– in the House of Lords at 3:20 pm on 18 March 2003.

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Photo of Lord Williams of Mostyn Lord Williams of Mostyn President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, it is right that we are debating this issue again. That is the democracy that is our right.

I begin with a simple proposition. I do not disrespect the views of those in opposition to mine. On this issue in particular honourable people can honourably disagree. Ours is a stark choice: we stand our troops down and turn back or we hold firm to the course that we have set. We must hold firm.

Why does it matter so much? The Government are facing their most serious test. Their majority is at risk. We have had the first Cabinet resignation on an issue of principle. The main parties stand divided.

The country and this Parliament each reflect the other. I think your Lordships will agree that as time has gone by the debate has become less bitter but not less grave. Why does it matter? It matters because the outcome of these issues which we are facing with such imminence will determine more than the fate of the present regime in Iraq and more than the future of the unfortunate people of Iraq. It will actually determine the way that Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century. It will affect the development of the United Nations. It will affect profoundly the relationship between Europe and the United States of America. It will affect the way the United States is minded to engage with the rest of the world and it will affect the internal dynamic of the European Union.

In April 1991, after the Gulf War, Iraq was given 15 days to make a full and final declaration of all its weapons of mass destruction. The declaration, when it came, was false. The inspectors probed. In March the following year Iraq admitted that it had previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction but claimed that it had destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. In October 1994 Iraq stopped co-operating with UNSCOM altogether. Military action was threatened; inspections resumed. No one in this House will fail to detect the causal connection between those two.

In March 1995, a further full and final declaration of weapons of mass destruction was made. In July of the same year, just a few months later, Iraq was obliged to admit the falsity of that. In August 1995, there was yet another full and final declaration. A week or so later, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, Hussein Kamal, defected. Your Lordships all know the revelations he made. Following that defection and those revelations, Iraq was obliged to release documents to show how extensive the constantly denied programmes had been. In November of that year, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles. In June 1996, a further full and final declaration was made. That was false. In June the following year, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September 1997, another full and final declaration was made. It was also false. The inspectors found VX nerve agent production equipment—something always denied by Iraq. In October 1997, the US and the UK threatened military action; obstruction continued.

Finally, in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to oblige him to allow inspections to continue. For a moment or two they did. In August, co-operation was suspended. In December, the inspectors left. Their report is a devastating, withering indictment of lies, deception and obstruction. Much more to the point, large quantities of weapons of mass destruction were unaccounted for.

The United States of America and the United Kingdom in December 1998—that is, under this Government—launched Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as many of the facilities in Iraq as we could. In 1999 a new team was set up. Saddam refused it entry into Iraq. So it stayed in limbo from 1999 until November 2002 following Resolution 1441. What is the present claim of Saddam? Your Lordships know that another full and final declaration awaits us just around the corner. Saddam claims that he has no weapons of mass destruction. Your Lordships will encounter no one anywhere in the world who believes a syllable of that.

When the inspectors left that unhappy country in 1998, unaccounted for were 10,000 litres of anthrax, a VX nerve agent programme, up to 6,500 chemical munitions, at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, but possibly 10 times that amount, unquantifiable amounts of biological poisons and a Scud missile programme.

Resolution 1441 is as clear as one could wish. It lays down a final opportunity for disarmament. It rehearses the fact that over the past years Saddam Hussein has been in material breach of 17 separate UN resolutions. Resolution 1441 says that this time compliance must be full, unconditional and immediate. The first step—I weary your Lordships—was a full and final declaration to be given on 8th December. The 8th December declaration was false. That is a material breach of Resolution 1441.

Iraq continues its denials. On 7th March of this year—your Lordships will have seen it—the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages of detailed matter. It lists 29 different areas where they cannot obtain information. It states on VX:

"Documentation . . . suggests that Iraq at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX . . . Mustard constituted an important part (about 70 per cent) of Iraq's CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for . . . Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq's potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000 to 25,000 litres . . . Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist".

We had a debate about legalities yesterday with which I shall not trouble your Lordships; these are facts.

On that basis, if those who assented to and signed up to Resolution 1441 had honourably discharged their international obligations the Security Council could have convened and condemned Iraq as being in material breach. But the inspectors thought that there was some marginal co-operation. The world—our world—rightly hesitated. We then went towards a second resolution. We laid down an ultimatum—not an unreasonable proposition, I think we would all agree. Still some hesitated. I sympathise and honour that profound reluctance to engage in armed conflict.

So we worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and we drew up five tests based on the March 7th document. I underline that. The inspectors themselves added a further test; namely, that Hussein should publicly call on Iraqis to co-operate. So we constructed that framework; namely, that Saddam should be given a specific time to fulfil all six tests and that if he did so—this is very important—the inspectors could set out a further forward work programme. But if he failed to do so, action would follow. I repeat that these are the acts of reasonable men and reasonable nations.

Last Monday, we were getting somewhere. We very nearly had majority agreement. On behalf of the Government, I specifically thank the Chilean president for the constructive way in which he approached the issue. There were debates about the length of the ultimatum, of course, but the basic construct was gaining support. Then we came to Monday night. France said that it would veto a second resolution—I underline the next three words—whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests, none of which could fairly or rationally be described as oppressive. Later that day—oh, what a surprise—Iraq rejected the six tests.

We continued to negotiate. Last Friday, France said that it would not accept any ultimatum. On Monday, we made further efforts to secure agreement, but it remained utterly opposed to anything which laid down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance. What the French Government and the French president do is a matter for the French Government and the French president. What we do is a matter for our conscientious and considered judgment.

The present position proposed by some is that we should continue to want Saddam Hussein to disarm but refuse to will the means—a resolution authorising force in the event of non-compliance. On the history of the past 12 years, that is all that works. We must demand disarmament but relinquish any sanction. From December 1998 to December 2002—four years—no United Nations inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. What changed Saddam's mind? No one can doubt that it was the threat of force.

That fact is so obvious that I do not wish to weary noble Lords further. But that fact, that history, that perfect continuum still leads people to tell us that any resolution authorising force will be vetoed—not opposed, not subjected to reasoned argument and debate, but vetoed, blocked and destroyed. The way ahead was so clear; it had taken so much effort by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. The United Nations could have passed a second resolution. It would have set out the benchmarks for compliance with an ultimatum. Noble Lords may not have had the pleasure of listening to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, yesterday. I respectfully suggest that reading his contribution to the debate is quite a fruitful exercise.

The way ahead was clear. The tragedy—it is a failure of diplomacy, imagination, conscience and honourable behaviour—is that if that resolution had been passed it is possible that Saddam might have complied. Over the past 12 years, we have been the victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason those who are deeply unreasonable.

Resolution 1441 was the final opportunity. The first test was the declaration of 8th December, and it was failed. Still we waited until 27th January. We waited beyond then, to 14th February and 28th February. Our true fault has therefore not been impatience. However unpalatable and bleak and implacable, the truth is that our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and years ago. Even now, had the world united in responsible action and given the ultimatum to comply or face force, it was possible that diplomacy would have succeeded.

Indulgence has to stop. It is profoundly dangerous. One day our enemies will mistake our preference to avoid force for permanent incapacity of will, the first sign of terminal decline of any civilisation. Iraq is not the only regime with such weapons. We can back away now and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating to us all.

The threat today is not that of the 1930s. The ravages of fundamentalist political ideology of the 20th century have gone. The Cold War is finished. Europe is at peace, if not always diplomatically. However, our world is interdependent—that is not a matter of choice. The real threat is one of global chaos, and there are two begetters of such chaos: tyrannical regimes with weapons of mass destruction, and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.

There are some countries or groups within countries that are proliferating and trading in weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons technology. There are companies, individuals and former scientists selling their equipment and expertise. Many countries are desperately trying to acquire such generic weapons. Terrorist cells are operating in most major countries. About 20 nations over the past two years—what a short span of time—have suffered serious outrages. Around the world as we wish and hope it to become, terrorism is poisoning the chances of progress—in the Middle East, Kashmir, Chechnya and large areas of Africa.

There is going to be a battle of will and of principle. We are fortunate indeed, beyond what we recognise, to be free, democratic and tolerant. The possibility of the two threats coming together—terrorist groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction—is a real and present danger. On 11th September, about 3,000 innocents were murdered. Had it been 30,000 or 300,000 and the more the suffering, the greater the rejoicing by the criminals who did it. Three kilos of VX from a rocket launcher will contaminate a quarter of a square kilometre of a city. Millions of lethal doses are to be found in one litre of anthrax, and we know that 10,000 litres are not accounted for.

It is required that the world should unite. The United Nations must be the focus of diplomacy and of action. That was the subtext of Resolution 1441. To go back to the lassitude of the past 12 years would be a gross dereliction. It is with infinite reluctance that Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that the greatest danger to the United Nations is inaction. To pass Resolution 1441 and refuse to enforce it would do lethal damage to the future strength of the United Nations.

It is in the United Kingdom's interests that that organisation, with its manifest imperfections but its distinguished successes, should continue to flourish. The paralysis of the United Nations has been born out of division and a polar view of world geopolitics. There is resentment at the predominance of the United States and fear of its unilateralism. If we did not co-operate with the United States, with our reasoned and reasonable influence, is it to be imagined that it would not continue along a unilateralist path?

There is no issue capable of reuniting the world community more powerful than that of Israel and Palestine. The United States is now genuinely committed—I know the cynicism—to the road map for peace, which we hope will be presented today to the Palestinian prime minister. All are signed up to the idea of two independent states with the ability to live their own distinct lives.

With our United States allies, with whom we are infinitely more closely united than divided, we are now committed to further UN resolutions providing humanitarian help for the governance and administration of Iraq, the territorial integrity of Iraq and the necessity that the oil revenues be placed within a fund administered through the United Nations. The Prime Minister has never put as his justification for action regime change. But it is perfectly plain—is it not?—that if we act we can do so with a clear conscience and a strong heart.

In Iraq, capable of such wealth and such civilised peace and prosperity for its inhabitants, 60 per cent of the population are dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die unnecessarily for lack of food and medicine. Four million out of a population of 20 million are living in exile. No one needs any reminder of the brutality of the repression.

We all have to face the consequences of the conclusions that we come to. I, for one, am happy to do so. That means all the dangers of war. But for others, who are opposed to our course, let us remember that the long, deep darkness will return and be reinforced in Iraq. If that happens, who will celebrate and who will weep?

On our decisions in this Parliament of free people, to which we pay a full contribution in this House, although I appreciate that we shall not have a vote, hangs the fate of many things and many people. No one who has to deal with those decisions misunderstands that grave responsibility. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of Her Majesty's Government's policy on Iraq.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative 3:41, 18 March 2003

My Lords, this is a sombre occasion, but I thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for making this debate possible today. As he remarked in his opening sentences, it is essential that Parliament is kept involved at every stage. No doubt, in answering, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, will confirm that there will be further opportunities for debate as conflict unfolds and as we consider something equally crucial—plans for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

I say at the outset that we on these Benches support military action against the tyranny of Saddam. We do so with no relish and no enthusiasm. War must always be the last resort. But few can say that the Government—and the US Government—have not gone the last mile to avoid it. And few can claim that Saddam, in the final phase of a vicious and bloodthirsty career, has taken any more than token steps to prevent a conflict that he has had in his hands for months—indeed, years—to avoid. Even at this stage, he has the chance to save his people much suffering, but he has spurned it. No one should doubt that the storm about to fall on Iraq is a storm of Saddam's own making.

Nor—here I agree with the Prime Minister—should anyone doubt that, if Saddam succeeded in his defiance of the United Nations and in his successful tactics to play on and promote divisions among his opponents in the free world, it would be a giant blow to world peace and world order. For 12 years, Saddam has thumbed his nose at the United Nations. For 12 years, he has continued to nurture weapons of mass destruction, to support and finance terrorism, and to inflict violence and brutality on his own people. His way never did and never could offer any future for the Arab world. Our duty now is to look beyond him for a better future for Iraq and its peoples and for greater stability in a region where Saddam did so much to sow fear, terror and war.

The second thing to set out is the unequivocal support that we offer to our Armed Forces and their families at this time. They need to know that we endorse the cause in which they are being asked to risk their lives. We have been consistent in that position and will remain so. I have enormous respect for the wisdom of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and agree with her on many things. I look forward to her speech this afternoon. But, like many noble Lords, I find it hard to fathom the attitude of a party that denounces the legality of a war—right up to the last minute in the debate launched by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, last night—and then says that it supports the war when it is fought. With utmost respect, I say to the Liberal Democrats that they cannot campaign as an anti-war party on the doorsteps, then proclaim support in the television studios for the troops fighting that illegal war.

Unlike the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, I have no special knowledge of the legalities of the matter. For our part, we accept the advice of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General. I am sorry that he was not present for the debate last night. I believe that his position would have been strengthened if he had been, and we would have supported him. But we are now past the point of cavilling. What counts now is the winning of a swift and decisive victory, if possible. What counts now is the use of the peace that we hope will follow.

But there is one other point—a disturbing one to some of us—that I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, will clear up in her reply. What, given the United Kingdom's adherence to the International Criminal Court, is the legal framework within which our forces are operating? Can it truly be the case, as implied by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, that at the elbow of every commander must sit a lawyer to validate the legality of military decisions? That would be an extraordinary position, which my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford will explore further when he speaks this evening. However, I hope that the noble Baroness can set out the position unequivocally for the peace of mind of our troops. It would be intolerable if lives were to be put at risk or if the troops faced vexatious legal charges for actions taken to win this war.

Apocalyptic things have been said about the collapse of the United Nations. I do not entirely agree with that baleful view. The UN must play a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq. The United States Government have wisely acknowledged that. But, sadly, it is true that, in the time of trial, the Security Council did not meet the needs of the moment. Diplomacy failed. Yet Saddam's defiance and prevarication must be faced down or the authority of the UN, too, will be weakened further. Ultimately, even the most velvet glove must contain a fist.

I regret that some members of the Security Council did not share our view. But perhaps, in retrospect, it would have been wiser not to keep trying to breathe life into a diplomatic process that was failing. Sometimes, paradoxically, attempts to reach an unattainable agreement can actually accentuate divisions. They end by pleasing no one. But we must put an end to that recrimination and look to the future.

I think that there are grave illusions abroad about the scope for a common foreign and defence approach in the EU. Some of those should have been stripped aside by this crisis. I am one of those who regret some of the loose language thrown by the advocates of war at the President of France. Equally, I regret some of the loose language thrown by the opponents of war at the President of the United States, motivated often by anti-Americanism. But they have been striving, as have we on this side, to uphold what they see as their national interest. That is an international reality with which we have to live. Co-operation will be no less needed in the future than it has been in the past.

If there was a failure by the UN and by the advocates of veto, I would say that it was not to meet the US Government half way when they sought a UN solution to what was a UN problem. If we want this mighty country—the US—to embrace a multilateralist course, that was a profound mistake. And if we want to build a new Europe, we have to understand the outlook of countries of the old East bloc, which see America as a beacon of liberty and not as a tower of darkness. It is the ultimate expression of the relativist fallacy to condemn America for not having solved all the problems of the world and, by implication, to accept the survival of Saddam. That way, I fear, lies a road to a dark future indeed.

Of course, it is essential that we lay out and follow a road map to the difficult path to peace and justice in the Middle East. I hope that it will be firmly and consistently pursued. It is essential that we deal with the appalling threat posed by the bizarre regime in North Korea, and that we pursue unrelentingly to the end the war on Al'Qaeda and international terrorism. But the fact that those tasks remain undone does not mean that the job we are debating today should not be done. Is there anyone in this House who believes Saddam was an aid to the cause of peace and justice in Israel and Palestine or that his fall will not be a major blow to the network of world terror?

What comes after the war in Iraq is of profound concern to the House. We hope that the noble Baroness will set out even more clearly her vision of that future when she winds up this debate. I hope also that the House will have an opportunity to debate that in detail in future. But the issue before us now is the question of peace and war. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House has set out for us the dangers and the strategic issues at stake in this war. We on this side accept the analysis and the aims, however much we may wish they could have been spelt out clearly and perhaps even more consistently from the outset.

We accept strongly that our long-term national interest is involved here. Saddam has the means, mentality and motive to pose a direct threat to our country and our citizens abroad and has shown willingness to promote and finance the worst aspects of international terror. Defeating Saddam is one aspect of a wider and much more far-reaching struggle.

It is for that reason, and that reason alone—our national interest—that we support a Prime Minister who often, it appears, has failed on many other domestic issues. But on the core of this issue he has been firm and courageous. On this issue he and President Bush have been right.

I know that many disagree with our analysis. No doubt some are present in this House today. I respect their views even if I disagree with them because I believe profoundly that to turn about now would be to court incalculable future danger in the face of the greatest emerging threat to our future security—what my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford last night called the dark rendezvous between fanaticism and weapons of mass destruction. Our national interest and the interest of future generations cries out that we should not ignore that threat. That is why we support the Government today.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 3:52, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for introducing today's debate. I also thank the noble Lord the Leader of the Conservative Party in this House for the gracious way in which he presented his case and for his references to me, to which I shall certainly devote attention a little later in this speech.

Perhaps I may say on this very sombre day that war is always a catastrophe. Among its earliest casualties are two extremely distinguished former Members of the Government. I put on record my respect for the former Leader of the House of Commons, the right honourable Robin Cook, and for the huge effort he put into the reform and modernisation of this Parliament. I also pay him respect for his period as Foreign Secretary.

As regards the second casualty, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, those of us who have watched his performance in this House over many years have been most impressed by his conscientiousness and his extreme care and concern. We all profoundly regret his departure from the Front Bench. We wish his successor well, when that time comes.

In response to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, clearly there is more than one set of opinions about how effective are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those who were able to read the Statement by the former Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook, only last night, would have seen that he said that in his view Iraq does not have any weapons of mass destruction in the normally understood sense of the word, which is that there are not any such weapons that can be effectively delivered.

As so often in this argument, we look at a profound ambiguity, which people interpret in somewhat different ways. Tomorrow night at about midnight thousands of young men and women will be called to the colours and will be asked to face whatever risks come towards them in a war against Iraq. Many of those young people will show the resolution and courage that has marked the Armed Forces. Before I respond to the perfectly fair criticisms made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, perhaps I may say that it is not enough for us simply to announce our support for the Armed Forces; it is important also that we recognise that unless we win the peace after military victory the purpose of their enlistment will be totally futile and besides the point. We owe it to them to win the peace and not just the war. None of us wants to see yet a third Gulf War because of the inadequate prosecution of the battle that we confront, which is both civil and military.

Certainly in this case diplomacy has failed. Despite titanic efforts—the whole House responds and respects the Prime Minister for that—the attempt to get a second Security Council resolution has failed. Much of the blame has been passed over to France. France has been seriously misinterpreted, not least by our own tabloid newspapers. France believes that it has been misrepresented. I am told by the French Embassy, which I consulted this morning, that France indicated it would veto a second resolution even if there were nine members of the Security Council supporting it, but made absolutely plain that this was a judgment about timelines, not about Iraq failing to comply with Security Council resolutions. In other words—surely, it is not too complex a thought for us to understand—France believes that timelines for the inspectors were unacceptably short. I was reassured this morning that France wants it to be known that it would have supported a resolution if in its view the inspectors indicated that there was no longer sufficient compliance with their work to enable them to complete it in a satisfactory manner. That is a distinction of considerable importance.

Without that second resolution the legitimacy of our actions will continue to be disputed. I do not base that on some Liberal Democrat policy paper but on what is probably the most serious source one could find on this issue. Last night the Secretary-General of the UN stated:

"if the action is to take place without the support of the Council, its legitimacy will be questioned and the support for it will be diminished".

Unquestionably, our action without a second Security Council resolution is bound to be disputed by other parts of the world.

As regards the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, it is perfectly possible—on many occasions it has happened—to distinguish between support for the men and women in the Armed Forces and the war in which they are being invited, indeed ordered, to take part. No one can question the loyalty of our Armed Forces to her Majesty the Queen and to the orders that they are bound to obey.

However, it does not take a long historical understanding to recall, for example, that Campbell-Bannerman consistently attacked the concentration camps used in the Boer War; that Mr Churchill attacked the handling of the early stages of the Second World War, on the correct ground that the Government were failing to prosecute their strategy with adequate determination; and, in a shorter time line, many in this House will recall Hugh Gaitskill, as leader of the Opposition, consistently attacking the Suez invasion. History proved him absolutely right. That turned out to be an immoral act by the United Kingdom, France and Israel against the state of Egypt. I do not want to hear that it is required to be utterly silent about strategy when one supports the Armed Forces in the duties that they have been told to carry out.

I turn from that to comment briefly about one of the great concerns surrounding this whole issue. Last night many noble Lords will have heard President Bush. He spoke, I thought, very movingly about the fact that the war would not be against the Iraqi people and about his wish for them to co-operate closely with the United States in building a better country. I think we all responded well to that. But, that set of arguments runs directly contrary to what we understand to be the strategy of the United States. That strategy does not meet the demands of what is known as ius in bello—the just war. It is far from proportionate.

I shall quote only once from the United States' proposal with regard to war. I do so because I believe it to be profoundly concerning. The United States said that its policy would be the,

"unleashing [of] 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of a short air campaign, to be followed quickly by ground operations".

Those who are the authors of the so-called "Shock and Awe concept" added:

"You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2, 3, 4, 5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted".

This is a country, half of whose people are children, which has suffered hugely over the past 20 years and which has a ramshackle infrastructure. Nevertheless it depends on that infrastructure to enable 60 per cent of its population to be fed and its children to have clean water. If we destroy that infrastructure—and I have read the quotation from a Department of Defence unit of advisors—we shall see a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale that we cannot imagine. That is one reason why so many of us despair that we are now moving to military attack.

I say a few words about the reconstruction of Iraq, to which, rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, referred. It is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office that the cost of the reconstruction of Iraq will fall into the range of 300 billion to 480 billion dollars. It reckons that the cost of occupation will be between 1 billion and 4 billion dollars per month. In addition, it reckons that the cost of maintaining the forces will be of the order of 6 billion to 7 billion dollars per month. Yet, when asked about how those funds would be found, Donald Rumsfeld responded in the news briefing of 11th March with the words:

"Now, what money would be used? You suggested US dollars. I think probably not".

My impression is that other donors will be found to assist with the funding. As to what the United States has put on one side, the Newsday article of 27th February states:

"The Pentagon's budget request for fiscal 2004, $399 billion, includes no money for a war or reconstruction in Iraq, nor did this year's budget. The Bush administration is already facing budget deficits expected to exceed $300 billion this year".

I conclude by reminding the House that this year no money was set aside for Afghanistan. Following a reminder, the President set aside 232 million dollars. Afghanistan is sliding back into civil war and into the rule of the warlords. We need assurances from the Government about a resolution on a new administration; about the nature of the new administration; and about a parallel programme for humanitarian help; otherwise, we shall lose the peace in Iraq, despite the sacrifices that many will be called upon to make.

Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop 4:05, 18 March 2003

My Lords, in thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal for introducing the debate, I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in expressing regret at the departure from the Government Front Bench of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, whose combination of professionalism and care was so peculiarly well-suited to that ministerial office.

Rarely can the world have been caught up in a series of such tragic paradoxes. The Prime Minister, rightly recognising that the world needs the United States to use its power in the service of international order, has kept close to the US Government in order to influence their policy, and has found himself hemmed in by their timetable for war. He has persuaded them to work through the UN, winning the battle against influential US policy-makers who wanted the United States to act unilaterally, only to find himself in the end going to war without a fresh resolution. A courageous man and a serious believer, whose instincts were absolutely right over Kosovo, he found himself in the unprecedented situation of being opposed by the Churches. Acting for what are strategically the best of reasons, we now find ourselves in a truly tragic predicament.

The best option, of course, was for Saddam Hussein to divest himself of weapons of mass destruction without resort to actual force. The second best option, in my judgment, was to continue to explore other alternatives such as permanent UN monitors, surveillance planes, together with stepped-up No Fly Zones while not ruling out an ultimate resort to force. The third best option was to use force on the authority of a fresh mandate from the United Nations. The fourth best option was to use force without such a resolution. Yet, that is not perhaps the worst of all options, which is to allow Saddam Hussein, having divided international opinion, once again to flout the authority of the United Nations and to go on getting away with whatever he thought he could get away with.

So I can understand that, given where we are now, the Government feel they have no option but to choose the second worst option rather than the worst option of all. We should not be where we are now, but I recognise that the Government have had to choose between two unsatisfactory options. We wish of course our troops the very best in the campaign that is likely to lie before them.

