", I mean total withdrawal, not just a partial withdrawal. I do not think that it is very encouraging how Mr Sharon has formed his new government as it contains elements which I think will be very resistant to withdrawal from the territories. It must involve the demolition of what I call Mr Sharon's wall, which is dividing what territory the Palestinians have. I believe that unless these things are done, we shall live to regret it.

Photo of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Liberal Democrat 5:53, 26 February 2003

My Lords, Resolution 1441 is unequivocal. All United Nations Security Council members forged a common position based on the view that Iraq today poses a major threat inside and outside its borders, a threat sufficiently serious to trigger the gravest consequences of all—military action—to force her to comply with all resolutions passed by the United Nations since 1991. Resolution 1441 goes right back to Resolution 687. One of the prohibitions placed on Iraq then was terrorism. Resolution 687, in paragraph 32, required Iraq,

"to inform the Security Council that it will not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organisation directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory and to condemn unequivocally and renounce all acts, methods and practices of terrorism".

Three weeks ago, I questioned the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Al Douri, on terrorism. He told me:

"Iraq has no links with international terrorist organisations".

Others have questioned Saddam Hussein, who declared in his interview last night with Dan Rather, of the US television channel, that Iraq has no links with the Al'Qaeda network. I do not think that we need to look that far to see that Iraq is in grave breach of paragraph 32 of Resolution 687.

I call noble Lords' attention to the MKO, an organisation proscribed by the United Kingdom, the USA and the European Union. What is it? How does it work? The MKO has a clear history. The organisation was set up in 1960 to operate against the Shah—who was himself an impostor as his grandfather took the throne from the hereditary Shah in 1924. The MKO was a part of the Iranian revolution in 1979. However, it had a disagreement with the new government, in 1981, and moved to Iraq, where it has based itself since 1986. The MKO claims to be a modern human rights movement, the true opposition to the current government in Iran, and that it fights only the Iranian military. It says that it never attacks civilians or nationalities other than Iranians.

In fact, the MKO's guiding rules are not based on human rights at all. It is deeply unpopular in Iran, inter alia because of its involvement in the Iran-Iraq war, when it fought against Iran. One of its great claims is that it promotes women's rights and that it opposes the wearing of the Hijab. However, every one of the women who is a member of the MKO or serves in its forces wears the Hijab. The MKO has separate training camps for women. It rules by brainwashing, force and weapons. It is a personality cult of Mr Rajavi, its head.

Let us look at the claim that the MKO fights only against Iranian military forces and never assaults civilians. The actuality is that the MKO participated actively, in August 1998, in the chemical weapons assault on the northern Kurdish Iraqis at Halabja. What did its forces do? Evidence given to me by those involved declares that the MKO troops guarded the Iraqi border so that the unfortunate Kurds could not escape. The MKO was involved, according to evidence given to me, in the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It supplied the Iraqi army with weapons and tanks. There is also Kuwaiti evidence of its involvement.

In 1991, MKO forces brutally crushed the subsequent uprising of the Kurds. They said:

"We killed thousands of them".

MKO forces were active in support of the Iraqi army's brutal oppression of the southern Shias, where thousands more were killed. I have evidence, too, that they were involved in the draining of the Iraqi marshlands—a subject to which I shall return on the genocide against the Iraqi Marsh people, against whom draining of the marshland has been the final weapon. MKO forces have been involved in attacking the Marsh Arabs from 1992 onwards. The MKO is a mercenary force, armed, trained, mobilised and deployed by the Iraqi military. Indeed, its leader, Mr Rajavi, constantly claims that he walks,

"hand in hand with Saddam".

What is the MKO's international links? Those, too, can be proven by the people trained in the MKO's own military camps in Iraq. They are European—French, Italian, British. They are Arab, from other Arab nations. They are from South America. If one wants to trace the elusive link with the Al'Qaeda network and Saddam Hussein, one should note that the MKO was active in the Taliban. The Taliban, of course, provided the nursery for Al'Qaeda's network. On Iraq's links with international terrorism, I urge noble Lords to look no further than the MKO.

In the global post-9/11 fight against terrorism, Iraq is in the dock, in clear breach of 687 and therefore of 1441. Iraq's MKO ownership and direction makes the Iraqi denial of links with any international terrorist organisation frankly untrue. This organisation, owned by Iraq, is a threat outside Iraq. Inside Iraq, I have evidence from others that the MKO has actively hidden weapons of mass destruction from the earlier inspectors.

Let us examine the case for weapons of mass destruction and Iraq. Once more, I refer to Resolution 687 of 1991, which declares that the United Nations Security Council was:

"Conscious also of the statements by Iraq threatening to use weapons in violation of its obligations under the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925, and of its prior use of chemical weapons and affirming that grave consequences would follow any further use by Iraq of such weapons".

The resolution, in paragraph 8:

"Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of: . . . All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities . . . All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres".

Indeed, it states that Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the items specified.

I asked Ambassador Al Douri about Iraq's retention of weapons of mass destruction. He told me clearly in front of witnesses that Iraq had disarmed from all weapons of mass destruction two to three years ago. He added spontaneously that nor did Iraq poison her own citizens. As a mouthpiece of his master, Saddam Hussein, Mr Al Douri says only what he is authorised to say. Saddam Hussein's television interview last night reiterates those views.

Is Iraq in breach of Resolution 687? What is the evidence? I have first-hand evidence over the years when I paid many visits to the Iraq and Iranian borders, the Iraqi marshlands and the Iraqi refugees. From 1992 I have clear evidence from an eye-witness of three parcels being dropped from a helicopter which burst on landing. Seven people died within three hours. There were no external wounds at all, but bleeding from apertures in their face. Their skin turned blue. Others were made very ill.

In 1996 I reported to Geneva to those charged with monitoring the chemical weapons convention, to which I have just referred, that there was a yellow explosion from an aeroplane over the marshlands. I interviewed some of the victims. They said that it was a great, yellow cloud that spread across their land. Hundreds of people died and many were very ill. I interviewed a handful of the survivors shortly afterwards.

In 1998 I had clear evidence of the defeat of the weapons inspectors' only visit to an MKO camp. That was the only visit that they were allowed because Saddam Hussein declared to the weapons inspectors that the MKO camps and sites were diplomatically protected; that they were inside Iraq, but they had to be treated as though they were foreign embassies. That meant that the inspectors went in only once. I have clear evidence of the ways in which the MKO shifted around weapons of mass destruction. Their commanders pushed them away, hid them, and boasted afterwards of having been successful in fooling the inspectors.

In 1999 and 2000 there is clear evidence again of tarred boxes which were thought by those observing them to contain weapons of mass destruction in terms of biological or chemical weapons. Many hundreds of tarred boxes were transported and buried deep inside the marshes. Today I have much evidence of where thousands of missing documents are stored, orders for new weapons and evidence of dual use technology. I have given some of the evidence to Dr Blix and I am of course fully informing the British Government. It is my view that Iraq's breach of Resolution 687 in terms of chemical weapons is absolutely clear.

I turn to human rights. Resolution 688 immediately followed 687. Mr Al Douri said that human rights were all up to standard and that he had a dossier in production to prove that. I believe that that is farcical. In my most recent visit to the Iran/Iraq border two weeks ago the plight of the Marsh Arabs was pitiful. I saw once again thousands of refugees. Four million people have fled Iraq, which is a quarter of Iraq's total population under Saddam Hussein. I was reminded of the ancient cry, "How long, oh Lord, how long!" because the Iraqi refugees are begging for relief and so, I believe, are the Iraqi people inside Iraq.

Neighbouring countries in the region are planning for millions more refugees, including Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The backwash of human misery caused by Saddam Hussein has barely been recognised by the international community. As regards the Iraqi refugees in Iran, the average cost of keeping a refugee alive is 695 dollars a year giving very modest hospitality. The international community provides six dollars per head per annum.

I turn to the International Criminal Court, genocide, international law and Halabja. I have been committed to this most powerful course of action since 1988. The difficulties then of setting up a special tribunal have now been overcome for the special case of the Marsh Arabs through the installation of the International Criminal Court. Genocide against the Marsh Arabs has continued unceasingly since last July when the International Court was brought into being. Why the Marsh Arabs? The massacre of the northern Kurds is well known in the West and internationally accepted as genocide. But I claim that in contrast the Iraq regime's long-planned and near-finalised extinction of the indigenous inhabitants of the lower Mesopotamian marshlands of Iraq, known in the West as the Marsh Arabs, has gone virtually unnoticed.

I believe that the Marsh Arabs can be defined as a group under the 1948 genocide convention through the actus rea, the physical act of destruction in whole or in part of the group, and mens rea the specific intent to commit genocide. I have collected contemporaneous and historic evidence from the Marsh Arabs themselves during the time of their destruction, travelling both inside the marshes and nearby from the most destructive period from 1991 until today. That can be verified.

I remind noble Lords that the duty on state parties to the genocide convention is to stop the genocide and to punish those engaged in this ethnic mass murder. If the Security Council cannot be persuaded to act, an operation should be mounted by any signatory to the convention to secure the perpetrators and bring them to trial before a court specially constituted to try such crimes against humanity. Has genocide been committed against the Marsh Arabs? Yes; then action is imperative.

On the broader front the policy of containment has wholly failed. Since Resolution 687 was passed the Iraqi people have endured 12 more years of deepest suffering. In my view and that of others, the Marsh Arabs have been the victims of genocide. Saddam Hussein has successfully retained his weapons of mass destruction and international terrorist organisation is under his control. I submit that the region and beyond is at grave risk.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 6:08, 26 February 2003

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, who is well known in this House for her first-hand knowledge of the suffering of the Iraqi people and of the causes of that suffering.

I return to the wider question. I support the Prime Minister's call yesterday for an even-handed approach to the Middle East peace process. I very much welcome the remarks of the noble Baroness in response to my noble friend Lord Hylton and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, yesterday. But in the midst of the campaign against Iraq, can the Government really claim to be sincere about peace in the Middle East and be believed by anyone in that region? The website for the British embassy in Cairo informs Egyptian citizens that the two governments,

"are working together against international terrorism and creating the conditions for the revival of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians".

That is what we want the Arab world to hear, but not what it actually believes. We present a common front, but what happened to the international coalition against terrorism? The days when Ministers toured Arab capitals in search of diplomatic solutions are in the past. We actually offer the assumption that terrorism is to be found in Iraq and we are going after it regardless of a Palestinian settlement or, it seems, of the opinion of anyone in the Middle East.

Today's debate may be too late. We have left the era of peaceful negotiation behind and have entered the zone of wartime propaganda. How many people in the Arab world, even in Kuwait, genuinely believe that we are serious about Palestine? Bishop Abu El-Assal Riah of the Episcopal Church, whom I met a year ago in Jerusalem and who is one of the church leaders who visited Tony Blair and Clare Short last week, has said:

"The road to Baghdad would be much easier if it went through Jerusalem. Going to war will shelve the Palestinian issue for God knows how many years from now. It facilitates the hidden agenda of the Israeli leadership. It will be seen as another crusade".

He added:

"War if it comes will be catastrophic for the faithful remnant of Christians in the birthplace of our faith".

That is just one of many voices—Christian, Jewish and Muslim—and we are not listening to them. Our current diplomacy is shaped not for the Middle East but for the White House. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is scraping by on promises, occasional protests and conferences in Downing Street—arranged only by the permission of Sharon and President Bush. The Prime Minister deserves credit for helping to keep the Iraq issue within the United Nations but ultimately it is a kith-and-kin issue. We will stand by the US rather than succumb to what is perceived as the European Union-United Nations quagmire.

That solidarity with the US is Israel's agenda too. Whatever its behaviour in Palestine, we are incapable of seeing Israel as an aggressor—yet Israel, the victim of the holocaust, is behind the axis of evil concept and is the architect of a new order in the Middle East. One can hear that on Israeli radio. A report on 1st February referred to

"the opportunity for a regional strategic change", and later to,

"an opportunity for establishing a new world order".

In other words, once Saddam has been dealt with, we can clean up Iraq and move on to other inconvenient regimes in the Middle East. There may even be new territories for the Palestinians.

That policy is labelled anti-terrorism. September 11th gave Israel carte blanche to turn the intifada into a state of war and repression and to flush out whole communities surrounding the homes of Palestinian suspects and, where possible, eliminating them. That daily attack, with curfews and closures, goes on largely unreported. There have been hundreds more Palestinian casualties than Israeli casualties. We hear of outrages against Israeli civilians but rarely of the extra-judicial killings and torture of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, we pretend to be active on the diplomatic side. Tony Blair invited the Quartet back to discuss the roadmap but the talks have stalled again and again. Israel has raised up to 100 objections and the US says nothing. No wonder the Palestinian local government Minister, Dr. Sa'ib Urayqat, dismissed the Israeli position on Al-Jazeera TV on 21st February:

"Sharon's road map is one of settlement, destruction, confiscation of land and entrenchment of the occupation".

Is that view unreasonable? Do the Government have a more optimistic view of the talks? They were interrupted by the intifada and postponed for the elections. Are they indefinitely shelved because of Iraq? How does the Cabinet square geo-political support for Israel—not to mention our arms trade with that country and the other matters mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour—with the poverty in Gaza described recently by Clare Short as reaching African proportions?

Christian Aid—I declare an interest as a board member—is extremely concerned about the regional repercussions of war across the Middle East. There is a real risk of political and economic shocks in neighbouring states, Israel and the Occupied Territories. The situation is already critical. The noble Baroness mentioned malnutrition in Iraq. Nearly three in four Palestinians are already on the poverty line. The noble Baroness mentioned also Iraq's contempt for the UN. How can the Government reconcile their policy with Israel's callous attitude to the UN—in particular, to the work of the United Nations Relief Works Agency in the Occupied Territories? Why have they heard nothing about the death of Iain Hook, the British UNWRA project worker who was killed in so-called crossfire by the IDF in November? What about the brutal treatment of many Palestinians who work with the UN? Does it take one British life for us to complain? Are we more concerned about the threat to Israeli soldiers from terrorists, real and imagined, than to Palestinians?

This debate may be about Iraq but millions of British citizens—not to say Arab and Muslim friends throughout the world—know that by embarking on war we are selling our Palestinian friends down the river in the North Atlantic cause.

What about the humanitarian consequences already mentioned by many of your Lordships and acknowledged as a critical element? After years of sanctions, 50 per cent to 60 per cent of Iraqis depend on the Oil for Food programme. Despite the hardship, that programme is acknowledged to be working efficiently. A war would cause it to collapse. Non-governmental organisations working in Iraq say that there is nothing to replace it. Nor does the UN have sufficient stocks to meet the inevitable demands of perhaps 2 million displaced persons—half of them fleeing as refugees to Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey and Iran.

I will repeat a number of questions posed by Save the Children, Oxfam and other agencies. Who will be responsible for co-ordinating humanitarian action in Iraq—the UN or the US as part of its war effort, as many fear? What extra funding has the Department for International Development set aside for humanitarian action? It is believed that while billions are available for war, nothing has been budgeted for the humanitarian consequences. How much will the Government give to the latest UNRWA 90 million dollar appeal in Palestine?

With the second Security Council resolution still to be discussed, there is still time for a European solution—for the Prime Minister to insist that weapons inspectors should carry on and that an even-handed approach is just as important to the Middle East as terrorism and more important even than war with Saddam Hussein.

Photo of Baroness Uddin Baroness Uddin Labour 6:19, 26 February 2003

My Lords, these are the last hours of hope. My heart also goes out to the Prime Minister and I pay tribute to his gallant efforts to achieve Resolution 1441. I am sure that no one disagrees.

I sat through the whole of the Prime Minister's Statement in another place yesterday and agree wholeheartedly with and believe my right honourable friend when he says that he does not want war and knows that no one in the House wants war. But my agreement stops at that point.

After hearing moving contributions from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I feel humbled by my own contribution. I almost withdrew my name from the list of speakers, thinking that there was nothing more to be said.

However, as we approach the beginning of this inevitable, horrible war that will end the world as we know it, as a mother I have to share my opinion and have my say. It is a difficult endeavour, but the Prophet of Islam instructed that even at the moment that we are surrounded by Armageddon, the believer should continue to plant trees. The wisdom there is that the end of something is always the beginning of something else. I am not for one moment suggesting that we plant trees.

As a child of war in Bangladesh—it had its fair share of violent conflict, to which members of my family were lost—I carry many of the scars of my then countrymen and women: scars of rape, death, pain, broken limbs, devastated lives, pain and revenge. My abhorrence towards the particular conflict that we face by no means comes from the fact that I am a pacifist.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will acknowledge our absolute and total support for his efforts in Afghanistan. My criticism of the current approach of the Government whom I support comes with equal commitment to the fact that what I believed then about Afghanistan, I believe about Iraq now. Any war against Iraq would be both unjust and immoral in my opinion. Thank God, I share that opinion with a number of noble Lords and other people in Britain.

Support for action is incredibly unwise and inhumane. The context in which the war is to be waged is not only based on untruths—I hesitate to say lies—and duplicity, but is frightening in its avowed barbarity and ferocity. The message coming from the US is that Iraq and whoever "happens" to be there is about to be annihilated. Recently at Mayport Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, US President George Bush told hundreds of naval personnel, on the eve of the war, that rules of war did not apply to terrorists. He said:

"On 9–11, the terrorists brought war to us—now we're taking it to them".

He called terrorists—whom else could he be referring to but the Iraqis, with whom the US is about to go to war—"cold-blooded thugs" and "outlaws".

Earlier, the US public was told that Saddam Hussein was using his own citizens as human shields. Pentagon reports claimed that the Iraqi army was hiding among the Iraqi citizenry. The Pentagon also showed satellite images of what it claimed were missile launchers "parked" outside mosques. In January, Iraq "experts" Frank Gaffney and Richard Perle said that the chemical and biological weapons in Iraq's possession were hidden in the private homes of Iraqi citizens, and in hospitals, universities and mosques. All those locations have effectively been made fair game and open to attack.

Actually that was a cue: here we had helicopters and 150 policemen invading a mosque in Finsbury Park. The rash action, which had the effect of tarnishing the image of mosques and demonising Muslims, political asylum seekers and exiles, has also set a scenario for people in this country to accept the bombing and destruction of mosques in Iraq when the war begins. I am not suggesting that anything is leading to propaganda.

At the same time as our armed police were desecrating a holy place, the same was happening in Baghdad. Five UNMOVIC inspectors invaded the Al-Nidaa mosque, the largest and most populated in Baghdad, and interrogated the Imam, Shaykh Qutaiba Ammash. The "weapons inspectors" inquired as to the dimensions of the mosque and how many people it could house during prayers. The outraged Imam later held a press conference and asked:

"Are the inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction or are they trying to measure the extent of faith in our hearts?".

CNN's Nick Robertson, speaking during a live broadcast, said that the head of the inspections team in Baghdad had no idea who gave the orders for the five inspectors to intrude on the mosque. Many well-respected analysts in the region believe that the inspection was ordered and orchestrated directly by the US National Security adviser, Miss Rice, to raise the level of tension between Iraq and the UN and provoke Iraq into the daring, if not foolish, act of not co-operating. That would then give President Bush's Administration the excuse that they need to wage war unilaterally.

I am no expert, and I do not suggest that that is the truth, but we need to ask what the truth is. How can we know what the truth is any more? All those provocations and allegations, coupled with bits and pieces of reports that have been plagiarized or are quite old, and also the fact that the US has refused to sign on to the International Criminal Court, which holds military personnel accountable for war crimes, spells doom for the innocent Iraqi civilians, among them Iraqi children.

The statement that the Iraqi army is hiding among the civilian population indicates that the US Administration are expecting mass civilian casualties. It exonerates them—it does so in advance of a breakout of hostilities, I might add—because it places blame for the casualties on the Iraqi army chiefs and Saddam Hussein himself. The US Administration are effectively warning us all, saying, "Look, we told you before we went in that Saddam was hiding his weapons in civilian areas and didn't care for his civilians anyway, so the blame doesn't lie with us".

President Bush concluded his speech on the naval base to which I referred earlier by saying,

"we're gonna smoke 'em out".

That has become paraphrased and used by every child on streets in inner-city areas.

A war against Iraq would have numerous consequences, and not only those that I have mentioned. Most of them would not benefit humanity. The allegation from numerous Muslim quarters that the war is against Islam would certainly be reaffirmed. There will be huge consequences. Going to war—I accept everything that colleagues have said on the subject—will certainly mean an increase in extremism. There may even be retaliation by terrorists, mostly against civilians because that is the most easy and effective manner to damage and hurt any country. Moderate Muslim nations with no extremist tendencies will be unable to control the sizeable numbers of their population who already believe that the United States supports the notion of wiping a billion of them from the face of the earth. Those are rising fears, which are not desirable at this vulnerable time.

The economic balance of the world will be altered, as has been said, when the United States has control over the bulk of oil. At least in part, the war is against European oil treaties with Iraq. The economic costs of the war itself will create turmoil in all parts of the world's marketplace, although the people who usually push for such actions because they profit from them will do so again.

I cannot say any more than has already been said on the demise of the United Nations, but when the US Administration thumb their noses at world opinion, it will end the credibility of that organisation and its international authority for ever. Those who do not already fear the United States as a rogue nation will start doing so. The tinderbox of the Middle East, already smouldering for 50 years, will ignite. Let there not be any doubt that we told you so.

I am almost ashamed to talk about the environmental disaster that is estimated to happen as a consequence, given that we are talking about human beings and the desecration of a historical part of the earth, Iraq itself. All those who previously looked towards the United States as their friend and ally will for ever be mindful of having to watch their backs. The special relations that Britain has in particular with the Arab and Muslim world will be irrevocably damaged. Last, but not least, many innocent men, women and children will die. For them there is no voice in this or the other place.

What is going on is profoundly depressing and sad. It is difficult to articulate the sense of frustration and disappointment that I feel, as well as the rage that has gripped me as we head towards disastrous consequences. We might not be able to stop the war, but we must, even if it is only for the sake of posterity, at least have the courage to say, "Please, not in our name". I do that today.

When the might of the then Pakistani army inflicted death and destruction upon the gentle people of Bangladesh, I took part in protest marches with my family. Even as a child I was not silent. I was certainly not silent when the fascists took hold of the East End in the early 1980s. As a young mother I took my children to the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square to protest against apartheid and to support the release of Nelson Mandela.

On all those occasions the words of Martin Luther King echoed in my mind when he said:

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter".

May God protect us from the folly of our friends, the evil of our enemies and the laziness of our actions. In saying my piece today, I echo the call of Archbishop Williams and Cardinal Murphy O'Connor who said that we must hope and pray that with God's guidance, an outcome that will bring peace with justice to Iraq and the Middle East may yet be found.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative 6:32, 26 February 2003

My Lords, if ever there was a function for a Parliament, it is that we should discuss all the ramifications and totally different views on these hugely important issues.

I was lucky enough to spend four days in the United States earlier this month with quite a large group of more than 100 financial people. I was interested to find that they shared many of our anxieties, hesitations and concerns about the prospect of war with Iraq. I shall run through some of those.

First, there are few, if any, moral inhibitions at the idea of eliminating Saddam Hussein and his odious clique of tyrants. I admit that I was amazed that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that the elimination of the Marsh Arabs was not in his view an example of genocide that justified an attack on Saddam. I was much more persuaded by the magnificent and well documented speech of his noble friend Lady Nicholson who, in that one speech, gave ample justification for the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Secondly, although because of containment Saddam is at the moment merely a monster in his own backyard, who doubts that given the opportunity, he would continue the process of threatening his neighbours and would continue with a clear policy of getting his hands on middle eastern oil—first in Kuwait, then the Arab emirates and finally, Saudi Arabia. He would have total control and might hope to achieve it when there may be a less robust leadership in the US and Britain.

Thirdly, there was in America, as there is here, widespread sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and deep disapproval for the refusal of the Israelis to remove the illegal West Bank settlements. Although we can all condemn the suicide bombers attacking Israel, it is pretty clear that it is the Sharon Government who have provoked them. Palestine is clearly the major reservoir of hatred from which both Saddam and the various international terrorist organisations draw sustenance. The only way in which to drain that reservoir is for the United States to enforce, which it has the power to do, a political settlement based on the two-state solution. Although President Bush used to refer to that as a desirable outcome of the Middle East peace process, I fear that he may no longer be committed to it. There are powerful and malevolent forces inside the United States that support the Sharon Government in both their philosophy and their policies.

Let us not forget that as long ago as 4th April last year, President Bush gave the Israelis an ultimatum to withdraw their forces from the West Bank Palestinian areas. Indeed, Colin Powell was sent to Israel, yet both the President and his Secretary of State have been ignored.

Fourthly, there is a real worry that there is no proper preparation, or even plan—referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall—to bring back a semblance of civilised, humane and sustainable administration to Iraq once a successful military operation has been completed. I think that the idea of General Tommy Franks having this responsibility is unbelievably naive.

Fifthly, there is profound worry about the political impact on the whole of the Middle East of a military operation that has not been sanctioned by the United Nations.

Sixthly—I regard this as exceedingly important—there is the danger to the whole future of the United Nations as a viable source of any form of world peacekeeping if it fails to face up to the need to enforce Resolution 1441. That danger will be greatly increased if there is unilateral US-led military action against Iraq without UN authority.

Seventhly, it is becoming increasingly clear—this has not been mentioned this afternoon—that the world economy, which is now in danger of recession, will not start to pick up while the shadow of military action in Iraq remains. Thus it is essential for economic reasons that the matter be resolved, one way or the other, as rapidly as possible.