What now? Some will continue to oppose the war insisting, "Not in my name". But there are others of us who until now have consistently opposed the war who will refocus our concerns. We have opposed the war on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is not an imminent and serious threat and there are other ways of containing him and have judged that war was not yet strictly necessary; and it is only a strictly necessary war that can be regarded as just. But even with that background, we can and will unite with those who have always supported military action in a number of ways. We will of course pray that the conflict will be over as quickly as possible; that casualties are kept to a minimum; that humanitarian means will be put in place; and that a new better Iraq will emerge from the maelstrom.

From a moral point of view, our concern now will be the conduct of war—ius in bello, which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, mentioned. The main imperative here is that civilians—or, more accurately, those who are not directly contributing to the war effort—should never be the direct object of attack. Of course the political and military planners will bear that in mind, but the targeting policy in Serbia/Kosovo on occasion gave rise to concern. There, it seemed to be not so much directed against military targets as designed to work on the mind of Milosevic. Hence, bridges and other civilian installations in Belgrade were bombed.

Sadly, civilians will be killed in the conflict as a result of inaccurate missiles and the inevitable side-effects of missiles on military targets. Nor should we forget the poor Iraqi conscripts, who have so little choice in the matter. Having embarked on that perilous path, perhaps all that we can say is "Lord have mercy".

The Government have had to choose between the second worst and the worst of all options. We should not be where we are now. Of course Saddam Hussein, an evil tyrant of whom the world will be well rid, is primarily to blame. There is no doubt about that. But Western policy has been complicit for decades, supporting his murderous war against Iran, selling him weapons, undermining sanctions and failing to act when he gassed 5,000 Kurds and destroyed the habitat of the Shias.

As St Paul said, God is not fooled and we reap what we sow. Or, as an earlier writer put it, if we sow wind—purely short term, pragmatic policies—we will reap a whirlwind. The great American thinker, Reinhold Niebuhr, composed prayers during World War II that catch the right mood for this conflict, as for so many others:

"Look with mercy, O Lord, upon the peoples of the world, so full both of pride and confusion, so sure of their righteousness and so deeply involved in unrighteousness".

We should not be where we are now, but I believe that a power is at work making something better out of the mess that we have made of things, constructing even in our destruction, drawing some good even out of evil.

We should not be where we are now, but, given that at this point we only have two options, I understand and sympathise with the fact that the Government have chosen the second worst option, rather than the worst option of all. The prayers of all will be with those who have momentous decisions to make in the next days and weeks, with our servicemen and women and with the long-suffering people of Iraq—that they might emerge from the bombardment and invasion to a much better future.

Photo of Lord Wright of Richmond Lord Wright of Richmond Crossbench 4:13, 18 March 2003

My Lords, having now read the whole of last night's debate in Hansard this morning, I fear that the question of the legality of our position on Iraq is now virtually irrelevant. I shall briefly concentrate this afternoon, first, on how we reached a diplomatic situation where international and domestic support for the Government's action is as fragile as in any situation that I can recall since Suez; secondly, on what are the likely or possible results of an invasion of Iraq; and, thirdly, what comes after that?

The lack of international and domestic support for United States policies on Iraq relates primarily to the dishonest and inconsistent way in which they have been presented. To repeat a point that I have made in the House before, we were first told that an attack against Iraq was part of the widely supported war on terror, even though it was known that President Bush's senior advisers had been pressing for an attack long before September 11th.

We were then told that the aim was to pre-empt an imminent attack by Iraq, in collusion with Al'Qaeda—despite a total lack of convincing evidence on either point and without credible explanation of that new strategy of pre-emption. Then the policy was to use the weapons inspectors to disarm Iraq of her weapons of mass destruction—despite constant and immediate rubbishing, on both sides of the Atlantic, of any evidence that the threat of force was at last producing some co-operation on the Iraqi side. Finally, the aim was to remove Saddam Hussein from power—despite assurances from British Ministers that it was not our policy to change other people's governments

In the face of all those inconsistencies, is it any wonder that the international coalition fell apart, or that so many have found it difficult to accept repeated assurances by Her Majesty's Government that our sole aim in Iraq is to remove Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction?

But it is clearly too late to question why we are going to war. Let me therefore ask the Minister some questions about our preparedness for what is likely to follow. Have sufficient precautions been taken to cope with the flood of refugees, who may well overwhelm the resources of Iraq's neighbours? Are the international agencies geared to cope with the massive humanitarian needs for food and water, given frequent statements by non-governmental organisations that they cannot operate in a combat situation?

Are we satisfied that public statements about the need to preserve the integrity of Iraq are sufficient, in the face of likely Kurdish ambitions to form at last their own state, and of Turkish attempts to prevent that? Are our troops sufficiently trained to prevent the revenge killings between Iraqis that could follow the removal of Saddam? Are they to be asked to fulfil the longer-term peacekeeping role that should normally fall to the international community? Finally, are we and the Americans agreed on how to deal with Saddam and his family if indeed we find them? Would they be brought before the International Criminal Court, which the Americans have refused to join?

Then there is the longer term. Can the Minister tell us more about subsequent American intentions? Can she clarify press reports that an intelligence-led war—whatever that means—against Iran is next on the American agenda? What about Syria and Saudi Arabia? Like the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I hope that there will be a future opportunity to debate those matters.

Finally, and most crucially, there is the Palestinian problem. President Bush's promise to publish the road map is, I fear, seen by many as no more than a cynical attempt to help the Prime Minister. Can the Minister give us any assurance that the Americans are now seriously intent on changing their biased support of Israel; on stopping the appalling and continuing series of killings on both sides; and on getting the Israelis not just to freeze their settlement policy, but actually to start dismantling their illegal settlements?

Unless the Americans can urgently prove to the world—to the Muslim world in particular—that they have really changed their Middle East policies, I fear that our invasion of Iraq will inevitably be seen as an assault on Islam, with all the risks of further terrorist attacks that that implies.

Photo of Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Labour 4:18, 18 March 2003

My Lords, as someone who has spoken frequently on Iraq since the House first had to deal with the problem, like many others I feel today we have reached a point that I had hoped we could avoid. No one wanted to have to use military force. But, in fact, everything that I knew about that dreadful regime and my experience of it during 1990–91, when I was in government service, meant that I always suspected that the use of force would be unavoidable. So it has proved, just as it did in 1991.

With a 48-hour ultimatum ticking away, this is not a time for a long intervention, but it may be a time for a personal declaration. As I have made clear previously in this House, I believe that action against Iraq is justified legally, politically and morally. I wholeheartedly support my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in his principled and courageous policy.

Legally, I feel that the justification is clear from Resolutions 678 and 687 through to 1441—some 17 chapter 7 resolutions. We explored all that at length last night in the House. I have always believed in that legal justification and was pleased to have confirmation of that position in the opinion, made public yesterday, of my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General.

It is politically justified because it is not possible, in my opinion, for responsible governments to allow this monstrous regime to continue to develop a capacity to threaten the region and, indeed, the world with weapons of mass destruction. It is fruitless now to question whether action should not have been taken earlier in the past 12 years, perhaps by continuation of the use of force in 1991, or perhaps at various other points such as 1998. But what must be true is that it is better late than never. I have no doubt at all that action is necessary.

Morally, it is a question on which there can be debate and different views. I speak as someone who, since my professional involvement with Iraq in 1990 and 1991, has kept a close and continuing interest in all that has happened in that unhappy country. It is difficult for those living in a democracy to begin to comprehend the reality of life in a society in the grip of a fearsomely efficient terror machine, where people know that they and their extended family will meet horrible deaths if they remotely look like they exhibit signs of dissidence. Even those who have reservations about military action acknowledge the terrible nature of the regime. In my opinion, to act to remove such a hideous regime to relieve the Iraqi people, the region and the rest of the world from its threat is a moral action.

I said in our debate on 26th February:

"War is always bad but it is not always the worst option".—[Official Report, 26/2/03; col. 265.]

I believe that the worst option now is to risk leaving this regime in place, with all that that means for the Iraqi people, the region and the world.

We are very fortunate in this country to have superbly dedicated and efficient Armed Forces and government servants. At this time, it is important to say that we must all be grateful to all of them for that, and we must wish them well in their difficult and dangerous tasks in the coming weeks.

Photo of Lord Howe of Aberavon Lord Howe of Aberavon Conservative 4:23, 18 March 2003

My Lords, one of the more engaging courtesies of this House is that a former Law Officer is referred to, with undue respect, as "noble and learned". That might have led some to believe that I would take part in yesterday's debate rather than today's. But I do not feel learned at all, particularly when confronted by the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. It is 31 years since I last wore a wig in anger. I therefore want to address the issues before the House today.

As people have begun to detect, it is not just the law that is decisive of what ought to happen in this matter. I respect absolutely the clarity with which the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, presented her case again today. We seem to follow each other day after day in this Session. But it is not just counsels' opinion that applies; as in any other jurisdiction, at the last resort, it is the conclusion of the jury. My worry is that, as this case has been presented so far, there is far too wide a disagreement among the jury around the world and in this country, challenging the case put. My concern is that that does not in any way represent a failure to understand the villainy of the accused—nobody can possibly doubt the wickedness of Saddam Hussein—but it follows, sadly, from how the case has been presented over the months, particularly by the United States.

The handling of matters of this kind in international affairs is much more difficult even than in a national jurisdiction. International law, so far as it has substance, must depend on a marriage between the rule-making, decision-taking institutions—the United Nations, most notably—and the leadership, above all, of the permanent members of that organisation. In that context, the most important is the United States, the world's single super power. As we have said many times, the world has been fortunate in its super power, through its leadership and support, for the great bulk of the half-century since the United Nations was founded.

The sadness is that, in this case, despite the eloquent, lucid presentation, for example, of the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, we in this country in partnership with the United States have failed sufficiently to convince the international jury and our domestic audience. That has led the Prime Minister, understandably enough, to say that he would override an unreasonable veto, just as the trial judge in a case that went wrong at the hands of a jury would describe the jury's verdict as perverse. I am concerned about that. The way in which the United States has handled the diplomacy preceding this conflict, as the noble Lord, Lord Wright, pointed out, has led us into this apparent impasse. Nobody has been more dismayed or challenged by that than the Prime Minister, who deserves our sympathy in that regard and our respect for his formidable courage and tenacity.

The reason was well set out by an interesting source in an interview in the Financial Times on 4th March. The former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said about the dilemma:

"The concern I have is that our single-minded and, unfortunately, rather demagogic fixation on Iraq is undermining the credibility as well as the legitimacy of US leadership".

That legitimacy, he said,

"has been progressively undermined in the course of the past six or seven months . . . The world has moved from surprise at the unilateral raising of the Iraq issue to concern at a solitary war to general uneasiness at the priorities of the Bush administration".

That dilemma has landed us where we are.

I fear that the understandably enthusiastic welcome that the Prime Minister received during his visits to the United States in the tragic days following 11th September may have misled him to believe that our single-handed influence would be greater than it was on a more single-minded American Administration than he realised. Alas, that has not been the case. The sadness is that the concern that he has been trying to express in getting full, overwhelming United Nations authority and backing for the force proposed was not very different from the concern of countries such as France, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, pointed out. I do not now hold any brief for the defence of how France or any other country has conducted itself. But the tragedy is that there was, and should have been, common ground between us in trying to secure the right formulation of the case that must be presented.

The question is: where do we go from now on? I agree with those who in different ways have said that there can, and should, be no turning back. We look for a swift, successful and compassionate outcome to the conflict, with as few casualties as possible in our own forces, of course, and in Iraq. Our forces have our complete support.

We hope for as little turbulence and civil war in Iraq as we may dare. We invite the clearest possible guidance on the sustained programme for the rebuilding of a peaceful, prosperous Iraq. For that, we need what we do not have now—the widest and most effective international partnership, rebuilt through United Nations structures. That is essential.

I come back to my quotations from Mr Brzezinski. We shall need clearer, more specific, more modest and more limited objectives for our partners in the United States than those that have sometimes been suggested. As the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, pointed out, it is of particular concern that significant United States theorists hope and plan that regime change in Iraq will cause or pave the way for a dramatic collapse of almost the whole of the rest of the Middle East and a glorious upsurge of democracy. My fear is that more likely than that will be the surfacing not of democracies but of more intemperate and more extreme regimes. It is more important to have limited objectives and a clear commitment to the importance of the road plan for Israel and Palestine. That must be supported by the leadership of the alliance that, I hope, will be rebuilt in the United Nations in a tone and style that is more acceptable to the rest of the world.

Although the scene now is bleak, we shall have to set about the task of reconstructing not just the collective authority of the United Nations but the transatlantic bridge between Europe and the United States that is of such fundamental importance, not least the European end. It is the threatened disintegration of that bridge—a fearful sight—that creates the daunting predicament described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. If we can be convinced that the leadership offered by the United States with support from this country can follow such an orderly, measured and sensible pattern, we shall be able not only to extinguish Saddam Hussein and his followers but to look forward with some confidence to the future.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 4:32, 18 March 2003

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, said that we had gone over the issue several times recently in many debates. Unfortunately, in debates up to this point, the caveat that war is not inevitable has always been expressed. Today, however, it seems that war is inevitable.

I was going to dwell on my doubts and concerns about the political process and how it led us to this position, but the clarity of the speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, was such that I would simply repeat many of the views he expressed. I must say, however, that I had hoped there would be a second resolution. The fact that the French might have used their veto was no reason not to have a vote. That would have shown the level of support—or lack of it—in the international community.

With war so imminent, we do well to consider the future. A quarter of the British Army is about to launch itself across the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border. On these Benches, we will support our soldiers. It is offensive political point scoring to suggest that they do not have our support. I have friends who will be in that force, and I wore the uniform as a TA soldier. If I were still in my unit, I would probably be going to war now. One takes that decision when one joins the military. The decision to launch a war today or in the next couple of days is a political decision. We owe it to our soldiers to have a clear, objective and realistic strategy. At this point, one of the most important things is not how we send our soldiers to war but how we bring them home.

One point has been raised in several debates: it was made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. The noble and gallant Lord said that if we went to war—it looks like we are going to war—we would need to know our exit strategy. That issue has not been considered. We said so often that war was not inevitable, but now we must think about how we will finish it. God willing, we will be in Baghdad soon; God willing, the regime will change. And, in a peaceful climate, we will be able to bring about the elimination of any weapons of mass destruction that can be found. However, we must face the fact that we might not have finished the war by the weekend. Civil war might break out; the crisis might not be over by Christmas or in two, three or even 10 years' time. The American Administration have talked about keeping their soldiers there for a number of years. How long will British soldiers be in Iraq? It is an important point. The British Army is already overstretched. It is unlikely that we could maintain a large force in Iraq.

Even with regime change, there will be no simple solution. We will not be able to install a democratic government in the short term. Looking back to the previous Gulf War, there was enormous letting of blood, settling of scores and political upheaval. That will increase. We need only look to the past to see examples. I remember the debate led by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, on the Great Lakes and what could happen in Zaire. We are still living with the consequences of that crisis, and we must pick up the pieces.

We must consider the situation in the context of what has just happened in the United Nations. It could be ourselves and the Americans who have to pick up the pieces in Iraq in the short to medium term. Is it realistic to believe that, after what has happened in the United Nations, a United Nations force will conduct peacekeeping in Iraq in the short term? Is it realistic to believe that, without United Nations support or the support of the international community, there is not the prospect of a humanitarian disaster? Iraq has been crippled by the actions of an evil dictator. The country relies on food aid. If that aid is interrupted for a long time by military action, there will be real problems.

My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby spoke about Afghanistan. We went into Afghanistan and got rid of the Taliban. What is the situation now? That country is falling into the same old situation. The same despotic warlords are taking over vast tracts of the country. The only area that is under control even marginally is Kabul. That is the same situation as the one that led to the formation of the Taliban in the first place, with all the implications for international security that that had.

We will support our soldiers in bringing about their objectives, but we should not say that there will be a military solution to the situation. The solution will be political, and we must face up to that fact.

Photo of Lord Bramall Lord Bramall Crossbench 4:38, 18 March 2003

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond, I doubt that we have been in as big a muddle over our international relations since the Suez crisis, nearly half a century ago, which a few of us will remember only too well. Some of the circumstances may have been different, but much of the rhetoric and many of the deeply held concerns expressed in this country and further afield have an all too familiar ring to them.

One of the many troubles has been that, whatever explanations and carefully planned concessions have emanated from Baghdad—many of which have depended on the continued application of military pressure—there can be no guarantee that will satisfy the Americans that Saddam Hussein does not continue to have some chemical and biological weapons somewhere in his grasp and is not, therefore, in breach of UN Resolution 1441. Only a lengthy and sustained effort by Dr Blix and his inspectors might achieve that, but it would have been way outside any time-frame that the Americans had in mind. It would not have addressed the question of regime change which the United States has always had as its primary aim.

Even if verbal contortions and inducements had produced a new resolution specifically authorising military action which, despite some of the often wildly impractical conditions incorporated in it, could have been successfully voted upon, it would have been virtually meaningless if China, Russia, France and Germany were clearly against it and prepared to demonstrate that in one way and another.

Therefore, the Prime Minister has now had to face up to the fact that because those substantial forces, which have been so essential in getting the United Nations this far, cannot be kept hanging around indefinitely, imminent American military action will now take place without the specific approval of the United Nations Security Council; although, as has been stressed, UNSCR 1441 threatened serious consequences if Saddam Hussein did not immediately, comprehensively and unconditionally comply—which he clearly has not.

It should also be borne in mind that if, after all the palaver that has been going on militarily, politically and diplomatically, military force was now to be suspended or delayed indefinitely, it would elevate Saddam Hussein into an intolerable position of invulnerability which would do no service to any of the Arab states in the area.

Military action by America, which for a long time has been inevitable, is, as of today, certain within a few days. The Prime Minister must be said to have had the anguished choice of either accepting the favoured United Nations' view that a longer haul with UN inspectors making slow but perhaps steady progress to achieve significant disarmament would have been the better course and letting the Americans get on with their military action on their own, or going forward shoulder to shoulder with our American allies and incurring the displeasure and enmity of the UN and perhaps of much of the rest of the world.

Both courses of action could have serious consequences for this country in the months and years ahead. That is why I and so many others have never been keen to go down this path of confrontation as distinct from containment in the first place. But now, although the paths of 21st century righteousness may point to the first option, I doubt whether on strict grounds of national interest the Prime Minister has had much choice but to go for the second.

Unlike France who after Suez considered that it was in her national interest to distance herself from the Americans, we have always considered the North Atlantic alliance fundamental to our defence policy and, indeed, we have depended heavily on America—although it should be recognised that 30-odd years ago a Labour Prime Minister kept British forces out of the more remote Vietnam despite heavy American pressure. And only 20 years ago a Conservative Prime Minister distanced herself from America's much smaller military action in Grenada. Neither of those events harmed the alliance significantly and, in the latter case, did nothing to stop the very close relationship between President and Prime Minister—so very useful to our two countries.

In this case, after so much and so lengthy overt rhetoric and high profile support of the determination of President Bush to deal with Saddam Hussein by force if necessary, it is difficult to see how this Prime Minister could now withdraw that support and split that solidarity, without affecting national honour, the morale of our forces—and, indeed, much of our country—and, above all, and particularly in view of the attitude of the rest of Europe, without real danger to the NATO North Atlantic alliance and the benefits that go with it.

So shoulder to shoulder it must be and we can only hope and pray that the optimistic forecast of how long the war will last will prove accurate. I have similar misgivings to those of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. From our position as manifestly America's closest ally, we shall be able to influence the way in which the war develops—not least the end game, the exit strategy, taking full account of the traditions, the sensitivities and the aspirations of the people in the area, which is so vital for the future stability and peace of the world—even if for the time being, but it is to be hoped not for too long, the United Nations like Achilles is sulking in its tent.

The important matter now is that we give the fullest support to our sea, land and air forces, which will be going out to do their duty in an impeccably professional way. They will need maximum encouragement to feel that what they are doing is important for our country's future. They should be made to feel that while they are at war and risking their lives, we, too, are at war in a sense; that we are prepared to make financial sacrifices to ensure that they have all they need to finish the job and that we are not indulging in strikes and other selfish activities. The press, in keeping with a state of war, should behave in a responsible way, reporting matters as they are—not glorifying war, nor causing panic and certainly not trying to second-guess tactical plans and inadvertently telling the opposition what we are about to do next.

At the very least, our forces should be made to feel that they are obeying perfectly legal orders. To some extent, they are even enforcing the all-important United Nations authority for them. Above all, no one in his right mind would doubt that the Middle East and the world would be a safer place with Saddam Hussein gone and that a great tyranny would be lifted from the people of Iraq. Our hearts and our prayers go with our forces. We ask them, finally, to remember—and I believe that the Prime Minister would want to remember this too because his future may depend on it—that, whatever currents of disputes and criticisms continue to be voiced abroad and at home, over the air, in the press and in Parliament, history has shown that nothing—I repeat, nothing—succeeds like success.

Photo of Lord Richard Lord Richard Labour 4:47, 18 March 2003

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I agree with much of what he had to say about support for the Armed Forces. I have no problem with that. But let me be clear and unequivocal at the outset—I am against this war. Therefore, I think it is right that I should take this opportunity to say why I am against the war and why I have come to this conclusion. I hope that your Lordships will recognise that it is not, perhaps, a normal one for me to have reached throughout my political life.

What are we being asked to approve? What is it that the Government now want us to accept? In a sentence, it is that Britain, together with the United States, should invade another country. I do not see any point in beating about the bush on this and talking about interventions or serious consequences. We are being asked to authorise the invasion of one sovereign state by the British and the Americans.

Of course, there are circumstances in which the United Nations has accepted the use of force. However, I do not believe that invasion of one country by another, without the specific authorisation of the Security Council, is something that has occurred—at least, in any meaningful sense—since Suez. I should have thought that Suez would have settled that particular argument and I agree with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said.

Therefore, if that is what we are being asked, I next ask myself: is this legal? There is confusion and various opinions on this. I carefully read with interest the debate that took place yesterday. Whatever else one says about that debate, it was hardly conclusive in its views. I am glad to see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, in his place because I share the views he expressed in the debate. He said:

"Resolution 678 authorised the use of force in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Kuwait and its clear purpose was to compel Iraqi forces to withdraw. It is the only resolution which has ever referred to the use of force. It succeeded in its objective. I simply cannot read it, even by implication, as authorising the use of force 13 years later in the event of a failure by Iraq to disarm, especially when that earlier resolution is read in the light of Resolution 1441 which seems to negative any such implication".

The noble and learned Lord then went on to say, in words which I echo wholeheartedly:

"The debate no longer involves any difficult questions of international law. It is simply a question of the meaning of ordinary English words contained in the two resolutions".—[Official Report, 17/3/03; col. 108.]

I agree wholeheartedly with that. With respect, construing ordinary English words in an ordinary English way seems to point in the opposite direction from that indicated by my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General. However, let us be charitable and agree on one point: there is no clear and unambiguous view.

In that regard, perhaps I may make an observation. For the life of me, I do not understand how one can spend months arguing how important it is to secure a second resolution in the Security Council, and then to say, "Well, it doesn't really matter", and in order to justify that, one has to fall back on a strained interpretation and construction of previous Security Council resolutions.

I go on to ask another question: is there a direct and immediate threat to the United Kingdom? I have asked the question previously, but I have never received an answer. The usual response is a vague reference to intelligence sources. Of course I do not have access to intelligence sources, but my right honourable friend Robin Cook does. It is important to note his words in that regard. In the House of Commons last night he stated:

"Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term—namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?".—[Official Report, Commons, 17/3/03; cols. 727-728.]

So we are being asked to go to war in questionable and doubtful circumstances to enforce a 12 year-old resolution which the Security Council clearly does not wish to be enforced and at a time when UN inspectors are still active and apparently prepared, if not actually anxious, to continue with what they believe is useful and helpful work and which in the past has proved to be fairly successful. I do not believe for an instant that, under normal circumstances, the Prime Minister, this party or anyone representing it would ever agree to that proposition. Indeed, to state it is almost to prove its fallacy. Practically everyone is uneasy about it and few are clear. Perhaps I may follow the forensic analogy of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. The situation is like that of an advocate in front of a jury with an arguable but not very good case, advancing a proposition loudly and often because he knows that it is not that persuasive.

Why are we in this position? We are in this position because, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, we are supporting the United States of America. It is not possible to believe that we would do this on our own. I do not believe that the argument for that has been made. Frankly, the nature of the transatlantic relationship between ourselves and the United States has got out of balance. The position taken by the Prime Minister of unequivocal and almost unconditional support for United States policy is perhaps not the most fruitful way of proceeding.

That has not always been the case. Witness, for example, Prime Minister Attlee when he went to America to discuss tactics during the Korean War. Witness again, as was pointed out by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, Harold Wilson and Vietnam. We did not participate in that war, but I do not think it caused any long-term harm to Anglo-United States relations.

Lest I be accused of being anti-American, perhaps I may make a point to establish my credentials; occasionally things may be said. One of my children is now an American citizen; my granddaughter is an American citizen; another of my children lives in Philadelphia; and for seven-and-a-half years I myself lived in that country. I hope that at least I have been able to establish the credentials.

However, it is a fact that we now have in the United States probably the most right-wing Administration since the end of the Second World War. I think we have associated ourselves too closely with that Administration. Having done so, therefore, it was in a sense inevitable that the Prime Minister would find himself between the rock and the hard place, and I can understand the reasons why he has worked so hard to try to avoid that position.

I see that I have used my eight minutes. In conclusion, I recognise that once the war is over—I do not believe it will take long, although perhaps it will take rather longer than many armchair generals think—there will be the task of reconstruction. Not only will it involve the reconstruction of Iraq—although that will be difficult enough—there will have to be some reconstruction of the United Nations. Frankly, the idea that, in these circumstances, the British and Americans are upholding the charter is fanciful. There will have to be a reconstruction of the Anglo-American relationship and serious consideration will have to be given to the way in which the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the United States of America is going.

I do not quite know how we got into this position, but my goodness, it is as difficult a position as this country has been in for years.

Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative 4:57, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I often follow the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in debates of this kind, of which today's is likely to be the last. Perhaps I may query one point he made. I would be surprised if Robin Cook, as Leader of the House in another place for the past two years, had actually been privy to the most secret intelligence documents. I may be wrong, but I noticed the great credence placed on that in the noble Lord's remarks. I am not sure of its accuracy.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, talked of the absolutely unprecedented nature of any possible invasion of another country as though we were starting from this point. We are talking about a country which invaded its neighbour. It became the subject of a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions telling it to get out, which it did not do until it was thrown out. It was told to disarm, which it has not done, even though a series of resolutions—all passed unanimously—required that. At the present time, far from being an ordinary country in the world, we have refused Iraq permission to fly in the northern no fly zone and we are currently bombing the southern area to try to protect some of the population, namely, the Marsh Arabs, as well as to provide further protection in the area.

However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about the contrast with the two wars in which I have been involved during my time in Parliament, namely, the Falklands and the Gulf War. Certainly there was a much clearer message. To that end I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, who complained that the messages seem muddled and the ground changed. If the Prime Minister had made earlier the speech he delivered so clearly today, it might have been very helpful. At the moment we can see the consequences of those muddled messages in the opinion polls, on the streets and in the worries and uncertainties among our Armed Forces where, for the first time, there is some uncertainty as to whether they have behind them the full confidence of the country. I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that it is extremely important to ensure that when our forces go into action, they must know that they have our fullest support.

I feel a sense of responsibility in one respect. I was there when the first resolution was passed through the United Nations requiring the disarmament of Iraq—and we got some action. We got some action because it was a part of the ceasefire and because the credible military threat was all too evident. Saddam Hussein did not need to be told that there was a credible threat because three-quarters of a million allied forces were on his border at full readiness to respond to any attempt to re-invade Kuwait or any other action. That force backed up the resolution made at that time.

As the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister in another place made clear, we can almost correlate the progress on disarmament over the past 12 years against the periods when there was a credible military force. The moment that deterrent lapsed, there was inaction from Saddam Hussein and a determination to avoid fulfilling his responsibilities.

But there is no everlasting availability of a credible military threat. At the end of the Gulf War there were three-quarters of a million allied forces—more than half a million American—and 32 different countries involved. But we could not sustain that number. As the months and years went by, people were looking to leave and there was pressure to withdraw forces. Gradually, those forces shrank and the task of the inspectors became more difficult.

Periodically the process was kicked to life and there would be another full and final declaration. As has been said, we have had five full and final declarations from Saddam Hussein—and every one has been subsequently proved to be false. The reality is that unless we have a credible military threat we will not make the progress on disarmament that we need.

As disunity has grown among what was a unanimous coalition for Resolution 1441, one has seen Saddam Hussein reappear and behave in exactly the same way as he has over the past 12 years. He dribbles out the information and delays it. He then overloads the system with huge amounts of information which take a long time to read. You then find that half of it is totally irrelevant and that the rest of it is wrong. We have watched him do it. Dr Blix says that he has been helpful to the inspectors. Wherever they ask to go, he makes arrangements to help them get there. But he does not provide the information about where they ought to go; about the places where they are required to go to find the information they are seeking. Contrary to what Mr Robin Cook said yesterday—and I support and pray in aid the Prime Minister who has claimed this—every intelligence agency of a reputable nature in the world profoundly believes that Saddam Hussein has the materials necessary for weapons of mass destruction and that he will continue to hide them. As defectors periodically emerge, previous assertions that he has no provision of that kind are proved false.

I believe that he does have such materials. I say that with the greatest respect to the inspectors because they have an impossible task. As I have said before, they were not sent to Iraq as detectives but to monitor the full co-operation of Saddam Hussein in the process of disarmament. In a country the size of Iraq, they will be very lucky indeed to find materials if Saddam Hussein is determined to hide them.

The latest report describes how some materials were hidden and that every single one of the people responsible for hiding them was shot on Saddam Hussein's instructions so that there should be no evidence and no risk of a defector. Whether or not that report is true, Iraq has the kind of regime within which that would not be an incredible act. That is the kind of difficulty faced by the inspectors.

The inspectors obviously say that they are willing and can do more. The reality is that everyone agrees and takes it as a given—including those who call for more time for inspections—that they can only do their job properly with the backing of a credible military threat. But, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, we cannot sustain that level of force, in that climate, in that environment for any significant amount of time.

It is against that background that we have come to where Resolution 1441 was bound in the end to bring us if Saddam Hussein did not comply. I still hope that, at the last minute, he will realise there is only one outcome for him if he decides not to choose exile. If he stays, obviously war will be with us.

I went through the worries of what it would be like when the battle started with my noble friend Lord Hurd, who is in his place. We had no real idea. It turned out to be extremely quick and casualties were blessedly low. We pray that it will be the same again. But there is no guarantee. This is a different matter. We are not kicking someone out of a country he should not have entered; we will be attacking a country which some people believe is their own.

It is against that background and the recognition that we are now where we are, with all the dangers we have discussed endlessly in this House, that I pray for the swift success of our forces; that there will be the minimum of casualties and the minimum of damage to the environment, to the infrastructure and, above all, to the people of Iraq. I hope that there will be the most urgent engagement thereafter of the United Nations in the rebuilding of that terribly sad country.

Photo of Lord Watson of Richmond Lord Watson of Richmond Liberal Democrat 5:05, 18 March 2003

My Lords, we are at an extraordinary moment and in an extraordinary situation, and both the moment and the situation are to be regretted. Despite the rhetoric of unity, the disturbing and dangerous reality is of disunity. We go to war without the authoritative sanction of the United Nations, without consensus in the European Union, without agreement within NATO and with both the nation and Parliament deeply divided. That we have arrived at this moment and this situation represents a tragic failure of diplomacy, as a number of noble Lords have already pointed out.

President Bush has used the metaphor of a poker game.

"It is a time for people to show their cards", he has said. They have, and the result is a poker game that has gone badly wrong. There is no coalition such as the one his father built before the first Gulf War; there is no coalition such as existed after 9/11 and after NATO invoked Clause 5 in response to that attack. Instead there is division and recrimination.

But the moment has arrived and we must now hope and pray that our Armed Forces and those of the United States succeed swiftly and decisively, for the longer the war continues the higher will be the price for this failure of diplomacy. We on these Benches believe that as the Security Council authorised the United Nations inspectors we should have backed them. They asked for more time; they should have been given it.

War will not remove the political challenges we face. The courage and professionalism of the Armed Forces will contribute to a military resolution only of matters which can be dealt with militarily. They cannot be expected to resolve the political challenges we face. It is to these that I wish to turn.

Three weeks ago the sub-committee on Common Foreign and Security Policy of the Select Committee on the European Union of your Lordships' House visited Washington DC. In due course, the sub-committee's report will come for debate, but I should like to share with the House at this particular moment my personal sense of some of the things that were said to us.

It seemed to me that the tonality of much of what we heard from the Administration was isolationist, and so, too, was a significant part of the content. Figures in the Administration were pleased by Britain's loyalty, but they made it clear that on all the key issues it was for us to choose and not for them to change. We were either with them or against them and no third position was possible. Yes, the Administration would seek to help the Prime Minister by trying the UN route—for once the American pronunciation of that word as "rout" seems more appropriate—but they would do what was needed to effect regime change in Iraq whatever other nations said and no matter, in the end, what the view of the United Nations. This was to be the exercise of US power in the defence of the American homeland. Compared with that imperative, all other considerations were marginal.

The fact that they had failed to persuade the rest of the world that the American homeland was definitely and now threatened by Saddam Hussein was not the point. In fact, the two considerations driving American policy appeared to be these. First, the nightmare scenario post 9/11 that the President, God forbid, might be woken up one morning to be told that something terrible had happened to Los Angeles or Chicago. Americans had to see the President take action to have confidence that such a catastrophe could never occur.

The second consideration was a determination to reshape the Middle East, as once the United States had reshaped Europe and Japan. The difference, of course, is that in 1945, US power was used to shape a new international community. It was US hyper power at that time that made possible Bretton Woods, the founding of the United Nations and the beginnings of European integration. This was the "creation" at which so many leading Americans—politicians, civil servants, military leaders—were "present". But today there is no comparable vision. There may be a road map for peace in the Middle East but will an Administration so committed—perhaps understandably—to Israel have the stomach for it? Is it not the instinctive view of the Administration that peacekeeping, in contrast to peacemaking, is for wimps?

These attitudes express dramatically the gap that has opened between the United States and Europe. It is essential that we attempt to bridge it and restore some real commonality of view. How to do this? In Washington, Richard Perle, an unofficial spokesman, I suppose, for the Administration, said to me, "Remember that for us a counterweight cannot be a friend or ally". But a new and more equal relationship between the United States and Europe is in fact the only way forward.

In the past few weeks Europe has been ineffective in the United Nations, in the European Union and in NATO. The United Kingdom, because we have failed to persuade; France, because she has failed to prevent what she most opposes; all of us because Europe has remained marginal on this great issue which impacts our interests as much as those of the United States and at a time when terrorism threatens our cities as much as theirs.

The United States Administration will only rate and respect Europe if it has both coherence of policy and effectiveness of arms. We need more of France's determination to lay out and hold to distinctive policy positions when these reflect European interests and the views of European electorates, and to do so even when faced with great United States pressure. France and the rest of Europe need to learn from the British willingness and ability ultimately to deploy force where that is required by the values and interests of Europe.

In the meantime, we will all discover the costs of our disarray. Germany will plead its contribution to stability and security in eastern Europe. In Washington, this will be viewed as marginal. We will point to our commitment to military action but at the end of the day, for the United States, that, too, is marginal. The French have made their point but in the end that, too, has been pointless, for it has not altered US policy in any way.

Now it is beginning—perhaps tonight, perhaps tomorrow, almost certainly this week. We cannot know the outcome although we all hope that the courage and professionalism of British forces will contribute to a swift and successful conclusion. The military success, however, will not resolve the political crisis, only change it. Iraq will need to be reconstructed politically and socially as well as economically. The Arab world will look for a peace between Israel and Palestine and will expect a victorious America to deliver it.

The entire Middle East may be destabilised and the Bush Administration will want to move on, for there are other rogue states on the list—there is a wider "axis of evil" in their sights.

Will they welcome European advice? Will they wish to see a future common European defence capability and even a common European foreign policy? At present, certainly not. When visiting Washington, one was confronted with a very different agenda. Some who spoke for the Administration pushed aside America's historic support for European integration, insisting that any such development now would be inimical to the interests of the United States and that consequently the United States should cherry pick between European states, playing "the European keyboard" to frustrate any such development.

Yet Richard Perle and others who think like him are quite wrong to assume that a greater equality on the part of Europe is threatening to the United States. The US needs a more equal partnership, not a more unequal alliance. The re-establishment of European unity is an immediate priority and for this very specific reason: we must internationalise the occupation of Baghdad and the reconstruction of Iraq. A lengthy and independent occupation by the United States and the United Kingdom is far too perilous to entertain. Yet if this is to be avoided, there must be agreement in the Security Council, and that will only be possible if Britain, France and Germany can agree. Achieving that agreement and widening it to include Russia must become the first priority of our diplomacy to be pursued with a determination, professionalism and indeed courage to match that which British forces will now assuredly demonstrate in the weeks ahead. I would like the Minister's assurance that this is indeed the diplomatic priority of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Lord Weatherill Lord Weatherill Crossbench 5:15, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I am in a dilemma about my qualifications to speak in this debate. I do so against a background of 28 years in another place, five years' active service in World War II, and a knowledge of what war means not only to those directly involved but to their families. So I am naturally concerned to give my full support to our troops in Kuwait who are about to go into battle. I hope with all my heart that it will be a short and a victorious campaign and that the inevitable casualties among our troops and also among the civilian population will be light.

Earlier today I listened to the Prime Minister in another place. Looking down on those red lines on the carpet, symbolising the settlement of dispute by "parley" rather than by the sword, I confess that I had great doubts about the action we are about to take. It is certainly true, as one MP said, that France has disarmed the United Nations rather than Saddam Hussein. It has done more than that—it has made those of us who have doubts about going into the European Union even more doubtful and even more reluctant. Most important of all, it has neutered the United Nations and made it perhaps the first casualty of this war, as was the League of Nations after the First World War. I hope not.

There are many roads to God, and I say that having served for five years with Indian troops—Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Muslims, in particular, hold their faith with great strength and probably more fervently than we who are Christians.

I am concerned that a bloody war in Iraq, without United Nations support, could unite Muslims around the world despite their dislike of Saddam Hussein and that our action could lead to more terrorism, not less.

Furthermore, is there not a danger that our action may be an example to others? What if—perish the thought—India were to take the view that its neighbour Pakistan posed a threat to its security? What about President Mugabe or the President of North Korea, who are quite as awful as Saddam Hussein? How will we deal with them?

On television this morning, an American lady was interviewed. She quoted the words of Martin Luther King:

"Wars are poor channels for carving out peaceful tomorrows".

With all my heart, I pray that the actions which we are about to take will not open a Pandora's box of unknown consequences. I hope it is not too theatrical in this debate to remind your Lordships of the words of Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, Woodbine Willie of the First World War:

"Waste of muscle,

Waste of brain,

Waste of patience,

Waste of pain,

Waste of manhood,

Waste of health,

Waste of beauty,

Waste of wealth,

Waste of blood, and waste of tears,

Waste of youth's most precious years,

Waste of ways the saints have trod,

Waste of glory,

Waste of God,


Those words apply equally to the Armed Forces of war and to the innocent civilians who are the casualties of war. That is why I support so strongly our parliamentary tradition of the settlement of disputes by "parley" rather than by the sword. It is in that spirit that I approach the action that we are about to take.

Photo of Lord Beaumont of Whitley Lord Beaumont of Whitley Green 5:20, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I speak not only for myself, as does every noble Lord in this Chamber, but on behalf of the Green Movement world-wide. I spent last week-end at my party's spring conference, and this morning I was in touch with the Green Party of the United States.

We believe that the invasion of Iraq is illegal, and we are quite sure it is immoral. We believe that going to war is an action of last resort, and we were under the impression that that view was shared by all men and women of goodwill.

It is quite clear that the invasion of Iraq is not a last resort, and the world as a whole is aware of that. Indeed, for the Americans, it was high on the list of resorts. In addition to the immediate situation, it is also likely that this action will do immense damage to the United Nations.

In 1919 the United States destroyed the League of Nations. Now it is destroying the United Nations, having never ceased to treat it with contempt and to starve it of its dues. This time, I regret to say, my country is an accomplice, and of that I am deeply ashamed.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Donington Lord Bruce of Donington Labour 5:22, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I rise not to ask the indulgence of the House for being unable to stay to the end of the debate, but to state that what I have been saying for a number of years still, in my view, has validity. To "take note of" what the Government have done is a rather tepid way of expressing cowardice.

Photo of Lord Jopling Lord Jopling Conservative 5:23, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I approach this debate with two overwhelming feelings. First, I have very serious doubts about current United States policy, and I feel concern about the new air of arrogance and aggression one finds in Washington, particularly in the Pentagon. Secondly, I am anxious because I am totally perplexed at the way in which our Government have been drawn in by the United States and led into supporting these policies like pet sheep.

I have spent a large part of my time in this House and in another place seeking to work for better relations between the United States and the United Kingdom. I ran the British-American parliamentary group for 14 years. Those who are familiar with the work that I did know that the United States has had no better friend.

But three weeks ago, with my noble friend—if I may call him that—Lord Watson of Richmond, I visited the United States with Sub-Committee C of this House. We met many old friends, and made new ones. I was very disturbed to hear some—not all, thank heaven, but too many—who were either in or close to the Administration or to Congress speaking in a way that I had not heard previously, not only about Iraq but about other matters too. The gist of their conversation—the noble Lord, Lord Watson, made the point slightly differently—went rather like this: "We are going to do this, or that; if you want to come with us, OK. But if not, keep out of our way".

These new policies in the United States seem to be driven by the neo-conservatives who now have a stranglehold on the Pentagon and seem, as well, to have a compliant armlock on the President himself. As we now face war in Iraq, we look at the unnecessary casualties already left in the wake of the new regime in the United States, which seems uninterested in the old alliances. I remind your Lordships that those old alliances have, over the past 50 years, contributed significantly to what I believe has been a golden age. That is how future historians will describe the second half of the 20th century. The casualties to which I refer are NATO and the European Union—which are both severely shaken as a result of the events of the past year or so—and the United Nations, which is now at its lowest point since its foundation following World War Two.

The current crisis in the Middle East is not entirely due to the events of the last year or so. I cannot help feeling that it is in part due to decades of United States policies, which have helped to escalate the Israel-Palestine confrontation, following totally biased United States attitudes and policies in favour of Israel. Today, one feels that the United States is unconscious of the extent to which it is detested in large parts of the world, especially in the Islamic parts, leading to the events that culminated in the tragedies of 11th September.

It was Senator J. Rockefeller of West Virginia who said the other day that going to war with Iraq at this time was sowing the seeds of future terrorism. I believe that that is right. Entering this war in the way we are doing, without a broad international alliance, is bound to increase terrorism and the number of people who are prepared to die for their misguided beliefs.

However, the threat of terrorism should never petrify nations into failing to go to war to eliminate a real menace. I have no doubt in my mind that Saddam is a real menace and a monster, and sooner or later he must be disarmed. Almost certainly, according to his behaviour, that can be done only by war. But I see it as crucial that he is disarmed by a broad international coalition—not only because it is better done by United Nations authority. It may not always be possible to do that, but by having a broad international coalition we reduce significantly the danger of fomenting further anti-American or anti-western attitudes. It would also reduce the danger of escalating terrorism—although, however it is done, I suspect that that is a danger.

Here we are. We are committed to war. It seems inevitable. I just hope that the Americans have thought it out properly. I fervently hope, like others, that the war will be short. But how often over the years have we heard the phrase, "The boys will be home by Christmas"? We were told in the United States, and I read it again in the Sunday press, that Saddam has supplied a large number of sophisticated rifles to civilians and has trained them: one Sunday newspaper said millions. If that is the case, it sounds as though some fairly bloody events are in prospect, particularly if Baghdad is to be occupied. I hope I am wrong.

The Americans speak of the post-Saddam period. I hope that they have thought through what they will do if they cannot find him. After all, he has had 12 years to prepare to go underground. I fear that they have definitely not thought through what must be done after the military phase. For so long people have been saying that the military phase would be relatively easier than what followed, but for months we have had a deafening silence on that subject. When we were in Washington, several people admitted that too little thought has been given, and too late, to what will happen afterwards.

An article appeared in the New York Times on 23rd February with regard to the Bush Administration's new office of post-war planning, which held a secret session that weekend,

"to assess the government's plans for securing and rebuilding Iraq if Saddam is overthrown".

Noble Lords should note that it is a new office and that that happened only three weeks ago. The office will be directed by a Mr Garner. The post had been refused by David Kay, a former chief nuclear weapons inspector in Iraq, who had considered taking it. He was quoted as complaining that promoting democracy had too little priority in the new office and that the mission itself was under-financed and poorly staffed. There is a serious black hole in that area.

I am dismayed by the way in which the United States has approached the crisis. I can only hope that those misguided members of the Republican party who dominate the Pentagon will not remain for long to pursue these policies.

I turn briefly to the attitude of our own Government. I am at a loss to understand how they have allowed themselves to be led haplessly into the present position—although I do not dissociate my Front Bench from that situation. The Prime Minister has allowed himself to be drawn into a position whereby drawing back now would lead to accusations that he is the grand old Duke of York. By going on, however, he demonstrates that he is incapable of leading a united party, which a Government should always have when preparing for war.

Our troops are poised to risk their lives and, of course, we must support them. There is no way that we should support efforts to pull back at this stage. I can think of nothing more disastrous than for us to ape the antics of the grand old Duke of York in marching the troops down the hill again. I pray that the campaign will be successful and that, although there are many horrors ahead of us, it will all be over very quickly.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development) 5:33, 18 March 2003

My Lords, would we have believed it if, a year ago, a clairvoyant had told us that in 2003 the Government would be about to commit British troops to a war led by a Republican President, without international support, with the EU bitterly divided, with barely a reference to peace in the Middle East and with plans for Iraq's reconstruction almost non-existent? But that is where we are. Indeed, Saddam's regime is savage and he has not yet complied with international demands, but I have no doubt that there is widespread concern in the Government about the risks of taking action now; risks for the region, for the wider community and for the rule of international law. We must wait for the books to be published in years to come to see what was really happening.

The Government have a good record in international development, and they risk throwing that away. Iraq's infrastructure is at breaking point. Two-thirds of its population is dependent on food aid. The UN has reckoned that 30 per cent of children under five are at risk of death from malnutrition in the conflict. There will shortly be massive attacks on roads, bridges, ports, and railways. This will cut supply lines for the population and destroy what is left of water supplies and sanitation. Disease is likely to be the consequence. There is a serious risk of large-scale ethnic fighting, and a possibility that chemical and biological weapons may be used against the Iraqi people. There may well be floods of refugees across the borders into other countries. Iran already has more than 3 million refugees, which is the largest number in the world. Other countries have closed their borders.

The lack of international consensus on the issue, and the problem of the US ploughing ahead regardless, mean that dealing with the humanitarian consequences of war are dramatically worsened. There is little money, little co-ordination or knowledge of what needs to be done and who is doing what, and almost no detailed planning for the future, as the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said.

Mr Blair promised that much would be invested in Afghanistan and that we would not stand idly by. Not only has that not been delivered there, but it has not even been promised in the case of Iraq. Surely, the UN should lead in giving aid and reconstruction, but there is no mandate for it to do so. If we keep condemning other countries in the UN, how are we to get such international agreement in the future?

Clare Short argued on 13th March that the UN aid agencies must take the lead, but sadly I fear that she has already thrown away her leverage in the Government. The US is trying to administer aid in-house through its own agencies. Do the Government believe, even at this late stage, that they will have any leverage over the US in this matter? Were they consulted before the US declared that only certain, named, US companies were to be involved in Iraq's reconstruction?

There is little international support for aid at the moment. Evidence to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from the International Rescue Committee on 11th March, only a week ago, stated:

"Despite repeated pleas for the pre-positioning of emergency relief supplies", there has been very little international assistance. UN appeals for more than 200 million dollars remain unfulfilled despite limited pledges by the US and a handful of other donors. As the Senate heard:

"The perception that the US government will act unilaterally against Iraq has greatly chilled humanitarian donations to the UN and to NGO relief agencies."

There is poor co-ordination. The Senate was told that,

"This is largely the result of US planning that has so imbedded humanitarian tasks and activities with the military war plan that vital information remains classified and meaningful dialogue is muffled and one-directional".

Last Thursday, Chris Patten, the European external affairs commissioner, was quoted as saying that it would be "very difficult" to convince states already facing budget problems that they should spend large sums of money repairing damage done by America in a conflict they opposed. He gave the china shop warning—"If you broke it, you own it". Yet the European Union is the largest donor in Afghanistan, so what hope is there for Iraq?

What of the long-term consequences, which my noble friend Lady Williams described as "winning the peace"? Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, is quoted in the Financial Times on 12th February as saying that he did not believe that Iraq's reconstruction should be a drain on US resources. He said:

"It's not as though [Iraq] is destitute".

Yet the immediate post-Saddam era must surely include security, political and judicial vacuums; it will be a lawless state. What is being done to identify those likely security vacuums and the populations at risk? What policing arrangements will be put in place? How will past abuses be dealt with? Above all, how will that be funded and who will do it?