There is an eighth worry, which I suspect is not shared on the other side of the Atlantic. It is that America, with its new status as a world "super-duper" power, may be sucked into becoming a direct imperial power, particularly in protecting its oil interests. That would be dangerous and quite inappropriate in this century.

Finally, I shall say a word about the dangers that the West faces from the solidarity of terrorist factions and the effect of a war with Iraq. Although I believe that the solution of the Israel-Palestine problem would help to reduce a major source of terrorism, there is a further factor that is deeply depressing. Many potential terrorists have an irreconcilable dislike for what they regard as the intrinsic decadence of the western way of life. That applies particularly to the Islamic fundamentalists. It is epitomised by the description often used by the Iranians of the United States as the "Great Satan".

If the objective of those groups is to use terror to destroy the western democracy, culture and way of life so that it can be replaced by one based on the precepts of Islamic fundamentalism, with its appalling treatment of women, no deal can be done and we shall have to fight back. None of us would give up our way of life to have it replaced by theirs.

The danger of that sort of terrorism is that it is global and unrelenting. It has an impact like that on a patient who is suffering from a large number of widespread, rapidly growing and highly malignant tumours. The real danger is greatly increased if terrorist groups act together in some form of cross solidarity. Solidarity can come in many forms: religious, racial, tribal, national, class, economic, linguistic, cultural and even military.

There is a chilling example of the synergy from the combination of solidarities in the history of Iran. In 1979 the Shah was overthrown because he alienated both the mullahs and the bazaar. One of the great dangers of a war in Iraq is that it could increase such synergies. The most obvious is the one between Arabs and Islamic fundamentalists, who in other respects do not share the same agenda. There is also a risk from racial minorities in Europe, particularly in France and Britain, who may feel and express solidarity with Saddam. To counter the risk of such solidarity underlines the need for UN backing of any military action against Iraq.

Saddam needs no more than days to demonstrate that he will co-operate fully with Resolution 1441; that is a matter not of complying but of demonstrating that he wishes to comply. He has rejected the possibility of saving his country from war by abdicating his rule. It is that rejection which has converted me personally to the view that he must be removed. America's preparations for war now seem to be irreversible. It cannot be in the interests of France for the UN to be discredited nor for the large North African minority in France to be alienated and given a reason to make common cause with Saddam. Despite President Chirac's atavistic dislike of America, his former but long-standing friendship with Saddam and his pursuit of French commercial interests in the Gulf, he should not use the French veto on the new resolution coming before the Security Council.

In conclusion, the inability to remove every monster in the world is not a reason for not removing one of the worst. I therefore support the Prime Minister but I do hope that a second UN resolution will precede military action.

Photo of Lord Dahrendorf Lord Dahrendorf Liberal Democrat 6:41, 26 February 2003

My Lords, for many of us, the prospect of war in Iraq has become an intensely personal issue. We debate it with those closest to us and we agonise over our own position in the light of our most cherished values. In my case, that takes me back to Germany, where I grew up in the 1930s as the son of a Social Democrat politician who had become a prominent resistance fighter against the Nazi regime. It would have made a world of difference to us—and enabled millions of others to survive—if the western powers had stopped Hitler in his tracks during that fateful year from September 1938 to September 1939.

To be sure, such analogies beg many questions. Is Saddam Hussein really another Hitler? But on one point I have no doubt: the values of liberty and of an enlightened society in which I believe have to be defended, if need be by force, and sometimes the only effective defence is to strike before the attack occurs.

That does not make war a desirable option. In my understanding, war is never morally justified. However, there are times when it is necessary to do the morally dubious in the interest of preserving the framework which allows our values to prevail. Unfortunately, the Iraq debate is beset by confusions of motives. In my view, the need to contain Saddam Hussein is not about fighting terrorism. Totalitarian rulers may pretend to support terrorists at a safe distance but are far too jealous of their monopoly of power to give them much space. There are instructive lessons to be learnt from the tense relationship between the West German Baader-Meinhof terrorists and the East German communist regime in the 1970s.

The need to contain Saddam Hussein certainly has to do with the threat arising from "weapons of mass destruction". While the dictator may no longer possess battle-ready weapons to any significant extent, he would clearly wish to acquire them, given the time and the room for manoeuvre to do so. In this sense, it is the underlying nature of the regime which makes me accept the necessity of containment by intervention. Incidentally, the fact that there are others against whom a similar case could be made is not an argument for inaction. Is anyone seriously arguing that we should cease to pursue one killer because there are others about who have so far escaped justice?

Like others, I have many questions of significant detail about military action against Iraq. It would clearly be infinitely preferable if the present leadership of Iraq stepped aside without intervention. Moreover, there are points that I must stress in order to make sure that my line of reasoning is not misunderstood. Everything that I have said about values—which, if need be, have to be defended pre-emptively—has two implications. One is that every effort must be made to persuade not just potential allies but the people in democratic countries and beyond of the need for action involving the use of force. The other need is that we must never lose sight of the motives for using force. That is not about bringing to bear the power of one country against another, let alone about asserting superiority. That would be the world from which Thomas Hobbes tried to free us 350 years ago—the war of all against all, in which one man is the other's wolf. Whatever action is taken has to be inspired by the desire to create a world of rules designed to govern all human beings and thus a cosmopolitan rule of law. That is why the role of the United Nations in the process of preparing, taking and following up decisions is so crucial.

Such comments may seem far from the practicalities which are now rightly discussed, although I take comfort from the fact that the Prime Minister has adopted a similar line of principled argument. The Iraq crisis is a watershed for those of us who believe in an international order of law. We therefore have to be clear about why we are doing what we are doing. Having said that, however, I come down firmly in support of the position that the Prime Minister has taken consistently and courageously.

Photo of The Bishop of Guildford The Bishop of Guildford Bishop 6:47, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I was very struck earlier this afternoon by the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, which built interestingly, from a political point of view, on the argument so well deployed by my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford.

I want to make three brief points, and I wear two hats in so doing. The first is that I am president of an organisation called Sabeel UK, which is a voice for Palestinian Christians in this country. Secondly, I am chair of the board of Christian Aid, on which the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and I serve together.

I begin with a quote from an interesting article by Fouad Ajami in the magazine Foreign Affairs entitled, "Iraq and the Arabs' Future", and subtitled, "The road to modernity",. It was not at all anti-American but it raises some striking issues. It begins by stating:

"There should be no illusions about the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime. There would be no 'hearts and minds' to be won in the Arab world, no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs that this war would be a just war. An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as an imperial reach into their world, a favour to Israel, or a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq's oil. No hearing would be given to the great foreign power".

As we talk about the United Nations we cannot avoid the power of the United States of America in these matters. As we heard earlier, 55 per cent of the people of Saudi Arabia are under 15. The young men who drove the planes into the twin towers in New York and the plane that crashed in Philadelphia were young Saudis The documents recovered from those planes indicated that they carried a religious, pious vision of what they were doing.

The question before us is, can the United States of America use its power to engage with the issues that stir the hearts and minds of the Arab world? It is not an adequate policy for the Middle East to get rid of Saddam Hussein, nor to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, desirable though both those outcomes may be. Neither necessarily provides for peace and justice for the Middle East. It is therefore vital that our American friends, supported by our Government, set out the broad context for peace and justice and our relationships with the Arab world and the Middle East.

As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said, there is no escape from a public and clear commitment to resolving the Palestinian situation in relation to Israel. A clear commitment and the publication of the road map to an independent, properly resourced free and dignified Palestinian state along the lines of Resolution 242 is inescapable to this process. Some of the growing sense of anger and frustration among Arab peoples in the Middle East might be reduced if our American friends made clear their commitment in that respect.

I was with the delegation with the Bishop of Jerusalem. He said to the Prime Minister that the road to peace in Iraq goes through Jerusalem. The American church leaders there also made it clear—lest these remarks should be interpreted as anti-American—that the American churches have never been as united as they are in their opposition to the war. A debate is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic as well.

I turn to the appalling situation with regard to humanitarian issues. My right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester handed to me earlier an e-mail from a relief agency in Nairobi. It says:

"Baghdad is a long way from the Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, but the repercussions of a potential war in Iraq are already being felt by the refugees there—in their stomachs.

"A lack of donations from rich countries has forced aid agencies to cut food rations to refugees in the Kenyan camps and elsewhere in Africa. Humanitarian officials say this is just one example of how increased focus on the Middle East and Iraq is lessening the resources devoted to solving Africa's problems".

The Government have declared Africa a priority. It seems that focusing on these issues is leading us to drift away from those matters.

When we launched the Christian Aid document Losing Ground, which is in the Library, which states that 1.2 million Palestinians were living as close to destitution as the people of Zimbabwe, the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, immediately said that the figure was now 1.8 million. What are we going to do? What plans do we have for 2 million refugees in Jordan when the war begins? The Government need to set out those matters clearly and publicly.

I return to the anger over what is perceived to be—no matter what we may think about it—American and western imperialism. Will it threaten our social cohesion? Some of my colleagues who live with delicate multi-cultural communities are very worried about the impact of this conflict on social cohesion. We need to think about these matters.

In my sleepless nights over this issue I have a nightmare that Osama bin Laden is smiling about the prospect of this war in the Middle East. Al'Qaeda works outside the structures of international order and law. Is it possible that a war prosecuted in this way will fulfil its desire to create increasing chaos and disorder; increasing Islamic fundamentalism and radicalisation in the Middle East; and that we will find in this post-Cold War world that we have not yet found a way of living together in peace in the international community? Is there anything this debate can do to exorcise that nightmare, which I suspect is not only in my mind?

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 6:56, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I can reassure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford on one point: that nightmare is not only in his mind. In the light of a lifetime—if I may put it in personal terms—involved in international and humanitarian work, it is a nightmare I share virtually every night.

We all need to think of the Prime Minister at this juncture. There can be few people carrying more responsibility than he is on our behalf. He must frequently be in genuine anguish. But because of the responsibility he carries and because of his candour, we would do him no service to hold back where we have alternative analyses to offer.

In expressing respect for the Prime Minister's integrity, I would like to do the same—if she will forgive me—to my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. We are fortunate in this House to have someone of her calibre and integrity handling international affairs.

If there was one lesson of the 20th century, it was that global interdependence had become an inescapable reality. It was no longer possible to regard it as something in the realms of idealistic commitment. It was an everyday practicality. Alongside that realisation came the realisation of our vulnerability; that the more technocratic and developed—if we can use that often misused word—we became, the more vulnerable we became.

President Bush is right in one respect when he argues that there is a connection between Iraq and global terrorism, but it is not the connection that he makes. The connection between Iraq and global terrorism is that there are in the world not only millions of economically and socially deprived people—which is in itself a huge challenge—but also millions of politically alienated people who are fed up to the back teeth with the cultural and political arrogance of a few self-appointed nations that want to run the world as they wish.

Where President Bush may have reached the right conclusion for the wrong reasons is that if Iraq goes wrong—pray God we have not already gone too far in that respect—this alienation will be strengthened and the accompanying dangers will be all the greater.

Alliances have to be built; they cannot be imposed. That is why the UN is so essential. The tragedy of the United States' position is that the well-being, safety and security of future generations of the United States depend every bit as much on effective successful international institutions as those of people anywhere else in the world. The vulnerability of which I have just spoken illustrates that point.

In that context, it is sad beyond measure that, at a time when we need the strength and power of the United States to contribute to this essential cause, that country seems so often to be determined to move in the opposite direction. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, made that point very tellingly.

Within the context of what I have just described, and in what I personally found a very helpful speech, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford also made another point very well. Of course, the United Nations Security Council is a legal requirement if we are to uphold international law before force is deployed. But perhaps even more important than the legal requirement is its political indispensability. For the reasons that I have just given, I believe it is absolutely crazy to embark upon an enterprise of this scale when, arguably, the majority of the world is totally unconvinced. To do that would be to play right into the hands of the extremists and terrorists.

Therefore, what do we do? In recent days, I have been impressed not once but twice by the former Chief of Defence Staff in our midst, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, emphasising from his own experience and standpoint that he believes the inspectors should be given more time, more resources and a chance to complete their work. We have heard the Government argue that that is not compatible with Resolution 1441. But I say to the Government with all respect that that is their view; clearly it is not the view of our colleagues in France and Germany. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, who is usually so encouraging in these matters, has not taken that point on board. I do not see why, in our society, we should not listen more carefully to the analysis of those with whom we want to work in so many respects.

I am afraid that the deadline that we are up against—I speak with some humility as a former junior defence Minister and a former Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—is one of our own making. We know that it is difficult to fight a war in the desert in temperatures of 40o. Therefore, having deployed all these forces on such a scale, if we are to go to war, we must do so quickly. I ask: how did we get into this predicament and is it really impossible to draw back before it is too late?

I ask noble Lords what the judgment of history will be when people see an inspectorate set up as never before, with the authority and muscular backing that an inspectorate of that kind has never had before. What will that judgment be when people see an inspectorate of that kind unable to complete its work before certain members within the United Nations with more muscle than others say, "We cannot go on waiting around. We must take military action now"? I believe that the judgment of history will be harsh.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, raised another point. He said that, before we deploy men and women in war, it is essential to be certain of our political analysis. Of course, he is right. We do not hear convincing arguments about the impact of an impetuous war on the recruitment of new terrorists for bin Laden and the rest; nor do we hear enough about what the future political state of Iraq will be or the position of the Kurds, for example, under the new arrangement being discussed. Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, spoke tellingly of 55,000 Turkish troops being deployed in northern Iraq.

What are the regional implications and—another point made so well this evening that it is hardly necessary to underline it—what are the implications for the Middle East as a whole? How will those who are part of this alienated body of opinion in the world view us when, whatever we may argue, we take such an unyielding and tough line in an immediate setting on Iraq but totally fail to make the same kind of setting on the Middle East?

I want to make one other point, although I should like to say a great deal more. It has often been argued that one of the first casualties in war is truth. I am sorry to say this, but yesterday I was worried by the fact that the Prime Minister said on page two of his Statement, "That is the history". It was a very partial record of history. What about the failure to go into Baghdad during the last Gulf War? What about the failure to get Saddam Hussein to sign the surrender, as distinct from leaving it to his generals? What was behind that? Was it possible that we wanted to leave Saddam in place because, in a difficult situation, we needed something to balance Iran? When we suddenly tell the world that this is a matter of rights, wrongs and absolutes, the rest of the world poses questions of that kind which need to be answered. We need to be a little cautious about our credibility in that respect.

In conclusion, I believe that in the middle of this issue are two principles to which we must stick and which need to guide us in our anxiety. The first is that military action without the specific authority of the UN Security Council is unthinkable. We should be absolutely and specifically clear about that. Alongside that, the second point on which we need to be clear is that military action has to be seen by the world to be essential. There have to be no other possibilities and, if there are, they must have been tried. I do not believe that that is the case.

That is why I believe that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford was right to share his nightmare with us. It would be unforgivable if, because of our concern about Saddam, we played into the hands of the extremists of the world and provoked the greater crisis which we say we are trying to contain.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative 7:07, 26 February 2003

My Lords, over the past 20 years, we have been involved in four wars: the Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait. On all those occasions, doubts were expressed beforehand and, on all those occasions, the end result was considerably better than what had existed before the evil was removed, although obviously it was not removed completely.

Originally, I had several doubts about this matter. I was not convinced, because the Prime Minister, who, on this occasion, has eventually shown considerable courage, was incoherent in his reasons. Those reasons seemed to chop and change and the evidence seemed to be flimsy. However, once he put together all the elements, I found myself convinced.

I do not believe that it would be necessary, for example, to take unilateral action against Switzerland if, peradventure, that country had weapons of mass destruction. But I believe that the man who currently has them is, beyond par, evil. There is a story in today's Evening Standard of a lady professor who was heavily pregnant. She was in a canteen in Baghdad and made a slightly off-colour joke about Saddam's wife. A few hours later, she was arrested. She gave birth to a baby, which was starved to death. It was hauled from her breast as she clung to it and she was then murdered. That is what the man is like. He is disgusting.

So, combining Saddam's weapons of mass destruction with his being disgusting, his unreliability, and above all his inherent desire to use those horrible things, I come round to the view that even though I sometimes find the Prime Minister irritating, I am quite convinced that he is a good man. This may be why I find him irritating—I do not know. He is a good man; he believes in this; and he is showing considerable courage. This is the first time he has had to show it during his premiership, because there are terrible downsides to what he is doing. We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, about the Marsh Arabs. I do not need to go on about that; we know.

However, I have become convinced that it is necessary to do something. It is also reasonable to say that Resolution 1441 gives authority to act. Several lawyers have said this. The cry for the second resolution comes from those who want to procrastinate. They want to give us a cover—"We don't like it, perhaps it will stop"—but we do not need such procrastination.

Let us assume that the French purse is bigger than the American purse, and the Congolese, or the Angolan or the Guinean ambassador takes a larger bribe from the French than from the Americans. I would not suggest that this is going to happen, but such suspicions have entered peoples' minds. Does this make the second motion any more morally correct or necessary? Did St Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine weigh up the bags of gold that were handed round to ambassadors of nations south of Cape Mogador? I do not think so.

The just authority is already there. What has happened? What the Western world has said, as did the Roman ambassadors to Saguntum when Hannibal was besieging it at the beginning of the second Punic War:

"In the sleeves of my toga I have peace or war. Quid placet tibi"— take that which pleases you. That "Quid placet tibi" choice is open to Saddam Hussein. If he does as he is told, there need not be a war. Unfortunately, I think that he likely to react like Hannibal. Luckily, unlike Hannibal, I do not think he shows signs of military genius.

The following possibility rears its ugly head. It is unlike the possibility put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wright. That is also definitely possible, and I do not say that he is wrong or I am right. The Iraqi resistance could collapse, and the soldiers could be greeted by cheering mobs as they enter into Baghdad and Basra. In this happy event, and to make sure that that cheering continues, we have to do two things.

First, as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford have said, the Israeli-Arab question must be dealt with head on. It is hard to imagine a nastier regime than the one currently in Tel Aviv. It is a thoroughly nasty, unattractive and tyrannical regime. They have brought much of the current despair upon their own heads. We should be brave enough to say that.

Also, when the troops go into Iraq, they must make sure that they proclaim to the Iraqis that they can choose their own future. We must not set up a satrapy run by "General Tommy Franks" or even "Field Marshal Sir Somebody Something" as commander in chief of Basra. We cannot have that. We must make it absolutely clear to the Iraqi people that they can choose their own future. It must not be imposed upon them.

If we do those two things, and convince the Arabs in Iraq that those two possibilities are open to them, there is a possibility—even a likelihood—that things will go right and in the right way; and that is essential. Mesopotamia—the scene of the death of Julian "The Apostate", the seat of Harun-al-Rashid, and the place where man first learned to count time—must be allowed, with the encouragement of the outside world, to choose its own future after this war, if it happens. We must help them to do so.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 7:15, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I shall deal with the long-term questions that would be raised by military action in Iraq. Many of my questions will not be able to be answered by the Minister, because they are questions to which I believe nobody has an answer at the moment. The first question on the chain of command does have an answer. The Minister outlined what the chain of command would be in any military action. I hope she will assure us that any decisions taken by the Americans will be closely scrutinised by their British counterparts. I hope there will be a British Army counterpart in liaison with any American commander. That is particularly important, because we would have to make sure that their aims and objectives were exactly the same.

All that is based on the assumption that military action is about to take place, and I hope that it will be avoided. However, if it is to take place, it will have to be based on a new UN resolution—itself based on 1441. I hope that the Government have thought carefully and consulted with their allies and the Turkish authorities about the possible intervention by 55,000 Turkish troops into the north. This has real implications as regards 1441. The resolution sets out:

"The UN is reaffirming the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq".

This is a real issue because 55,000 troops invading from the north may well wish to stay there.

Any military action will be guided by everyone's aim, which is disarmament. Military action will almost inevitably lead to a further aim—regime change. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, in his opening speech quoted from "Macbeth". It was a speech from Lady Macbeth, who was unfortunately contemplating a particularly horrific murder. He quoted:

"If it were done when 't is done, then 't were well

It were done quickly"

However, dragging up all the knowledge I have of Shakespeare, I realised that there were two more sections to the speech that should be quoted. It carries on immediately:

"if the assassination

"Could trammel up the consequence, and catch

"With his surcease success; that but this blow

"Might be the be-all and end-all here".

That is what we would like to happen. By regime change that would be the end of the situation. However if you go further into the speech, it has some prophetic judgment:

"We still have judgment here; that we but teach

"Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

"To plague the inventor".

Regime change is going to have major consequences, because it will have massive implications on the eventual reconstruction of Iraq. It is going to lead to a further military objective—and that is the reconstruction of Iraq. However before that it is going to lead to an objective of maintaining civil authority. That is going to be difficult, because Saddam Hussein has been extremely efficient in making sure that he has no ready successor—no group that could take over. To believe that democratic elections could be held in the short to medium term in Iraq, does not take into account the political reality of the situation where, after any military action one might have civil war in the north and in the south. Furthermore, in the light of the situation which existed after the war in 1991, there might be an enormous amount of bloodletting and civil war to fill the power vacuum in the centre.

Post-conflict reconstruction will not be "a mere washing-up job", as it was called in Afghanistan. As my noble friend Lady Williams pointed out, Afghanistan is a prime example of how things can go horribly wrong. Afghanistan is regressing into the lawless state that led to the rise of the Taliban and, ultimately, Al'Qaeda.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, mentioned an exit strategy. That will, I fear, be extremely difficult in Iraq. In that regard, we will need the United Nations. Can we expect the United Nations to deal with a civil war? I very much doubt it. However, one civil authority is maintained. We will need the UN peacekeepers to deal with a number of issues; for instance, prisoners of war. This war will be different from the first Gulf War in which we dealt only with those who invaded Kuwait; we are dealing with the entire armed forces of Iraq. There will be vast numbers of refugees—and not only those internally displaced, but those in Syria, Jordan and Iran. Furthermore, we shall be faced with the horrific prospect of dealing with mass casualties which could be caused if Saddam Hussein indiscriminately uses the weapons of mass destruction. That could have an horrendous effect on his own population.

If the UN is not to take on that role, it will be left to America and Britain. Do we have enough troops to deal with it in the long term? The commitment that we are already placing on our Armed Forces has led to overstretch. Could we really expect large numbers of troops to be based in Iraq, considering our commitments in Northern Ireland, in the Balkans, in Sierra Leone and elsewhere? There are also difficulties at home; for instance, a prolonged engagement to deal with the fire strike.

There will be real implications for the Army because it will lead to problems of retention. The Army must therefore believe in the cause in which the Prime Minister is asking it to take part. I served as a Territorial Army commissioned officer. It is difficult currently to retain troops in the Army because there are many other easy alternatives. Some of my friends who have recently had children and left the Army tell me that they do not want to be away from home for long periods. We must think carefully about how we retain soldiers. They must believe in the cause that is set out.

That is a problem, because many in this country do not believe in the immediate necessity of war. That view is shared by millions of people who took part in the march in London two Saturdays ago. We cannot underestimate the view expressed by them and by people around the world. There is a great deal of discontent in America. I want to read from a speech made by the Democratic Leader in the Senate, Senator Robert Byrd, Dean of the Congress. The paragraph that I read from his speech is telling on how the American people are being led from the top and how not everyone believes in the immediate need for war. He said:

"This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption—the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future—is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be a convention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our—or some other nation's—hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honoured alliances, and US intentions are suddenly subject to damaging world-wide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from US leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11th".

I do not underestimate the threat that Saddam Hussein poses. However, the consequences of military action also cannot be underestimated.

Photo of Lord Chalfont Lord Chalfont Crossbench 7:25, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I shall resist the temptation to take issue with some of the wilder flights of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism which seem to have crept into our debate. I want to concentrate on two basic issues which are less controversial but which have come very much alive as a result of the Iraq crisis. The first is the role of armed force as an instrument of foreign policy; and the second is the importance of discretion in the treatment of intelligence material.

So far as the first is concerned, there seems to be some confused thinking about the preparations for war which are now taking place. Listening to some of the sentiments expressed at the demonstration in London last week, one might have gained the impression that everyone who was not on the demonstration was in favour of war. No intelligent person, especially no one who has ever taken part in a war, is likely to be in favour of it. It is a brutal and uncivilised way of conducting international affairs, but it is what the distinguished historian, Michael Howard, has called,

"an ineluctable part of the human condition".

This debate is not an occasion to analyse or refute the pacifist position, although I am bound to say I have grave doubts about its intellectual respectability. Nor is it an occasion on which to discuss the doctrine of the just war, especially in the presence of several right reverend Prelates—except to say that I think a great deal of ill-informed nonsense has been talked about it recently.

We are now faced with the possibility of war and, whatever views one may have about its appalling nature, it is surely right and sensible that we should prepare for it. In my view, the Government have been wise to deploy some of our Armed Forces and to bring them to a state of readiness. The actions of our own Government and of the United States Administration are designed to send a clear message to Saddam Hussein to the effect that if he does not comply with the demands of the international community he may face serious consequences—or, in plain English, war, whatever the United Nations might say.

The Prime Minister is clearly acting upon the same wise precept as one of his predecessors. It was in 1982 that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, then Prime Minister, said:

"When you stop a dictator there are always risks. But there are greater risks in not stopping a dictator".

In my view, the Government's policy reflects a sensible appreciation of the fact that, in situations of this kind, diplomacy, however patiently pursued, cannot be effective without the credible threat of the use of military force. And, of course, that threat will not be credible if the slogan of "No war" sends a message that, however powerful our Armed Forces may be, we shall never use them.