The United States sends mixed messages. On the one hand, we hear that it wishes to be out as quickly as possible. And yet on the other we heard on 9th March that an American diplomat, Barbara Bodine, might well be put in as interim governor of Baghdad until a new government is set up. How do the Americans think that will go down—an American interim governor? Have they no awareness at all of how they are now viewed as an imperialist hyperpower?

Before the Government throw more mud at opponents on the Security Council and within the EU, even now our Government must do their best to ensure that rebuilding the Middle East is moved right back to the UN where it belongs. Multilateral support is surely needed for the reconstruction of Iraq and the even-handed pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Dangerous and ill considered though this war seems to many of us on these Benches, we now must look beyond the pyrotechnics of the next few days to building a better future for those who may be left at its end.

Photo of Lord Rees-Mogg Lord Rees-Mogg Crossbench 5:41, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I seem to be in a minority tonight. I wish to register my support for the Government's policy on Iraq as well as for the great effort the Prime Minister has made to persuade the United Nations to enforce its own resolutions. Resolutions without the will to enforce them are useless.

There are four straightforward questions to ask. Is military intervention lawful? Is it morally justified? Can it achieve its military objectives? Is it likely to produce a better Iraq in a more peaceful Middle East? Despite the uncertainties of war, I answer each of those questions in the affirmative.

Last night we discussed the issue in terms of international law. I found the argument from the three UN Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 convincing, but I would myself have put more weight on the argument for humanitarian intervention. National sovereignty does not give any government a right to commit genocide, even if there is no UN resolution. That was the view taken over Kosovo, and it was then supported by authorities such as the French Government and Mr Robin Cook, the then Foreign Secretary. Saddam Hussein has repeatedly committed genocide and will continue to murder, torture and expel Iraqi citizens if he remains in power.

I am more moved by the moral pleas of the churchmen, by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet they seem to me to give too little weight to the terrible facts of the Saddam Hussein regime. He is guilty of two aggressive wars in which millions have been killed. Further millions of Iraqis have had to flee their country. Saddam Hussein depends on torture and the fear of torture. He subsidises terrorists and suicide bombers abroad and sends assassins to kill opponents in exile. He has used poison gas against the Kurds and has massacred tens of thousands of Marsh Arabs. He is guilty of continued ethnic cleansing. All of those crimes against humanity are forbidden by the conventions on genocide and torture to which Britain is a signatory. Not only is it morally justifiable to free Iraq from this monstrous regime, I believe that it is a duty.

The war is highly likely to succeed because of the disparity of capacity and morale. I see no reason to expect the Iraqis to fight for this vile regime. They did not do so in 1991. Why should they do so now?

There is the outlook for the post-war settlement. The new constitution will be for the people of Iraq to decide. The Kurds seek a democratic provincial structure inside a unitary Iraq. That follows more or less the regional pattern before 1914 under the relatively benign Ottoman Empire. The Iraqi people have lived in fear ever since 1958 when the murderous Kassim seized power. With international help—which is necessary—I believe that they can now build a modern and democratic nation, and that they have the will to do so.

The Kurds, the Marsh Arabs, the other opposition groups, the Iranians and the Kuwaitis all express similar opinions. There will be no peace in the Middle East without two prior conditions. One is the settlement of the issue of a Palestinian state. The second is the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime. They fear him now and they fear even more his development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The neighbours of Iraq and the peoples of Iraq have every reason to hope for the liberation of Iraq.

I also support the policy of the United States as a necessary policy. I would be much more concerned if the United States was not prepared to intervene to protect world peace. If Britain were to withdraw support now, we should be joining the neo-pacifist league—the moral successors of the Peace Pledge Union of the 1930s. We should lose all influence with the United States, and it might well withdraw into a new isolationism. That would be a disaster for the world. It would be a victory for Saddam Hussein, for dictatorship, torture, genocide, ethnic cleansing and the nuclear and biological threats.

Photo of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Crossbench 5:48, 18 March 2003

My Lords, no one here today will feel other than anxious about the course of action upon which this nation is about to embark. As one who has spent the past 33 years—more than half my lifetime—enmeshed in a struggle for peace, both as soldier and politician, I know at first-hand the sound of gunfire and the reverberations of exploding bombs. Many others in your Lordships' House will too easily recall the tragedy of conflict and the daily burden of sending young men and women into danger.

Whatever one feels—and many, as I do, will consider that their position on tyranny and terrorism has been systematically misrepresented—one will recognise that our first responsibility is to our armed services. Can anyone who claims to support our forces leave them to face the enemy while casting doubt on what they are being asked to do? Only if this conflict were unlawful—and that matter has been examined by those with cleverer minds than I possess—would any further questioning of the United Kingdom's role be justified. Leadership, not equivocation, in the struggle to protect the weak and vulnerable is what has been ordained for our nation, and I am proud to associate myself with that position.

Much has been made of the opposition that exists in respect of the conflict that lies ahead. It has been expressed openly, emotionally and often provocatively on our streets, but in that respect I have to challenge something. Does anyone seriously believe that those of us who support the Government were ever likely to demonstrate our feelings in a similar manner? None of us was ever going to march for war. We wanted democratic and diplomatic means to succeed.

Perhaps it is a weakness in democracy that here in the United Kingdom we have no effective counter to a largely superficial news media. Television in particular, but not exclusively, seems unable or unwilling to make any attempt to discern between the emotional spectacular on our streets and the reasoned case being dealt with by those who actually have to exercise responsibility and authority.

Virtually everyone, irrespective of one's opinion about the rights or wrongs of our Government's decision, will admit that Saddam Hussein is an evil despot who attacks his neighbours and murders his own people—indeed, his own family. They accept that he has shown himself willing to manufacture chemical and biological weapons and has ambitions to develop a nuclear capability. History shows that he would have no compunction about using such weapons. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal carefully catalogued for us the 12 years of broken promises and downright lies which are the despicable record of Saddam.

Yet those who oppose our Government's acceptance of their international obligation under the terms of Security Council Resolutions 678 and 1441 see no shame in ignoring those facts. How can anyone seek solace and vindication from the stance of France? Why am I reminded of Petain and Vichy? In the 1940s, France's dishonour arose out of defeat. Who can disbelieve that today it derives from economic greed and opportunism?

Again we hear people speak of the United Nations as though it was a union of honourable men and women representing honourable and upright nations. It is not. It is an attempt to draw nations into an acceptance that there must be minimum standards of international behaviour. The United Nations comprises, among others, nations such as North Korea, Indonesia, Burma, Libya—it chairs the UN's Human Rights Committee, God help us—and Iraq itself. It may not be politically correct to say it but I believe that, despite mistakes that our nation has made, we in the United Kingdom still represent the upper echelons of acceptable national and international behaviour.

If we ever allowed the United Kingdom to tend towards some lowest common denominator, our influence would be less than nothing. The United Nations would cease to have relevance and those component elements who represent the corrupt, the despotic and undemocratic nations would feel no compunction about behaving even worse than they do at present. This nation must not fail.

When we last debated the Government's position on the Saddam regime in your Lordships' House, I asked that we should not forget the lessons of,

"the bleached bones in Cambodia, the Balkans and Sierra Leone".—[Official Report, 26/2/03; col.330.]

I am no warmonger. War is and should be the last resort. But I believe in moral obligations and that war may be the only way to avert greater wars, greater aggression and greater oppression. My concluding thoughts and my prayers must be for our soldiers and their anxious families. I wish our armed services Godspeed and a safe return.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour 5:56, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I want to congratulate the Government on the resolute approach that they have adopted in executing the policy on brinkmanship. It may not have worked in the way in which we wanted in the end; we perhaps underestimated the steely resolve of the Iraqi leadership. We also misjudged the scale of scepticism in the international press, and how Saddam Hussein was able to feed on that in devising his own strategy in response. However, the Government have made a notable effort in pursuing the course that they have taken.

My only criticism of the policy up to now has been that we have concentrated on the agenda set by the United Nations—the agenda on disarmament—in seeking to convince the British people of the merits of our case. In fact, a far more plausible interpretation of events would have been to concentrate on the humanitarian issues inside Iraq and the suffering of the Iraqi people.

I want to concentrate on the moral case that was raised by the Prime Minister some weeks ago. In my view, it was not fully understood or appreciated by the media. I wholeheartedly agree with the initiative that was taken. My support for the moral case goes back to a conversation between Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser under the Bush senior administration, and Bush himself during the course of an evening's fishing in August 1989. It was about an attempt by Woodrow Wilson at the end of the First World War to place new world order considerations on the international agenda.

At that time, Woodrow Wilson had had difficulty convincing Congress of the need to adopt that approach to international affairs, and it was later raised at the end of the Second World War by Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the time that the United Nations was being constructed following the collapse of the League of Nations, there were again deliberations in America on the question of the principle of the new world order. The problem is that the doctrine has been treated with scepticism, but that is not my position.

When the Soviet Union fell, the world and in particular the UN were given the first opportunity to sort out regional problems without triggering global conflict. A number of countries, particularly in the Arab world, unlocked from Cold War stalemate, felt that outstanding regional conflicts could be sorted out once and for all. That was all helped by the former Soviet Union's readiness to enter into global dialogue on a wide variety of interests, including Iraq. Noble Lords will recall the support given by the former Soviet Union at the time of the first Gulf War.

Bush—that is, Bush senior—recognised the potential opportunities for enhanced superpower co-operation. He told his colleagues in 1991 that his objective was to produce a,

"new world order that a hundred generations have searched for in vain".

I understand from my researches that Bush made a further 42 references to "new world order" in that same year. He went on to define "new world order" on 11th September 1991 as a,

"new era . . . free from the threat of terror . . . stronger in pursuit of justice . . . and more secure in the quest for peace . . . An era in which the nature of the world, east and west, north and south can prosper and live in harmony, a world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle, where the strong . . . respect the rights of the weak".

Some people saw that as rhetoric. I did not; I believe in the doctrine. Opponents saw it as the imposition of a sort of pax Americana, but that is a very sceptical response to the whole proposition. The question is: how do we pursue it? The position of Bush senior on the new world order influenced his decision on the Gulf War. He was genuinely appalled by Saddam Hussein's actions in Iraq and subsequently in Kuwait. That had two interesting consequences. First, while in the euphoria of victory, Bush was able to tell Congress in 1992:

"Now we can see a new world order coming into view where the UN freed from Cold War stalemate is poised to fulfil the historic vision of its fathers. The Gulf War put this new world order to its first test. We passed that test".

On the other hand, it acted as a brake—a tool for restraint. Among the reasons for the US not going on to Baghdad in 1991 were new world order coalition considerations. Bush wanted to avoid offending the UN and the 28 nations that had supported the coalition.

However, the doctrine did not cede the ability of the US to take unilateral action. Why? Because Bush senior wisely foresaw conditions in which national interests—I refer to France—would be used to block further coalition initiatives in pursuit of the doctrine. Furthermore, the USA would more often than not have to promote new world order initiatives itself if they were to be taken forward. As Brent Scowcroft put it at the time,

"the truth is the US has to be leader. We had to be leader. No one else could be a focal point for dealing with aggression".

That is the basis for my support for the moral case. That is why I personally have no difficulty over "serious consequences". The problem is that the UN has lost—to put it bluntly—its bottle in exactly the way in which Bush senior foresaw in 1992. If we believe that the doctrine must be applied, we have no alternative but unilaterally to take the initiatives necessary and expose the deficiencies that still exist in the United Nations, whose membership appears to put national interests first. I refer, for example, to France and oil, to Russia and debt and, sadly, to the USA and its policy of protecting the occupation of the West Bank by Israel, under pressure from extremist lobbies in the US. The UN must be made to face up to its responsibilities and it must be exposed. Perhaps this conflict will be a watershed because a democratic Iraq will hang over the credibility of the UN for generations.

I imagine a world in 50 years' time in which an international authority will intervene wherever and whenever it is necessary or possible to stamp out repression, militarism and dictatorship. That international authority will not rely on the right to authorise; it will have allocated to it its own forces for that purpose and not simply for humanitarian and peacekeeping duties.

The question is: how do we get from here to there? By pursuing that agenda now unilaterally and showing to the world that we are prepared to do today what the international community must do collectively tomorrow; that is, to stamp out the abuses that were, if I may say, so well put by a noble Lord in an earlier contribution.

Curiously, many of my views on these issues were formed during the course of the Falklands dispute in 1982. I have always been indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, curiously, for teaching me a lesson; that is, that sometimes one must go in and sort things out to give others freedom.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative 6:06, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I am not averse to this impending war on Saddam Hussein for the simple reason that he is an evil man who is capable of more evil. That is the verdict on him of a Muslim prince as well as my view. Yes, a war could have been avoided by continuing inspections, but at what cost, in view of his previous record, of which we were reminded by the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater?

I saw some of the damage that Saddam inflicted on Kuwait because I was there a few months after the end of the Gulf War. He had set fire to the Kuwaiti oilfields, and I saw the last of the oil fires being extinguished. Someone said to me as we surveyed the scene of that terrible inferno, "If hell had a national park, this would be it". There were not only oil-well fires belching acrid smoke but lakes and pools of oil on fire and stagnant, glassy, black coagulations, which were ugly and menacing. The whole area was also mined. That was Saddam's legacy of gratuitous, wilful destruction, which could benefit no one.

That was not all. I saw the homes in Kuwait City draped with yellow banners where Saddam's soldiers had seized men, women and children haphazardly from house and mosque before retreating. No one knew months later what had happened to those hundreds of unfortunate people. We still do not know for sure, but they have certainly not returned to their homes.

Saddam has done terrible things to his own peoples—the Kurds in the north and the Marsh Arabs in the south—with chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction. He is not a man who performs the odd evil deed; he is dedicated to evil, and that is why he must be got rid of. He threatens the civilised world and the world will not tolerate it. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are right in that.

Some weeks ago I asked the Government in this House how they proposed to end the war, which was then only a possibility. Arguably, we could have ended the last war differently. But after the devastation by bombing of retreating Iraqi forces on the road from Kuwait to Baghdad, that great American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is reported to have said, "Americans don't do massacres", and a halt was called to the carnage. He was right: civilised people should never behave like barbarians.

But we are now faced with the "axis of evil" that President Bush described in his State of the Nation speech. It extends from Iraq to Iran and North Korea, with Al'Qaeda groups and cells in the Islamic world and elsewhere. All that must give us pause. We may know how to deal with recalcitrant states, but surely people sympathetic to their cause or fundamentally anti-American, anti-Western and anti what our civilisation stands for require a different strategy based on a far deeper understanding.

It is not simply a matter of moneyed humanitarianism and reconstruction. That is a material answer to a non-material problem. We must reconcile profoundly different approaches to life and society in our global village. I was somewhat alarmed by the account given of current American feelings by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, and my noble friend Lord Jopling. The Americans must surely appreciate that they need friends as well as enemies, and they must remember Vietnam and its lessons.

I have this to say about Britain's conduct in international affairs to date. Some admire the Prime Minister's courage; others, even in his own Cabinet, have called it "reckless". Perhaps it was reckless to trust so blindly in President Bush's judgment, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, suggested, and not to ensure that President Chirac was "on side" from November onwards, let alone the Labour Party in the House of Commons. Perhaps that was reckless.

Yet I am very critical of the entire effort to obtain the second—or 18th—resolution at the Security Council. I saw some of the early drafts of it. None was stronger than Resolution 1441; none contained the critical phrase "by all necessary means" to authorise war. The flurry of activity over the past few days to gain support for that resolution was surely to win support in the Labour Party and the country rather than support for the principle of United Nations authorisation, which is what really mattered. That surely lay, as we have heard, in earlier resolutions. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Americans were somewhat miffed by this dilatory display of diplomacy.

Still, we are now very much on the verge of war and are faced with the choice of "my country, right or wrong". I have no hesitation in saying that my country is right in its war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. But I reserve my judgment about the consequential actions that may follow in the medium to longer term. There are troublous times ahead and some awful possible scenarios, which the former Prime Minister, John Major, has anticipated with some foding. We must deal with those situations cautiously and step by step. The line between justifiable pre-emptive strikes and aggression can be very thin indeed.

Finally, it is not enough to walk about with the Koran in your hand and say that it is a peaceful document. So is the New Testament, but both have much blood from the past on their covers. Those of us who cherish these faiths and their best traditions must work together as never before to secure future peace in our land and elsewhere. And, of course, we must all give the strongest possible support to our forces when they go into action and pray for their safety and success.

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat 6:15, 18 March 2003

My Lords, the concept of the House's dinner bell is centuries old, but it seems to be my privilege today to baptise the concept of the House's gin and tonic. If so, I drink its health and continue with my business.

During the Suez crisis, Canon Claude Jenkins once preached to a group of Oxford undergraduates and began his sermon with the words:

"Probably few of you remember the rejoicings in the streets on Mafeking night".

It is now only six years less from Suez to the present day than it was from Mafeking to Suez. I believe that I have followed with as much care as I might every international crisis from then until now, and I cannot recall a single one in which I have felt as complete confidence in my Front Bench, as I do now. That is why I have sat through, here and at party conferences, some 30 hours of debate without feeling the need to speak. I feel it now simply because I believe that my Front Bench is in a position where a little flank support might possibly be useful.

I want to illustrate the point made by my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, who was able to devote to it only a single sentence: this is a civil as well as a military battle. In a civil battle, you fight by different rules. The first principle is that you must isolate your enemy. The second is that you must look across a wider canvass than the one where you expect the immediate military battle to take place.

The case for this war, powerfully deployed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, today, is centred in Baghdad. But the case against the war is on a very much wider canvass. It is from Gaza, Amman, Jerusalem and Quetta and perhaps even from Blackburn. It is a canvass in which we consider the effects on global relations as a whole. That has been insufficiently considered in our remarks thus far, and it is where the failure to isolate the enemy and the determination to act unilaterally are doing an amount of damage which has not been taken on board.

In particular, I believe that there is a degree of folly in giving Saddam Hussein the present, as it were, of an alliance with Al'Qaeda when he had never claimed that for himself. In dealing with a tin-pot dictator, who, thank God, with the worst weapons of mass destruction that he may have, does not even have a power equal to his malevolence, the alliance of an elemental force of the mind cannot be defeated by any military weapons that we are likely to be able to assemble. That does not strike me as prudent.

Among many other reasons, the map of the Middle East is still basically the map of 1919. The settlement of 1919 was the last to be made on the old-fashioned dynastic principle—that is, that one could draw frontiers putting people either side of them as if moving pieces on a chess board without taking any account of the wishes of the inhabitants. We have seen in western Europe and in Yugoslavia how bloody the breakdown of such a map can be. As a result of this war, I fear that we may see in the Middle East again how bloody the breakdown of such a map can be. And I do not believe that the situation will be improved by being imposed by overwhelming military might.

The second issue we shall have to face is the problem of perception, especially among the Muslim community world-wide. In all cases where there is progress towards equality there is a certain moment of cessation of consent to inequality. When I was an undergraduate people used to say things about women that they would not dare say now. I remember one undergraduate contemporary of mine moving in the Oxford Union the motion that the emancipation of women had exposed their political incapacity. But it was his wife who made the Cabinet.

I remember also, as a boy, listening to a neighbour in Cornwall, a former British Army officer, posted to Cairo who used to remember riding through Cairo market clearing his way with a horsewhip. He was not a bad man; he was one of the sons of Adam who sin out of weakness and fashion, with an uneasy sense that retribution will follow. The time has come when that kind of thing is gaining retribution. Pendulums always swing too far. There is a widespread perception, certainly among British Muslims and I believe among Muslims elsewhere, that what is being done to Iraq would not be done to a Jewish, Christian or maybe even a Buddhist state in the same position. The Government are aware of that danger and are trying to meet it. One of the most admirable speeches I have heard by a Minister was made by the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, at Islamic Awareness Week. But deeds matter as well as words. To get the deeds perceived in that light is a feat which may be beyond our power. That may cause trouble all the way from Bali to Blackburn.

Also, if one is faced with an overwhelming military might, with which you cannot conflict by any normal military means, the temptation to terrorism may become irresistible. I have just finished reading a new book by Robert Gildea on France during the occupation. It is obvious in that book that, faced by an overwhelming German military might which they could not meet in the field, many Frenchmen found the temptation to turn to terrorism irresistible. The use of terrorism generated retaliatory terror, which generated retaliatory terrorism, which generated retaliatory terror, and so it went on.

I fear very much that many people viewing this unilateral exercise of power, for unilateral it is, will think that the only weapon of retaliation open to them is terrorism. It is no good us standing here in at least the comparative safety of Westminster and crying foul. I think it is a foul, but one does not stop a foul by crying foul unless one has a referee with the capacity to send the player off the field. As the field is the whole globe, and the perpetrator of the evil is usually undetectable, the attitude of the civilian population is vital.

In the phrase of Mao Tse-Tung, we do not want to create water for these fish to swim in. That is why, when the Government speak of morality, I judge morality by consequences. I fear that what the Government are doing may be more harm than good. Indeed, it may be remembered in Islam as the sack of Drogheda is in Ireland. That is an extreme comparison. I checked it this morning at a meeting of the British Academy with a colleague I thought most likely to be able to comment on it. To my great regret he said that the comparison was not excessive.

Photo of Lord Skidelsky Lord Skidelsky Crossbench 6:24, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in his profound remarks concerning the wider probable consequences of this war. He said that he judges morality by consequences; I judge it by arguments as well as consequences, and it is the arguments with which, briefly, I propose to deal.

I believe that this is the wrong war at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. We have been told that it has to be fought because Saddam Hussein is a grave threat to us all. But why is he now a more immediate threat, for all the cheating described earlier by the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, than he has been over the past 12 years, when he was not a threat at all?

We are told that he has weapons of mass destruction. But the weapons inspectors were sent in to determine how many of those weapons he still has and, even more importantly, how dangerous is any given stock of weapons. Mr El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Security Council on 7th March that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear arms programmes. Despite Mr Blix saying on 7th March that inspectors needed,

"not months, not days, but weeks" to find out how much of his chemical and biological capacity remains, they have not been allowed to finish their work. Instead, we go to war on assertions, some of which have been disproved and some of which are plainly ludicrous.

Considering how much misinformation we have been fed all round—I agree, by Saddam Hussein as well as others—it is simply not good enough to say, as the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, did, that our Government have access to intelligence which they are not at liberty to divulge, but if they did we would all accept the case for war without a murmur.

So, what is the hurry? I can think of only one reason: that the military timetable demands war now rather than later—so the Germans said in 1914. I thought it was the politicians, not generals, who were supposed to call the shots in a democracy.

We are told that we are going to war because Saddam Hussein has not complied fully and immediately with the terms of UN resolutions. Certainly, that is true. But we are never told that his compliance, though not complete, has been substantial, and that even more disarmament and disclosure has been forced out of him over the past few weeks. We are told that we are going to war for humanitarian reasons, but human rights abuse is not a ground under international law for intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. We must distinguish between human rights abuses and a humanitarian crisis or disaster, as in Kosovo.

We are told that the war did not require a second UN resolution authorising the use of force. That sounds to me—I think it does to most people—like a legal fiction, a piece of casuistry produced by lawyers to justify whatever it is that their political masters want to do. Many lawyers disagree with the view that recourse to war did not require a second UN resolution, and most of the world disagrees. This war is not simply a continuation of the Gulf War. It is taking place 12 years later. It is a new war, which should have been mandated by a new resolution.

A second resolution authorising force is not just a legal requirement but a requirement of political legitimacy. Opinion polls in Britain show only a small minority in favour of war without such a second resolution. But war without a resolution and without majority support is the course on which the Government have embarked. I have a strong moral objection to sending our troops into battle on an occasion and in circumstances which appeal only to a minority of our fellow citizens. There are no issues on which the rights of the majority are so paramount as in the case of war.

We are told that a new authorising resolution was prevented only by the perfidious M. Chirac. Indeed, the denigration of France and of the French has reached a quite disgraceful level, both in our and in the American tabloid press, and even in the so-called "serious" press.

I do not doubt our Prime Minister's good motives. He has displayed courage and resolve in pursuing the course he believes to be right. Why deny those qualities to foreigners who disagree with him? Why blame vested interests on any opposition to the war and say that our motives are wholly principled? The quarrels between Britain and France are quarrels of principle and analysis. I have found the French arguments more persuasive than those of our own government, as have the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese and most other countries in the world. The reason for that was most succinctly stated by the former French Minister for Europe. On 6th March he was quoted in the Financial Times as saying:

"The catastrophic predictions of Washington are disproportionate to the actual threat posed by Iraq—now contained by military forces subject to close surveillance by the international community".

The French can rightly be criticised on two counts: first, for acknowledging too grudgingly that the American/British military build-up in the Gulf has been crucial in persuading Saddam Hussein to co-operate with the inspectors; and, secondly, by not making it crystal clear that they would support the use of force if the inspectors reported failure. It was Chirac's,

"no ultimatum whatever the circumstances", which undermined the Prime Minister's attempts to find a compromise even at the last minute.

Barring Saddam's overthrow or voluntary retirement, war is inevitable—in days, not weeks. There is nothing that speeches or demonstrations can do now to prevent it. So what position should we adopt? I can only give the House my own; I cannot speak for anyone else. Now the war is upon us, I shall give my support to the Prime Minister and our Armed Forces for two main reasons: first, I attach overwhelming importance, in our own national interest, to retaining some influence, however small, on American policy towards Iraq and the Middle East, not just for its own sake, but in order to preserve that marvellous supranational construction, the Atlantic Alliance. I do not want America to "go it alone". That would be dangerous for the world.

Secondly, as our troops go into battle they deserve our support. I think that the war will be short; I hope that our arms will be crowned with victory. The inquest will be sooner rather than later.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 6:33, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Hunt. He has been a highly effective Member of the Government. He will be sorely missed. When someone of his character and calibre goes, we should all take heed.

Saddam Hussein and his regime must rate among the most sinister and systematically cruel in history. Weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical, biological—in the hands of such a regime, without doubt, pose a threat. It is therefore sad that the United Kingdom's past relationship with the regime and in the building-up of its arsenal has not been unblemished.

The argument is about how to deal effectively with the realities without generating greater dangers than the one we seek to tackle. I have great respect for the sincerity and the integrity of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues, indeed for the Government as a whole. It is simply because of that respect that it would be wrong to remain silent when the road they have taken is I believe ill-judged. Having said that, I nevertheless want to put on record my recognition of their efforts to bring the Palestinian issue back on to the central stage, whatever my misgivings about whether the United States Administration are singing from the same hymn sheet.

Were I in another place today, I should be voting for the amendment. I would be doing so all the more convinced by the resignation speech of my right honourable friend Robin Cook.

Let me first deal with the United Nations. It is not an end in itself, it is an indispensable response to the reality of global interdependence. That interdependence demands international rule of law. Like many others, throughout my life in Parliament and out of it I have endeavoured to work and stand for that cause—as indeed I have always believed did the party to which I have belonged for 52 years. The Security Council was a cornerstone of that global system. I have never imagined that a Labour government would be leading us into a major war, to which clearly the majority of the Security Council is opposed.

The legal arguments were well covered in the debate last night. For me, war is such a significant step that it is totally unconvincing to argue that it is authorised by implication in various past resolutions. The Government knew perfectly well last November that Resolution 1441 was adopted only because it did not specifically commit the United Nations to military action. Paragraph 14 spelled out clearly that it was,

"to remain seized of the matter".

Efforts now to make the French a scapegoat are, frankly, questionable. Strong arm tactics in the Security Council were not the monopoly of the French alone. The Government know, as do independent observers at the United Nations, that together with the United States they have simply failed to win the argument in the Security Council, let alone the battle for public opinion across the world.

There are complaints about the veto. I find them astonishing. When in the past some of us suggested that perhaps the time had arrived to re-evaluate a veto system seen as appropriate in 1945, the Government were unyielding in their determination to see the British veto preserved. The veto is still there, partly by their own commitment. It remains central to the global legal system as it has so far evolved. It cannot suddenly be selectively cast aside.

To spurn the Security Council is to jeopardise the entire concept of the international rule of law and to play directly into the hands of those who may wish in future to argue that might is right. It is no exaggeration to say that it could prove a treacherous step back towards global anarchy.

The tragedy is that there have always been alternatives. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford referred to some. One—and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, touched on this issue tonight, as he has in previous debates—was to enable the inspectors, more adequately staffed and resourced, to complete their task, backed by the steadily increasing deployment of military muscle; for the Security Council to consider that report; and if the report justified it, or if the inspectors were blocked, for it to issue the final ultimatum with all the global authority that that would bring to military action should any ultimatum be defied.

The French have made it clear—for example, the French foreign minister on BBC2 last Thursday—that in these circumstances the French would be there beside us. To the cynic who argues that that would have to be seen to be believed, I reply that if in conscience the United Kingdom, the United States and others were unable to accept any outcome that failed to endorse the need for military action, which they believed was still necessary, it would at least be in the context of a completed inspectors' report and a full examination in the Security Council. Lest it is argued that there is an immediate and overpowering threat which overrides all else, I must say that it is an immediacy that is yet to be convincingly demonstrated.

The truth is that we are up against our own self-imposed deadline. We now have virtually everything deployed. Temperatures of 40 degrees in the desert are rapidly approaching, not to mention sandstorms which can quickly cripple sophisticated equipment. Either we go or, for the time being, we climb down with all the credibility of the United States President at stake. Why are we in this self-made trap? We should have been convincingly and steadily ratcheting up the military pressure over a longer timescale. It is in that context that so many have concluded that the new fundamentalist and ideological right around President Bush was determined always go to war.

War is invariably a brutal business. The innocent always suffer. The words "collateral damage" are cynical. They can mean hunger and disease. Too often, they can mean the killing, maiming, orphaning and bereaving of the innocent. Children every bit as lovely and real as our own children and grandchildren die. Mothers every bit as real as our own mothers grieve. Decent men and women are cut down or blown to pieces. Cluster bombs and depleted uranium increase the hazards. People are terrorised as weapons against which they are powerless come relentlessly at their neighbourhoods. Children—but not only children—are traumatised, sometimes for life.

Whatever the honourable and determined efforts of military forces to minimise civilian casualties, all that I have described is always one inevitable consequence of war. That is why war must invariably be a last resort, when all else has been tried. The world is not yet convinced that, on Iraq, all else has been tried.

After war, there will be not just a colossal challenge of reconstruction but the need to build peace. For that successfully to be accomplished, the United Nations will be required more than ever. Peace-building will have to be seen as a task undertaken by the global community, not by those who, to be candid, will be regarded by many as the new imperialists. For our humanitarian non-governmental organisations, there is a crucial issue.

I here declare an interest as a former director of Oxfam and a member of the Oxfam Association. Its credibility depends on being seen to be free of involvement with the combatants. The world will be watching—as it has in the Balkans and Afghanistan—whether the gigantic resources required for the battle to win the peace are as readily available as are the resources for winning the war.

Today, we are all thinking of our courageous servicemen and women. I say that with some feeling. I have held a commission. I have been a defence Minister. We think of them and of their families as they undertake the task expected of them by their Government. Would that it were a task expected of them by the international community and by a totally convinced nation. Sadly, it is not.

We must also think deeply of the people of Iraq. May any conflict be brief, disciplined and well-targeted. May the protection of the innocent be evident in all that is done. May it be quickly over. But would that it were not at all.

One law receives too little attention in politics: the law of counter-productivity. In some ways, the world is in a classic pre-revolutionary situation. Millions are economically and socially destitute and considerable numbers of the able, articulate and frustrated across the world burn with resentment at their political exclusion.

President Bush is right. There is a link between Iraq and global terrorism. The link is that in acting without having demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt the need for that action, and in defiance of world opinion, the United States and Britain may well play right into the hands of the extremists who threaten the security of us all. We may well go down in history as among their best recruiters ever.

In the end, hearts and minds are crucial. The course that the US and UK governments have chosen will, I fear, prove counter-productive in that context.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 6:43, 18 March 2003

My Lords, in the summer of 1944, I took a trip from Normandy to Holland as an infantry soldier, so noble Lords will understand why I say that I have no liking for war. But sometimes war is the least bad solution. That is so in the situation in which we now find ourselves.

I am satisfied that this war will be legal. I say that having listened last night to an excellent, powerful and logical speech by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden. I congratulate him on that speech. He happened to take a very similar line to that of the present Attorney-General.

Robin Cook said in his resignation speech yesterday that the Government could not pretend that a second resolution was of no importance, after trying so hard to achieve one. I think that he misunderstood the point. He was talking about a second legal resolution; but I do not think that the Government sought a second resolution for legal reasons; they sought a second resolution to persuade the doubters that the Government were on the right line. I think that that is worth putting on record.

The Government were right not to accede to pleas for further delay. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said that the inspectors should have been allowed to continue their task. If they had, they could have gone on for years without finding anything by way of evidence, even though the materials were there. We have only to consider the record to see that no discovery of biological weapons was made until 1995—I think—after four years of searches, and then only because Saddam Hussein's son-in-law revealed that there were biological weapons to be found. So I am not persuaded of that argument.

I have one comment to make about the record of the inspectors. I was puzzled by Hans Blix's statement on 7th March, when he reported to the Security Council but left out from his report the information about the pilotless aircraft capable of spraying biological and chemical weapons and the tanks that could be similarly used.

I have here a letter from my former colleague in another place, Sir Kenneth Warren, who was, during his career, an aeronautical engineer. He states:

"The Iraqi conversions and tests of unmanned aircraft as weapons have been a 'smoking gun' known widely in aeronautical engineering circles for at least a year".

For heaven's sake, how is it that the inspectors did not report those facts in their report to the Security Council? They appear only in the 173-page document, to which little attention was paid. If they had highlighted those facts, they might have been regarded as producing something like a smoking gun.

I agree with noble Lords who said that we should be considering the phase that we shall encounter after the war is over. The world will look entirely different in many ways. We shall face questions of vast importance about which many people have not yet begun to think.

The first, which has been discussed is: what is the future of the United Nations? Will the United States disengage from the United Nations because of what appears to be its lack of success?

I am an optimist about the United Nations. It has survived crises in the past. We have only to think of Suez, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. We should register the fact that the United Nations has been used all the way through by all contending parties. The solution was not what we wanted but, nevertheless, the United Nations was not abandoned, except to the extent that we have now decided that the time has come when we are justified in going to war for the legal reasons to which I have already referred. However, the United Nations will have a most important role in the reconstruction phase, after the war is over. It is difficult to overstate its importance at that time.

The United Nations has been criticised on the grounds that the decisions on the resolutions in the Security Council were largely in the hands of tiny states of little experience. The United Nations now has about 190 members; it started at the end of the war with 51. It is inevitable that many states that serve on the security council will be ill-informed and, as it were, beginners in that world. But we must accept that. If we were members of another place, many of our constituents whom we came across when canvassing for election were not well-informed, but they were not for that reason disbarred from having a vote. A similar principle applies in the case of members of the United Nations.

The second important point is this: will the United States remain involved with the world or will it retire into its shell? President Bush's comments on that question are encouraging and give the impression that he at least understands the need of the United States to remain engaged. That is largely the result of 9/11, before when he spoke in isolationist terms. As I read him, that is no longer the case.

The United States will need allies but will not necessarily stick to the same ones that it has relied on until now. It is the only world power—the only country in the world able to be a world peacekeeper. We need only look at the problem of North Korea, which is becoming increasingly dangerous and difficult, to imagine what the problem would be like if the United States would not engage in helping to resolve it. To help to keep the United States engaged, it will need allies. I congratulate the Prime Minister on the results that he has achieved in persuading the United States to act through the United Nations and in other ways over the past months.

The next question is the future of NATO and the European Union. There are difficult problems there, which I do not have time to go into. But the viability of a common European foreign policy is very much in doubt as a result of recent events in the security council.

My last two points relate to the Middle East. The reconstruction of Iraq, and the effort put into that by the United States and Western countries, is vital. It will be taken by the Arab world and the whole Middle East as an indication of Western intentions towards the area. The United States has little conception of the hostility, indeed hatred, of many in that part of the world towards it. It is likely that a short-term result of the war will be an increase in terrorist activity.

But the most important point is the Israel/Palestine problem. It is the main cause of Arab hostility towards the West. The United States is perceived right across the Arab world as the main protector of Israel. It is a great pity that the United States delayed so much in producing the road map, leaving it until very recently, when it appeared to be a sop thrown to its critics. I hope that the United States and its colleagues will press forward vigorously and urgently with the road map and the production of a plan for Israel and Palestine that is fair to both sides.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 6:53, 18 March 2003

My Lords, there is much public confusion in reconciling the legal, moral and political aspects of the Iraq crisis. En passant, I share the view of my noble friend Lady Williams of the scorn being heaped on the French. Apart from Germany, Russia and China, France represents a large swathe of world opinion, probably the majority of opinion in this country. To sweep that aside by saying that the French are insincere is a jibe that they could equally level at us and, in particular, the Americans, as the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, so pithily demonstrated.

Making war, particularly where the enemy is an individual, a grotesque tyrant whose people are in thrall to him, and where the disparity in arms is as overwhelming as it is here, requires clear legal and moral justification. They are the preconditions of the ultimate decision, which is political. Where the fate of many thousands of innocent civilians is concerned, as here, the certainty of those legal judgments must be akin to a verdict in a capital punishment case—beyond reasonable doubt.

As regards the legality of an invasion of Iraq, the only thing that is clear is that the lawyers are unclear. We lawyers have a saying:

"He who comes to equity must come with clean hands".

It means that he who seeks a remedy must have a clear conscience—a fair maxim for the present impasse. We do not. We have too often treated Iraq and the region as pawns on our geo-political chessboard. Whether we think of the arms that the United States, France and ourselves gave to Saddam when he attacked Iran in 1980, including weapons of mass destruction, or whether we think now of the gross disparity of approach of the United States towards Israel on the one hand and Iraq on the other, the so-called road map notwithstanding, we are not seen before the bar of world opinion to be entirely with clean hands.

No doubt, it is partly because of that that our own Government have rightly and assiduously sought a second resolution, realising correctly that the aftermath of an Anglo-American invasion without the same is very likely to be counterproductive in terms of the longer war—the war of hearts and minds—and the effects on terrorism, about which many noble Lords have commented.

Even if I were convinced of the legality of the proposed joint invasion, which I am not; and if I were convinced of the immediate and pressing humanitarian need for instant invasion, which I am not; or if I were convinced that the US/UK invasion would render the world more secure from terrorism, which, certainly, I am not, I would still favour seeking a second Security Council resolution as a pre-condition of invasion. At least, I would favour that course until it was undeniable that its achievement was being blocked by bad faith. But I do not think that it would get that far. As my noble friend Lady Williams clarified, France and the other countries would come into line if the inspectors decided that the process had stalled or if Saddam commenced any further internal bloodshed or external assault.

At a time of a more serious imbalance of power in the world than for a long time, with the United States striding the world like a military Colossus, it is commensurately vital to sustain and build the United Nations.

So, beyond the pre-conditions of legality and morality, the issue is whether it is right and wise to disarm Saddam Hussein now, other than through a United Nations force. On that, I have no doubt whatever. There would be inconvenience and some loss of face in having to withdraw troops. But the more important loss of face in the long term, let alone the loss of potential effectiveness of the United Nations, would derive from the Anglo-American decision to invade on their own now.

I only hope that this invasion, if it comes, is not the historic blunder that I fear it could be; that it will be swift and sparing of the lives of civilians and those of our gallant forces; that the United Nations is given and takes responsibility for reconstruction within Iraq; that relations within NATO and the European Union are soon restored; and that the United States will hereafter devote comparable energy and determination towards resolution of the Israel/Palestine tragedy, which continues to infect the whole region.

Photo of The Bishop of Chelmsford The Bishop of Chelmsford Bishop 6:58, 18 March 2003

My Lords, yesterday I visited the Colchester garrison, together with my Roman Catholic counterpart, Bishop Thomas McMahon—our dioceses, covering Essex and a major part of east London, are co-terminus. The visit arranged with the garrison commander, Colonel Tony Barton, attracted much major interest. Why, we were asked, would two bishops known to be opposed to military action in Iraq make this visit to a garrison that houses the largest brigade in Britain, the 16 Air Assault Brigade, with 2,500 troops already in the Gulf? Our reply was simple: "Yes, we have consistently opposed military action as the way of resolving this crisis. We are not persuaded that the case for action has been made. We particularly regret the marginalisation of the United Nations. We are mindful, too, that development agencies have repeatedly pointed out that the impact of even a limited war would only exacerbate the already seriously depleted Iraqi infrastructure. They have also warned of the possibility of a major refugee crisis. But, we want the garrison to know that, in the event of war, we will give our unequivocal support to the men and women of our armed services who are in the Gulf and to their families back in this country".

We were impressed by the leadership and general morale in the garrison and by the crucial welfare support that is in place. The e-mail has helped to revolutionise communication for the serving soldiers and their families, although it will be seriously restricted when the offensive begins. We also met senior chaplains from Aldershot and Colchester and affirmed our support for the vital role that our service chaplains play in the Gulf. Sixty chaplains are already deployed among the services. Only today, we saw photographs in some of our newspapers of chaplains conducting services and times of reflection and quietness with those on the front line.

With other Church leaders, we also urge that all our churches be left open for part or all of each day for prayer and reflection and that spiritual and practical care be given to those who seek it in the coming days. Furthermore, in our multi-cultural, multi-faith society, we strongly urge sensitive solidarity with our Muslim and Jewish neighbours, for whom the crisis is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety.

In our shared humanity and our common duty, we all long for a world based on peace with justice, freedom and reconciliation. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, however, I fear that, unless we win the peace—not just the war—the sacrifice of many could be in vain.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour 7:02, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I have not spoken in this debate before for fear of being misinterpreted by the Islamophobic press as being anti-British or opposed to our Armed Forces. Now that the United States has chosen to use force over international law, I feel that I must say a few words about our concerns regarding an invasion of Iraq.

The invasion will set a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive attacks outside the United Nations route. It could open up many dangerous avenues. Many countries are waiting for such an opportunity: India can attack Pakistan over Kashmir; Israel can attack Lebanon and Syria; North Korea can attack South Korea; and there are many more. The United Nations weapons inspectors had reported progress and asked for more time. That is why more inspectors were trained, but, once again, they have been asked to leave Iraq by the United States, as in 1998. The war council in the Azores has damaged the authority of the United Nations and undermined it. How can only two permanent members of the Security Council hold a summit and decide to invade another country, without a meeting of the Security Council or its sanction?

Like me, many people have serious doubts about the true intentions behind the war. This morning, someone asked me, "Why, when the Americans can take out a Yemeni man in the desert and the Israelis can murder four senior Hamas leaders travelling in their car in Gaza, is there no way to take Saddam Hussein out, apart from invasion?". Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden escaped bombing and detection in Tora Bora, although it was promised that they would be hunted down, smoked out and brought to justice. We know that over 10,000 people were killed in Afghanistan, including 3,500 Taliban prisoners-of-war, shot in containers in front of US soldiers.

At that time, we were told that there were problems with drugs from Afghanistan that affected our lives and communities. Under the Northern Alliance, drug production has gone up nineteenfold. We were told that women would be liberated. Girls can now attend schools with basic facilities, but the fate of Muslim women in Afghanistan remains the same. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, referred to the position in Afghanistan. My information is that Mr Karzai is the lord of Kabul, while our friends the warlords of the Northern Alliance fight for control of the rest of the territory.

There were also the notorious anthrax attacks and threats at that time in the United States, London and Karachi. We never found out who was behind those attacks. What happened to those who were caught? I understand that a man was arrested in connection with the anthrax attacks during the war in Afghanistan, but we never got to know whether he was a member of Al'Qaeda or the Taliban or what happened to him.

I do not believe that this is a clash of civilisations or an attack on Islam, but I do believe that there are double standards in the application of UN resolutions. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to the perceptions of the Muslim communities in this country and abroad. He was right: people question whether all UN resolutions are applied in the same way. There are UN resolutions on Kashmir and on Israel/Palestine that have never been implemented. In fact, the Americans have vetoed more resolutions—just on Israel—than France has done in the past 50 years. It seems that United Nations resolutions on East Timor are more important than those on Kashmir. United Nations resolutions on the massacre at Jenin have never been implemented and have been forgotten.

There is real fear about the war among the Muslim communities in this country. They fear attack by racists and by the media. Can my noble friend the Minister say what advice has been given to the police and the local authorities to protect minority communities during these difficult times? What advice has been given to the media regarding their attacks on Muslim communities? A report in the Observer on Sunday said, basically, that Muslims were being recruited when they were in Mecca. I cannot conceive of anything more offensive than showing a photograph of the holy Kaaba and suggesting that the Iraqi intelligence service was recruiting spies in Mecca to attack British interests. Such Islamophobic attacks increase day by day.

I understand that, according to UN documents about the planning of humanitarian relief, we can expect 500,000 civilian casualties. Two million people could be made homeless, and there will be 10 million people without enough food. Eighteen million people will be without access to clean water. I understand that more than one million children under the age of five are at risk of death from malnutrition.

Will the Minister say what consideration has been given to this report and the safety of children in Iraq? What securities and long-term arrangements will be made to safeguard the interests of Kurdish people? How will the future wealth from oil be distributed? What role will the minorities play in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's regime?

Finally, I believe that this decision is outside the United Nations. It has been made by a few policymakers in Washington and not by the British people. While I admire the efforts of the Prime Minister in advising the American Administration to take the UN route last year, I am not convinced that the case for war has been made, even though we have been dragged into it. Our prayers and thoughts go out to our soldiers and we pray for their safe return home.

Photo of Baroness Sharples Baroness Sharples Conservative 7:10, 18 March 2003

My Lords, coming late in the list of speakers inevitably puts one at risk of repeating remarks made by other noble Lords. In that context, I found the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, the noble Lords, Lord Wright and Lord Weatherill, and my noble and learned friend Lord Howe especially convincing.

A number of us in your Lordships' House were in the services throughout the last war, which went on for five years. The present situation brings memories flooding back. In 1939, I do not believe that we were universally aware of the dangers facing the world because of the aspirations of one man, Hitler, who was an appalling tyrant. Now, things are vastly different. With instant television and the media generally, Saddam Hussein has been shown to be evil and dangerous.

Why should such emphasis be placed on Resolution 1441 when both Resolutions 678 and 687 were passed to allow the use of force to restore security and international peace? I entirely agree with the opinion of Attorney-General.

I fear that war is not an option in the present situation. But with hindsight—I agree with my noble friend Lord Jopling—was not too little effort made on the diplomatic front months ago? Our servicemen and service women deserve no less than a united country behind them. My main concern, expressed by other noble Lords, is about what will happen following any conflict. Despite the pledges made by President Bush to help rebuild Iraq, will that really happen? Might it not be left to other nations to pick up the pieces, within or outside the United Nations, and, it is to be hoped, establish a democracy. There has never been a democracy in Iraq. Which countries in the United Nations are democracies as we understand it?

We face great trials ahead, but I feel that we have no choice but to do everything to remove Saddam Hussein. Finally, I, too, believe that we must do everything we can to give our forces our support and our prayers.

Photo of Lord Mackie of Benshie Lord Mackie of Benshie Liberal Democrat 7:14, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I support the Government and the Prime Minister in his work and his efforts during the past months. There is no doubt in the mind of anyone that Saddam Hussein is a thoroughly evil character. Everyone agrees on that. What I find enormously disturbing is that he is a man of no judgment. He thought that he could get away with an attack on Iran and seize some of its wealth. He failed: it cost the lives of a million people and the attack went on for years.

How anyone could think that Saddam Hussein, as a man of no judgment, would possibly get away with the seizure of Kuwait is impossible to say. He is in control of Iraq. It is a fact that terrorists need a base. The base for Al'Qaeda was the Taliban's Afghanistan. From there it planned, with meticulous care, a brilliant operation in America. It is quite appalling that it got away with it, but the danger still exists.

One of the main reasons for the removal of the regime in Iraq, and the liberation of the people, is the fact that it would probably and certainly be an excellent base for terrorists in the future. Of that there is no doubt. We know that Saddam Hussein gives money to the families of the poor, deluded suicide bombers. He gives every support of that kind. The efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein have gone on for years and years, and resolution after resolution, but there comes a time—and that is now—when he has to be threatened by force.

How long can that force stay there? How long can we persuade our troops to wait? How long can we persuade the Treasury to supply the money? I think that the Prime Minister and President Bush are right that the time has come when this danger to the world must be removed.

I have listened with great care to my fellow Liberal Democrats. They have put forward very compelling arguments and given graphic examples of what may result from this war. What they say is true—the results of the war may be bad. However, one of the great achievements of the Prime Minister has been to persuade President Bush to promise—from his own lips—to publish the map, or proposals, for an independent Palestine and to give it his support. I agree with many speakers that that act could restore the respect of the Arab and Islamic worlds for the United States.

We all hope that the coming war will be short. Of course, I applaud our troops and wish for a swift victory. But our support for a swift victory is not enough. If we are supporting the war in Iraq to free Iraq and to remove the danger, we must support our troops if it turns out not to be so easy. That will be one of the main trials which we shall have to bear if we mean what we say in supporting our troops abroad.