That is the danger of the mass demonstrations and the emotive outbursts of some politicians who hold similar views to the demonstrators. One of the reasons why Saddam Hussein has made the modest concessions referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, is that he is fearful of the possibility of war, and it is vital that that possibility should remain real in his mind.

One of the most important factors in the decision to go to war, and the strategy and tactics used to conduct it, is intelligence. It has in recent weeks been disturbing to find the Government pressed to reveal more and more about the intelligence picture concerning Iraq. In the case of the media, that is unsurprising—that is their stock in trade. But it is a matter of concern, to me at least, when Members of this House and another place attempt to draw the Government on the detail and sources of their intelligence assessments.

The dangers of that must be obvious, but it is perhaps worth while repeating some of them. Revealing any unnecessary detail of the intelligence picture has the obvious danger that it may enable a potential enemy to identify and eliminate the sources of intelligence, if they are human, or to disrupt or defend against them, if they are electronic or technological. It is often not realised that it is sometimes dangerous even to let the potential enemy know that we are in possession of a piece of intelligence—he can often deduce the source simply from the nature of the information.

That has led to some strange developments. In your Lordships' House only recently I heard it suggested that it was not good enough to go to war on a nod and a wink. It is not a question of nodding or winking, it is an important matter of trust. One of the hallmarks of a mature and civilised parliamentary democracy is that, in matters of national security, we trust our leaders once we have elected them. In domestic affairs, we may have doubts about their wisdom—indeed, sometimes about their sanity—but in matters affecting national security we assume, I think rightly, that our leaders will not invent or distort intelligence reports or lead the country into war for trivial or disreputable ends, as has been suggested once or twice during the debate. If our democratically elected political leaders tell us that there is a threat to security, based on intelligence in their possession, we owe them at least the duty of believing that they are behaving honestly.

Finally, I shall mention the impact of all the "No war" demonstrations, whether public or parliamentary, on our Armed Forces. It is customary, even among the more pacifist element in our society, to pay lip service to the bravery and courage of the men and women of our Army, Navy and Air Force. It is taken for granted that they will behave as they have always done and be prepared to sacrifice their comfort and safety, and even their lives, without question when they are asked to do so. It cannot be altogether good for the morale of those men and women to learn that substantial numbers of the people whom they are fighting to defend are questioning the rightness of the cause for which they are putting their lives at risk. They must be especially demoralised to see on the mass protests large numbers of small children, who could have had no possible idea what the protest was about.

The morale of fighting men comes from three things: first, a knowledge that they have an important job to do; secondly, a conviction that they are trained and equipped to do it well; and, finally, a feeling that what they are doing is appreciated and recognised. The first two are up to them and their military leaders; the third is up to us at home.

Photo of Lord Rea Lord Rea Labour 7:35, 26 February 2003

My Lords, one of the nicest slogans that I saw on the peace march on 15th February read, "War is so 20th century". As my noble friend Lord Brennan said, during that century, 160 million people were killed in wars. Sadly, the 21st century is shaping up to repeat 20th century habits. From my knowledge, I can count at least 10 wars so far in the new millennium, and the most destructive so far now looms on the horizon.

Although the initiation of war is always a final option, it can sometimes be justified—for example, in an operation to restore order in a failed state in which human rights are being grossly abused and the economy is in chaos. Examples often forgotten when citing the usual example of Kosovo are Tanzania's removal of Idi Amin from Uganda and Vietnam's expulsion of Pol Pot from Cambodia. Of course, a less happy example was the UN attempt to knock heads together in Somalia. At present, Zimbabwe is heading towards a state in which such intervention may be justified—but by whom, without incurring the accusation of a return to imperialism?

At present, Iraq is not a failed state, despite the tyrannical rule of Saddam and the Ba'athist Party, with its scant regard for the life of anyone suspected of opposing it. There might have been a case for the further invasion of Iraq in 1991, after the Gulf War and the brutal suppression of the Kurdish and Shia uprisings. My noble friend Lady Ramsay spoke movingly about the pain that she felt at that time. Because of the action of Iraq on those uprisings, it might have been possible for world opinion to have been mobilised and another Security Council resolution passed to allow the further invasion of Iraq, but the United States was against that. That may have been because it wanted Saddam to stay in power to counterbalance Iran; but it is also strongly possible that it did not want the body bags that an invasion that took US forces to Baghdad would involve—that is certainly the Iraqi view. In any case, many must be regretting missing that opportunity to go further.

However much we may condemn Saddam, Iraq is a functioning state, although the economy is still reeling from the effects of the sanctions regime—whether or not we blame Saddam entirely for that. There are schools, hospitals, medical schools and universities. There are plenty of vehicles in Baghdad. Petrol is cheap. As we have heard, the food-for-oil programme provides rations for 60 per cent of the population. Although inadequate, they are equitably distributed.

When I was there with a BBC team last May, while shopkeepers and the public on the streets of Baghdad would not be drawn on their opinion of Saddam—almost certainly for fear that they would be reported if they said what they thought—they universally pleaded with us to stop our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, from assisting George W Bush with his war plans. The Prime Minister now speaks of the moral case for overthrowing Saddam, by force if necessary, because many people are being arrested and killed in Iraq. Of course, that is true. But the huge disruption, hardship and many civilian deaths that would be caused by a war that would disrupt and destroy lives, would affect many more than are now contained in Saddam's gaols.

My noble friend Lady Symons knows the World Health Organisation's estimates of damage from this war: 100,000 direct casualties and 500,000 indirect casualties, apart from the huge number of displaced persons and refugees mentioned by several speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. Apart from the direct effect on people, there is the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure that would be destroyed. Twelve years after the Gulf War, all the bridges in Basra are still down and the hulks of sunk cargo ships still lie in the docks.

Would the United Nations pay for the damage caused by a coming war this time, if it initiated it? The cost to us and to the United States of military action itself will be enormous. Can my noble friend give us figures for the cost of the present deployment of United Kingdom forces and, if she has them, of United States forces to the Gulf so far? I doubt that she could give even an estimate of the cost, if military action were initiated. A figure of 100 billion dollars has been mentioned. That is 10 times the amount required annually for the global fund for AIDS, TB and malaria set up by Kofi Annan. That fund is grossly undersubscribed.

Can my noble friend spell out in more detail the contingency plans drawn up to ensure that, in the event of military action, sufficient food aid is available? How will the flow of food and medical supplies under the food-for-oil programme be restored? The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, also asked about that.

Iraq's non-compliance with requests to reveal whether it still has weapons of mass destruction may be cited as a material breach and, thus, a casus belli. However, there is no immediate threat to Iraq's neighbours, to ourselves or to the USA. There is, of course, the theoretical possibility that Iraq may supply terrorists with chemical and biological weapons, although no link has been shown. It is possible that, in the event of an attack on Iraq, the distribution of such weapons to terrorists would be more likely.

I join those who believe that the threat of terrorism will, in any case, increase if Iraq is attacked. Many noble Lords have said that. I am afraid that we are being pulled into a possible conflict under false pretences, as are the American people. If there are chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, UNMOVIC will need more time to find them, as the Franco-Russo-German draft resolution suggests. That point was made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. When South Africa decided to get rid of its nuclear weapons, it took two years to satisfy the inspectors, even though the Government co-operated fully. If it has such weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has limited capacity to deliver them. In any case, such action is effectively deterred. Israel has the nuclear weapon, and the United States has overwhelming air power.

The reasons for the US Administration's brinkmanship are to be found in the economic and political situation on the other side of the Atlantic. Those who have carefully watched the scene develop are well aware of that. I am saddened that our Government have not listened to the advice of those who can stand back and see what is going on. We should distance ourselves from the rush to war, for the sake not only of the people of Iraq but of ourselves and the American people.

Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Liberal Democrat 7:43, 26 February 2003

My Lords, at the end of his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, gave three important elements of good morale among troops. However, there was one important element that he did not mention: a sense of conviction in soldiers' hearts that what they are doing is right. Tonight's debate is a struggle among ourselves to become convinced of what is right. That is a proper and appropriate use of Parliament.

The debate was launched by the Minister with her customary verve and passion. She gave a thoughtful and rational presentation of her views. That being the case and the Minister being no mean speaker, I ask myself why I remain unconvinced. So, I work my way through what I understand to be her argument.

The first argument is that the option for Saddam is that either he disarms completely in the context of the weapons inspections or it will be done forcibly. I remain unconvinced. In the United Kingdom, we had a situation for 30 years in which the British Government, in co-operation with the Irish Government, were in full control of Northern Ireland and the Irish Government in full control of the Republic of Ireland. They sought to achieve disarmament but were not able to do so—in a small place. The conclusion was reached that, without co-operation, it was impossible to get decommissioning. Therefore, any suggestion that Iraq will be identifiably, verifiably and completely rid of weapons of mass destruction because the monitors are there is, without regime change, an illusion. As long as the regime is there, it will always be possible to hide things inside people's heads, as well as in buildings and under the ground.

The Minister is not a foolish person; nor is the Prime Minister. They will have seen that argument, and one is left with the uneasy feeling that the purpose of the weapons inspections was to try to unearth something of the smoking gun, which would demonstrate the justification for war. In other words, the decision for war had already been taken, and the weapons inspectors were there to provide the evidence to justify going to war. There is no possibility of proving that there are no weapons of mass destruction. It is a bit like the case of the woman in the medieval witches' ducking-stool. If she goes under and stays under, the river has accepted her; if she is rejected by the river and even the river did not want her, it is justifiable to burn her at the stake as a witch. I find myself unconvinced by that argument. It suggests that a decision was made—perhaps a justifiable decision—that regime change was needed after all this time.

The pattern of the past few years has been outlined. We can go back to the war. After the war, we had the weapons inspectors from 1991 until 1998. They contained the situation, but Saddam was still there. There were United Nations resolutions, and deadlines were set down for Saddam—I was going to say that he had the gun put to his head, but that would have been an unfortunate turn of phrase. Requirements were made of him, and he ignored them. Finally, we are left with no alternative, after that clear and conscientiously followed policy line, but to take action.

I have no doubt that that is the story of the past 10 or 12 years that the Bush Administration would like to believe is true. They want to believe that there was a seamless move from the policy of the first Bush Administration to that of the second Bush Administration. They regard the Clinton years as a little aberration that would be better put to the side. I did not think that that was how this Government thought of the Clinton years. President Clinton had a different approach to policy; he had a different strategy. It is not just I who say that: President Bush is clear about it. If he is asked whether he is following the policies of his predecessor, he will say, "Of course, I'm not. On almost every issue of foreign policy, I am taking a different line. They were wasted, foolish years of international social work".

What was that policy? It was that, if there is a conflict, we should identify the partisans. Then, we try to identify those who influence the partisans and create a peace process, through which—over years of political pressure, economic development and confidence-building measures—we bring to an end the conflict and the issues around it. That is what happened in South Africa. It is what we have been trying to do in Northern Ireland. That is what President Clinton tried to do in the Middle East, as I remember it. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford said, in quoting a colleague, President Clinton saw that the road to Iraq ran through Jerusalem. In other words, the central issue in the Middle East is Israel and Palestine. Until that issue is addressed, nothing else can be resolved.

But someone will say, "Yes, but you are forgetting 9/11, when everything changed". Some things did change. Many people in the Middle East who previously had had no sympathy with America, began to have sympathy with America. Many countries that would not naturally have felt an affection for the American people and what they were going through, came on-side. There was an incipient alliance within the Arab countries for dealing with conflict in that area.

I always had the sense that President Clinton wanted people to like him and that he did not want to lose them. If either he or a Clinton-type Democrat President had been around and that kind of alliance had been presented on a plate after 9/11, I do not believe that a handful of years later those countries would all have left.

Unlike the first Gulf War, as I feel it will be called—not the "Gulf War" but the "First Gulf War"—we are moving into this without allies in the Arab world. It is a very different situation. That is not because the Arab world wants Saddam Hussein—it wants rid of him—but we have found ways of getting it on the wrong side.

But it is not only that. For the sake of argument, let us assume that the policy currently being pursued by Her Majesty's Government and the United States Administration is followed through; that we have a fair wind and that Saddam Hussein is toppled within a couple of weeks. What will we be left with? We will be left in Iraq with the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shi'ites rapidly at each others' throats. Noble Lords who believe that a liberating army is always welcome after the first week have short memories. Very often the army gets tea and biscuits for the first week, but the one way that it unites everyone is against itself.

I do not believe a successful war will resolve immediately the problem of Iraq. Will it resolve the problem in the Middle East generally? Indeed not; it will create the possibility of even greater chaos. Major instabilities which already exist in the Middle East will not be resolved. Will the United Nations be strengthened? Will it become an instrument that we can turn to in order to address these issues? It will have been effectively set to the side.

Another major cost is the profound damage that has been done to North Atlantic institutions and relationships which have served us well. I do not say that out of anti-Americanism; I say it for precisely the opposite reason. I have a great fear that our relationship will be set to the side. That is part of the danger that we are in.

When you are cycling up a one-way street and you begin to have doubts about what is further along the street, you are very unwise to keep pedalling. The wise thing to do is to at least stop, contain the situation and review it. You may not go back down the street—after all, it is a one-way street—but you may try to find other ways of reaching the destination at which you wish to arrive, rather than forcing yourself to go to the destination at which you are no longer sure you wish to arrive.

For me, that is the rationale for giving the weapons inspectors more time. That is not because they will, over a period of time, rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction without regime change—I do not believe that and I do not believe that the Government believe that—nor that that in itself will get rid of Saddam Hussein, but it may give us time to think through our strategy.

This is not the only strategy for getting rid of Saddam Hussein and for addressing the issues in the Middle East. For eight years Her Majesty's Government seemed to believe that the strategy adopted by President Clinton was perfectly reasonable and ought to be given more time. I still hold to that old-fashioned view, perhaps because I have to study the outcomes of that Clinton approach in my own part of the United Kingdom. If there is a doubt, it might be wise to give ourselves and our world a little more time.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 7:55, 26 February 2003

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, was right—even if we reach different conclusions—to return us to the central question of whether what we are doing is right. Inside and outside your Lordships' House much has been made of the principles for a just war and whether there is a just cause for using armed force in Iraq. As was heard earlier in the debate, Thomas Aquinas's tests for a just war include self-defence and war as a last resort. As many noble Lords noted, these principles still provide us with a moral compass.

Once those tests are answered, we are then required to address the ius in bello, or "war conduct" issues. These include "proportionality", which requires the use of no more force than necessary to vindicate the just cause. That is sometimes also called "non-combatant immunity". The unleashing of a massive aerial bombardment that could kill large numbers of civilians would, for instance, certainly raise serious questions about the legitimacy of such military action.

But what is often not stated is that, having weighed these issues, the clear path of reasoning leaves the ultimate responsibility, the final judgment for waging war, with the competent civil authority. Churchmen, who are obliged to go the extra mile for peace, and political leaders, whose primary duty is to protect their citizens, may arrive at different conclusions. Last Thursday's statement by the two archbishops conceded this.

If statesmen and governments have knowledge that inertia will place their citizens at risk, then they are under a clear duty to act. That is the nub of the Prime Minister's case, a case with which I personally agree and which deserves to be heard.

Outside your Lordships' House, some of the demonisation of both the Prime Minister and President Bush, imputing a moral equivalence between them and Saddam Hussein, beggars belief. So does the risible and simplistic claim that this is all about oil.

As our Government justly confront Saddam, we must be acutely aware that it undermines their efforts and even makes war more likely if Baghdad believes there is a lack of resolve in bringing this issue to a conclusion. Saddam has demonstrated repeatedly over the past 12 years that he will exploit any divisions within or between United Nations member states.

There are moments when governments have to be, and deserve to be, trusted. Heads of government alone have access to all of the necessary intelligence needed to make these awesome decisions. It is facile to imply that they are not weighing the risks of further destabilising an already volatile region, or weighing the role that may be played by Iran, or assessing the consequences for the beleaguered and suffering people of Iraq.

One of the criticisms often levelled at the Government is that too often they measure public opinion before acting. In the case of Iraq, precisely the reverse criticism is now being made. The Government's steadfast and determined stance can be explained only if we accept that they truly believe that the dangers of not acting against Iraq far outweigh any short-term craving for public esteem.

The 1991 Gulf War, which both Houses supported, was waged after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. It was a condition of his continuing tenure that he disarm and prove that he had destroyed his stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including mustard gas, sarin, botulinium and 5,000 litres of anthrax. Despite an ever-increasing number of United Nations resolutions instructing him to do so, he has never complied. Without the threat of force, who seriously believes that Dr Hans Blix would have recommenced his weapons inspection programme?

For Iraq, the issue has not changed since 1991 nor since Resolution 1441 was first tabled. Saddam's prevarication sadly indicates little intention to obey either the spirit or the letter of that resolution.

Dr Blix has distinguished between procedure and substance. These two issues must now converge. Without real and tangible disarmament, procedural nuances are a mere sleight of hand.

Saddam's absurd insistence that his stockpiles of biological and chemical materials have simply vanished cannot give rise to calibrated concessions. If we do not ultimately stand firm on this question, we shall have made the world infinitely more dangerous. I particularly agree with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in that context.

In 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn spoke of the need for courage in the face of deadly evil. He said that there had been,

"a decline in courage which may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the west in our days".

The temptation may be to hope that threats will recede, but it is always a mistake to appease tyranny.

Saddam and his deputy, Tariq Aziz, who has made great play of his Christian background, have been responsible for the brutal attacks on the Marsh Arabs—referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson—and for attacks on the Kurds and on Iraq's political dissenters. In the past 15 years their regime has slaughtered 150,000 Shia Muslims; and Christians, not least the Assyrian community, have suffered too.

Like many others, I am sorry that at times there have been confusing mixed messages—not least on the linkage with Al'Qaeda. It is not, and never has been, necessary to prove a link between Saddam and Al'Qaeda to see the justice of disarming and liberating Iraq.

Although disarmament and the threat to our future security are the central issue, a welcome by-product could be an end to the continuing suffering and misery of the Iraqi people. It is essential that their suffering is minimised in the aftermath of any possible conflict.

I return to a point made by my noble friend Lord Sandwich. In another place, Clare Short recently told the International Development Select Committee that, in the event of such a war, in the short term as many as 8 million people could be displaced. Given that some 60 per cent of the population are reliant on food generated by the oil-for-food programme, I should like to ask the Minister the following questions. What contingencies are being made to feed those people and to sustain that programme should Iraq's oil fields be torched during hostilities; and is it true that no neighbouring country, other than Syria, has indicated a preparedness to take refugees? In the event of war, what strategy is being put in place to assist them?

I have two brief points about the future. Articles 41 and 42 set out the responsibility of the United Nations Charter,

"to maintain or restore international peace and security".

Working within the UN, the Government have rightly sustained an internationalist approach to the crisis in Iraq. If they are successful in maintaining that focus, the UN will be a better vehicle for championing justice elsewhere. If they are not, it could become wholly ineffectual.

Secondly, if the UN were merely to follow the Roman injunction:

"si vis pacem para bellum"— if you want peace, prepare for war—we could easily become blind to the need to build civil structures and institutions that can deliver long-term progress and which spare us from further violence. If you want peace, you need to work harder to remove some of the conditions in which conflict has festered.

Since 1980, when I first visited Palestinian refugee camps at Shatilla and Shabra before the massacres there, I have believed that the creation of a Palestinian state is a sine qua non for both the security of the state of Israel and stability throughout the region. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, is right to say—in an article quoted earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker—that without such a resolution this will be,

"a region of sullen humiliation".

In addition, Iraq's four million Kurds and the Shia Muslim community must also be given justice once the fog of war has cleared. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, in her telling and persuasive speech, reminded us of the betrayal in 1991 and that both the Kurds and the four million Iraqi exiles must be fully involved in the reconstruction of the country. I wholeheartedly endorse and agree with that. I am sorry that the second Security Council resolution does not set out arrangements for the exercise of authority in Iraq after conflict is concluded.

After years of suffering and privation, we shall need a generosity and resolve unwitnessed since the Marshall Aid programme. The Government have handled this crisis with tenacity and skill. We must always use all our energy to avoid war. But if it becomes inevitable, we shall all need to do more to explain the justness of the Government's case.

Photo of Lord Hardy of Wath Lord Hardy of Wath Labour 8:05, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I support the Government. War is abhorrent—and so is tyranny, torture and terror. Saddam Hussein continues to use torture as a means of sustaining terror in order to provide himself with the basis for the continuance of his tyranny.

We talk about the Gulf War as though we had started it. The Gulf War was started when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The United Nations—or some parts of the United Nations—sent military contributions to make sure that he left Kuwait. He did—and he left it blazing in an environmental obscenity. When he returned, politicians in most countries in Europe rejoiced in trumph at the great victory in removing the aggressor. While they were enjoying the triumph, as my noble friend Lady Ramsay and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, pointed out, Saddam was content to massacre large numbers of those who were not absolutely reliable from the Ba'athist point of view.

Then Saddam Hussein continued with his priorities. He continued to oppress the people of Iraq, and he continued to maintain his military capacity. So we introduced sanctions. Then, those who did not like war and those who wanted to proclaim their virtue said that the sanctions were cruel. So he was allowed to sell oil for food. Yet people are still starving in Iraq, even though billions of pounds' worth of oil has been sold, purportedly for food. The weaponry has been maintained, but the people have not been fed; and neither their medical needs nor their educational needs have been met. One of the national newspapers today contains a letter from an apparent apologist for Saddam Hussein who says that his intent is to develop a high-tech modern society. Yet 66 per cent of the people in Iraq are illiterate. That is not the basis for building a civilised society—yet he has a very powerful military presence.

It has been said that Iraq's neighbours are not at all happy about military action. Given their experience when we left after the Gulf War and saw massacres in Iraq, with Saddam developing his weaponry, I am not surprised that his neighbours are uneasy in case the West pulls back.

The size of the Iraqi forces is incredible. The population of 23.5 million provides an army of full-time military force of 520,000 personnel. We have a military force of considerable competence which occupies 0.5 per cent of the British population. The Iraqi army takes five times the share of its population into its military, plus hundreds of thousands of reservists. Saddam has, despite sanctions and despite his 1991 pledge to disarm, 4,600 tanks and armoured cars, 316 combat aircraft and 100 armed helicopters.

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that he is addressing points which are not an issue? I have not heard a single noble Lord say a word in defence of Saddam Hussein. The question is whether the evil of Saddam Hussein or the evil of a war whose consequences cannot be confined to Iraq is the greater. Could the noble Lord address that point?

Photo of Lord Hardy of Wath Lord Hardy of Wath Labour

My Lords, I shall address that as I proceed.

The fact remains that Saddam Hussein has an army five times larger than he needs to defend his country. Why does he have an army and an air force and armoured regiments of that size? It is no wonder, given what has happened over the past 15 years, that his neighbours are uneasy about offering any support at this stage.

It has been said that a smoking gun has not been found. The fact remains that on the international black market—it is in the report that some of us received today—Saddam bought 380 missile engines for the largest size of missile. Some people suggested the other day that the increase in the missile capacity is insignificant. I think it is grossly significant in the sense that he had agreed not to possess missiles which had a capacity and a range exceeding 150 kilometres. He agreed to destroy his casting chambers which allowed the missiles to be produced, and he did. Then he rebuilt them, which I think he did to ensure that the missile capacity will be larger than the maximum to which he has agreed. That is very much like a gun which looks as if it could soon be smoking.

The West cannot allow such a situation to continue. If we were to pull back, would Saddam Hussein suddenly reform? No. Would the message sent out to other parts of the world be pacific? No. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, who asked about the wider implications, should understand that sometimes it pays to be firm. If the West gives a message of infirmity or weakness, those who benefit will be the future tyrants and the terrorists. Al'Qaeda already views the West with contempt as a depraved and feeble people who ought to be slaughtered.

I am not in favour of war, but if action is taken, I am in favour of it being taken with some aims and ends clearly in sight. One of them must be the settlement of the Middle East. There must be a trading of land for peace in Israel. If we make progress in that area, the chances of promoting peace and balance in other parts of the world and in that particular region are very good. But delay may not be wise.

I do not want to detain the House long, but I read the other day of an example where delay in Iraq was quite significant. In 1941, when our ships were being torpedoed, our Eighth Army was back in Egypt, the German axis power spread from the Russian border to the Pyrenees and Britain stood alone and in danger, there was an interesting development which was regarded as a minor epic of the Royal Air Force and lasted about six days. There was a putsch in Baghdad and a pro-German nationalist secured power. Because the king was a baby, the regent had to escape dressed as a woman. Anti-British propaganda in Baghdad was intense and Rashid Ali, who had considerable contact with the Germans, invited them to come to Iraq to drive the British out.

The RAF had bases there under the Anglo-Iraq treaty, and one of them was at Habbaniyah, 60 miles from Baghdad. It was purely a training base, with aircraft of considerable antiquity. Rashid Ali sent a very large force of the Iraqi army with tanks and artillery to occupy higher ground a few yards away. The RAF was instructed to stop flying. All airfields had been promised to the Luftwaffe.

There was some hesitation because the task of facing a large modern army with antiquated biplanes was not terribly attractive. However, bomb racks were put on and the aircraft flew. There were quite a few casualties, but, after six days, the Iraqi army decided that it had had enough and took off. The first German aircraft were delayed, arriving six days after the Habbaniya siege was lifted. They would have been even slower had the Vichy French not decided to allow them to overfly Syria and also to give them weapons. Although the siege lasted only a short time and the aircraft and other equipment were very old, the interests of the United Kingdom, and therefore of the free world, were greatly assisted by the delay of our German and Italian enemies at that time, assisted as they were by the French. Is not that involvement of Germany and France interesting, as history turns in circles?