Photo of Lord Chalfont Lord Chalfont Crossbench 7:19, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I start, as did my noble friend Lord Rees-Mogg, with an unequivocal statement of support for the approach of the Government to this crisis. There is not much else I can say about the policy of the Government on Iraq which has not already been said. I offer a few brief comments.

Despite all that has been said about the United Nations, I wish first to advance the proposition that this is not a war about United Nations resolutions. Whether such-and-such a resolution provides the justification for war or whether we need yet another resolution are questions that are to a great extent irrelevant. The Security Council has already demonstrated satisfactorily that in matters affecting serious international security it is impotent and totally unable to enforce its will, even when it knows what its will really is.

The real questions we must ask are: is this war right and is it politically necessary? In my view the answer to both those questions is yes. If left to himself, Saddam Hussein no doubt could continue to stockpile chemical and probably biological weapons, as he has done in the past. Furthermore, we must contemplate the very real possibility that in future some of those weapons might fall into the hands of international terrorists and create appalling dangers of a kind which today, even after the events of September 2001, we can hardly imagine. The possibility of such weapons falling into the hands of Al'Qaeda or any other group of international terrorists does not bear thinking about.

So even if Saddam does not present an immediate danger to our national security, he certainly has the power to do so in the future. Therefore, to talk of a policy of containment in this case is completely to miss the point. If Saddam is left to his own devices behind a shield of containment, whatever that may mean, he can still pose potentially appalling dangers. It is therefore right and necessary, in order to ensure our national security in the future, that we should take firm action now to ensure that this threat is never allowed to become a real and present danger. If that is called pre-emptive action, then so be it. There is nothing wrong with pre-emptive action in defence of one's own security and values.

The next thing I think we should put into perspective is the question of public opinion. In a situation like this, it is inevitable that there will be demonstrations and protests. No one wants war and it is not in any way surprising that the great weight of public opinion may be against it. But it is the function of political leadership to lead, not simply to follow the dictates of public opinion. So far the Prime Minister has shown courageous leadership in this regard, and he deserves great credit. As with the question of the United Nations resolution, it is what is right that matters. Our political leaders should continue to pursue what they believe to be right, even if for the moment they do not carry the weight of public opinion with them.

Perhaps I may express the hope that, now that the decision to go to war has been taken, everyone will take great care over what they say about the morality, legitimacy and wisdom of that decision, whatever strong views they may hold. A certain amount of the usual words have been spoken about how firmly we are behind our Armed Forces, and of course it is customary to make those remarks in a debate of this kind. But sometimes I wonder how much deep thinking and sincerity lies behind those sentiments. Thousands of men and women are now waiting in the desert to risk their lives over the next days, weeks and months. I know what it is like to be on the edge of going into battle and I have some idea of what might be going through the minds of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and their leaders as they wait to go into action.

In the course of the debate I heard a noble Lord remark—most disgracefully, I thought—something about what would happen after the "next few days of pyrotechnics". This is not going to be a firework display; it is a matter of life and death. Our soldiers are waiting, as they have waited before and undoubtedly as they will wait again, to lay down their lives if that is necessary.

The first thing to say is that many of those soldiers will be afraid. One of the great emotions felt when going into action is fear. Anyone who says that he is not afraid when going into action is lying. But even in the fear, isolation and loneliness of battle, what persuades young men and women to fight and risk their lives is their belief that their cause is right. If they hear people at home saying that the war is not legitimate or moral, or that it is not necessary and is being undertaken for no good reason, or that our allies are a bunch of warmongers, just imagine what goes on in the minds of those young people as they see on television that kind of stuff night after night.

I suppose that one must accept, in a parliamentary democracy such as ours, that there should be open debate about the rightness or wisdom of a cause before decisions are taken—and I do not necessarily suppose that when those decisions have been taken, people will change their minds. But I would hope, at the least, before people express their doubts or demonstrate about the rightness of those decisions, that they would try to put themselves into the minds of those now waiting in the desert, knowing that over the next few days they will be asked to take on what has been called the "unlimited liability" of the soldier; that is, the readiness of a soldier, as a part of his profession, to lay down his life in pursuit of the security of his nation or its values. Incidentally, in pursuing the profession that leads soldiers to that unlimited liability, we should never forget that it is they who preserve the right of people, safely back at home, to make speeches and demonstrate in the streets.

Photo of Lord Hardy of Wath Lord Hardy of Wath Labour 7:27, 18 March 2003

My Lords, the Government have my complete and wholehearted support. I have heard it said that there is no morality in what the Government are doing. If anyone wants to argue about the morality of this situation, they should look at Saddam Hussein's record and the dangers that he presents to mankind. They will see that there is no balance in the argument.

The Government have tried to avoid a war. If it had been possible to bring together a coalition of the United Nations, not merely the small proportion allied to us, then perhaps Saddam Hussein might then have withdrawn. But he did not do so and, given that situation, I do not believe that there is any alternative. We cannot allow such a man to hold weapons of mass destruction. No doubt he does have them. As noble Lords have already pointed out, those weapons of mass destruction which the inspectors have looked at were presented to them by Saddam Hussein. He has not given them anything he did not want them to have, and they would not have been able to find anything except by the most enormous fluke—even if they had stayed in Iraq for many months while our soldiers stewed in the intolerable temperatures of the Gulf.

The Prime Minister has also had to cope with the voices of numbers of people, some of whom are represented in this House, who speak of diplomatic means alone without any threat of accompanying sanctions. Saddam Hussein must have found that quite delightful. He was not going to listen to diplomats unless behind the diplomacy stood the threat of meaningful sanctions. He probably thought that the will in the West was not there and that he would get away with it in the end, because he could rely on his friend Mr Chirac. I can only hope that Mr Chirac's position in this matter is such that it ensures that politicians in Europe do not afford him the leadership role in Europe which he so avidly wants. Indeed, if it could be demonstrated to him that he has made as big a mistake as Napoleon made by marching to Moscow in 1812, I would be delighted; it would be more than deserved.

The people who have been saying that we should rely on diplomacy are the same people who have been complaining about the pressure of sanctions. When certain large elements of the sanctions were lifted so that Saddam Hussein could feed his people, hardly a squeak was heard from them about the fact that he used that money to buy things like 360 missile engines—while his people starved. The amount of money Iraq has received as a result of the relief of sanctions could have fed all the children who are starving. That is another reason for war. If we go in, we will enable the people of Iraq to be free and to be fed.

I can understand the deep reservations of my noble friend Lord Ahmed about the position of Muslims. But, directly or indirectly, Saddam Hussein has killed more Muslim people than anyone else in history. Millions died in the Iran/Iraq war; millions have been driven out of his country; millions—or at least hundreds of thousands—have been murdered and tortured to death in modern Iraq. I am amazed that the Muslim community in Britain has not spoken out more clearly about this evil man and his regime. It should do so. Muslims are serving in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. The Muslim community should be behind them.

Very high quality people hold the Muslim faith. It is a faith that Saddam Hussein pretends to hold but he treats it with the same contempt as that with which he treats the United Nations, the world and his own people. It is a contempt that the world can no longer tolerate.

In the 1991 war there were, fortunately, very few casualties. But some very dangerous jobs were carried out. The special forces were deployed miles and miles inside Iraq. RAF Tornados flew missions to deny Iraq the use of runways. When the ground forces were vulnerable on day one, if the Iraqi Air Force had flown with resolution it could have effected enormous damage. Those Tornado flights were dangerous and the aircrew risked their lives.

I wonder what they thought when they realised that a few months later, while the international forums were receiving reports about the triumph in the Gulf and western European and other politicians were congratulating themselves on that conflict, Saddam Hussein was killing Shi'ites in the south and Kurds in the north and anyone that he thought was politically unreliable. He is not the kind of man we should tolerate in the world of this century.

Our Armed Forces should have the overwhelming support of every thinking person—those who do not want to think should read the papers that tell them how to do so—and they are entitled to expect the wholehearted backing of our people.

Over the past two or three months I have read a large number of papers and watched a large number of programmes on television. The quality of reporting and balance in many of those programmes and in many of the articles leaves an enormous amount to be desired. As a result, a person who lives near me and who has two sons in the Gulf is distressed because she thinks that her sons are starving; she is distressed because she thinks that their weapons are not good enough.

I read only this week-end that there are two Nimrods on an aircraft carrier. When people in the press talk about the Challenger tank being no good, they are talking about the previous Challenger tank; when they talk about the rifle being inadequate, they are talking about, if I may say so without being too partisan, the Tory rifle rather than the Labour rifle; we have spent a lot of money making sure that it is a reasonable weapon.

We are entitled to expect a better quality of information from the media. I hope that someone will take note of my suggestion that when this conflict is over we should have not only the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme to educate parliamentarians—because, certainly in the other place, fewer and fewer people have military experience—but, because a lack of military experience is even more acute in Fleet Street and the television studios, we should require journalists to spend some time in the Armed Forces before they are allowed to regurgitate nonsense to the British people.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative 7:34, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I was going to end my speech with a quote from Gladstone. I shall now begin with it because it reflects almost exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, has said.

Your Lordships will remember the Bulgarian atrocities. In his famous pamphlet Lord Gladstone said:

"Let the Turks now carry away their abuses, in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimhashis and Yuzbashis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province that they have desolated and profaned".

That is a view that we should all take of what has happened under Saddam Hussein in Iraq. That is the great Liberal Party speaking, not the "Oh, let's let the French muck it up" Liberal Party we have heard from today.

Last year I joined the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, partly because I wanted to see how much the Army had changed since I adorned D Squadron of the Life Guards some 45 years ago. D Squadron of the Life Guards is now the Air Portable Brigade's reconnaissance squadron. I am delighted to be able to say that the quality of our Armed Forces now is far, far better than when I was a young National Service officer. The only corollary I have is that they are not as smart, but that is another story.

The noble Lord, Lord Hardy, has pointed out the evil of this man. It is reasonable to say that there are four grounds on which we strongly object to him. He has weapons of mass destruction; he has disobeyed UN resolutions; he has indulged in international terror, but not necessarily close to Al'Qaeda; and he has indulged in the most foul internal oppression.

I had a tinge of amusement when I suddenly thought of Saddam Hussein in Downing Street. If Robin Cook had argued with him, he would have gone next door, there would have been a bang—and that would have been the end of Robin Cook; he would have been shot personally by the Prime Minister. I suspect that the dear and blessed Clare Short would have been hung up by her hair outside, to the amusement of the gloating mob. That is the kind of man he is.

The internal terrorism he has carried out has been well documented by Ann Clwyd. In The Times today, there is a description of the use to which he puts a plastic shredding machine. People are put in feet first so that they die very slowly, with their feet being made into mincemeat. This is overseen by his gentle little son.

If he was guilty of only one of those four crimes we would not necessarily have to do something about him. But he is so awful, wrong and evil that, thank God, the better D Squadron than the one in which I served is out there, doing something to bring about his end and a change to his regime.

It is hard to quantify the damage that France has done, although it is not surprising when its Foreign Minister writes a book saying that it is a great pity that that earlier version of Adolf Hitler but with better taste, Napoleon Bonaparte, should have won the Battle of Waterloo. Throughout French history there has been a combination of intense intelligence in government and a complete lack of common sense.

Why was war declared in the Franco-Prussian war? Because the King of Prussia would not say, "Never again will there be a Hohenzollern candidature for the throne of Spain". The Germans said, "The matter is settled". France then said "à Berlin" and attacked Prussia. At the time, the Crown Prince of Prussia said, "In the past 200 years France has invaded Germany 30 times".

Since the war, France has not done what we did and honourably scuttle away from Empire but has fought two nasty wars—one in Indo-China, with all the problems that that left behind, and one in Algeria, a country in which it is still interfering. It has interfered in Rwanda. Some say that had it not been playing the games it was playing in central Africa, those massacres might not have happened. France has the cheek to ask Mugabe to Paris, and then they say we must be moral, France has this thing and we must therefore go through the United Nations. Mugabe has been asked to the Quai d'Orsay and his smell will mingle with the stench of Laval.

This action, in itself, may not matter. Where it does matter, and matters above all, is in the effect it will have on the European Union. If France thinks there is the faintest possibility of a common defence and foreign policy after her recent behaviour, I sincerely hope she has another thought coming. It is not only us, the Spaniards and the Italians; it is also the Poles, who have special forces and will go in with the Americans, the Czechs, the Slovaks and the people from eastern Europe. Those people support the Americans because they have a much more recent experience of tyranny than anyone else.

France has damaged Europe and has made it certain that we go to war. Had she not, she would not have given Saddam Hussein the chance to wriggle out. My Lords, I love France—I love going to France and I love the French people. To say this makes me sick at heart, but I have read my history and know a little, I think, about what I am saying. The damage that French diplomacy has done under a self-centred film star Napoleon-loving Foreign Minister is catastrophic. I hope that they read my speech—they will not, of course, but then, nobody does. Anyway, that is what I think.

Photo of Lord Chan Lord Chan Crossbench 7:42, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who has resigned in response to the Government's policy on Iraq.

While thanking Her Majesty's Government for this opportunity to debate the impending military move into Iraq, I must declare that I am very disappointed by the manner in which we have been pressed into this situation by President Bush and President Chirac. It is particularly sad that our European neighbour has vetoed another appeal to the security council.

The diplomatic process has now been abandoned in favour of military action to depose an intransigent and evil tyrant who has mocked all previous attempts by the UN to remove his weapons of mass destruction in order to maintain peace in the Middle East. The time has come for us to support our Prime Minister and Government, and this I do, in the hope that the operations will be swift and successful. But this precedent of a small number of countries implementing by force the will of the UN without support from other members of the security council could lead to many more military interventions in other trouble spots of our divided world that have been identified by other noble Lords. The burden on our Armed Forces would no doubt grow if this scenario were to develop in the future.

Now that military intervention with ground troops appears inevitable, I join other noble Lords in wishing our brave men and women well, with the assurance that they have our wholehearted support, and a safe return home.

There is great support among most Iraqi people in the United Kingdom for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I know Iraqi doctors working in the National Health Service who are in favour of this intervention as long as it results in a new administration and reconstruction of Iraq.

Like my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond, I wish to receive the Minister's assurance on humanitarian aid for the millions of women and children who are poorly nourished and vulnerable to any disruption caused by military conflict. Together with other civilians, these vulnerable people will be fleeing towns and cities.

For the past 12 years, after the 1991 Gulf war, the children of Iraq have been living in deteriorating conditions, with contaminated water supplies, limited food rations and lack of medicines and healthcare. They are very likely to suffer more in any military action even if the conflict is limited to a few weeks. Therefore, it is crucial that plans are laid for the reconstruction of Iraq. So I ask the Minister to share with us the Government's plan to supply basic food, water and medical care to Iraqi women and children. This should include vaccinations against common childhood infections.

Will the Minister confirm that United Nations organisations caring for refugees and children will also be assisting the civilian population of Iraq? If experience in developing countries is anything to go by, healthcare in the field is best organised by British teams, both governmental and NGOs. These developments are costly and will require funds from the United States and the United Nations, particularly European governments.

Finally, Her Majesty's Government must ensure that the US pursues the road map of establishing an independent Palestinian state, with secure borders, and economic aid to create jobs for a viable country. This will then be the start of a genuine opportunity for peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 7:47, 18 March 2003

My Lords, we have heard some impassioned speeches this afternoon about the villainy and tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The implication has been that anybody who is against the ultimatum which has been issued and the war against Iraq which is to come must be in favour of this tyrant and supportive of him. That is a gross slander on people who take the view that I do. What is more, those atrocities took place largely while Saddam Hussein was being supported by the United States and this country in his war against Iran. That was the time to speak out, but I am afraid that very few people did, and so Saddam has remained in power for decades when he might have been removed a lot earlier.

I listened to President Bush's broadcast. It was hardly a truthful and unbiased litany of the history of events in Iraq. Certainly, there was no admission of the part of the United States in bringing Saddam Hussein to power and sustaining him in power so long as it suited their purposes. President Bush wrongly accused the United Nations of not being prepared to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction when what France and others on the Security Council actually asked was for more time to try to resolve the problem peacefully. The United States' impatience will cause many casualties. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, gave a graphic description of what those casualties would amount to; they will sour international arrangements for relationships for years to come.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in the twin towers attack or that it poses a terrorist threat. Even the CIA has advised the President that Iraq was not involved.

The outlook for world co-operation and peace is very bleak indeed. The standing of the United Nations has been seriously damaged. Indeed, the message is that collective security is dead and imperialism is now acceptable; that the powerful can use their military might to achieve their objectives regardless of the views of the international community. This can only set a precedent for other powerful countries to act unilaterally when they conceive it to be in their own interests or in their perceived interests of the wider world or the people of the country they wish to invade or take over.

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, mentioned a number of countries that might have such interests. I mention China. Will it be all right for China to reclaim Taiwan? It certainly has an interest there, has it not? If we are to allow and condone this sort of behaviour, the world will be a very dangerous place.

What are the United States' aims following the conquest of Iraq? Is Syria the next country in President Bush's "axis of evil" to be dealt with? Or is to be Iran, which is near to completing a nuclear reactor? Or will it be North Korea, which either already has nuclear weapons or is close to producing them? Which is the next on the list? It would be very useful to know, so that we can prepare ourselves.

I ask the Government: will the United Kingdom, having committed itself to this policy on Iraq, be committed to supporting United States policy in any further wars to achieve regime change? There are many more tyrants in the world. Where do we stop? It looks to me as though that is the policy now: to bring about regime change if we do not like the regime. If that is the case, we shall be in a perpetual state of war. The Government, this House, and Parliament as a whole need to take that into account.

There is the question of the safety of our own people. I do not believe—nor does Robin Cook, who is, after all, a former Foreign Secretary—that our own security has been threatened up to now. When the war in Iraq starts, and when the repercussions begin to be felt, shall we be more or less at risk? The answer must be that we shall be more at risk from terrorist attack than we are now or we were a few weeks ago.

Those who accuse people like me who are concerned about this war of not wanting to support our Armed Forces are again guilty of slander. That is a downright lie. People like me were supporting British troops when some members of the present Cabinet were calling for them to be brought back from the Falklands when they were dealing with a real British interest. So I shall not take lessons from some members of the Cabinet, make no mistake about it. I, and all those I know who are concerned about the action in Iraq, do support our Armed Forces, and will support them. What we do not support is that they should have been put in a dangerous situation unnecessarily. I wish them well. I wish that they did not have to be there. I hope that they will all return safely.

Photo of Lord MacKenzie of Culkein Lord MacKenzie of Culkein Labour 7:55, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I rise to record again my support for the Government. I always thought that it made political sense to seek a further resolution in the United Nations Security Council. I shall not refer to it as a second resolution, because that is to detract from the very real issues before us. Another resolution, as we well know, would have been the 18th on this matter.

No one could have done more than my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to keep diplomacy on track and to try to avoid conflict in the Gulf region; nor could anyone have done more to keep the United States on board for that policy.

Now, of course, we have people blaming the Government because diplomacy has failed—saying that somehow it is the fault of the UK Government that the majority of the United Nations Security Council could not be convinced of our policies.

How can anyone be quite so certain that we could not have had a majority of countries in the Security Council supporting us had it not been for the intervention of the French who promised to veto any resolution no matter what the circumstances. The French would veto any resolution that included a reference to military action. It is plain—or should be—that this left no scope whatever for diplomacy to succeed on anything which might have induced Saddam Hussein to co-operate in the terms of Resolution 1441—full, final and immediate co-operation in disarmament.

Why would Pakistan, in particular, or, to take another example, Mexico, put their heads above the proverbial parapet when it was clear that there was no realistic prospect of a vote in the Security Council on a further resolution? Realpolitik would, I suggest, dictate that those countries and others would not show their hand, but that did not mean that they would not have supported us had it come to a vote.

No doubt many harsh words are being said in private about our friends across the Channel. In public, the words will be more proportionate, not least because the sooner fences are mended the better.

I am a Europhile—probably a Francophile. I believe in a strong European voice and a strong European view of the world. I do not want a world where international politics and policies are driven by the one superpower without influence from us and from Europe. However, it clear to me that on this occasion the French with their "veto no matter what the circumstances" approach are the real cause of diplomatic failure. It is not possible to make progress in any negotiation when faced with such a stance.

Many will find it difficult to work out why the French should sign up to Resolution 1441 and then take the view that they have taken. I am no expert in these matters, but as an interested and concerned observer I can only assume that the French really believed that Saddam could be disarmed by the weapons inspectors in the absence of a threat of force. The alternative is that French foreign policy has become more redolent of the Gaullist era than of a modern Europe where countries can and must work together. There will never be disarmament of Saddam's regime in the absence of force.

How did the French think Saddam's regime dribbled out concessions every 10 days or so? Was it because of resolutions? Was it because of the inspectors' presence in Iraq? I suggest that it was not. It was because the British and American forces were on the borders of Iraq. Had there been French, Russian and Chinese forces on the borders of Iraq as well, and a further resolution in the United Nations Security Council, then there would have been no war at all. Saddam clearly thought that the poker game could continue, perhaps for another 12 years.

Dictators and psychopathic bullies everywhere are nasty, but their survival is not always based on their nastiness; it is sometimes based on their cleverness. I believe that Saddam correctly gauged, as my noble friend Lord Hardy said, that the French would ride to his rescue in the United Nations Security Council; and he hoped, therefore, that the British and American troops would be withdrawn. What message would that have sent to Saddam Hussein, to terrorists, to Korea, to Al'Qaeda and to other budding dictators? What message would it have sent to the people of this country, and not least to our Armed Forces? Withdrawal of our Armed Forces would have given Saddam—and every other tinpot dictator—every opportunity to do what they wanted.

The UNMOVIC working document, strangely little mentioned by Dr Blix in his report to the Security Council, is chilling. Together with the 12 years of duplicity and as many utterly false full and final declarations as there are extant United Nations resolutions on the matter, that document means that Saddam's poker game must now be at an end.

I am not approaching this as some amateur armchair warrior. Like all too many families, including all too many families in this House, I have lost relatives in world wars. To bring that closer to home, a member of my immediate family left home last night, kit packed and in uniform, to join his ship, which is in theatre in the Gulf.

These matters are not easy for any of us, but I support the Government and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, because I believe that he is right. Of course, it is easier when we do not have to make these decisions ourselves; the really difficult decisions are for leaders, and I believe that everyone on all sides of the House should support my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. Of course, as all noble Lords have said today, we all support and pray for our troops at the theatre.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 8:01, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, for getting off the starting block a fraction early. That happens when one is keyed up for a debate—one is a little too eager to begin, perhaps.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, that I have no intention of impugning his motives; I have always known his heart to be in the right place and it is in the right place now. He is mistaken on a number of points, but I am sure that he is a patriot—and an honest patriot, at that.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, takes note of what I have to say. I hoped that my comments would fall into the ears of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, but, quite understandably, she has just left for a breather before her reply. Many of my questions are addressed to her.

The war is going to take place, whatever we say, and the decision will be taken not here but at the other end of the Corridor. We all know what that decision is, although we do not know what the political fallout will be. I do not intend to spend time discussing the legitimacy of the war, as that has been exhaustively discussed.

The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House made an exemplary speech. It was one of the best I have heard, for its purpose, in the Chamber. It brought me to the position taken by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. There are only two options, and they are both bad, but we have chosen the better of the two. From that point, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, it is up to us to back our troops and our policy to the hilt, so that it works. If the trumpet gives forth an uncertain sound, we shall not win what we seek.

My concern is for what happens after the war. If I have one criticism of the preparations that have brought us to this point, it is that we have not until far too late brought into play the need to redress the extraordinary bias of American policy in the Middle East in favour of Israel. I admire the Israeli people and have many friends who are engaged in charitable and religious support of that region. However, that does not mean that the hundreds of thousands living in prison camp conditions in the Gaza strip have no rights or that their conditions do not impel them into acts of terrorism, which to us who are not subject to those stresses are unthinkable. That question has been left very late, and a commitment to a balanced approach for two viable states must now be clear, irreversible and proactive. As the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg says, without it we shall not have peace in the Middle East, whatever the result of the present war.

I am also concerned about the people of Iraq. From time to time, we hear politicians say that we are there to liberate them, although that was not the original cause. Of course, the removal of the present government will be a liberation, provided it is replaced by something better. I would very much like to know what that something better is.

Yesterday afternoon, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, replied to my question as to whether she would be able to be more explicit today about establishing a coherent independence for Iraq and the well-being of its people. She gave me an answer that was a trailer for a document that I received only today, included among some others from the Foreign Secretary. No doubt your Lordships have copies of it.

I refer to the first of the two statements from the Atlantic summit, called A Vision for Iraq and the Iraqi People. I read the document with great interest, but it is aspirational rather than inspirational. I hope that we hear some commitments to some of the aspirations from the Minister.

The third paragraph of the statement states that,

"we would undertake a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours".

Like the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, I believe that that leaves us with a duty not only to the neighbours but to the population of Iraq.

The document states:

"The Iraqi people deserve to be lifted from insecurity and tyranny . . . We envisage a . . . territorial integrity . . . We will work to prevent and repair damage by Saddam Hussein's regime to the natural resources of Iraq and pledge to protect them as a national asset of and for the Iraqi people".

I wonder how that is to be achieved, what is to be the cost, and under what government. It took the Americans 12 years to get out of Japan after the last world war, and it took us 50 years to unite Germany. It troubles me that so little has been thought and said on this matter until so late in the programme.

What sort of organisation for a government of Iraq would be brought in under the aegis of the United Nations? As regards the commitment to support an international reconstruction programme, where is the budget for that? Indeed, where was the American budget for Afghanistan? It depressed me to note that the Azores statement mentioned Afghanistan as an example. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, it is not a very good example to mention, particularly as the Americans forgot until the last moment to include it in their budget at all for the current fiscal year. We need to do better than that.

I trust that the people of Iraq will not be subjected to the continuing damage which was done in previous wars not just by mines but also by cluster bombs. I thought that I had heard an undertaking from Her Majesty's Government that cluster bombs would not be used in future. But on television within the past 24 hours I have seen a huge thing being winched into an airplane and heard the commentator say, "This is a cluster bomb being loaded into an airplane for use in this war". That really must be stopped if we are not to have countless children—we should not forget that half the population of Iraq comprises children—walking around on one foot. That is unthinkable.

My remaining questions concern the resources for the enormous cost of rebuilding the fabric of Iraq once the new government are established. I notice that the Secretary-General is to be given authority on an interim basis to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people continue to be met through the oil-for-food programme. Is that indefinite? What other aid is proposed? The summit statement further states:

"Any military presence, should it be necessary, will be temporary".

I should like to know how temporary. We have a government who are always setting themselves targets—they do not always meet them but they are always setting them—and trying to meet them. I should like to know what the target is for the exit from Iraq.

In war it is difficult not to build a shell around one to prevent oneself becoming too moved by what is happening. But we have to remember with compassion the people of Iraq who suffered horrors under tyranny. We must ensure that they do not suffer horrors after a war due to munitions being left behind or through internecine strife between the various cultures in that country which initially we helped to form.

Photo of Lord Rogan Lord Rogan UUP 8:10, 18 March 2003

My Lords, I was unfortunately unable to be present in your Lordships' House for our previous debate on this subject. Indeed, had I been here I would have been more vigorous in my questioning of the Government's strategy than I intend to be this evening. What has changed since then is that we can no longer be in any doubt: our troops are indeed going to war.

As the events of the past few months have unfolded, I have become increasingly concerned about the British and American Governments' quickening march to conflict. Why now? Why, after 12 years of waiting, has the decision been made to strike in March 2003? What has changed? I am still awaiting a clear answer to those questions.

Why do the United States and the United Kingdom feel so threatened at this particular point in time, while France, Germany and, indeed, many of Iraq's neighbouring states which were part of the international coalition in 1991 do not?

Why have our Government decided to put their previously strong relations with many of our key European allies at risk over this issue? And linked to that, why have our Government placed themselves in a position where they have had to choose between their commitment to the United Nations and their friendship with the United States? Why has the United States won?

I should like to have heard convincing answers from our Government to those and a number of related questions. But that has not happened and it is unlikely to happen before the war begins. So where does that leave me? Put simply, it leaves me in a position of support for our troops and, curiously enough, in support of the Prime Minister.

If the impending war is short—and I know that all your Lordships hope that that will be the case—we shall soon be in a position to conclude whether Mr Blair's judgment over this crisis has been sound. The Prime Minister and his key Cabinet colleagues are in possession of many more facts, particularly related to intelligence matters, than I or other noble Lords. It is also obvious that he passionately believes that what he is doing is right. Although over the past six years I have not always agreed with his decisions relating to Northern Ireland, I have rarely doubted his sincerity. The current crisis has also demonstrated to me that he is—or can be, at least—a conviction politician. His conviction in this instance is that, for the good of our nation, Saddam must now be disarmed. I respect the Prime Minister for that.

We have reached the stage where it appears that the only way in which that objective can and will be achieved is through the use of force. That, of course, puts the lives of our troops at risk and explains why the mood of your Lordships' House tonight is sombre, as quite rightly it should be. Many noble Lords will have seen on television yesterday the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment taking part in a special St Patrick's Day parade in the Kuwaiti desert. They were poignant scenes. The 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, comprising about 800 soldiers, is part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. However, they are only part of the Ulster contingent currently operating in the Gulf. More than 300 soldiers from the Irish Guards are with the 7th Armoured Brigade. There are approximately 150 reserve personnel, of whom more than 60 rangers are directly deployed with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

There are a number of additional service personnel currently in the Gulf, including my own son, of whom I am intensely proud. He is serving in the headquarters of the 1st (UK) Armoured Division. Other regulars and reservists from Northern Ireland are serving in the RAF, the Royal Navy, the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines. I understand that it is the first time since the Suez crisis—possibly since the Second World War—that the Territorial Army has been called up on this scale. Those of us from the 2,000 Northern Irish families who have sons or daughters currently in theatre are very proud of the role that they are playing and will no doubt continue to play in the days that lie ahead. They face difficult times. Some may even face death. The least that all responsible politicians should give them and their colleagues at this stage, therefore, is our total and complete support.

This is the most significant debate to which I have contributed in my four years in your Lordships' House. Like so many noble Lords, I have had some difficulty in coming to a view on the important matters before us this evening. After weighing up all the necessary considerations, I have decided to pledge my backing to the Government's actions. However, if Mr Blair's judgment proves to be flawed, I will return to the questions that I posed at the opening of my remarks—but next time I will demand answers.

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour 8:17, 18 March 2003

My Lords, when I last spoke on Iraq in our debate on 26th February, I said that I was totally opposed to war but still felt that it was not inevitable and that something would happen to enable the problems to be settled peacefully. The omens were not good, however. The rhetoric from Washington was bellicose, but we were told that the United States had been persuaded to go the United Nations route. Some of us suspected that American intentions were simply to get the UN to give authority for war rather than to seek a peaceful outcome. Unfortunately, we have been proved right. I cannot regard the Azores meeting as anything other than an expensive charade. It was clear that President Bush had already decided on war.

I also now believe what I suspected originally: that the crisis is not about disarmament. It has always been about regime change, and the occupation of Iraq by US forces. Regime change is not provided for in the United Nations charter, and nor is pre-emptive action. There has been a lot of fuss about a second UN resolution, and clearly a great deal of arm-twisting has gone on behind the scenes, with much in the way of threats, intimidation and, frankly, attempted bribery. It says a great deal for the leaders of other countries in the UN that those blandishments have been resisted, for the second resolution was not really about a peaceful solution at all. It was designed as authority for war.

The way in which the French have been reviled for threatening to use the veto is extremely distasteful and does not augur well for future EU relations. Resolution 1441 was not authority for war. Had it been, they would not have signed up for it. Their line has been consistent, as has been that of the Russians. They were not prepared to rush into war. The inspectors were having some success and wanted to continue their work. Most sensible people would say, "Why not let them continue?"

Our Government and the US have constantly said that Saddam Hussein is not disarming but defying the United Nations. We are told that Iraq has had 12 years in which to disarm, and that there have been 17 resolutions. That is cited as though nothing had happened in those years, instead of which there were punitive sanctions that resulted in the impoverishment of much of the country, and constant overflights by our and the US's air forces, ostensibly to protect the No Fly Zones, but also to bomb Iraqi installations. There has been no UN authorisation for those bombing raids; they are a breach of the UN charter.

For a large part of the 12 years, there were inspections and some inspectors report that a great deal of material was destroyed during that time. When those inspectors left in 1998, there were complaints from the Iraqis that they included in their number some CIA and Israeli spies, which was later confirmed by one inspector. We then had Operation Desert Fox: intensive bombing raids on Iraq. The idea that nothing happened during those 12 years and that Saddam Hussein simply got away with it is absurd. Then France, Germany and Russia offered an alternative plan for the solution of any existing problems by peaceful means. That was rejected by ourselves and the Americans.

We are now into a war that most of the world's population does not want. There have been demonstrations against it even in the United States. There is very strong opposition in this country, despite overwhelming support in the media. Only two of the major daily newspapers in this country—and those with minority readership—support opposition to the war. Despite that, the feeling against it remains very strong. That is true throughout Europe. In France and Germany, there is massive opposition to the war. That largely accounts for the attitude of the leaders of those countries. In Spain, despite the presence at the Azores meeting of Mr Aznar, there is also very strong opposition.

I do not believe that those in this country who are in favour of war fully understand the revulsion that many of us feel or the reasons for it. We are accused of supporting Saddam Hussein, or else of appeasement, as if a minor dictator of a broken, battered country that has been reduced to third-world level can somehow be compared with Hitler. Those who make such comments are too young to have experienced those days or else know no history.

It is sometimes forgotten that we have already seen wars on television quite recently. I did not feel happy about the bombing of Serbia, with the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium on civilians, and I said so in this House. Then we had Afghanistan, with daisy-cutter bombs and the loss of civilian life. We therefore have some idea of what awaits the unfortunate population of Iraq. "Shock and awe", it is now called: a massive bombardment. It is likely that Saddam Hussein will escape—leaders often do—but the unfortunate population will not. Those not killed in the bombing may die later, as a result of depleted uranium, poisoned water supplies, lack of food supplies or the sheer misery of homelessness. I support the call of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, this evening for cluster bombs to be outlawed so far as this war is concerned. Quite right. I do not believe in "smart" bombs, either. High explosive dropped on urban areas kills.

I do not understand the logic of those who say that we should liberate the unfortunate people of Iraq because of what they suffer under Saddam Hussein. To bomb people to extinction has always seemed to me to be a very odd way of liberating them. Modern warfare is a way of dishing out capital punishment to masses of people in a quite indiscriminate way.

War should be a last resort, but it is not in this case. We had the opportunity with the suggestions made by other council members but we have not taken them up. We have decided to support the war plans and the war programme of President Bush. We are threatening war not because Iraq is strong but because it is weak. I have no doubt that the war will be won—the forces against Iraq are overwhelming—but at what cost? I deeply regret that we are in this situation tonight.

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 8:24, 18 March 2003

My Lords, liberation of your Lordships' House, if not of Iraq, is at hand. I am the last speaker.

Noble Lords:


Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour

My Lords, well, I am the last speaker from the Back Benches. I refer to those of us who are not paid to speak. Sorry about that!

This is my third speech in the past 21 days on this question and I do not want to repeat too much. I have been for the war in Iraq on the grounds of the human rights violations that Saddam Hussein has practised on his own people. The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, and my noble friend Lord Hardy expressed that view very eloquently today, and therefore I need not go into the subject any further.

We had a debate yesterday about the legal situation. I say to my noble friend Lady Turner, whom I respect very much, that if she wants to know the legal arguments for everything that has happened over the past 12 years—the bombing, and so on—she has only to read the report of the debate.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has always said that he was ready to go to war in the absence of a second resolution. I remember hearing him make that point on the "Newsnight" programme a few weeks ago. He has always made that clear and has never hidden the fact. He always added a caveat. Whenever he was asked, "Would you go only with a second resolution?", he always said, "No, there is a caveat".

The Prime Minister said that there were circumstances under which he would take action even if there were no second resolution. He mentioned the example of an unreasonable veto. But I believe that he always meant to pursue the course that he has taken and that he has not simply been driven there by the United States. He has done so through his own conviction, which, I believe, is that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to exist for much longer. The problem must be solved in the interests of our security but, more than that, in the interests of the people of Iraq.

Today, I want to concentrate on the future shape of Iraq. Several noble Lords have said that the integrity of Iraq is very important. That is a good point to make, but I want to go a little further. Although Iraq will be maintained as it is, I hope that it will be a much looser federation than it has been thus far, especially so far as concerns the Kurds in the north. By spilling much of their own blood, they have created for themselves an autonomous region that allows their people far greater freedom and far greater prosperity than that enjoyed in the rest of Iraq. Those of us who know that should value what they have created.

In a sense, I am somewhat relieved that the Turkish Parliament decided not to take part in this campaign—that is what I understand unless matters have changed in the past four or five hours—as I believe that it would further ensure the autonomy of the Kurds in the north. I hope that when a new democratic Iraq is established, as I have no doubt will be the case, it will be a broad, loose federation with a great deal of autonomy for the different cultures and peoples of Iraq. That will be possible only in a democracy; it will not be possible under the current regime and has not been possible for the past 35 years.

I believe that there will be humanitarian problems, as has been emphasised by several noble Lords. But there are two differences compared with the situation in Afghanistan. One is that Iraq is—or, at least, used to be—a middle-income country. It has been ruined but it is a middle-income country and revenue from oil will eventually help to finance some of the humanitarian reconstruction. Some of the money may have been spent but it can be recovered. Therefore, I believe that, although difficult, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq will probably be far quicker and easier than has been the case in many other situations.

I also believe that the issue in relation to Iraq is not so much what we do in Iraq but what we do about ourselves. Three things follow from that. I have only three minutes left in which to speak and so shall give a minute to each of them.

First, I do not believe that we can delay the reform of the United Nations for much longer. I talked about UN reform long before this debate started. The United Nations was created for a situation in 1945 which no longer exists. The Cold War helped it to continue as it was, but its arrangements—especially the structure of voting on the Security Council—are not feasible. I have advocated qualified majority voting in this House. I believe that before long we shall have to rethink the voting procedures on the Security Council. Unless the United Nations can improve its ways of operating, we shall get into such problems again and again and, as I pointed out yesterday, people will constantly defy the will of the United Nations.

Secondly, I refer to the European Union. I never thought that a foreign policy pillar was ever very strong. It did not work in Yugoslavia. We have to remember that Germany's recognition of Croatia and what the French did with Serbia was at the beginning of the Yugoslav conflict, and that owed some of its elements to the divisions within the European Union. There is no single foreign policy pillar. I hope that in the convention people rethink how we shall reconstruct the European Union. The old federalist dream, to which, I confess, I was very attached, is no longer feasible. We shall have to have a much loser, differential geometry, or a multiple-tier Europe. It would be difficult now to pretend that the Union will have a single foreign policy.

Finally, I also believe that NATO has reached the end of its useful life. It will have to be re-organised, perhaps with a different membership and a different purpose. Perhaps it will have to shift further towards eastern Europe. However, I believe that what has happened as regards NATO shows that it is no longer possible for it to carry on as in the past.

I should like to see a new United Nations, in which only democratic countries are members. It is time that we said that countries which violate human rights will not be allowed to be members of the United Nations. I hope that from this conflict we get a better United Nations, if that is the only thing we get.

Photo of Lord Roper Lord Roper Liberal Democrat Lords Chief Whip 8:32, 18 March 2003

My Lords, as noble Lords would expect, this has been a good but sombre debate on one of the most difficult topics we are likely to have to consider. The decision to move to military action in a democracy is probably the most difficult for any state to take. We are grateful to the Government for the opportunity to discuss this important topic in this House as well as in another place.

In this House, unlike in another place, despite the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, it is not our custom to end with a vote. But if those who follow our debates—I see there are not many from the public prints—read what has been said they will discover that voices have been raising doubts and questions about this policy but have been unanimous on one point. Whatever our doubts, once our forces go into action—I shall return to this point—we must support them.

I am told by one of my noble friends that it is one thing to make a speech in this House, but if one wants to have it noticed in the Foreign Office, one has to have it translated into a foreign newspaper. Then, within a day or two, one receives a complimentary letter from a Foreign Office Minister; not the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, but one of her colleagues from another place.

I have not spoken in the earlier debates, although I have listened to them all, and am grateful to have this opportunity. I am also grateful not to have spoken earlier as, I suspect like some other Members of your Lordships' House, I have spent much of the past six months arguing with myself about what is the correct position to take on this extremely difficult decision. However, like many now, having seen the events of the past month or two and particularly of the past few weeks, I feel that this period has represented a tragic failure of diplomacy. That was brought to our attention by the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, who knows the process of diplomacy professionally as well as anyone else in the House, and by the arguments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, on the failure of the United States to succeed in its diplomacy in persuading the rest of the international community to accept its word. But for me the point was made particularly powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, who in an extraordinarily impressive, but desperately depressing speech, reported just how difficult it was to understand the policies of the current American Administration.

That failure in diplomacy occurred in a number of capitals—a failure that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, once referred to as too much "megaphone diplomacy". But there was also a failure to assess correctly the position of the other actors and there was a lack of discussion on these critical issues at the highest levels among members of the European Union. I am depressed by the fact that when, less than a year ago, I asked about how much discussion there had been in the appropriate committees of the European Union on this subject, I was told, "Oh, no, we have not talked about that. We put it into the 'too difficult' basket". I happen to believe in the European Union. But if it puts issues such as Iraq into the "too difficult" basket, it will be criticised, as it has been in many respects.

There has clearly been a failure of French diplomacy, for which President Chirac has been over-criticised, but has been also legitimately criticised. It has also been a failure of others. There have been serious failures both in the diplomatic actions of individual states, to which my noble friend Lord Watson referred, and also at the workings of international institutions. There will be a need in due course to examine carefully what went wrong and what are the lessons we need to learn.

In coming today to judge whether the Government were right to reach the decision yesterday to use military force, we must decide whether the potential costs of such a decision outweigh the potential benefits and whether there were alternative policies available where the net outcome might have been satisfactory. That is not necessarily only the rather polarised choice which the Lord Privy Seal set out in his initial remarks. It is not a choice about doing this and doing nothing and running away. There were a range of choices. We should be careful not to caricature that range. But all the other options were in fact vetoed by the United States. There was in this sense an unreasonable veto which led us into this situation. I think we should not overlook that.

Having said that, I can understand the position of President Bush who, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, made clear in his intervention last night, in the post September 11th situation is now ready, in a way in which none of his predecessors were, to implement the resolutions on Iraq which the Security Council has adopted. I understand why the president feels that if there is a risk of weapons of mass destruction being transferred to terrorists who might use them against the United States, this problem must be dealt with.

The Lord Privy Seal was quite right in his contribution to refer to that as a possibility. Unfortunately, the President of the United States in his remarks last night suggested that it was already accomplished. The situation is not yet as clear as that.

I can also understand the Prime Minister's position. Perfectly understandably, he feels that in an uncertain world, the maintenance of this country's relationship with the United States is of critical importance. But I share the caveats of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about the costs and risks of pushing that relationship too far.

We supported the efforts of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, our Diplomatic Service, in ensuring that the United Nations is at the centre of our policies. We have accepted the need for coercive diplomacy—combining the return of the UNMOVIC inspectors and the deployment of armed forces, which, as the noble Lord, Lord King, made clear, was an essential precondition for the inspectors' success. In spite of the problems, that has in substantial part been successful. In that, I share the judgment of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky.

Where we disagree with the Government is on whether, at this moment, it was right to bring that process to an end by introducing what we consider a precipitate resolution. They were then unable to achieve a majority and, indeed, risked vetoes even if a qualified majority of nine could have been achieved in the Security Council, which is not clear.

We regret yesterday's decision, because the premature use of force with dubious legitimacy, little support in the Commonwealth—as far as I know, only Australia supports it—a seriously divided European Union and a marginalised United Nations, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford said, is a serious mistake. Our judgment is that the potential costs and consequences in the region in the fight with global terrorism—the costs to international institutions, which have been so important in creating an international society during the past half century, and to international order more generally—will outweigh the benefits of that action.

Having said that, with today's debate we have reached the point at which these debates on jus ad bellum must be suspended for the period of the hostilities. However, we must also give notice that, when the hostilities are over, we shall need to return to them to inquire into the various diplomatic, legal and moral issues that we have discussed today and yesterday.

Within days, our forces will be in action, and our first concern will of course be with our Armed Forces and their families—in particular, in the family of this House, with our colleagues, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who is appropriately enough serving as Major Attlee in Kuwait, and with the son of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, who is also serving. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford said, whatever our views of how we have reached the decision, our troops will have our support. We hope that their tasks will be swiftly concluded, with the minimum casualties on all sides.

Opening the debate for the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said that he could not understand why we on these Benches could question the legitimacy of the decision to go to war—the issue of jus ad bellum, which we discussed yesterday—and still give our support to our forces when war occurs. My noble friend Lady Williams replied to that, but I suggest that our position is little different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, whose article in last Friday's Evening Standard was cited last night by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, wrote:

"On balance I believe that a pre-emptive war against Iraq would be wrong and in the long-term unwise".

But he then added:

"But once British forces are in action the position changes for me . . . At that point, people like me shut up and hope that our fears were misguided".

If the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, can understand this position, I am sorry that the Opposition Front Bench cannot understand the position that we have taken.

When the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, referred in his intervention to Suez, I was reminded of the fact that I completed my national service and left HMS "Eagle" in Malta in September 1956, six weeks before the Suez operation. Many of my colleagues served in the operation. That act of folly by a British government led me to realise the case for international institutions and the United Nations. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, with whom I have worked on those issues ever since those days, reminded me of that also.

For a third of a century, since I entered the House of Commons, I have believed that there is no contradiction between being a good European and a good Atlanticist. The past few weeks have been a challenge both to transatlantic co-operation and to the partnership that we are developing with the other countries of the European Union. That was made clear by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. Whatever our views about the recent decisions, in the interests of establishing future peace and stability in the world, we need to think about how we can rebuild an effective international system—the international structures of international co-operation that have been so harmed by the events of the past few weeks.

The issue, therefore, of post-war planning must be central to our concerns in the immediate future. My noble friend Lady Northover and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, spoke a good deal about post-war planning for Iraq. I was glad to hear what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal said on the role that the Government were trying to ensure that the United Nations would play. But, given the alienation of our partners in the United Nations—several noble Lords referred to this—it will not necessarily be as easy to bring the United Nations in to "do the dishes" as is sometimes suggested.

We must also address two other aspects of post-war planning. The first is the wider issue of post-war planning in the Middle East. The acceleration in the publication of the road map is one of the benefits of recent developments. Let us hope that it is not merely cosmetic, and that it will be accepted by all involved, in actions as well as words.

Perhaps the most important of the three aspects is post-war planning for the future of the international system and international institutions, which the noble Lord, Lord Desai, raised. The United Nations will remain. Nobody can afford to let it fail. The European Union will remain. Nobody can afford to let it go. But we need to re-examine how we could learn from the mistakes made so that both can be more powerful in future. That cannot wait until the end of hostilities. Such planning must be engaged now. This House, with the range of expertise displayed in our debates in recent weeks, has a particular contribution to make.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 8:48, 18 March 2003

My Lords, listening to this fascinating debate, I have been scratching my head and trying to think how the cascade of expertise and experience that noble Lords bring to debates of this sort could best help the national interest and best add real value to public debate, understanding and confidence at this crucial time. The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, is right that, although there is a fine balance, probably a minority of speakers in this debate fully support the Government's policy. The majority, although they expressed strong support for our troops in action—I thank our Liberal Democrat colleagues for making that clear—have been more doubtful or sceptical about the Government's policy. It may not reflect the opinion of your Lordships' House as a whole but it has been the case in this debate. That must be faced. In a sense, the question of whether one is for or against has been overtaken. The die is now cast and our troops are about to enter into hostilities.

We are and have chosen to be an advisory Chamber. Understandably, tonight all eyes are on another place, the elected Chamber. What can we bring to this defining moment for our country and for the world, now that the military operations—I prefer not to call them "war" in the usual sense—are beginning? In a few minutes, as we close the debate, I shall elaborate on some of the areas in which we can contribute and in which our debates have contributed to the pool of wisdom.

First, there is the central question, to which your Lordships have returned again and again, of whether there is a threat and, if so, how we define and explain that threat. Some of us have insisted all along that that is the key to justifying pre-emptive intervention and to persuading a distinctly doubting public that the case has been made for a military intervention. Mr Cook, who resigned yesterday, is a colourful character and a superb speaker. In his resignation speech he said that he could see no threat. Many noble Lords have said the same thing: they cannot see that there is an imminent threat, and ask why there should be an attack on Iraq. I agree not with that view but with the view that the case for the threat and the explanation of why we need to move urgently have not been well made. All sorts of arguments have been paraded, as some of your Lordships have observed. I think that it was the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, who said that the argument had changed too often to be reassuring and persuasive. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde also made that clear.

That was in the past. Today, things changed a little. This morning the Prime Minister made a fine speech. He had a lot to say about the issue of the threat. His speeches get better and better. I hope that I am not imagining it, but one reason might be that phrases and sentiments uttered a week or two back in your Lordships' House have tended to turn up in the Prime Minister's speeches. Perhaps we are making a contribution in the right place.