I am not suggesting that we should go in haste. I am not suggesting that we should go without clear aims, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, mentioned. However, I am suggesting that we cannot pull back. Nor can we rely on the European Council. The document issued on 17th February contains some wonderful words. In it, the Council says that Saddam Hussein must disarm and that the military build-up has been essential. One thing that the European Council does not recognise is that the military build-up could be removed if Saddam disarmed. The whole world wants him to disarm. However, at no point does the document say that there will have to be a logical conclusion to the military build-up if Saddam Hussein does not disarm fully and completely within a matter of days.

Photo of Lord Sandberg Lord Sandberg Liberal Democrat 8:15, 26 February 2003

My Lords, Oliver Hardy, the fat half of the Laurel and Hardy partnership, used to wag his finger at his smaller partner and exclaim,

"that's another fine mess you've got us into".

We are certainly in a fine mess at the moment, but there is not much use in pointing fingers at those who lost the opportunity of finishing the Iraqi problem 12 years ago.

Many noble Lords have commented, and will continue to comment, on the pros and cons of war. Although I do not suppose that many people have any time for Saddam Hussein, many more worry about the legitimacy of a war. Most of us, therefore, would much prefer a second resolution from the United Nations. If we do not get one and there is any suggestion that Britain and the US have flouted the rules of that organisation, we shall, as others have said, be in danger of putting the United Nations in the same position as the League of Nations found itself in the 1930s. That would be a tragedy. If the rules are broken once, the problem is that it will set a nasty precedent for breaking them again. However, many noble Lords will speak on that subject. I should like to concentrate on what happens after we have got rid of Saddam Hussein, if that happens.

It is a truism to say that the Middle East is a fragile area. It is also a very large area, extending from the Mediterranean in the west to the Pakistani border in the east, from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. It contains a number of countries with very different constitutions, many of which look vulnerable. I shall try to touch on a few of those countries before coming to Iraq itself.

One has to start with Afghanistan. Although, thankfully, we have got rid of the Taliban leaders, in no way can we claim to have brought peace and stability to that unhappy country. Rival warlords abound, as does, unfortunately, the growing of crops to produce large amounts of dope. We must avoid such a lack of stability and of real progress for the people of Iraq.

To the west of Afghanistan is Iran with its horrendous human rights record. It may have bettered itself slightly, but news of hangings and torture are rife, with horrendous stories of eye gouging being all too common. It is an awful thought that such regimes can continue to claim legitimacy in the 21st century.

South of the region we have Jordan and Oman, both good examples of what democratic Islamic states can achieve. Enormous credit must go to the rulers of both those countries. I think that it behoves us to help them, especially Jordan, which is vulnerable to a possible war. Near them is the Yemen whose recent past is at best murky. One of its industries, and certainly one of its main exports, appears to be terrorists. To the extreme west of the area there is Syria, which is still in a state of war with Israel. There is then Israel itself.

While we realise that Israel has every right to exist and must defend its borders, its methods of so doing are more than a tooth for a tooth; they are really a terrorist for a terrorist. It is a continuing and a sad story. Many of us believe that the US could exert much more pressure on that country with its democratically elected government, to persuade them that the illegal occupancy of Palestinian territory and meeting terror with terror is not working and is not going to work.

Life would be easier, of course, if the Palestinian leadership took bold steps and action to get rid of its incompetency, not to say its corruption. One can only hope that that will eventually happen. If Yasser Arafat were convinced, he could certainly correct these problems.

In the north there is Turkey, which is both able and only too willing to take part in any attack on Iraq because she can see rich oilfields within her grasp. Sandwiched between Turkey and Iraq proper are the Kurdish people whose history of misery and exploitation is there for all to see. Saudi Arabia, long a friend of the US, is not as stable as we would like. A reduction in the number of US forces in that country would be welcomed both in and outside Saudi Arabia. That is something which we would like to see.

Lastly, there is Iraq itself, which is not a natural nation as such, but one which was set up by the allies after the First World War. I have already mentioned the Kurds in the north. There are divisions of race and religion with the Shi'ite Muslims in the south who are almost equally exploited and butchered by Saddam Hussein.

We have a fine mess in the region. It is easy enough to delineate the many problems, but their solution is certainly not so easy. The Americans have been great defenders of the freedoms which many of us enjoy and we owe them a great debt. They have not been so good at solving subsequent problems. One has only to look at Sudan in the recent past to see that. There is the problem which still tragically exists in Afghanistan. We pray that the same problems are not going to arise in Iraq when Saddam Hussein and his thugs are merely a memory.

So where do we start? It would be impossible to achieve any lasting peace in the Middle East, as everyone knows, while the Israeli/Palestine troubles continue. Yet we see no end to them. If there is no progress in that conflict there will be continuing strife in the area. I believe that Britain probably understands that, but I am not so sure that the US does so yet.

Photo of Lord Vincent of Coleshill Lord Vincent of Coleshill Crossbench 8:24, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I have listened in this debate and more widely in the country at large to the concerns expressed in many quarters about the prospect of military action against Iraq. As I discern them, those concerns arise for a variety of reasons. Examples range from an abhorrence of war, whatever its causes or theoretical justification, to a strong perception that there is still insufficient evidence to justify such military action in Iraq now and, not least, whether military operations against Iraq will make the world and our part of it a safer place.

I agree that it would be more compelling if clearer examples of evidence had been uncovered or could be safely revealed—there is a difficult security problem—of weapons of mass destruction in usable forms and operational quantities. But as long ago as the Gulf War, we had sufficiently clear evidence—for example, about Iraq's biological weapons—to make the difficult decision at that time to vaccinate our forces most at risk, to protect them from that specific threat. Since then, Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and has failed repeatedly over 12 years to comply with 17 Security Council resolutions, including his latest cat-and-mouse response to Resolution 1441.

None of that may satisfy those who will only accept the open revelation of smoking guns pointing in our direction but the circumstantial evidence is very substantial indeed. If Saddam Hussein wishes to rebut it, all that he and his officials have to do—very quickly now—is to co-operate fully with the inspectors by responding comprehensively and openly to Resolution 1441 as called for by every member of the Security Council.

Beyond that, before any judgment is made about launching a military action, the key question is whether such action will ensure greater security for the citizens of this country and the other nations most directly concerned. I believe that with sound operational plans to meet clearly stated objectives—which have yet to be made public—such operations would have a high probability of success in their own limited military context. But given the complex and potentially destructive nature of society and politics in Iraq today, together with the unstable situation in the Middle East at large, military operations will not in themselves automatically deliver a safer international security environment.

What non-military measures are now in preparation with proper international authority and adequate resources to address effectively in all its dimensions the chaotic aftermath of a military operation in Iraq? Such measures will be essential if Iraq is to develop into a more stable and less dangerous state and if the consequences of war are not to add to the risks to our security rather than reduce them. I found myself asking that question several times in a quite different strategic context in the North Atlantic Council in the mid-1990s as I sought formal political guidance and approval for NATO's military preparations to separate the warring factions in Bosnia after the long and costly failure of UNPROFOR. That question was not at first welcomed by ambassadors and their Governments in NATO, who in many cases would have preferred to scrutinise plans in evermore detail, rather than address such complex and illusive non-operational matters.

In the end in that campaign, those details were dealt with in respect of Bosnia, initially by the Dayton peace process—so despite the enormity of the task, reconstruction, reinvestment and the establishment of law and order under emerging democratic processes have slowly taken route in that part of the world. If we do not prepare similarly agreed and relevant arrangements for Iraq before military operations are launched, there must be a serious risk that in the longer term the world will not become a safer place, however effective our military action is in disarming Saddam Hussein.

Against that background, I would be interested to know at the end of our debate what preparations are now in hand to ensure that if we take military action against Iraq, we do not then find that we have won the war but lost the peace.

Photo of The Bishop of Salisbury The Bishop of Salisbury Bishop 8:30, 26 February 2003

My Lords, for very long, the nations of the world have relied on the classic principles of the just war theory to give moral backing to our military interventions and to defend the oppressed. We know the arguments. However, the pursuit of their own ends by small but powerfully armed groups of terrorists has changed our concept of war between sovereign states.

That change may be characterised in three ways. First, no longer do recognised armies fight for control of territory with conventional weapons. Instead, we are subject to strikes on civilian targets by means that would be outlawed by existing conventions. Neither Thomas Aquinas nor von Clausewitz envisaged that. Secondly, often the cause of violence is not threat to the sovereign state, but threat to cultural or religious identity. How do the Muslim and Arab worlds see us? Why do they feel so deeply angry with us and the United States? Thirdly, weapons of mass destruction like economic strength and cultural dominance are used as tools of oppression. That changes the nature of warfare and our definitions of oppression quite dramatically.

In response to that changed situation in the global society, in which no nation state can exist independently and securely, and in which one would have thought that we would all cherish the opportunities of working together within the fragile structures of the United Nations, a new doctrine has emerged from the White House. It is enshrined in the national security strategy of the USA, published late last year, which states unambiguously that,

"as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best . . . In the new world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action".

As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and others have clearly stated, we are now faced with the possibility of the new doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence being put into operation. We will strike Iraq because there is a risk that, at some unspecified time in future, Iraq or rather some Iraqis will strike us. Alternatively, we will strike Iraq because we believe that Iraq is concealing its weapons of mass destruction. In neither case need Iraq have actually done anything. What has decided its fate has been our perception of it, and the cultural, historic and religious lenses through which that perception has been formed.

That new definition of pre-emptive self-defence is at odds with the English common law doctrine, which I think means what it says in a common-sense way. One is entitled to use reasonable force to defend oneself against the use or threat of force by another. However, that threat must be immediate and apparent, or one is transparently not defending oneself but attacking another in anticipation. I do not believe that any court of law would accept the defence plea of a gangster if he said that he had blown up the house of a rival because he had heard that his rival was plotting to kill him.

The new American strategy tears up what has long been the basis of international convention, and replaces it with new standards for conduct, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, made clear. It is a dangerous doctrine, because pre-emptive self-defence hands all power to the powerful. The party that has the necessary muscle becomes the only arbiter and can choose enemies when and where it pleases. There are no checks on the exercise of such power and it is accountable to no one. I do not think that we should encourage that. I see it as having three consequences that will undo our faltering steps to build a world order.

First, such power is destructive of honesty. When the mighty hold absolute sway there is no incentive to be truthful. In the current situation, America has made it clear that it disbelieves what Iraq says and will attack anyway. Truth has become the first casualty of this engagement.

Secondly, it damages trust, enthroning power in its place. The only possible global alignment is with the powerful state on that state's terms. The alternative is death. No nation can trust another; nor can its people. After all, weapons may be concealed anywhere and we shall now presume that those who possess them will conceal them more effectively. Out of the window goes trust.

Thirdly, such power is contemptuous of hope. It dismisses that looking forward with anticipation to a better world that is at the heart of the Christian gospel. While that vision is by no means the exclusive prerogative of the Christian tradition, the cynical assumption that people will always behave at their worst is deeply corrosive. We need to keep alive our belief in the potential goodness of the human race. What is at stake is not just Iraq in the next few months. The precedents set by conduct now are of far-reaching importance. They affect the kind of world that we shall inherit.

Such a world order that we are being offered is at odds with the one that the Christian tradition has long advocated, which has at its heart the twin characteristics of human diversity and individual worth. It also manifests a very different theology of power.

I shall quote from an interview with David Potari whose brother was one of the victims of 9/11 that was published in the Guardian last Saturday. Mr Potari was asked whether he wanted justice and saw war on Iraq as part of that. In response, he said:

"Justice for me would be a more equitable world, where people did not live in such misery that they had to hate each other. . . . A world in which the US contributes to a sense of equality, rather than making it worse... The thing to atone for my brother's death would be for there to be more honesty in the world, for America to start being more honest about the repercussions of its world policy".

The majority in this House abhor the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, his duplicity and the potential threat that he poses to the safety of the world and the values that we hold dear. But we should not be seduced into what we might kid ourselves is a quick and definitive solution. I have seen too much of the devastation wrought in the Sudan by 40 years of civil war to believe in quick fixes, let alone the intractable Palestinian-Israeli situation. Only when the fighting stops—it may take months or years—can the real task of rebuilding trust and hope, which will make the world a safe place, begin. We can unleash war in a moment, but building peace takes a lifetime.

Photo of Lord MacKenzie of Culkein Lord MacKenzie of Culkein Labour 8:38, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I do not come to the debate this evening with the expertise of so many noble Lords who have spoken, but I want to go on record as supporting the Government and, in particular, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in this extraordinarily difficult matter.

I was always taught that resolutions say what they mean and mean what they say. It is clear from the past few weeks that many commentators have neither read nor understood what the many Security Council resolutions on Iraq say. I am speaking about Security Council Resolution 687 of 1991 and the more recent Resolution 1441 in particular.

It is clear from Resolution 687 that the ending of the Iraqi war was in reality a ceasefire, based on the acceptance of the Iraqi Government that within 15 days they would declare the location, amounts and types of all specified items of weapons of mass destruction and co-operate in the destruction of those items.

What has happened since? There have been a great many more Security Council resolutions, and Saddam has complied with none of them—not with the terms in which they were written. The process of obfuscation has continued to the present day and the most recent resolution—1441—demands,

"immediate, active and unconditional co-operation", with UNMOVIC.

To listen to many commentators and many politicians, one would believe that Saddam is co-operating with the weapons inspectors—or, they say, he will in time co-operate. He may be co-operating, but only in terms of process. There is no evidence whatever that I have seen that Saddam Hussein is co-operating in terms of substance. That might be okay if the UN inspectors were detectives or investigators; that is what the general public believes and it is what a considerable number of politicians appear to believe. If the UN wanted to send in investigators or detectives, it would not have set up an inspection regime. Inspection is different, and it means co-operation on substance.

Indeed, Dr Blix, in his 14th February report, made it clear that there were serious concerns. He concluded his report by saying that a decade of such sanctions could have been avoided if Iraq had co-operated. Dr Blix went on to say:

"Today, three months after the adoption of Resolution 1441 . . . the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short if 'immediate, active and unconditional co-operation' with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming".

A mere 12 days ago, it was clear that there was little or no co-operation on process with the inspectors. It cannot be clearer that that is the case than with regard to the refusal of the Iraqi regime to allow unrestricted access to scientists and other officials without minders and tape recorders. The natural conclusion to draw from that is that there is indeed something to hide. We should recall that Saddam denied the existence of much of his biological weapons programme until the defection of his son-in-law. The inspectors never found any of that material during several years of work. It was only after that defection that they were able to destroy some of the material, much of which still appears to be unaccounted for.

I have discovered in the workplace that one cannot deal with harassers or bullies without having a big stick to back up diplomacy, and I am fairly certain that the same happens on the international stage. Resolution 1441 allows for diplomacy and the big stick. The answer lies entirely in the hands of the Iraqi regime. If there is complete co-operation, there is no reason why the inspectors cannot take as long as they need to destroy weapons and to monitor the situation thereafter, thereby avoiding military action. If there is less than such complete co-operation, the big stick may well have to be used. If the United Nations is to have a future with any authority, it cannot have its resolutions ignored with impunity.

In that respect, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has played a hugely effective role. I regard it as a complete nonsense that the Prime Minister is blindly following President George Bush. Tony Blair was completely correct about Kosovo, as he was right about Sierra Leone, Macedonia and Afghanistan. I know that people say—we heard it today—that things in Afghanistan are not right; they are not right in Bosnia or Kosovo, and probably not in Sierra Leone. Who is to say that we should have left the killing fields in Sierra Leone, the Taliban when it would not give up Al'Qaeda, or Milosevic in former Yugoslavia? Who is to say that we were wrong in doing what we did?

There is no certainty in this world but I believe that the Prime Minister is right about Iraq. By his leadership and diplomacy, he has done a great deal in an understated way to keep the USA in the United Nations family. Anyone who is familiar with American attitudes to the United Nations over many years—certainly not just on George W Bush's watch—should reflect seriously on that. Of course we must seek another resolution if that is at all possible but we cannot allow Resolution 1441 to be put on the proverbial long finger. We cannot allow the United Nations to go the way of the League of Nations. The dread of war so soon after World War I kept that body from doing anything about the fascist invasion of Abyssinia. The wringing of hands did not stop World War II, but it put an end to the League of Nations.

Nor should we have a situation where the only superpower in the world, the United States of America, operates outside the United Nations, or indeed without any influence from the UN or the UK on how it sees the world. Our influence or that of the United Nations may not always be successful, but it has to be kept in place, not least if there is to be any realistic prospect of dealing with the Israeli-Palestine issue.

The Prime Minister deserves the support of all noble Lords on all sides of the House. The more that the big stick is held over the Saddam regime, the better chance there will be of avoiding conflict.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development) 8:45, 26 February 2003

My Lords, Saddam is a tyrant; and he must comply with the UN. What is in doubt is whether there is justification, legitimacy and efficacy in taking action now. I want to address the question of efficacy and in particular the humanitarian consequences of action.

As my noble friend Lady Williams pointed out, we already have evidence of what may happen in Iraq from the war in Afghanistan. That war was closely linked to the terrorist threat in a way that any attack on Iraq simply is not. It followed 9/11, seeking the detention of bin Laden—which it did not achieve despite overwhelming force—the break-up of Al'Qaeda, which it achieved only on a modest basis, and the overthrow of the Taliban government who were harbouring Al'Qaeda. There was international support for such a war.

Before the Afghanistan campaign, the Prime Minister promised that this time the world,

"will not walk away from Afghanistan, as it has done so many times before".

Despite that promise and international support, and despite the knowledge that not delivering on humanitarian aid would foster more terrorism, Afghanistan is rapidly being forgotten. As the International Development Committee recently found, the funds available "are simply not enough". International donors have pledged 5 billion dollars—less than half of what may be necessary. The Independent reported on 24th February:

"a deep concern in Kabul that the international community is losing interest even though the task of repairing the wreckage of war—let alone the even more massive job of nation-building—has only just begun".

As we heard earlier, the US Congress had to step in to find nearly 300 million dollars in humanitarian and reconstruction funds for Afghanistan after the Bush Administration failed to include any such money in their latest budget. How is that supposed to augur well for Iraq? There was worldwide support for a war in Afghanistan, and yet the international community has been less than half-hearted in addressing its aftermath. There is no such consensus over Iraq. Why do we think that countries will put in money to pick up the pieces after a war they do not want?

There will be many pieces to pick up. The Iraqi people are particularly vulnerable. UN agencies say that the effect of war in Iraq would be far worse than in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is largely rural and the people have a long tradition of coping with want and disaster. By contrast Iraq has a relatively urbanised population, with the state providing many of their basic needs. The destruction wrought by the Gulf War, followed by sanctions and Saddam's own repression, has seriously weakened the population.

Most of Iraq's food is currently imported under the UN Oil for Food programme and 16 million Iraqis—two-thirds of the population—now depend on that. They would be very vulnerable if the programme were suspended or supply lines severed, as will happen when attacks are made on roads, bridges, ports and railways. A leaked UN document dated 7th January 2003 states that,

"in the event of a crisis, 30 per cent of children under 5 would be at risk of death from malnutrition".

Before 1991, Iraq had a modern water and sanitation network, but much of that was destroyed in the Gulf War. Unsafe water has driven up child mortality figures and now 10 per cent of Iraqi children die before the age of five. Many more people died from disease and hunger in Afghanistan than from bombing. That is likely to be far worse in Iraq.

What else may we see? As Clare Short herself pointed out, there is a very serious risk that,

"large-scale ethnic fighting could break out in the country . . . With the different ethnic groups, that fighting could result in a humanitarian nightmare".—[Official Report, Commons, 30/1/03; col. 1055.]

That was said by a member of the Government; and there is the possibility that chemical and biological weapons may be used in the fighting as Saddam is backed into a corner.

Already three-quarters of a million people within Iraq are internally displaced. A UN report produced in December 2002 estimates that that could increase to 2 million people. A large proportion of those may well become refugees. Political, economic and social problems will hardly be confined to Iraq. Syria and Iran have agreed to allow refugees to cross their borders. Jordan is preparing camps, but with the border closed except to a few. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have refused to take refugees. Iran already has more than 3 million refugees within its borders—the largest number in the world. Two-and-a-half million are from the conflict in Afghanistan and half a million are from Iraq. Refugees will clearly put a strain on neighbouring countries. Emergency relief will cost billions. As we have heard, other Middle Eastern countries may well be destabilised.

Terrorism is likely to increase, not decrease. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford so effectively pointed out, this crisis is in danger of deflecting the international community from other areas. On 10th February, the head of the United Nations lead agency for Palestinian refugees, Peter Hansen, appealed to the international community not to forget the West Bank and Gaza as the world focuses on Iraq. He warned that the agency would soon run out of resources at a time when Israel was stepping up its demolition programme and rendering more people homeless. As we know, there is also dire need in southern Africa, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But, as Clare Short pointed out in the Commons on 30th January:

"My Department's resources and those of the international humanitarian system are . . . strained. We will, of course, play our part in any international humanitarian effort, but no one should be complacent about the international system's resources or, indeed, those of my Department".—[Official Report, Commons, 30/1/03; col. 1057.]

In its document of 7th January 2003, the UN states that,

"the collapse of essential services in Iraq . . . could lead to a humanitarian emergency of proportions well beyond the capacity of UN agencies and other aid organisations".

Both immediate and long-term humanitarian considerations simply have to be given greater attention by governments and the United Nations Security Council before a war is waged on Iraq. The scale of the disaster is potentially immense.

But if the risk of war is taken, humanitarian aid and reconstruction must be a long-standing process. Iraq needed that anyway. Its plight after another war will be much worse. This is not something that a smart bomb or a two-week campaign can put right. The late Lord Jenkins of Hillhead described the Prime Minister's vision as being like that of a lighthouse beacon, focused intensely on one area before it swings round to focus on another, leaving the rest in darkness. The Prime Minister focused that attention on Afghanistan. He focused that attention all too briefly on Africa. If war goes ahead, he will need to keep his attention, but that of the world, on the long-term peace and reconstruction of the whole region. If he thinks he cannot keep that focus, and more importantly that of the United Nations, surely even at this late stage he—and we—should be thinking again.

Photo of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Crossbench 8:56, 26 February 2003

My Lords, when one comes as late as this in the speaking order, there is little to add to what has already been said in this debate. None the less I cannot let this moment pass. More than 30 years fighting the evil of terrorism—both as an officer in Her Majesty's forces and as a parliamentarian—has given me considerable insight into what we face with the Saddam regime.

This point is crucial—we should refrain from identifying the threat we face as an Iraqi problem. It is not. The West has no problem with the people of Iraq. It is exclusively from the menace from the Saddam terrorist regime. We should admit that we in the United Kingdom adopted an ambivalent attitude when he attacked Iran. With the benefit of hindsight we might now do better.

The Saddam regime is one that will not be changed by the Blix weapons inspectors. It would not happen now, after 12 years, or if we allowed yet another year—or even if the inspectorate had 1,000 years to pursue its impossible task. It must be evident, except to the most recalcitrant observer, that Saddam will take us to the brink. He will bluff us again and again, and has no intention to deliver. If it were otherwise, we would by now have complete information on what has happened to the weapons of mass destruction. We would not then be fobbed off by the "I forgot I had it in the back of the cupboard" chemical bomb, as happened earlier this week.

The United Nations must now decide what it really intended by Resolutions 688 and 1441, if it is not to become a League of Nations Mark 2. We all understand, I expect, that high-grade intelligence cannot be disseminated throughout the public arena, and that the proverbial red herring may have to be trailed. However, it only confuses the public if the Government continuously make suggestions about links between Saddam and Al'Qaeda. Bluntly, those of us who understand terrorism know that Saddam and Al'Qaeda will use each other if and when it is convenient. The nature of terrorism is "each to his own ends".

It is much more significant that as we know Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and their components, and used them against both Iran and his own people. The Government owe it to the public to expand on, and explain the indisputable facts. So far, they have miserably and dangerously failed to achieve this.

For example, what is the veracity or otherwise of the report in the Independent on 19th February about three cargo ships suspected of carrying the Saddam regime's weapons of mass destruction leaving Iraq concurrent with the arrival of Herr Blix's team and continuing incommunicado to sail around the Indian Ocean?

It would appear that such a tactic would be eminently sensible from Saddam's perspective. Are there any means by which the weapons inspectors can extend their authority beyond the boundaries of Iraq? Can the Minister, without compromising intelligence operations, enlarge on this point? Does every hour wasted not facilitate such potential deception? Have the USA and the United Kingdom not been forced by collective UN indecision to engage in a phoney war for the past three months—a phoney war that may yet endanger our forces? I am no warmonger, neither do I have to convince anyone that I would prefer peace. But I have learnt the hard way to be a realist. We should waste very, very little more time.

The Minister spoke of her hope for peace, but I believe it is now time to take action for peace. What then? The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, rightly spoke about humanitarian aid, as have other noble Lords. That issue has, I trust, already been addressed. What about the future government in Iraq? We cannot afford merely to have yet another Baghdad-centred administration, with Kurds and Marsh Arabs losing out on the periphery. I do not want to expand on the fact that governments sometimes forget their friends and reward their enemies—most noble Lords will get my specific meaning.

I conclude with this thought. Neither the United States of America nor the United Kingdom can forever be the world's policemen, but both can help to ensure that the United Nations collectively fulfils that role now as far as possible. If the UN fails with Saddam, it endangers peace world-wide and can never again be taken seriously. What other despots, dictators and megalomaniacs are watching from the wings?

To fail to act is to give notice that democracy—that word which drops so lightly off our tongues—is, for the foreseeable future, to succumb to terrorism and terrorist regimes and that the bleached bones in Cambodia, the Balkans and Sierra Leone have taught us nothing.

Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour 9:03, 26 February 2003

My Lords, it is late. As a historian, I want to reflect briefly on the observable and wide gulf between the views of the Government and the views of the British people. Normally in a war crisis, historically government and people converge as they did in 1914 and in 1939. This time, they have grown further and further apart. At the present time, perhaps three-quarters of the British people do not support a war. At least 30 per cent have said that they will not support a war under any circumstances, even with a second UN resolution.

The Government say that the facts need to be explained and the message elucidated and then people will form correct views. Well, the message has been elucidated; the spinners have spun; the plagiarists have plagiarised; and the people are more hostile than ever and public opposition to an attack on Iraq has grown stronger. Why is that? Have our people suddenly turned uniformly into Trotskyists and pacifists? They find the Government's case unconvincing; they simply do not believe it.

In the first place, it is evident that people are not persuaded that Saddam Hussein is an obvious threat to the United Kingdom—perhaps not immediately a threat to anywhere. After all, he was successfully contained by international force for 12 years previous to this crisis. It was only after September 11th—indeed, some time after that—that the United States turned its attention, in a way that future historians will find mysterious and interesting to penetrate, from Al'Qaeda to Iraq, which, after all, had been there all along.

The public recognise that Saddam Hussein is an unpleasant man and that his regime is cruel. They do not regard the case for his having weapons of mass destruction—certainly not nuclear weapons—as currently proven. Saddam Hussein certainly has some unpleasant weapons—of course he has, we gave him some of them; the United States gave him others. The United States was responsible for selling Iraq anthrax, West Nile virus and botuliniol toxin in the 1980s, the salesman being Mr Donald Rumsfeld.

In spite of that, the reports by Dr Blix have so far been temperate. Things are by no means satisfactory, but they are moderately encouraging. He talks of positive progress and it is surely reasonable to ask for inspection to be undertaken properly and to reach its appointed time, rather than to resort to the extreme response of war.

Secondly, as many noble Lords have said, people are not convinced of any link between Iraq and international terrorism. The evidence for that is derisory. The people of this country fear that the threat of terrorism will be greatly increased by an attack on Iraq—as may be tension between the different ethnic communities in this country.

Thirdly, people deeply suspect the motives of the United States. That is not just anti-Americanism; our people are not anti-American. I am not anti-American; I taught American history in universities for 30 years and greatly enjoyed it. But there is great hostility to and distrust of an extreme Right-wing administration. People distrust the unilateralism of American foreign and external policy in relation to the environment, armaments, the International Criminal Court and many other issues.

There is mass popular distrust in this country about the American concern with oil and the hypocrisy that is shown in not acting against an aggressive Israeli regime with an extremely Right-wing government who consistently defy the UN's edicts and deny fundamental human rights for Palestinians. There is great disbelief in this country that the United States, rather late in the day, has decided that this is a crusade for human rights. What human rights, when the Kurds, for example, are specifically omitted? Why are they omitted? Because it would upset the Turks and a large number of Kurds live in Turkey, which is a valuable base.

It is also recognised that the United States has for decades propped up and continues to prop up some of the most atrocious regimes in the world, which have flouted human rights—at present, Uzbekistan, which provides virtually no human rights, but is a convenient base. That is recognised and regarded with a good deal of suspicion.

The British people also believe in the United Nations. Admirably, our Prime Minister also believes in the United Nations. People in this country suspect that that the Americans do not—at any rate, to nothing like the same degree. The Commonwealth background of this country makes us attuned to dialogue and international discourse, whereas the history, background and outlook of the United States are different.

People see the United States apparently overruling or ignoring United Nations resolutions and probably not wanting to use the United Nations at all, had it not been admirably pressurised into it by Tony Blair. They see the US regarding the Blix inspection as an irrelevant interlude, as they have already decided on war. They see the Americans trying to impose their definition of regime change unilaterally and in complete defiance of the edicts and principles of international law. They see a United States committed to following its own interests, whatever the rest of the world thinks. Speaking historically, I fear that that is the other side of America's so-called isolationism; it is an interventionist consequence of isolationism. It frightens people.

Finally, the British people fear war because they think that it will be barbarous and will lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people—children, old people and others—in Iraq. They think that it will be far worse than the atrocities undoubtedly committed by Saddam Hussein and will result in a humanitarian catastrophe. They feel that war should be the last resort and that we are a long way short of the last resort.

In addition to what I have tried to identify as popular concerns about Iraq, there are some more specialist concerns. Economists are anxious about the long-term damage to the world economy and the prospects for economic recovery, particularly given the high price of oil. As we have heard in the debate, military experts are worried about the absence of clearly defined strategic objectives and ask about the purpose of the projected war. Those who are expert in international analysis fear the probability of extreme instability for many decades throughout the Middle East. I noticed a remarkable statement by the former Prime Minister, Mr John Major, pointing out the difficulties of getting a stable settlement in Iraq, given the deep animosities between Shias and Sunnis, the position of the Kurds and so on. The effect of the war will be to exacerbate the problems, not to cure them.

Others worry about the new gulf emerging between us and our allies and comrades in France and Germany and the effect that it will have on the European ideal. We are being alienated from France and cosying up to the neo-fascist President Berlusconi, with whom this country has little common interest.

As a historian, I worry about the crude use of history, particularly our old friend the 1930s. Time and again we hear that this crisis is the 1930s come again—what nonsense. Saddam is not another Hitler. Where is his Mein Kampf? Where is his dream of universal conquest? George Bush is certainly no Churchill; it would be a calumny on the reputation of that great man to suggest it. It is a facile argument, and it disturbs me that Downing Street produces it, all the more because I taught one or two of them. My efforts were clearly somewhat in vain.

We should anatomise public opinion. The polls show the components of alienated public opinion on the threatened policy. Every element that brought new Labour to power is hostile. Women are strongly hostile, more so than men. At least 70 per cent of women are hostile to war under almost any circumstances. Young people are deeply alienated, as are the trade unions. In Scotland, only 13 per cent of the people would support a war. God help the Labour Party in the elections in May. It will be a bonus for the SNP and perhaps, in my own nation, for Plaid Cymru. All faiths are opposed to the war. Today, we heard the bishops speak out with courage and vision. They do not see it as a just war. There is also the powerful opposition of the Pope. All political parties are united, even Conservatives who reject the gung-ho militarism of Iain Duncan Smith.

That opposition was reflected on 15th February in a great and moving protest comparable with any in our history, comparable with the Chartists or the Suffragettes. The extent of that protest shows how the crisis can destabilise our country. Nearer home, it is certainly destabilising the Labour Party. I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1955. I was a member of the Labour League of Youth before Tony Blair was born. It grieves me to see the haemorrhaging of good members from our party. There are masses of them, and friends of mine are leaving the party.

Tony Blair is a brave man who prides himself on being another Churchill. He must be wary of not being another Ramsay MacDonald. This is said to be a listening Government; one that listens to the people. They should listen—not to transatlantic ideologues but to the wisdom, humanity and decency of the British people.

Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat 9:15, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I wish to concentrate my remarks on the economic costs of a war with Iraq. I do so with a degree of diffidence because, at one level, it seems heartless and irrelevant to count the economic costs of toppling Saddam against the human costs of war. But there will be economic costs and consequences, and any informed debate on the issue should surely be aware of them.

As regards the short-term direct costs, the best estimate of the cost to the United States has been made by the US Congressional Budget Committee. It suggests that the cost of a short war, followed by a mere 10 weeks of post-combat presence in the region, will be about 44 billion US dollars. Other US congressional studies produce a higher figure. The 44 billion US dollars is in excess of what would otherwise be spent on the defence budget over an equivalent period.

As for the United Kingdom, the Chancellor has already made provision for £1.75 billion-worth of additional expenditure. However, estimates produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which takes as its starting point the cost of UK involvement in the Gulf War, suggest that our expenditure could be nearer £3.2 billion.

These costs assume that all goes well militarily. If the Iraqi forces pursue a stubborn urban defence strategy and, as appears inevitable, there is less than total co-operation from some of the neighbouring countries in the region, the costs could easily be more than double this amount, possibly some 100 billion US dollars in all.

Dr Blix has, by contrast, estimated that the cost of the weapons inspection process is approximately £50 million per annum. A stark contrast.

On the assumption that the war is successful—all economists like simplistic assumptions—the next relevant costs will be those of post-war occupation and reconstruction. These will include the costs for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial functions, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance and preparations for a transitional governing body. The costs of simply keeping an occupation peacekeeping force in Iraq have been estimated, again by the Congressional Budget Committee, as between 17 billion and 46 billion US dollars per annum. Estimates by William Nordhaus at Yale University suggest that the cost of reconstruction could range from 30 billion to 105 billion US dollars, and humanitarian assistance could cost between 1 billion and 10 billion US dollars.

The really worrying thing about these figures is that the track record of the US and its allies, including the UK, of committing adequate funds to civilian reconstruction—most recently in Afghanistan—is poor. In Afghanistan, in the 12 months from September 2001, the US spent 13 billion US dollars on the war effort, but the Pentagon contributed only some 10 million US dollars to civil works and humanitarian aid. As my noble friends Lady Williams and Lady Northover have pointed out, the White House forgot completely to include any provision for such expenditure in the budget it submitted to Congress for the upcoming financial year.

At a time when the US spends only 15 billion US dollars on foreign aid for the entire world, the likelihood of it undertaking an adequate nation-building programme in post-war Iraq is not good. Indeed, the most realistic prospect is, I am afraid, a half-hearted and half-completed job. I hope at the very least that here the Chancellor will use the opportunity of the Budget to indicate how much the UK Government will contribute to the reconstruction effort.

I have so far looked simply at the direct costs of the war. Important as they are, they are arguably less significant than the potential wider economic consequences. Recent wars have had mixed economic consequences. The Korean War gave a powerful stimulus to growth, as did Vietnam—although in that case high levels of borrowing and inflation helped to cause the US economic crises of the early 1970s.

The economic effects of any war in the Gulf, however, are bound to be strongly linked to its effect on oil supplies and oil prices. The short-term effect of a war, which is arguably already being felt, is that of an oil shock, in which oil importing countries are hit by rising prices and falling demand. Optimists, particularly in the US, argue that there are adequate reserves to deal with any temporary disruption during the war itself, that Saudi Arabia and Russia would step up production to deal with any shortfall, and that once the war was over increased Iraqi production could force oil prices down from their current level of over 30 dollars a barrel to as low as 10 dollars a barrel.

This optimistic view is, however, clouded by a number of worrying uncertainties. The first relates to the conduct of the war itself. If it were prolonged for any reason, it would undoubtedly cause major uncertainty and instability in international commodity markets. Oil prices will almost certainly be high during the war, and for anything other than a very short war this would suppress world growth. The IMF estimates that a 10 dollar per barrel rise over the course of a year would reduce global GDP by 0.6 per cent. Secondly, if the war led to a collapse of the Saudi regime, either from increased anti-Western sentiments or from a medium-term fall in oil revenues as post-war Iraqi production increased and prices fell, the longer-term prospects for Saudi oil supplies could become extremely uncertain.

The greatest potential risk facing the global economy, however, relates to how the war is financed. Under current economic conditions, with relatively low levels of unused capacity, additional government borrowing will spill over into inflation or imports, or both, adding to the current account deficit, which is already 5 per cent of GDP in the US and 2 per cent in Britain; and to their fiscal deficits, which are already 3 per cent and 1.5 per cent of GDP, and set to rise significantly, even without the consequences of the war.

In the case of the US, the effect of the proposed Bush tax cuts will already cause a budgetary deficit of at least 2,000 billion dollars over the next decade. An expensive war will significantly increase that figure in the short term. That will require higher borrowing, and the US Administration is literally banking on foreign investors buying large additional volumes of government debt. It is plausible that this could cause a sharp fall in the dollar exchange rate—possibly even its collapse. This would raise debt servicing costs in the US further, possibly forcing the administration to raise taxes, which would in turn hit consumer confidence. A dollar fall and reduced consumer confidence would export recession to US trading partners, including the UK.

Imbalances in the UK are less extreme than in the US, but our balance of payments deficit is at its highest ever level, investment is severely depressed and the budget deficit is growing rapidly. We are not an oil importer to the same extent as the US, but a general downturn in the oil importing countries would clearly hit UK exports further. In turn, this would harm growth and employment.

Even a short, militarily successful war would therefore impose significant economic costs. A longer war, and one which led to the collapse of the Saudi regime and/or the dollar, could plausibly be expected to herald a world recession.

These costs of war represent only one of the factors which have to be weighed in any decision about military action. They are, however, too important to be ignored.

Photo of Lord Chan Lord Chan Crossbench 9:25, 26 February 2003

My Lords, no one doubts that Saddam Hussein has caused the current crisis in Iraq by ignoring the UN resolution of 1991 and again ignoring Resolution 1441 in November 2002. On his past record, it is not likely that Saddam will comply with Resolution 1441 and destroy his weapons of mass destruction. It will be a miracle if he were to relent and, to this end, 1 million people are praying for this to happen, according to e-mail messages that I have been receiving since November.

Many noble Lords have rightly argued that we must support the rule of law. Further, that war against Saddam should be embarked upon only as a last resort and only with the authority of the United Nations. I support this need for the UN to authorise military intervention. But there are issues that trouble me about the prospect of using war to disarm Saddam of his weapons of mass destruction. Our Prime Minister said in his Statement yesterday:

"The issue is not time. The issue is will. If Saddam is willing genuinely to co-operate, the inspectors should have up to July, and beyond July—as much time as they want".—[Official Report, 25/02/03; col. 125.]

How much time will Saddam be given to demonstrate he is willing genuinely to co-operate with Resolution 1441 by offering his weapons of mass destruction to the UN inspectors? Will Dr. Hans Blix's report in March be the watershed for deciding on the use of military force to disarm Saddam? If this is the case, I agree with my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall that the UN inspectors should be given more time to do their work and to be certain that Saddam is willing to co-operate. Is patience not a virtue for political decisions?

My second concern is the terrible effects of war on the civilian population, especially on women and children. I join my noble friend Lord Sandwich and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, regarding their questions to the Minister about the preparations being made for food and water supplies to the civilian population in the event of military intervention. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, has already given us the gloomy prospect of 30 per cent of Iraq's children dying of malnutrition. Then there will be the need for more medicines and other medical supplies for the injured.

Our Government must no doubt have calculated the cost and made plans for a system of peacekeeping after military intervention in Iraq. Our Armed Forces continue to be involved in all locations where military conflict has occurred in recent years in eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. How will the health and welfare of our military men and women be maintained? I ask this question in view of the mysterious illness that afflicted some of our military personnel in the Gulf War.

Finally, there is the issue of the so-called clash of civilisations. This prospect of military intervention in Iraq will be exploited by people of ill will to cause fear and dissension among our ethnic minority communities. The war will be portrayed as a war against a Muslim state, but that is certainly not the case.

The disturbances in our northern English towns 18 months ago remain fresh in the mind of some of us. The isolation of some of our South Asian communities, mainly Muslim, from their white neighbours is beginning to be addressed in those northern towns. I hope the Minister will assure us that measures are being taken to reassure our Muslim communities that military action in Iraq will not cause them to be discriminated against or to be attacked here. We must not allow this effort to bring peace in Iraq to cause fear, unrest and dissension to occur here at home, in Britain.

Photo of Lord Clinton-Davis Lord Clinton-Davis Labour 9:29, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I begin on an entirely uncontroversial note—to welcome back the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, from her operation.

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Lord Clinton-Davis Lord Clinton-Davis Labour

My Lords, I do not know whether I will get any more cheers.

This has been a remarkable debate which has reflected the views of a very divided public, some of whom—a minority—are undoubtedly in favour of war. A majority want to avoid that situation. I remember as a young child, growing up in 1938—when I was nine or 10; I cannot remember—when people taking to the streets would have enormously favoured Neville Chamberlain. Barely a year later, however, when we went to war, the situation changed. I am not arguing that that situation is parallel in any way. It is a matter that the Government have to face, but it is not absolutely critical. Come a war, I think that people will rally round and say that the war is just. However, that is not my argument today.

I think that the Government, on the whole, are rather benign. They have taken a view that Saddam Hussein had 12 years in which to disarm. I do not think that that is strictly true. The pressure to accomplish change has not been consistently applied until now. There has been more than an element of ambiguity over the period. It took the events of 11th September to produce a riposte to Saddam, although there was no clear evidence that he was responsible for those terrible events. There is no unequivocal evidence that Al'Qaeda and he were united in their aspirations. However, both of them represent threats, albeit different threats, to the world community.

There are some who entertain the notion that we can—indeed, should—do little or nothing. I think that that view is wholly wrong. Others take the view that there is no alternative but to go to war, and the sooner, the better. I think that that view, which amounts to the United Nations being a sideshow, is also wrong. In my view, the way forward lies somewhere between those extremes.

Now is not the time to be swayed by semantics. The fact that, some weeks ago, the United Nations Security Council determined on a resolution is highly significant. However, situations change. The question we have to ask ourselves now is whether there has been a significant change in the past few weeks. I understand that, only tonight, Dr Blix said that Saddam Hussein has not made the advances that are needed. I think that that is a highly relevant piece of evidence.

I am not persuaded by the antics, or perhaps they may be called the tactics, of President Chirac and Chancellor Schroider. I believe that theirs is a recipe for inaction. Their counter-resolution involves little that can be unacceptable to Saddam Hussein in maintaining the status quo. His disinclination to disarm is not just a matter for him; it affects us all. While he is not the only tyrant in the world today, he has slain innumerable people. He has shown nothing but contempt for the United Nations and, for that matter, most of his own people.

So how long should we give him? What should we be demanding of him? I believe that even at this late hour there is an acceptable and legitimate halfway house: allow the inspectors some further leeway; give them a further opportunity to search. But it has to be a final ultimatum as well. Saddam Hussein must be under no illusion that he has to identify the weapons of mass destruction and other noxious weapons which are under his control. We must allow the inspectors a limited, but a reasonable time. I would make it abundantly clear that Saddam Hussein must co-operate fully with them; otherwise he will reap a whirlwind.

I hope against hope that many innocent civilians in Iraq will not be cut down. Already time is short for the preferred United States option. I believe that that is their clear policy. There is an alternative and we should go down that route.

It is incumbent on us to declare our war aims unequivocally. We have to do that and I make no bones about it. What are they? What about the refugees? What about the rehabilitation of Iraq and its people after the war? There is a duty to answer all these questions. I believe that is what the British people want.

I conclude by declaring my interest as the President of BALPA, the British Airline Pilots Association. In the event of an armed conflict there will be effects on the aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association, which represents 280 airlines, has calculated a 20 per cent slump in passenger numbers if war proceeds. What have we to say to them? Inevitably, there will be a number of redundancies. It may be that civil aircraft will be commandeered to assist in the carrying of personnel and in medical evacuation. In that situation the livery of such civil aviation companies and their national identity may well be removed.

I pose the following questions to the Minister for response, either tonight or in the near future in writing. Will the Ministry of Defence be responsible for the cost of work undertaken on aircraft in this situation? What enhanced security measures will be taken at airports for those on civil aircraft? What further support will be forthcoming as far as insurance cover is concerned? My noble friend may not be able to reply to my specific questions but on the wider issue, the arguments are many and complex. I only hope that the solution to which I have pointed will be of some value.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 9:40, 26 February 2003

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, I rise to speak on an entirely uncontroversial note. I assure the noble Lord that he was 10 years old for the last 25 days of 1928—which puts him 15 months ahead of me. We therefore shared a childhood in the gathering shadows of the Second World War. The speech by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, struck a strong chord with me because I saw with my youthful eyes the terrible price paid for indecision before a major war.

We are asked whether there is sufficient evidence on which to conduct a war under Resolution 1441. I believe that there is sufficient evidence. Dr Blix's update of 22nd January points to 6,500 chemical bombs with a payload of 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent missing; 8,500 litres of biological agent unaccounted for; and 650 kilograms of bacterial growth media—enough to produce 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax—also unaccounted for. The gun may not be smoking but it is obviously there.

Bush junior refers from time to time to Bush senior, who obviously has much influenced him. I too had a father—once a Member of your Lordships' House—with experience of the Gulf or thereabouts. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force that came to a stop at Kut-el- Amara in Mesopotamia and was among the handful of survivors of both the siege and the horrific 1,000-mile march into captivity. It is not a theatre of war to which we should lightly commit our children.

Bush senior prosecuted a just and successful war that was, without question, legal under a United Nations mandate. Bush junior proposes to conduct a war that, according to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, is not quite just—and which, according to a mass of public opinion and not only in this country, is not quite legal under the United Nations. I do not think that it matters absolutely in the last resort whether it could be proved in a court of law that Resolution 1441 would countenance this war, as I believe it would; what matters is what the world thinks.

We live now in an undivided world in which everybody has an opinion. Thanks to television and other communications media, everybody has good information on which to base their opinions. Opinion is hardening against the idea that Resolution 1441 alone is sufficient justification. However, I think that if push came to shove, it would be.

It is at this point—when I am longing to go, thanks to the encouragement given by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and convinced of the tremendous advantages of immediate action, thanks to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, that I pause to think. It seems to me that we are not in a position so to proceed, for lack of proper planning. I am talking not of military planning—although it was interesting to hear the military comments on the political planning, because soldiers have to think what will happen next because their skins depend on it. Like other retired commanders before him, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, asked what is to happen next.

The political preparation is insufficient because we do not have a united alliance; we have a terrible division between us and Europe. I shall not go into the detail of that. Those who shout "Oil" at the Americans should remember that they have to shout "Oil" at the French and Russians too, because they have an interest in preserving the status quo from an economic point of view, just as the Americans may have one for changing it. All that I observe is that there is no unity of political will on the part of those intending to prosecute the war.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, said that it was incumbent on the West to do something. That shows the terrible failure of planning, because the war ought not to be West versus Middle East any more than it ought to be Christian versus Muslim, Europe against sub-Asia, or whatever. It ought to be a war between law and justice, as evinced by the operation of the Security Council of the United Nations, against lawbreakers. The case for that has not yet been built.

More serious still is what happens at the end of the war. The Gulf War was conducted under a mandate that expired as the last Iraqi crossed the Kuwait-Iraq border. That did not pose a problem at the time, because there was only the question of the Kuwaiti Government being reinstalled. However, it has left us a huge problem for now, because it left the Iraqi machine more or less intact. The present mandate expires when the troops reach Baghdad and are in the position to enforce disarmament—but who rules then?

Will the spoils simply go to the conqueror? Will there be repetition of British gunboat diplomacy, or the great game in Afghanistan? I do not like to mention Afghanistan, because we claimed that we were going to start nation-building there. As my noble and learned friend Lord Howe said, we have not succeeded very well in that. However, we have not even started to plan nation-building in Iraq. Therefore, if time is needed, it is not needed to put the finishing touches to Resolution 1441 or for a new resolution that makes it absolutely clear that we are able to go in; it is needed for a resolution that states the terms under which we shall come out and what we shall leave behind us.

Will it be spoils for the victor, or justice for the poor and the oppressed? We keep praying them in aid of our liberating efforts in Iraq, but have done nothing to plan for them. It is a keynote of the Christian religion—of the teaching of our Lord—that we should tend first to the poor and the weak. I think that that is the true Islamic message as well. There could be international co-operation in this respect to build a settled Middle East for the future, provided that we settle the problem in Palestine and Israel as well. I have had eight minutes, so I shall say only that the solution to that is essential to a final settlement in Iraq. Until we know what we shall finish up doing, we should not start doing it.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat 9:49, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I want to touch on an issue that the national and international debate has been remarkably silent on, which is the environmental consequence of war. I will approach it from two angles: first, that we should be aware of the environmental dimension; and, secondly, that if we need to prepare military plans—being prepared they certainly are—we should do so with environmental consequences in mind.

The Geneva Convention was amended in 1977 when it became apparent that it was not able to cope with environmental issues. Perhaps noble Lords would be happy to be reminded of how it was amended. Article 55 states:

"Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population".

It also states:

"Attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are prohibited".

I am sure that the Government intend that we shall abide in any military action by that section of the Geneva Convention, as much as we intend to abide by all the others. Those who do not abide by it have been illustrated this evening. We were reminded of Saddam Hussein's actions, which the world saw graphically illustrated in pictures from the Gulf War of burning oil wells, which had been set alight by Saddam Hussein. They were clearly visible even from space and spilled some 10 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, resulting in irrevocable ecological damage and thousands of oiled birds in the sea.

Perhaps not so visible, but also passionately referred to by my noble friend Lady Nicholson, was the act of ecological vandalism and, in her opinion, genocide in the draining of the marshes.

In the international context of agreements, there was in 1992 the Rio declaration on the environment and development, of which Britain is a signatory. It stated in Principle 24:

"Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and co-operate in its further development, as necessary".

That was designed explicitly to protect the environment during war conflicts, and was adopted at the 47th session of the United Nations. It is a sad fact that there is a new term in the vocabulary of war—ecocide. It means the deliberate and conscious causation of environmental damage to achieve war aims. Recent history is full of examples of both ecocide and damage caused by war that has had catastrophic unplanned environmental consequences. An example of the first ecocide would be defoliant use in Vietnam, and the second example would be the bombing in Yugoslavia, which resulted in the Danube basin pollution.