This morning the Prime Minister said that Iraq presented a clear and present danger and a threat to this nation and our society, as well as to our interests and the wider interests of global security. He said that Iraq supported, financed and trained terrorists. I believe that that is right. Such matters should have been at the forefront of the case that was being made for the policy on Iraq. I know that there are those who do not believe that or do not want to believe it. They say that such assertions are not proof. Such exchanges could go on for ever, but the Prime Minister was right to put that argument now. Perhaps he should have put it at the centre of things before now.

The second issue is legality, with which your Lordships dealt last night. I fear that we sent out a bit of a mixed message. I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Rees-Mogg, Lord Campbell-Savours, Lord Desai and Lord Hardy of Wath, that the humanitarian case for intervention is a lot stronger than some of the legalists allow. If we bring into the judgment that element of common sense and consider the wider context that the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, mentioned last night, we reach a more sensible and sober conclusion than if we concentrate on narrow legal niceties.

Thirdly, the Prime Minister spoke this morning about the divisions that had sprung up in Europe. He said—I think that he was right—that behind the quarrels and the views adopted by Paris and Berlin appeared to lie what he called the fallacy in some European minds that the world was divided into two rival poles of power and could be organised on that basis. I am glad that the Prime Minister now sees things that way and sees what we see. It is indeed a fallacy, leading to much cant and hype about Europe's voice in the world and the need for Europe as an entity to strut on the world stage. To me, that is chilling language. I am glad that the Prime Minister and, presumably, the Government now see the dangers of that kind of perspective. Perhaps I may put in one sharp note of criticism: I do not understand why the Prime Minister believes that now, but I am glad that he does. He spoke about Europe as a "super power". Why did he ever let a speech writer put that phrase into his famous Warsaw speech? But he did and I am pleased that apparently he has changed his mind.

No one can deny that the forceful comments made by Mr Chirac have hindered the efforts to achieve the second resolution. For the moment, France, through its excessive outspokenness and criticism, has forfeited its leadership in Europe. That is especially so not so much because of the veto promise, but because of the very uncouth attacks on the smaller nations of Europe, which were and are dangerous and have done enormous damage.

Nevertheless, we must understand some of the reasons why the French think the way in which they do. We must not forget that there are 5 million Muslims in their country. They have a real wish, as we all have, for stability throughout the Arab world and the Maghreb. If only on this point, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, that too much France-bashing and trading of insults will get us nowhere. Some of the Foreign Office and official Government utterances on this matter should be calmed down. The truth is that when the pieces fall into place again, we and France—our nearest neighbour—will always need each other and will have to work together.

Fourthly, there is the question of the conduct of the war. This morning the newspapers carried a chilling story that our pilots will have to take legal advice on targets before they drop a single bomb. We want to know from the Government today—a question that I and my noble friend Lord Strathclyde have raised—how developments in international law have changed the way in which the fighting will be conducted. I asked yesterday about the Rome statute and the International Criminal Court, which is now open for business. My noble friend repeated the request earlier today.

Now that war crimes are on our own statute book, listed in great detail, could our fighting men, generals and, indeed, the policymakers be exposed to a cat's cradle of new legal restraints which might seriously impede them? We need to know about that. We cannot just push it aside. I know that yesterday the noble Baroness did not have time to address that central issue but I hope that she will have time today.

The question of Turkey is central. It has not been mentioned to a great extent in our debate—although I believe that my noble friend Lord Onslow mentioned it in a slightly different context, as did the noble Lord, Lord Desai. We should like to know what has gone wrong. How can we disentangle the Kurdish worry? There are 13 million Kurds in Turkey and another 4.5 million in northern Iraq. The Kurds are terrified of the Turks and the Turks are terrified of Kurdish independence which might lead to the carving up of their own country. It seems that a great deal of experience and diplomacy of the kind that this country is rather good at needs to be deployed rapidly there if matters are not to get worse rather than better.

There is the question—perhaps the most important in your Lordships' minds and the one on which there has been the most comment—about the aftermath of the war and the rehabilitation of Iraq. I think that it is now government policy—perhaps we shall learn in a moment—that there should be a United Nations trust fund into which the revenues of Iraq's present oil flows should go. Of course, with proper repair and attention after hostilities, the output of oil from Iraq would be raised from, say, 2 million barrels per day to anything up to 4 or 5 million barrels per day. I believe that 4.7 million barrels is one target figure. That would put Iraq almost in the top league—in the range of Saudi Arabia in terms of prosperity and revenues. That would raise very important problems and opportunities for the ways in which that enormous flow of wealth could be used to the benefit of Iraq.

Those are important questions which require more thought from us all. I do not expect answers from the Government tonight. But we must start to think about how Iraq is to be managed and governed, and how the military will detach themselves, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, rightly questioned. There can be no doubt that the prize of having a prosperous and benign Iraq in the centre of the Middle East region instead the present poison source which for decades has devastated and destabilised the entire region is absolutely enormous.

Much could go wrong. We have heard the long list: the firing of oil wells; the destruction of the Tigris dam; possible refugee flows; destabilisation of neighbouring countries; more terrorism and more anti-Americanism. As my noble and learned friend Lord Howe reminded us, and as did my right honourable friend John Major, the former Prime Minister, those are all possibilities. But I would say to those who put too much emphasis on the negative possibilities that some of them are already features of the Middle East. I have seen burning oil wells in the Al Burgen oilfield. It is a terrible sight and smells so evil that one has to wear a mask because it is impossible to breath in the fumes. However, at least in Kuwait the wells were swiftly capped and restored—much more swiftly than had been suggested by the pessimists.

Instead of mournful lists, now that the die is cast I prefer to view the situation as an opportunity to move on towards a much bigger diplomacy, one that engages the nations of the world in a combined effort to solve the Israel/Palestine problem in ways that almost everyone except the immediate participants has now agreed. Apparently the Israeli Government still do not understand the point. That higher diplomacy demands a combined effort to corral North Korea, which will take much more than America acting alone. We need to make Iran think again about its illegal nuclear weapons programme, which could be very dangerous.

Furthermore, we need a diplomacy that could restore the non-proliferation treaty before it crumbles completely and would cage terrorism wherever it springs up. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, hinted, that diplomacy would bring Russia and perhaps even China—under their fast-changing government they now have a completely new team in Beijing—into the consortium of global governance. That is where minds should turn as we watch the unfolding situation.

Above all, here in London we need to take a lead in the rebalanced and less centralised Europe than the one that existed before the Franco-German detachment. We also need to rebuild transatlantic relations, probably on a totally new basis. Perhaps we even need to seek reform of the United Nations itself, as was ambitiously suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Desai.

As friends, we can say to the United States what critics and anti-Americans cannot necessarily voice; namely, that it never was on the cards for the US that it could or should go it alone. The noble Lords, Lord Jopling and Lord Watson, were very interesting on US attitudes, having been to Washington. I believe that it would have been disastrous for the Americans to have gone down that route and unthinkable for us not to stand beside them now that they are moving forward.

It is important not only for us to be beside them; now there is a growing list of other allies, including Australia and Poland. I believe that shortly the list will grow very much longer. Outside of immediate military help there is of course Japan, which is extremely supportive. When the numbers are added up in terms of population, over half of the enlarged Europe has declared for the coalition.

Globalisation and interdependence mean what they imply: that in this network age no power, not even the mighty America, can go it alone or act without allies. We should not be shy of saying that to the Americans, even those of us who support them so strongly. Why is that? Because of the asymmetry of terror and because intelligence is the key to success. Here in the United Kingdom we have two centuries of experience in that area which other countries lack. Furthermore, as America discovered, size is vulnerable and weight of arms is not everything. Indeed, dominance and size may escalate terror, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, suggested in a fascinating intervention.

That is a message which noble Lords could find worth sending to our American friends as they embark, with what I hope is now our full support, on yet another fight for a freer and safer world. Indeed, there is no better way of sending that message than by wishing our own troops, fighting alongside their troops, every blessing and success in the long days and dangerous nights that lie immediately ahead.

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 9:05, 18 March 2003

My Lords, this has been an important and sombre debate at a time of enormous international and domestic importance. Probably for many of us it is the most important debate in which we have participated. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, has a clear and direct reason for his concern. We send his son and all the other sons and daughters, all the other husbands and wives and all the other loved ones—including our own colleague, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, now Major Attlee—our warm support, admiration and good wishes.

I am sure that I speak for everyone in the Government, in this House and in the whole country when I say that this is a moment that we hoped we would not reach; a moment that my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and many others, have worked immensely hard to avoid through our huge diplomatic effort.

The debate has highlighted many clear differences, which have been expressed many times before in your Lordships' House, on how the international community should respond to the threat posed by Iraq. But let me begin by referring to the area of much greater agreement across all the contributions made today. For all the intensity of our debate today one matter has been striking—that is, the breadth of agreement that the Iraqi regime is evil, cruel and has palpably failed to disarm and meet a series of UN obligations placed on it.

The key questions raised by your Lordships in the debate and in previous discussions are about whether we have really exhausted all possibilities except that of armed conflict; about the legality of any military action; about the legal position of those engaged in any conflict; about the immediate impact on Iraq itself; about the longer-term issues of rebuilding that country; about the effect on our broader international relationships, including the Middle East peace process; and about whether or not the conflict is morally justifiable. By that I mean not whether it is legal or whether the timing is right, but whether in and of itself it is the right thing to do. I shall now do my best to answer some of those points.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to weapons of mass destruction and questioned the issue of the means of delivery. She was echoing a point made yesterday by my right honourable friend Robin Cook. I refer her—and, indeed, my right honourable friend—to the 173-page document from Hans Blix entitled Unresolved Disarmament Issues. The noble Baroness will find that it is not correct to say that Iraqi WMDs do not pose a strategic threat or that there is no missile capability. There are up to 20 al-Hussein missiles. With a range of 650 kilometres, they are capable of reaching Jerusalem, Nicosia, Tehran and Riyadh. UNMOVIC has been unable to account for 50 CBW warheads for these terror weapons.

As we know from before—I shall not go into the details—there are thousands of chemical and biological bombs. But let me return to means of delivery. There are the aerial spray devices for chemical and biological weapons mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. There are the Al-Samoud 2 missiles, which have a range of just under 200 kilometres and are capable of delivering weapons to parts of Turkey and Saudi Arabia and to all of Kuwait.

Iraq has never come clean on its UAV programme but has admitted in the past to investigating the use of drones to deliver CBW. Earlier this month, the inspectors found a large drone called the Al Mussayara 30A which Iraq never declared. There are numerous other examples in the document.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, is right—150 inspectors simply will not find the weapons of mass destruction in a country the size of France. Indeed, it was not their job to do so. It was the job of the Iraqi regime to co-operate and it was the inspectors' job to verify what they were told, as clearly pointed out by my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath.

The threat of Iraq is now a clear danger to our society, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, rightly reminded us. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks about my right honourable friend's speeches getting better and better. I am sure they will go on doing so.

Let us turn to the point about whether the diplomatic course has come to a closure. This was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and my noble friend Lady Turner. We discussed the position of France and whether, in relation to all UN routes, we have now exhausted negotiations. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said that she had spoken to the French embassy today; they told her that the veto was not absolute and should be seen in the context of timing.

This is a very important point. President Chirac said that he would veto quelque soit les circonstances—whatever the circumstances. As the noble Baroness would expect, there have been a number of conversations across the Channel on this point. As I understand it, President Chirac would talk about timing—the noble Baroness is quite right. He would talk about tests, but he would not talk about the authority to use force, the very point at issue, the credible threat of which he is recorded as saying was so important in getting inspectors back into Iraq. I am not French-bashing; I simply am trying to answer the point that the noble Baroness put so passionately. Instead of UNSCR 1441 and another period of looking at what possibilities lay ahead and then, if warranted, through non-cooperation, going ahead with the military option, we would be back to a position of perpetual negotiation. In our view, that was unreasonable. As my noble friend Lord MacKenzie said, it left us no scope for negotiation. I thought his analysis was entirely right on that point. We either retreat from 1441 or we go ahead with the second resolution—or, rather, the eighteenth resolution.

The danger of inaction must be clear: no one, including the French, thinks that we would have got this far with inspections were it not for having 250,000 troops in the region. The real choice was and is: back away from 1441, entered into four-and-a-half short months ago, or face up to what it says.

I believe our friends in France may have meant well, but we now face the position where negotiation is beyond our reach. The noble Lord, Lord Roper, and others have been right—it is a failure of diplomacy. That much is self-evident. Those harshest of judges, time and history, will no doubt apportion blame.

The legal issues were initially raised by my noble friend Lord Richard, who said that there was a variety of opinions on the legal question. That is true. But he went on to quote from only one of your Lordships in the debate last night, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. He might have quoted from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grabiner, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, or the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, a former Attorney-General. In the end, divisions of legal opinion on international law are nothing new. But the Attorney-General has had access to all information and he has delivered a clear view. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, that he has said it is legal. I advise all your Lordships to read the second FCO paper in the Printed Paper Office which gives some more background.

Let me also say to my noble friend Lord Richard that we never said a second resolution did not matter. We wanted a second resolution very much indeed. It was politically desirable, but it was never legally essential, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and my noble friend Lord Desai said. If I may say so, I thought that my noble friend Lord Richard over-egged his pudding. No one doubts the importance we attach to that second resolution—or eighteenth resolution, depending on how you look at it. No one could have worked harder to attain that resolution. It was enormously important to us politically but not legally. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater. My noble friend Lord Richard seemed to set on one side the enormously long history of UN resolutions on Iraq—Chapter 7 on mandatory resolutions, beginning with 660 in August 1990. The noble Lord, Lord King, was right—progress came only when Saddam Hussein really believed that he was facing a credible threat of force. My noble and learned friend Lord Williams laid out the history. There have been five final declarations—every one of them false, every one a story of sustained lying and deceit, every one an example of cynical defiance of the UN.

The legal position was also challenged by my noble friends Lord Judd, Lord Ahmed and Lady Turner. I hope that they will read carefully again both sides of the arguments put. I repeat briefly that UNSCR 687 was suspended but did not terminate the authorisation to use force in UNSCR 678. The formality of acceptance of its terms was not sufficient. Iraq was, and is, required to comply with those terms. My noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale was quite right in the view that she put forward. What came out in Resolution 1441 was not the first of the final opportunities; it was the final "final opportunity", as was recognised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, was quite right. Our forces will be upholding 17 UN Security Council resolutions. The latest, Resolution 1441, was unequivocal in demanding Iraqi co-operation, and in demanding that it was immediate, unconditional and active. On all three counts Iraq has failed.

I remind the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, that this war, if it comes, was never motivated by regime change. Fervently as we may desire that change, it is now, and always has been, about disarmament in terms of weapons of mass destruction. We are quite clear on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was right when he said that, although that is the main point, we also wish to see the back of that regime for its support of terrorism, for its appalling humanitarian record and for the threat it poses to its neighbours and to world peace.

What is the legal framework for those fighting? I was asked that question by the noble Lord and by his noble friend Lord Strathclyde. Military planning is very careful to minimise civilian casualties. The planning and action of our forces will take full account of the requirements and obligations of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva conventions and The Hague regulations.

But that has been true since the emergence of this body of law. It is true today; it will be true tomorrow. The Government's signature to and ratification of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court—the point that particularly concerned the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—and our full support of the ICC do not in any way change the obligations that we have had in our Armed Forces to act in accordance with international humanitarian law.

I turn to the points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and I thank them for their remarks about my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I do believe that the five tests that we have put forward as our compromise—and the sixth added by Hans Blix—were straightforward. Incidentally, I think it is sad that France rejected that compromise even before Iraq had done so.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, raised some of the longer-term questions about Iraq after the conflict. In this he was joined by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale and Lord Wright of Richmond, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. These are matters that we have discussed at length. I did so myself when was in Qatar recently.

I will write to all noble Lords on this. I know how much your Lordships are concerned with it. However, perhaps I may make a few brief points. Our work is aimed at helping to minimise the risk of humanitarian suffering as well as alleviating it when it occurs. That has guided all our planning.

In the event of a conflict in Iraq, the DfID would have two humanitarian roles. One will be to help to advise the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces on how best to discharge their humanitarian responsibilities under The Hague and the Geneva conventions. The other is to use the funds, expertise and influence available to the department to support the direct delivery of impartial humanitarian assistance by the international humanitarian community.

There have been discussions with a number of different agencies. But I stress to your Lordships that it is likely that in the first stages of any conflict UN agencies and NGOs would not be fully operational, particularly if there is credible use of chemical and biological weapons. Military forces might have to have the primary responsibility for the initial delivery of humanitarian assistance. They might have to provide secure environments for other organisations to deliver humanitarian assistance. It is important to be clear about this. A great deal will possibly ride on the shoulders of our military in those first few days. But the principles that we apply will be the same as anywhere else. They are not determined by the nature of the conflict or subject to military strategy or diplomatic considerations. We shall respect international humanitarian law and relevant human rights laws and conventions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and my noble friend Lord Ahmed were rightly worried about the humanitarian situation. Iraqi people's lives are perilously fragile. About 60 per cent of the population are now completely dependent on food rationing introduced in the Iran/Iraq war. Almost a third of all the children in the centre and south suffer from chronic malnutrition. In Baghdad-controlled Iraq, the under-five mortality rate has shot up to 131 per 1,000 live births. More than half of the Iraqis living in rural areas have no access to safe water.

The situation is difficult, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and the noble Lords, Lord Desai, Lord Redesdale, and Lord Howell, were right to concentrate on what will happen in the longer term. We are acting, with the UN, through the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to try to establish a leading role on the co-ordination of humanitarian activity, including the vital function of pooling and sharing information about priority needs. There is also close liaison, not only with UN agencies, into whose contingency planning we are already feeding, but into the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs in the US Department of Defence, which is now leading American planning on humanitarian issues that would arise in any conflict. We have a secondee to the United States for that issue.

What can we do? We can work to ensure that any military campaign is as swift and carefully targeted as possible; we can work with the UN and the international community, as I have described. We must enable Iraqis to establish their own effective representative government. We must also achieve a swift end to sanctions as soon as Iraq is in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions. We want also to support Iraq's reintegration into the region and the wider international community. We want to promote increased aid from the international community, promote investment into Iraq's oil industry, and encourage renewed cultural and educational exchanges.

I have spent some time on those issues, as it is important and so many of your Lordships were concerned about it. Many of your Lordships will know about the paper, A Vision for Iraq, to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred and which was published after the meeting in the Azores at the weekend. That paper sets out the kind of programme that I have outlined, which has been agreed with the United States. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that I will write to him with detailed answers to the questions that he raised about the Azores paper.

I shall also write to those of your Lordships who raised questions about Afghanistan. Some of your Lordships have continued to exaggerate the problems there, and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation with many of you, but in the first instance I shall write.

I turn to the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, about the international coalition that he said was so desirable. Of course, I agree. Many countries—and that is not an exaggeration—have indicated their support. Many say that they will give their support, logistically and possibly militarily as well. That includes countries in Europe, in the region and much further afield. I warmly support the points made on that by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. He is absolutely right.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, was uncharacteristically rather gloomy about the United States. He should judge the administration by its actions, not by its words—or, to put it more accurately, by the words of some of the administration. The United States did choose to go down the UN road; it did work with us and others on UNSCR 1441; it is working with us and others to strengthen UNMOVIC's capacities; it worked with us and others on a further resolution—now, sadly, put beyond our reach.

We now need to work with the US and with others—I assure our friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches of that—to ensure and facilitate the work of the UN in the coming months. Kofi Annan has spoken on that matter in the past few days. I remind all your Lordships about the Azores declaration, which says:

"We plan to work in close partnership with international institutions, including with the United Nations".

That statement was agreed only last weekend.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, that the vision must be for an international perspective pursued with determination, professionalism and courage—those were his words. I can, and do, assure the noble Lord that that is a priority. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Roper, that we must turn our minds to how those international relationships can flourish in future.

I turn to the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Blaker, Lord Chan, Lord Wright of Richmond, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the Middle East peace process. Our aim remains a just and lasting peace in the dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours. That settlement must allow for a secure state of Israel and a viable and secure state of Palestine. Yasser Arafat has nominated the excellent Abu Mazen as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian Legislative Council met today. It has passed amendments to the Palestinian law required for that appointment. That is a very significant step and a tribute to the value of engagement by the United Kingdom and others. As soon as the appointment of the prime minister is confirmed, we expect immediate publication of the quartet road map. I understand the cynicism of the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, but this is a step which many of us, including the noble Lord, have wanted for a long time. Whatever its genesis, I welcome it wholeheartedly. However it happened, it is important that it has happened. I believe that it was partly got on its way by our influence.

I turn to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, about Mr Mugabe and North Korea. The noble Lord asked whether what we are doing would be a bad example to them. I hope that they will see what is happening and note that some nations are prepared to understand that words mean what they say. I think that not to act would be a far more potent message to North Korea, to Mugabe, to whomsoever. As my noble friend Lord MacKenzie, said, we need to get over the message that tyranny can and will flourish if good men and women look the other way.

Some noble Lords asked about the political challenges of the future. The noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Jopling, obviously had a very depressing time when they visited Washington. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, said that he had heard about a nightmare with regard to the possibility of terrorism in United States cities. Does the noble Lord really wonder why that is? It is only 18 months since America really did wake up to precisely that nightmare. The issue, again, is the linkage between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, also mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lord Howell of Guildford. As the Prime Minister said, there is a strategic anxiety over terrorism and WMD. It is a fear which Her Majesty's Government share. Proliferation of WMD in the hands of a state with a history of mass murder and defiance of the UN is truly appalling. The possibility of such weapons leaking into the hands of terrorists is one that we have to guard against as, if that occurs, it will not result in the deaths of 3,000 people but 30,000 or 300,000. That would be a terrible situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, was right to say that war is a last resort—a point echoed by my noble friend Lord Judd—but when the noble Lord said that he was ashamed of the Government I say to him that others might be equally ashamed if we did not act. This is the last resort. It could not have been made clearer in Resolution 1441. It was stated there—the final opportunity after 12 years, 17 resolutions, and four and a half months.

I turn to some of the points raised by noble Lords about whether or not the action is right. For 12 years the international community has shown great patience, yet for 12 years the regime has responded with persistent defiance—12 years and 17 resolutions. What is remarkable is not that patience ran out but that it lasted so long. For all those years Saddam has shown himself to be adept at tricks and manoeuvres to divide the world. Each time he succeeds, each time he is further emboldened, each time he is further empowered. There is always the last minute discovery, "Oh, we do have a bomb we overlooked", or that last minute concession, "We shall destroy the al-Samoud weapons". There is always an attempt to buy more time. But it is an attempt, sadly, to do something far more damaging; to sow that awful seed of doubt in the minds of good and decent men and women, the doubt that says, "There is another way. There might be another way out. Let us not resort to force. Let us try one more time". And so the number of resolutions rises from 1990 to 2003 and we try over and over and over again to discover what we always knew, namely, that we are dealing with a liar and a tyrant. What we hoped, namely, that the goal of a peaceful settlement was achievable, was, sadly, all too wrong.

Our purpose is disarmament. But in taking military action I have no doubt that the Iraqi people will be liberated from a life of tyranny and a repression which has imprisoned them for so long. Those were points put forward very movingly by many noble Lords today. Saddam has turned Iraq from a prosperous Arab country of great potential into a poverty stricken nation dependent on food aid and suffering horrible, horrible human rights abuses. In the event of military action and the overthrow of his terrible regime, we shall enable the Iraqi people to reclaim their country, their natural resources and their own future. We shall thereby secure the long-term reconstruction and the renewal of Iraq. I agree strongly with the moral case for action put forward by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. He put his case as powerfully as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, put theirs to the contrary. I believe that my noble friend was right. The United Nations must face up to its responsibilities. I hope that he was right that, as a result of the awful conflict that we face, a new future for Iraq will demonstrate to the UN what should be done.

I was grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford for everything he said, for his visit to the garrison in Colchester and, in particular, for his remarks about the chaplains. His views are different from mine, but I hope that we can both respect the sincerity of our respective positions. We all recognise that in Britain we are fortunate to be served by the highest quality military forces in the world. I am sure that all noble Lords support me in sending the strongest possible message of support to those Armed Forces in the Gulf, and to their loved ones who wait at home.

The mission of our Armed Forces is to enforce the will of the United Nations and the international community—that is to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, and in so doing make the region a safer place for its people. Although I disagree with my noble friend Lord Judd, I agree wholly with his heartfelt hope that any conflict is brief and quickly over and that loss of life is kept to a minimum. I also hope that we shall uphold the moral case described so ably by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours to uphold UN resolutions, secure a better future for the long-suffering people of Iraq and make the longer-term future of the region and the world safer and more secure.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before ten o'clock.