Awareness of the scale of damage that war was causing to the environment prompted the United Nations to set up the first study that it ever undertook to assess the consequences of such environmental damage and the suffering that it caused.

Traditionally, humanitarian aid has meant feeding and shelter, but it became obvious from the UN study that the eradication of severe contamination of environmental hotspots was crucial because drinking water was at risk. Several noble Lords this evening have mentioned the issue of drinking water. If it is polluted by military action, the problem will be far greater.

The United Nations Environment Programme and its sister agency, UN Habitat, collected and analysed the consequences for the environment and human settlements of military actions. Since then they have worked in Albania, Macedonia and Guinea to establish the environmental impact of refugees. They have also worked most recently in Afghanistan to pinpoint areas of environmental degradation. Have the UK Government asked them about the lessons they have learned from that work? If war is undertaken, many of the issues that have been explored would be relevant in planning for the aftermath.

Among the issues that must be considered are pollution and other collateral damage to the environment, such as oil spills and chemical leaks. The effects of depleted uranium contamination on populations that are in the area at the time, or who may return to the land afterwards, is an issue that is hotly debated, but it can affect populations of the area for generations to come. It is not just a matter of the time when the war takes place or for a few years afterwards. There is evidence that depleted uranium use may affect generations to come.

I also refer to the ruin of farmland by landmines and unexploded bombs, which means that it becomes too dangerous to use, and to land that becomes disused because of the displacement of people, which makes feeding people more difficult. When I visited Croatia in 1999 I saw for myself the vast fertile valleys of abandoned farmland that stretched from the Vlebit mountains far inland across the Krayina. I believe that Britain has a duty to prepare military plans with environmental consequences in mind.

It is not deemed acceptable directly to target civilian communities. Targeting industrial facilities may produce dangerous pollution and, as a result, nearby cities may suffer from, for example, asbestos pollution. I ask the Minister whether an environmental impact assessment has been prepared. Who has the responsibility for its recommendations being translated into a clean-up plan?

Some may say that the environmental consequences are a small price to pay for regime change. I do not believe that to be the case. The environmental price is paid most dearly by the people and wildlife living in the conflict region at the time of the conflict. It is a price that is paid for years and, in some cases, for generations thereafter. We have a duty to them.

Photo of Lord Skidelsky Lord Skidelsky Crossbench 9:56, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I do not believe that the war against Iraq, when it comes—as I fear it will—will have much to do with weapons of mass destruction. We already have the instruments in place to keep Saddam Hussein and his weapons bottled up in Baghdad indefinitely. Further measures of disarmament can be secured without war.

On paper, the Government agree with that. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have repeatedly said that they seek to disarm Saddam, not to overthrow him, and that can be achieved without war if he co-operates. The Government's policy is disarmament, not regime change.

But no one believes that that is President Bush's policy. The US Administration are committed to regime change, come what may. That, barring coup, assassination or the voluntary retirement of Saddam, means war. The Prime Minister, who courageously set out to divert the American drive towards war into the endless complexity of UN procedure, finds himself a passenger in a run-away car without any further influence on the driver.

True enough, a formula has been discovered to paper over the cracks. It might even be enough to avoid a Security Council veto. Saddam has not fully complied with Security Council Resolutions 687 and 1441. He is in material breach of his obligations and must now face the consequences.

Those, I submit, are legal fictions that are designed to cover up the drive to war. Saddam's military capacity has been much reduced since 1991. I do not believe that anyone disputes that. The Government have admitted as much. Their own dossier, Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was published last September and which was certainly not intended to maximise Saddam's contributions to world peace, pointed out that between 1991 and 1998, his nuclear weapons programme was destroyed and, with it, large parts of his chemical, biological and ballistic missile programmes. The new generation of inspectors has not found that those programmes have been reconstituted.

One might think that that was a record of success, not failure and of substantial compliance, not substantial breach. However, the Government cannot acknowledge that because it underscores the case for keeping up the pressure and, in fact, possibly producing more pressure for Saddam to deliver. It does not support the case for going to war.

I listened carefully to the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. He said that 50 per cent compliance was not good enough; it had to be 100 per cent. Of course ideally we would like 100 per cent, but where in the world do a government have a 100 per cent success rate in meeting their targets? I daresay this Government would be pleased with 50 per cent.

The only reasonable test of compliance is whether Saddam retains or could quickly develop a capacity in present circumstances to wage aggressive war. I stress "in present circumstances", because the choice has never been between destroying Saddam and leaving him free to do what he wants. There is the middle course represented by the regime of sanctions and coercive inspections. The Prime Minister has said that Saddam has been given 12 years to comply and has not done so. But the fact is that he has been bottled up in Baghdad for 12 years.

I regard this as a killer argument. Saddam has not been good, but he has been kept quiet. His expansionist ambitions have been completely frustrated. Why do we believe that a system that has achieved these results over 12 years cannot keep him trussed up for another 12 years, or as long as he lives? He is 65, so maybe it will take 12 years.

One could argue that 9/11 has changed everything; now we face a terrorist threat and Saddam might pass on his small supplies of chemicals and bacteria to terrorist groups. But we need to consider carefully what incentive he might have to do so. I do not think that his incentive is strong; it is extremely weak. If small amounts of these substances can do as much damage as is claimed—and I am very sceptical—destroying government laboratories will not do much good. Small-scale private enterprise operating on well-tried principles, located almost anywhere in the world, could produce as much anthrax or nerve gas as demanded by any terrorist group.

If the looming war is not about Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction, what is it that drives American policy? That is fundamental to the whole question. I believe it is a desire to reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East, and beyond that, of other areas of the world, backed by the conviction that the United States alone has the power to do so.

This line of argument can be traced through the thinking of a number of neo-conservative hawks associated with the Project for the New American Century, most of whom—I am talking especially of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Richard Armitage, William Bennett, John Bolton and Richard Perle—occupy key places in the Bush Administration or his entourage. These people were advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein long before the election of George W Bush and before 9/11. Those events gave them the opportunity to carry out their plans.

But Saddam's overthrow was simply to be a first step in a larger programme which amounts to the establishment of long-term American rule in the Middle East, with Israel as its junior partner. I am using my own language, but I know enough history and enough about international relations to be confident of decoding language that has to be kept coded if it is not to sound too alarming.

Traces of this grand design can be found in President Bush's "axis of evil" speech and the new strategic doctrine of premption. But the underlying philosophy is most cogently expressed in Robert Kagan's remarkable book Paradise and Power. In essence, the argument is that a liberal order rests on the foundation of armed might; that the United States is the only power possessed of the will and force to ensure such an order; and that therefore it must be prepared to use its "unipolar moment" to secure the world order it wants. That is coupled with the view that the Europeans are decadent and therefore hopeless as partners in such a project. As Kagan puts it,

"the Americans are from Mars and the Europeans are from Venus"; or, as the title of his book suggests, the paradise in which the Europeans live depends on America's willingness to use force to deter or defeat those who lack the requisite degree of moral maturity. That is the choice between peace and war that we face. It is not about how many vials of poison Saddam Hussein has or whether he is in technical breach of UN resolutions.

I describe this neo-conservative project not to belittle it. In some moods, I am quite attracted by it. I admire its daring, and its aims are not ignoble. But, on balance, I find it chilling, mainly because I do not believe that it can be made to work, at least in a democracy. A democracy that embarks on a career of conquest will soon cease to be a democracy. That is the lesson that we have learnt. That is why, in the end, we in old Europe abandoned the old imperialism. And that is why we should pause long and think hard before sanctioning a new imperialism.

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour 10:06, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I have been away from your Lordships' House for several weeks but I have endeavoured to keep up to date with what has been happening. I am horrified that we appear to be moving inexorably towards war, despite assurances from members of the Government that war is not inevitable. I do not believe that the present Iraqi regime represents a threat to anyone—not even to the countries closest to it.

Iraq suffered a crushing defeat in the first Gulf War. Since then, there have been punitive sanctions; inspections which were carried out extensively until 1998 have now been resumed; and there have been regular bombing raids by ourselves and the United States. As a result, a country which once had one of the highest living standards in the Arab world is now at a third-world level.

The idea that this battered country offers any threat to ourselves or the United States is, in my view, simply absurd. Indeed, the Americans seem to recognise that themselves—hence the rather desperate attempt to link the regime with Al'Qaeda. There is of course no evidence for that, as our own Government have said on more than one occasion. The notion of a pre-emptive strike against a country that does not threaten us or anyone else, whatever the past history may be, is quite unacceptable. It is a cover for aggression and a breach of the United Nations charter.

The Government have been applauded for having, it is said, persuaded the United States to go the UN route. But it is clear that the United States Government are interested in that route only if the UN agrees with the US view and gives authority for military action. The same applies to the inspectors—there is so much anxiety about identifying a "smoking gun". There was palpable disappointment when, in their last report, the inspectors did not come up with this. Indeed, they stated categorically that there was no evidence of a nuclear programme. What? No weapons of mass destruction? They must be hidden somewhere. So there must be biological or chemical weapons.

The Iraqis claim that what they once had was destroyed, and they have offered the names of about 80 people who can attest to that. A previous inspector has said that the material that the Iraqis once had would now be so degraded as to be no longer useable, even if it exists. But, in any event, why not let the inspectors do their job and, if we have contrary information based on intelligence, why do we not supply it to the inspectors and let them check it out? But no, President Bush's patience is running out, so decisions have to be made.

Obviously the United States Administration would prefer a UN cloak of respectability. That is necessary to silence criticism at home, let alone in this country and throughout Europe. But it is clear that the US will go to war, with us tagging along behind, whether or not UN authorisation is obtained. The war programme is based on hostilities commencing around the middle of March. Later, the climatic conditions may not be so favourable.

I do not believe that a moral case can be made for this war. It will involve the deaths and injuries of many civilians. It is likely to commence with a massive aerial attack, and that is always destructive of civilian lives and civilian infrastructure. Water supplies are disrupted and poisoned, occasioning more deaths. Hospitals are unable to work because of the destruction of power supplies. Food supplies are disrupted—in particular the Oil for Food scheme, which enables some poorer people at least to exist, is likely to be destroyed. The people not killed in the bombing will starve.

Millions will be made homeless, and jobless, as the factories, homes and workplaces are destroyed. Modern warfare requires that civilian morale is totally and brutally crushed. It is a truly terrifying prospect for a civilian population.

We are told that there is a moral case for war, and that Saddam Hussein is so awful a ruler that he is killing his own people through his interpretation of the sanctions imposed by ourselves and others. Of course, Saddam Hussein's worst crimes were committed when he was an ally of ourselves and the United States—so nothing much was said about Halabja at the time.

I find the argument about sanctions astonishing. They are administered by a UN sanctions committee, as regards which we, and the US, have a substantial input. Radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by the United States and ourselves, on the grounds that they could be converted into chemical and other weapons. Therefore Iraqi children are denied pain-killing medicines through our actions, rather than those of the Iraqi rulers.

Meanwhile, we and the US are constantly bombing Iraq on the pretext of protecting the no-fly zones. These are clearly attempts to degrade Iraqi installations in advance of war. There is no UN authority for these bombing raids. This was recently made clear by a UN spokesperson. Basra has been bombed repeatedly—as has northern Iraq—and there have been civilian casualties. They are acts of war, and as such totally breach the UN charter.

However, the powerful can get away with it, and that is also the problem with the United Nations route. Many people have said that they would reluctantly support military action if there were UN authorisation. However, it is clear that a lot of arm-twisting is going on behind the scenes to try to gain support for the US position. Countries facing economic problems have been offered loans or aid—or else there are threats that aid would be withdrawn. In domestic politics the purchase of votes is regarded as unacceptable. Why is it countenanced in international affairs, when issues of life and death are involved?

The world population has a right to be sure that the decisions taken on its behalf are on the merits of the issues themselves—rather than as a result of backstage bullying and bribery. It now seems that France, Germany and Russia have produced a plan offering an alternative to war. This involves more inspectors, more monitoring and a longer timescale and so forth. It is surely worthy of consideration, particularly in view of the widespread concern that exists in this country and throughout Europe. The Motion drafted by ourselves and the United States is intended as a trigger for war, despite its anodyne wording.

The Government have not convinced the British public that there is a case for war. Myself and others question whether it is about disarmament of Saddam Hussein at all. I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky. I believe that there is an agenda to which the Republican advisers around President Bush subscribe, and which they made known before he was elected. They believe that if the United States dominates Iraq, it will be able to reshape the Middle East. They believe they would be stabilising one of the world's most important oil producing regions. They think that they would eventually produce a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on terms which are likely to be much more welcome to Ariel Sharon than to the Palestinians.

Most people would not want to go to war for such a strategy—so we have the farce of the dossiers about a threat, in which many people simply do not believe. Those of us who oppose war are often derided as appeasers—or else are told that we are anti-American. I know that there are many Americans who share our feelings against war. It takes some time for them to get organised and to make their views known. But they will do so and they are already being joined by a number of prominent United States citizens.

As to the charge of appeasement, that makes me very angry. I am old enough to remember the Second World War. I know what it is like to huddle in an air-raid shelter and hear the scream of the bombs as they come down—and to see people, or what remains of them, dug out of the wreckage of their homes. The generation who challenged Hitler's regime—and Saddam Hussein is no Hitler—knew very well what had to be faced. Today's armchair worriers face no such threat. They will watch the war on television while others pay the price.

In my experience, those who have first-hand knowledge of war are often those most opposed to it and critical of those who want to start another one. That was certainly true of my late husband, a former RAF pilot with a string of medals for bravery earned during the Second World War. I remember how we watched the first Gulf War on television and saw the bombing of Baghdad. I remember how he said to me, "Smart bombs, smart bombs. Don't you believe it. We are watching people being killed down there". And of course so we were.

My Lords, we must not let it happen again.

Photo of Lord Mackie of Benshie Lord Mackie of Benshie Liberal Democrat 10:16, 26 February 2003

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, made comparisons in a derogatory manner. He compared the attitude I had at the age of 19 towards Neville Chamberlain in 1938 with the attitude applying today to Saddam Hussein. Of course there is no comparison between someone in charge of an enormous, able, well-paid nation such as Germany and this man in a small country which is slipping increasingly backward.

One cannot ignore history. People say, "I know he's a bad man, but—", but they must take account of that. Firmness might well have led Saddam to accept the Saudi offer of shelter. I am afraid that the marches which took place world-wide and the attitude of a number of politicians of vision have strengthened his resolve to hang on. One can understand that.

I believe that the Government and the Prime Minister—particularly the Prime Minister—have done extremely well in giving us a chance of avoiding war. That depends on Saddam Hussein believing that we might well go to war unless he concurs.

Those are my views and they are not the same as those held by most members of my party. I shall say no more—merely that my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf expressed that point of view better than I can. I do not want a war, but firm opposition to this evil man, situated in a very dangerous position, will do more to avert a war than anything else.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 10:18, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I support noble Lords who today have opposed what is clearly the inexorable drive to war. I do so not because I am a pacifist; I am not. Indeed, I supported the campaign to regain the Falklands when at least one member of the present Government marched in favour of bringing troops home and ceding sovereignty to a fascist dictator. It would be interesting to know how many members of the Government were against our retaking the Falklands—perhaps we ought to send them a questionnaire to discover exactly what their attitude was.

I also supported the Gulf War in 1991 to eject Iraq from Kuwait, because I do not believe in dictators, or anyone else, invading other people's countries and removing their sovereignty. Again, it would be interesting to know how many members of the present administration were opposed to that war and to taking back Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.

I was also in favour of pursuing Saddam, taking over Baghdad and removing the regime at that time. We failed to do so. I urged that we should. If we had, we would not be having this debate. So we missed the opportunity to get rid of that awful man about whom everyone is talking. We did not do it then and there is no reason why we should do it now, because, as many other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, have said, he is contained and cannot get out of his box.

The Prime Minister's Statement yesterday referred to 4 million refugees. But of course, many of those refugees are Shia Muslims, who were encouraged by the first Bush Administration to rise up against the Iraqi regime. When they did so, they were abandoned by Mr Bush I. Many of them were killed and many of them went into exile. That is one reason why we have so many refugees.

As many noble Lords have said, the West was also complicit in the use of chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds. Indeed, they supplied them and were aware that they were being used, but did nothing. That suited them at the time because the policy was to contain Iran. So the policy then pursued by Saddam was agreed by the West.

What has concerned me during the past four or five months has been the implausible and chameleon-like case for immediate war against Iraq. First, the case was the possession of weapons of mass destruction. Then it was that Iraq posed a military threat to the United States and Europe, which of course it does not. It is absurd to suggest that Saddam does; he has neither the weapons nor the means to deliver them. That was always absurd. Then it was because he had links with Osama bin Laden, which the CIA itself denied. Then there was regime change, followed, of course, by the moral duty to free the people of Iraq from Saddam's tyranny. But yesterday, the Prime Minister's Statement returned to ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam could remain in power—presumably to continue to tyrannise his own people.

It is that incoherent message that has confused so many people and led them to suspect the real motives of the United States and, to some degree, of the United Kingdom. Speculation about the real agenda ranges from grabbing Iraq's oil to taking over the whole of the Middle East for their own purposes.

What I have found reprehensible about the stance taken by the United States and the United Kingdom is that their policy has been underpinned not only by a threat of massive military action against Iraq—a country of 20 million poor people, not Hitler's Germany—but by a threat to the future of the United Nations. The threat is that if the United Nations does not bow to their wishes, it will be undermined. If it does not come to heel, the United States will undermine its position in the world. That is not only unacceptable but dangerous for world peace and order.

What has not yet been properly tried is real diplomacy. We used to have diplomacy before war, but it has not been tried. Mr Blair has been all over the world to solicit support for belligerence. Why has not he or any other British Minister visited Iraq to attempt to negotiate? The same goes for the United States. The United Nations arms inspectors are just that; they are not negotiators and should not be seen as such.

War should always be the last resort for democracies. As Churchill said so well:

"To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war".

Diplomacy should not consist simply of threats. It should offer carrots as well as sticks, in return for co-operation and reformation, rather than humiliating a country and its leaders. Why cannot we offer Iraq a deal that would gradually end sanctions and no-fly zones in return for full co-operation on weapons of mass destruction? There has already been movement on that and moves to end military rule and establish a democratic system.

No doubt I shall be accused of being naive, but, before we embark on military action that is likely to kill thousands of innocent civilians and is bound to destabilise the Middle East further and put the United Kingdom and its citizens at heightened risk of terrorist attack, we should seriously try the diplomatic route. True, that will take months of patient negotiation, but is not that what democracy is about and what makes democracy superior to dictatorship and tyranny?

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 10:28, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I apologise, first of all, to my noble friend for not being present at the start of the debate. My flight was delayed.

Like many people, I am aware that our policy on Iraq is made up of several strands. People often find that going into an operation for more than one reason is somehow dishonest. Perhaps there should be only one story. There are concerns about weapons of mass destruction; there are possible links with terrorism, not just Al'Qaeda but other terrorist organisations; and there is a problem with human rights.

I have supported the Government in this matter for a long time on the grounds of the human rights abuses by Saddam Hussein's regime. I said that in the previous debate on Iraq, and I say it again. I was impressed by the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne. She said that it was not a matter of Saddam Hussein being a threat to us. Hitler was not a threat to us; he did not threaten the United Kingdom. Indeed, a famous historian at the University of East Anglia, Professor John Charmley, argues persuasively that it was wrong of Churchill to persist with the war with Germany and that it would have been in our interest to settle, so that we could save the British Empire. If we looked after only our own interests we would not fight any tyranny which was not attacking us. That is quite right. Why should we? What is it to us? "A distant country about which we know little", as a famous British Prime Minister said.

But we have to fight Iraq and Saddam Hussein because while he is contained and trussed up, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelski said, he is killing his own people. If he is allowed to survive because we do not like wars, we shall be abandoning the people of Iraq to die silently. They will not be seen dying on television or dramatically, but they will still be dying, day after day, as they have been ever since Saddam came to power.

The fact that we may have supported Saddam in the past does not mean that we should go on supporting him in the future. The fact that we may have supplied him with weapons in the past does not mean that we should sell him more weapons, as some German and French companies have been doing, or that we should allow him to buy them somewhere else, or that we should allow him to develop them on his own. The fact that there are other dictators and evil people in the world does not mean that we should not go after Saddam Hussein.

Although the United States may have an ambitious plan which was concocted long ago—I do not doubt that there is such a plan in the minds of some people—at least in this case we arrived at a unanimous decision of the Security Council. As my noble friend Lady Turner said—I am glad to see her back in her place—that resolution received unanimous support without any bribes. As far as I am aware, the 15 countries that voted for Resolution 1441 were not bribed.

The history of the resolution is listed in the paper we are discussing. Command Paper 5769 lays out clearly the entire history. It shows how, under Resolution 687, way back in 1991, Saddam Hussein was supposed to comply within 15 days—and still people say, "Why can't we give him more time?" The first part of the history is that he was given seven years, between 1991 and 1998, instead of 15 days. And he threw out the inspectors in 1998; and we then got another resolution; and now it has taken six months; and some people may want another 11 years to go by.

But who is going to guarantee that in the meantime the people of Iraq will not be tortured, raped, murdered, put in prison and so on? Who will guarantee that? My colleague, Professor Mary Kaldor, has said that she would like to have human rights inspectors in Iraq. Of course that would be nice, but people are not saying that. Because they do not want to see blood on their televisions they are saying, "We will let Saddam go on killing his own people". That is not a very moral position to take.

People now ask why we did not go to Baghdad in 1991. My noble friend Lord Judd asked that. I was shocked when he did so because United Nations Resolutions 660, 678 and 687 laid down very clearly the precise limits under which that intervention was practised. It would not have been legal or moral to go to Baghdad. That was clearly discussed at the time. I remember that the then President of the United States, who had experience of the United Nations because he was once America's ambassador there, said that there was no mandate to go to Baghdad, and therefore General Schwarzkopf was called back.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Does he agree that we have to look at why the mandate was crafted in the way it was? I suggest that the ambivalence in the past—which has been disastrous because of the tyrannical nature of Saddam, which was so well described by my noble friend—was reflected in the terms of the UN resolution.

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour

My Lords, so far as I know, the resolution asserts the sovereignty of Iraq and Kuwait. Resolution 660 urged Iraq to settle the quarrel peacefully. When it was not settled peacefully, the two subsequent resolutions proceeded to talk in legal terms—not in regard to individuals such as Saddam but in regard to sovereign nations. At that time the terms were clearly set out: there was no mandate for doing anything other than liberating Kuwait, and that was that. It is not remembered that at that time all kinds of people were urging America to wield its power—in 1991, America was the most powerful nation in the world, the Soviet Union having collapsed—and that did not happen.

I do not deny that Wolfowitz, Perle and so on have all kinds of plans. People who sit in think-tanks make up mad plans. They are supposed to think like that; that is the nature of think-tank people. It does not necessarily mean that all those mad plans will be realised—and if they are going to be realised, I am sure that we shall have enough time to do something about stopping them.

I turn briefly to the economics of the war. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, was on the one hand concerned about the costs of the war and, on the other, thought that the costs of post-war reconstruction, which will be very high, may not be met and that we may spend very little money. I hope that it is clear that in terms of the GNP of the developed countries these costs do not represent significant amounts of money. It would be appalling if we said that rather than spend £3.5 billion, which is one-third of 1 per cent of UK GDP, we would let people die. I would rather not do that.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 10:37, 26 February 2003

My Lords, this is probably the first time in history that a world crisis has unfolded in real time in our sitting-rooms. Twist by twist and turn by turn, everyone has been able to follow the complex and intractable Iraqi tragedy. The deep public engagement puts, I suggest, unique strains on political leadership.

I am proud of the reaction of the British public. I am proud of their maturity and balance, and of that remarkable demonstration on 15th February which shattered the notion that we have become a frivolous nation, disengaged from serious politics. It is also fair to say that, like others, I have been impressed by the role and intent of the Prime Minister, although I disagree with aspects of his strategy now. We all wish him and his Ministers wisdom and stamina in the months ahead.

Before turning to the single issue that I want to deal with at this late hour, perhaps I may say a word about the legality and status of the different UN resolutions. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, fairly and accurately referred to the differences between the Iraq resolutions—Resolutions 687 and 1441—and the Israeli occupied territory resolutions, Resolutions 242 and 338. My noble friend Lord Goodhart gave a very able analysis of the legalities and the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, made some apposite remarks. But there is a danger. On the one hand we are insistent—at least on this side of the House and I think on all sides of the House—that everything that we do now is in accord with international law, for itself and also for the preservation and strengthening of the United Nations; but it is a strange lawyer who will advise his client that merely because the law is on his side he should use the rights that it bestows. The trick is in the political judgment as to whether to utilise resolutions that may at this moment allow intervention.

I return to the issue that the Prime Minister so acutely and correctly identified shortly after September 11th when he said that the battle in respect of international terrorism is one of hearts and minds. He seems to some extent to have forgotten that, yet it colours every prospect and every consequence, every hope and every fear.

I do not think I need spend much time convincing your Lordships that Britain has an ambiguous enough history and relationship with the Middle East and that that of the USA is more contentious still. Unfortunately, in the Muslim world, few believe that a President backed by the US oil industry has no designs on Iraqi oil or that the influence of the likes of Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Perle at the heart of his Administration, to say nothing of the fiercely pro-Israeli lobby, is unrelated to what they see as double standards applied by the United States towards Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians as compared with Iraq.

I, too, welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, back in her place. She said all that I would have wished to say and more on the human and moral concerns that are at the forefront of Anglo-American justification for war. However, people in the Middle East have long memories when it comes to their attitude to the Americans and to us. They do not forget that one of the two invasions that are now used by us as justification for invading Iraq—namely, the invasion of Iran in 1980—was undertaken by Saddam with the support of the United States, ourselves and France and that we supplied him with all his arms in that eight-year war, during which over 1 million Iranians were killed or seriously wounded. Mr. Cheney himself authorised the supply of weapons of mass destruction to Saddam which he then used with devastating and horrific effects against the Iranians. The Muslims do not forget the double standards—the hypocrisy as they see it—which this represents.

I listened avidly to what the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said about the other political background. It is no surprise that America in particular is seen by many decent Muslims as ignorant, if not contemptuous, of their way of life and the values of traditional Islam. It is characterised in the eyes of many by its righteous aggressiveness and capitalist fundamentalism, and I say this as a staunch friend of America.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Blair talked of our looking foolish if we were to delay war much longer and of our loss of potential authority and credibility. I urge him to concentrate on the issue of hearts and minds. If our invasion of Iraq is generally perceived as unjust here, will it be fair to commit our soldiers to it, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, asked? Above all, if the American and British Governments have not convinced a clear majority of their own citizens of the justness and wisdom of war, how on earth do we think we are anywhere near convincing those in the Middle East of its justness and wisdom?

If war is perceived as unjust in the Middle East, as I believe it is, no ease of military victory will compensate for the aftermath, particularly if massive Iraqi casualties are paralleled by only a handful of our own. If the overwhelming might of our means of war is felt to be unjust as well as the ends, the bad blood—indeed, hatred—which could be vented would convert military victory into political disaster. We would have won a truly Pyrrhic triumph. Instead of being rooted out, terrorism would be sown like dragon's teeth around the Muslim world. Then we could, and I think would, reap a savage harvest.

What will President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have to say to us if, in the year following "victory", there is launched against the cities of the West a series of devastating suicide attacks which we know would be virtually unstoppable? What if the position in Palestine goes from disastrous to worse, with the level of conflict and killing escalating exponentially and in the process energising further hatred and violence? All that would be grist to the mill of Al'Qaeda and provoke other nascent terrorist groups, accelerate the prospect of unintended regime change in other Middle Eastern states, and risk regional chaos with who knows what world economic circumstances, to which my noble friend Lord Newby has referred.

Of course there is no guarantee that holding back unless and until there is an unequivocal second United Nations resolution for invasion will avoid those prospects. But to my mind what is unanswerable is that the "soft war"—the war of allegiance—is infinitely more important and difficult to win, and can only be done by consensus and restraint up to and if necessary beyond the 11th hour.

It is against that assessment that I am convinced that only an invasion fully endorsed by the United Nations, as was the case with Kuwait, can avoid these malign and self-defeating outcomes.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 10:46, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I have never been the 49th speaker anywhere before, and as such I shall be remarkably brief. In any case, so much has already been said most eloquently. I do not usually speak in debates on international affairs although I have been involved in and worked in international development programmes. Perhaps that is why I feel so passionately about many issues related to dealings with Iraq; why I speak with a deep anxiety about the processes in which we are now engaged; and why I feel that debate must continue and indeed be encouraged.

I preface my remarks by stating that I, like others, have great regard for the energy and leadership of the Prime Minister. He has undoubtedly exerted a restraining influence on the United States over many months. I accept that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator with a violent history. I know that after September 11th there was justifiably a deep sense of outrage in the United States and many parts of the world. The terrorist issue is very real. However, is Iraq the legitimate focus or a scapegoat? I want to summarise my concerns at the beginning and then illustrate them with material drawn from American sources.

I believe that we should not act without United Nations consensus. However difficult international negotiation may be, it is the only mechanism we have for avoiding war, even if those negotiations need to be long and tortuous. The consequences and aftermath of war in Iraq in humanitarian terms have not, for me, been sufficiently and convincingly detailed, although they have been mentioned many times tonight. The consequences of military action may increase, not diffuse tension and terrorism in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

I am deeply concerned about the impact of military action on the domestic economies of both the United States and Britain. What would be the benefits of such a war to the US? Do we know, honestly and realistically? What would be the benefits to Britain, and what would be the negative impacts? Has such an analysis been done? I am deeply concerned about Britain being seen to be irrevocably attached to an American regime which has a poor record in support of issues that I believe are important: reproductive rights, the environment, children's rights and poverty. It also has a poor record of humanitarian support for nations following military action, such as in Afghanistan. As that has already been mentioned, I will not go into it.

I am not anti-American. I have lived and worked in the US and admire its founding principles of justice and human rights and its get up and go-ism. However, I have serious misgivings about its sometimes simplistic approaches to complex problems, its materialism and self-interest. My noble friend Lord Morgan expressed it better than I can.

Perhaps I may now illustrate my concerns by examples from an article in the New York Times last week and from a declaration opposing war with Iraq signed by over 60 towns in the United States. The New York Times article suggests that the American Administration have,

"turned the regular foreign aid budget into a tool of war diplomacy".

Small countries who have seats on the UN Security Council have suddenly received aid. Is this an attempt to influence votes? Is this a "coalition of the willing" spoken of by President Bush or a "coalition of the bought off" asks the author. What about the promises to Afghanistan to help rebuild when the 2004 budget ignored aid and had hastily to add it later? At least one senior American administrator has said that Iraq must pay for its own reconstruction.

Some talk of Iraqi oil being the spoils of war. What would happen, as others have asked, to Iraqi Kurdistan? Would Turkey be allowed to occupy the territory? Would Saddam be replaced by American governance, but many of his officials remain in post? Would the Sunni minority rule the Shi'ite majority? Those questions are posed in an American newspaper. They are terrifying in their implications. I see no adequate responses.

A recent declaration by American towns opposing war makes the following points. I summarise and edit. This is from a copy sent to me by a friend in a town in Illinois. First, issues between Iraq and the world community have not proved to be unresolvable by traditional diplomatic efforts. Secondly, sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN at the urging of the US Government have resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of non-combatants, an overwhelming number of them under the age of five. Thirdly, in a war the lives of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians would be in jeopardy. I add a note that around 50 per cent of the Iraqi population is under the age of 15. Fourthly, the cost estimate to the US for a war with Iraq is between 9 billion dollars and 18 billion dollars a month—80 per cent of the school districts in Illinois face budget crises. Fifthly, the billions of dollars spent on war could be better spent on schools, nutrition, healthcare, housing and eliminating poverty in the United States. Sixthly, the US is urged in this declaration to work through the UN, disarm Iraq, and reaffirm its commitment to the rule of law in international relationships.

Again, these are Americans raising concerns. We all know that many people in the UK share similar concerns for similar reasons. I believe that we have a duty to support the concept and principles of the United Nations. I believe that the full consequences of war with Iraq have not been thoroughly explored: the aftermath remains uncertain. Just getting rid of Saddam and his weapons is not enough for me and I would not wish to see Britain launched on military commitments with the US under these circumstances. I hope that the Government will think very carefully about their alliances and the terrible complexities of their undertakings.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 10:54, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I start by stating where I stand. I took part in the march on 15th February, along with at least 15 of my noble friends. I was proud to be led by my noble friend Lady Williams and by Charles Kennedy. I am also proud that 52 of my colleagues in another place turned out, with the exception of Menzies Campbell who is away sick, to vote against the Government today. I stand firm with my party on this issue but, having said that, I want to pick up a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chan. I refer to the effect of current developments on Muslim communities in this country.

The noble Baroness referred to the demonising of Muslims and said that people feel able to make forced entries into mosques willy-nilly. An excellent report published last August by the Minority Rights Group International, Muslims in Britain, refers to

"long-standing marginalization and the worrying rise in open hostility against Muslims".

My experience of the 1.5 million Muslims in this country is largely based on communities in Lancashire consisting of people of Pakistani and Indian origin. My friends in those communities have an increasing sense that they are under siege and suffer a growing lack of confidence in their future in this country.

A few weeks ago, The Times surveyed children in a primary school playground in Surrey, asking them to suggest terms with which they associated the word "Muslim". Forty per cent of the children equated "Muslim" with "terrorist". In the British media, terms such as "terrorist", "Muslim" "asylum seeker", "crime" and "disease" go round and round in any order, with disgraceful exploitation of individual cases—some of which are unfounded. It is therefore not surprising that many British-born Muslims ask, as one did of me this morning, "What the hell are we doing here?"

Muslim communities are increasingly retreating into their own media. In almost all the Asian households in Nelson in Lancashire, the main TV channel is PTVPakistan Television. That reflects a typical retreat from British society to something with which Muslims feel much safer. That relatively recent trend has come with the development of cable and satellite TV.

There is much perceived petty racism, such as spitting at women in headscarves. If someone spat at one of your Lordships or myself, we would regard it as rudeness. If one is used to being on the receiving end of petty racism, one assumes that it is racist. Young people perceive that they are being harassed by the police.

More importantly, I am told by people whose information and views I respect that ordinary individuals are moving money out of the UK to safety pots, as they are called, in other countries. That was common in the 1970s, when immigrants would bank surplus money in Pakistan, commenting, "We do not know how long we'll be here. We don't know when they'll kick us out". That practice is starting up again. At weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, the gossip usually gets around to, "Where are you putting your money now? Switzerland, Canada or Dubai?"

Economically more important is the growing belief since September 11th that there has been a dramatic increase in the targeting of Muslim businesses in this country by the security services and fraud investigators in a way that does not apply to other ethnic minorities or communities. I have been provided with details of a number of instances in which it appears that that is taking place. People are finding that they are unable to get banking facilities any longer in this country, or that their businesses are raided and their computers and records taken away, only to be brought back a week later with no charges laid. When the businesses are in financial services or trading, that is very serious as those records may be used for all sorts of purposes, and the people concerned have no idea that it is happening.

I have no idea whether that is taking place on a discriminatory basis, because all the evidence that I have been provided with is anecdotal, and I do not know how to find out. I have tabled Written Questions, but the Government say that they do not keep records about that kind of thing on an ethnic basis. That is probably right. Whether it is right or wrong, the fact is that there is a perception that it is happening. People are moving large sums of money out of this country and into places such as Dubai where they believe that their funds and businesses will be safe.

At a different level, one of the advantages of the Government's rather incompetently organised asylum seekers' dispersal programme is that, in an area such as mine, the ethnic composition of the population has been greatly enriched, at least temporarily. We have lots of asylum seekers, including Kurds and Arabs of various sorts from Iraq. There are concerns that the Government intend, if there is a war—perhaps I should say "when the war on Iraq starts"—that there will be a general rounding-up of Iraqis. The concern is that it will be used as an excuse to round up, intern or detain people, including large numbers of people who have come here to escape the tyranny of the brutal Saddam Hussein regime.

Of course, that happened during the Second World War when many Jews who came here for safe haven found themselves interned for the duration. It would be a disgrace if that were to happen again. I should like to ask the Minister specifically for an assurance that that is not planned. If it is planned, what powers are intended to be used? Who will be responsible for choosing the people to be interned? I hope that she will be able to answer that.

I support most of what has been said by many noble Lords, particularly those on these Benches, and I look forward to the remainder of the debate.

Photo of Lord Gilbert Lord Gilbert Labour 11:02, 26 February 2003

My Lords, the three speeches that I enjoyed most in the debate were those from the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, my good friend the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton. From that, noble Lords will not be surprised to learn that I support the Government's position on the matter wholeheartedly, even though, I confess, a year or so ago I had some apprehensions. I have changed my mind in certain respects, and now I fully support what the Prime Minister is trying to do.

I rather deplore the use of the word "war" time and again. We are not talking about a war in the sense of the First or Second World War, or anything remotely like it. However, the articles in the press these days have stories about the mass bombing of Hanover, Hamburg and Kassel. That is not going to happen in Baghdad, any more than it happened in Belgrade or Kabul. In fact, I shall be very surprised if the military side of any events to come in Iraq takes more than a matter of days.

I want to make one other point, in response to a question asked by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. He intervened in the speech of my noble friend Lord Hardy to say that we all knew that Saddam Hussein had a terrible regime but the question was of a balance of evils, and what could we offer that would not be as bad as having Saddam Hussein. I can offer quite a lot, such as closing the dungeons, stopping the executions, getting some decent water to the Shias, and seeing that the children get the food and medicines that they should get from the food programmes, but that are not reaching them. What is more, I do not shrink from the repercussions of regime change elsewhere in that area. We could have some healthy developments.

I am not in a position to guarantee that any or all of those things will come about. I have no crystal ball, but I defy the noble Earl, Lord Russell, or anybody else to tell me that they can guarantee that they will not come about. Those things remain to be seen.

I thought that one of the most important remarks made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, whom I am glad to see is in his place, was the importance of giving the military clear objectives. We have some difficulties. There are clearly two objectives: one is the removal of weapons of mass destruction; and the other is achieving regime change in Iraq. It is far easier to get a regime change and then eliminate weapons of mass destruction than to go in and try to find weapons of mass destruction and hope that regime change will follow.

Unfortunately, under international law, regime change is not an acceptable objective or policy, which shows just how damned silly international lawyers can be. I mean that seriously. If anybody thinks that it would not have been in the world's interests for us some years ago to intervene to remove the regime of Pol Pot, I should like to hear from him. International law forbids us to do that.

I turn to some remarks that were made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, whom I hold in the highest esteem. It is only because I hold him in the highest esteem that I am taking the trouble to quote him. I made some notes diligently, and accurately I hope, of one or two of his remarks. He said that we must have a "truly international consensus" before we move on Iraq. He said that what is going to be done must be done "in the name of the UN as a whole". But it is not going to be done in the name of the UN as a whole. Whatever happens, it will be done in the name of the Security Council. It is just as well that it is not done in the name of the UN as a whole because that body elected Libya to be chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission and planned to have the presidency of the conference on disarmament passed to Iraq. That is what the UN as a whole does for us.

Let us consider the Security Council to see who is not on it first of all. The biggest democracy in Asia is not a member of the Security Council. The biggest Hindu country in the world is not a member of the Security Council. The biggest Muslim country in the world is not a member of the Security Council. When we look at South America—I am sorry if the Front Bench opposite has difficulty with the geography. I shall be more specific and helpful to the noble Lords opposite. In South America, neither Brazil nor Argentina are on the Security Council. The most populous country in Africa—Nigeria—is not on the Security Council, and neither is the richest country—the Republic of South Africa.

I know how the Security Council is composed and why it is composed in that way. But let no one tell me, with great respect to the right reverend Prelate, that the Security Council has the authority of the world as a whole behind it.

As for the states that are on it, several of those are quite disreputable, but I shall not identify them as I shall probably get into trouble. However, it is interesting to see who takes the decisions on the Security Council. The President of Russia is a former full-time KGB officer who takes decisions in the name of the rest of the world. He has a permanent place on the Security Council and has a veto over what we do.

We have Mr Hu Jintao. I acquit him of any responsibility for Tibet or Tiananmen Square, as he was not involved in decisions at that time. The regime that he represents is the regime that is stained by that kind of history.

We then come—I shall be in serious trouble in a moment—to one of our neighbours. There is more than one regional bully with weapons of mass destruction at its disposal. One of them is on the Security Council, and I should be surprised if Members of this House took its moral authority as a guide when coming to decisions of their own.

If one says that one resolution from the Security Council is not enough but that two resolutions make the situation okay, one is submitting one's judgment to that of Mr Hu Jintao, Mr Putin and Mr Chirac. If one really says that one would rather trust those people than Mr Blair, I am very, very sorry indeed.

I fully understand the political imperatives of the Security Council but I have said enough to make it clear that I do not believe that the Security Council is vested with any power to confer morality on any decisions that we may take. It may confer legality but that depends on one's interpretation of individual resolutions.

My final point is about British-American relations, which will be at the heart of matters in the future. The die is probably now cast. The only thing that I believe will avoid military action is not a few more concessions to the inspectors but if Mr Saddam Hussein were to leave Baghdad lock, stock and barrel with his family. Other than that, we are in for military action. I believe that we are talking about days, not weeks; we are very close indeed.

It is extremely important that this country marches in lock step with the United States. I have always held the principle that it is of supreme importance to this country to be on intimate terms with our American friends. I need not tell people that I am a friend of the United States. Actually, I should like to be called a poodle because I am told that poodles are quite intelligent dogs. That may be arrogating too much to myself. Anyone who has had any contact, however tangential, with intelligence matters, must know precisely how valuable to this country the relationship with the United States is and will continue to be. I hope that the events of the next few days and weeks will produce great and permanent benefit for the people of Iraq and their wretched neighbours.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat 11:13, 26 February 2003

My Lords, this has been a sober debate on a vital subject. In a powerful speech to the American Senate 10 days ago, the Democratic Senator for West Virginia, Robert Byrd, said:

"This coming battle, if it materialises, represents a turning point in US foreign policy".

It will also represent a turning point in British foreign policy. We must therefore give it very serious attention, as all noble Lords have done. The balance of the debate in this Chamber has reflected the balance of debate in the country that the overwhelming majority are not yet convinced of the case that the Government put forward.

During the early stages of this debate, I felt that the unusual emptiness of the Government Benches spoke strongly of the hesitation of the Government's party on this matter. It is the first occasion on which I have noticed that the Cross Benches are markedly fuller than the Labour Benches.

We have heard a number of extremely helpful speeches and powerful critical speeches from behind the Government Front Bench, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, who answered the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, about the relevance or irrelevance of international law. I was glad to hear from those on my own Benches a number of speeches on the many different dimensions of this complex issue.

The Government's rationale, as set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in her opening speech seemed to present the American position more than the British. To summarise, it states that Iraq is an immediate threat to world order. She made only a passing reference to the Arab-Israel conflict and, unless I misheard her, no reference to the terrorist threat or to the implications for the Middle East region as a whole or the rest of the Muslim world in south and south-east Asia; nor, as the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and my noble friend Lord Greaves remarked, for Europe and our own country.

The concerns in the debate have been widely repeated on all sides of the House: concerns that the war on Iraq will spark increased terrorism, not lessen it; that the implications for the region as a whole have not been addressed; that we hear absurd ideas floating around Washington and Tel-Aviv on how a simple intervention in Iraq would bring peace to the entire region and that, to quote Henry Kissinger, the road to Jerusalem lies through Baghdad; that the management of Iraq post-conflict has not yet been set out in any way that commands confidence; and that the potential damage to world order, to the United Nations and to other institutions and to the structure of international law itself may be considerable.

We all accept the appalling nature of the Saddam regime. Iraq and its neighbours would benefit if he were to be removed. But we cannot treat this question in isolation without considering why the Bush Administration are pursuing it now and the wider context and implications. As I listened to some of the opening speeches, Thomas à Becket's speech in Murder in the Cathedral suddenly came to me, where he talks about the courses he has to take and says:

"The last temptation is the greatest treason:

To do the right thing for the wrong reason".

We have to consider the Bush Administration's reasons and our Government's reasons, which follow the Bush Administration, for attacking Saddam. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, accused those who criticised the Bush Administration of being anti-American and anti-Semitic. That is the argument used by right-wing Americans to silence criticism. I would like to quote from a number of American sources, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky did.

Photo of Lord Chalfont Lord Chalfont Crossbench

My Lords, I did not accuse anyone of anything. I said that there was a degree of anti-Americanism in the debate, which there was.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the noble Lord also referred to anti-Semitism. There may be a certain amount of it, but many noble Lords who are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-American have justifiable criticisms to make.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, remarked on the neo-conservatives in the United States and their power in the Bush Administration. At the weekend I pulled out Bob Woodward's book, Bush at War. He remarks that three days after September 11th, the briefing to the President was given by the Deputy Defense Secretary—the noble Lord, Lord Desai, will note that it is not just people in think tanks—Paul Wolfowitz, whom I have known personally for nearly 40 years. It says that he,

"often voiced the views of an outspoken group of national security conservatives in Washington . . . These were men who believed that there was no greater menace in the world than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein".

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is quoted as saying:

"In his analysis, the only justification for going after Iraq would be clear evidence linking the Iraqis to the September 11 attacks. Short of that, targeting Iraq was not worth the risk of angering moderate Arab states whose support was crucial not only to any campaign in Afghanistan, but to reviving the Middle East peace process".

Colin Powell is quoted as saying to him on the aside:

"What the hell, what are these guys thinking about? Can't you get these guys back in the box?"

Those are Americans in the Administration criticising the push, which was there among the neo-conservatives well before September 11th, for taking Saddam out.

I agree strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said about the determination to use the unipolar moment to establish what they call a "democratic imperialism" across the world. At Davos on 26th January, Colin Powell said to his audience:

"I believe that the United States has earned the trust of men, women and children around the world".

That is currently the pitch: you do not need the UN; you can trust the United States, and you can trust the Bush Administration.

Robert Kagan, in the opening paragraph of the book which the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, quoted, starts by saying:

"It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world".

So much for the Prime Minister's appeal to our "shared values", which make Britain a natural bridge, as he argues, between Europe and the United States. Tom Friedman, one of the best, and rather conservative, commentators in the American press, said in the New York Times on 20th February:

"The Bush folks are big on attitude, weak on strategy, and terrible on diplomacy".

We have heard many comparisons in this debate about Munich. I believe that it is important also to remember Suez and Vietnam. I was studying and teaching in the United States in the early years of the Vietnam war and I remember very well the twisting of intelligence information by the political masters of intelligence and the denigration of the experts on the region. I was at Cornell University, which had an Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. It was vigorously attacked by the State Department and in Congress with threats of withdrawal of funds. There was over-confidence in the ability to resolve the problem through military force, a refusal to pay any attention to the different culture and assumptions of the opponent, and, indeed, denigration of the enemy as such.

Now, I am afraid to say, we have a similar mood within the United States. There have been some bitter attacks on the Middle East studies community, including calls for federal funding for all university institutes on Middle East studies in the United States to be withdrawn. Tom Friedman, whom I quote again, said:

"Every time I hear [the Bush Administration try to justify war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden], I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie".

As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, say that there was amazing evidence that terrorists were closely linked to Saddam Hussein and that, indeed, since September 11th Iraq was at the heart of a new network of international terrorism, I have to say that I was not sure where he got that from.

I quote again Senator Byrd's powerful speech, which, sadly, received almost no attention in the American media. He complains:

"There is no debate", within the United States,

"no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war . . . The doctrine of pre-emption . . . appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN charter . . . This reckless and arrogant administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences . . . to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of destabilising foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable".

That is not an anti-American diatribe from a European; it is from a member of the US Senate.

Many other speakers have referred to the radical character of this Administration and to the fundamentalist groups which have gained so much influence over it. Political fundamentalism, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, pointed out, means tax cuts, which are intended to force the dismantling of the welfare state, and cuts in funding for education, which are clearly and explicitly a radical departure from the Rooseveltian values which we all share and are intended to complete what the Reagan administration hesitated to carry through. There is also economic fundamentalism, which says that deficits do not matter, and religious fundamentalism, which includes support for Israel to occupy all the historic land, including further expansion of settlements and the expulsion of Palestinians. The capture of American Middle East policy by Likud is one of the most worrying dimensions of this. I quote again from the international edition of the New York Times of 25th February. The Israeli defence Minister said hopefully:

"'We have great interest in shaping the Middle East the day after a war".

The article continued:

"Israel regards Iran and Syria as greater threats and hopes that once Saddam is dispensed with, the dominoes will start to tumble".

Later in the article, a senior Israeli official is reported as hoping that,

"after the war would come a fork in the road for American policy", in which the Americans would choose Israel rather than Europe. It went on to say that,

"the Quartet may itself prove a casualty of an Iraqi war . . . there are people in Washington who are going to say 'What do we need these people for?'"

By "these people", he meant the Europeans. The Israelis hope that the Quartet will die the death quietly during the course of the war.

There are circumstances in which it may be justifiable to intervene in Iraq and to remove Saddam Hussein from power. However, that has to be through the meticulous and careful use of UN procedures. It should also be with the understanding and, if possible, the support of other states in the region. This is not a strong basis for Britain and the United States alone to decide whether Iraq has met its objectives. We need to carry others with us.

There are some circumstances in which British forces should not follow American forces into Iraq alone—not without broader support from the international community, and not without parallel progress on the Arab/Israel conflict, which includes the publication of the road-map, which has been blocked by the Sharon government. There are now bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the United States about the parts that the Israelis want changed. It seems to me to be a sine qua non of British involvement that the road-map is published beforehand and not left until afterwards.

We need a strategy towards terrorism. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, that we need also to be tough on the causes of terrorism. The most depressing thing about President Bush's Jacksonville speech was the extent to which he entirely merged intervention in Iraq with the war on terrorism. It was as if defeating Iraq would solve the terrorist problem. We all know that is not the case.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. He was asking where all the evidence about Iraq's links with terrorism came from. The answer is that there is a very wide range of sources, mostly coming from Washington and from senior members of the Administration. However, if he does not want to look at those, he needs only to consult the excellent speech made by his noble friend Lady Nicholson. She gave ample evidence of Iraq's habit of being involved in terrorism.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I listened carefully to the speech of my noble friend Lady Nicholson. She referred to the use of MKO in Iraq and Iran. It was not the sort of world-wide network of which I understood the noble Lord to be talking.

We need a multilateral approach to energy supplies and conservation. One of the many disturbing things about the current debate in Washington is that in the State of the Union message President Bush spoke only about the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles at some time within the next 10 to 15 years as resolving the problem of energy dependence in the United States. We need to have the US coming back into multilateral discussions about energy dependence. We also want the Government to pursue the re-establishment of some consensus among European governments. We want to see a government who will ensure that the United Nations and international institutions come out of this stronger and not weaker.

Why is there a rush to war now? Why is there an assumption that the United Kingdom will, together with the United States, intervene in Iraq, even if no other significant government, except Australia, accompany them? The Prime Minister, in his Glasgow speech on 15th February justifying intervention, talked about the,

"threat of chaos, disorder, and instability", if we do not go in. The threat of chaos, disorder and instability if we do go in without a clear sense of why we are going and what we are going to do after the war is serious. The absence of any coherent strategy for post-conflict Iraq or the Middle East as a whole is one of the underlying weaknesses. We are not yet convinced. The Government have not yet made a reasonable case. British troops should not be sent into action on such a thin basis of policy with such unclear objectives and with so large a proportion of the British public doubtful of the whole enterprise.

Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative 11:30, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I suspect that I am not the only Member of your Lordships' House who as a refugee from next door remembers sitting late at night in the Commons, looking with envy at the early nights in the Lords and thinking what a wonderful move it would be. I cannot help now noticing the Commons going home after its vote at seven o'clock while I stagger to my feet at 11.30 p.m. Surely there is some mistake somewhere!

This has been a serious and unquestionably important debate. I was going to say that practically every speaker has seen both sides of the issue, although if I do not misunderstand her, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, who we welcome back to the Chamber, is in the category of which there are many respectable Members with deeply held beliefs who are totally opposed to war under any circumstances and think it is wrong. I was also going to say that she is joined by someone who perhaps does not see both sides of the issues as clearly as others might suggest—that is, my colleague from the Intelligence and Security Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, who managed to put forward a clear view of these issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in an impressive speech, said that this was a watershed debate. Everyone in the House will agree with that. I am sorry if that led to disagreement on the Liberal Democrat Benches because the noble Lord did not agree with the view taken by his noble friends Lady Williams and Lord Wallace.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, made an interesting and impressive speech and referred to the sense of de ja vu. I understand why she said that. One might say that we have been here before—but she will understand if I say, "Well, not quite". There are so many clear and obvious differences in the situation we see today from what might otherwise appear to be yet another engagement with Iraq, trying to bring it back into order from the events of 1991.

In 1991, the issue was clear cut. There was manifest aggression against Kuwait. I and others charged with the responsibility were able overwhelmingly to persuade the British people that we should support the cause. There was strong international backing, not least within the Arab world and the region. Many countries felt threatened and believed they might be the next victims if the aggression against Kuwait were to go uncorrected.

We gained considerable public and parliamentary support. I took the trouble of looking up the debate and the voting figures in another place on 21st January 1991. Perhaps it is a little unfair because the debate took place four days after hostilities began. A more accurate reflection might be gained from the debate on 15th January, two days before hostilities began, when 534 Members voted in favour and 57 voted against. The fact that there were then 57 compared with 199 in today's vote in another place clearly illustrates the task that lies ahead of the Government in carrying the degree of conviction for which a number of us have pressed. It will be important if we are to obtain the support of the largest number of nations and, if possible, the Security Council and the United Nations. If we ask our Armed Forces in the Gulf to undertake the task, they must know that they have the support of Parliament and the people in doing so.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, drew attention to what he and others have referred to as the unfortunately rather muddled presentation, which has not helped the Government in trying to carry conviction. It has been something of a trans-Atlantic muddle as well. There is no question but that the policy started out based on what I believe to be valid grounds.

Perhaps 9/11 was a wake-up call. I never forget—I am sure that none of your Lordships does—that more British people were killed on 9/11 than have been killed in any other terrorist outrage in all my time in Northern Ireland or in other outrages committed in this country. That was the greatest single outrage committed against British people—quite apart from the overwhelming number of Americans who were also killed.

The recognition that there were weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups in the world that now had no compunction about what they would use or the casualties that they would seek to cause was certainly a compelling argument. I shall discuss the issue of whether there was then a direct link with Al'Qaeda in a moment, but to continue with the confusion of the story, we seemed to switch to regime change and then switch back to linkage of terrorism with weapons of mass destruction, coupled with the desirable secondary objective of regime change.

Then came what I believe to have been confusion about the role and tasks of the inspectors. Only recently have we received the obvious and necessary clarification that the inspectors' role is as verifiers, not detectives. They cannot be detectives trying to discover concealed material. That was well articulated by the Prime Minister's response yesterday. Speaking of the inspectors' difficulty in searching out weapons, he said:

"The best proof of that is what happened in the 1990s when there was a complete denial of the existence of an offensive biological weapons programme. For four years, the inspectors were in there searching for it and they did not find it . . . Then Saddam's son-in-law defected to Jordan and said that there was an offensive biological weapons programme. The Iraqis then admitted as much, and at that point the programme was at least partially shut down".—[Official Report, Commons 25/2/03; col. 132.]

I simply draw those four years of the inspectors' activities to the attention of those who say, "How about a little bit longer, and a little bit longer?" After four years of inspections, that occurred only when the son-in-law defected—tragically, he is now a late son-in-law, because he unwisely returned to Iraq under a safe passage guarantee from Saddam Hussein, to be killed shortly thereafter.

I visited Baghdad on a ministerial mission 20 years ago, and I remember being appalled by the police state in which I found myself, with the secret police monitoring every activity. That was 20 years ago. There is no chance of the inspectors operating freely and being able to go about their work. They are in an impossible situation. Although they say that there is co-operation on process, as Dr Blix confirmed today, the full co-operation required under Resolution 1441 is still not available.

That is the background against which to judge the failure to convey to the wider public the difficulties and challenges of the situation and the Government's case. It is aggravated by a worrying absence of information about what is planned to follow any military action. The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Craig of Radley, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked about the succession and about the means of ensuring the security of Iraq and its population. What is the position on humanitarian aid and the terrible challenges that may be faced?

Some of the rumours that can spread are damaging. The idea that there might be an interim American military administration for five or six years is hardly something that will capture Arab hearts. The incipient democrats who might emerge from their bunkers in Iraq will hardly feel that that is an attractive proposition. I am interested that, as far as I can see, there has not been much promotion of the very feasible idea of encouraging Arab League involvement in taking over security and protection. That would be a more acceptable proposal for the Arab world.

There are many more difficulties. I accept that it is difficult to explain. Ten years on from the Kuwait crisis, the situation in Palestine is extremely difficult. I read again our debate in 1991. I noticed the amendment that was moved by Neil Kinnock. It was designed to add words to the Motion so that it read that the House,

"expresses its determination that, once the aggression in Kuwait is reversed, the United Nations and the international community must return with renewed vigour to resolving the wider problems of the Middle East".—[Official Report, Commons, 21/1/91; col. 31.]

That amendment was accepted by the Conservative Government of the day, and the amended Motion was carried by 537 votes. The cynicism that undoubtedly exists in Palestine, to which my noble friend Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar referred, and the appalling situation that now exists there has damaged the process.

There are worries about the Government's priorities and about whether the situation is distracting attention away from the campaign against terrorism. The issues of Afghanistan are still not fully resolved. The emerging difficulties over North Korea are a continuing worry. The noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, referred to the tinder-box of the Middle East and the implications for neighbouring states. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury was concerned about the hatred that might attach to us from the Muslim world. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford spoke of his nightmare that this is the second chapter of Osama bin Laden's plan to provoke America, through the outrage of 9/11, into action that might be an even greater cause of antipathy and hatred between the Muslim world and the United States.

There are also worries about the aftermath and the lack of planning. There are complications. Restoring order to a new system involving Sunni, Shia and Kurd will be very different from returning Kuwaitis to Kuwait. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent of Coleshill, put it neatly when he asked whether, even though we might win the war, we would lose the peace.

Such are the worries, and we understand them. There are other worries on which I do not have time to dwell. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, had worries about the economy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, had worries about the environment. Other noble Lords also referred to the environmental issues, including my noble friend Lord Marlesford.

There must be military concerns as well. I shall not dwell on it, but I must draw to your Lordships' attention the concern about military overstretch. We are sending out as many troops now as we sent in 1991, but we send them from a regular force of 210,000. When I made the dispositions in 1991, we had regular forces of 310,000. That is an indication of the pressure. I must mention the fears that the invasion of Iraq could be very different from the liberation of Kuwait—easy to get in but difficult to get out, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said.

These worries are real and it would be quite wrong if we did not face them. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, said what I have just written down, that "We are where we are". I have absolutely no doubt that Iraq is in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that those weapons are important to it. We did not vaccinate our forces in 1991, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent, said, for fun. We did it because we knew that there were weapons of mass destruction. They presented dangerous challenges that had to be faced and against which our forces had to be protected.

I am in no doubt that the weapons of mass destruction are important to Saddam Hussein. They saved him in the war against Iran. People talk about Halabja, but the survival of Iraq was much more at risk from attacks by the human waves of Iranians. He was protected then by his chemical weapons and he believes that that is what saved him at the end of the Gulf War. It is not true, but he thought that we did not advance on Baghdad because we believed that he would use his chemical weapons. So they are important to him.

I said that we are where we are, and there is now a risk. My noble friend Lord Howell referred to the interesting speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson. I cannot comment on whether the MKO, Ansar al Islam and other terrorist groups are around, but I do know that if this issue is not resolved and the United Nations loses its resolution, then Saddam Hussein will become a much more dangerous prospect. If he believes that he is impregnable and has a few scores to settle—and there are plenty of groups around in the world who have scores to settle as well—then that cocktail is about as dangerous a combination as you can get. I have always thought that to be much the most powerful and compelling reason why we now have to address these issues.

I hope that they are addressed—preferably and overwhelmingly—by Saddam Hussein recognising that the game is up, that the weapons of mass destruction have got to go and that he must fulfil Resolution 1441. We must not show now irresolution and worry about certain attitudes that have been taken—such as give him more time; let us spend much more time on inspection; the French attitude that we should do it only if inspections have failed, although how on earth we prove that I do not know; and the Russian attitude of only if all other remedies are exhausted. How long will that take? We should recognise that the inspectors are there at the moment only because there is a credible military force backing them up.

I found among my archive—I do not keep much of an archive—an old copy of Private Eye dated 4th January 1991. It has a picture of George Bush senior on the cover. He is making an announcement. In the balloon coming out of his mouth it states:

"Unless Saddam withdraws immediately . . . I'll issue another ultimatum".

That is what President George Bush did not do because, 13 days later, we started the campaign to free Kuwait.

If we follow through the jibe on the cover of that Private Eye, the reality will be that Saddam Hussein will believe that the United Nations, in the end, is not man enough for the task and that he is impregnable. The world will then become a much more dangerous place. We do not want war—nobody in their senses wants war—and there is time. An ultimatum has been issued and he now has days in which to co-operate.

But if anyone suggests, "If you do not co-operate we will give you a bit more time", I guarantee that that co- operation will not be there, that the weapons of mass destruction will stay and that we will at some time face the consequences. I hope that he will finally see sense, or that the people surrounding him will see sense, and that we shall see an alternative leadership in Iraq. But, whichever way we go, the weapons of mass destruction must be removed. If that removes Saddam Hussein as well, then so much the better.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 11:49, 26 February 2003

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. With very few exceptions, the contributions have been remarkable for their balanced approach. Where there has been disagreement, it has been courteously and seriously expressed.

It is only right that your Lordships should consider these issues in such depth and at such length. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, that this is a hugely important moment in our history. No one—no government, no country, no people—takes the step of military action lightly. The reality of war is tough and terrible—real danger and real damage, real lives at stake. So I assure my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington that Her Majesty's Government do understand what is involved in a military conflict. But I am also bound to say gently to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that the idea that Britain, the United States or any country is rushing towards war is as offensive as it is wrong. There is no rush to war—not in London and not in Washington either.

But there is no peace either. What is happening now in Iraq, what has been happening in Iraq under Saddam's regime, is not peace. My noble friend Lord Rea said that it was not a failed state. It functions, he said. But he could not claim that it is a state of peace. Brutal murder is not peace. Torture and terror are not peace. Repression and fear are not peace. Saddam's regime is a vile one which puts real lives at stake regularly and often, as my noble friend Lady Ramsay reminded us so eloquently.

Does my noble friend Lord Rea—who is a good man—really think that those talking to him and urging him to ask the Prime Minister not to proceed would not have been debriefed; and that, had they not said what was required of them, the minimum punishment would not have been the removal of the offender's tongue or, even worse, slow death in an iron cage in one of Iraq's prisons? In developing and using weapons of mass destruction, Saddam wants the ability to extend that approach and to extend that violence and brutality to others.

There is a point on which I think virtually all your Lordships can agree. Saddam Hussein runs a cruel and terrible regime. He has inflicted untold suffering on his own people and on some of his neighbours. He still has illegal weapons—despite what my noble friend Lord Stoddart said, I really do believe that to be the case; otherwise, Dr Blix would not be ordering the destruction of the al-Samoud missiles in the way that he is. We also think that the correct way to deal with this issue is through the United Nations if humanly possible. We are also in general agreement that the terms of Resolution 1441 should be upheld.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government have taken no decision on military action. I assure my noble friend Lady Turner and the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that there has been no decision for war. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made that clear again yesterday. He said:

"we will work every last minute that we can to reunite the international community and to disarm Iraq through the United Nations".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/2/03; col. 126.]

I thank my noble friend Lord MacKenzie for his powerful words on this issue and value the support of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie.

I believe that the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister yesterday may have been overlooked by some of your Lordships. He has worked tirelessly to deal with this grave matter through the United Nations, and to do so peacefully. He said that again yesterday, and his points were reinforced by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary today. Again, his has been a constant effort to keep this issue within the United Nations and his efforts with his colleagues in the United States have been unceasing.

Some noble Lords have asked: why table a second resolution now; why not set a deadline or support the Franco-German proposal to strengthen the inspections? The problem is not the lack of capacity by the inspectors; it is the lack of will from Saddam Hussein. The inspectors' role is not one of detectives hunting for clues, but one of verifying Iraqi compliance.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, was entirely right, as was my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. The Franco-German proposals will not deliver the assurance that the world needs about Iraq's weapons. They are unrealistic and impractical. They shift the burden of proof from Iraq to the inspectors and they send Saddam Hussein the signal that defiance pays. I remind my noble friend Lord Judd that this is not just the judgment of the British Government. As Dr. Blix said, the principal problem is not the number of inspectors but the active co-operation on the Iraqi side, as we have said many times.

Resolution 1441 said that it was a final opportunity to comply. What does "final" mean if not that this is Saddam Hussein's last chance? Non-compliance with Resolution 1441 is at the heart of the issue. It is the basis of any action, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, pointed out in his customary erudite way.

We all acknowledge that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, knows the country better than most. I admire hugely her courage in defending the interests of the Marsh Arabs. The noble Baroness is right, as was the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass and the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Iraq is already in breach of UNSCR 687 and 1441. We are asked to wait for Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei to decide, but I remind your Lordships of what Dr. Blix has already said. Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance of the disarmament which was demanded of it. It is his judgment that Iraq has not come to a genuine acceptance about disarmament. Dr. Blix's view is simply not compatible with a view that co-operation has been full, active or immediate, as required by Resolution 1441. It is not a technical issue, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, so dismissively described it. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that it is not, and it never was, the job of the inspectors to find the smoking gun. It is the job of Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons.

Of course the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is right that there is a peaceful way to resolve the issue. Where I disagree with her, and with my noble friend Lord Brennan, is the implication that this can be done through a process of inspection. In that respect, I believe the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, is right. Inspectors are not there to find the weapons but to verify the completion of the disarmament process. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that it never was their job to do what he describes, nor is it their job to contain the development of weapons of mass destruction.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is right that not all peaceful options have been exhausted, and I hope that I made that clear when I spoke earlier. Saddam Hussein holds the key to a peaceful solution, not the inspectors—not 150 inspectors, not 1,500 inspectors, not in 15 more weeks or 15 more months. Without the active, full and, crucially, the immediate co-operation demanded in UNSCR, the issue simply cannot be solved.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, said that it was done in two years in South Africa. What he did not tell your Lordships is that is was done there by only nine inspectors. He entirely ignored the fact that this is a comparison between two years in South Africa and 12 years already in Iraq.

Some of your Lordships were particularly concerned about what some thought to be the double standard of Israel's failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and Iraq's position. We want to see all Security Council resolutions implemented. We acknowledge that in this respect Israel has obligations which are as yet unfulfilled. I hope that I made it clear yesterday in answering questions in your Lordships' House on the Middle East that we believe that the Israeli settlements are illegal and that a security fence is an obstruction to peaceful cohabitation. But if the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was really arguing that the difference was only a question of US agreement to Chapter 7 procedures, I disagree with her. There are two crucial differentials in the resolutions about Iraq and those about the Arab-Israeli dispute. It is not simply about Iraqi Security Council resolutions being mandatory, although that is not a minor point, as Resolution 687 was a condition of a ceasefire after a conflict sanctioned by the UN. But the second issue is that the Arab-Israeli resolutions call on all sides of the dispute to take action. The truth is that Israel and its neighbours all have obligations still to fulfil.

Other noble Lords had worries about other countries with weapons of mass destruction. I cite in particular the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and other noble Lords who questioned the position on North Korea. The proliferation of WMD is a huge concern, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear. However, does any noble Lord believe that if Saddam Hussein is not dealt with after 12 years and all the mandatory Security Council resolutions, North Korea will believe the international community is really serious about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction? Is it not far more likely that it will believe that it too can flout the will of the United Nations and the international community with absolute impunity? The activities of countries such as North Korea cannot be an excuse for tolerating what is happening in Iraq; rather, they should be another reason for tackling the issue with courage and determination now.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, in his thoughtful and well-informed contribution, dwelt on the circumstances in which force might be necessary. In particular, he proposed questions about a second UN resolution, a point raised also by the noble Lord, Lord Chan. We expect there to be intensive diplomatic discussions before a vote is taken. We are ready for the propositions on the full text to be examined. Our ambassador to the United Nations has said that he anticipates two weeks of discussions. So we are negotiating, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, argues we should. The UN Security Council should then send Saddam a clear signal of its determination. But we have to stay united.

Last year, Saddam allowed UNMOVIC into Iraq because the council stood firm. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, very strongly on this point. A united council now will give us the best chance of avoiding force later. The council must be prepared to uphold the authority of the UN that Saddam has ignored for far too long. So I agree with my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath. We have to show our resolve in dealing with this issue. Of course the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, was right: clear presentation of the argument is absolutely vital.

A number of noble Lords—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, the noble Lords, Lord Blaker, Lord Hardy of Wath and Lord Phillips of Sudbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford—talked about military action possibly destabilising the whole of the Middle East. I repeat that there has been no decision to launch such action. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly that military action should only ever be a last resort. We have to take many aspects into account when taking any decision to launch such action. That is why we are considering all the options so carefully with our allies. However, Saddam should be in no doubt about our determination to remove the threat of his weapons of mass destruction. Nowhere is that threat higher than in his own region. I remind noble Lords that Resolution 1441 was widely welcomed, including in the region.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and the noble Lords, Lord Sandberg and Lord Phillips, were right to remind us of the risk to stability contingent upon military action. I assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, as forcefully as I can that these issues are very much in the forefront of our minds. Actually, I do not find it as easy as he suggested to put the argument for action now. I find it very hard because I fully understand what it means in terms of risk to precious lives—British lives, Iraqi lives, to Americans and others in the region. This is not a case of going to war in a moment, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury said. I agree with the right reverend Prelate. Building peace takes a lifetime. But I am bound to say that talk about building trust in relation to the 12 years of a tyrant's deceit and a man who murdered his own son-in-law is rather misplaced.

A number of other noble Lords concentrated on what happens as regards what was described as "winning the peace". The points were raised in particular by the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Bramall. As military action cannot be ruled out, it is of course sensible to plan on a contingency basis for what the international community should do in Iraq in the event that Saddam Hussein's regime were removed from power as a result of military action. We are in contact with a number of international players about this. We are not making the content of those contingency talks public.

As regards the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, the UK view is guided by a number of considerations. The territorial integrity of Iraq should be maintained. The Iraqi people themselves, in consultation with the international community, should generate the ideas for the future political arrangements in Iraq. We expect the successor regime to be a significant improvement on the existing one. The UN should be at the centre of any transitional administration in Iraq.

I agree strongly with the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. The government of Iraq is a matter for the people of Iraq. But we believe that the Iraqi people deserve a better government and one based on the rule of law with respect for human rights, economic freedom and for property.

My noble friend Lady Ramsay talked about the massacre of the Shias in southern Iraq and, perhaps more eloquently than most, about the consequences of not taking any action. It was an excellent and moving contribution of the sort that we have come to expect from her. She reminded us of the Prime Minister's contribution to the moral issues at stake. She reminded us of the issues concerning infant mortality, the tens of thousands of dead in the past five years, of others murdered in prisons and those routinely executed.

Reversing all that is much to be desired, as my noble friend Lord Gilbert emphasised. He was in excellent form this evening. All these are important humanitarian issues. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, urged us to be tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism particularly the terrorism which has its roots in the Israel/Palestine conflict. I agree strongly. I hope that he will agree with me that the Prime Minister has tackled this issue in a forthright and determined way. That issue was also focused on by many other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and the noble Lord, Lord Morgan.

The Prime Minister emphasised again yesterday what he described as the vital importance of the Middle East peace process. I emphasised that strongly in my opening remarks. Last week the European Council called for the early implementation of the roadmap. Terror and violence must end. The Prime Minister said,

"I will continue to strive in every way for an even-handed and just approach to the middle east peace process".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/2/03; col. 126.]

I assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford that the Prime Minister and the whole Government are committed on that issue.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked me about contributions to UNWRA in Palestine. Twelve million pounds has been dispersed of our annual contribution to the general fund. There is a contribution of £5 million to the 2002 emergency appeal.

Sadly, I disagree with some of the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. We certainly did not wait for either the United States or the Israeli Government before going ahead with the January conference on Palestine. We held that conference in the teeth of Israeli opposition given their refusal to allow Palestinian representatives to come to London.

Our position is well understood, as I found when I was in the region recently. But I agree with the noble Earl and with the right reverend Prelate that the prospect of war is a nightmare which I share and I know that I am not alone in that.

Perhaps I may turn to some of the humanitarian contingency planning which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, the noble Lords, Lord Newby, Lord Chan, Lord Clinton-Davis, Lord Howe, Lord Rea, Lord Alton, Lord Vincent, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. We are planning for a range of humanitarian contingencies which includes MoD discussions with DfID on how to minimise the harm to Iraqi people if military action is taken. We are in regular contact with a range of UN humanitarian agencies and we are making detailed contingency plans. We are confident that UN preparations are as good as they can be given the risks and the uncertainties. But we support a leading UN role in response to any humanitarian crisis. We remain committed to helping refugees in need of any humanitarian assistance. We have been supporting Iraqi refugees in western Iran for several years. DfID funding to the UN and other humanitarian agencies includes provision for emergency preparedness for a variety of contingencies across the world. The DfID has provided more than £100 million of bilateral humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people since 1991. I have many more details and will write to all noble Lords concerned.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that we must be alive to the environmental consequences of war, including environmental terrorism of the sort that occurred in Kuwait and the Gulf after 1991. Saddam Hussein has regularly halted Iraqi oil exports to score political points. It is important for my noble friend Lord Stoddart to remember that. One such stoppage last year sacrificed 1.2 billion dollars of humanitarian aid in just one month. It is Saddam Hussein who is doing so much to add to the suffering of his people.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilmour, said that this was a war of cynicism and greed. We do disagree with the United States. It is not a matter of what the noble Lord called "followership". We disagree with the United States on Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, the death penalty, many trade issues and anti-personnel landmines.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that of course America must be questioned, but I was saddened by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour—which majored in the most florid terms on America's shortcomings but mentioned Saddam Hussein's appalling regime only briefly. This is emphatically not a war about oil. The unsupported assertion that it is does no service to sensible debate. One need only read Colin Powell's speech on 29th December—a copy of which I will send the noble Lord.

Others of your Lordships spoke about terrorism. Of course Iraq has a long record of supporting terrorism, including radical Islamic groups, but none of us will draw a direct connection in terms of a relationship between Al'Qaeda and Iraq unless we are sure that such a direct relationship exists. There may be contacts, but I assure the noble Lords, Lord Morgan, Lord Wallace and Lord King of Bridgwater, that I have never drawn that conclusion. Until I see some evidence, I shall not do so.

I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on his points about the territorial integrity of Iraq and Turkish troops.

I agree with my noble friend Lady Uddin that none of us seeks war, but we have to face the possibility that military action may prove necessary. Noble Lords in all parts of the House hope that it will not prove necessary. We hope even at this late moment that conflict can be averted. The Prime Minister has made that clear and I thank all noble Lords who expressed their appreciation of my right honourable friend's role.

The route to peace is clear. The route to peace lies with Saddam. Saddam Hussein has to co-operate with the inspectors, United Nations and international community. He must comply with the requirements that have been placed upon him. All that is clear.

It is clear, too, that Saddam has choices. He can disarm voluntarily. He can leave Iraq peacefully. The noble Lord, Lord King, was right that Saddam Hussein can choose how disarmament is done—whether he does it or the international community does it for him. But Saddam cannot choose about disarmament itself—whether he will or will not disarm. He has no choice about his weapons of mass destruction. He has no choice about disarmament.

I join all your Lordships in hoping that Saddam will choose the path of peace.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at fourteen minutes past midnight.